Sunday, June 6, 2010

Meet our Canine Therapist

Ms. Gamee
Hi everyone, my name is Gamee. That's me on the right. I am a team member at Autism Journeys. Like all the team members at Autism Journeys, I’m kind and patient. Although, you will quickly discover I am quite unique from my co-workers. For starters, I find it much more comfortable to walk on four paws. Seriously, how do you humans find the kids’ yummy crumbs all the way up there? Second, I am much quieter than my co-workers. In fact, I won’t even speak unless you work really hard and ask me to. Third, while handshakes (or paw shakes in my case) are certainly acceptable, you will make a favorable first impression if you give me a nice soft pet and get down on my eye level. Bonus points offered for those who rub my belly. Playing fetch with me earns points too, but I don’t want to give away all my secrets.

So, let me tell you about my background and impressive resume. You see it all started long before I was born. I’m from an organization called Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). My mom and dad, grandparents, great-grandparents, and maybe even great, great grandparents are all from CCI. CCI thought my mom and dad would make great parents together. Naturally after my dad took one look at my mom, he knew it too. Hence, my liter pups and I were created. Man! Were they right, we’re all amazing!

After I was born, I lived with my parents for 8 weeks. Then, I was lucky enough to go live in Colorado for the next 18 months. This amazing woman, Mary Lee, volunteered to raise me throughout my early childhood years. Her official title with CCI is puppy raiser. She spent every day for 18 months teaching me manners, about human behavior, and many, many commands. She was wonderful. She even put up with my snoring.

At 18 months Mary Lee brought me back to the CCI headquarters in California. It was hard to say good-bye to Mary Lee, but she’d prepared me well. I was also very excited to begin Puppy College, live in the dorms (kennels), meet some new friends, and of course check out the beach. I love water!

Over the next six months my friends and I learned many, many things from the most amazing trainers in the world! While all of us were highly talented, some of us did better than others. Let’s just say… I did well! In fact, only 30% of my class made it to graduation. Graduating from CCI is sort of like a human getting their doctorate from Harvard. Needless to say, Mary Lee was very proud. But don’t worry, most of my friends with bachelors, and masters degrees are out there working too, just not “officially” like I am.

Okay, so after CCI determined I had met all the requirements for graduation, they called Kate Andersen and asked her to come down to California and train for two weeks (she’d been waiting for me for over a year). Make no mistake, I was long since trained, it was Ms. Kate that needed the training. It was tough, but I managed to whip her into shape by the end of the two weeks.

Graduation day was really special. Kate and Mary Lee met for the first time. Mary Lee told Kate all my dirty secrets from childhood, like the time I pooped in the airport terminal and then ran away. Ms. Kate told Mary Lee all the amazing and silly things I had done with her during training. For some reason, Kate thinks it’s so funny to tell people that I would sneak my way into the shower with her every day. Like I said, I LIKE WATER! Graduation ended with Mary Lee handing my leash over to Kate in front of hundreds of people. Everyone was crying, so I helped Kate keep her face clean by licking her. Salt, yum!

After graduation, Kate and I hopped on a plane and headed to my new home in Salt Lake City. Kate was a little nervous to take me into an airport after the story Mary Lee had told her, but now that I’m a CCI graduate, I would never behave like a crazy freshman off to college again. The plane ride was great. Most people have never been on a plane with a dog before, so I got lots of unsolicited attention.

Ms. Kate, or Mom as I now call her, had told me all about my new family. But nothing could have prepared me for home life with 3-and 6-year old human boys, Mom’s goofy husband, and a 5-year-old yellow lab brother, Jaxtyn. Oh, and don’t forget the black cat and two fish. It’s quite different from my quiet life with Mary Lee or my college life. IT’S AWESOME! The boys give me lots of attention and belly rubs, Jason (my dad) cleans up after me, and my delinquent brother, Jaxtyn is constantly making me look good. Plus, he’s fun to play with. Although… Mom got a little upset when we started playing on her bed at 3:00 in the morning the other night. I think we were both in the doghouse that night. Although since Mom says there are no bad dogs, only bad owners, I think it’s really her fault for letting me sleep outside of my kennel.

After a couple days at home, Mom took me to my 1st job. I was really excited, and really nervous. All that time at college and now I had to step into the “working world”. Mom introduced me to my co-workers and showed me where my retreat (kennel in Kate’s office) was. She told me I could go into my retreat anytime I needed a break, and that everyone would respect my privacy.

So I’ve been going to work with Mom for 3 weeks now. So far I’ve played fetch with clients, played in a ball pit, listened to stories at circle time, gone on walks to the gas station, encouraged kids to speak and follow directions, and gotten lots and lots of belly rubs. Can you believe clients actually work to earn time with me as a reward?!

When I’m not doing things with clients, I hang out in Mom’s office, chew on a bone and usually end up snoring. The snoring part is quite embarrassing to Mom when she’s in a meeting. At the end of the day, Mom takes off my working vest, gives me a big love and we head home.

The only thing that still confuses me is the “work” comments. If going on walks, playing fetch and belly rubs are work, then what’s play? Oh ya, playing is tug-of-war in the backyard with Jaxtyn, and waking Mom and Dad up at 3 a.m.

Well, that’s my life so far. I can’t wait to meet all of you. Remember, belly rubs! I’ll keep you posted on all my “work” activities on the blog. Don’t worry, I usually won’t write so much. It’s hard on my paws.

Ms. Gamee

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