Posted by: bree1972 | March 13, 2013

Ri’vah News 3/13/2013

WAITING ON SPRING

Except for the ri'vah, things are still pretty brown here in south Georgia.  But, as I walked around the yard this afternoon, I found plenty of signs that Spring is just around the corner.

Except for the ri’vah, things are still pretty brown here in south Georgia. But, as I walked around the yard this afternoon, I found plenty of signs that Spring is just around the corner.

A few of our azaleas are blooming . . .

A few of our azaleas are blooming . . .

. . . and we're hoping they'll still be around at Easter.

. . . and we’re hoping they’ll still be around at Easter.

Buds are everywhere!

Buds are everywhere . . .

. . . and the pine trees are filled with pollen pods.

. . . and the pine trees are filled with pollen pods.

Each of these little spires will explode soon into millions and millions of pollen particles that will coat every surface with yellow and wake up all our allergies.

Each of these little spires will explode soon into millions and millions of pollen particles that will coat every surface with yellow and wake up all our allergies.

I think I'll stay focused on the flowers!

I think I’ll stay focused on the flowers!

RECERTIFICATION

Every two years each of the Pet Partners teams must go through a series of tests to prove we are still qualified to do the work we do.  This past Sunday a group of us were scheduled for re-evaluations, and I spent the 45-minute ride into Albany talking to Bear about what he needed to do to pass all the tests.  What I should have been doing for a few days before that was studying what I needed to do to pass all the tests!

There are around 25 "stations" or "scenarios" we have to pass together.  We must each have all "1's" to be certified.  All "2's" mean we are certified as Complex, meaning we will be able to work in any environment, no matter how unstable.  We were certified as Complex two years ago, but this year things didn't go exactly as planned.

There are around 25 “stations” or “scenarios” we have to pass together. We must each have all “1’s” to be certified. All “2’s certifies us as Complex, meaning we are able to work in any environment, no matter how unstable. We were certified as Complex two years ago, but this year things didn’t go exactly as planned.

As the evaluator told me after the testing, it's much harder to get a perfect score when you're being re-evaluated than when you're first tested.  After two years of working with our dogs, we pretty much know how they are going to react to anything.  I know Bear is pretty much "bomb-proof" - nothing bothers him.  And because of that, when we played out the scenario of having three patients (one on a walker, and two shouting to each other and waving their arms around) approach us and all want to pet Bear at once, the evaluator gave me a "one" because she felt I should have been a step closer to my dog.  That was the only one either of us got, and it kept us from earning the complex rating.  I was crushed - not for me, but for Bear.  I knew how much the patients in Behavorial Health love him and how well he connects with them.

As the evaluator told me after the testing, it’s much harder to get a perfect score when you’re being re-evaluated than when you’re first tested. After two years of working with our dogs, we are fairly certain how they are going to react to anything. I know Bear is pretty much “bomb-proof” – nothing bothers him. And because of that, when we played out the scenario of having three patients (one on a walker, and two shouting to each other and waving their arms around) approach us and all want to pet Bear at once, the evaluator gave me a “one” because she felt I should have been a step closer to my dog. That was the only one either of us got, and it kept us from earning the complex rating. I was crushed – not for me, but for Bear. I know how much the patients in Behavorial Health love him and how well he connects with them.  Bear was perfect, but I had messed it up for him because I was overconfident of how he would react.

Normally, it would be another year before we could be re-evaluated, but because another evaluation had been scheduled for this weekend for those not able to make it last Sunday, I will get a chance to redeem myself.  Bear, I promise I will do my best this time.

Normally, it would be another year before we could be re-evaluated, but because another evaluation had been scheduled for this weekend for those not able to make it last Sunday, I will get a chance to redeem myself. Bear, I promise I will do my best this time.

A FEW SCENES FROM SUNDAY’S EVALUATIONS

Buster, waiting for his evaluation.

Buster, waiting for his evaluation.

Yes! We have cats!  This is Linda and her Eli, who she carries during visits.

Yes! We have cats! This is Linda and her Eli, who she carries during visits.

Little Sir Winston waits to be released from a "Stay" command.

Little Sir Winston waits to be released from a “Stay” command.

Gracie, waiting her turn.

Gracie, waiting her turn.

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO

Bear spent last Friday in Albany at the groomers.  We then worked on Saturday, were evaluated on Sunday, and worked on Monday and Tuesday.  That was four trips to Albany and one to Leesburg – a little over 350 miles.  Even though we were tired at the end of each day, and even though I had to fight to keep a hot spot below his ear from spreading and had to be vigilant in watching that children’s and patients’ hands were directed away from that ear, we would not have given up one moment of the time we spent “working.”

A few of the beautiful children who attended "Reading to the Dogs" program at the Lee County Public Library on Saturday morning.  Each child (and/or Mom and Dad) would sit with us on a quilt on the floor and read to Bear, who I must say was very attentive!

A few of the beautiful children who attended “Reading to the Dogs” program at the Lee County Public Library on Saturday morning. Each child (and/or Mom and Dad) would sit with us on a quilt on the floor and read to Bear, who I must say was very interested and only went to sleep once!!

When I first joined Paws Patrol – the Albany chapter of the Pet Partners Program, I never would have dreamed how much fun and how much satisfaction I’d receive from sharing Bear with children, hospitalized patients, mentally and physically challenged folks of all ages, and the beautiful senior citizens we visit in nursing and assisted living facilities.

