I am asked every so often about the canines at Calo and why we work with them. I have presented at conferences and with other groups about some of the reasons that animals in therapy make sense. I have made the case that dogs and horses are the best for a number of reasons. I have explained why dogs are best for our setting. Generally I am able to help those who ask to understand our reasoning behind our canine program. From now on I may just refer those who ask to an email that came across my virtual desk this morning. One of our staff, Ben, sent a concise description of what makes our Golden Retrievers such powerful change agents in our program. I am including his email below and have edited it to remove identifying information. He describes an interaction between a student and a Golden and thanks our Canine Program Manager, Jeanna Osborn, for her great work. Here is the email:
From: Walton, Ben
Sent: Thursday, March 11, 2010 11:02 PM
To: Osborn, Jeanna
Subject: Alisa and Miles the dog
Today I discovered why we have the canine program at Calo. I am not sure if you have read shift notes on Alisa for tonight, but it details some of her struggles and difficulties. Alisa was escorted due to self harming–working with her for about an hour and a half. During this time Tony and myself were using every effort in the book that we had to get her to open up. We tried being playful, curious, role-playing. We were intense with her, we were gentle with her, and none of it worked. Alisa still would/could not open up. After about an hour and a half a student was walking by and had Miles. Alisa was sitting at this time and Miles came up to her and lay down on her lap. Alisa immediately broke down and started to weep on Miles. Alisa hugged him, and gave him love, and he returned it to her. After this Alisa opened up. She talked about how she was feeling like a disappointment and a failure, and our conversation took off from that point. Alisa was open, vulnerable, and honest. It was everything you could want in a therapeutic conversation. After Tony and I had tried our hardest for almost two hours, Miles came and did what we could not.
Thank you, Jeanna, for your work with our dogs. The impact that Miles had on Alisa tonight cannot be measured. Im sure you know this happens often at Calo but never has it been so clear to me how unique the comfort from a canine is. All your work tirelessly and patiently working with canines and students often goes unnoticed. I notice. Thank you.