I have heard wonderful things about pet therapy. I have read about it, seen some small pieces on the tv, and have heard anecdotes, but until recently I had never seen a therapy pet.
From all accounts, the little dog involved seemed to bring out the communication skills and emotions of the patients involved. They enjoyed having him there, and he brightened their day.
But how was the experience for him?
I had mental images of the dogs in pet therapy running up and down the hallways with their tails wagging, being happy to be the subject of affection from people, being keen for games, getting happy at all of the interesting smells and displaying other normal dog behaviour. I met this beautiful dog, and he displayed none of the above traits.
Having spent the majority of my life around large dogs, I can safely say that he seemed to display no body language whatsoever, he didn't respond to my body language or touch, and from my impressions he just sat there staring straight ahead, almost catatonic. For me, it was like having a conversation with a person who has locked themselves away in a safe corner of their mind and is completely oblivious to the outside world. He just wasn't present.
My thoughts were that this little pup was either extremely emotionally damaged, or on some kind of doggy sedative. I know that they screen these dogs carefully, but his emotional affect and reactivity was VERY abnormal. I am concerned for him, and left the experience somewhat disturbed.