I was planning to write a more serious post this week. Then two things happened to change my mind. First, I woke up to Riley, our Golden Retriever, vomiting. Then I made the mistake of watching the morning news while I was eating breakfast. I really needed to lighten up. I started thinking about all of the positive reactions to the dogs, of course when they’re not vomiting.
Wednesday, at UCLA with Elbee, I realized that he doesn’t really have to try very hard. By virtue of being a large beautiful dog, he can simply walk into the hospital lobby and have everyone notice him. It’s like a supermodel stepping onto the runway. The attention and the smiles are automatic.
Tiny dogs, on the other hand, get by on their adorable quotient. Plus you can pick them up so everyone can see them.
Which brings me to Gus. Technically, at 30 pounds, he isn’t a large dog or a tiny dog. He’s kind of stuck in the middle. Not to mention, if you look at these pictures, you can see that it looks awkward, not cute, if you attempt to hold him.
ELBEE That is just embarrassing.
Even though Gus has the sweetest temperament, as a medium size dog, he has to try harder. He bursts into the hospital as if he’s arriving at a birthday party. Smiling, volunteering his tricks, wagging his tail and sometimes his whole body, he’s like the ice cream, the cake and the entertainment all rolled into one.
Whereas Elbee and other large dogs will usually wait patiently to be petted, Gus is a bit more proactive. He’s mastered the art of the “dog hug.” I know that he should probably keep his paws on the floor, but he’s so gentle and cute that people love it. It’s kind of like the Charley “lean.”
On Friday, when I took the dogs to Providence Tarzana Hospital, the kids in the day room on Pediatrics got the best of both worlds. They were petting Elbee as he lay patiently on the floor and they were cuddling with Gus like the Teddy Bear Doodle that he is. When the dogs did their tricks, the patients, their families and the staff responded with giggles and applause. Seeing all of their delighted faces, I could tell that the size of the dog really didn’t matter.
As much as they shine, I truly believe that all of our therapy dogs, no matter their size, put so much of themselves, of their own energy, into helping and healing that it’s exhausting. When they get home from work, the first thing they do is take a well deserved nap…something Gus and Elbee like to do together. They’re a bundle of comfort.