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A smile and a wet nose - just what the doctor ordered!

Our animal-therapy dogs are fundamental to the success and flawless reputation of Dr Dog. Where would we be without these incredible ambassadors, these bearers of unconditional love who melt people's hearts wherever they go and confirm without any shred of doubt why dogs (and cats) are our friends...not food? 

One of the most satisfying moments is when a newly submitted Dr Dog passes the test - and, at that moment, it seems that the whole world is lit up with joy for both dog and owner.

Marnie, Cassy and I, together with a team of tireless volunteers, tested 20 dogs recently in Hong Kong with a pass rate of just six and one on probation (a beautiful, but slightly exuberant labrador!). 

In fact, this pass rate of around 30 per cent is normal. The tests are challenging for both the dogs and owners as we need these potential consultants to be "bomb proof". For example, children in disabled centres and hospital wards can mischievously tweak tails in the blink of an eye and the dogs must prove they have a temperament that can deal with the occasional "surprise". 

I'm so sorry for the dogs that fail - most of mine would too. But it doesn't mean we should love them any less - most dogs are just too intelligent to be tweaked and not have at least a little moan or a twitch of the upper lip. Sadly, this would disqualify them from a programme that has been incident-free for 17 years and which firmly puts dogs on the pedestals they deserve.


 



Once passed, the dogs will be monitored by the Animals Asia team for performance and adaptability to the programme for life. These fully fledged "doctors" will now join our other pioneer therapists visiting centres across Hong Kong (and of course not forgetting the same process in six other countries of Asia where Dr Dog operates!).

*The Bradbury Hospice staff in Hong Kong are fabulous to work with in promoting harmony between people and animals, and stories abound of radiant smiles when the dogs bounce into the patients' rooms. One lady in her mid-thirties, Carmen, in an adult terminal cancer ward adored two dogs so much - Dr Chi Ma Woo and Dr Batt Mui. She often repeated to Marnie and the hospital staff how much they enlightened her life and how she would look forward to their visits - especially when looking forward to the day when she would be fully recovered.

Tragically, it was not to be, and it was so sad to hear recently that she had passed away - but right up to the end she was saying to the nurses how much she loved the presence of the four-legged doctors in her life. This blog is dedicated to Carmen, because it is what Dr Dog is all about - and I'm so proud of our best friends and of Marnie and her team who lead this programme with such passion, sensitivity and dedication. 


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