Something I've been exploring for a couple of months now with amazing results and would like very much to share: Tellington Touch. Truly amazing in its simple application, positive reception and phenomenal results. Jazz has blossomed more so as a therapy dog and has grown emotionally and spiritually in her own being.

Tellington Touch ("Ttouch") springs forth from our understanding of the nervous system in every being and the knowledge that every cell of our being has a specific purpose and function for which it is perfectly adapted. If an area is hurt, each cell has within itself the power to heal and restore itself to perfection. "Hurt" may have stressed and tightened the area to result in a sort of starvation, or disconnect. Lighting up the area, awakening the nerves to stimulate and "feed" the area begins the reintegration of the cells, healing and returning to perfection. Nerves stimulate, generate and integrate our very beings.

Unlike massage which manipulates and stimulates muscle, Ttouch manipulates and stimulates nerves feeding the muscle, tendons, etc. Tension, pain, trauma, fear, anger, anxiety, etc., are all stored within the body and the nervous system is the connection. We can stimulate areas of nerves to relieve physical/emotional stresses trapped within the body. This takes very little force/pressure and is quite easy to do and experience. The results are amazing.

Jazz has found more self confidence and comfort in being handled/petted by strangers and now has the confidence to guide her admirer in where she would like to be petted. She is much more willing to visit a wider variety of patients. Joy in her therapy visits is much more apparent and our communication/enjoyment of each other has increased greatly.

Patient touch is also a kindness that goes unspoken. A gentle touch on the arm is non-invasive and an unspoken empathy or kindness. With touch becoming less and less done in our society it is an unconscious thing all humans are quietly missing, most especially the elderly and the very young and most severely in the health care industry where a caring touch can mean so very much.


Post Visits

Last week Jazz had one of her most affectionate visits ever. She worked beautifully, immediately sitting for petting at the feet of patients or (after my okay) gently alighting gingerly upon the patients bed, right at their side then quickly settling in for the love. I was impressed. She touched the hearts of many that day.

Afterwards, we got in the car and she crashed in the back seat and quickly fell asleep for the ride home. Then it occurred to me thanks to the delightful words of Doug the dog from the movie "Up":

Jazz had just spent the last hour being everyone's very best new friend for five minutes.

Think about that for a second.

Being so keenly engaged and connecting with a total stranger over and over again is an exhausting experience to the spiritual, subconscious self and can be felt in the physical realm....the muscles ache just as they would after a good workout. Being and giving on a level that a therapy dog does is a workout.

Post visit time varies from dog to dog as no two are wired the same. Some dogs may benefit from some physical activity (like fetch) to release stress, some may prefer a good nap while yet others may just want some "me time", aka: left alone.

The handler may very well need some post visit time as well. Even though the handler won't be snuggling in the laps of strangers, there is the gentle and uplifting contact with the patient as well as being the conscious core of the dog/handler team. A pleasurable but potentially draining activity.

As a handler, I enjoy some sort of social interaction. Jazz, on the other hand, is a "me time" kind of girl and really just needs to be left completely alone till she's ready to regroup with her pack a few hours later.

Being sensitive to what patients are experiencing and feeling is helpful as an empathetic dog may feel effects from strong, pained energy. Jazz will on occasion require a post-visit bath to cleanse her fur of body oils or medical scents left by someone who so effected her leaving her feeling rather down. Don't discount the fact that your dog can smell many times better than you and those who have touched him will leave behind their scent.

Sometimes a bit of "me time" between you and your dog can be very beneficial and bonding. A quiet area where you can gently massage your dog and otherwise just enjoy one another's company without interuption.


Getting Back To It

If a volunteer is going to take time away, more often than not....summer is the time. Why? It used to be that a month was taken off by volunteers during the hottest of summer. It's hard on the dog, there are pests to consider (fleas, ticks) and it's just plain hot. Plus, it's common for any volunteer to experience a wee bit of "burn out" and time off is good for the soul of all involved (volunteer and their animal).

When you get back to doing your volunteer work, start out just as though you're starting over. Don't over-do. That's why you took a break! If you generally visit your facility for an hour, begin by visiting for 30 to 40 minutes. There's a lot to consider.... you're own stamina, your pet's stamina, interacting with patients and being your animals' advocate. It will wear you out.

Enjoy your summer and take it easy.... even when visiting.


