Our girl Tessa always aims to please and so it is not too surprising, that she is the only one in our canine family who actually works for a living. The Budelheimers are not impressed, but the rest of us are really proud of the working girl. She's been visiting Powhatan Nursing Home in Falls Church for the past four and a half years and now hu-woman finally took the necessary steps for her to become a Pet Partner, registered with Delta Society (www.deltasociety.org)
I (hu-woman) have been involved with Fairfax Pets on Wheels for about 13 years now and had visited nursing homes with Tessas predecessors Purzi, Giaco and Daytona before. Also known as "the motley Crew":
Sadly, they are no longer with us, but Tessa was following in their footsteps and proves to be just as wonderful as they once were. (Oh how I miss them, though !)
The steps to becoming a Pet Partner involve more engagement from dog and handler, and is by far harder to achieve than being a visiting dog with FPOW (Fairfax Pets on Wheels). Also, volunteering for Delta Society comes with a price: Membership fees, extensive health screening and a well trained dog are a must. Those of us who have chosen that path are committed to spending some of their free time providing their dogs for therapy services and often working together with therapists to achieve ultimate results.Tessa and I have passed that test now and are looking forward to serving as a dog-handler team in animal assisted therapy.
Purzi , my little dachshund was honored once for her accomplishments as a Pet Partner after the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. The two of us volunteered at the Red Cross Disaster Relief and could bring some comfort to those traumatized by the tragic events of that time.
Here you see Giaco and Purzi bringing joy to a resident at the nursing home, and on theright is Purzi receiving her award from the city councilman. It was a very proud moment.
To get back to Tessa's achievements again: She has been volunteering an average of 20 hours per month at the nursing home and some additional time at different official functions representing Fairfax Pets on Wheels. She also serves as a neutral dog at FPOW temperament evaluations, where she's been doing that for the past four years reliably. The motley crew would indeed be very proud of her. :)
I chose to become a Delta Society Pet Partner for numerous reasons. One reason is the fact, that participants in that program are really serious about taking part in it. (Or why would anyone voluntarily pay $75 membership fee for nothing ? ) I also fully agree with their method of testing their new applicants. Makes perfect sense to me, that a handler has to have utmost control of his dog and the dog has to be nearly unflappable if one wants a safe dog around patients. There are pet therapy programs out there aiming for quantity of membership - not quality. Then, there are others that will only let you "worship" their organization and deny your (mind you: PAID !) membership, if you aren't willing to deny your affiliation with other pet therapy organizations. Without wanting to be critical: I am looking forward to find new challenges for Tessa and myself, without giving up on our seniors, who we've been visiting for a long time now and who have become very dear to us. Tessa is a very calm dog by nature and works best with people who interact with her and animate her a bit. Most of our seniors aren't able of doing that anymore and so Tessa says politely 'hello' and just as politely lays down at their feet and waits for further instructions. To keep her interested in the task at hand, I think it would be beneficial for her work ethic, if we get to work with patients who are a bit more active.
BTW - Mrs. Budelheimer, a.k.a. Bicalina heavily protested about not having been mentioned in this publication. After all, she did pass the Pets on Wheels temperament evaluation and occasionally gets to go visit the elderly. It just stresses her a little bit more than her big sister and that's why she only gets to go maybe once a month. I am also very proud of her for having overcome so much fear issues from the past and taking this huge step forward in her new life:Here we are with our dear friend Marie who has passed away just last fall. We all miss her very much and I am really glad that Tessa and I had the opportunity to be there for her, when she needed someone to hold her hand and ease her fears. Marie was a strong supporter of all the visiting dogs and over the couple of years I had known her, has become a very precious friend to me. I was able to stay with her to the very end and I know she could hear me talking to her, even when she was in a coma. It's of great comfort to me that I was able to be there for her.
The nurses at the ICU where probably wondering about the dog pictures that were plastered all over Marie's bed. I had found a beautiful 8x10 picture of her own dog Sadie, which I tacked to the foot board of her bed. Even though I was told she could not hear nor understand me, when I told her, that her beloved Sadie was now watching over her, she smiled.
And where is Mr. Budelheimer, a.k.a. Rodmonster in all of this you ask ? He can't do such un-macho jobs because it would ruin his bad reputation.......