Tag Archives: Visiting

A Beautiful Thing

Shelby has her credentials!

My dog Shelby is a certified therapy dog. This means she has passed a test indicating that she is qualified to visit nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, residential care facilities, hospice patients, and she can participate in “Read to a Dog” programs at libraries and schools. It also means that she exhibited a temperament that is suitable for such “work.” It is work, even though this is a volunteer position and cannot be done for money, as certified by the organization we are members of.

Shelby and I have not done any visiting since February of 2020. This was the time Covid started to rear its ugly head in our area. Nursing homes and the like were one of the first things to be shut down because of the vulnerable nature of their residents. It was deemed too great a risk for dog and handler teams to visit. (And I agree with this determination.)

As late spring 2021 arrived, things were looking up as the Covid vaccine started to be distributed. Case numbers fell and it was safer to go out, with the proper safeguards. I got Shelby’s veterinary care and records up to date and sent away for her 2021 credentials, seen above. I was taking steps so we would soon be ready to resume visiting our friends at a local facility and maybe consider going back to the schools with the Reading Role Model program through the United Way.

Now cases are sky rocketing again to over 100,000 per day in our country. I’m not feeling so safe anymore. And I certainly don’t want to take a chance on spreading Covid to any people Shelby and I would visit. I am not ruling out the possibility that Shelby and I may still be able to visit this year, but I am putting our return on hold for a while longer.

Shelby after a Reading Role Model visit a couple years ago.

This is a sad thing to me for multiple reasons. The obvious is there are more Covid cases and some people will die from it. Some will suffer long term, perhaps permanent, damage.

And then there are my self-centered reasons. I need to be more cautious when I do go out in public. I must be sure I have my mask and avoid mass gatherings. (No, I don’t like wearing a mask. I consider it the responsible thing to do, for myself and others even though I have had the vaccine.)

I have other selfish concerns too. Will the folks I used to visit still be at the nursing home? A few of them probably died in the year and a half since I was last there. Will they still be able to remember us? Shelby is 11 1/2 years old now. She had just turned 10 when last we visited. That is a long time in dog years. I have no doubt that she will still do a fine job and be a reliable partner for me. She may tire faster than she used to and I will have to pay attention to know if she needs a break. I will also need to think about training a younger dog to take her place when it is time for her to retire. I like to train my new dog with the old one. They learn faster and take cues from the old pro. I have found this to be the best way to train a therapy dog for me. And it’s best if I do it over a long period of time. Months, at least. I can teach a dog the basics faster, but giving the new dog time to ease into it and process the adjustments has given me dogs that I feel are more confident and trustworthy.

A therapy dog needs time not only to learn the obedience and desired behaviors and responses. The dog needs to feel that he and I are a team. He needs to know that I will always look out for his safety and best interests. He must know that we are working together and he can trust me to have his back. These things take time. A relationship on this level cannot be built quickly. I must earn the dog’s trust and respect just as much as he must earn mine. A good dog/handler relationship is a beautiful thing!



I love to take my dogs visiting at the assisted living facility. There is a feeling of joy you get when you see the people petting and talking to your dogs.

Most people think it’s a very kind and giving thing to do. It may have started out that way, but now it is more of a two way street. I guard my scheduled time for these forays. There are very few things I allow to interfere. I  get to go spend time with my dogs where they are the center of attention. They are fawned over and folks want to listen to me talk about my dogs and know all about them.


You might say these visits are a very selfish thing to do, soaking up all this attention for my pups. One of the ladies even gave us her dog’s toys that she had kept after his passing.  Now that is selfless.

Not only do we talk about the dogs when I visit. I have been going there long enough that we talk about many things. I  dare say these folks have become my friends. I spend time with them more regularly than I am able to do with most of my other friends. We make time for each other. That is a special gift that is shared.


When the dogs and I must miss a visit for some reason, usually only for illness, we all feel short changed. I care about these people who have become my friends. I think about them in between trips to visit. I wonder how they are and what they’re up to. I know the dogs are eager for our visits and the time spent together. I believe this would be one definition of friendship. Thank you my friends.

I do not show faces in my photos to protect the identity of the individuals.

Nikki’s Visit

Nikki in car

Nikki is a small, timid sheltie. I have to admit that she’s not particularly bright either, not for a sheltie. She is remarkably cute.  And I’m learning that she does have priceless gifts.

I take Nikki with me to visit at a nursing home/assisted living facility. I started taking her because, being so small, she is easy for me to hold so that people in wheel chairs can pet her. I didn’t think she ever really liked it. She would just be still and tolerant while people petted her. Apparently I was wrong, she does like it. This week I took Nikki visiting and when we got there no one was in the lobby to visit with us. They didn’t get the message that we were coming and forgot to post the sign for people to gather. I know some folks look forward to our visits so I sought them out. One gentleman, Larry, visits with us every time. He never misses. So we found his room, knocked on the door, and entered at his request. He was indeed happy to see us. I put Nikki on his bed and she sat for petting as usual. Larry paused in his petting to talk to me. Nikki sidled closer to lean on him and get more petting. She was really enjoying it. She leaned into Larry even more and got the biggest grin on her face. And then Larry got the biggest grin on his face. It was such a “feel good” moment that it will last me for a long time.

This is the miracle of a therapy dog.