Shadow, my black tri-colour Australian Shepherd, and I began our therapy dog work in the Spring of 2003, after passing our evaluation with Ottawa Therapy Dogs, and joining Therapy Dogs International.
Shadow is an intelligent, fun-loving dog, with endless energy, and personality and a solid work ethic. He is a loyal companion who is eager to please everyone. The Aussie, (as they are lovingly nicknamed) because of their high energy level combined with their high intelligence, need to be given a "job" to perform. Shadow has excelled at obedience and agility, but his favourite job is his therapy dog work.
Shadow and I visit a weekly Outreach Program, which is a day program for seniors in the west end of Ottawa. From the moment we start preparing ourselves for our visit, Shadow eagerly anticipates the instant when I will put on his special collar, leash and working bandanna, and head out for the car to go to work. As we approach the front door of the facility, and await a volunteer to let us in, Shadow shows his Aussie grin and starts to wag his entire rear end to compensate for his bobbed tail. The faces of the clients, staff and volunteers light up when Shadow enters the facility. Sometimes we work with the entire group, while other days we work on a one-to-one basis with the clients. But in every case, as Shadow approaches each person, it is with the expectation that they will be as delighted to see him, as he is to sit by their side, and be petted, hugged, kissed, or talked to. The rewards of pet therapy are witnessed in each and every visit, as Shadow brings comfort and joy to everyone he visits, provides a lively subject for conversation, and rekindles memories of pets which people have previously owned.