One of my favourite and most used subjects is my dearest pet, Scatter. Unfortunately for him he is at my mercy and as such is unable to refuse me when I get the camera out! Let me tell you his story.
A few years back we were mulling over getting a dog. We knew if we got one it would be a Jack Russell and we knew his name ahead of time as well. It just so happened that one of the seniors at the day program I spend my days working at had a daughter who bred Jacks. We went to see them and picked out Scatter. Now, while this isn't remarkable the story of his life and work is.
You see, Scatter became a pet therapy dog at the tender age of 11 weeks old. His then family brought him in to deliver him to me at our day program. It was part of a ruse used to bring the breeder's parents in to see the program. Up until that point they had been refusing, telling their daughter that 'they didn't need to go to a program'. As it turned out, it was Scatter's first duty as a pet therapy dog. The family brought puppies in and delivered Scatter to me. By the way, the couple who were coerced into coming in to help with the puppies did end up coming to the program for several years and would introduce themselves to newcomers as 'Scatter's grandparents'!
Scatter has a remarkable ability to know who needs him. Like many therapy dogs this is an innate instinct and for some unknown reason he acts on it. Scatter sits on the right lap at the right time. Over the years he has been able to settle dementia clients who were inclined to be agitated and wander, one lady in particular who wandered and paced would sit for up to an hour 'babysitting' the puppy, and by babysitting I mean she would tell me 'you leave this dog alone' when I would go to take him back from her.
Scatter also knows when people are lonely or sad. He has comforted people who have suffered the loss of a spouse after many years of marriage and snuggles up on their laps to provide that warmth and make them feel just a little less lonely for a while. He seems to know a bit about physical ailments too. There have been several stroke patients over the years who have suffered paralysis and Scatter is very selective about how he sits on those laps, taking care not to sit on or sleep on their affected limbs.
Another one of Scatter's specialties is the seated exercise program that we provide the seniors with. His role in that exercise circle is to play ball with the seniors. He has a plastic hockey ball in his mouth and chases a large beach ball, bopping it with his nose to all of the seniors who throw it back for him. In this way he helps them get a little more exercise and he is also very entertaining.
On the 10th of February 2015, Scatter celebrated his 8th anniversary at the day program. Just to put a little icing on his cake a lady who had attended program into her nineties had left 5 or 6 years ago. She recently passed away and Scatter's impact on her life was such that the family thanked 'especially Scatter' in her obituary. This was a true tribute to this remarkable little four-legged piece of 'feel good'!