Sophie's Secret
Angels on Earth|Jan/Feb 2021
How could a dog know just what so many people needed?
RUTH DAVIDSON
Sophie would make a good therapy dog.

”The day my dog trainer said those words, I didn’t even know what a therapy dog was. I certainly had no idea what traits my little Havanese had that would make her a candidate. But why not, I thought, if I can help people in need of some cheering up?

Now here I was, escorting Sophie into the hospital for our first day on the job. In the year and a half I had spent getting her certified, I’d learned what to expect. I would bring Sophie into a patient’s room for a brief pick-me-up visit, then we would move on. Of course, Sophie herself couldn’t understand her purpose in all of this, but she was always happy to meet new people, and that was enough.

We walked through the wide automatic sliding glass doors and into the lobby, where we were met by the nurse who ran the therapy dog program at the hospital. “Welcome, Sophie,” she said. “I’ll be taking you two around today.”

I followed the nurse down the hall. Sophie trotted along at my side, just as she’d been trained. “We’re a transitional care unit,” the nurse explained. “Most of our patients are seniors.” I knew how important it was for Sophie to be her gentlest. She’s trained and ready for this, I reminded myself.

Up ahead an older lady was making her way down the hall with a walker. A nurse walked beside her, holding on to a gait belt to keep her steady. We caught up to them, but the patient remained focused on her walker. I made sure Sophie didn’t interfere. As we were passing by at a safe distance, the lady turned her walker toward a chair against the wall. “Okay, we’ll stop for a rest,” her nurse said.

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