Have you ever just known when something is meant to be? You have this feeling you know exactly what’s in the future for you? This is how Courtney felt as her new, rescued puppy began to grow up. Within their first year together, Courtney knew big things were in store for her and Tink. This is the story of life with Tink the Therapy Dog.
A Rescued Puppy
Courtney rescued Tink from the Wisconsin Humane Society (Milwaukee campus) in July of 2014. Suddenly she was dog mom to a three pound, 8 week old yorkie-poo! Courtney describes Tink as a sweet, smart, happy, loving little girl. With everyone she meets, whether it’s the staff or students at the school where Courtney teaches, the people in the drive-thru, residents at the nursing home, or the strangers walking by on the street, she always manages to put a smile on their faces.
Courtney says, “I never knew it was possible that you could love something more and more each day, but Tink has shown me that is absolutely possible. Tink is living proof that dogs give unconditional love.
There is an endless list when it comes to all of the things that I love about her. When you need cheering up, she’s doing something that will make you laugh. When you’re absolutely drained from a long day, she’s right there snuggled up next to you. And when you have tears running down your face, she’s there to lick your tears away. She is very good about being exactly what you need, when you need it.”
Becoming a Therapy Dog
In Courtney’s words, “It has been a dream of mine to have a therapy dog, but I knew that it would take a special dog to become a therapy dog. As I watched Tink grow in her first year of life, I knew immediately she was destined to be a therapy dog because of her incredible personality.”
After completing several class sessions, little Tink achieved the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) award. With this, it was time to train and prepare to become a therapy dog. After seven weeks of classes Courtney and Tink were evaluated to see if they qualified as a therapy dog team. According to Courtney, “I’ll never forget the day of the test. I was a nervous wreck. At the very end of the test, once I found out we had passed, I immediately broke out into tears. I remember apologizing for crying and I even remember telling them, ‘I’m sorry I don’t know why I’m crying so much’ and the evaluator said back, “it’s because this means so much to you,” and it did.”
Therapy Dog Duties
As a team, Tink and Courtney go to a local nursing home in Kenosha where they visit with the residents once a month. Together they see the residents in the memory care wing. According to Courtney, many of the residents are non-verbal, but the smiles on their faces when they are petting Tink are words enough.
Aside from the nursing home, Tink goes to school with Courtney about 2-3 times a month. Tink also goes to school on special occasions. Courtney teaches 3rd grade in a classroom of 20 students, and in her classroom, they are a family. Of course Tink has become an integral part of that family (she’s just a family member that is furry and has 4 legs).
Every day in the classroom, Tink is incorporated throughout the day even when she’s not there. Courtney’s students talk about Tink non-stop. Courtney says, “There is such an incredible and indescribable feeling about having something you love, my students, interact with something else that I love tremendously, Tink. Being able to watch their faces light up when they see her, to watch that smile spread across their face when she’s giving them her famous Tink kisses, it’s the best feeling in the world.
I have watched firsthand, students who were angry/upset immediately relax the moment they interact with Tink. I wish more people could experience the love a dog brings to the classroom.”
These students have had to learn a lot about having a dog in the classroom. With Tink, they learn about responsibility, empathy, and so much more. Also, the students are very good about learning and reading nonverbal cues from Tink (i.e. if her tail is tucked in, they know she’s scared).
These children are wonderful about monitoring their voice level as to not scare her or stress her out. They are even so cute that they will often tell their classmates “shhhhh” when they see Tink sleeping! Courtney says, “There is such a beauty that comes with having a therapy dog in the classroom, that I wish other classrooms could also experience. Not only do the students in the school love when Tink comes in, but so does the staff! Many staff members will pop in to my classroom just to get some Tink love!”
Tink at Home
When Tink is not doing therapy work, she LOVES to play fetch. According to Courtney, this little dog has well over thirty mini tennis balls around her home!
Tink’s favorite game is to bring the tennis ball to the top of the stairs, drop it down the steps, and wait for someone to throw it back up so she can catch it, and do it all over again. Courtney says she’ll often be downstairs and suddenly hear “thunk, thunk, thunk,” and that’s the cue to stop everything and play fetch with Tink! And how cute is this, Tink also loves to play hide-n-seek!
To be a successful therapy dog team, it helps to have a strong bond with your dog. Courtney says about Tink, “When I look at her, I am completely filled with love. She has brought so much happiness and joy to my life. Even on my hardest and darkest days, she is my light. On days that I can’t find the sunshine, she is my sunshine. When I see how she touches the lives of my students, my heart becomes instantly full. I couldn’t ask for a better life.”
Our community is much brighter because of Tink and Courtney. Together they are touching hearts and changing lives. Imagine the gift they are giving the children who learn compassion, responsibility, and empathy because of one little dog. And seniors who have a brighter moment in their day when Tink stops by to share her love. That is life with Tink the therapy dog, and this is a therapy dog team I am honored to know.
Photo credit: Courtney W. and Shadow Dog Photography