Future Therapy Dog in the Making
 

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Pepsea and I have to share some special stories with you that happened when we were out shopping around town. The first story started at Meijer's when we were shopping. I noticed a little girl about 11 years old in a wheelchair stroller. Her Mom was pushing her and I noticed the girl's eye landed on Pepsea. I asked the Mom if her daughter would like to see Pepsea and she said "yes that would be wonderful." Upon the girl reaching for Pepsea she tried to kiss him and then continued to pet him. She really interacted nicely with the dog despite what the Mom said "about her daughter normally getting aggressive with dogs." This interaction was positive and beautiful as the girl smiled and she hadn't smiled in a long time. She tried to vocalize as well. It was a special moment and the Mother of the child was so elated that a great positive interaction happened but even more so that her child tried to vocalize and smiled. Her daughter had cerebral palsy or closed head injury. It was neat to be part of that interaction. It wasn't important that the child had a closed injury or cerebral palsy but unconditional love Pepsea gave the girl who had profound needs and made a difference in her life at that special moment during the interaction. Pepsea was gentle and easy going around the child and brought out the best of the child's spirit.

 Later in the week we were at our favorite hang out Wal-Mart. Their was a son pushing his Mom in a wheelchair that had had a stroke. She was drooling and totally not enjoying her outing. Her son was stopped along the kid's toy isle while his kids were looking at some toys. I asked him if his Mom would like to see my Dalmatian. He said "Yes, that would be great." Pepsea went in front of the wheelchair as he normally does keeping all 4 paws on the ground and approached her. She started to vocalize her words "nice doggie, nice doggie." Then she started to reach with both arms and tried to pet him and she did wonderfully in her reaching and petting him even the paralyzed arm was moving some to try to hug Pepsea. Pepsea just let her do her thing and laid his head on her lap for a few minutes while she petted him moving closer for her to reach him on his shoulders. That too was a special moment we enjoyed together.

Another time we were out wheeling around our subdivision when I came across a gentlemen in a power wheelchair which I knew had a service dog. He was outside without his service dog which I thought was odd. So I asked where his service dog was, as I hadn't seen it around lately. He told me it had died and was from paws with a cause. My heart just sank. I asked him if he wanted to see my service dog that I'm training for myself. Now this gentlemen had a high tech chair that reclined back which Pepsea never had experienced that sort of wheelchair before. So I let him get use to the chair first and during my conversation found out the gentlemen had a brain tumor and radiation damaged his spine and placed him in a wheelchair as a high quad. His physical therapist is coming to his home and he is able to move some in his arms. Pepsea got close to his wheelchair and he tried to move his arm down to pet him. I assisted in his arm coming down to pet Pepsea so he wouldn't get hurt by it falling down to reach Pepsea as he stood their since he was up rather high in his wheelchair. He really enjoyed that interaction with Pepsea. He told me his family is allergic to dogs so he can't get another service dog and he wishes he could get another service dog to help him out, he really misses that interaction and help. I told him Paws is training Standard Poodles for this reason or labadoodles for this to prevent people from having allergy to service dogs. I also provided the name of my trainer and her program if he wanted to get perhaps a Standard Poodle to train or have trained for his needs. He was going to check into it and see if that would work with his family that has allergies to dogs. It had been almost 6 months since his dog had passed over the bridge I could tell he was elated to have the interaction with another dog. I was so grateful that I took the time to allow this interaction and gave him something to pet where I'm sure he had missed petting his former service dog.

Often times when we are out in Public we will get stopped by Mothers or Father's that have kids that have cerebral palsy or autism and they want to know about my service dog and are thinking of getting a service dog to assist their child. One thing I didn't realize is how many children in our area have cerebral palsy and autism. I discovered that there is a school in the area for special needs children but their main focus is cerebral palsy and autism. I'm looking forward to going to the school and talking about service dogs and hoping my trainer will join me in showing what service dogs can do to help the child with cerebral palsy. While many programs fail to train dogs for kids that are handicap as they feel they wouldn't benefit, and some programs place age limits on when a child is old enough for a dog. My feeling is anyone who is handicap should have an opportunity for a service dog regardless of age as long as someone is living with them that can get the dog to a vet if it becomes sick and the child has a good interaction with the animal. I know my trainer had trained a black lab for a family with children with special needs. The dog does wonderfully for the children and tends to all of them. It is just amazing. Last night is a classic example of a Mom at Kroger's talking to me about her daughter who has cerebral palsy, blind, deaf, and not able to talk. Her daughter had a yellow lab for 13 years and it just passed away and was her service dog. She now has a Saint Bernard as her service dog. She told me that the Saint Bernard will watch her daughter for her. While she is outside working in the garden and her daughter is playing and if her daughter strays toward the road or out of the yard the Saint Bernard will go and prevent her from leaving the yard and guide her back into the yard. She is amazed that the Saint Bernard is so gentle and will keep a close eye on her child for her and keeping her free of harm being blind and deaf.

One thing I realized during each of these interactions is how wonderful my liver and white Dalmatian Pepsea interacts with people and people with special needs. While this isn't service dog duties it clearly falls under therapy work that Pepsea loves to take the opportunity to do when he sees someone in a wheelchair, walker, or handicap when we are working out in public. He seeks those people out in need and is happy just to leave them pet him and talk to him. Often times it might be someone just missing their dog that passed away, or some elderly person that is wanting a little TLC, or some Mom or Father that is pleased to get to see a service dog in action. While Pepsea and I have become advocates for service dogs and for those that are disabled, it has been a very rewarding experience for both of us and a path I'm glad I'm on despite my spinal injury and the pain it causes me every day. Those interactions and guidance to various people about wanting or needing a service dog make it all worth while.

Therapy work is another area of his life we are considering doing as well since he is so gifted in that area. Pepsea believes in treating the whole person and not just the task if they happen to drop something on the floor and can't pick it up, or get the door open, but to nurture their spirit as well and boost their spirit for that day. It is amazing the gift Pepsea truly has and is providing to many people every day when working out in public or at home.

 
Photo Credit: Pepsea hung out at the hospital for 10 days while my Dad fought for his life after a liter of fluid collected around the heart and straggled it off. When Pepsea would visit my Dad it would help regulate my Dad's heart rate out of abnormal heart rhythms. This is a candid moment of Pepsea providing a little TLC to my Dad. Pepsea was a natural at stepping over all the many IV poles, lines, and tubes coming from my Dad after his heart surgery. Now when we go back to visit my Dad's Physicians at appointments many of the staff hear Pepsea is on the grounds the staff will take a break to come talk to him, hoping to grab a pet or two from him to settle down their stressful day.