I wrote up a post about my entire Therapy dog history and experience that took over an hour to type and I lost it all!
Oh man!!! Ugggh!
I will have to write a condensed version.
I first tried out for therapy work with Coal when he was 2 years old in 1998. He got kicked out of all three of the therapy dog organizations we tried to take part in due to his being too energetic.
When Coal calmed down at 6 years of age in 2002, I tried again.
I got back into one of the groups I got kicked out of, Pets on Wheels of Prince George's County. We visited an Assisted Living place through Pets on Wheels from 2002-2006.
I also go Coal tested for the Delta Pet Partners program in 2003 and we passed. We were part of a local group, National Capital Therapy Dogs (NCTD) that was a local affiliate of the Delta Society Delta Society Pet Partners Program. We tried visiting John Hopkins Children's House, but Coal scratched a client and I had to change to a facility where there were less frail people. We got to visit with at risk special needs teenagers at Sheppard Pratt mental health hospital in Ellicott City. Coal did great there. After two more years, Coal got recertified and we got to change facilities and visit Holy Cross Hospital's pediatric ward. I loved how one time a cute little girl petted Coal from inside her crib.
In the meantime, I decided to get Coal his TDI. Since there was no local TDI affiliate, I called around different hospitals until I found out that Walter Reed was having a special group visit them. This group was actually part of a larger therapy dog organization in the area, People Animals Love (PAL), which happened to be one of the organizations I tried Coal out in but got kicked out of when he was 2 years old. They welcomed people who had Delta and/or TDI credentials even without having to join PAL. We got to visit Walter Reed once and only once. It was so cool while it lasted. I felt good as soldiers pet Coal in the hallway. After having such a wonderful time visiting including the pediatric ward where Coal gently licked a baby hooked up to tubes as it was held out to him, tragedy struck. Coal lunged at a Saint Bernard in the hall outside the psychiatric ward. I usually managed to keep Coal's aggression under control around large dogs, but giant breeds were more of a problem. Even after I explained that only Giant breeds (not large) were harder to control Coal around, they thought it would be all large dogs 45 pounds and over, and gave me the boot, but not until after we got to finish our visit. Coal and I visited wounded Iraq war veterans, some who were missing their limbs.
Anyway, I then got Coal into Pets on Wheels of Anne Arundel County and visited North Arundel Hospital which later became University of Maryland Medical Center. One memoriable moment was on Christmas Eve 2004 when a woman who was obviously grieving over a sick loved one threw her arms around Coal and sobbed. Coal was dressed as Santa. It was so sweet seeing how Santa Coal gave comfort to this hurting soul.
He also comforted children in the pediatric ward there.
Anticipating a move to Virginia from Maryland when I got married I even joined Pets on Wheels of Fairfax County and visited a nursing home in Mount Vernon Virginia.
Since Peter owned a condo and since we could not find a house we could afford (this was the height of the housing bubble in 2006) I had to have Coal cared for for over year. By the time we found a home and moved in, it was time to retire Coal from therapy service. I have not done any therapy work since I got married.
Anyway, now I am raising and training Mercy to becomming a therapy dog. I have been working on building the right foundation, taking her to lots of classes. I am also adamant about Mercy not having dog aggression, since I experienced it so much with Coal. Coal's opportunites to visit with other dogs were limted due to his dog aggression. This all the more reason why I socialized Mercy with puppies so much as you might have seen in pictures I have shared. I am currently attending a CGC prep course and plan for Mercy to get tested at 9 months old. When Mercy turns 1, I plan to get her tested for TDI. Hopefully, I will find a place where I can use those credentials. There are no Delta Society Pet Partners local groups where I live now. In 2003 the same group in PAL that visited Walter Reed also visited Inova Fairfax hospital. I wonder if they are still doing that. I would also like to become part of Manassas Therapy Dogs, which is a local affiliate of Therapy Dogs Inc. I have my eyes on a beautiful Assisted Living Facility that I would like to visit in Manassas. I hope to visit special needs children and at risk youths as well. I also hope to get into a READ program at the library. I was going through training for READ shortly before I got married through NCTD. I had to give up on that endeavor when I got married. Peggy Dobbins, who screens for TDI in my area is part of the local READ program in Prince William County.
Anyway, I look forward to updating you on Mercy's milestones and progress as well as share with you pictures of her future Therapy Dog Visits.
Okay, I have spent 45 minutes on this version!
Not quite condensed, but rather of rewrite of the major highlights, while leaving out the details I wrote in the last version about other parts of Coal's therapy dog story.
Here is a picture of Coal at Christmas time at the Assisted Living facility he visited in Maryland.