Peggy and Vivian’s Great Adventure!

On April 20th Vivian, Ike, Greg and I “motored” to Bemidji to so that Vivian and I could take our Therapy Dog International test. (OK, we didn’t actually “motor” Greg drove the car, but I have always wanted to be in the neighborhood news in a small town paper, and “motor” somewhere on a Saturday. If you haven’t read a small town weekly newspaper I have probably lost you by now!) Anywho, we took the 2.5 hour trek to Bemidji so that Viv and I could be at the nursing home for the test by ten AM.

Vivian is always happy to go for a drive, and as usual settled in for a little nap in the back seat, using Ike as a pillow. I, on the other hand was too nervous to read, or rest or anything. I reread my TDI testing pamphlet and talked about all the things that could wrong. Since we had taken our class last fall the test had changed somewhat and now required a down/stay at 20 feet. Vivian doesn’t like doing a down/stay. She will do it for a treat, but TDI does not allow treating during the test or on visits, so she was going to have to do it all by herself. I mentally beat myself up for not spending more time working with her over the winter and really worried about the distraction of having other dogs around while being tested. Meanwhile, Vivian dozed on in the backseat, not realizing what an important day it was!

We stopped to let the dogs run a bit before heading to the nursing home. Once at the testing facility I walked the halls with Vivian to get her use to the smells and sounds of a new facility. It also helped me get some of the nerves to settle down. I always say I am Vivian’s biggest handicap and I am pretty sure she can feel my nervousness through the lead. Heading into the testing room, I was instructed to hand over Vivian to a “friendly stranger” who took her into another room while I signed in. The test had officially started; I should have stopped to pee when the dogs did! Vivian apparently passed the first test as I got her back and we had to mingle while the other dogs checked in. Soon, residents from the facility started coming into the room to watch the test. Yep, dog distractions and people distractions; we were going to have to be on our best game.

The obedience testing came first. Moving around on a heal, sitting on command, down on command, healing through a crowd and then the scary one; down/stay at 20 feet. We don’t pass this one and we are done with the testing and can’t retest for six months. All I could imagine was driving that far, only to be finished within the first 15 minutes of the test! I was called first. Vivian went down immediately and I slowly backed up, hand in the stay position. Vivian on the floor her eyes trained on me, staying, staying, staying; my eyes on Vivian, waiting for the evaluator for what seemed forever, “Call your dog”. “Come, Vivian!” She flew up to me and did a perfect sit in front of me, sliding just a bit because the linoleum was slippery! We were through the obedience portion and we had nailed it.

Next up testing with residents, and in the halls. I wasn’t too worried about this portion because we have spent all winter visiting our pals at the Warroad Senior Living Center and I knew Vivian was good with anything they could throw at her. The only worry was me remembering what I can and cannot do on a visit. Right out of the gate I blew it, leaning down to put the break on a resident’s wheelchair while she petted Vivian. You are not suppose to touch the resident’s chairs, but I was thinking like a daughter and not a volunteer and just did it automatically. Luckily that was a part of the test you can have a “do over” on. Like I said, I knew Viv would do well with anything they threw at her, and they literally threw things by her and in front of her. They tested her “leave it” command with lunch meat, which she totally ignored and the crazy lady who hugged her, and pulled on her ears was almost rewarded with a lick on the kisser, but that was it. After loud noises, thrown crutches, people in wheelchairs wielding yummy dog treats which she could not have and people unexpectedly coming out of doors and around corners she was ready to move on to the last part of the test; kids.

Yes, she needed to be around children, running, playing, yelling and generally being kids. So down the hall we went to have her placed on a sit/stay next to me while she calmly watched kids throwing balls, toddling and skipping around. She was crazy calm, and I was thankful we had gone to the Warroad Easter Egg hunt, so that she could see kids in action! As we walked back down the hall, I heard “You passed” and let out the breath I had been holding. A bit of paperwork and we were out the door to Greg and Ike in the parking lot.

“We Passed!!” I told Greg as I climbed in the car. “I know” he responded, “I saw the smile on your face as you came out the door!”

