Tag Archives: Therapy animals

Attack of the Flying Chihuahua

Incoming Chihuahua!

I recently had the opportunity to speak to one of my U.S. senators.  This big shot friend of mine gave the senator a “donation.”  Enough to fill a wheelbarrow, if the wheelbarrow was as big as your house.  My friend is an oil guy.  He wears a cowboy hat too big for his head (but he’s too rich to mention this to).  And he’s the kind of guy who likes to give people a wide toothy grin and a big thumbs up anytime the situation remotely allows it.  My friend made his money the old fashioned way.  He flunked out of a second tier college, and then stumbled around drunk for a few years until his grandfather died and left him a boatload.  Anyway, he gave a bunch of money to this senator, and the next thing you know, this senator’s aide is calling my friend to set up a meeting.  Only one thing, my friend is a busy guy, and this is what led him to make the critical mistake of asking me to go instead.  He figured I was good with words and could convey his position on an “important energy issue.” Like I said, big mistake.  Almost as big as his hat.  You see he wanted me to talk about “fracking.”  Now I know all you old timers at the VFW think I’m talking about something else.  No, not that.  The fracking I’m talking about is where trained engineers shoot high pressure water or radioactive waste or something down into the earth, and then pray to God the whole place doesn’t blow to smithereens.  Then oil shoots out of the ground and makes them absurdly rich (the One Percenters the Occupy folks are always taking time out of their busy days to complain about).  You may have seen this if you ever watched the beginning of a Beverly Hillbillies episode.  I’m pretty sure it was Jed who started the whole fracking thing.

Suffice it to say, the environmentalists are all beside themselves about this and are having about one billion heart attacks a day.  In the meantime, the politicians are hiding in corners counting votes (and my friend’s money).

So, anyway, I roll into this coffee meeting at some random Starbucks.  And I failed to mention that my oil friend gives the senator absolutely no notice he’s sending me instead.  The disappointment in the senator’s eyes is almost too painful for me to bear.  So the senator recovers and jump starts the conversation by leaning forward with a deeply sincere expression (a little too close for my comfort) and asks me to pass along his gratitude to my associate.  I swear he actually used the word “associate.”  I told him that my friend was extremely disappointment to miss the meeting, but an emergency had come up (which was a bold-faced lie, but it felt right at the moment).  The senator asked me about any concerns that he should be aware of (he probably meant of my friend, but in fairness to me, he wasn’t explicit).  I dove in.

“Yes, there is,” I said.  He leaned in and widened his eyes.  (It felt quite conspiratorial.)  “You fly quite a bit, don’t you senator?”

“Almost every week.”

“So airline safety is important to you?”

“Why, of course.”

“Have you been noticing what’s going on with the therapy animals lately?”


“Therapy animals – dogs – they’re everywhere now.  Got’em for everything, even anxiety.  Well, they’re flying on planes with us now.”

“And…?” the senator’s face squinched up puzzled.

“Ever wonder what kind of damage a wiener dog could do incoming in at a couple hundred miles an hour?  Yeah, I know people are already holding babies on their laps, but that horse left the barn a long time ago.”


“Pet seatbelts.  Strap’em down.  Heck, strap the babies down too.  Harness them to their owners or parents, whatever.  Legislation would shoot through Congress.  Promote it as an infant/companion animal safety measure.  Do it before some nervous nelly’s Chihuahua slams into your head on an aborted take-off.”  I paused for effect.  “It’s time, senator.  It’s time.”

When my friend asked me later how it went, I nodded and said, “Mission accomplished.”  He gave me a wide toothy grin and a really big thumbs up.

Don’t Fight “Therapy” Dogs, Join Them!

