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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.

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About rachelmankowitz

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

95 responses »

  1. Thank goodness it’s just your therapist moving (although not having the dogs at sessions will be hard)! I was imagining all sorts of awful scenarios about Butterfly and Cricket!

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  2. Is Teddy the real therapist? Is the lady just a front so he can get paid? Because he can’t answer a phone? Just kidding. I think it is a heart-wrenching solution. Can she get him in as a true therapy dog rather than a pet?

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    • He’s not a fan of obedience, let alone obedience training. He has thousands of hours of field work behind him, but for some reason, therapy dogs only get credentialed for knowing how to sit and stay. Phooey.

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  3. Poor Teddy! When I read the first line, I feared that your therapist was moving permanently away, but having the entire structure changed is just as rough, not having Teddy or Delilah as support buddies will be very difficult in the beginning, I hope that your therapist can think of something to make it less jolting. 🙂

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    • I’m pretty sure that Teddy will figure out how to drive, if nothing else works out. He’ll show up at my door, in sunglasses and an overcoat and ask to be let in.

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      • I hope so! It would be so cool if Cricket and Butterfly offered him doggie cookies fresh from the oven. 😀

      • Hey, what about Skype?! It wouldn’t take Teddy long to adapt to it. I know it would be missing the senses of touch and smell, but 3 out of 5 ain’t bad! And he could still offer his brand of therapy with the occasional sniff or loud bark.

        THAT way, if the suits come looking, you guys can point to the monitor as the reason they hear dog sounds. Then, when Teddy is smuggled in on Saturday, it won’t matter if he barks.

      • I wonder if Teddy would be willing to sit in front of the computer. Hmm. I will have to look into this!

      • I think at first he will probably need some guidance, maybe not watch a therapy session to start off with. Maybe watch something that he likes and work up to part of a therapy session. I bet he would at least for a while. And he could leave whenever he wanted to and come back when his curiosity got the better of him. After all, a therapy session is long (to a dog), and he sticks that out.

  4. At our weekly farmer’s market, there are signs all over (all over!!) that say ‘No Dogs Allowed.’ This would be outside. Where dogs go all the time. People totally disregard the signs and there are leashed dogs everywhere. I love it!! I think it is a shame this phobia people have about dogs and biting and fleas and whatever else they think about dogs. I hope it all works out for you, Rachel, but mostly for poor Teddy and Delilah!

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  5. Gee that’s the pits not having the familiarity of the dogs during a session. I have to agree with what’s been already written that is a shame that the other therapists do not see the value in using dogs which allows the client/patient to feel much more comfortable. Perhaps something good will come about and the rules will be changed. There is nothing like a dog to break the ice during a session. Here’s hoping the best for you and the dogs.

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  6. Oh no. I am sorry. I don’t have any designated pets, but feral cats and one indoor one and my elderly dog have all helped keep me on an even keel. It is very hard when you lose a friend be it four-legged or two.

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  7. People (here at least) have simply not advanced to the place where they understand dogs are beneficial to every sort of work environment. I bet she can get Delilah in there, too…

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  8. The solution is easy. Fire the therapist and hire Teddy and Delilah. They work for treats and are more effective.

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  9. What about the fact that the dogs are therapy dogs? I believe by law the rules are different, they are allowed in places where “non working” dogs would not be allowed. I would look into it- this sounds like a lot of changes at once, not easy.

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  10. I like the suitcase idea!

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  11. I can empathize with how this is might be a difficult change for you. It’s so hard when the comfortable environment you’re used to changes. I’m actually in the process of having to find a new therapist because mine isn’t on my insurance provider list. I’m feeling anxious and a bit heartbroken over it. =(

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    • I’m so sorry! Insurance companies shouldn’t be allowed to decide something so personal.

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    • How awful, pshnguyen. You’d think your insurance company would be happy that you are getting better, decreasing the chances that they might have to pay up on a claim. Therapy does that, I mean it does make you feel better if you have the right therapist.

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      • Hi! Thanks so much for your kind words, and for your empathy and sympathy. It means a lot to me. I was honestly surprised at how difficult it feels to know I have to find a new therapist. I basically don’t have to until January (when the new insurance year kicks in), so I already told my current therapist that I’m putting it off. She found a new person for me, who has the same training and background, so I think that will help. But the thought of going through the pain of getting to where I feel comfortable opening up to another complete stranger really terrifies me. *sigh*

  12. Max the Dumpling Dog envies Teddy’s svelte figure and is secretly plotting to send kreplach over so as to fatten him up.

