3 Therapy Dogs and Miss Sarah

by Rhea Mays

I am joyously retired. My life now centers on Therapy Dog duty. My guys are on duty about 8-10 hours a week. Since not even George can be great that many hours a week it is my excuse to my husband that I ALWAYS need another Shih Tzu.

There is often someone who asks how long it took me to train the dogs and Miss Sarah to be such good therapy dogs. I respond that they just need to know the basics: sit, down, stay, stop that — you know the basics. I don’t share that good Tzu come out of the womb ready to be loved and share love; temperament is everything. Tzu also seem to have the attitude that they are really cute and people who don’t think so are stupid, evidenced by the tail flip. For a Non-Tzu person the tail flip is a sign of cuteness; the rest of us know what the flip means. I am also complimented on how well my guys are groomed, I had to throw that in for all of you who have seen my guys and who actually groom.

The week starts on Monday at our Community Cancer Center. The trick there is to ALWAYS move through the building in the same path. Miss Sarah appears to be guiding me along and looks even smarter than she thinks she is. She greats the staff warmly, the doctor who was the road block to beginning the program gets a cool nod or tail flip if he fails to pet her properly. I remind her he is my doctor and the life saver of her food source,

Miss Sarah is confident there is another source for food if I were to fade.

We move to the infusion room and she shares her royal self with people receiving chemo. One of her favorites has pictures with the princess taken each time we visit, Miss Sarah gained hair as her friend lost her hair. On the last chemo day the patient brought Miss Sarah a treat, a Milk Bone. Now Miss Sarah is very discriminating in her treat acceptance; she was polite enough to accept the treat, hold it for the photo op and then spit it out.

We use valet parking when we visit the hospital really to keep them as clean as possible. !e parkers hold the door open, welcome Miss Sarah, ask her how she is doing, and let her know the car will be ready when we leave (they turn on the heat or air depending on the weather), these people do not even know my name.

Wednesdays we visit a nursing home, Meadows Mennonite Nursing Home not surprisingly run by the Mennonite Church. Budward is not a hospital kind of Therapy Dog. Budward is a tad busy. When we were visiting a very lovely lady who at 94 still discusses the book she is reading and politics, Budward lost his mind. Miss Claire loves to hold my Miss Minnie, the queen of the snugglers. We were chatting and I noticed Budward was gone. It was the first facility lockdown to look for a dog. Budward, tired of the chatting, looked around for some attention. We found him 15 minutes later napping in bed with a lady — he was as happy as only a naughty Tzu can be. Sadly, I had to hold off cursing at him out of respect for my Mennonite friends.

George is the king of therapy work. He visits a mental health unit. Some of the folks have some challenges to finding acceptable behavior; one patient asked me if they told me he was “nuts”. Very few living things are as calm as George or spread calmness as completely. Georgie came to me about 6 months before I was diagnosed with cancer. He sat with me each time I was recovering from the chemo flu. In our house we believe I recovered from chemo brain. George is still working on it.

Each of my guys began their Therapy Dog careers the minute they came home. Miss Sarah had Stacey, George was on TV for a Therapy Dog interview the day after he came home, Miss Minnie and Budward (both related to Miss Sarah) just jumped right in with the crowd. We have visited people fresh out of surgery who needed a push to wake up, visited folks who needed a quick snuggle and have been with folks as they pass. Miss Sarah has gone from a hospital visit straight to agility. As Miss Sarah says, a Shih Tzu can do it all; you just have to ask properly.

CREDIT: This article first appeared in the September 2016 AKC Gazette as is reprinted with permission.

Download the Article with Pictures by Clicking Here