Therapy Animal Sign

I’d like to draw your attention to an emerging crisis.  A crisis that looms even larger and more ominous than our country’s staggering deficit or our precarious interests in the Middle East.  I am, of course, speaking about the proliferation of therapy companion animals.  In less time than it took us to move from cell phones the size of bricks to the size of Kit Kat bars, therapy animals have swept over this country like locusts.  The ancestor of these “therapy companions,” which now enjoy equal space in our grocery stores, theatres and airliners is, of course, the gallant “seeing-eye dog.”  That loyal animal which escorts its master safely down sidewalks and across perilous streets.  From such humble and practical beginnings, we now have an animal for every conceivable illness, malady or syndrome known to WebMD.  I spotted a wiener dog the other day wearing one of those little red vests that said Anxiety Therapy Companion.  Not twenty-four hours later, I see a mom and three kids marching into a dance performance with a golden retriever wearing a vest that read: Autism Therapy Companion.  It didn’t seem to be aware that it had a job to do.  It wasn’t standing alert or, as far as I could tell (albeit I’m no expert) doing anything special.  It seemed to lay down on its side as often as it got the chance.  Perhaps to my untrained eye, I’m missing the nuance of his assistance.

Recently, it came to my attention that a group of concerned citizens has formed a nonprofit group to raise and train therapy dogs for overweight children.  They assign the dogs to the children by weight, both the child’s and the dog’s.  The chubbier the child, the chubbier the dog.  The concept, as I understand it, is that by being around a dog that is more robust than the child, the child feels thinner, and thus better about him or herself.  The society providing this assistance is using labradors, because, as anyone who has spent any time around a lab will tell you, those things will eat ten meals a day if you let them.  The program has been hailed largely (no pun intended) as a success, but there have been challenges.  In a few instances, children have, how shall I put this, “outpaced” their dogs in girth.  The animals had to be returned to the association’s kennel for “retooling” (i.e. placed on a strict regimen of high-fat liver flavored doggy shakes and other tasty caloric snacks). 

I put a call into the White House to alert First Lady Michelle Obama about this program, and to my pleasant surprise, she called me back.  As many of you know, the First Lady launched a campaign to battle childhood obesity and promote a healthy diet.  After explaining the program to her, Michelle (as I now call her), told me that she was concerned that this cutting edge therapy program might actually be enabling these children to continue to live an unhealthful lifestyle.  Michelle inquired whether these companion therapy animals might better be trained to, for example, throw themselves between their chubby masters, as, say, they were reaching for a piece of chocolate cake.  I replied to Michelle that might be pretty dangerous for the animals, but that I would see what I could do to communicate her thoughts to the association. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I am pro companion therapy animal.  I even decided to borrow my neighbor’s weimaraner, Gus, a dog bred over centuries to fulfill its essential role of being photographed wearing human clothing – in short, an animal harboring little to no remaining dignity, to act as my therapy companion.  (My family is not able to have a pet, as my wife is allergic to having hair on the couch, that and muddy footprints). 

As I have settled into middle age, I have found myself often plagued with the discomfort of gas buildup and bloating, especially after enjoying a large Mexican meal.  So I thought, perhaps an anti-acid therapy companion might help.  You know, calm me, and aid in settling the digestive juices. Truth be told, Gus is getting up there in years, eleven on his last birthday.  Which, of course, in human years is 385.  So he’s a little slow off the dime.  And they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but, he already has most of the necessary skills.  He walks as slowly as I do, doesn’t pull on the leash, and he collapses at my feet the moment I give him the chance.  As I was hesitant to invest any actual money into my new endeavor, I was challenged to come up with a suitable, but necessary “official vest” for him (So I could take him anywhere I wanted, places where others might ignorantly consider his presence inappropriate).  The only thing red I could find in the house was a kitchen apron my sister-in-law gave my wife for Christmas last year, with “Kiss the Chef” printed across the front.  However, by folding it in half and flipping it upside down, I was able to loop the neck stringy thing over Gus’s head and tie the back strings under his belly.  An artful black marker job later announcing Gus’s status as an Anti-acid Therapy Animal, and I was in business.  I even embellished a bit by printing in smaller letters “Please Don’t Pet Me, I’m Working!” beneath his title, for official effect.  If you see Gus and me out and about, please stop and say hello (but don’t mention anything about his “vest”).