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    • Most likely, Teddy’s sister would steal the kreplach before he could even be tempted by them. Whenever food is missing, you know it’s Delilah. Teddy has taken to hiding his treats in tiny places where a Golden Retriever can’t fit.

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  14. Seems such a shame… Dogs are natural therapists! It’s a wonderful,idea to have them in the therapy room, providing a person isn’t allergic or scared.

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  15. I think dogs are very therapeutic and it’s a shame that the new offices won’t allow dogs. Maybe there could be a petition to allow them, after all, they are doing good things aren’t they, not to mention can be better than any pills or other medication.

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      • Hi Rachel ! As the proud owner of a Therapy Dog International – I have been able to bring Flower in many places. She is NOT a service or assistance dog – even says so on her TDI badge.

        However, all TDI dogs receive extensive training – and grow wiser and more experienced with each TDI visit. She IS allowed in Drug Stores, Banks, Feed Stores, Hair Salon, and other places. I provide documentation that she IS a registered and certified TDI dog – and her behavior is exempt as most of the TDI dogs are.

        She went me to my Physical Therapy – which is thru the same hospital that we visit weekly…she helped a lot of people that were in pain (as well as me come time for my icepack).
        BUT I do have her very important TDI badge, TDI bandana, and a round emblem stating she is a TDI dog. They must be worn on all our visits – the ID badge expires on December 31st each year. We now have a few awards that are pinned on her badge as well….(SO cool). Current shot records are provided as well.

        Therapy Dogs International is a very reputable organization – located in Flanders, NJ. ALL TDI dogs have to be kept clean, brushed, toes and toe hair trimmed, have to be on Flea and Heart Worm medicine and a yearly check up is required. If the TDI handler does not follow these rules – their visits are suspended until they are completed. This protects residents, patients and the dogs.

        Many rules and regulations – but I like the requirements and the structure.

        TDI is online and on Twitter and FB – if that helps. It relays all the information and requirements needed – including the training angle of TDI dogs.

        Since Flower is NOT a service or assistance dog she is NOT allowed in restaurants and around food items. (even the places we go, we don’t go near the food rooms)

        It is a joy having a Therapy Dog – the love and happiness she brings other’s is undeniable and quite evident in big smiles, hugs, kisses and love she receives. Makes my heart feel good to know that we are making a difference —

        Explain to places you want to go that you have a certified and registered Therapy Dog. Have badge and credentials available….

        Thanks for the share – our Therapy Dogs DO make a big difference – more than anyone knows —

        Suzette

  16. Didn’t want to “like” click this one! I hope there is some way they can get permission/allow Teddy to resume his mission!

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  17. Oh, how I love this post. May I reblog on The Daily Junior? It touched me very much.

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  18. This is really sad! I’m amazed by how you show the way the dogs help you and others and the way this is going to impact on Teddy. This story brought a tear to my eye!

    Nice to meet you. We were both shared by the fabulous Fabio.

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  19. Such a touching story…good luck to you.

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  20. Man, I hope they can find a solution to keep the dogs involved! Ever since owning a dog, I’ve always thought it strange that we can’t take them with us to more places. I get the whole cleanliness thing for some dogs but I know my dogs are cleaner than some people half the time. LOL

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  21. (swallows big lump in throat) I don’t know what to say…woof (tail droops)

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  22. I’m sorry to hear of this. I kinda like the idea of a Saturday visit with Teddy in attendance. And your therapist might consider approaching her landlord and telling him/her/them of the situation – that Teddy is a therapy dog and maybe they could make an exception. Particularly as he seems to be well mannered and is therefore unlikely to make a mess. But it’s a slippery slope – you let one tenant do that, and others will perhaps take advantage. I used to take my dachshund to work with me when I was there after hours, and nobody ever said a word. ‘Course I didn’t TELL them…

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  23. I notice Cricket and Butterfly getting their heads together. Who knows – perhaps they might come up with a solution. I certainly hope so – for you and Teddy.

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  24. Good luck! I hope you find a way to work things out!

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  25. This would break my heart as I bond very easily with dogs. They are soothing, loving creatures… just right for therapy!

    Rachel, if I’ve asked you this before, please forgive me – I can’t recall. But, have you ever read “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein? If not, look it up on Amazon. It is one of the best books about a dog’s heart that I have ever read. 🙂

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    • I have read it, and the problem with books written by dogs is that you have to close the book and lose the dog. Totally sucks.

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      • Oh how true! I couldn’t watch the whole movie “Ol’ Yeller” because I cried through most of what I did see and couldn’t stand the sound of my heart breaking anymore.

