Meet Milo: The Therapy Dog

Hi everyone! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Milo. I am three years old and in my spare time I work as a therapy dog. My owner, Mrs. Sarah Brunet, is one of the speech therapists at Emerge, and I’ve been visiting to work with some of the kids there. I am having so much fun playing with her friends and wanted to share with you what we’ve been up to!

First, let me tell you what it means to be a therapy dog. Sometimes when people see me in my vest they think I am a service animal. Here’s the difference between a service animal and therapy animal:

  • Service animals are trained to do specific tasks (like turning lights on and off )
  • Therapy animals are trained to be involved in therapeutic activities

As a therapy animal, I’ve had to go through a lot of training with Mrs. Sarah. Not all the pups in the trainings get to be therapy dogs. To graduate, we have to react appropriately to different environments. My teacher shows me how to:

  • React well to being in noisy areas
  • Play well with other dogs (and not play during work time)
  • Be compassionate and careful with little kids or people in wheelchairs and walkers
  • Stay calm in a busy space
  • Allow new friends to interact with me

Once Mrs. Sarah puts my vest on, I know it’s time to go to work! I also know how to behave depending on where Mrs. Sarah takes me. At Emerge, I know to let the kids walk me, talk to me, and pet me. At the nursing homes and hospitals I visit, it’s important for me to be very quiet, and sometimes just lay in bed with my friends there.

We do so many fun things at Emerge! A few weeks ago, we got to talk about different types of food – yummy! Mrs. Sarah brought in a bag of food. Some was for me and some was for my human friends. First, Mrs. Sarah took out an apple and asked her friends if it was a food for me or for humans. They knew right away that I do NOT like apples, so they put the apple in the bowl for human food. Then Mrs. Sarah took out a bone shaped treat. Treats?! I LOVE TREATS! I wanted to grab it right away! But when we’re at Emerge, I know I have to behave and help the kids work before I can be rewarded. I was curious to see if my friends would know that I eat treats, and they did! They then put the treat in my bowl. This is a kind of exercise we do called a categorization task.

We also do sequencing tasks, like the time Mrs. Sarah taught the kids how to give me a bath. They had to learn all the steps of bathing a dog, and in what order to do them. She showed them how she starts by brushing me and then washes me, dries my fur, and brushes me again.

Mrs. Sarah tells me that having me in therapy helps her friends in a lot of different ways. They pet my fluffy fur and feel my wet nose to help with their sensory development. They work on language skills when I’m there because they come out of their shells and interact more than usual. My friends also take turns walking and talking to me. They practice saying commands like “Come, Milo,” or “Let’s go, Milo!” I love hearing them talk to me! It seems like when I’m around, they’re more motivated to join in on the fun. I love my visits to Emerge, and hope to make even more friends next time I’m there!