How a dog's belief in a child helped her believe too
Jarene is a character. She's bouncy, curious and warm, and she loves dogs.
Telly is also a character. She's bouncy, curious and warm, and she loves humans.
It didn't take long for the two to become friends.
When they meet, they play hide and seek, do magic tricks together, roll around on the floor, and play catch.
Telly responds calmly to Jarene's sometimes spontaneous, rapid movements and Jarene, who's now 9 years old, puts up with her doggie kisses and boisterous displays of affection.
If it gets too much and she shies away, Telly doesn't judge.
Their friendship is special and its significance runs deep.
Not just fun and games
Telly is a professional therapy dog. Although her time with Jarene looks like fun and games, she's actually helping her to develop social skills in an environment that's free from judgement, expectations and emotional pressures.
Jarene's mum Sally describes her time with Telly as a space where she can totally be herself.
That's important for Jarene.
She was born with rare conditions that affect her face, mouth and throat muscles. She speaks and learns differently, and as Sally puts it: "To see a dog that is so tolerant, it's very refreshing. Human friends are not that tolerant."
Telly's human, Maureen, is trained in Animal Assisted Therapy. She designs sessions to address her clients' specific needs.
For Jarene, the games and interactions teach her confidence, caring, patience and empathy. She's also learning to communicate more effectively.
Maureen and Telly work with children and youth from all kinds of backgrounds, including those who have special needs, or are struggling with addictions, anger management issues, depression, stress and trauma from such triggers as divorce or bullying.
Together, human and dog help them to navigate challenges, make sense of experiences and learn social emotional skills.
The magic is in the fact that clients benefit while having fun, and if they want to open up, they have the doggie ear of a devoted, non-judgemental companion.
Sally said that as Jarene and Telly became friends, Jarene also found a new friend in a little girl from school in another class, and Sally could see that the skills that she enjoyed learning with Telly had crossed over into her daily life.
Maureen and Telly together make up Pawsibility, working with those who have special needs, or are struggling with addictions, anger management issues, depression, stress and trauma from such triggers as divorce or bullying. Human and dog help them to navigate challenges, make sense of experiences and learn social emotional skills.
You and your dog can volunteer to join Telly and her friends to provide companionship, motivation and recreation at homes for children and seniors, and hospices.