When to say "No"

Doing pet therapy is all about giving of yourself, your time, your pet to better the comfort and well being of others. It is a selfless calling. But one must remember that part of your role is to be a good advocate for your dog .... and yourself. There will be times when it's simply better to "just say no" and not do visits that day.

Dogs are selfless creatures and rarely will a therapy dog ever refuse to go on visits because they're not feeling well. That's where we stand in and advocate for the dog and cancel visits till he's feeling better. Injury, upset tummy or age can be contributing factors.

As therapy volunteers we need to advocate ourselves too. There are times when we simply should not go do visits even if we're emotionally up for it. Recent injury; stay home till you're fully recovered. Lameness, bruising, healing sores should never be shared with your patient clientele, if for no other reason than it distracts from the purpose of the visit. Illness; always stay home till fully recovered. No patient wants to get more than they bargained for from visiting with you and your dog. Emotional upheaval; we all have bad days, but if you don't feel up for putting your troubles aside to visit, follow your senses and take a day off.

Most volunteers will agree that it's difficult to say, "no" to their weekly visits when something else arises in their own life. Take care of yourself and your therapy dog first and foremost. What makes pet therapy the amazing gift that it is .... is you.... by having the confidence to know when to say, "No, not today."


Critter Fest Success

Critter Fest (to benefit the Blount County Humane Society) was a sweet success! BCHS put our HABIT booth along the main pathway amongst the deepest shade where it was cool and comfortable all the long, hot day.

Jazz took all the commotion and plethora of canines in stride and enjoyed napping in the shade of our booth. Nestle spent the day hiking with his Daddy up near Norris..... land of many, many ticks!

Which brings me to my summer-time topic: Ticks!

Even if you use the monthly tick/flea preventative with success, ticks still latch on. Yep. They'll ingest the Frontline (or whatever you're using), drop off and die, but they STILL come home attached to your dog! Not an issue if Fido sleeps on the floor and doesn't meet with the public in facility settings.

If your dog comes home posing at the Liberty Cruise Line for the tick species, take some time to remove the critters before Fido settles in on your bed, the couch, or goes on a therapy visit! Some good tweesers and a cup of soapy water is all you need. Your dog should be relatively relaxed and view this session as calming and bonding. Put extracted ticks in the soapy water cup. Follow up with a thorough bath (for the dog), which will ease the discomfort of all the tick-bite sites.

Remember, when making therapy visits, your dog must be clean. Thoroughly. You may enounter folks with allergies to dander/hair, etc., and NO ONE wants to find a tick while enjoying your dogs companionship.

Typically you want your dog freshly bathed within 2-3 days of the upcoming facility visit. This includes grooming and removing dead/loose hair. Swimming in the lake does not count as a bath! Lake water is usually soft and will leave your dogs coat feeling lovely, but it does nothing to remove excess body oils, dirt, etc. Bath time for doggie, is an offical "bath" with dog-appropriate soap.

As your dogs advocate, make sure your four-legged therapy worker is clean, pest free and ready to make the best impression ever with staff, patients and visitors.

Happy Summer!


Jazz and Remote Area Medical

Jazz just got the news that HABIT and Remote Area Medical Foundation (RAM) have realized the potential benefits in having therapy dogs present at RAM health care service areas. So, they're going to join forces and give this a try! Jazz is quite honored that she has been selected along with a handful of HABIT dogs for this wonderous trial run on May 30th.

Sunday May 31st is Smoky Mountain Critter Fest
at Pearson Park (the Greenbelt) in Maryville. Jazz will be there again this year, as well as (hopefull therapy dog of the future) Nestle. We had so much fun last year at this event. There's lots for the kids to do (games, etc), great food vendors and lots and lots of pet associated booths that are fun, interesting, enlightening, and informative. This fun fair benefits the Blount County Humane Society. It was a great success last year......come out and join us! The fair opens at 11:00 and runs till 5:00ish. (Yes, you can bring your pet to this event).

Happy Easter pet lovers!


My Spring Vacation

Hi gang! It's me, Jazz. I had a really great time on my spring break. Mom, Dad and the kids took me to the mountains where we hung out for 4 relaxing days in a little cabin in the woods. Here's some pictures that my Momma took:

This was Nestle's first trip away from home and to the totally unfamiliar. He was happy to find a "nest" full of Momma's things and her slippers. He also liked having some familiar toys around.

