The turning moment…
One day, children from the Spastics Society visited the shelter and we were astounded to see the way Charlie bonded with them. He was gentle, compassionate and wouldn’t leave their side. He even allowed them to pull his ears and tail. A shocking change from the naughty doggie that he normally was.
That’s when I decided to initiate him into canine therapy. He started his career as a therapist with the differently-abled children of Vishwas – the school for special children run by the Indian Air Force. Soon, we branched into working with children with autism. It’s been eight years since Charlie’s journey began as a therapist and in these years, he has helped so many children find the confidence to face life once again.
The magical bond…
The bond between Charlie and his therapy group children is magical. The children crave for his attention and open up easily to him. They whisper all their secrets into his ears, recite poems and rhymes that they have been taught at school, sing songs, make cards and gifts for him, stroke him, give him milk to drink… and Charlie absorbs it all. I don’t know what goes on in his head when he is with them but I see a sense of peace on his face. By doing these activities, the children improve their communication skills, motor skills and increase their sense of responsibilities. Their memory power is also enhanced. On the days that Charlie visits them, their minds open up to grasping more things and more knowledge.
Charlie listens to each one of them patiently, dividing his attention equally among them, coaxing the more reticent children to come out of their shell. He reserves his kisses for his favourite children. He doesn’t even flinch if they pull his tail accidentally or pinch him. Being three-legged, he doesn’t have much flexibility of movement and there are days when he tires easily and his leg hurts but that has never deterred him from completing each session with the children. Charlie is a lesson of courage in the face of adversity.
Tips for pet parents with three-legged paw friends…
-Ensure that they don’t put on weight as three legs cannot support the extra weight.
-They require less exercise compared to normal dogs.
-Regular blood examinations should be done to monitor their health.
-Do not let them lie down for long; keep them active throughout the day.
-When transporting them in a car, be careful not to hurt or strain their legs.
-Take extra care in cold weather as it can cause discomfort and pain in the leg.
- Ensure that your pet’s bed is easily accessible and kept in a place where he can lie down and yet be among the family.
- By Sudha Narayanan, trustee of a shelter in Bengaluru
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