Why We Chose to Become a Therapy Dog Team
It’s funny the things that you remember from your childhood, especially when you stop to consider how far outnumbered those memories must be from youv'e forgotten. Many things that you thought were important and life changing events probably weren’t and some things that you didn’t give much consideration to are burnt into your memory, forever providing a small reminder of a time when you didn’t know much about life.
One of those memories that has stayed with me was the time I spent with a woman at an assisted living center when I was in 5th or 6th grade once a week during one half of the year. I was visiting the woman as part of a school program, which was most probably mandatory considering it was after school and took time out of my day when I would otherwise have been wasting time to my heart’s content. That said, I do recall that I enjoyed our weekly visits and found quite a bit of comfort in listening to her speak about her life and making popsicle stick houses. Being a young child who had a longing to understand the complex journey of life, I will never forget the smile on her face and the comfort that I found in the insight she provided as she reflected on her life. While I do not remember her name or the things she said (I wish I did), I will never forget the smile on her face and the comfort she found in through me in an opposite yet equal way as I did through her.
When I rescued Jackson, it was clear that his entire goal in life was to meet as many people and species of animals possible. Jackson believes that there is a friend to be made in every creature and no matter their outlook or disposition. Regardless of the situation, he will not waiver from his desire to form a new relationship. Shortly after I got Jackson, I began to train him to assist me with some tasks in order to help me with some physical hardships I was going through at the time. However, while Jackson was responsive to my needs, it became clear that he had much more interest in meeting new people, than anything else. As I began to get better and find alternative ways to manage my own issues, I couldn’t help but notice how Jackson’s love of people and animals grew even greater as he settled into his new life and continued to grow out of the last stages puppyhood into adulthood.
Sometimes it becomes clear that a person was destined to walk a certain path in life. Babe Ruth was destined to play baseball, Chopin was destined to compose and play piano, and so too is it with certain animals. Some dogs live to fetch, some love nothing more than pulling a cart, and I’m certain that Jackson’s purpose on earth is to bring comfort and joy to everyone that he encounters. Just as people fall in love with Jackson wherever we go, Jackson is more than happy to stop for hugs, attention, photos, and the occasional belly scratch.
With Jackson’s calling in mind and my childhood memories of visiting the assisted living center, I decided that training as a therapy team was a wonderful way to bring joy to Jackson and those he visited. I decided that hospice, active and retired military, and special needs individuals would be our primary focus. I chose these areas of focus not only for their comfort, but also for mine. The same clarity and comfort I felt as a child still rings true today. When we have visited those who are hospitalized, or have been willing to sacrifice their life for our freedom, it just simply feels right. I still enjoy listening to stories and life reflections, but as an adult, the joy I feel when I see someone who has started the process of completing their journey smile at the site of Jackson, or witness the comfort he brings as they pet him has little comparison.
Jackson also loves children, his love for small children has little equal and with that in mind, I’ve also started to concentrate on reading programs and special needs children as well.
We are continuing to train as a team and settle into our new role as volunteers for the facilities who support and appreciate the joy that therapy dogs provide. If you would like to know more about Jackson, please visit the About Jackson page. If you would like to know about our availability or the process we took to become certified as a therapy dog team, please fill out the feedback form on the Jackson the Therapy Dog page.