Dr Oscar – Therapy Dog in Training

Oscar and I had our first trial run as a therapy dog last Friday at a local hospice.

I was a bit anxious in case he got over-excited or nervous and went into full-bore Schnauzer Scream mode.  Wouldn’t be good to start off terrifying the patients and causing  heart attacks!  He did squeal a bit on arrival.  I think he was excited by the new environment and lots of people coming and going.

We were greeted and taken into the Day Centre and met some of the nurses.  They said they’d thought it was a child crying!  But fortunately they all loved Oscar on sight and he of course lapped up the attention.

Unfortunately the nurse usually in charge of therapy dogs and their handlers had gone off sick that day so no one was exactly sure what the procedure should be but the nurse who looked after us (L) gave me a cup of tea and talked me through a few things.  She put Oscar through a few simple tests like ‘does the dog allow his ears, back and tail to be touched’, ‘does the dog take treats gently’, ‘does the dog sit quietly by the owner’s side during conversation’, ‘does the dog walk on a loose lead’.  Oscar passed with flying colours!  Except maybe when his tail was touched – he’s not keen on that.  But didn’t react over-much either.  So everything was fine and L said a little screeching now and again wasn’t going to matter so much – phew!

We then spent an hour or so talking to various people in the Day Centre.  Here, patients are in the last year of life.  Some weren’t particularly ‘into’ dogs, which is absolutely fine, so we left them alone.  Others loved to see Oscar, pat him, and give him a treat.  One lady was blind so I balanced Oscar on her knee so she could reach him and I put a treat into her hand so she was able to hold that out for Oscar to take.  He was soooo gentle!

We were shown around the ward where patients are End of Life.  Because we hadn’t completed our paperwork or been fully instructed in all the procedures, we weren’t allowed to visit patients in their rooms on this occasion.  Oscar, however, was very keen to visit – he kept poking his nose around the doors to patient rooms!

We spent about half an hour in admin, going through some paperwork, including a DBS check.  Again, Oscar was good as gold, standing and waiting patiently and quietly while we went through everything.

After another half hour or so with people in the Day Centre we headed off home.  Oscar was completely blotto in the car!  He was knackered, poor boy.  But he had been an absolute angel – I was sooooo proud of him (gulp).

Stay tooned for more tales of Dr Oscar.

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