Wolfdog Activities / Dieta Decker & Storm

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Storm, enjoying her role as a therapy animal.
Storm came to live with us (Rascal, the little JRT x Daxie, and myself, born in Germany, now living in Northern Ireland) in December 2000.

I homecheck for the shelter she came from and quite a few of the fellow homecheckers told me how their dogs would go to hospitals and homes for the elderly and how much fun they had. The Rascal though was definitely not the dog for it, she is nervy, jumpy, hates cuddles she hasn't initiated, not at all a visiting dog.

When Storm moved in she was neither housetrained nor leadtrained, pulled like a train whenever we went out and the winter months were spent teaching her to behave. By spring we were ready for longer walks. One of our regular routes leads past a place where the local drunks hang out in good weather. Storm would always go and say hello, so there we stood one day, one of the drunks was stroking her head, another was sort of draped over her back, with his face buried in her fur, whispering sweet nothings, a third was stroking her and running her tail through his hands, and she just stood patiently, occasionally licking a hand put in her reach - I thought: "if she can cope with this she can cope with anything".

At the same time one of my friends had gone into the local psychiatric hospital, suffering from manic-depression. She had a dog and missed her desperately, talking about how much a visiting dog would mean to her and others in her position.

So I got in touch with "Caring Canines", got an application form and was told to expect a visit for an assessment. The assessment was for both of us, because as far as "Caring Canines" is concerned a nice dog with an unsuitable owner is as bad as a nice owner with an unsuitable dog. The fact that Storm is a wolfdog didn't make any difference to the test.

My patience was tested and my politeness, then Storm was assessed for the basic obedience commands and whether she would obey them if they didn't come from me, for temper, for patience, she was given a treat to make sure that she took it nicely with a soft mouth, she was checked over to make sure she was well looked after, she did me proud and passed with flying colours.

When it came to choosing the hospital I was told that the psychiatric hospital had been asking for a long time for a doggy visitor, but that the dog owners had all shied away from it, so I offered for us to go.

Storm, on duty as a Caring Canine.

Every two weeks on a Saturday afternoon we drive to the open psychiatric hospital, so Storm can go and visit. She goes and sees people who lie in their beds, sometimes barely "with it" and puts her head on their beds to receive a pat on the head. She goes and sees people who are deeply depressed and raises the first smile. She goes and sees people who are deeply disturbed, who don't know who or where they are and even less who she is, but who are desperate for a cuddle. She goes and sees the visitors, who struggle for something to say to the relative they are visiting. She goes and sees the children who have come to see granny or granddad or mum or dad, who know something is wrong, but not what it is and are happy about something, anything that will allow them a distraction. She goes and sees the nurses, who deserve a cuddle break in their busy routines. She gives kisses on demand, shakes paw with anybody who asks, allows little toddlers to climb all over her and even to ride on her shoulders, never bothers anybody who might not want a great big dog near them, is never put off by strange behaviour and absolutely loves all the cuddles and attention she gets.

The long time patients and the nurses know her by name - and then add "oh, sorry dear, I forgot, what's your name?" sort of by the by in my direction. Having an animal of Storm's size doing the visiting has it's advantages. Nobody needs to bend far to stroke her, she can lay her head on somebody's bed or lap without having to stretch and more than one person can cuddle her at a time. Yes, there are some people wary of big dogs, but mostly they trust the fact that an organisation like Caring Canines would not accept an animal of unsuitable personality into their ranks.

Seeing the fun Storm has visiting the hospital and the way the patients react to her, I am very sure that I have made the right decision enrolling her in the charity.

All the best
Dieta, Rascal (DD), Storm (WD)

Note from The Wolf Dunn: * Permission to use these particular photos for any other purpose than to simply view as part of The Wolf Dunn web site, is not granted without prior owner permission. Contact Dieta Decker for permission.

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