When I got Faith, my hope was that she’d become a therapy dog. I was already doing pet therapy with my other golden retriever, Hope, and I thought it would be wonderful to have two dogs to share with others.
We realized almost immediately after bringing Faith home that she had a lot of spunk. In fact, as a puppy her nickname was Feisty Faith. I enrolled her in obedience class and realized pretty quickly she was going to require a lot of patience and training. At one point I wasn’t sure she was cut out to be a therapy dog. But I kept working with her.
After completing four obedience classes, and going through two Canine Good Citizen (CGC) classes, Faith successfully passed the CGC test and we embarked on our therapy dog journey. She completed her therapy dog certification in 2016, and she’s been working ever since.
One thing I’ve learned having two therapy dogs is that they each have their own personalities and unique way of giving therapy to others. Faith is still wiggly and energetic and she always makes people smile and laugh.
While my other therapy dog is sensitive and isn’t comfortable in all pet therapy settings, Faith is my bulletproof therapy dog. I can take her anywhere and she always does great. Once I put her vest on she knows it’s time to go to work. And, she seems to know what a situation calls for. Even with all her wiggly energy, in a memory care facility, she’ll sit patiently next to a resident while they softly stroke her fur.
In the hundreds of therapy visits we’ve done over the years, there are a few that stand out in my mind. One in particular happened in an assisted living facility when we were living in San Diego. Our visits took place in a group room, with the residents seated in a circle, either in a chair or wheelchair. Faith would make her way around the circle, spending time with each person. But there was one resident in particular that seemed to have a special connection with Faith. He lit up with a great big smile every time he saw her. At one point one of the other residents told me that before we started visiting she had never seen him smile. When I heard that it erased any doubt I ever had about her ability to be a therapy dog. She connects in her own unique way, she warms hearts, and she generates smiles.
When we relocated across the country, we took about six months off from doing pet therapy. We also discovered we needed to get re-certified with another organization. When Faith took her test, it was apparent she had developed a few bad habits. We had to do a little refresher training, but she completed all of her supervised visits with flying colors.
Faith has taught me that any dog with a loving, social temperament can be a therapy dog. More energetic dogs, like Faith, may require a little more training and patience, but it’s definitely doable and worth it. It’s a joy to watch the difference they can make in someone’s day, just by showing up and sharing their zest for life.
Faith and her handler Debbie have been certified for three years. They are certified with Love on a Leash and Alliance of Therapy Dogs. They live and work in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
Follow Faith on Instagram @goldenretrievershopeandfaith