My Therapy Dogs at Halloween
I decided, since we’ll do Reading Dog at Tongue River Elementary School on Halloween, we’d better come up with a costume. Tuesday I wandered around town looking for a costume, without luck. The only thing that grabbed my attention was a necklace of pumpkins with LED lights that blink. I asked the clerk about the pumpkins getting hot and she assured me that LED lights don’t get hot as they burn, so that was a possibility.
When I got home, I texted my dog friends, asking for suggestions. Laurie sent a photo of a German Shepherd dressed as a ghost, with a sheet over it, totally covering the dog except for holes for its eyes and nose. It was quite cute.
I had a brainstorm and texted the photo to Joy at the Courtyard at Big Horn Rehab, and asked her if she and the residents would enjoy making a costume. Wednesday was Spirit’s turn to visit the Courtyard, so I took a sheet and some big safety pins – and detoured by ACE Hardware to pick up two pumpkin necklaces in case we found a use for them. We had a blast making Spirit’s. Joy took photos and said they’re going to submit one to Pet-O-Ween. If they do, I’ll tell all my friends to vote for OUR costume. A bunch of the staff members from the main part of Big Horn Rehab came to watch and giggle. It was a BIG deal.
The costume ended up with little resemblance to the photo Laurie sent, mainly because therapy dogs have to be on leash and Spirit has to safely go up and down stairs to and from the Kindergarten Room at Holy Name School, which is on the second floor. So, in our costume, the head is free so the dog can wear a collar and leash. The sheet goes over the dog’s back and falls not quite to the ground so she doesn’t trip. The costume also must be easy-on and easy-off since at Tongue River Elementary I have to switch it from Spirit (who does the first half of the Reading Dog schedule) to Hopeful, who does the second half.
We also needed a hole for her tail to go through because the dogs MUST be able to wag their tails. One of the pumpkin-light necklaces goes around the dog’s neck and the other goes down her back. The pumpkins look cool when they’re flashing. Spirit was a good sport the whole hour it took to make the costume. As long as I gave her treats, she put up with Joy cutting and pinning, pulling the sheet off and putting it back over her head, and so on.
Due to a conflict at Holy Name School, this week Spirit and I did Reading Dog Friday morning instead of our usual Thursday morning. We waited on the sidewalk for the kids to come from the church back to school. It was obvious when they spotted us, because they started squealing and jumping up and down, and the teachers had to keep them from running to us.
When they had safely crossed the street, kids from several grades mobbed Spirit, hugging her and admiring her costume – they loved the pumpkin lights. The teachers were laughing hard enough that they had trouble gathering their kids and heading to their classrooms, while the kindergarteners formed an honor guard and escorted us up to their classroom.
After we did our Reading Dog sessions, the teacher, Emily, took a photo of all the kids with Spirit.
Friday afternoon was Hopeful’s turn to visit Big Horn Rehab. I decided to have her wear her costume so that she wouldn’t be wild on Monday morning when we do Reading Dog at Tongue River Elementary. She’s still pretty inexperienced as a therapy dog and I figured she’d be calmer with the seniors than with kids, so it would be better to introduce her to the costume today than wait until Monday.
She was a great hit at Big Horn Rehab and brought smiles to a lot of staff people as well as residents. Even the ones who never want to pet the dog enjoyed seeing the “pumpkin ghost” and got huge grins on their faces. One of the activity people took photos as we visited.
Hopeful was really good about the weird thing on her back, but the costume began falling apart. The neck stretched so it set farther back on her shoulders and hit the ground in the back, so she’d step on it and stretch it a little more, or her wagging tail would stretch it further, or she’d sit on it. She has already learned the “circle and position yourself alongside the wheelchair” routine and does it fast – not the best maneuver for a sagging costume. I had to keep re-pinning it to keep it on her.
When I got home, I texted Joy to let her know of our inadequacies as costume designers. She had kept the other half of the sheet and said she would either fix the first costume or make a new one so we could use it Monday. She ended up making a new one. You might notice, in the photos below, that she didn’t cut the edges into strips. I picked the costume up Sunday morning.
Monday morning we did Reading Dog at Tongue River Elementary School. Spirit did the first half of our scheduled reading sessions, while Hopeful did the second half. I can’t handle my camera and a therapy dog in a costume at the same time, so I asked Kari, one of the staff members, to take a few photos.
By the time it was Hopeful’s turn, all the office staff needed to help the kids at lunch, so Kari only had a chance to photograph the first reading session.
Mondy afternoon, Lovely got to wear the costume during our visit at Westview Healthcare Center. Yvette, the activity director, took a few photos.