I rarely write about Emmett’s therapy dog work. I should. It’s wonderful and touching and fulfilling. It’s also a little draining – for me, not him. That might be why I don’t write about it, I suppose.
In addition to reading at the library and other public-education events, Emmett works with a group of children who are residents of a mental-health facility. We visit with the adolescent group on Fridays. All the kids are under 12, and they’re there for a whole host of reasons, reasons that are so complex, it’s really hard for me to understand.
His “job” is the pet therapist. In his mind, it’s the best job a dog could ask for! For an hour, he has 15 kids rub him, play with him, feed him treat after treat, kiss his head, and wrap their arms around his big neck. They profess their love every single time and shower him with as much affection as they can muster. And, oh boy, does he reciprocate! Emmett spends the entire hour wagging his tail. He gives kisses when they ask, he performs tricks on their commands – which, by the way, I’m always so impressed because they’re not super clear in their words or hand signals, but somehow when a kid is jumping up and down waving his arm in a circle, Emmett knows to roll over! (Or he’s just guessing. But he usually gets it right.)
Anyway, our visit a few weeks ago was particularly rough. We met a new child who had seen two of his family members kill puppies. He was so little, only 12, but he had seen things that even adults shouldn’t have to handle. But the little darling sat and scratched Emmett and said over and over what a good boy he was. He told me that Emmett was cute, and he told Emmett he was cute. He really started to connect with Emmett.
I kept thinking how unfair it is that these kids haven’t been given a chance. But that’s why we do this, to give them at least a little chance. Hopefully that boy remembers his encounters with Emmett, to hopefully overshadow his bad experiences.
All this is to say, Emmett has to re-test. His two-year registration expires soon.
He barely passed the first test. It was the skin of his teeth, I think. One of my New Year’s goals for him is to pass this test. We really need to train – the test itself is harder than what he does at the actual visits, and you can’t use treats – but because Emmett is usually so well behaved, I tend to focus my training efforts on Lucas and Cooper. Emmett proved this to me on Friday.
We were invited to speak to a group of social workers about our experiences with this group of kids, and when we got there, Emmett proceeded to pull me from the front of the room, down the aisle past all the social workers, to the buffet table in the back of the room.
Great start to the event! Sigh.
We’re not signed up for the test yet, and we’re going to start attending every-other-week prep classes. In the meantime… training starts tonight!
Wish Emmett luck!
I’m not sure which one of us needs it most! 🙂