My dog is a therapy dog. He has been a certified therapy dog for almost 4 years – over 2/3 of his life. He has graduated from obedience training, and gone through behavior assessments and aptitude tests, and passed every one.
My dog has had a little autistic girl fall in love with him, and gift him with a book she wrote about how much she loved him, while she was attending the Festival of Books.
My dog has had a fearful and grief stricken little girl attach herself to him for comfort when she was feeling overwhelmed at a bereavement camp for kids.
My dog has has helped Native American child victims of trauma learn from him, and some of his therapy dog friends, about how all living things have feelings and it is ok to be sad. My dog taught those children that there is always someone you can talk to, especially your dog.
Every year since becoming a therapy dog, my dog helps cheer the children and adults who participate in a walk to commemorate a national mass shooting tragedy that happened in our community.
Every year, my dog has sat and greeted guests at the biggest fancy fundraiser for our local Humane Society, giving big sloppy kisses that elicit even bigger donations from happy objects of his slobber.
Every year, my dog hangs out with a local chapter of a motorcycle club who gather together, and drink and have a good time raising money for homeless dogs. So far we have avoided him getting patched into the club – but if any of the members really gets a sidecar, I might have a problem continuing to decline the invitation.
This past summer, my dog made a special visit to the home of a dying woman and her family. They used to have a dog like my dog, and having his big smile was a comfort to them.
My dog does countless public appearances where he hangs out with his dog friends, and shamelessly solicits smiles and adoration from humans.
All of this is even more remarkable, because the first time he tested to become a therapy dog, he did not pass because he was too timid. Too Timid. See, my dog didn’t have so great of a beginning. My dog was born into a horrible, cruel, and dirty breeding operation that was only broken up when the human in charge was arrested on multiple counts of animal cruelty and neglect, and ultimately went to prison.
My dog was one of the breeding males and was kept isolated from all the other dogs and people. He used to have great fear and personal space issues because he was not used to being in contact with anyone else – human or canine. Any human contact caused him fear.
My dog used to have mange and not much fur, was underweight about ten pounds, and had a heart murmur. My dog used to pancake in fear at any sudden noise. My dog used to pancake in fear if a man yelled or seemed threatening. Sometimes my dog would even pee because he was so scared. My dog used to refuse to go near metal bowls, because the sound they made on the floor if they moved was too much like the sound of the cane that the cruel human used to get around on. My dog used to run and hide if anyone ever touched a broom in his presence.
My dog is an incredible and resilient being. He has blossomed into a really amazing dog. He is not perfect, but he makes a lot of other people besides just me, happy.
My dog is being accused of being a vicious dog. My dog is being requested to no longer be allowed to be a therapy dog.
My dog was sitting in my lap recently, at a therapy dog/public fundraising event for cancer. A new therapy dog team came and sat right next to where I was sitting, and my dog was in my lap. Right. Next. To. Us. After about twenty minutes or so of sitting there and chatting, suddenly this other dog put his face right into my dog’s face. While my dog was in my lap. Both dogs snapped at each other. Both dogs made contact with each other. In. My. Lap. They were connected for a brief second. It was startling. Unexpected. Never had happened before. It was over before it started. In. My. Lap. There was no blood. No visible injuries on either dog. No harm. The only foul was the human failure all around, in not paying attention to dogs that were so close together in a stressful environment.
My dog is now accused of attacking this other dog. Even though he was in my lap. And worse – my dog is being shamed. My dog is being accused of being unfit to be a therapy dog. My dog is being accused of being unsuitable to be in public.
The owner of the other dog is saying all this – making these accusations. No one else. None of the people who were present. Not the director of the program. Not the trainer and evaluator of the program. Only this one human. All for one reason, and one reason only.
You see, my dog is a pitbull.