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The Business They Love

Story ID:7910
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Local History
Location:Butte area Montana USA
Person:Jill & Trapper
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The Business They Love

The Business They Love

The Business They Love
by Kathe Campbell

Blinding flashbulbs, playacting loud and vicious rants, and even feigning a few punches in outlandish costumes, our aim was to fluster and distract our students. These were just a few unlikely and disturbing antics my best pal had asked my husband and I to perform at her canine team training workshop. We jumped at the chance.

Stress in dogs, their health and safety, and interacting with all kinds of people in all sorts of places was the topic of the day. The dogs were leashed and taken to the crowded and noisy mall to observe and enjoy pats from an admiring public. If they responded to commands well in hectic environs, they received high marks. It's an essential part of dog/handler training requirements, what being a professional is all about.

Jill, an RN, saw her dog's potential early, turning him into a therapist in the art of soothing the bodies and souls of young and old.

Not all dogs need rigurous training. Trapper was already a natural with a gentle temperament, in good health, knew his basic commands, loved people, and reacted well to other dogs. When the big golden lab takes a leisurely sudsy bath on Saturday morning and dons his red Delta Society vest, he's ready for the job he loves. Jill and Trapper have worked hard to earn the title "Therapy Dog" as well as a place on calendars and in various magazines throughout the west.

Hours were spent persuading our hospital board that the therapy program was worthwhile and not disruptive to patient care or staff duties. They were simply unaware of the tremendous healing potential that animals can provide. "Alright, Jill, we've decided that you and Trapper can spend two afternoons a week in the Transitional Care Unit," announced the hospital administrator.

"If Jill hadn't been with Trapper, I wouldn't have known him from Adam," spoke my husband, Ken, so delighted upon receiving Trapper in his hospital room. Was this the same fellow who visits our ranch to roughhouse and chase with our dog? For no matter how well the therapist knew the patient, Trapper had a job to do and he was all business. Despite an urge to give his old friend a big slurp, Trapper sat quietly on a chair beside Ken's bed to be comforting, allowing gnarly hands to stroke his silky coat.

Today, all our area hospitals welcome Jill and Trapper on every floor, for dog visits are one of the healthiest things patients can experience to lower stress, heart rate, and blood pressure. It makes sense for people who are isolated from their families, for there's nothing like the love of a good dog. Photos of the pair hang on bulletin boards in foyers, cafeterias, and day rooms.

When he's not being hugged and tenderly patted in a nursing home or hospice, the dog is a seasoned camper, hiker, and swimmer, always fit for any task. What's more, he has achieved the Rocky Mountain region "Therapy Dog of the Year" award twice. It doesn't get much better.

Jill and Trapper teach pre-schoolers and kindergarteners important lessons on dog manners, strange dog confrontations, and how to treat their own pets. Trapper sits quietly, keeping an eagle eye on the boss awaiting her approving glances as youngsters brush his teeth, curry his coat, and check out his ears and paws. Animals in the classroom have brought renewed inspiration for learning by helping develop self-esteem, responsibility, self-discipline and communication skills. What a miraculous gift.

"I had several dogs of my own, Miss Jill," first words finally spoken by an old gent in his nineties at his assisted living residence. The staff saw Trapper's weekly visits a godsend as their patient had no family nearby and had outlived his friends.

"Get me my photo albums in my locker," he demanded, and the staff wasted no time. The breakthrough found the senior spending precious hours interacting quietly with the dog in the day room. The relationship gave the oldster's final days joyful expectations instead of desolation, for Trapper had made a difference, effortlessly and willing.

Christmas is the pair's favorite time of year when Trapper visits area children's centers. He wears his Santa hat and magically turns into each child's fondest wish. Jill's heart breaks as she watches the children playing and caressing the dog with a kind of devotion she sees nowhere else. Somehow the dog knows these kids need a brand of affection that only a risk-free and loving canine can offer with no strings attached. Even nicer, on Christmas morning each child receives a furry toy pup in their stocking.

The dog days of summer found Jill asking after a troubled child who had finally left our children's rehabilitation center. The boy had always been the first to greet Trapper and the last to say good-bye after dozens of visits. Whereas the child was scarred by physical and mental abuse, ongoing visits with his favorite visitor had become his lifeline. He had struggled, but at long last the screaming and hateful language ceased. The boy had been adopted into a fine home where his only request was to have dog of his own. His puppy's name is Trapper.