Six Degrees

by Dave Schuler on December 17, 2012

As it turns out we’re acquainted with one of the people who’s been interviewed in the coverage of the aftermath of the murders in Connecticut—the gentleman with the “comfort dogs”. We know him through therapy dog work.

As it turns out there’s good science behind the practice. The dogs know who needs them. I suspect they can smell the cortisol and other products of stress. And humans respond to dogs in ways they don’t to other humans. They don’t have to put on a good front for the dogs. The dogs won’t judge them.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

steve December 17, 2012 at 10:31 am

One of my nurses is doing this. We began covering, about a year ago, a small hospital in coal country. The top floor is an extended care/nursing home facility. Pretty common in these small rural places. I have an apartment there so my nurses can stay a week at a time. We pay extra so that my one nurse can bring her dog which she takes to the upper floor to visit after we finish our usual work. Her dog was trained for this before she got it. It is pretty amazing how the faces light up on these people. Some, who cannot remember their family, seem to remember the dog. She is now trying to train one on her own. Seems to me that if you just let the dog be a dog, it does a pretty good job on its own.

Steve

Janis Gore December 17, 2012 at 10:47 am

Sally is a terrific therapy dog, and she’s never been trained.

And Charles Gore the Grey asked me a few days after my husband’s death, “Are you okay, Sweet Baby?”

Steve Verdon December 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm

They don’t have to put on a good front for the dogs. The dogs won’t judge them.

Seems to me that if you just let the dog be a dog, it does a pretty good job on its own.

As the saying goes, “Dogs are better people than most people.”

Dave Schuler December 17, 2012 at 6:35 pm

More goes into it than you might think. It takes considerable training for dogs not to be overly reactive when unexpected things happen, say, when a stranger comes up and throws their arms around them. And there are all sorts of odd stimuli the dog needs to be able to handle: the smell of dead bodies, the sound of gun fire, chemical smells.

It also takes a handler who’s able to run interference for the dog, anticipate what the dog will be facing, and respond appropriately. That’s why handlers and dogs are registered as a team.

Andy December 17, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Dave, have you followed any of the “war dog” stories from Iraq and Afghanistan? Some if them are pretty amazing.

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