Are you going to be here or not?
So today Fenway and I went to a therapy dog stress buster event at Salve Regina University in Newport. We do a few of these every year at different colleges but the ones we do in the fall, just a couple of weeks after school has started, I find to be especially impactful for the students – particularly the freshman who are away from home for the first time in their lives and are not only homesick but are missing their own pets a lot, so spending some time with therapy dogs gives them a nice break and a little time to just enjoy the company of a friendly dog and forget about all the other stresses in their life.
One of the things I love best about seeing the students interacting with the dogs is that aside from being so happy to be getting doggy kisses and being relaxed is that these kids are just so completely present with the dogs. For sure, some of them have their phones out but that’s mostly so that they can take a picture of the dog, or just as often so that they can show me pictures of their own dogs that they’re so missing this first time being away from home.
When I was driving over today for some reason I remembered attending the same event last year, a few weeks into September and it was very different experience for me than today. Last year, about five minutes after arriving and getting myself and Fenway settled in I got a text from my son. My husband was out of town, my daughter was away at college so I looked at it to make sure he didn’t need me for anything.
He was texting to let me know that his school was on lockdown. Yep, you read that right. So while I’m getting this text, about a dozen students have sat around myself and Fenway and are loving on him, and trying to interact with me, and I’m trying to not completely panic. While I succeeded at keeping myself (mostly) in check, I was anything but present that day. Did the students notice? Probably not, though I’m sure I didn’t come across as the most polite adult they had seen lately as I was trying to talk to them and text at the same time. But part of why I love being a therapy dog handler is because it allows me a period of time where I can sit and be really present with my dog and a group of people around me and enjoy that time without thinking of anything else.
Luckily, today was like that. I just sat and enjoyed watching Fenway do the thing he does best. He is completely present and in the moment — giving love out while simultaneously taking it in from some kids who were doing the exact same thing.