Two days ago I came home to an email about a high school doing a "Health Fair" and needing someone to talk about the stress-reduction benefits of pets.
Yesterday I got ahold of the person to find out what was going on.
And today, Griffin and I went with a friend and her dog to talk to the kids. We got to only spend 10 minutes with each of the 4 groups of kids, but we also utilized the hour in between each of our part of the session to work the dogs.
Griffin was fabulous. During the waiting times we went outside and walked, did recalls and tug games, did training in the waiting room, chewed kongs (note: not a "we" activity), and had more petting. During the sessions, he was attentive to me until it was his turn to pet.
Animals are amazing, and especially our companion animals. Most of them don't actually provide a monetary or product-producing function, yet SO many of us have them (all 50-60 of the kids today had pets!!) in our homes, taking up space and using our money. And it's because they're so brilliant. Our interactions cause different attachment hormones to be released and have all sorts of stress-reduction benefits. We exercise some types of pets, and thus ourselves. Lower blood pressure, better social-ness. Faster healing, better learning, better quality of life. And in most situations, the pets get all those benefits too. It's really quite remarkable how it goes together.
For the first group of kids, I did a thing I tell students never to do.... I gently held his harness and physically prevented any upward motion. Which he tried with everyone. The second group though, he figured it out and got scratching, going from kid to kid. And by the fourth group, he just slowly walked down the line, then turned and came back.
In one group, we had a kid in a very large wheelchair-type device. And Griffin was perfect. He went right up to the kid, I expected extra social whole-body wags, like when he is meeting a new type of animal... but nope, he was just like always. He put his paws up on the foot step, avoiding the student's feet (....Griffin steps on MINE all the time!), and got his head right up on the lap. And even when the kid tried to hold Griffin's muzzle, Griffin just stood there and wagged and gave me a glance of "look! I get a treat for this!"
I love my dog. He's not grown up enough to be a good therapy dog, but when he is more mature, he definitely has another job to do.
Not only was it great to talk to the kids, but it was a FABULOUS training opportunity for my dog. I hope we are able to do more kid work soon!