Here's the cabin Momma found for us. It's pet friendly so Nestle and I got to go along, yay! There we are in the front yard with Sarah.
Here's a picture of the inside from the loft. That's my boy, William next to the fireplace and there I am blending in with the wood floor!

This is the loft with that thing they called a "Pool Table" but there was no water....just balls. Odd. Anyway, the humans enjoyed playing with it. William slept on the low bed in the background which Nestle enjoyed 'cause he could see out the windows.
I liked snuggling on Sarah's bed.
Here I am on the back deck with Sarah and Nestle. Even though Nestle could easily slip through the railing (30' drop!), he didn't. What a good pup. That big box in the background is the hot tub which the humans enjoyed a LOT.
Nestle and I enjoyed the couches.
Nestle enjoyed the back of the couch where he was up high enough to get a great view of everyone and everything.
The humans took us to a place called, "Mingus Mill" in the Great Smoky Mtn.'s National Park. I was afraid of the foot bridge and wasn't allowed to go inside the mill itself, but there were lots of great smells and nice people there.
Here's the scary bridge. Momma's holding me to cross it. I was a brave girl and walked across the second time.
Daddy had such a fun time with Nestle. My little brother is 10 months old now....he's looking rather handsome, isn't he?!
Dinner at the cabin..... and there I am at William's feet.
And some hot tub time.
I had such a fun time! My special thanks to Mommy for helping me type this.


Spring Break!

Jazzie misses everyone at pet therapy! Her mom has been nursing migraines, bronchitis or a spasmed neck (tiz one or the other!) for weeks!

This week marks "spring break" on the Blount County calendar. Jazz is heading south to the Florida panhandle to partake in some serious beach time with her family. Her Mommy promises plenty of "What I did on Spring Break" pictures!

Let's hope and pray that the week of the 23rd brings fine health and renewed therapy visits for all!

Think Spring!


The Sweet Smell of Therapy

Recently I was at an event where someone sitting near me was wearing too much cologne or perfume. The overwhelming sweet odor nearly made me sick and I could barely breath. Having had multiple head injuries, my sense of smell is greatly reduced, so it is of some concern when *I* can be overwhelmed by such a strong odor.

During this odoriferous torture, I was reminded of how important it is during a pet therapy visit to be courteous of others in this domain. Perfumes and body colognes should be kept to a bare minimum, even better, don't wear any such scented stuff. Patients can be sensitive or even allergic to perfumes and you wouldn't want to spoil an otherwise good visit by smelling too strongly.

Even your dog should be minimal on perfumed odors. I bathe my dog with oatmeal (pet) shampoo as it is very mild for frequent bathing as well as being pleasant, though low on the odor scale.


Jazz Update

It was this month last year when Jazz aggravated her hip and after further examination we were faced with the probability of a total hip replacement for her (at the tender age of 18 months!). Along the way in preparation for this major surgery, I elected to have her receive a round of Adequan injections. Jazz improved dramatically to the point that surgery was no longer necessary at the time. A miracle!

To date, Jazz is still the energetic go-getter with no signs of lameness at all. She may need that new hip someday....but that someday is no time soon.


Blog Fart!

I don't know what has happened, but my images seem to have gone on vacation. Since I put an image in every post....that's a bunch.

Give me time, I'll get 'er fixed.


Housebreaking Revisited

A friend posted recently that she felt it was time to kill her dogs. I asked her, "what did they do this time?" The dogs had apparently used the living room as their "personal toilet". She was kidding about killing her dogs, of course, but we can all identify with the frustration she was feeling.

I thought about this and it occurred to me, this friend has relocated several times since becoming a dog owner and both her canine companions are still rather young. It seems that relocating to a new environment is what's disrupting the housebreaking and causing serious setback. It makes sense that the dog no longer knows what door leads to the great outdoors, everything is unfamiliar.

Any new environment should be coupled with reintroducing the dog to proper and expected bathroom behavior just as you did when initially housebreaking him. There is the preferred door for going out, the timing (first thing in the morning, after meals, before bed, etc.), the praise; all that. With the dog being more mature, the reintroduction of bathroom duties should not take as long as it initially did when he was a youngster but it is just as important to teach the dog that "this is how it's done" in the new environment.