Our group recently walked into a lady’s room at the hospital, and she was sitting up cross-legged in her bed, literally rocking back and forth with excitement that the therapy dogs were there.  We’ve entered the front door at nursing homes and had wheelchair-bound seniors shout, “The dogs are here! The dogs are here!”

Yesterday I watched one elderly, grumpy man being wheeled down the hall at a nursing home, shouting “No!” to every question his harried nurse asked him.  She stopped a minute to admire the dogs, and Bear chose that moment to thrust his big head into the man’s lap, burrow in as close as he could without climbing into the chair with him, and literally nose his way under the man’s hands.  The man seemed shocked to find a furry, golden head in his lap, but it only took seconds before he was talking quietly to Bear, his gnarled fingers fingering through the soft hair and scratching behind Bear’s ears.  “I used to have a dog like this,” he said.  And Bear and I stayed a few extra moments with him while he reminisced.

Such small things . . . .

  • Having Buddy or Dewar (two of our smaller dogs) lifted into the hospital bed of patients unable to sit up.  Their little bodies scrunch up close, and patients are able to touch them and feel all that love coming to them right through the bed sheets. 
  • Having people’s minds changed about their entire attitudes toward dogs.  The nurse who takes us room to room at the hospital was terrified of dogs when she was first assigned to us, and we wondered, “How is this going to work?”  Now she is one of our biggest fans and looks forward to each visit.
  • Having patients waiting for treatment in Oncology become so focused on one of our dogs that, instead of dreading the next 30 minutes, they’ve spent the waiting time in a very happy place where nerves have been calmed, and blood pressure has lowered.

Each of the humans in our Pet Partners teams know how blessed we are to be a part of this program.  As for our dogs . . . they just know they get to put on a nifty vest, give unconditional love and – in return – receive long strokes along their spines, pats on their heads and sweet words whispered in their ears.  Can a dog ask for a better life than that?

___________________________________________________________________________

I’m taking my laptop in for some much-needed maintenance tomorrow and hoping nothing major is in the works.  I’ve been experiencing a few glitches in the past couple of weeks, so I’ve decided to be proactive instead of waiting for it to explode.  Hopefully, I’ll have it back by the weekend.

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Responses

  1. Brenda,

    What a beautiful and encouraging blog. Springtime for you and the recertification. I wouldn’t worry about being that one step off. You’ll ace it next time.

    I love the first picture with all the green trees on the other side of the river. Are some of those trees live oak trees or are the leaves already out on others? I’ve noticed the buds are just beginning to swell on our lilacs and the daffodils have just peeked through the ground on the south end of the house, although it’s 27 degrees now at 8:52 pm and expected to get down into the teens tonight.

    • Lowell, some of the trees you’re seeing are pines. And some of our oak trees stayed green over the winter. The others are different varieties,and you know me – I haven’t a clue what they are. Sorry :).

  2. No one grows Azaleas like the south, love them, miss them. Can’t say I miss that Pine pollen, that use to really mess me up. What a dear service you and Bear ( and the others) do for those sweet people 🙂

  3. Good luck Brenda and Bear! I know you will pass with flying colors. Bear looks so cute.

  4. What a great group you have! The time, effort, and expense that it requires is quite a commitment. It’s obvious that for folks like y’all, the payoff is priceless! I know you and Bear will shine on your next eval – you’re always a bright spot in my day too!!

  5. Thanks for the update on the therapy work-I so envy you for being able to do that with Bear. I can attest to the absolute joy when the dogs arrive as I’ve been up on the floors at the medical center where I work on pet therapy days. The whole ambiance changes for the better. Thanks so much for what you and Bear are doing.

  6. a friend of mine sent me a link to your blog when I told her that Stanford (my son’s Golden and service dog) and I will soon be doing the same work! I’m happy to be reading about Bear! I hope you don’t mind if I sneak a peek and learn a few pointers! Oh and miss my days in Atlanta!

  7. I am so sad to hear you didn’t get recertified but I am positive you will the next time. You and Bear bring such joy to people! Nothing is more soothing than petting a dog.

    Take care and go show them what a great team you are!

    • Hi Yvonne! Actually we DID get recertified – just missed the “Complex” rating, and that’s what we’re being retested for on Saturday. Without the complex rating, we couldn’t go into places like the Behavioral Health wings at the hospital because there is the chance of patients behaving erratically, which might frighten or upset some dogs. Bear has been rated as complex for the last two years and it was only my one slip-up that kept us from getting it again. Both pet and human must make all “2’s” for complex. We (me) had one “1”.

  8. I don’t know what it is Brenda, but everytime you write, I have to choke back tears. Bear reminds me so much of my Rocky, who is still missed very much. I have all the confidence in the world that you will do just fine on your next “rating”.
    Your pollen pods remind me of baby corn 😉 .Love the azaleas…reminds me so much of Spring, which I can’t wait for! And totally LOVE the picture of you, Bear and the kids!

  9. I’m so glad you get a chance Sunday, and that they tell what went wrong. I know you will pass!!! Break a leg as they say in show-biz! You both deserve to go. Bear always knows the ones that need extra love and attention, bless him.


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