So we could take them off of course! Pet Partners does not approve of dogs wearing clothes or costumes when working as therapy dogs, but sometimes we use clothes as part of the therapy session.
As part of our session with a young boy living with autism, I put doggie pajamas on Benny so the child could figure out how to get them off. I also had his Pet Partners therapy vest on top of the PJs. The child had to first figure out how to get Benny’s feet through the four legs of the clothes. Then he had to figure out why he was stuck! The vest was in the way. So of course he had to FIRST remove the vest.
Once that was accomplished, the child could tackle removing PJs that had all four legs covered. Benny was the most tolerant dog, just standing there letting the child manipulate the clothing. Then he lay down because he thought this was just taking too long so he might as well rest!
I had practiced putting on the new PJs and removing them all sorts of ways before so Benny was familiar and comfortable with having his legs moved around and the PJs taken over his head. I always do practice runs before trying any new behavior with my dogs so I am certain they will not only comply with my requests or commands but enjoy this new thing we are doing. Benny loves learning new things so the night before was great fun for him as I put on the PJs and took them off, then put them on again a different way and removed them again. Benny thought this was a great new game and we may continue to play it at home over and over again.
The child needed Benny “up” to reach his feet so he had to give the little dog the Up command. Poor Benny! He was Up then Down then Over!
Finally Benny was as naked as a dog could be. The rest of the session was spent with Benny playing with a new toy moving closer and closer to the child. Then the child played a game with Benny so close he could touch him.
This may all seem so simple to an outsider but when you are there you understand the enormity of every moment of the hour.
The child loves Benny and Benny loves him. We see how all the therapy dogs love their work and love meeting new people but rarely have I experienced such a personal bond between boy and dog. Benny just knows what to do with this child and knows how important his work is.
He leaves each week feeling proud and if you wonder “How can a dog feel proud?” spend some time with our therapy dogs and you will see it clearly. Benny smiles in his sleep on the ride home. And I bet the child beams with pride as well.