My therapist has a miniature Poodle named Teddy, and he is her assistant therapist. He comes out of the office to get me from the waiting room, either barking at me or nosing my leg, depending on his mood, and then he does his Gumby-like stretch to relieve the stress of his very difficult job. He is my yoga guru; he does not seem to have bones at all.
Teddy is eight and a half years old and I have known him since he was a ball of puppy fluff. He was shy at first. He slept on his Mom’s lap or looked at me with suspicion. I spent a large part of two years in therapy working on my relationship with Teddy. If I was too eager to pick Teddy up early on, he would let me know, by backing up and walking away. But the next week he’d let me try again. And if I overcorrected, by not reaching out at all, he’d take a step closer to let me know he was willing to be addressed. He worked with me, and the more carefully I listened to his cues, the better he liked me and rewarded me, with attention and kisses.
Teddy is the reason I looked for a Poodle mix when it was time to get a new dog. Before I met him, Poodles looked too frou frou to me, with those strange dog show haircuts (pompoms on the tush, etc) and prissy bows and ribbons in their hair. But Teddy had a puppy hair cut that made him look like a real dog. He gets his hair cut every four or five weeks, because his groomer is something of a tyrant about inappropriate hair length for miniature Poodles, but also because his hair starts to cover his eyes and his black eyes are impossible to see through the poof of black hair.
When I brought Cricket home, six years ago, one of the first places she went was to therapy to meet Teddy. I brought all of her paraphernalia with me in the equivalent of a diaper bag. There was a wee wee pad, poopie bags, paper towels, water, tissues, a chew toy, a soft toy, and treats. Cricket fell in love with Teddy, and with my therapist, right away. She tried to jump onto both of their laps and sniff all of Teddy’s toys and every corner of the room. Teddy took to hiding behind his Mom’s wicker chair so that Cricket couldn’t sniff his butt. He had to growl at her, to warn her away, because she wasn’t listening to his cues and taking it slow. Cricket is not good at adapting to other people’s rules.
Teddy prefers when I don’t bring my dogs. He likes to sit on my lap, facing me. He sits like a little gentleman, and leans into scratchies, until I have to hold him up, like the leaning tower of puppy. He is starting to get some grey hair on his chin, but he’s still mostly black velvet and very amenable to being scratched.
He has a “little” sister, an eighty pound Golden Retriever, who comes galloping up the stairs to visit the office sometimes. I’ll have Teddy on my lap and his sister next to me, giving me her closed-eyed smile while she gets her scratches. This is my idea of effective therapy.