Sometimes, despite all your preparation a visit can go bad. This could be a result of an action your partner takes, an off day or in the case of Gopher and I a child throwing a toy at him.
It was a beautiful day outside and a weekend given it was a group visit setting I was expecting a quiet day, but still wanted to keep our scheduled visit in case someone needed a little Gopher time. We arrived at the facility and were surprised to find a lack of adult presence, there were two kids running around and having a good time. They were not doing anything particularly wrong, just being a bit overly exuberant.
We went and signed in, and retired to the room where our visits take place. The two kids came by, quickly petted Gopher and then returned to their play time activities. When visiting the handler portion of the therapy dog teams first and foremost responsibility is to keep your partner safe.
As the kids played, they began to run through the room, and that was fine, Gopher is used to this at the facility. However they then decided it was time to take turns running up to Gopher and screaming in his face. I was taken aback by this, but Gopher maintained his composure and training and merely looked at me. When they returned to do it again, I stopped them immediately.
"Stop, it is not nice to scream in anyone's face, Gopher is here to visit you and if you want to visit with him nicely you are welcome to do so, but do not scream at him." I told them in a controlled, but stern voice.
They walked away obviously annoyed at the adult who spoiled their fun. They began playing again in the next room. As the time passed it became obvious that they were to be our only visitors. We were determined to spend the hour in the event there was a family in need of the visit, then it happened.one of the children came flying through the room and I am still not sure if it was by accident or with intent threw a toy at Gopher. He let out a light whimper.
I jump to my feet.
"STOP. You do not throw a toy or anything at my partner. He is here to comfort people, and you hurt him, did you hear him whimper? You need to leave this area now. Throwing something like that at any dog is wrong, throwing things at a therapy dog will make them not want to work anymore, you could ruin them for everyone else."
Admittedly, I was much more stern, but still composed when I reprimanded the child. I reported the incident to the manager on site and let them know I was leaving to remove Gopher from the situation.
The facility contacted me multiple times expressing their apologies, I told them it was handled and I merely needed to remove Gopher that day so that any negative feelings toward the area did not effect his future performance. I did see the child a few more times, each time giving Gopher, myself and the other therapy teams a wide berth. I do not regret my actions and need to remove Gopher as I always need to be his advocate. my only wish is that the child's parent would have been present to prevent it from happening in the first place, or to help the child understand his actions were wrong, but he could still visit if he wanted, but with respect.
Oh well it was a bad day. Gopher and I went for a drive, a little chuck it to get the negativity out of his mind and did the only thing you can do with a bad day. Slept it off......