“I heard someone define heaven once, as a place where when you get there, all the dogs you ever loved run to greet you.”
-Susan Silverman, character in the Robert B. Parker novel POTSHOT
Bailey is a welcome addition to the AMFM Treatment Team. From her earliest days as a puppy, she has brought a smile to all. The “puppy response” takes us back to our childhood as most of us have wanted a dog at some time in our youth. We are transported back to play, protective nurturing and the recapture of that primal relationship. Petting a dog actually has bio-neurological benefits for the dog and the human, as Oxytocin, beta-endorphins and dopamine are released—all of which have profound physiological effects (slowing heart rate, inhibiting the production of stress and activating the reward center of the brain are just a few.)
As Bailey has matured and socialized at the treatment center, she has acclimated to the arrival of groups of people and new individuals. Bailey treats new arrivals as if she were expecting them—lots of welcoming wiggles, a variety of snuffled salutations and eye contact that conveys what Carl Rogers would call unconditional positive regard.
In the treatment milieu, both group and individual settings, I will gladly include Bailey whenever she is available, bearing in mind the exceptions where an individual is allergic or has had a past bad experience with dogs. The latter case provides an opportunity for systematic desensitization from trauma, though that may be a secondary or tertiary level of treatment.
The initial play and salutary behaviors are expected, after which Bailey will settle and quietly reposition herself amongst the clients—often beside or even under the chair of someone who is processing. This conveys a sense of attachment to a comforting companion on the path.
I have observed several instances when an individual is working in depth though something of significance, and Bailey has repositioned herself with her head resting on the client’s feet. Often the client is not fully aware of this until they emerge from their process, uninterrupted, realizing that Bailey has been in touch. This usually results in an uplift of spirits and what appears to be some sense of release.
Attending to the person and present centered awareness are additional elements of treatment. Bailey provides both of these aspects in a way that demonstrates the dog’s ability to focus on humans at length and in depth. Bailey shows a vast ability to attend to the people around her, making use of known patterns of behavior and ever open to new cues and indicators, incorporating new information each day. Being present centered is a naturally occurring state for Bailey.
Dogs can hear frequencies that are out of human range, perhaps even being able to hear our pulse rate. Dogs have more than 400 million olfactory receptor cells, compared to 2 to 3 million in humans, and are very likely processing pheromone signals of shift in mood. This might be why the attention to feet has been so evident. Dogs use their feet to place additional scent signatures on their daily rounds and it is likely the human foot is an abundant source of olfactory information for our canine companions. Dogs are keenly attuned to postural cues and shifts in body language as well and with this, have a great wealth of information that bypasses those of us locked into the audio-visual world as our primary source of information.
Bailey brings all the gifts a dog is blessed with and along with that, her own unique temperament and personality. She delivers each of the therapeutic values highlighted above and indeed, does much more than those listed.
Bailey, in my eyes, is a very real asset to the AMFM Treatment Team. I consider her my faithful sidekick (wing dog?) who can do things that I cannot. The treats I keep handy for her are the least I can do to show her a nibble of gratitude.
-Reno Galassi, LMFT
AMFM Primary Therapist