This was a weekend of beginnings and endings. I started work on a new project that I am very excited about. Spring is in the air and the days are longer. The dogs and I got back into the groove, hiking 5 miles yesterday and another 2 today. But it was also the end of our participation in a therapy dog study through Rutgers University. For the past 6 weeks we have been spending one hour each Sunday with a nine-year-old girl.
The first week, she was a timid. We spent the first two sessions working on getting her comfortable with Dublin. She pet him, played with his toys, and fed him treats. She even “walked” him around the block and around her house. Then she settled in a bit, playing games with him and laughing at his tricks. But this week, our final week, was the best visit of all.
Dublin and his friend played ball, taking turns rolling it back and forth. She introduced Dublin to her father and then gave him a few toys, showing her dad how Dublin liked to play. Finally, we went into her room. She invited Dublin up on her bed and they curled up together, her petting him and putting her blankie over him, while Dublin fell asleep. It was the sweetest thing!
We ended the visit with a little photo shoot, and both Dublin and his friend were all smiles. I’m sad that the study is over but I am hopeful that the results will show that therapy dogs do make a difference for kids with autism. I know that Dublin and I saw a huge difference in our six weeks of visiting.