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Apr. 28, 2011

The Wally Diaries: The Big Test

by Ally Ruchman

By Ally Ruchman, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School

It was two days before my therapy dog training test. Even though Wally and I were ready, I still felt knots in my stomach. But I remembered what the trainer had told me, “If you keep your eye on Wally and on his leash, he will be fine.” I put two-dozen brownies by the front door so I wouldn’t forget them. I had to take them to my friend’s house for her birthday.

About a half-hour later I went to the kitchen to get Wally but he wasn’t there. I heard some rustling noises in the other room. My eyes darted to the door. There was Wally with his nose covered in chocolate; only remnants of brownies remained. Clearly, I wasn’t thinking when I placed the brownies on the ground. The aroma of chocolate must have been overwhelming.

Chocolate can be toxic, even lethal for dogs -- particularly dark chocolate. These brownies were 100% dark chocolate. My mom and I raced to our veterinarian’s office. The vet immediately induced vomiting. The vet told us that he never saw more chocolate come out of a 28 pound dog. He was like a chocolate machine. Fortunately, Wally was fine.

Needless to say, I was super careful the day of the therapy test. Wally was amazing. He soared through the obstacle course, past all of the distractions: food, pills, dolls, canes, wheelchairs, noises, people, and balloons. It was as if he glided through the commands — sit/down/stay/come. (Rigorous practice sessions probably ensured it.) He was great off leash…I kept talking him through the course, and maintaining eye contact. Soon, we both were certified.

For a fleeting moment, we flirted with the idea of continuing Wally’s education. After all, he had performed brilliantly. Advanced therapy course? Maybe law school? Eventually a judge? (see picture above). Well, it’s nice to dream.

Once I registered Wally, the fun began…finding a facility that embraced dog therapy as well as a fifteen year-old. My local medical center was perfect. I had to go through an orientation program for volunteers, take a test regarding hospital terminology and procedures and then pick my desired department. The only problem was the department had to accept me. Pediatrics was the department that the other four dogs in the hospital’s therapy dog program visited. I decided on Outpatient Radiology…unchartered territory! I thought that I could make the biggest difference in this department. The hospital agreed.

Outpatient Radiology is a challenging area. Generally, it is filled with patients of all ages who are trying to discover the source of their medical problems. Stress and fear fills the waiting room. Wally was the perfect solution. The perfect place to begin my MRI research.

Read previous entries in the Wally Diaries:
Meet Wally the Therapy Dog
Training a Therapy Dog

Read more about Ally and Wally at ABCnews.com
_______________________
Ally Ruchman is a junior at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School in Rumson, NJ. She loves animals, reading, science, and traveling.

About Ally Ruchman

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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