About Me

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Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier, birder and amateur arachnologist. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. Before that, worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai from 1993-2007. Also a wildlife conservationist working in the tiger reserves of central India with Satpuda Foundation.

This blog is for aboriginal breed enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah) and INDog-mix mongrels are featured here. The two are NOT the same, do please read the text on the right to understand the difference. Our aim: to create awareness about the primitive natural breed called the Indian Pariah Dog/INDog. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

INDog Tommy is now a Therapy Dog

Remember Tommy, obedience champion and Canine Good Citizen? You may have read about him in this August post.
Tommy was born in Goa, adopted by Monique Nerman and taken to the US, and is currently with her in Italy.

While in the US Monique not only signed him up in two obedience classes, she also enrolled him as a Therapy Dog.

I've been nagging her to write about it for this blog (thanks Monique!)

Here's her account of how Tommy entered this wonderful programme:

Tommy is now the proud owner of the "I am a Therapy Dog" badge and ID card.

What is a Therapy Dog?

"The primary objective of the TDI dog and handler is to provide comfort and companionship by sharing the dog with the patients in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions and wherever else the Therapy Dog is needed. This is done in a way that increases emotional well-being, promotes healing, and improves the quality of life for the people being visited and the staff that cares for these people.

"The volunteers in the program and the dogs who visit with those in care facilities do make a difference in the quality of life. Real therapy is provided between animals and people." - From TDI - Therapy Dogs International - presentation on Therapy Dogs.

TDI, the first Therapy Dog organization, founded in 1976 in New Jersey, USA, is a NGO and through them you can test your dog.

There are no schools to train the dog - it's very much a "you either have it or you don't."

Therapy Dogs are expected to give emotional support and compassion not only to their owners/ handlers but to whoever is in front of them.
They need to have an outstanding character and personality.

To be able to test Tommy we had to take the Canine Good Citizen test and then on a very hot August day we had the Therapy Dog test.

Ever since I decided to adopt Tommy, I had had a feeling he would be a perfect Therapy Dog. Now was the time to see if he really was ready to do it.

The evaluator had us walk past food without touching it, not react to wheel chairs or objects being thrown on the floor, people hugging him forcefully, sitting on a chair next to a handicapped person and waiting patiently while being touched.

He passed all these tests and the evaluator joked that "of course he has to be used to commotion - he is from India!"
So Tommy passed the test and then we went to the vet to get the veterinary certificate, and then to take a passport photo for his ID card.

Two weeks later I had found an assisted living center so off we went, with the bandana, the tag and the ID card, for the moment of truth. Would Tommy be able to handle the hospital environment? Would he be loving to complete strangers who were ill? And what was I supposed to do?

We met David and Miles, a very big field Labrador, who were going to be our buddies: they belong to Delta, another Therapy Dog NGO.

Our task was going to be to visit 25 rooms with two patients in each room. Help!

Miles and David helped us get started - four minutes in each room.

Tommy wagged his tail cautiously and looked at me with concern - but after a couple of rooms he got the hang of it and wagged with more confidence and bravely went up to all the patients on the "go say Hi" command.

He stood patiently by the wheelchairs and let himself be touched, didn't freak out by the oxygen machines or the amputated legs.

He really liked it when he had to lie on some of the patients' beds. Comfortably lay down, stretched and closed his eyes for a snooze!

After a few visits we became popular with the patients and we could hear from the halls "Are Tommy and the big dog here?"

The hardest thing is to not show how emotional this type of volunteering is. Seeing the smiles and the joy on the patients' faces and how Tommy understands the importance of what he does brings tears to my eyes.

I am so proud of my little INDog who just a few months earlier was living on the streets of India chasing cars and cows!

After leaving America we went to Italy, and started doing Therapy Dog visits in a day care center for adults with intellectual and relational disabilities (e.g. Autism and Down's Syndrome).

It's an amazing facility with so much love and hope. Tommy walks in to the center like a pro and understands at once that this is important stuff!

The patients know Tommy well now and try to teach him Italian.

One young woman who was scared of dogs and has speech and movement problems, was introduced to Tommy - and after one visit now spends time with him petting him and brushing him.

Tommy stands patiently next to her and doesn't move when she is next to him.

The other week Tommy was lying in the middle of a circle of ten people, stomach up, eyes closed and paws in the air, being petted and pampered by everyone.

This is an amazing way to help people. We volunteer one hour per week.

It shows that dogs have outstanding personalities and that they have compassion and so much love to share.

Tommy's job is to help people feel better and he really understands that he is part of something bigger.
I feel honoured to have him in my life.

Story and photos: Monique G Nerman
USA & Italy

Therapy Dogs International (TDI) - www.tdi-dog.org
Please do not use images/content from this site without permission and acknowledgment


Lubna said...

Such a beautiful story. How I wish our hospitals understood the importance of therapy dogs.

Rajashree Khalap said...

I think it'll take a long time for therapy dogs to become common here, since fear of animals is so deeply ingrained in our middle class. You see all those kids being warned "kutta katega" etc. They grow up thinking the entire animal world wants to bite them, or that they will get diseases from them...though of course the truth is we are more likely to get bugs from other humans than from any animal out here.

There is some animal-assisted therapy being done in Mumbai, by an NGO called Animal Angels http://www.animalangelsfoundation.com/

Sara said...

Amazing story, it brought tears to my eyes! Indogs are indeed very special, it is a shame that here in India the majority of people dont give them the right value...I am seriously thinking to test my indog Chicca to see if she could become a therapy dog too,as she has all the qualities to be one. At the moment I am in Delhi, but I am going back to Europe soon and I would like to know with which association is Tommy working in Italy (I come from Italy) so that I could contact them once I am back there. Chicca has a lot of love and affection to give to others and I am sure she would be a perfect therapy dog!

wandereress said...

What a moving story. Tommy's such a big, generous person that human beings can learn from. It is very depressing to see people have such baseless ingrained fear towards dogs in India. They are crazy & think a barking dog's sole mission in life is to hurt them.

the golden touch said...

I loved the story. Indian dogs have the innate quality to be good therapy dogs. All they need is a loving home. We at Animal Angels Foundation are working in this field for the past 9 years. You can know more about me and my other fellow therapy dogs and therapy animals by logging on to www.animalangels.org.in. You can also visit our FB page www.facebook.animalangelsfoundation

Therapy dog Goldie

Ashish Sharma said...

Wow, never knew such a term exists. I hope it starts here in India. My pet may become one. Salute to the owners parenting as well.

- Proud father of two INDogs

Anonymous said...

This is great. One question: Why is Tommy's breed mentioned as "Mixed" instead of some reference to Indian Pariah/mix etc. This will bring a lot of awareness about these beautiful and intelligent dogs. During your travels in Europe and USA do people ask about Tommy's breed?

Also where can I adopt this native dog from India in the US?