Dog Training Certification: Dr. Wendel – Travels with a Therapy Dog ? Meeting Janice

Janice was a wisp of a girl, barely twenty-three. Her distant gaze, detachment and monotone voice all told me what she couldn’t say. As a psychiatric nurse for almost thirty years, I recognized her diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Janice was being admitted into the Adult Day Care Center where my therapy dog, Wendel, and I work. Patients enter the program for medication management, life skills training, along with physical and occupational therapy. “I’m not sure,” is her frequent reply, and I don’t press; some things are best left in distant recesses of the mind until ready to be faced.

Janice took notice of Wendel, and I introduced them as he took his place on his office – my desk. Wendel has advanced degrees in psychology and the elderly and has over five-hundred hours of volunteer service. He got right to work – in addition to his scholarly accomplishments, Wendel always dresses in colorful costumes and is highly trick-trained as well. A smile sneaked onto Janice’s face as Wendel waved, sat up, laid down, and more. Janice was content to relax and enjoy the show and after years of helping other, Wendel knew what came next.

During the next weeks, Janice would stop by to visit Wendel daily. As I busied myself with paperwork to give her time to adjust, the healing began. At first, it was only sporadic whispers into Wendel’s silky ears, which quickly turned into lengthy private sharing of previously unutterable anguish and suffering. Wendel listened attentively as he had so many times before – I handed over Kleenex as needed and waited. “What kind of groups do you have here?” Janice asked one day after an especially productive Wendel session. I reviewed the resources and offered suggestions.

Janice and I planned her participation and reviewed the schedule. An interview with the Social Worker produced a vocational rehabilitation appointment – dog grooming training and certification. Janice didn’t stay with us long at the Center, several months of group therapy and one-to-one counseling with scheduled follow-up and family support proved to be enough. Dr. Wendel’s good-bye prescription: regular silky ear treatments.

Karen Murdock
About the Author:

Copyright 2011 Karen Murdock is a retired psychiatric nurse, who has been fixing problem horses for over 30 years. Owner of She uses a combination of shaping techniques, a specialized version of clicker training and positive reinforcement. Her unique approach uses games and play as a way to connect and bond with horses to develop confidence, increase focus, improve performance as well as build willingness and trust. All of her services and proceeds go to benefit the horses.

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