|Micron representing Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association
at our home town annual Fine Arts Festival.
Um, Food Lady? says Micron. Do you have a minute? I don’t want to complain. I mean, this is nice enough house and all, but I can’t find the air conditioner vent to lie on.
House? Air con . . . what? I ask. I’m rummaging in the pockets of my tote bag looking for Micron’s trading cards to set out for the kids. Micron, look around you for a sec, big guy. We’re not in a house. Do you see any walls?
Well, no but, Micron says as he looks up. We got a roof, so this has to be a house, right? A house has to have a woof, everybody knows that. And did you get a chance to smell this carpet? Seriously. Come down here and check this out. We should put this stuff in the living room at our place. Lookit, there’s crawly bugs and grass and [sniff sniffle snort] wet dirt! But it’s too hot here, doncha think? Go ask if the people will turn the air conditioner up.
He pauses and closes his eyes. Or is it turn it down?
I always did get confused on that one myself. If you turn the air up, is that to raise the temperature to warmer? Or are you turning it up to be more colder? See, even basic grammar gets boogered on this.
Micron, that wet dirt of yours is what others consider common mud, I say. See where you put your paw on my knee earlier and left a mark? Do you really want to replace the carpet in our house and have everything all mucked up and stinky? Right, never mind on that. Anyway, this is a just canopy overhead to keep the sun off us this afternoon.
Well, that’s the last thing I need a can of, says Micron, rolling his eyes. Why can’t you get me a can of air conditioning instead?
|I am, says Micron, a remarkable piece of fine art.
Out standing in my, well, you know.
Because we’re outside, you goober, I say. As in out of doors, in the fresh air, au natural. Wait, maybe not that. Anyway, your job today is to greet people and help answer questions about pet therapy. Do you think you can avoid heat exhaustion for a little while? At least since it’s only 75 degrees and we’re in a nice shady spot with plenty of water for you working dogs.
Do you need me to drink lots of water to keep the canopy filled up? asks Micron with a straight face. Is he making a joke? I don’t get dog humor sometimes.
With the assistance of his peers, Micron does his best to make a positive impression on folk coming by our meet and greet booth for Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association. It’s just another gorgeous day at our hometown Fine Arts Festival and we found ourselves assigned a shady spot to set up our table and info material. I’m rather pleased to not have to drive far for once. This is just down the road from us, so to make up for what I’m saving in drive time I’ve volunteered to work the booth for both days of the festival. Yep, that’s how my mind works.
|A pre-meeting among the canines before
things get started up. It was a unanimous
vote for turning up the AC.
From top: Beamer, Zoe, Micron, Mazy
No prob for me, really. To take on a shift both days, that is. Pretty much because the dogs do the lion’s share of the work at the booth. Sure, I’m glad to field the occasional question between bites of an ice cream sundae, but it’s Micron and his canine friends that have most the intel on what we do in pet therapy.
We human beans can talk all day about lowered blood pressure and finding that oh-feels-so-good sense of well-being when in the calm presence of a pet therapy dog. But mere talking ain’t gonna bring those happy hormones your way. You need to be there.
By that I mean, someone needs to be there to hold the leash. Because there’s not much else to be done on the human end of the thing. This kind of work is all on the canine, like Micron.
This isn’t some sort of supernatural thing, this human-animal bond happening before us as the dogs greet one person after another.
Yet it is hard to understand it on anything more than a basic level. Well, at least for me. What is it that draws two strangers together, these people and our dogs? Is their love of dogs a remnant from a positive past experience and our furries bring up wonderful memories? Sure, maybe for some.
|Cordell and Micron are all Team Golden at the booth.
But what about our dogs? What is it that’s rolling around in Micron’s brain that has him, fully equipped with a wagging tail and doggy smile, walking up to a individual he’s never met before?
Hi!, says Micron. I know we just met and this is crazy, but here’s my belly. Rub it maybe?*
Every blessed time. He has a golden gift, my dog. But then so does Cordell and Mazy and Zoe and Beamer and . . . well, all the dogs volunteering with mvPTa. They are doing exactly what they’re meant to be doing.
They do love their jobs. When I grab Micron’s blue bandana from the kitchen counter, he does his special Happy Dance. Wherever we’re going, whatever I’m going to ask of him, he’s sure it will be the best ever. Because he gets to go somewhere and interact with someone who is craving his presence in their life.
|Mazy and Micron have decided to do a Kissing Booth for
money. They’ll pay you up to a quarter for each lick. A
full fifty cents if you’re wearing sandals.
And I have the honor of being the chick holding the leash while this magic happens right before me. I must have done something right somewhere along this lifeline to be so blessed with this gift.
Ugh, but enough with the touchy-feely stuff, let me share something I learned in our pet therapy training. We were told – and reminded over the ten weeks of training – that our first responsibility is always the safety and well-being of our dog.
No exceptions. We are to be aware of signs of stress happening in the canine psyche of our beloved poocher. To be honest, not such as easy task in the mighty Micron. My dog will compensate for aches and pains, as well as stress. His signals are frustratingly subtle.
So during our Day Two shift at the booth, I see that Micron is not as engaging with folk. He’d rather be behind the table instead of seeking out that elusive belly rub from a stranger. And then, yep.
There ya have it. He turned away from a head pat. Even in my distracted state of talking with folk, I see that one.
Put a fork in this hot dog, he is done.
Micron, I say. Let’s go home and get you back in the air conditioning. Ok with you?
Dibs on the AC vent in the kitchen, he says.
|Micron, photo circa July 2010. Three years ago, people.
Nothing has changed here.
* I should apologize for that one. Really, I know.