With such an inspirational story we wanted to talk to Claire about Rolo and the amazing work he does, along with sharing tips on how other dogs can take the lead from Rolo and become therapy dogs.
Rolo is an RSPCA rescue. He’s a cross breed – a Springer Spaniel cross Poodle or Sproodle or Springer/Poo. He was rescued from a puppy farm, one of thirty dogs – three litters and their mums. Rolo would certainly have died had it not been for the RSPCA as he had E.Coli food poisoning and it was touch and go whether or not he would survive. Sadly, two of his siblings had already died before the RSPCA arrived. All the dogs and pups went off for rehoming, apart from Rolo, who was kept at the vets for a week. After round the clock care, he was well enough to spend Christmas with one of the nurses and we collected him from my RSPCA contact on January 2nd 2014.
Rolo went to puppy classes and then on to more general training – which I believe every dog should do – actually it’s just as much for the owners as their dogs (if not more)! When Rolo was around a year old, I applied to Pets as Therapy and got him assessed. No specific training was needed.
Rolo really loves to meet people – of all ages – whether they are new to him or people he has met lots of times.
Apart from meeting people, Rolo also loves to meet and get to know other dogs and play ‘chase’ with them, then perhaps share some places to have a good sniff. Rolo enjoys retrieving, especially tennis balls. He is rather a ball connoisseur – he will return a proper tennis ball many times, but if it is not a proper tennis ball or is damaged (injured), he will take it away and try to destroy it. He also loves to dig on the beach and the mud and swim, if it involves retrieving something. Rolo enjoys the variety in his life and knows how to behave, depending where he is – he’s a real professional – very calm when at work, but full of fun when out on a walk or in the garden. People often comment on how calm he is at the hospital, ever since he has been working there at 18 months old; conversely many people have commented ‘You’ve got a lively one!’ when on a free run.
I would suggest you contact ‘Pets as Therapy’ and ask them to email the assessment details and other requirements. There is no issue with regard to the size or type of dog, something I have found some people have a misconception about, but they mustn’t be too old, as it can be very tiring for them. They can start at around one year old. The main things are that your dog is not worried about noises, sudden or otherwise, can walk to heel with a normal collar and lead and does not jump up or ‘paw’ unless asked. They also need to be able to wait patiently, as sometimes you can be talking for some time with an individual or group of people. All skills (apart from noise sensitivity) I believe every dog should have, following basic training. Naturally, they must be relaxed and enjoy being around people and being touched. If there are any issues during the assessment, these can often be worked on and then your dog can be reassessed.