Therapy dogs visiting a new facility need the same reinforcement. Making an initial trip to the new facility to learn your way around, meet staff and locate a "bathroom area" for your dog is time well spent. Figure out if you'll need plastic bags for cleanup, or if the area is remote/vegetated enough to not worry. When you take your dog to the facility for the first time, visit the "bathroom area" before entering the facility. Any therapy dog should be given the opportunity to relieve himself before going to work.

Note! I've taught all my dogs "key words" for elimination, "go potty", "go poop", etc. Just as with the post bath command, "shake!", this is taught as the dog is doing said activity. The dog learns to associate the word "potty" with urinating. Eventually, you can give the command and if the dog needs to go, he will.

Keep plastic bags in your car for fecal pickup. This is a must for all public areas. If I can't find an outside waist receptacle for it, I tie it to the bumper of my car. Using grocery plastic bags makes this easy as the handles are long enough to tie around a ball hitch securely till I get home and can toss it in my own garbage can.

Picking up poop 101: Use clean plastic bags. Get one (or two) plastic bags (if two, put one inside the other). Place your hand in the bag(s) like putting on a glove. Using your "gloved" hand, pick up the poop. Turn the bag(s) inside out and "voila!" the poop is in the bag. Knot securely.


Always Welcome

Dog lovers will agree that when a canine companion pays a visit, it's always welcome company. One of the reasons that pet assisted therapy is so valuable. Dogs never judge. Jazz is clearly happy for the attention as is the gentleman happy to enjoy her company.

Special thanks to the facility for this wonderful photograph and thanks to the kind gentleman (name withheld) for allowing us to use it.
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First Snow for The Babies!

We didn't get much accumulation, but it was a lovely wet snow! This was Nestle's first and he was captivated by it (looking out the car window, above). Jazz really liked racing around the yard in the snow, but she shook it off her fur regularly so it was difficult to capture her picture! Below is the dock....and so much snow falling that you can't really see the lake!


Fit as a Fiddle!

Nestle is back to his old "wild puppy" self! Here he is this calm winter morning taking a (brief!) pause from racing around with Jazz. I can't convey nor measure the level of thankfulness I feel for his life being spared.

Bonus! This is one of my all time favorite things to see on the lake. Ring Billed Gulls take winter residence on the lake, which are a joy to watch. Sometimes they fish right off our dock though mostly the hang out in the cove opposite from us. I adore how they follow a tug (reminds me of fishing boats on the coast) and I finally got a picture of it:


Close Call

No matter how well behaved, how well trained, how loyal, there is still that one moment that can change everything. Today I had that moment and I was lucky.... Nestle was more fortunate.

Nestle had been ringing his bell to go outside for some time ("must be serious!"), so I let him out expecting him to urinate asap. Instead he ran towards the grassed area and was immediately obscured by my husbands' truck. I made tracks towards the nearby road to "block" Nestle from running out into the road.... only then to see him RUN INTO THE ROAD! A truck was right there. There was nothing I could do but watch in horror as my little dog died.

But, the Gods were with him. He hit the front passenger wheel and was knocked unconscious immediately. The force of the impact sent him spinning further underneath the vehicle, but thank the heavens above, he did not impact any other wheel.

I ran out to find him out cold and stiff. I carefully picked him up and was off to the vet in record time. Nestle came to as I put the car in motion and deficated in my lap (I didn't notice for quite some time!). He seemed alert and I held him close as I sped to the vet.

Nestle was seen by the vet no less than 30 minutes after his brush with death. Other than an apparent head injury, he is fine. He received a cortizone shot to help stave off any brain swelling and reduce any pain.

I am thanking God. Never again will that dog exit the shop off lead.


Happy New Year!

Tiz been a month or more since Jazz has had a post! She hopes everyone had a lovely holiday season! Christmas is the time for depression as well as the new year.... so hug your dog!

Jazz went to Northern Virginia for two weeks followed by a busy, busy time in the life of her humans. Today... at long last... she visited with her elementary school children. What a treat! All the kids were delighted to see her and she heard from two very engaging readers that relaxed her right to sleepy land!

Jazz's dear beloved stroke patient was moved to another facility during the Christmas break. Good for him, sad for Jazz. We'll miss him. Jazz wishes the very best in his recovery!

Welcome to 2009...... here's to hopes for a bright and furry new year!

Blurry but cute....Jazz cuddled in a fav blankie