On Take your dog to work day, we shine the spotlight on some our hardworking furry friends and explore what life is like for them.
At one point or another in your life, you are bound to witness a universal truth or perhaps form a bond that transcends this universe, which in plain speak is the bond with a dog.
On Take Your Dog To Work Day, we bring you the real four-legged, working class heroes.
Fur therapy (Comfort dogs)
Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) departure terminal might well be the most depressing place in the city. But therapy dogs Pearl, Pepe and Sunshine act as instant mood lifters, sauntering in the corridors, beguiling passengers from all over the world. CSIA became the first Indian airport to start such a service to comfort passengers from travel stress and anxiety in September 2015, informs Minal Kavishwar, the founder of the city based NGO Animal Angels.
These golden retrievers are handled by Animal Angels, a city-based organisation that specialises in animal-assisted therapy.
She says that Pepe is a seven-year-old female golden retriever, and her colleagues, Pearl and Sunshine, are four and five years old. The trio goes to the airport every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for six-hours in the evening to comfort children and passengers fraught with anxiety, long lay-offs and jet lags.
That they are all females and golden retrievers is incidental and has nothing to do with becoming a therapy dog. Today Pearl, Pepe and Sunshine do not work at the airport anymore but are involved in various other fields.
“Now Sunshine works for various corporate comfort dog programs across the city and also visits the Vasant Vihar School in Thane regularly to play with specially-abled children.” Kavishkar says.
“Pepe, on the other hand, is deeply invested in various research programmes. She also recently was an active agent in promoting World Heart Day at Wockhardt hospitals. She is a pioneer in introducing animal therapy in different fields and also works with special schools and old age homes,” she adds.
Doctor Doggie (Medical Assistance dog and reading buddy)
Coco’s trainer Aakash Lonkar tells us a heart-warming story about the eight-year-old male Labrador. “Coco’s owner Meghna Loke suffers from a nervous system problem. Coco is her man Friday and assists her human in coping with her illness. Besides this, the dog works at the juvenile delinquents’ centre in Sion. At the centre, kids have to lie on Coco’s back and open up to him. Interestingly, Coco has helped a lot of kids with coming to terms with the crimes they have committed and has thereby initiated change. Coco is also a reading buddy, who helps children with reading disabilities. In the company of Coco, children let go of their inhibitions and find no peer pressure whatsoever,” Aakash says as he beams with pride.
Saving grace (Therapy dog/ comfort dog)
Aditi Bodas is the trainer of two-year-old therapy dog Lucky. His owner Madhulika Verma, who rescued him from a garbage bin when he was a few weeks old. Madhulika took him home and groomed him and after a few years, Lucky was in a good shape.
Bodas says, “He passed the temperament test and with a little training started working as a therapy dog. He now works at the Bal Kalyan Centre in Pune with children with various developmental disabilities. Lucky goes there twice a week, helping kids through different activities conducted at the centre to keep them physically, and emotionally activity and buoyant.”
Two cents on therapy dogs
Aakash Lonkar is also the director of Mumbai for the Animal Angel and busts a few myths around therapy dogs. He says, “Therapy dogs are trained in a very different way from other dogs. We also train the families of these dogs because the role of the family is very important in raising the dog to be a therapy dog. We cannot keep the dog in a kennel and say that these dogs are therapy dogs. When we train the family, the role of the family is to maintain the emotional stability of the dogs very positively. There cannot be any negative reinforcement during this training period. The dog shouldn’t be left alone, shouldn’t be tied-up or shouldn’t be hit by anyone. Because when these dogs are working with other people there should be no fear or anxiety in the dog.”
He adds, “So if someone is not at home, the dog may get anxious because it cannot interact with the owner. Therefore, in order to maintain the calm and positive state of the dogs is very important. When these dogs are working in different settings, what we also look at is the interest level of that dog in approaching or meeting people. We cannot force the dog to interact with people. So the willingness of the dog to interact with different people is very important. Along with that the temperament of the dog has to be very calm, very docile, the dog should not jump or bark at other people. He or she must be friendly and approachable. These are the requisites we look for in a therapy dog.”