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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.

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

68 responses »

  1. No wonder my therapy sessions were so ineffective!! I needed Teddy – desperately. 🙂 Teddy and his sister sound like the perfect team. Lucky you!

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  2. Teddy is adorable. I think animals are very comforting. Petting or walking Max is my favorite therapy.

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  3. I’m sure he is a wonderful therapist – like all dogs. Have a wonderful sunday :o)

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  4. Fire the expensive therapist and use Cricket and Butterfly. They work for treats.

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  5. In our family Continuum we have a saying: “Be wary of people who don’t like animals…or if animals don’t like them.” Obviously, Teddy and his sister (what’s her name?) say you check out ok! A DOG, rather than CAT, scan…but tells you a lot nevertheless!

    Reply
    • Teddy took a long time to decide that I checked out. He had to put me through a lot of tests, much too subtle for me to understand. His Golden sister, Delilah, believes that any human who is willing to give scratchies has to be good.

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  6. You are so very blessed…Teddy and his sister together…what a treat!!!!

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  7. susiecreamcheese

    As the slave of a Golden Retriever, I have to agree – dogs are the best therapy. (My Max is actually certified as a therapy dog, and it just amazes me to see the miracles he works sometimes.)

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  8. What a cutie Teddy is. He wants your undivided attention how sweet. Hugs and nose kisses for Teddy and his sister.

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  9. I think that Teddy and his sister sound like the perfect therapy duo. What is it about those four-legged therapists that makes them so effective?

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    • It helps that dogs don’t lie. They may try to lie, when they’ve done something wrong, but they are terrible at it. So, extreme honesty mixed with a genuine desire to give kisses and get pets, where can you go wrong?

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  10. Run A Muck Ranch

    Incredible what can be learned from a being that only has the capacity to listen and love.

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  11. Scratching a dog’s head is always good therapy–it is amazing to me how a dog can help us get out of “ourselves” even if for a moment-great post!

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  12. The dentist that I used to visit had a huge aquarium and the slow moving fish tried to set a relaxing mood for the patients in the waiting room. I would have preferred a dog to calm my nerves before the dreaded drilling began. 🙂

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  13. The mechanic where I used to take my car had a cat in the shop. He called his receptionist.

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  14. LOL! I saw a T-shirt the other day; “My Therapist Has A Wet Nose” – I’ll bet you could find it on zazzle.com or another T-shirt site…Woof!

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  15. I know another therapy dog…Mr. Watson! He was rescued from an animal shelter, his mom a pastor takes him when they visit nursing homes so you can imagine how much they are welcomed. He is about 12 yrs or so and always a welcomed visitor in our office as well. They are the best medicine in the world.

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  16. Absolutely adorable! I love it!

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  17. Omg! Your dogs are adorable! I used to ha r a min. Poodle! He was adorable.this post brought a smile to my face because he looks just like my dog.

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  18. This is why they use dogs in aged care centres. Patty B is quite correct about the use of dogs as therapy – best medicine in the world. Thank you for yet another great post and story

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    • I’ve noticed that a lot of the older people in my synagogue live in apartment buildings that don’t allow pets, and I often wonder if there should be special doggy play centers, like there are cooling centers for the elderly over the summer. Butterfly would totally volunteer!

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      • That’s a great – brilliant – idea – Dog Therapy Centre, like a chess area but where people dome to interact with dogs. It would be different from a dog park and have different rules. I don;t know how your system works but can you talk to someone about that idea? I expect the Rabbi would be a good place to begin.

  19. What a perfect Therapy duo , and how it works..relaxing comes in many forms This is the best Medicine ..I wouldn’t be without my Doggies.
    Great Post Rachel .

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  20. Dogs do wonders for the soul, heart, and mind. Teddy is absolutely adorable! What a wonderful therapy companion. 🙂

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  21. Dogs are such great healers! There should be dogs in every hospital. I can’t understand places that won’t let dogs in because of ‘germs’. Hospitals are full of germs anyway, so bringing dogs in would make no difference – I reckon there’d be more danger of the dog catching something from the hospital than the hospital catching something from the dog! 🙂

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    • I heard about a family that snuck in their toy poodle for a visit when the patriarch was in the hospital. I’m sure the nurses were fine with it, in fact, the nurses could use some animal therapy to help them through their day as well.

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  22. Oh how I love this!!! Dogs are great therapists! 🙂
    My lab went to several appointments with me, too.
    Great post!

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  23. Great pictures!! I understand why you would love to live army dog town 🙂 I think I would to now!!

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  24. Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I like your dog too. Dianne

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  25. What a cute story, and Teddy is quite the little “bear” 🙂

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  26. Funny about how an animal can know more about us than we know about ourselves within minutes of meeting us.

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  27. Wonderful story. Poodles of all sizes are very smart and adaptive. Like the French if they accept you it is on their terms and you are blessed.

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  28. Oh, my! I just love this post, and I love Teddy! I have to say that if there was a dog in my therapist’s office, I’d probably get nothing accomplished and have to find a new therapist. Swoony sigh…if only.

    Reply

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