Slice of Life March 10th, 2013 #slice2013

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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.

Dublin on his last visit (face blurred for privacy)

Dublin on his last visit (face blurred for privacy)

Slice of Life- March 4, 2013 #slice2013

For the past five weeks I have been taking Dublin to meet with a little girl on the autism spectrum.  She and Dublin are participating in a study, Animals Assisting Autism, which is examining whether therapy dogs are beneficial to individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

We only have a week left, and the entire experience has been beautiful to watch.  Dublin and his new friend have become partners in crime, and he doesn’t even react when she is having a bad day. He cuddles with her on her bed, plays games with her, and lets her lead him around the house and yard. She started out a little tentative around Dublin but now she is comfortable petting his back and head and even feeding him treats from her hand.

Last night we arrived and Dublin walked right in, leading the way up the steps to the family room.  He knows the routine!  He and Jamie (name changed) got right to work, playing with his toys.  She took out his squeaky toy and waved it in front of him before throwing it and asking Dublin to fetch.  Then she asked him for his paw and gave him a treat when he performed his trick.

Then we had a special surprise for Jamie.  Dublin had learned a new trick for her!  I wasn’t sure if he would perform it in a place full of distractions as it’s a brand new trick, but he performed very well.  When he rolled over and played dead, Jamie burst into giggles and it was glorious.  I’ve never been so proud of Dublin!

Handling a therapy dog really is a life-changing experience and I am so glad we are involved in this study.  Sometimes I groan because the appointment is in the middle of the day (especially when I have a busy weekend), but as soon we get there and Dublin gets to work I forget about any stress.

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