Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Gini's Cherokee Rose was my therapy dog for the first six or seven years of her life. She started coming to work with me as soon as she was housebroken, when she was still so small that I could carry her up the stairs to our offices in her puppy crate like I was carrying a purse.
She had a doggie door at home, and so could help herself to the back yard in the mornings. If she was outside when it was time to go to the office, I would holler out the back door, "Time to go to work!" and she would come running. Her favorite day was Tuesday, when her favorite client, "Miss B." had her regularly-scheduled weekly session. Miss B., who had a dog of her own at home, always brought a dog-biscuit for Rosie, but other people brought treats, too: Miss B. was Rosie's favorite for other reasons. At first, I would tell Rosie on Tuesdays that "It's Miss B.'s day today," or "Miss B. is coming today!" but she eventually learned somehow which days were Tuesdays and would be noticeably more excited about going to work those mornings.
Another client, we'll call her Mrs. C., brought in a cartoon once showing a dog, with a little diploma on the wall that said "Pet Therapist," explaining to a new client that the therapy works because "I wag my tail and you feel better." Rosie didn't have more than two inches of tail, if that, but the therapy worked: Mrs. C. used to refer to her treatment schedule as "coming to see the Dog's mother."
Freud's dogs were often present in sessions. He swore that people would tell the dogs things that they wouldn't tell him. The day Miss B.'s dog died, she came in, took Rosie onto her lap, and announced, "She knows. She knows why I'm sad." And Rosie probably did, although I could not tell that she was doing anything different that morning. And she was a great comfort to Miss B. for many sessions afterward. Miss B. once asked, if I died, could she inherit Rosie?
Rosie also went to school. She made several appearances in my Introductory Psychology classes as a demonstrator for the units on behavior modification. In between lecturing, she wandered up and down the aisles between students' desks, sniffing their lunches and stealing Kleenex out of the girls' purses.
At work she liked to leave her toys in other therapists' wastebaskets in exchange for wads of paper which she could shred and scatter like confetti all over the suite. One colleague kept a pair of walking shoes on a shelf in the knee-hole under her desk, with socks stuffed into the toes. Rosie was particularly fond of stealing those.
She was such a fixture at the office that for a while her crate served as my end-table: I even had a lamp on it and could put my coffee-mug there during sessions. A neighbor, not realizing that this was my practice, came for an initial consultation with a colleague. I heard him say as he was leaving, "Wait. I know that dog! Does Ginny Wood work here?" after which he stuck his head in my door to say hi.
When she got older, she got snarly and snappish and I eventually had to "retire" her, but even after she became less friendly with people, Miss B. remained a favorite. Rosie would lie across her lap on the couch throughout the session, and Miss B. would stroke her as we talked. One day, Miss B. was making a series of points. "Number one," she would say, and absently poke Rosie's shoulder. "Number Two," poke. "Number Three," poke. Rosie never batted an eye.
Rosie died the Saturday before Labor Day. She was 14.