Already hard at work

IMG_2083-4.jpg

Learning and growing

Nounours is still working on training and certification, but he's seeing clients with me pretty regularly.  I've found that he does help clients to re-ground during, and after difficult sessions, or to resource when they are feeling depleted.  I've found with my teenage clients that the slight distraction his cuteness provides helps them to feel relaxed, and to open up.  

Biophilia

Facetune_23-06-2018-06-53-15.JPG

Nervous system attunement

The Biophilia Hypothesis by Edward Wilson posits that our connection to animals is rooted in the history of our species' survival.  We were once very reliant upon other animals to alert us to danger and changes in our environment.  Seeing a peaceful animal allowed us to feel peaceful in turn, allowed us to feel safe, and our nervous systems to calm.  

In moments of fear, our bodies tense, our muscles contract, our cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones flow freely.  We also experience a corresponding rigidity of thought and emotion, one in which we perceive things as polarized, safe or unsafe, black or white.  Nuance and flexibility are lost in our need to prioritize self-preservation.  

By contrast, when we feel safe, there's an emotional, mental, and physical relaxation that occurs; one which creates an ideal environment for creativity, change, and healing.  A therapy dog helps us connect to that state; his calm or joy serves as a visceral reminder that in the moment, and in the therapy room, we are safe, and we can relax.

 

Nounours, the soon to be therapy dog!

Facetune-2.jpg

I'd like to introduce you all to Nounours, my new puppy.  I never thought I'd get a small or fluffy dog, having always been partial to Pit-mixes in the past.  But it makes sense to have a small therapy dog, as they are easy to transport, clean, and hold in your lap; and the hypoallergenic and non-shedding breeds tend to be fluffy, and adorable... so here I am!

What's a Nounours?

The literal translation from French is "teddy bear," "ours" meaning bear, and "nounou" meaning nanny, but really also serving as some sort of diminutive.  I've mostly experienced it used as an endearment.  For those, like my family, who aren't very comfortable with the pronunciation, you're more than welcome to call him Nou Nou; he happily responds to both.

He's ridiculously sweet: he likes to snuggle himself into your neck and just melt there; he's made friends with his reflection in the mirror, and wags his tail and play bows to himself accordingly; he's very clumsy, and curious as all puppies are; and he makes soft little anxious noises (something between a snort and a whine) when you first pick him up, as though he's desperate to get closer (as someone not fond of either snorting or whining, you can trust me when I say it's cute); he's gentle, and responsive, and seems to be particularly attuned to human emotion and tone of voice, although I might be biased on that score.

How is he a therapy dog at such a young age?

He's not.  He has a long way to go before he can officially be called a therapy dog.  He needs to calm down a bit, receive lots of training, and pass a few tests.  But he's smart, and has a great temperament, so I think the process should be relatively straightforward.  We began our first training class last week, so do wish us luck!

If anyone is particularly interested in meeting, or working with him, do let me know.  Eventually, he will be a regular part of my practice, but for now, upon request, he can just be a soothing, and slightly distracting (in both a positive and negative sense) addition to a therapy session.  I've only brought him to a few sessions at this point, to introduce him to interested clients, to assess their responses to him, and his behavior, but these sessions went really well!