Fizz has started her journey as a therapy dog.
Our first assignment was an unusual one – meeting greeting and generally cheering up the staff at Thorpe Park. It was great fun Fizz travelled as always in her dog pram this way she is on a level with people and is kept safe and secure. It was a long walk from the car park to the staff room where we were based – there were 5 of us. Fizz was the smallest dog there in addition to a very elegant black greyhound, a golden retriever – very cuddly and like a teddy bear, a beautiful Husky with David Bowie eyes and a chocolate Labrador. It was a small room and members of staff popped in and out all the time. Our role was to chat and be stroked and act as stress relief. What I found most interesting was that the majority of the staff were young and from very diverse backgrounds. Some of their cultures taught that dogs were unclean and so they seemed anxious and scared around the bigger dogs but made a beeline for Fizz. One girl said she would never go near a dog but Fizz wasn’t really like a dog! Another young man was really frightened to touch any of the dogs but felt he could sit on the floor next to Fizz and eventually stroked her – first time ever he had touched a dog. Other staff who were more used to dogs just went for it and stroked all of them. It was slightly disconcerting (for me) when we had a whole troupe of adult elves troop in – in full elf costume……..
Fizz was very calm and seemed to enjoy the fuss I was concerned in case anyone was rough with her but they were all very respectful and seemed overjoyed with the change to their usual day.
Next assignment was Paws in the Park at Ardingly. Fizz and I donned our uniform, it is yellow and black rather wasp like – she has a lead and jacket plus a disc so it is very clear who she is and her role. Once again we rocked up with her in her pram and our job was to hand out leaflets and engage the general public as we walked around. We had a lovely day – the sun shone and of course everyone there was interested in dogs so lots of chit chat and strokes coupled with “isn’t she pretty” what breed is she? and of course “Oh a cockapoo”. She had a go at search and rescue – she had to find me hidden in a huge field and was timed – the guy on the tannoy made a lot of fuss about her being a therapy dog and absolutely the smallest competitor – she did find me but wasn’t the quickest.
We have now got a regular visit in place – every Wednesday we go to a Local Care Home. We start of in the Day Room chatting away to residents and staff – residents want her on their laps but I do monitor this very closely. Then we go up in the lift to the bedrooms where she is mostly visiting end of life residents. Here I usually place her on the bed where to my amazement she lies quietly so that whoever is in bed can stroke her. She seems to enjoy this which surprises me greatly. One thing I hadn’t bargained for was that most of these residents have soft toys on the bed – some of them even squeak and move…..at home Fizz would be ‘killing ‘and disembowelment the toys but here she just ignores them. Then back to the day room to see if we have missed anyone .
This has been an interesting time for me and I am learning such a lot. I think our Bolognese and a very sensitive breed and seem to pick up on emotion certainly at home Fizz is not particularly gentle but when I put her uniform on and put her into her pram she seems to understand what is expected of her.
I try to remember always that her safety and welfare has to come first as many of the people we visit have some form of dementia and may lash out or just be confused and upset by our visit. Not everyone likes dogs!
I have learnt to be quite strong when residents don’t want us to leave them which has happened a couple of times – they have so enjoyed remembering their own dogs so now I know just to explain Fizz gets tired and needs to go home. I have also had her facial hair trimmed back so that she has extremely good 360 vision – and people can look into her lovely dark eyes.
At the moment Fizz and I really enjoy these visits but the moment she doesn’t enjoy it that’s when it will stop. However I really hope we can carry on forever it is such lovely charity.