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One Measure – Is it Enough?

Photo1 (5)If you are a dog owner you probably understand my complete attachment to my little pup. Look at him. Doesn’t your heart just melt!  I rescued him 3 years ago. He has been my pride and joy. His unconditional love is comforting. He makes me laugh and teaches me something new everyday!

My pup came to me very needy. His past life left many scars. They surface in many ways. One being, he’s a ma ma’s boy. When he encounters unknown places he acts as though I am going to leave him and never return. I always return. But, he still fears being left. Chances are he was left alone a lot in his former life. I do know he spent a lot of time in a crate and was uncared for resulting in being so heavily matted when he was surrendered he needed to be completely shaved.

He is not a sports fan. That is fine except when I want to watch an Iowa State (my alma mater) football or basketball game.  When games are on TV my dog hides in the strangest places. During a recent game I finally found him under my bed. He had to move several empty boxes to even find a comfortable spot. I think this fear has something to do with the tone of voice of the announcers and the constant background noise that may appear like yelling.

Despite his quirks, I have had high expectations for my little pup. Together we went through several obedience sessions earning an American Kennel Club Good Citizen Certificate. Two years ago he passed test to become a Therapy Dog. For the past two years we have enjoyed going to the public library to listen to kids read.

All was good, until yesterday.

Every two years Therapy Dogs in our organization need to be retested. I really didn’t think much about it. He had made so much progress in the past two years. He loved going to the library. He has been very comfortable around the kids. In fact he often strolls into the library quite confident as if he owns the place. So you can imagine my shock when I was told he didn’t pass and was being put on probation. My heart sank. I had to fight back tears. I was left speechless. Something we had worked so hard for was being put on hold. But, I saw it with my own eyes. He was fearful and didn’t respond well to the testing situation. I understood the verdict, but that didn’t make it any easier.

My thoughts quickly turned to all the parents who have received information on their child that was hard to accept. I thought of the schools, because of the results of ONE TEST, were being put on a list of schools that needed assistance despite the hard work of teachers and students.

Yesterday I had a pity party. Even if my pup wasn’t considered a therapy dog at the moment, he was my therapy. We spent time together. He was most helpful while I graded work for an online college course I’m teaching in the area of Middle School Literacy. He sat on my lap and kept telling me he thought it may be motivating for even middle school age kids to read to a dog once in a while.

Today I’m more determined than ever to help my pup do the necessary tasks to reinstate his place of honor as a therapy dog! The organization knows that one measure is not enough. The test looked at his reactions to situation. Going through additional classes will help him fine-tune and gain new skills. They have put me in touch with a mentor and I look forward to learning from the human/dog team and their experiences. One measure isn’t enough and never should be!

I refuse to let one 20 minute test define our purpose. It doesn’t tell the whole story. I am a firm believer that our situations make us stronger and that we can always benefit from additional “coaching.” We’ll be back!

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