Saturday, February 27, 2010

Luxury living at its finest ...

Today I got to visit my auntie Jenny at Pampered Pooch Playground again! YES!!! You got it .... it was spa day again for me :) I have to work on Monday at The Lab again. I've been meeting with the same group of kids now for the 7 weeks and this coming Monday will be our last session for this "dog group." Maybe Auntie Danielle and mom will let us have a relay race again. I always lose to Sharpie. He's way too quick for me. One week though my mom cheated and she told me to start running before it was time. I won ... but barely. The kids are so great. They don't care if I win or lose. They just love me. They know i'm older and i'm slower and i have a bad back right leg ... they hug and kiss on me no matter what.

We'll do something special for them on Monday. Maybe mom can take a picture of us so that they can have a souvenir to show their classmates?? Every time I work my mom tells me I have to look good and smell good ... says I have a reputation to maintain now that i'm a therapy dog ... thank goodness auntie Jenny at Pampered Pooch always makes time for me. I just love her so much and I love everyone at Pampered Pooch. They know I don't like to be put in those crazy cages so I never have to go in one. After auntie Jenny got done bathing me today (she told mom I was perfect as usual!) I got to hang out in the back with auntie Jenny and another staff, auntie Anna. She was preparing dinner for all the other dogs and I got to watch her ... okay, I was drooling hoping she would drop some kibbles or maybe feel sorry for me and give me some?? I got to hang out with this really cool german shepherd Hazel .... she reminds me of my friend back at Red Lake Rosie's Rescue. Her name was also Hazel and she was also a german shepherd. We used to share an igloo when I had to live outside in the cold.

Whenever I go to Pampered Pooch for spa day I feel like I am the queen. Then again, I'm sure all the other pups feel the same way too. Mister came with me this morning so that he could gets lots of play time in the daycare area. I'm home now with mom but Mister is still there. Mom decided he needed more exercise so she's going to pick him up later.

I've told mom what I want her to write on my blog so that she can type away while i'm basking in the sun. I need to get lots of rest because I have a busy day on Monday working again. Mom also tells me that we got signed up for another one on one with another kid. There are are actually two kids that want to meet with me. Mom said yes to one of them and we'll be meeting twice in March. The other kid will have to wait till April because my calendar is getting booked. Between groups, class presentations and one on one sessions I won't have time for my LONG naps.

Here's a short video clip of me "begging" for food from auntie Anna who was preparing dinner for the other dogs ... notice how I throw in a high five in hopes that that will work!! :)

and if you missed the video of me getting my head washed by auntie Jenny .. i'm reposting it just for you :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mentorship: Volunteering at The Lab

In 2009 I began volunteering at The Lab and began working with "R" (that's us looking into each other's eyes ;-) The Lab is an arts & wellness-based program in St. Paul Schools. They serve youth in special education, grades 7-12 and are committed to providing creative and experiential learning opportunities that support long-term social & emotional health for urban youth.

Sometimes humans have been hurt so much that it's hard for them to trust -- that's what I've learned about all of these great kids. I share with them my story (mom does the talking!) of how it took me a while to learn to trust again. In 2009 my mom and I volunteered as "mentors" at The Lab. We spent time with this one really cool kid, "R." "R" and I got teamed up and I got to hang out with him every week. I remember the first time we met ... I could tell he liked me (and I liked him too!) but he really wasn't sure what to do with me. As weeks passed (and there were days when all we would do is hang out together while he played word games with my mom) I could feel his heart opening up ... I think my heart also started to open up to. Every Tuesday my mom and I would wait for "R" to arrive at The Lab. He would arrive in a St. Paul yellow cab with a couple other kids, escorted by an adult. As our bond grew, and weeks passed, "R" would dart out of the cab and run into the building to meet me. I would wait for him to walk through the door. I love to see the big smile on his face and how he would get down on his knees and give me a big bear hug. The first time the other kids met me, "R" said "This is my dog, AH-NUNG" and he hugged me for the tenth time. My pal "R" -- he can hug me a hundred times and that wouldn't even be enough.

I haven't seen "R" in a long time. I miss him. Today i'm volunteering at The Lab ... this time, it's for a "Dog Group". I hear my pal "R" may be coming. I really hope he does so I can see him again and tell him I miss him, and thank him for opening up my heart and my mom's heart to what's possible by volunteering at The Lab.

