Reporting For Duty
“The Hero Dogs” is currently comprised of our two registered therapy Dalmatians, Orio and Quint. Orio is 3.5 years old and Quint is almost 3. They have both been therapy dogs since they were about 1 year old, when they could officially test to be a therapy dog with Alliance of Therapy Dogs (www.therapydogs.com). Orio and Quint have done a variety of therapy visits at places like schools, libraries, fire stations, police stations, Cub Scout programs, the airport, and more. We currently visit the airport once a week and have other therapy visits throughout the month as requested. What’s a day in the life of Orio and Quint look like? We’d be glad to share!
Being a professional dog trainer who sets her own schedule means no two days ever look the same. Add in kids (ages 8 and 9), and a part-time job at Fleet Feet, and we are quite a busy family. We usually visit the airport on a day off that my husband and I both have. This means I wake up around 6:10 A.M. and get the kids ready for school. The dogs go outside, they get fed in slow feeder bowls, and then I leave to drop the kids off at 7:00 A.M.
We currently have a 15 week old Windsprite puppy named Hip Hop, so when I get back home it usually consists of play sessions and training sessions with the puppy while the older dogs (Doc, Disco, Orio and Quint) play or lay around. Around 9 A.M. we start packing up our gear for the airport. Orio and Quint wear collars with a handle and a patch that says their name and, for Quint, “I AM DEAF.” They have matching harnesses that say “PLEASE PET.” We have gotten so many compliments on the “please pet” patches because so many people know you shouldn’t usually pet dogs in harnesses in public. So it is an easy thing for people to see as they walk by. We also use 4 ft. leashes because Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD) requires leashes on visits to be 4 ft. or shorter. It is definitely helpful in a busy spot such as an airport because it helps keep the dogs closer and out of the way of traffic.
In terms of human equipment, we have a treat pouch for dog treats, as well as stickers, trading cards, and business cards to hand out. We also have our airport badges that allow us to go through security. Once we are ready, we leave around 9:30 A.M. and arrive at the airport around 10:00 A.M. We unload the dogs and give them a quick chance to potty in front of the airport and then head inside. We usually go straight to security as there is a working K9 that patrols the front of the airport. Security usually consists of TSA coming over to them to say hi, explaining what the dogs are doing in the airport to flyers, and going through the metal detector.
After security, we head up the stairs and begin our walk through the terminals. Currently we walk the airport with the dogs since they enjoy the constant movement. Some of our favorite times are standing in front of the doorway where a plane has just arrived. Seeing flyer’s faces light up as they walk through the doors because of the dogs is so much fun. Occasionally if things are a little slower we will sit down and visit with families for a while. I enjoy getting to know why people are flying, how they like the area (Myrtle Beach), and where they come from. One of the biggest parts of our job at the airport is actually with the workers. The airport can be a fairly stressful place to work, and you can visibly see them relax a bit when they see and pet the dogs. It’s so cute when you hear the dogs’ names called from behind and the worker comes running up to say hello.
After an hour and a half of visiting with flyers, we head back down the stairs to make our exit. Usually we stop to visit a very friendly security guard out front of the airport because she adores the dogs. And then we head back to the car. My day after the visit usually consists of a few dog training sessions or letting a client’s dog out while they work. Sometimes the dogs are needed as neutral or distraction dogs, sometimes I’ll let them play with my client’s dogs that I’m letting out to wear out the other dog some. Sometimes they head home with my husband and then I head back out. The kids come home around 3:00 P.M. and then I switch into mom mode, sometimes making dinner (my husband will usually make dinners on his day off), helping with homework, making sure guitars get practiced, or running to soccer or football practice. Since Hip Hop is my daughter’s dog, I will usually require her to do some playing and some training in the evening with Hip Hop. Finally, my husband and I wind down with a walk around the neighborhood with at least two of the dogs.
Therapy dog work through ATD is all volunteer, and we make no income on our visits. But my husband and I have always enjoyed giving back to our communities and it is one of my favorite activities/jobs/duties that I do. I am so fortunate that my schedule allows me the opportunity to volunteer with my dogs in some capacity. If you are interested in finding out more about therapy work, what it entails, and how to begin, please feel free to contact me to find out more information about our wonderful organization. My goal is for my daughter to become a junior handler with ATD once she turns 12. It is a great way for children and young adults to get in their volunteer hours that might be needed for school or college applications. My email address is email@example.com and I am available at any time. Thanks for reading more about the life of an airport therapy dog!
Written by Monica Callahan