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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Not Always Dogs

Gopher and I both love all of our fellow therapy peers. Many times people think therapy is limited to dogs, but cats, chickens, guinea pigs, rabbits are all therapy animals as well. We wanted to share this story about a horse who recently visited a facility here in Minneapolis that we visit regularly as well. Unfortunately Gopher, his little brother, Carla and I were there a couple days before so we did hear about Dusty coming, but did not get a chance to see him live.

Don't forget the Challenge! You have until June 30th, and we are looking forward to seeing all of your entries.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Not so long ago I did a post with some images of Gopher having his body out lined in treats. I was flattered when our good friends at Finn Howard gave it a shot.

In the original image Gopher has his head up, but I hoped to be able to do this with him laying flat. Well another slower visit night offered us the opportunity to attempt this trick. The few visitors we had that night assisted me in placing all of the treats so that his body was out lined completely. 

Here are the results.....

 Complete body outline.

See how close they are to his nose. (They do blend in a bit, but look closely and you will see them.)

The tail even stayed still.

Even along his back.

Gopher stayed in position for several minutes, and when released very gently went after each treat reminding us of Pac-Man.

He stayed sitting rotating on his butt, leaving the outline nearly perfectly intact. (See the tail section on the right side of image?)

The home stretch.

It is a fun trick an extension of his "wait" command which provided a foundation for "leave it" command, both necessary for his safety in some medical environments.

So here is the challenge!!

1. Do this with your own pooch.
2. Take a picture and send it directly to us at: by June 30th, 2012
3. We will post the images in a July entry for readers to vote on. 

The picture with the most vote wins. Well actually everyone wins because they get to teach or show off a trick their dog can do.

The winner will be sent two Gopher Trading Cards (Series 1 and the yet to be released Series 2) and a brand new fleece tug toy!

Tell your friends!


Monday, May 14, 2012

Sitting Vigil

Personal information obtained on therapy visits is confidential. When applicable the name/location/sex/condition of persons visited may be changed to protect privacy. However, the interactions, conversations are true and did occur as written. 

Gopher, Chad,  Squirrel and Carla are all volunteers. They do not officially represent any institution that may be mentioned.

Gopher and I recently answered a plea for a late comer to hospice. The patient had been admitted that day, but was at the point of hours not days, weeks or even months. Death was eminent, and the service I volunteer with offers vigil, so a patient need not be alone in their final hours. The patient and his family did not require or even request this service. The patient however wanted to see a dog again, and so the request was sent out and Gopher and I answered the call.

I was somewhat concerned for Gopher, this would be the first time that we would visit a patient this close to death. I was not as concerned with myself as I am comfortable around death due to my extended exposure as a child. There was no reason to be concerned as Gopher handled himself beautifully. The room was full of family and quite warm when we arrived.  Gopher and I were welcomed and I pulled us a chair so that Gopher could sit on it and be visible to the patient. There Gopher sat looking toward the patient, the patient took a few moments to locate Gopher and then his eyes locked and he smiled. He no longer had the strength to pet Gopher, so they just sat there looking at one another smiling, while I fielded questions about Gopher from the family.  Nearly half an hour passed that way, and then the patient dozed off with a smile on their face. Gopher knew it was time to work the room so he dismounted the chair and approached each of the eager family members.

He approached each one of them with a solid look into their eyes and a very gentle tail wag, not too much excitement or exuberance, nice and gentle, a comforting presence. Gopher knew it was not a time to play or for tricks, he knew they needed a moment of comfort like only petting can bring. Once he approached all of the adults he went to the group of children who had been occupying a space in the far corner. All too young to truly understand what was going on in the room around them, all slightly afraid and upset, to see their respective parents in varying degrees of sadness.

All of the kids turned as Gopher approached and smiled as he took a spot in the center so all could pet him at one time. The kids all asked questions about Gopher and wanted to see a few tricks which Gopher obliged. This brought on some fits of laughter which brought smiles to every adult in the room. As the adults turned back to their various conversations the kids began to talk to Gopher about what was going on around them. “Grandpa is dying Gopher, which means he is going away and can’t come back.” “I think mom and dad are here to make sure he doesn’t forget us or anything for his trip. They always checked my bag whenever I go anywhere to make sure I don’t forget anything.” ”They told me that once Grandpa is gone we will go to a church where we can say goodbye.” “They told me not to be afraid, so you shouldn’t be scared either Gopher.” The conversation between the kids and Gopher continued. I did not  interrupt or correct, it was not my place, my place was to be on the other end of the leash, Gopher ‘s place was to listen so they could figure out how to talk about it and possibly ask their parents questions later as they rationalized what was happening in their young minds.