We completed the paperwork, had the Veterinarian check up and paperwork completed and sent everything, along with Vivian’s picture to TDI. This week it became official. Vivian has an ID badge, a red TDI bandana, the tag for her collar and I registered our facility with Therapy Dog International.

People have asked me why I wanted to get certified with TDI. There are a variety of reasons. With this certification Vivian and I can visit other facilities that require volunteer therapy dogs to be certified with a national organization and we are covered by insurance now when we are volunteering, and of course Vivian does rock the red bandana. Mostly though I did it for me. Volunteering with Vivian is fun, it makes me happy to see people light up when Vivian walks in their room. It is fun to hear from people in town that their dad or their grandma talks about Vivian all the time. I get to spend time with my poodle and hopefully make a difference in someone’s week. I get to visit the residents and they make a difference in my week. Therapy by Vivian; good girl, good dog!


A Typical Therapy Dog Visit for Vivian

Vivian May 2It looks like once again I took a “blog break” for a few months.  I wish I could say it is because winter has “flown” by, but in Minnesota we are still waiting for winter to leave and it is taking its own sweet time.  Vivian and I spent our winter volunteering on most weekends at the Warroad Senior Living Center.  Vivian has gathered quite a few resident fans, and seems to make more with each visit.  When we originally started visiting we would go at 1 PM on Saturdays, but found many of the people who asked for her to visit them were sleeping; so we asked if we could come in the morning.   Now we go about 10 AM and stay an hour or so; any more than that and Vivian gets a little antsy, and very warm.

A typical visit will find Vivian and me heading to the “Angle wing” (each wing is named after a local area) and visiting with my friend Belle’s mom, and then Mr. P.   Mr. P likes to pretend he is a grumpy old guy, but Vivian can usually get a smile out him and when we  leave he always says “Come back soon, bring the dog”.   After another quick pet from Ilene, we head to Birch.

As soon as we cross over to Birch Vivian perks right up; she does love the ladies of Birch!  Our first visit with Mrs. R starts theVivian May 3 same way every week “Vivian, I am so glad to see you!  And what is your name Dear?”   We visit a while, Vivian gets plenty of petting and then we sign the guest book as “Vivian and her Person Peggy”.  Next we head across the hall to see Ms. B.

Ms. B doesn’t talk, but she laughs and loves it when Vivian licks her fingers.  Viv will put her head in Ms. B’s lap and with frozen fingers Ms. B will push her hand through a poodle top knot.   Then Vivian makes a play for the tennis balls on the bottom of the walker, I say “leave it”, Ms. B laughs and off we go!

Next is the common area and Vivian’s coffee club.  Usually there are two to four ladies having coffee and Vivian makes the rounds from one to the other for petting and adoration.  This group is very talkative and we enjoy visiting about all sorts of things; but especially Vivian.  They want to know if she is full-grown?  Does her hair grow fast? Do you cut her hair? How much does it cost to cut her hair?  Last week my favorite question was, “Would you ever consider polishing her toenails?”   After a chorus of goodbyes, and one “I love you Vivian!”  we head to assisted living.

Once in assisted living we stop to visit with the men’s version of Vivian’s coffee club.  Carl barks at Vivian; Vivian wags her tail and I say, as I do every Saturday “One of these days she is going to bark back and you will be so scared!”   We laugh, Carl gives us another “woof” and we head to our last visit of the day, Richard’s room.

Heading down the hall, Vivian picks up speed and if I didn’t make her heal, she would go at full speed into Richard’s room at the end of the hall.  Once at the door he opens his arms, I let go of Viv’s leash and she flies over to him, to get a back rub!   I sit on the couch, Vivian lays at Richard’s feet and we spend some time talking about “stuff”.  Sometimes it is about birds, or canoe trips, and this week it was German Shepherd’s and why they don’t look like they use to.   I might have to look up GSD’s and see how they have changed over the years because Richard knows a lot about the breed and my knowledge is based on one I knew when I was 8 Vivian Maynamed Shane.

As we leave Richard’s we pass by the café and say hello to the assisted living ladies who are coming down for lunch.  A hug from the mail carrier, for Vivian not Peggy, and we are back in the car headed home.  So that is a typical visit from Vivian and her person “What’s-her-name”!