Guest Blogs

ADHD and Pet Therapy

I hereby bestow upon Benjamin “Benny” Wegner the title of Honorary Therapy Dog, in recognition of his performing therapeutic interventions on my daughter with ADHD.

After school last Friday, Natalie left for a respite weekend at her Aunt Ann’s house. As I’m still recovering from gallbladder surgery, and Don was away for a guys’ weekend with friends, I was looking forward to the break from the demands of ADHD parenting. The timing couldn’t have been better — from my perspective.

But, from Natalie’s point of view, the timing wasn’t great. She’d had a very difficult week, both at school and, to a lesser degree, at home. She had a couple of days at school where, no matter how the teacher tried to help, Natalie couldn’t settle down enough to concentrate on anything. And Thursday evening, during her respite time with her (20 year old) cousin Hannah, she let loose the old fit-throwing monster: she threw a book at Hannah, shoved the dining room table, and refused to go to her room for a time-out. Hannah almost had to call in her special ed teacher mom, Natalie’s Aunt Teresa, for back-up, but ended up handling it herself.

After racking my brain to figure out what could possibly be going on in this child’s head to explain this behavior, I decided it must be a delayed reaction to my surgery. She wakes up in the morning to find mom gone. Mom’s in the hospital; hospitals scare her to death. She misses school, visits mom in the hospital several times, and doesn’t know what to make of this mom who can’t move without groaning, whose lap can’t be sat on, who you can’t bump with your wiggly elbows and knees. Yeah, I’d say that’s enough to throw off a kid who, like many children with ADHD, has problems coping with change. So, from Natalie’s perspective, staying home — with a nearly-back-to-normal mom — and following her regular routine would probably have been preferable.

[Your Turn: Does a Pet Help You or Your Child Feel Better?]

So, I wasn’t surprised that when it was time to leave for Aunt Ann’s on Friday after school, Nat put on her sad face. No, she wasn’t ready to go. Not yet. Just wait. I was afraid she’d decide she wasn’t going, and then what would I do?

But, no! “Do you know why I’m kind of excited to go to Aunt Ann’s?” Natalie asked.

“No. Why?” I said.

“Because I can pretend that Benny is my dog.”

Benny is Aunt Ann and Uncle Fred’s one and a half year old Cavachon, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel/Bichon Frise mix. Benny, you’re my hero!

I hereby bestow upon Benjamin “Benny” Wegner the title of Honorary Therapy Dog, in recognition of his performing the following therapeutic interventions:

  • He welcomes Natalie expansively when she arrives at Aunt Ann’s house.
  • He offers opportunities for exercise and “green time”, by demanding long walks and strenuous outdoor play.

[An Animal’s Sixth Sense About ADHD]

  • He puts up with being picked up, rolled on, and other varieties of unintentional roughness.
  • He scratches on the door of the room where Natalie sleeps, inviting her to get up and start another exciting day, and making her feel wanted.
  • He rides along in the car for all the weekend’s adventures.
  • He’s unconditional love wrapped in an attractive, furry package.

The weekend went well, both for me, and for Natalie. Benny will probably spend the day sleeping. He deserves a rest. He did his therapy dog job, and did it well. Thanks, Benny!

[Free Download: What Not to Say to a Child with ADHD]