Tuesday, June 24, 2014

NORMAN: THE HEART STEALER

Yesterday I re-posted an old entry about my early hopes for Norman to be a Therapy Dog and I announced that he is finally taking his certification test this week! Here are a few more examples of why I think he's got what it takes...


In yesterday's post I described Norman's ability to take the chaos of the Pet Expo in stride when he was just a little puppy and we actually went back a year later. This time Norman was not so much a pudgy puppy but a strapping young lad which meant he got a little less lovin' but was cool and collected nonetheless. We watched a CGC demonstration and just as the speaker was talking about how a dog should properly greet someone, she glanced out in the crowd and said, "There, just like that dog." I looked behind me but then realized she was pointing at Norman, who was sitting politely by my feet as a photographer knelt down to pet him. This guy had his undivided attention while Motlie was growly wrestling with a new friend a couple feet away.


Since going to our first Pet Expo, I've brought Norman to many busy events, places and festivals. He's been to the San Francisco Pride Parade, a Dia De Los Muertes Festival, Hollywood Boulevard on New Year's Eve, America's Cup Boat Race in San Francisco, 4th of July Fireworks, Rodeo Drive, Peaks & Paws Dogs Festival, Menlo Horse Show and plenty of others.


I also take Norman shopping with me all the time, from tiny fancy boutiques and gift shops to Nordstrom and Macy's. He goes to Home Depot, H&M and Target with me often. He's also been to Old Navy, Staples, Best Buy, American Apparel, the AT&T store, the Apple store, Urban Outfitters, Sur La Table, record stores and many others. We even hit up Versace, Chanel and Louis Vuitton when we visited Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, where he was surrounded by a steady stream of excited tourists. Have they never seen a dog before? Norman is a dream to shop with. Any time I stand somewhere longer than 2 minutes he lies down and waits endlessly. I often drop the leash and browse the immediate area, leaving him to rest. I know he's silently scanning the room for potential new friends but he doesn't bother those that ignore him.

Hangin' with my dad at All Saints in Beverly Hills.

Norman also has a way of worming his way into people's hearts who didn't necessarily want it or expect it to happen. Even my own parents thought I was nuts for bringing home a new puppy when Kaya was a puppy herself...until they met him. After 2 days, they were ready to sneak him into their suitcase.

My mom's first visit with her new "grandpuppy."

Last month my cousin came for a visit and he had never met my dogs before. He was resistant to their affection, telling me he was not a dog person. He would gently push them away and tell them to leave him alone at every interaction. Ironically, he said he was a cat person but Gina wanted nothing to do with him. On his third and final night of the visit, I walked into the living room to find him lying on the couch with Norman lying on top of him. My cousin was stroking Norman's head and talking to him quietly. He then told me, "If I do ever get a dog, I want him to be just like Norman."

I didn't get a photo of them together but you get the picture...

After my nephew was born, my sister-in-law stated that she would never let her son near a pit bull. I was disappointed, knowing how cute and special it would be to see him enjoy Kaya and Norman. She had even met them before, spending 2 vacations with them and she seemed to really enjoy them. So when we brought Norman to L.A. to join them on their trip, I was concerned that I would have to keep Norman from the baby the whole time. Norman has been around children and babies. I've watched him lie still perfectly still as squealy toddlers approach him and then run away at the last second...repeatedly. Other times, when we are out hiking we run into groups of camp kids and girl scouts. If given the opportunity, Norman will plant himself in the middle of them, hoping as many tiny hands as possible will give him a belly rub or ear scratch.

An evening cuddle with my brother & sister-in-law on a pre-baby visit.

However, on our first day in L.A., my brother brought the baby into our hotel room and plonked him on the floor right next to Norman. Norman sniffed and kissed the baby, prompting him to giggle and reach out for Norman's tongue. When my sister-in-law entered the room, I held my breath but she smiled and that was it. The next day she was holding my baby nephew and dipping him down to Norman's face, resulting in a lick to the face every time, all 3 were enjoying the game. And by the end of the trip, she was begging my brother to get a "Norman" of their own.


Not to mention the fact that my parents did not even want any of the dogs coming to L.A. and since they were driving and paying for the hotel, I more or less had to abide. Though when I said to them, "When you say no dogs, you mean just Norman, right?" "Of course," they replied. And it turned out to be easier having him along than any of us thought it would be. He had no concerns over staying in hotel rooms, he was quiet as a mouse and was happy to shlep along on all of our many meals, shopping trips and sight seeing missions. Upon checkout, the hotel employee even said he was the calmest, most easy-going dog they have ever had stay there.


My favorite recent Norman story and perhaps the one most closely related to therapy work is about a family friend of ours, a very sweet older gentleman who is battling cancer. He's become thin, weak and tired from the treatment but he was able to come to the house for a couple hours with his wife a few weeks ago. We all went to sit down in the living room and he sat on the couch next to a napping Norman. My mom told him he could sit on the other (dog free) couch but he insisted that he wanted to sit next to Norman. Norman had never met our friend before but within a minute he had shifted his way over to our friend and laid his big noggin' on his lap. For the next hour Norman drifted between slumber and looking up at our friend as he stroked his head, face and ears, until they had to leave.


Then the other day my mom reported to me that he hasn't stopped talking about Norman since their visit and how much he appreciated their time together. He has a little dog of his own that he loves but he said there was something about the stillness of Norman and the eagerness of a dog of his size to be so close that was so comforting to him. He said he can't wait for another Norman visit.


I see how Norman brightens people's day, whether they are friends and family or total strangers. And I see how much joy he gets out of it too. He is sometimes so calm when we are out that he seems kind of mopey but I know it's all worth it to him if just one person stops to say hello. He perks up, his tail wags, his eyes light up and with any luck, he gets the chance to deliver some kisses. He has an amazing way of matching people's energy level as well so he knows just when he should rest his big head in someone's hands or when he should show them the full butt wiggle. He knows when a little kid needs him to stay still or when they want their whole face covered with his tongue. He's got big chocolate eyes that he'll lock onto yours and he's got all the time in the world, just to sit by your side.


Does your dog have Therapy Dog aspirations?

Related Posts:
Norman is Now a Certified Therapy Dog!

Norman: The Perfect Advocate
Norman's Trip to Southern California

12 comments:

  1. Tess is a therapy dog, too, but we've put on visits on hold as she has seemed more anxious lately - we don't need to add any stress! I think Norman would be a perfect therapy dog - I'm sure he'll pass the test with flying colors! Good luck!!

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    1. That's awesome, maybe she'll get back to it some day but I think you're smart about it. It's not worth it if the dog is not enjoying it too:)

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  2. what a great, great post! Brought tears to my eyes! I took Petey to therapy dog school and he even passed level 1. But he is anything but calm :)

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    1. Good job! Kaya would be too hyper also, although I'm pretty sure she could pass the test. ;)

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  3. Maggie and Duke would never make it as therapy dogs, more like they need therapy. :) The Mr. gets to pick out the next dog, we'd love to eventually have a therapy dog.
    We just got a few harnesses to try on the cats, we think Cocoa and maybe Ozzie would be good therapy cats. They think everyone visits to see them!

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    1. I have thought about how cute it would be if Norman and Gina could be a therapy team but though she travels well, Gina would be too timid to be a therapy cat:( You should definitely try it with them, most people expect to visit with dogs and cats can be so comforting!

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  4. Just had to add, Norman is the best!

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  5. Wow, Norman would make a great therapy dog. I originally adopted my dog with the hopes of making him a therapy dog, but turns out he's quite a reactive little guy. It might not be in the cards for him.

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    1. As long as he loves you, that's what counts most:)

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