The Lab is a really cool place because they have programs where therapy dogs can participate. Me, i'm pretty mellow. I can do some of that dog obedience stuff (my pal Sharpie is much better at that though!) but I think my strength is in the 1:1 work I do with kids like "R" (in 2009) and this year my mom and I worked with "J" [i wrote about it here]. I connect with the kids at The Lab, and I think they really connect with me and my story. Like "R" i went through so much before I was rescued by Karen of Red Lake Rosie's Rescue (heartworm, lymes disease, gun shot, starvation - and I have no front teeth to prove it! You name it, i'm a survivor!). The Animal Assisted Education programs at The Lab is really taking off this year. I'm hoping mom will let me do more 1:1 mentorships with the kids. Don't get me wrong ... I love the groups, but there's something special about working with just one kid ... like "R", and now "J" ... there's something so powerful in the bond that gets created between us and the healing that takes place for all of us lucky enough to be a part of that circle.

Hugs from "R" and "J" and slobbery kisses from me (ahnung)

P.S. Check it out ... i'm on The Lab's website!! :)

P.P.S. You should also check out this really cool video/documentary of another volunteer Bill who has been working 1:1 with one of the kids to teach him how to play the guitar ... and in the process, so much more about life. You will also hear from the volunteer Bill how volunteering as mentor has helped him. Click here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The proper way to live

This is what I did a lot of this weekend ... and so did my sister Missy and brother Mister. So glad mom is home from traveling and that she doesn't have to go anywhere this week. She just got home from Fresno, California for work. Her next trip isn't till next week and she tells me she is going to Dallas, Texas. Maybe she'll bring me a surprise home ... some cowgirl paw boots?? :)

Today, I'm working at The Lab! So excited .... get to see my buddy Sharpie and my auntie Danielle and of course gets lots of yummy treats.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Delta Society therapy vest arrived!!!

I am so excited ... my new therapy dog vest arrived from Delta Society the other day. My mom took a bunch of pictures of me in my cool new vest. Tomorrow, when I go to work at The Lab I'm going to wear my new vest. And today, mom got more goodies in the mail. She ordered a bandana for me and a badge holder. Our Pet Partner badge/ID (which has a photo of me with mom) won't arrive for another week or so. I've had a few days to rest and do nothing so i'm all ready now to go back to work.

Are you (and your Human) interested in going through therapy dog class? If so, you can sign up for classes at The Canine Coach. They have 2 classes starting in March. One class as of right now has 2 spots open. The one starting on 3/15 that's being taught by auntie Danielle (my mom is assisting) only has one spot left. For more info visit The Canine Coach website and click on Group Classes, then Therapy Dog classes.

For my fellow fur friends .... working as a therapy dog and partnering with your Human is the best job one could have!! :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Transformation ... one kid at a time ...

On Wednesday of this week I had a very busy work day as a therapy dog. My day began with volunteering at The Lab (a program serving at-risk youth of St. Paul Public Schools). Last semester we had this one kid "J" go through one of our "dog groups". "J" had a chance to meet me, and my buddy Sharpie, at this group. Mom assisted auntie Danielle in leading our dog group. I could see "J" come alive over the weeks. He LOVED coming to The Lab for the dog group. We decided to give "J" an opportunity to continue working with dogs, and mom offered to provide 1:1 mentorship to teach "J" how to give presentations. My first volunteer opportunity at The Lab was when i went with mom to a class and we shared my story ... that was so fun!!

So mom and I met with "J" two times to prepare him for giving a class presentation and assisting mom. He's never given a presentation or had any experience public speaking so this was new for him. He was so excited about having the chance to do something and for the two times we met, "J" and mom put together the outline of what the presentation would be (of course, a large part was my story and how resilient and forgiving animals are) and he even had a chance to rehearse. Our second prep meeting including "J" presenting to mom, Momma MT and my brother Mister. He rocked!!

Well, this week he had a chance to present to a class of 6th graders. It was an early morning class (8 am!) so mom and I got to The Lab really early so that we could greet "J" when he comes out of the cab and walks into the Homecroft building where The Lab is. I love how excited "J" is to see me. This last time, when mom saw "J' coming in she let me off leash so that I greet him. She knows I just love him. He's a pal now and I know I can trust him. He's always looking out for me and making sure i'm okay.

"J" did such an awesome job presenting to the class of 6th graders. They were all so interested and asked lots of questions. At the end this one kid said to "J": "You did a great job. You really know your business". They also got the key message we were trying to convey: that Ahnung who came from a very rough start has been able to move through it (they learned the word "resilience") and has been able to learn to trust again, and to play.

