Ziva - The Borzoi Therapy Dog

Sharon and I were fortunate enough to adopt a 14 month-old female Borzoi from National Borzoi Rescue Foundation in August 2016. The little cutie was about 28” at the shoulder. She is now five years old and a beautiful mature lady at 32” at the shoulder.
It was very evident from the outset that Ziva LIKES people, particularly children. With proper introductions, she would approach anyone to be petted and respond with the “lean”. Her favorite approach with children is to kiss their ears – lots of giggles! This willingness to approach people started me thinking – what can we do to take advantage of this? I was talking with a friend who had a greyhound that just became a Therapy Dog. BINGO – I started the application process with Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Number one was to have a background check for me and a physical for Ziva. After those items were completed, we were assigned a Trainer/Observer who we met with on three occasions for two hour sessions at an assisted living facility. During these sessions, we were observed to see how Ziva reacted to loud noises, sudden movements and medical equipment. We passed this part without any difficulties or issues. At this point I have to say – I do not believe you can train a dog to be a therapy dog – the dog has to like people, be calm and not skittish.
My friend with the greyhound had just become a member of Paws 4 Passengers at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. I applied and was accepted – sort of. We had to perform 20 hours of supervised/observed visits at the airport. During this period there could be no barking, growling, lunging, or any other adverse behavior on Ziva’s part. I was also observed to see if I was aware of any situations that might affect us and my knowledge of Airport/TSA procedures. After completing the observation period, I had to take an hour long test administered by the Transportation Security Administration. Upon passing this test, I was able to get my TSA ID card which allows Ziva and I access to the TSA pre –screen area in order that we do not have to wait in line with passengers.
We act as Goodwill Ambassadors for the Airport. I need to know the layout out of the Airport. We are constantly asked where is baggage claim, an ATM machine, restaurants, bathroom, etc. Most of our two hour shift is spent at the departing/arrival gates. We are always with two or three other teams.
It is so heartwarming to see people’s faces light up when they see our teams. Our mission is to help people relax. WE provide comfort for those who dislike flying, traveling due family tragedy and people who miss their dogs.
Each year, I take a two-hour security class put on by TSA agents. We are additional eyes and ears for the TSA. In the event of an airplane crash, the airport has a Family Resource Center, where families of passengers on the plane can go to get information. We have had simulations for these situations at the Airport and the City of Reno. Thankfully no real catastrophes have occurred. Again, our presence is helping people in stressful situations. I call it a “Puppy Fix”.
Ziva is always excited when she sees me getting her vest and leash. Providing canine therapy is rewarding for me personally and a great way to strengthen the bonding between Ziva and me.

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