A few months ago, just a couple days after I brought Norman home, I was walking him and Kaya to the park when we came across a woman and her baby. The baby looked as if he had just begun learning to walk. She asked if the baby could pet the dogs. I knew Kaya was too excitable and was likely to knock the little one over so I said the baby could pet Norman. I held Kaya on my other side and allowed Norman to go closer to the baby. He walked a few steps towards the baby and then, without being asked or even any tension on the leash, Norman sat down as the baby made his wobbly steps towards him. As the baby reached out to pet his nose, he lost his balance and more or less smacked Norman on top of the nose. Norman sat there…like a statue. Not a single muscle moved, apart from his tongue, which he reached out of his mouth and licked the baby's little hand. I almost died...I'm not a huge fan of babies, but I thought it was one of the sweetest things I had ever seen. This is when it first dawned on me that Norman would make a great Therapy Dog!
|I used to have to walk him with a harness because he was so slow, I did not want to pull on his neck to keep him moving.|
Then when I only had him for 2 weeks, I took Norman to the Bay Area Pet Expo. You couldn't ask for more distractions for a young pup. There were thousands of people there, half of them with dogs of all shapes and sizes. There were kids, strollers and wheelchairs. People and dogs were dressed up in crazy costumes. There were loudspeakers and music and activities. There was cheering, clapping and yelling with wall to wall people inside. And Norman loved every minute of it. People would run across the room to kneel down and cuddle him. There were little kids to kiss and other dogs to sniff. But there was nothing frantic or excitable about Norman's demeanor, he just moseyed along, happily wagging his tail.
After a while inside we went to see what was happening outside. We followed the sounds of many ferociously barking dogs to find a Schutzhund(protection dog) demonstration. We walked right up to the front and watched as the dogs threatened, ran and attacked the "predator." The area was surrounded by spectator and participating dogs, lunging at the ends of their leashes with excitement and angst. We were surrounded by dogs of all shapes and sizes barking as loud as their vocal cords would allow. And then I looked down to find my puppy passed out on his side, basking in the sunlight with his head resting awkwardly on a stranger's foot…he had not a care in the world.
One of my favorite things about Norman is that he is not a jumpy dog. His biggest show of excitement is swaying his whole hind end from side to side in a true pit bull wiggle dance. He has yet to even look like he might try to jump on me or anyone else. Even when I try to get him to reach for a toy, his jumping efforts turn into awkward flailing limbs and him falling to the floor in a heap where he remains for a while.
Anyways, back at the Pet Expo…the first person we came across had a booth and offered Norman a treat. She assured him it was okay to jump up on the table because she couldn't reach him. She showed him the treat and encouraged him to try for it but he sat there with 4 paws firmly planted on the floor. I said, "Sorry, but he won't even try." Later on we met a group of people selling a product to train dogs not to jump up on people. It was basically a short leash with a flat bit of plastic attached to the end which you are meant to stand on to keep your dog grounded. I was humoring the saleswoman's explanation but was trying to explain that my puppy doesn't jump. She declared that he would need it when he got older. Her co-worker greeted Norman and said, "I don't think this dog's ever going to need it." She seemed surprised and deflated at his honest comment and then asked me to think of it when I get my next dog…I did not even mention Kaya.
|The professional photographer for the event took his photo.|
|She made a bunch of barking and meowing noises to get his attention, it was only slightly interested.|
When we're at the park Kaya and Norman have very different agendas. Kaya is usually running around as fast as she can, running up to every person and dog and leaving just as fast or she is trying to figure out how to get all of the tennis balls in her possession at once. Norman, on the other hand, can almost without a doubt be found sitting at someone's feet, staring lovingly into their eyes, enjoying pets and giving his world class slow-motion kisses. Which leads to him rolling(falling) onto his back for belly rubs and going full stretch in the middle of a busy park. I sometimes have to go over and pick him up and place him back on his feet to re-motivate him.
Norman's favorite cuddle move is to come over to you and collapse his front end so that he basically falls onto you and then his hind end goes too:) He has helped some people on a small scale. Like once he was allowed into a fancy clothing store with my mom and I. He did his belly rub move for the saleswomen and one of them said it was her birthday and he made her day! Several other times he has been greeted by people out on walks and they have said that they really needed a good cuddle like that.
And I do believe that I am not just thinking of him being suited for therapy work because I love him and he's my puppy, I would never dream of it for Kaya. Even though she is so sweet and loving, she would never have the patience or attention span for it. I have had several people suggest to me that I should get Norman certified, but others have assumed reasons for his calm demeanor, saying he must be tired or he is just a puppy and will grow up to be different. Nope...that's just him.
Yes, Norman has bagged a few training commands since I wrote this post but the rest remains the same. He's also accumulated many more heartwarming stories. He still has yet to even try and jump on someone. He was even an accidental CGC demo dog at the following year's Pet Expo. He's been to parades, festivals, fireworks and Hollywood Boulevard and still, nothing bothers him. Oh...and he still makes a beeline past all the dogs at the park to greet their owners first:)
Norman is Now a Certified Therapy Dog!
Norman: The Perfect Advocate
Norman: The Heart Stealer
Norman's Adoption Story
Batman Rescues Norman!