Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Incident at the Therapy Visit

So here is what happened Tuesday Morning

A new dog joined us for our regular 10am Tuesday morning therapy visit at University Behavioral Health, a mental health hospital. Shes a german shepherd and shes actually been with the group longer than I have, she just hasn't been attending this visit.

Moxie, the shepherd and a little Yorkie all arrived at the same time and we gathered in front of the facility to wait for any others to arrive. Sam the Yorkie came right up to greet Moxie and they said their hellos then Kadie the Shepherd came over to greet same. The three dogs were sniffing each other and wagging their tails and the owners are all chatting.

Suddenly the shepherd tears into Moxie. It was alot of noise mostly but it scared the pee out of me and Moxie. Moxie didn't aggress back towards the shepherd she just ran behind my legs and hid, shaking. The shepherds owner corrected her, then proceeded to blame me for allowing my dog to rush up to her dog. My dog didn't rush up to anyone, Kadie approached her, not the other way around. She claims that her dog has been attacked before and is wary of other dogs but she just never does that and she must have been scared, (Of WHAT, Moxie was minding her own business)
So she claims this is just because she doesn't know Moxie.

A little history, Moxie and Kadie met briefly once before about a month ago at a non-working group gathering. A very similar incident occured between Kadie and another dog that day. I remember thinking that the dog was a loose cannon and should she really be a therapy dog at the time.

So I get Moxie calmed down and we get up to go inside (thats right, she wasn't asked to leave!) and Moxie gets up from laying down and starts to walk with me towards the door and as we pass in front of Kadie she goes for Moxie AGAIN! This time Moxie wasn't even LOOKING at the sheperd. I had her attention and had her working in a heel, her eyes were locked on mine.

I was SO MAD! Whatever the reason for this dogs aggression, it;s dangerous and she should have been asked to go home. So I'm seething by this time, but I'm determined not to let it ruin the visit. We get inside and meet with some people in the lobby and Moxie relaxes and goes into therapy dog mode and everythings okay.

Our first stop was the childrens ward. They were all outside in the play yard. They all rushed up and loved on the dogs and wanted to walk them, then wanted to run with them, then someone got out a ball and a game of fetch broke out. Sam the Yorkie, the Dobie Holly and Moxie were all off lead running. and playing with the kids. Kadies owner kept Kadie on lead but told the therapy coordinator that it was because her dog and Moxie "got into it" outside. She told him that Moxie rushed up to her dog and they got into a fight. I was LIVID! He was looking at Moxie like she was about to attack one of the patients and I've been visiting there with Moxie for weeks now! That NOT how it happened at all! The whole time we are outside Kadie is giving Moxie the evil eye, Moxie had her full attention on the kids and is ignorning Kadie, so much so I have to call her away anytime she runs near Kadie as I'm afraid the dog is going to jump Moxie again.

Time's up with the kids and we move to the adult unit. In the halls Kadie is still pulling towards Moxie and eyeing her. The other team members are putting themselves between Moxie and Kadie. In the Adult Unit, we were inside in the day room. Moxie and I like to work the room, go from person to person, meet and greet. But the room is pretty small and we had to keep a wide berth of the shepherd. We ended up boxed in a corner. Moxie didn't mind but I was really mad at this point.

This shouldn't have been happening, Therapy dogs are supposed to be bombproof! They have to pass a test that includes working near an unknown dog. How the heck did she pass that test! I don't understand at all. The dog is fearfully reactive to new dogs. How can she work as a member of a team that gets new dogs and handlers all the time? This can't keep happening all the time, its dangerous. I think that the shepherd should have been asked to go home. She's a great dog, she's great with people, but she has a major training issue, one that should not be worked out in the theraputic setting, putting other people at risk and giving our club a bad reputation. I called the person in charge, who was there and saw the incident, after we left and told her my concerns. She seemed to feel that the Shepherds owner was aware of her dogs problems and was cautious and responsible during the visit, so it was not a problem. She too said that Kadie only responds that way to dogs she doesn't know. By this time I'm thinking of dropping the Tuesday visit, even though its my favorite one, because I don't want to have to deal with this dog every week. But I decide to contact Kadie's owner and see if we can work it out.

So I call Kadie's owner and recommend that we get together and walk the dogs before the next visit. That way we can introduce them properly in a controlled setting and hopefully avoid another incident. Well our schedules didn't match up and we couldn't find a time, so her owner says, well, you know, I think they will be okay, we'll just keep them away from each other. Oh, and she again tells me, it happened because her dog was scared because Moxie rushed up to her which didn't happen! Evil or Very Mad

So I don't know what to do. I'm thinking of trying again next week, but if anything happens and she isn't asked to leave, I'm leaving. I really think that kind of behavior is out of order for a therapy dog, and her problems need to be worked out before she is allowed to go on visits with other dogs. The dogs have to be able to work together. I'm afraid that something will happen, if not when Moxie is around, then another new dog, and someone will get hurt, or scared, and we won't be invited to visit there anymore, and we'll get a bad reputation in the community and won't be able to volunteer anywhere. The people in charge, though, don't seem to see it that way. I really love the therapy visits and I want to keep doing them, but I'm not comfortable with the way things are being run.

What should I do?


Debra Kay said...

I would continue to go to therapy visits and just keep an eye out for the German Shepherd. She'll eventually get used to Moxie and will no longer be a problem or she will be a problem and asked to leave.

Kathy said...


Why is it that the good people/dogs always have to make way for the bad ones instead of the bad ones being made to behave correctly?!?

This is one of my major life gripes. Bullies always get away with crap while everyone else tippytoes around them. Totally unfair.

Whatever else goes on, taking care of yourself and Moxie has got to be number one priority. You are absolutely correct. A therapy dog shouldn't need 'pre-game warm-ups' to work around people or dogs. What if this dog suddenly decides that a kid isn't to her liking?

Or what if she decides a dog playing with a kid isn't to her liking? By the time the teeth get removed, it's not going to matter one bit.

Even IF Moxie had run up to the dog (and I know Moxie well enough to know that didn't happen - good lord she puts up with enough shit from Jally), there is no way that dog should have tried to eat her. Not if she was properly trained and had the right temperament for this gig.

And if she's the dog I think she is, I have some other opinions too but you don't want to hear those... ;)

Fluffles to the Moxster!

Saint Lover said...

I would be FURIOUS! I am so sorry this happened to you and Mox... And it sounds like this other dog wouldnt pass the CGC/TDI to save her life. Why in the world would that stupid woman bring her to a place she is setting her dog up for failure in. Some people just burn me up so bad! I am glad I stay at home and keep to myself.

Good luck at the next visit.