My first facility assignment was a children's in-patient psychiatric unit. Children in this facility were admitted for several weeks and their time with the dogs was a key part of their therapy. Four dogs visited the unit together on Tuesdays, each assuming a different area (on the unit) in which to visit with 3-4 kids over the course of the hour. Before visiting we were given a brief on the children we would be seeing and each child was matched with a dog according to his or her own needs. For example, my placid Rottweiler typically visited with either hyperactive kids because of her calming disposition, or withdrawn kids as she could gently interact with them.
One boy stands out a memorable. He adored “Brenna” so much and always displayed such exceptional behavior that it was difficult (for me) to believe that he had intense anger/destructive issues. The boy worked hard during each week to reach his goals so that he would earn the reward of extra visit time with Brenna. As the weeks (and his treatment progressed) he was spending nearly the full hour with Brenna. Staff and doctors were greatly impressed with his progress and his inspiration: the dog.
One Thursday, I got a call from the unit (which was unheard of). The boy was being discharged that day, and even though this was a very happy day for him, he was saddened that he would not see Brenna again, get a chance to say goodbye nor to give her the gift he had gotten with his own money. The phone call was to ask if I would possibly mind making the trip so they boy could see Brenna one last time. What human could say “no”?
We met in an administrator's office, just off the unit where we wouldn't disturb the other patients. Amid tears and hugs, the boy had his farewell visit with a very receptive Brenna. I was then proudly informed by the doctor just how important my dog had been to his successful treatment. The boy had certainly earned this special visit and I was deeply thanked for making it possible.
The pleasure was all mine.
(Brenna: 2/15/90 12/10/2001)
(Beau: 1992 - 2004)