The Grouchy Puppy motto is, “Give Fearlessly Influence Positively” inspired by people like Sandy and dogs like Shiloh. Together they spent six years as a therapy dog team in Tennessee visiting nursing homes and a children’s grief camp. They positively influenced hundreds of lives over the years by fearlessly giving their time and presence. The following is a first person essay about their experiences [...]
I started training Shiloh in 2001 right after his adoption from our county animal care and control shelter here in Tennessee. Shiloh is a Collie mix, who was about nine to twelve months old when I brought him home. Within a few weeks he had earned his AKC Canine Good Citizen certification. Shiloh is a real people lover. He was four years old when I read an article about therapy dogs and immediately thought he would be perfect as one.
We trained for therapy work with a local group before getting our certification through Therapy Dogs International.
Much of our work was with the elderly at nursing homes in our area. The residents loved being able to pet Shiloh's fluffy hair. We did our visits in several towns in Middle Tennessee. Our own town was tiny and didn't even have a nursing home, so we went wherever we were needed within an hour's driving distance. Shiloh enjoyed these excursions.
We also offered our services to local churches, and for several years we worked at a children’s grief camp, visiting with kids who had recently lost loved ones.
Therapy work is such a rewarding experience. The children at the grief camp said the therapy dog visit was their favorite part of the camp. It was amazing to see the smiles on the kids’ faces as they loved on the dogs and got loved back.
I remember one pre-teen boy who counselors told me was extremely withdrawn and uninterested in anything at the camp. When he met Shiloh, he was fascinated with his “fluffiness” and he timidly asked me a couple of questions about him. He said that he was afraid of dogs, but asked if he could just quickly touch him. He did so, just barely touching Shiloh, then jumping back. He would do it again and again, each time increasing his length of contact with Shiloh before jumping back.
By the time our session was over, the boy was laughing and loving all over Shiloh. The kids went to the camp only once. Every year it would be a new group of 50 to 60 kids spending time with the dogs. Several therapy dog teams went so there were several dogs for the kids to visit with.
At the nursing homes, several times we were told that a patient was unresponsive to everything around them and wouldn’t talk or interact with anyone. When Shiloh came in and nuzzled up to them, these same patients suddenly perked up and would run their fingers through his hair and would say a few words to him. Sometimes those were the first words the nurses had ever heard the patient speak aloud.
Shiloh worked as a therapy dog for six years. He retired due to declining health and mobility issues. He enjoyed his work while he was able to do it. He loved being the center of attention, and we both loved bringing a ray of sunshine into people’s lives.