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Lonely Therapy Dogs

July 6, 2020

On Friday, March 13, my dog Jonah and I were visiting a local elementary school shortly after classes had started. Jonah is a registered therapy dog and, until then, regularly visited several area classrooms each month as a reading dog. Ordinarily both staff and students welcome us with smiles and enthusiasm.

But on that day the staff members in the classroom were frantically trying to put together two-week packets of instructional materials for each child to take home, in case classes were canceled.

Jonah sat with each of the students who chose to read with him, especially Luke, who had developed a particularly close bond with Jonah. Little did we know, it would be our last day visiting school.

Jonah has been a registered therapy dog for over four years. He has participated in a number of programs working with children of different ages and in different settings. We have visited library children’s hour and evening school literacy events, and helped in the Humane Education programs at the Animal Welfare Society.

He also took part in a series of six-week programs at the Animal Welfare Society called “Jumping for Joy.” This program paired high school students on the autism spectrum with individual therapy dogs and together they worked on agility training classes. Jonah loved working with a new friend during each program. Outside of school settings, Jonah has also been a regular visitor at area assisted living facilities.

The times that we are experiencing affect us in many different ways. For Jonah it has been an alteration that he does not understand, and that I cannot explain to him.

Just about every morning he gives me the look. “Are we going to visit today?” People who are dog lovers know the sad-eyed look! And Jonah’s loss is my loss.

I have often said to people who thank me for bringing Jonah to visit a classroom or a facility that I derive as much joy from our visits as do the children and adults we visit. It reaffirms the importance of connecting with others, the kindness and gentleness that we do not always see enough of these days. And my dog Jonah is that connection.

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