The session was broken by the adults in the family who had determined it was time to go home, one person returning after she put her children to bed to spend the night.  We bid are farewells and let them know Gopher and I would sit a little longer. After sitting alone with the patient for about forty-five minutes, Gopher let me know it was time to go home. We went to leave and I had presumed the patient was still resting when I heard a low rasp, “Thank you.” I told the patient it was my pleasure, and thanked him for visiting with Gopher, and we left. We would not see him again as the patient passed away the following morning. Gopher though did what he was supposed to do, let a dying man see a dog again, and went above my expectations in counseling the family and children in his own way. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Therapy Marathon

A couple of weeks ago Gopher and I went on a day that has since been described as the therapy marathon. The day started with our Sunday house cleaning, Gopher’s second least favorite thing we do, the first being going to our day jobs and leaving him sit. With the house work done, we did our immediately prior to visiting groom.

We took off for our first visit of the day, ninety minutes of R.E.A.D. The warm weather deterred many people from coming to the library that day, and Gopher only had one reader. A 4 year old who was able to take her time reading, Boomer’s Big Surprise, one of Gopher’s favorite books. At least he is most attentive when it is read. The book if you are not familiar is about a Golden Retriever named Boomer who has to make adjustments to a new Golden Retriever puppy coming into his home. 

Something Gopher had to go through not very long ago, damn puppies anyway. With few visitors Gopher and I were able to visit some with one of our favorite fellow teams to visit with and one of his many girlfriends Kodi.

The session came to an end and off across town we went to visit one of our hospice patients.  She was very happy to see Gopher, but was not having a good day. She apologized as she was not strong enough to pet Gopher that day. She told me to tell him he was such a good dog for her. I told her that he heard her and was wagging out of happiness.  This made her smile and laugh. We raised her head a bit with her permission so that she could see Gopher a little better. Since she was not able to pet him we went through the repertoire of Gopher tricks, she smiled brightly at each one. We visited for a few minutes more and bid our farewells.
Then we had to zip across town for our final visit of the day, a group visit with little brother Squirrel and Mom. Once again the weather made the visitors sparse while we were waiting for visitors Gopher and I worked on an expansion of a trick that is loved at this particular facility. The trick that is loved, and I often have visitors help me with is placing several treats on Gophers’ paws and forelimbs. He will then stay in position, staring intently at me and drooling a bit, until he is released to consume the treats. Now we have expanded this to doing ‘chalk outlines’ of Gopher.  He likes the end of this trick, but does grow impatient while I am doing the outline so several adjustments have to be made.

We even took the opportunity to pose for a picture together.

After a little bit we had our first visitor, Squirrel was beside himself with excitement, while Gopher stayed in his most regal position waiting for love. The little one went to Squirrel first and he did calm but not before lying down and stretching. When he did this he put his front paws against the patient, he did not hurt, her, but the pressure surprised her and being very young called out to him to stop. Gopher observing all of this looked at me, then at Squirrel and back at me, huffing at his displeasure in the behavior. Gopher does this often when he knows any animal, particularly Squirrel acts inappropriately. Squirrel and Carla visited with her as she readily fed both Gopher and Squirrel treats; she also needed to eat so Carla used her desire to feed the boys treats as motivation. She had to eat, then she got to give the boys a treat, then she had to eat another item, so on and so forth. Her mother appreciated the extra assistance. While they continued to visit Gopher and I visited with a visually impaired patient who we have visited with before. Being uncertain of his surroundings he seems to appreciate how calm Gopher is in letting him pet and inspect every inch of Gopher with his hands, calling out anatomy such as ears, nose, paws when he traces Gopher and finds them.
Once the visit was completed, Gopher took all of us out to Dairy Queen for ice cream cones thanks to a gift card he received for volunteer appreciation week. With the ice cream consumed it was time for a walk, and another photo op of Gopher and Squirrel.

It was a very busy and wonderful day. However with all that work done, the ice cream, and a walk there was but one thing left to do, and that was get four paws in the air.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Special Message From Gopher

Dear Readers,

Thank you for taking the time to read about me, my dad will return next week with two great stories, how I was there for a lot of people doing a therapy marathon and how I helped someone and their family in their final hours. Today I wanted to send out a note to two very special people in my life, my Aunt Carla and Uncle Duck.

Aunt Carla and Uncle Duck are getting married this weekend and asked Mom and Dad to stand up with them, I know they feel very privileged to be a part of their special day. Carla and Duck are very special to me, I get very excited when my Mom and Dad mention their names, or the names of my cousins Rhino and Tortie. Aunt Carla even made me my special READ blanket. It has my name on it and everything!

When Uncle Duck come over I have to claim him, and show him that I can be a lap dog too.
Uncle Duck even likes to play with my little brother, and Aunt Carla is always a willing victim to hide for them.
I try not to be jealous, but remind Squirrel they were my Aunt and Uncle first, they were the first people to take me on a big walk when I was an itty bitty pup, so they obviously belong to me.

Congratulations Uncle Duck and Aunt Carla.