Our Beloved Therapy Dog!
Sammy is a 4 year old, King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. The breed has four distinct ‘types:’ the blenheim (brown and white), tricolor (brown, white and black), ruby (entirely deep, golden brown), and the black and tans. Sammy is a Black and Tan - one of the rarer of the four subtypes, but this was not the reason I chose Sammy from his litter mates. I was drawn to him because I felt he had been marginalized by his brothers and sisters (he was clearly the runt), and his little face was simply the cutest thing I had ever seen.
I grew up with Cavaliers, and am very familiar with the fact they were not bred to fight, defend, herd animals or stand guard. They were bred to be companions, and as such do not have an aggressive bone in the body. I have always been drawn to this breed due to their overwhelming capacity to both feel and reciprocate emotion, but Sammy’s ability to convey serenity has surpassed any other dog I have met.
Sammy’s journey into my home was not an easy one. He was born in South Carolina, to a breeder renown for her ability to raise healthy, show quality puppies. I had heard a rumor this breeder’s pups had a tendency to be “sweater” and more gentle than dogs available from other breeders, which was the selling point for me!
I was sent a video of the puppies interacting with one another, and could tell immediately Sammy was not the Alpha, Beta or even the Omega. In fact, while his brothers and sisters appeared far more interested in fighting over a toy, I could see a tiny little black and brown puppy striking out on his own, away from the group, and gently playing with the breeder’s youngest daughters. After several correspondence, the breeder confirmed my suspicions - Sammy was drawn to the children who shared his home.
When he was just 6 weeks old, Sammy was put on a plane and sent across the country to his new home. I arrived at the airport, and found a rather chaotic scene. Dogs are not sent in baggage claim, they are carefully handled and managed by select personal, to ensure their safety and proper handling. This does not mean their trip is not utterly traumatizing.
SFO’s rather remote ‘dog’ terminal is well off the beaten track, and it took several wrong turns before I finally found where he was being kept. Hidden among several carry-on crates of barking dogs was one smaller kennel, with what looked like a small hamster, hiding under a blanket and small, plush toy. I could barely control my urge to rescue him from these scary surroundings, and when I did, I knew Sammy had found the right home, and the right home had found Sammy!
No one could deny, he was frightfully cute little puppy. Sammy was not ‘show quality,’ which means his coat was not entirely black and tan. On his chest, you can see a large patch of white hair - which, lucky for both him and I, kept him from being thrust into the “show dog circuit.” I am told the movie “Best in Show” was toned down, and that the actual atmosphere 10x more dramatic and eccentric…
It took a long time for Sammy to overcome the stress of being separated from his mother. The thought, to this very day, breaks my heart, but it is a fact of life all pups - be them human or canine - must one day leave the nest and make their way in the world. Lucky for both Sammy and myself, Sammy’s way in the world would parallel mine.
Oddly enough, for first 6-9 months after his arrival, Sammy was the grumpiest puppy I had ever met! If I tried to move him when he was sleeping, he would growl. Bath time was a nightmare. He would yelp, and run around, sopping wet, until he finally calmed down, and curled up in my arms - leaving me just as soaking wet as he was. Apparently, he also had a very sensitive tummy. At least 3 times a week, after I would feed Sammy, and I thought he was resting comfortably in my lap, he would wake up, find his way to my chest, and promptly vomit right on my chest. Everytime. When I would try to move him to newspaper or onto grass, he would whimper until I returned him to my lap, at which time he would again, promptly, climb onto my chest, and throw up his food.
It took a good year for him to finally find his way, but when he did, his little heart grew bigger and bigger every day. Sammy has younger ‘brother,’ a tri-color cavalier named Wolfie. Sammy and Wolfie are the best of friends, and like many friends, they are polar opposites. Wolfie is wild and unpredictable, while Sammy is gentle and reliable. I had always hoped Wolfie would grow to be just as good with people, particularly children, as Sammy is, but just because the parents wants something to be true, does not mean it will be… Regardless, Wolfie has his place in my home, just as Sammy does. The only difference being, on certain days, Wolfie will go to the beach with his dog walker and Sammy will join me, at my office.
Two days a week, for those privileged few, Sammy works with me to help alleviate fear, quell anxiety and generally improve the quality of everyone’s day. If you, or your child, is apprehensive about therapy, and think it would be more comfortable having both myself and my little buddy in the room - then I encourage you to ask what days Sammy and I work together, as a team. You will learn for yourself that I have undersold my little buddy’s innate qualities to make everyone, but especially younger children, feel comfortable and calm in an unfamiliar environment.
Just like everyone at Unfold Psychology, Sammy is here for you. To meet you where you are, and support you on your journey to where you want to be!
Oakland – Montclair
1955 Mountain Blvd, Suite 101
Oakland, CA 94611
SFO – Pacific Heights
3022 Fillmore Street, Suite C
San Francisco, CA 94123