        One of my favourite childhood dog authors was a man named Albert Payson Terhune, who wrote the most wonderful books. His fictional dogs must have been based on real dogs because they were so true to life and loving. I felt some of what you describe above (“lose the dog” – so expressive). However, I found I could stand it, if I just kept rereading the books. I don’t think I ever got over that phase.

        However, Kate, being a bear for punishment, I will look up the book you recommend. 🙂

  26. Oh, I hope she can sneak in Teddy on Saturdays. He sounds very much like Bumble, who would also make an excellent therapy dog. Everything will be fine, I’m sure.

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  27. I’m sorry that this has happened. It’s a pity your therapist didn’t realise just how important dogs are…

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  28. We agree with you about the nonsense of disallowing dogs. Previously, the big boys used to go into work with Kemo Sabe – that was an enlightened place and they did much good there! Pip

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  29. Dogs are such empathetic creatures. It’s probably an agreement between the therapist and the building owner as a condition of being a tenant that excludes them. It’s really too bad. They sound so sweet. For a long time, I battled with agoraphobia. I survived, but it wasn’t until my lab mix, Cindy Lou came into my life that I had a partner. She was so in tune with my feelings. She was brave enough to start going on rides in the car with me, even though it was new to her at first. She was my constant companion whenever she could, always without any judgment. And, when I wasn’t in a good place, she knew, and would look at me with love in her eyes, as if to say, I know, and it’s o.k., I love you. Dogs truly do give unconditional love. They are healing, just by their very presence in our lives. I’ll think the good thought for you in moving forward in therapy. Is there any chance that you can visit them at their new home?

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  30. Delilah looks like my childhood pet and ironically Teddy, the poodle, just like my sisters dog who eventually came to live with us. They were buddies too! Aww, the photos transported me back to a simpler time in my life and some pretty great memories!

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  31. I totally feel your pain.
    I took my little Westie named Sassy to work with me in my office as a financial planner for many years until she died at the age of 17.
    I then took my Smokey Lonesome Ollie (rescued – old English sheepdog face and wannabe body) to work with me for seven more years untiil my company moved to this snooty high-rise office building downtown that forbade dogs. No dogs. No way. I blame the crash of 2008 on this policy.
    Every morning when I left for work, Ollie would race to the back door like he was ready to go and sit and stare mournfully with his one blue eye and one brown eye when I explained the corporate ladder was a piece of crap.
    I hated that fancy corner office. Within six months I was gone.
    Poor Teddy – he will miss you Trust me. Therapy won’t be.

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  32. I am so sorry you’re going to lose your therapy dogs. They will miss you. But, never, ever doubt that you are a beautiful, special person. Your place in this universe can never be filled by anyone else. You are unique and there are no duplicates. Not even identical twins are exact replicas. Each person occupies a space in the scheme of the universe, that when that person is lost, the void in the universe closes, never to be reopened. So, never doubt yourself and know you are loved, and nothing or anyone can replace you. NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER

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  33. What a horrible adjustment, life without the ushering and support of Teddy. Hope he can adjust, huge shift for Teddy and his family. Perhaps the Saturday sneak visit will work. Sorry for your loss.

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  34. Your writing is absolutely enchanting. You tell wonderful tales of these lovely animals. Hope the change works out well in the end. The passing of time might help…

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  35. OMG what a dilemma!! What if, no matter how much you try, your therapy doesn’t uh…”take” without Teddy there and no Delilah backup? What if it was Teddy all along who was providing the therapy “cure”? What if, upon not getting the results you’re used to, you regretfully have to discontinue your sessions with your “front” therapist? You might have to find another “front” therapist, who has his/her dog therapist with him/her.

    Sorry, I am sometimes, unfortunately, a “what if?” kind of person. I couldn’t help myself.

    I have to totally agree with hugmamma about your writing. Delightful. I am doubly honored that you “liked” my blog. 😀

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  36. This was very touching :/. Dogs are still incredibly underestimated, and it’s such a shame that these rules have to be in place. You’ll miss them of course, and they’ll miss you… I’m guessing Teddy might even get temporarily depressed… but hopefully you will all adapt and find a different solution. There has to be! Bless them 🙂

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  37. I think you need to invest in a harness that resembles a guide dog lead and some black sunglasses, collect the pooches and trundle in with them on board! Pffft, silly! Dogs are so much better at reading people than people are, they don’t break secrets and they unconditionally support you no matter what and they don’t charge. They are also a heck of a lot more comfortable to share a bed or sofa with!

    Reply

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