Have you ever thought your dog could never be a certified therapy dog?
I did. In fact, I used to watch longingly at dogs wearing bright bandannas gently comforting those in need. Although I have worked in the animal field for nearly fifteen years, I had no knowledge of how the process worked. Every time someone told me I should get Cuda certified, I politely thanked them and thought inside, "You've got to be kidding me."
It wasn't because Cuda doesn't comfort people. She loves all humans. It wasn't because she's a stranger to crowds. It wasn't even because she has an extremely rare congenital disorder known as short spine syndrome. I was convinced it was an impossible goal because Cuda is dog reactive and can also get stressed out in public.
Cuda is a pit bull originally purchased online for $50. When her original owners handed her over to me I had no idea what to expect, so I decided to make her life matter. I began bringing her to adoption events to raise awareness for pit bull tolerance and poor breeding practices. She was fine for the first couple of years; no nerves, no attitude. Then she started shaking nervously when we would first arrive at events. That usually brought comments of sympathy for her. "She must be in pain," people said. I found myself having to explain that she was not in pain, just nervous. Then she began growling and lunging at other dogs. Mid-sentence, their owners would nervously laugh as they whisked their dogs far away from us. It didn't help my mission when her behavior fueled stereotypes about pit bulls. I realized that eventually we wouldn't be welcome at these events so I had to do something.