Sunday

The "Test"

If you have been reading anything on Facebook or saw it mentioned on this blog, you know we are getting a couple of our dogs certified as therapy dogs.  Clancy the “dog of dogs” and Dutchess the famous “party” girl. 
Web Definition
A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with learning difficulties. Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. ...
As most of you know, I was blessed to have a visit with a therapy dog while in the hospital a few months ago.  I had already started my therapy dog training just a few weeks earlier and it was such a comfort to be able to hold and hug a beautiful four legged creature during my hospital stay.
It was actually Elaine’s decision to become a therapy dog handler years ago when she witnessed a therapy dog visit the nursing home her mother was temporarily in.   She saw how the patients’ eyes just lit up and a smile immediately shone on their faces and how some even laughed and spoke baby talk to the dog. It made such an impression on her, she began to dream about the possibilities of how she could do this with one of our dogs.  The more she thought about it, the more she realized she had the perfect dog…Clancy…, she knew he was the one…
Clancy has met hundreds of people and dogs here at the farm and even out at festivals in the area or trips to town.  He has played with kids, kittens, dogs and has had every puppy that has been born here at the farm craw all over him.  He just takes it and usually closes his eyes and tries to relax or sleeps, such a tender soul.  When Clancy was our stud dog, we always allowed him in the house for our meet and greet with the prospective buyers and as always, once he entered the house, he climbed upon the sofa and gave kisses or went to sleep in the visitors lap.  Many readers can attest to this very fact the first time they came to our house to meet us and our dogs.
 The stage was set… and after classes and a lot of training of the dogs and Elaine and I were ready to take the evaluation and test.  This was a piece of cake because we knew if anyone failed their part, it would be Elaine or I, Clancy was great, Dutchess was along for the ride.  One of the training instructors even told us after she gave Clancy a big hug and a kiss at one of our classes, “You…will make a wonderful therapy dog” as she looked into his eyes and he licked the tip of her nose.
Elaine was first, the evaluations are away from the public for a variety of reasons and we waited outside the room.  “No sweat” I said, he’s doing fine and when the test was nearly done, it was stopped, one of the evaluators came out to us and said Clancy had failed.  I don’t know why she came out except to warn us of Elaine’s appearance and emotions.  When Elaine did come out, she asked for the car keys and she and Clancy went to the car so she could pull herself together and as she turned, I saw her wipe a tear from her eye.  To say the least, I was shocked.  Clancy knew everything and would make a great partner, but what happened?
My exam was next and to say the least, I was concerned and worried.  I didn't know what to expect and had to admit that if Clancy couldn't pass, was their any hope for Dutchess and me.  There were nearly 8 to 10 people in the room that were there to evaluate Dutchess and me.  Sometimes more than one or the whole group participated in the teting.  When dogs test, they are taken through many pretend "situations" that could be experenced in a nusing home or hospitl envirenment just to make sure they are fit to serve in this capisity.
Before the class started, knowing I was Elaine’s husband, they shared with me what happened in the test with Clancy and Elaine.  They said the test was nearly complete when  a “neutral” dog was brought to within a couple of feet of Clancy so they could witness his reaction to the dog, of course hoping there would not be one…but it didn’t quite happen the way we all wanted it to.  Clancy took the Border Collie stance and as they were circling Elaine with the neutral dog, Clancy backed up to Elaine, touching her leg and as they circled, he circled too, not making a move or changing expression, except to circle and protect Elaine from what he took as an aggressive act toward her from the “neutral” dog.  The evaluator immediately stopped the test. This was taken as unacceptable behavior on Clancy’s part and they quite firmly stated to Elaine that he would never be able to serve as a therapy dog with their organization.
Elaine is still a certified dog handler and our new goal is to train one of our other dogs to be her partner so she can go with me and Dutchess, who incidentally came within one point of getting the highest rating.  Go figure…

My heart aches so much for Elaine and Clancy, because I know what he is. I know how awesome he is with people and what Elaine feels in her heart.  I have sat a hundred times across from a couple sitting on our couch who wanted a puppy and wanted it to be just like Clancy. Some have even wanted to purchase him, but I always tell them “Sorry, he’s not for sale” as he lays his head in their lap giving them his love and affection.  Clancy will always be our therapy dog and the only down side to that is most of his love and attention will stay here at the farm and not shared with a deserving person whose life he can cheer up, but all in all, we’ll take his love except for when he comes inside to visit and to share the couch with a couple looking for a puppy.  
Ken