I almost didn’t schedule Mouse and me for R.E.A.D. yesterday because I knew I would’ve just returned from three days in Texas and wasn’t sure it would be good for my dog to go to the library and work as soon as I got back. And shortly before our shift started, I almost backed out for the day because when the other dog team showed up, Mouse barked! It wasn’t an aggressive bark; it was an I-want-to-play-with-you bark. But still…a therapy dog should never bark!
I think Mouse knew I was considering leaving because he plopped down on the floor then and refused to move. He wouldn’t move when I offered a liver treat…he wouldn’t move when the other dog handler handed me one of her treats (which he had never seen before, so it SHOULD have been motivating). Then kids started coming. When the first one came in, he rolled onto his side to get pet. And then when I said to him, “do you want to read?” and pointed to his pillow, he got up and trotted over there. Clearly he wanted to work after all…so we stayed.
And I’m glad we did because we ended up having a GREAT day. Better than usual, I think. Why? Well…
1) I got to hear a kid read the Buddy Files to him! That was so cool! I’d never heard a child read one of my books out loud before. Of course, listening to her I heard some things I wanted to change, but overall, WOW! I can’t even describe what it felt like to watch a child read my book to my dog in the library.
2) There was a girl who was scared of big dogs, but she wanted to read with Mouse anyway. I tried to talk her into reading with the other team, but for some reason she really wanted to read with Mouse. I think she’d been watching the girl ahead of her because she kept talking about where that girl was sitting. Mouse had his head in that other girl’s lap most of the time she was reading…this girl wanted to know if the other girl liked it when Mouse had his head on her lap. I said, “yes, she did…but that doesn’t mean you have to sit like that. You should sit however you want.” So she started out on the floor about six feet away from Mouse. She’d read a sentence, then look at Mouse. I was so proud of my dog…I could tell he sensed this little girl was scared. He just laid there perfectly still at the edge of the pillow…the only thing that moved was his eyeball. So the little girl started inching closer and closer to him. Pretty soon she was on the pillow. She never actually touched him, but she did get within a foot of him. And she didn’t want to stop when her turn was over. At the end of a session, I always let the child do a trick with Mouse and then they can give him a treat. She didn’t want to do any kind of trick that would involve touching the dog, so I showed her how he responds to hand signals and then let her toss a treat for him to catch in his mouth. She was smiling when she left!
I am continually amazed by how tuned in to human emotion my dog is!