4/08/2008

Jackson - Pet Therapy Dog


Introducing Jackson.

Before I leave the subject of Jim's hospitalization I want you to meet Jackson.

Last Saturday was gray and rainy - a long and boring day in the hospital - when in walked Jackson, a sleek black Labrador Retriever, with his owner, Jennifer. Jackson,wearing his green National Capital Therapy Dog vest, walked quietly over to Jim's bedside and waited until Jim greeted him and reached down to rub his head. What a lovely exchange.

Jennifer told us that she and Jackson were trained before they began their hosptial visits. When I asked her how she got started with this, what motivated her to do it -she told me it was seeing dogs being brought in to comfort families after 9/11. "I was living in New York and when I saw the dogs visiting families standing in the lines I knew Jackson was a natural for this work. He has always been so calm and friendly and open to people."

That is true. Jackson is a warm and friendly presence - and you are hearing this from me - someone who is usually leery of large dogs. He and Jennifer are a perfect pair. She, too, is warm, open and and engaging. Together they are a great therapeutic team.

We wanted to know more about their volunteering and Jennifer kindly told us that they visit many hospitals in the area on several Saturdays a month. We happened to be lucky that today she was assigned to GW. She added, "Jackson is also trained as a reading education assistance dog."

A reading education assistance dog? Have you heard of that? I never had.

Jennifer explained, "its a new program to assist children who are challenged with their reading. Jackson and I go to the Rockville Library and kids read books about dogs to Jackson. He is trained to sit and listen and at my cue to put his paw on the book page and seem to ask for more reading. Its very empowering for the children and encourages them with their reading."

What a neat idea.

During our visit Jackson knew his job and he never stirred away from Jim's bedside.

We were grateful for their visit.

Another unexpected gift - from the hearts of volunteers.