Tues, May 21 2002 8:46 pm
OK, so I'm being a bit silly tonight but I'm also sharing my pleasure in the dogs that a part of my life. Oso takes on the tasks that require the highest in skill level but only the most modest levels of learning. He is a therapy dog and he is a very good one. He didn't need much help in learning basic manners, and his instincts are excellent in deciding how to approach each individual. The shy and the fearful he approaches carefully and quietly, head averted, mouth closed. Dog lovers he approaches boldly, with a full smile and a swagger and more than a little demanding of a decent head rubbing instead of some pitifull pet between the ears.
Oso is the dog that will pick out the loneliest person in the room and plop his head in their lap as if he has adopted that person as his own special project.
While he has no particular love of agility he does love doing tricks. This came as somewhat as a surprise to me but I came to understand. He never wants to disappoint. He never wants to be wrong. All I needed to do was to help him succeed with every attempt. Give him small steps. Oso is 22 inches at the shoulder. Starting with the very largest hula hoop I taught him to jump through it. And made the hoop smaller, and helped him jump through it, and made it smaller yet. The final hoop size was a mere 13 inches in diameter. It is his very favorite trick and will distract him from everything, including another staring dog.
At eleven Oso is not, sadly, as healthy as Tanith. But his current course of medication seems to be working well. The grey in his whiskers gets lots of comment on our visits to convalescent homes, youth facilities and senior centers. But the relaxed smile on his face is still as sunny as ever. He makes almost everyone feel comfortable, even many who are afraid of or dislike most other dogs. In his career as therapy dog he was at least three "miracles" those are interactions with a facility resident that are so special that staff members gasp in surprise. One I particularly remember was a woman I approached and asked if she wanted to pet the dog. She began to talk to Oso, telling him what a beautiful dog he was, how she was going to take him for a walk and on and on and on. On impulse I handed her his leash and she tried to get out of her wheelchair. I heard an exclamation behind me and noticed the recreation therapist talking excitedly to our visit supervisor. Afterward I got the story. That woman had been in the facility for three months. During that time she had been unresponsive to any social interaction. The only word they had heard her utter was "yes, yes, yes" over and over. She never showed interest in anything until Oso met her eyes.
Oso has forced me to learn so much about dogs. I learned that nature and nurture are a balance and sometimes one just can't overcome the other. I learned to look at the dog and help it learn the way it learns best, not just the way I was most used to. I learned to really LOOK at the dog and pay attention to what its body language was telling me. I learned to appreciate what was different that what I would have chosen.
I'm just taking a small moment to really appreciate these dogs that share their lives with me, and not just take them for granted.
On January 24, 2004 Oso left us and his pain behind. See
Oso's last story.
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Copyright © 2002 Diane Blackman Created: May 21, 2002 Updated November 12, 2007
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