Some of my clients purposefully schedule their appointments for Wednesday afternoon so they can work with my furry co-therapist, Suki. I completely understand. Suki Marotta is a natural. I have watched her calmly assist a dog phobic child, moan with a stressed single parent, sooth an angry teen, and lay across the legs of a grieving widow. She greets our clients with a sniff and a lick, wagging her tail in hospitality. In addition to her unconditional love, embodies the therapeutic tool of focusing on the nonverbal message. She is a mirror to human emotions.
Suki is a special dog, but much of that is in her training. She attended puppy school, basic obedience, canine good citizen, and then “sat” for the Therapy Dog International (TDI) certification. In other words, she has graduate level training. Therapy dogs are being utilized in a variety of settings; making visits to hospitals, libraries, geriatric centers, courtrooms, and disaster sites. The most recent TDI newsletter included an article written by a volunteer who sought out the comfort of therapy dogs during 9/11:
“I can’t remember the first time I saw one, but I remember the feeling—like being picked up and held close. It was like being recognized and then embraced by an old friend.”“The dogs gave me a reason to get up, and when I did, they found my pain and held it for me. I shed my first tears . . . and after I did, I felt the weight in my chest start to lift. The dogs sat with my grief so I could sit with my clients’.” Sarah Sypniewski (AmeriCorps/American Red Cross)
Researchers struggle to prove that dogs are empathic, but ask any dog owner—they have data on a daily basis. I was moved, but not surprised to see the story of Hawkeye the Labrador’s expression of grief during his master’s funeral.
“A dog will love you forever is the motto of TDI.”
I couldn’t agree more. What dogs have brought you comfort?