Chelsea, from home alone to a home full of friends
This is Chelsea’s story as it was written for her OTD member profile in 2005. Chelsea retired from active therapy dog work in October 2005 due to increasing mobility difficulties. We lost her in June of 2006.
Chelsea spent most of the first nine months of her life locked up in a basement. A beautiful shepherd/husky cross, she was unwisely adopted by people who did not have the time or inclination to give a growing puppy the attention and training she needed. Friends of Abandoned Pets (which used to rescue dogs as well as cats) intervened when the owners decided to get rid of Chelsea. After I was interviewed by the Friends, and passed the home visit, I adopted Chelsea.
When she first joined our family, Chelsea was overweight and significantly out-of-shape for a puppy. I could tire her out with a jog around the block. The first time I threw a ball to her, it hit her on the nose-she had no idea what a ball was for! But she was willing to learn. Before the end of our first summer together, she had mastered the obedience basics. By the time Chelsea had been with us a year, I had my first baby, and Chelsea proved to be an excellent nanny-dog and carriage-walking companion. She has been crawled over and thoroughly examined by two toddlers, and is still very watchful of my children.
When my youngest was in Kindergarten, I heard about the visiting dogs at the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre. I thought that this would be just the job for Chelsea, who could never get enough attention, as well as a great way to teach my children about community service. There was PRVHC volunteer training (for me) and paperwork to do, as well as quite a long wait for an evaluation (OTD did not have a local evaluator at that time), so Chelsea was eight years old by the time she started her new job.
What a difference it has made for her! For Chelsea, being a therapy dog is a two-way street: she was immediately much happier and less in need of constant attention. She learned the word ‘work’ right away and the question: “Do you want to go to work?” would get her very excited as she danced to the hall closet to await her ‘uniform’ and leash. When we go to the Perley, Chelsea lights up the faces of almost everyone we meet-residents, staff and visitors alike. To the veterans of Rideau 1 North, she is their dog on Wednesday mornings, and has been for five years now.
On those occasions when we can’t make it for our usual visit, I phone in to let them know, so the residents won’t worry about Chelsea — they know that she’s also getting older and is now a bit frail. At 13, Chelsea has slowed down, but the prospect of going to ‘work’ puts the bounce back in her step. As long as she is that happy to go to the Perley, I’ll continue to take her to her other home to see her friends. We should all have such great jobs!