“Sasha, you’re the best dog ever,” my two-year-old son said as he hugged the giant fluffy Samoyed.
October is National Adopt-a-Dog Month. Our family used to have a chocolate lab that chewed us out of house and home, so we are not quite ready to make the jump to adopt a dog again. But we do have a special dog in our life: Sasha the Wonder Dog.
Before I had kids, when I imagined them, I saw long walks, chubby feet and cute clothes. I never imagined the nasty stuff like strep throat, stomach flu or eating issues. While as parents we battle through the vomit and throat cultures and the tantrums and tears, we have met really great people … and a really special dog.
You see, our son Teddy is a really picky eater. Not just the “I don’t want to eat my green beans” kind of picky, but the “I will only eat Goldfish and yogurt for weeks at a time” picky. We sought help at St. Paul Children’s Hospital. That is where we met occupational therapist Nicole, volunteer Dave and his amazing therapy dog Sasha, who visits the many patients who need her and enjoy her company. (Watch a story on Sasha and Dave at KMSP-TV.)
Our son visits with Sasha, an adopted dog, once a week. The way the therapy works is that Teddy, our blue-eyed, smiley, rough-and-tumble boy, actually works with Sasha the Wonder Dog to help him with his eating. They might start out playing with some toys – Teddy driving little cars and trucks and hiding them within Sasha’s copious amounts of fur. They brush teeth together and then move to a table where the real work begins.
This is where Teddy gets nervous. But Sasha is there. They eat something safe like yogurt. Bite for Sasha. Bite for Teddy. They move on to a fruit or a vegetable. Sasha helps here, too. Sasha eats bananas and apples and plums, and our little guy wants to try them, too.
So when I see his little self, sitting at a little table surrounded by these amazing people and dog, I feel so lucky and grateful. And I, too, think ... Sasha, you’re the best dog ever.