How to Be A Good Boy, From Miner

This picture was not taken at Miner's work, but this picture with that hat was too cute to not include.

This picture was not taken at Miner's work, but this picture with that hat was too cute to not include.

To give you some background on this story, I need to start by sharing that I work at Vienna, which is a skilled nursing & rehab center in Lodi. This has been my first experience working in both the medical field and in senior care. One of the things that struck me right off the bat was how caring all the staff is. People who go into this profession definitely have a heart for helping others. One of those people I’ve met is Becki. Becki Ayers is a Physical Therapy Assistant and she’s been with Vienna for three years. Becki is also the proud mama to Miner. Miner is a therapy dog who occasionally comes to work with his mom to help rehab patients in therapy, and he is a really good boy. I wanted to share Miner’s story because whenever he’s at Vienna’s, helping people in therapy, I walk through and immediately feel a difference in the gym’s atmosphere. Patients are genuinely happy to have Miner there, and you can see it in their smiles. Miner isn’t doing anything crazy at rehab. He’s not doing any tricks or anything, he’s just walking around, being his cute little weiner dog self and giving people approving kisses for their hard work and accepting belly rubs in return. I think that’s what makes Miner so special. Miner’s story is such a great example of how you don’t need to do anything extravagant to make a difference in somebody’s life, you just have to show up and be you and share your love with others. At the heart of it, that’s all Miner is doing, and the results of him spreading is his love are happier rehab patients with better results than you could get from any over priced pill.

Miner with his mama, Becki, at work taking a rehab patient out for a walk (not pictured)

Miner with his mama, Becki, at work taking a rehab patient out for a walk (not pictured)

Becki has had Miner for nearly three years. She wasn’t planning on getting a dachshund, her last dog after all was a rottweiler, but according to Becki her puppy clock (like a baby clock but for puppies) was ticking, and when she and her husband met Miner that was that. Becki acknowledged dachshund therapy dogs are rare. “The original intent was to certify him and then we brought him here (to Vienna) when he was a puppy and then we all laughed and said, ‘This is not going to happen.’ He’s a dachshund and he’s German and he’s stubborn and doesn’t take well to being told what to do. But now that he’s older and more mature he’s found his stride.” Maybe it’s just because Miner was introduced to Vienna so early in his life, but for whatever reason he has taken well being a therapy dog. Becki and Miner did six weeks of therapy training with Animal Friends Connection to get certified, Miner got his official little therapy vest and he with that he was ready to get to work!

Miner soaking up the sun and looking spiffy in his official therapy vest.

Miner soaking up the sun and looking spiffy in his official therapy vest.

Becki has been doing different types of therapy for six years. She started as a personal trainer, then moved to outpatient therapy, and has found her stride working with seniors in skilled nursing setting. “They’re not athletes who are trying to make it to their next race, they’re just people who are trying to live and get back home.” And because she’s so passionate about helping these people she cares for, having a dog who could also help was a top priority for her. “A lot of people going through therapy are often sad and sometimes it’s really hard for them to connect where they’re at now to getting home. They don’t see that segway. Then a lot of times when they see a dog they remember their old dog from home or their actual pet at home and it gives them more motivation. Plus it’s fun for him (Miner). It gives him a purpose.” Miner might just think he’s all in it for the treats, but he’s really made a difference in patients lives. Becki told me there was one older gentleman who, despite all of staffs’ attempts, refused to go to therapy. He just so happened to have a daschund of his own at home, and when Becki started bringing Miner in, this gentleman finally began going to rehab, and now he is living back at home. If it weren’t for Miner, this man, who was too depressed to exercise, would likely still be living in a skilled nursing facility. Thanks to Miner, he found that extra motivation to do the work he needed to do and has his own success story. How much of a difference one dog can make in a person’s life! Miner motivates patients to exercise in therapy because their exercises have more purpose when he’s there. They’re not just walking for the sake of walking. When Miner is there patients are walking because Miner needs a walk. They’re not bending and stretching just for the sake of completing their reps, patients are bending over to pet Miner or stretching to throw his ball for him. We all need a sense of purpose, and Miner helps give these rehab patients a sense of purpose, to take care of themselves so they can take care of him.

"If you’re someone who wants to give back, sometimes it’s hard to know how. It’s a way to give back non financially with your time and with your best friend” 

If you’re a pet owner, you know how pets can make you feel. That’s why we’re so lucky to have dogs like Miner who take these six week programs to become therapy certified and share their love with others. According to Becki, almost any dog can be a therapy dog. “They come in all sizes and breeds. Everyone thinks of the classic golden retriever but really any dog can, as long as they want to give love. It’s not that hard to get your dog certified if you put in the time and they have the right temperament. Plus it’s a really easy way to do charitable work. I know if I didn’t do therapy work, I know I would be out on weekends like going to the Veterans homes or the hospitals. If you’re someone who wants to give back, sometimes it’s hard to know how. It’s a way to give back non financially with your time and with your best friend. It’s a nice way to put smiles on people’s face. You’re helping the sick and the hurting. You’re using the dog to communicate so it takes the pressure off you to feel like you’re on, they can just pet the dog.” It’s really hard for a lot of us to know how to have a sentimental moment with others. We don’t like to be uncomfortable. So we bring gifts or something rather than just saying “Thank you.” or “How are you?” Dogs can be a good way to communicate where we often fall short. Dogs like Miner have the ability to break down communication barriers and make it easier for us to connect

Miner being a good boy and reluctantly taking a picture with me

Miner being a good boy and reluctantly taking a picture with me

I can’t say enough what a good boy Miner is. Every time he straps on his little therapy vest and shows up for work, he makes a huge difference for people. He is able to make a big impact just by being his cute little self and loving others, which is an important takeaway for all of us. Having a therapy dog like Miner is an easy and effective way for Becki to give back, and something she would recommend to anyone who has the time for training. I wrapped up my interview with Becki by asking my favorite question, if you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?  “Maybe I’m thinking more like a super power, but I’ve always thought it would be really cool to be able to take people’s pain for like a day. Like I’ll take your cancer for a day, you just have a good time. Take it for a week or month or some period of time so you could make people okay for awhile.” I loved this answer because I know when she’s bringing Miner in to Vienna, she’s already kind of doing that. Good boy, Miner!