I bring my dog, Millie to work with me. I believe her presence benefits my clients and there are scientific studies to back me up.
The use of animals by health professionals in their work is called animal assisted therapy. Numerous studies that show that interacting with animals helps people lower their blood pressure, increases engagement and reduces anxiety and depression.
For years, I have observed that on the occasions when clients brought their own dog to sessions, they were more relaxed and seemed to find it easier to raise difficult issues. I’ve also supervised interns who have used dogs in their work with children and teens. Magic can happen when a client massages a dog and discusses their concerns. Hard stuff seems less hard, for that moment.
I got Millie in August of 2019, when she was about 3 years old. She is a Maltese poodle cross with hair not fur. She doesn’t shed which is important for clients who may be allergic. She began life as a therapy assistant in the fall of 2019. She loves her job and takes it seriously, in a dog sort of way.
As a therapy assistant, Millie’s job is to interact with people.
This is very different from the role of service dogs or emotional support animals whose job it is to be of service to their handlers/owners and should not be distracted unless given permission. If you are interested in learning more about therapy animals and how they differ from service and emotional support animals, here is a good article https://www.therapydogs.com/emotional-support-dogs/
It is fine to engage with Millie. She loves it. I do ask that you discourage jumping up when she greets you. Don’t worry if you forget. I’ll remind her. If you want some cuddle time, just call her to you. If she knows you and senses a need she will likely respond. It is also fine to ignore her. She doesn’t mind that either. Millie’s role in client sessions varies quite a bit. Sometimes she is active and other times just sleeps. Almost always she can be counted on to provide a very friendly greeting. I can probably arrange to have Millie not be in your sessions so please let me know if you prefer this.
Late in 2019, Millie began specialized training as a therapy dog and will be getting certified by one of several therapy dog organizations.
Millie got her American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen award in February of 2021. This award is available to canine good citizens, regardless of their breed or chosen profession. Now we are working on specific therapy dog training. Millie will primarily work with me at my office but we may also visit sites that are interested in having her bring her unique combination of enthusiasm and calm to share with others.
A special note about confidentiality: Millie won’t bark your story to anyone, but it is possible she may recognize you outside of a session. Don’t worry she is friendly with most people, so no one need know that she actually knows you.