I've received many emails over the years from people interested in pursing therapy work with their English Golden Retrievers. I couldn't more highly encourage this pursuit. It is incredibly rewarding work for both your dog and you, but most of all, for the people with whom you come in contact. We have quite a few Nicholberry Goldens who have gone on to pursue therapy work (contact your local Therapy Dogs International chapter for more information) and I wanted to share this update that I received yesterday - blessed me beyond words and I thought you'd enjoy it to...
Five minutes today with Reuben at an assisted living home was worth all the long hours of teaching him to give "comfort"...that is to gently sit next to someone and put his head in their lap, or lie across their feet, even lie down next to them in bed. We were in the facility's main reception area with about a dozen residents and Reuben calmly and patiently made the rounds, "sitting to talk" with first one and then another, putting his head in various laps and generally spreading joy.
One of the residents is a young woman, probably in her twenties, who is severely mentally and emotionally challenged, probably autistic, but whatever the case is very shy, even frightened and completely unable to make eye contact with anyone. Today was a very good day for her. She was sitting near the fireplace with her care giver and in her own way participating in the group assembled for tea. Her version of participating is to sit more or less facing toward to the group instead of facing the wall or fireplace, but silently with her head down and her eyes either closed or focused on her lap or her shoes...it has been many many months, perhaps years since this person has spoken a word.
As Reuben made his way around a big coffee table and smooched on everyone seated in big chairs and couches along the way, he came to this girl, sat by her and leaned against her legs. She reached out and ran her hand over his head, rubbed him gently for a moment and then she said, "Oh Reuben, Goodbye!" Her caregiver was astonished and ecstatic. We stayed by the girl for a few minutes and then as we left, the girl again quite clearly spoke out, "Goodbye Reuben." There wasn't a dry eye in the room.
This is a very special dog and I am privileged to know him.