"J" and I (okay ... mom too!) will be presenting to 3 more classes. I am so proud of my buddy "J". I gave him a high five. Mom also gave him a high five after our presentation.

Mom also wants me to tell you that we are needing more therapy dog teams. Sharpie and I are a part of the Canine Inspired Change team whose mission is partnering with therapy dogs to teach social and emotional skills ... right now we are focusing on at-risk youth and autistic youth and adults. If you want to learn more about it takes to become a therapy dog, you can email me ... yes, I have my own email account: Okay friends .... what are you waiting for! Tell your Humans to get you signed up for training so you can join me and Sharpie making a difference in our community ... transforming kids one dog at a time.

And here's a short video clip that my mom took of me when "J" arrived! I was so happy!!! :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

The life of a therapy dog

The day before I "work" (note from editor: Ahnung volunteers as a therapy dog working with at-risk youth at The Lab, a program serving St. Paul Public schools) mom often takes me to Pampered Pooch Playground to see auntie Jenny for Spa Day ... ahhh, yes, a bath, massage, pedicure, blow dry and even some playtime with the other pooches. They love me so much at Pampered Pooch that I get to roam around and I even get to be a greeter at the front door as my puppy friends get dropped off for daycare. Auntie Jenny let mom come back so she could take some photos and a movie clip of me getting my bath :) I just LOVE getting a bath and auntie Jenny told mom that I am the best and the easiest dog to bathe and groom ... I can't understand why anyone wouldn't love it. Mom tells me it's important for me as a therapy dog to make sure that I am well groomed before I go to work volunteering with the kids. When I smell good and feel soft I get even more hugs.

Here I am after spa day giving my auntie Jenny a 'high five' to let her know I really appreciate her working on a Sunday so that I can be ready for work this morning. I got to hang out in the front and roam around the offices while waiting for auntie Laura who was coming so that I could try on my new therapy dog vest that she's making for me (thanks auntie Laura! you're the coolest!). I look so sharp in my bright orange vest and it's so comfy!! :) She's going to sew the letters onto my vest now and make a couple adjustments. When she's done I'll be able to go to work in style!!

This morning I get to go to The Lab and work with these awesome kids!! We're on week 4 of the "dog group". Our lesson plan for today is going to be "Go to your place" where mom and auntie Danielle will show the kids how Sharpie and I will go to our place (which is rug) and how they can teach that to us. It's important for these kids who can often get overwhelmed and not have a healthy outlet to know that there is a place they can go that will be a safe and happy place for them.

When I work I get these delicious treats. I've noticed that mom gives me a smaller portion for breakfast on days that I work because she knows i'm going to get lots of treats.

Anyway ... gotta run and get ready for work. It's snowing this morning so mom has to shovel before we leave. I told her I want a clear path for me to the car so I don't have to get all dirty!! :)

And if you want to watch a couple short movie clips of me at Spa Day check out the videos below. On the first one you'll see auntie Jenny showing off to mom that I'm so good about even getting my head wet.

Then on the second one i'm just soaking in the massage! Can't wait for when I get to go back again!

p.s. Oooops ... i wrote this blog post before mom got a call from school. Our session is being cancelled today because of the snow. Oh well, guess i'll just get to sleep all day. That's okay with me. Mom just better give me a snack since she fed me a light breakfast. We have another group tomorrow afternoon and another one on Wednesday, PLUS I have a big presentation Wednesday morning ... wow, I'm getting tired now thinking of all I have to do this week so I think i need to go take a nap now!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Historic play moment for me ...

Some of you probably know that I didn't know anything about this play thing when i got to the cities with mom back in November of 2008. My brother Mister kept trying to get me to play, and after about 8 months I finally learned how to play and mom caught in on video. You can watch it here.

Well, the other day when I was volunteering at The Lab again with mom, auntie Danielle and Sharpie and we were working with a great group of kids, I accepted Sharpie's invitation to play. He's tried to get me to play before but i've just ignored him. The other day I decided I wanted to play! I also learned how to play tug and Sharpie and I got to play tug. Even with no front teeth I was able to give the Sharpster a run for his money :) He's small, but boy he's pretty mighty!! :)

Mom says i've gotten a lot more playful and spunky since I arrived. It's taken me a little while to get really comfortable. After all i've been through, can you blame me??? That's why I love volunteering with the kids at The Lab. They understand what i've been through.