Thursday, February 20, 2014
Oh Gracie, you don't even know the effect you have on people.
Gracie is my 7.5 year old Cocker Spaniel. Not only has she been an accomplished obedience and rally obedience competitor, but she is also a wonderful therapy dog. I know it sounds conceited when I call her wonderful, but this is feedback that I get over and over when we do visits, so I know I'm not the only one that feels this way.
Anyhow, last night Gracie and I visited a local library for their StoryPALS programs. PALS is the group that we visit with - they have many teams in our city and their reach is astounding. StoryPALS is a program where kids that have difficulty reading read out loud to the dogs. The dogs are non-judgmental and this takes the pressure off of the kids, allow them to relax and enjoy reading. This was our third week participating (this is a 6 week program).
We didn't have a ton of kids last night, so while a young man was reading to the husky (they kids ALL love him, because he's so cool), Grace and I were having a snuggle. I could have left early, but I wanted to stick around in case any other kids showed up. A mom stuck her head through the door and asked if she could come and see Grace. Of course I said yes, as Grace is only too happy to accept ALL cuddles, regardless of who's handing them out.
The mom started out standing up, then quickly knelt down, and within a minute or two she was sitting on the floor with Gracie belly up in her lap. She introduced herself and then told me how she had been bitten by a dog as a child and has been afraid of dogs her whole life. I have to admit, I found that hard to believe, as she ran her hand through Grace's soft hair. She talked about how pretty and gentle Gracie is, and how she felt an immediate connection with her. She asked about her breed and how much a Cocker Spaniel would cost from a breeder. This woman spent about 10 minutes with Grace. Grace was very sweet and gentle with her, asking for belly rubs and pawing at the woman's hand when she stopped petting her.
I love watching Grace at work - she has charmed even the most cranky of curmudgeons - but this was by far her crowning glory in terms of therapy work. She works her magic regularly on people of all ages, but this woman was glowing when she reluctantly left (a kid had showed up to read). After the kids were all done reading, she made me promise we'd be back next week. She introduced her son to Grace (he'd been reading to the husky) and he loved her too.
These dogs are incredible little creatures. It amazes me how they can worm their way into the hearts of people that haven't even considered petting a dog before. Thank you Gracie, for reminding me of the impact we have on people, whether we realize it or not. And thank you for winning over this woman to the world of Cocker Spaniels.