By Matthew Johnson of Waggz & Whiskerz
Recently, I reported that a new member of the Waggz & Whiskerz family had arrived. He goes by the name Benji and is a gift unlike any other. As everyone knows I already have an amazing therapy dog named Woofie (AKA Dutch) who has always been by my side pushing me to heal and grow, however it is Woofie’s time to relax now after having a stressful 6 moths of watching her faithful owner (me) be hospitalized and endure demanding physical rehabilitation, I felt it was Woofie’s time to take it easy, the toll of having her owner go thru the motions of a drastic physical change was quite apparent on Woofie’s behalf, she seems to of gotten to a stage where she is always worrying about me and I felt she has served me so well that it would only be fair to her; to give her a break and let her be a happy stress free dog. She now can go on Adventure Dayz with her friends and get back to being her free loving self without worrying about my well being constantly. Mind you Im sure she will still worry from afar but at least she knows she is not always on duty.
Enter little Benji: Benji arrived in mid JAN; He is a Dutch Shepherd and was fostered by the Grech Family of Mississauga before being given to me to help me with my disabilities of blindness and deafness. Benji has already made a giant impact. Benji besdies being one of the most popular little dogs on twitter and facebook; is being trained by Debbie Brown of St Johns Therapy Dogs. Benji is showing a positive effect on my recovery already in the early stages. Not only is he being trained but also I am customizing his training hands on with Debbie and growing with Benji as he evolves into my own personal therapy dog and a Search and Rescue Dog (I will touch more on the topic of Search and Rescue after he is 6 months old)[photosmash id=2]
According to Debbie, dozens of volunteers regularly take their dogs to visit patients at Children’s Hospitals, Retirements Homes and other related organizations & facilities to help those who are being treated for serious illnesses. Benji will fall into this category of therapy dog along with helping to cheer up those who have the blues, anxiety, or depression as well as brain injuries terminal illness and even reading disabilities. “The dogs brighten them up,” said Debbie Brown, who oversees the pet therapy program at St Johns. “Benji certainly fits that bill.”
My own doctor visits and trips to the hospital with Benji will prepare him for his future tasks and will soon be filling up our days, in addition to all the “normal” routine activities and responsibilities that a new puppy brings to the table on a day-to-day basis.
Benji and I took to each other right away. He sleeps on my bed with Woofie and has become my company, and has even gone to therapy with me. My therapist has shown me techniques to incorporate with Benji while he is being trained to assist me with vision and hearing as well as mobility and sensory dysfunction.
Although Benji is not the typical family pet, he is clearly my dog. Even now, I am amazed at how Benji can sense when I am sick, he has already been able to provide comfort, and he always wants Woofie’s attention. Benji makes things simple and being around a new puppy who is learning (much like I am now learning how to live with disabilities) even makes life feel simple. It’s natural for him to do so and he has prompted me to take on a new philosophy,” keep it simple”.
What I have learned about “keeping it simple” is there are a few things to consider when introducing a new pet into your home as a part of therapy: – It doesn’t matter what the pet is as long as the animal is of interest to you. A goldfish may provide amazing comfort to one, while a cat or dog will for another. Determine what type of pet you want first, consider your routine and schedule before committing to a pet. Benji takes up 15-20 hours a day of my time, he is my life for the next 2 years as he undergoes training. The last thing I need is added stress in my life, so trust me select a pet that will work with your day-to-day schedule. Think about what the pet will require for care and who will be responsible for that. The responsibility falls on you, if I neglect Benji then he will not get the proper training and the entire process would be a waste.
While it’s great to get a young kitten or puppy because early stages of the socialization period in their lives allows you to bond with the pet, there are a whole host of other responsibilities that come along with having a “newborn” or “baby” on your hands. However, adopting an older pet takes time, as well, because you need to find one with a suitable disposition to match with your family’s personality and traits. Don’t be quick to jump at the first free pet available. Do some homework and find the best match for your family. I had been seeking a friend for Woofie for nearly 3 months before Benji arrived.
Woofie and Benji provide me with love and trust that is unconditional, non-judgmental, and probably one of the best things that could have done for me. When I was diagnosed with Bacterial Meningitis, I decided at that moment I would redirected my life and one of the things I had wanted to do most was to be able to help others who were facing terminal illness and permanent disabilities as that was what I was now immersed in.
With Benji and Woofie I am able to go on to survive and continue my recovery, but also face my struggles with some hilarious tales of life and some hard nosed facts that will be molded into a therapy program with grass routes that can help others overcome anything that has been thrown their way. I will be able to show others that the old saying is true, if you get lemons make lemonade and so forth, only I’m not talking about a jug of lemonade with a picnic table and an umbrella, everyone knows I am more like a franchised factory and the supply will be endless.
As Benji, Woofie and I bond and grow I will continue to track our progress and victories as well as the mishaps that occur along the road. The 3-year recovery I have been given can be classified as being reborn, rejuvenated and re-energized in a positive way that will benefit everyone around me for years to come. My accomplishments with Benji and Woofie will lead to others eventually making even bigger accomplishments!
Stay Tuned for another Inspirational Story and more on “keeping it simple” on March 1 2011 and don’t forget to tune into Pet Central on The Pet Network @ 7 Pm On the week of March 7th – Mon Wed and Sun, where I will be having a featured segment with Woofie on the benefits of having a therapy dog.