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My Therapy Dog is Leaving Me

My therapist is moving. For as long I’ve known her she’s had an office in her house, with her husband occasionally vacuuming above our heads, and a dog barking to let us know if someone is coming up the driveway to kill us. But now, she and her husband are getting older, and the house is too big, and the driveway is a hell-scape in the winter. So they are moving into an apartment. There’s no office attached to this apartment, or even nearby, so my therapist will now be sharing office space at a building with elevators and valet parking. A building that does not allow dogs.

I’m fine with the move in every other way – no more climbing up their mountain of a driveway, no more feeling like I’m invading her husband’s life by being in his house when he’s watching TV – but not having the dogs there for therapy is inconceivable. Her miniature poodle, Teddy, and her Golden retriever, Delilah, offer the kind of comfort and approval no human can supply. They love me. They know me. They offer themselves up for petting. Teddy, especially, is one of my best friends.

Teddy!

Teddy!

Teddy is a ten year old miniature poodle, and I have known him since he was a ball of black fluff curled on his mom’s lap. Teddy greets me at the door, and ushers me to my seat, and sits on my lap, and gives me kisses, and listens carefully to everything I have to say. Delilah, the Golden Retriever, is a more recent addition, but she offers comfort whenever she can, when she’s not busy taking care of her Dad. In fact, the closer we get to the move, the more time she chooses to spend in the office, as if she knows something is about to change and she wants to soak up as much therapy time as possible. I don’t think I’d have survived therapy this long without my buddies there, letting me know that I’m wonderful and special no matter what I talk about.

Delilah!

Delilah!

I’m worried that it will be strange not going to the house anymore. Will I feel like saying different things in the new office? Will my therapist seem like a stranger in different surroundings? Will I even recognize her without Teddy in the room?

The new office is in a building full of other therapists, and yet they don’t allow dogs. How can this be? What is with this overwhelming prejudice against dogs, especially in places where they can do the most good?! My therapist is considering sneaking Teddy in on Saturday mornings when the building is mostly empty, but, Shh, don’t tell anyone. It would be harder to sneak Delilah into the building. Maybe in a very big suitcase, on wheels, with air holes?

Delilah looks concerned.

“Are you sure about this, Rachel?”

I worry about Teddy, actually. He has been a co-therapist for most of his life. He looks forward to telling people when to come in, and when to leave. He has meaning and purpose in his life from his work. What will he do in an apartment all day? He might actually have to play with other dogs! I think Delilah with her Golden temperament will be able to adapt, but Teddy takes things to heart. He gets depressed when his mom goes away. He loses weight and has tummy troubles. He loses his spark. How will he feel knowing his Mom is going to work without him?

“How will the humans know where to sit without my help?”

I offered to have him over for visits with me and my dogs, for my sake as much as his, but my therapist said it wouldn’t work, because Teddy would be outraged to see me with other dogs. Because I belong to him.

What will I do without him?

Don't worry. Cricket and Butterfly are coming up with a plan.

Cricket and Butterfly are working on a plan.

Teddy, the Therapy Dog

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, analyzing the depths of my soul

Teddy, analyzing the depths of my soul

Teddy, analyzing the smells I brought with me from home

Teddy, analyzing the smells I brought with me from home

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.

Baby Teddy looked something like this

Baby Teddy looked something like this

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.

Puppy Cricket, the menace

Puppy Cricket, the menace

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.

Teddy's sister smiles like this Golden, and thinks we should have therapy outdoors.

Teddy’s sister smiles like this Golden, and thinks we should have therapy outdoors.