I fell in love with Teddy the first time I saw him in this picture.
I fell even harder when I met him in person so to speak. Teddy is a labradoodle and therapy dog as well as companion to Young Park, senior manager, capital projects for TriMet. Young says, “Teddy tags along when I have field work. He doesn’t mind what we do or where we go as long as he’s with me. He’s my shadow.”
Nine-year-old Teddy began training as a therapy dog a year and a half ago but first Young had to undergo a one-day training as his handler. When it was Teddy’s turn, he was put in different situations so his responses could be assessed. Young says, “For example, when another dog passes by, does he lunge and bark or does he remain calm? If someone drops something near him that makes a loud noise, how does he react? If he’s nudged in the back suddenly, will he take it in stride?” There were twelve parts to the challenging test and when it was over, Teddy received the highest rating of “complex” meaning that he can work in environments such as hospital complexes.
Teddy has spent some time in assisted living facilities but these days he is mostly entertained at the Cedar Hills Library where he volunteers for their “Read To Dogs” program. Children come to the library to read, cuddle and play with the pooches. There’s a rotation of four dogs every month, one per week, and certain children return again and again on Teddy’s day because he’s their favorite. It might appear sometimes that Teddy has dozed off during a story but looks can be deceiving. Once, when a little girl strayed from the book and began making up words, Teddy raised an eyebrow as if to say, “THAT’S not what it says!” This fuzzy fellow has always loved children including Young’s son who, when he was ten years old, was asked what color Teddy is and answered: “Roasted marshmallow.” (For some reason this reminds me of the time when my sister, who was six, was asked if she had an American accent. She said, “No, a Yorkshire Terrier.”)
On the bus ride home from my wonderful visit with Teddy — who was most appreciative of the two large dog biscuits I had for him — I couldn’t help thinking about something I read recently as part of my research for my novel. In ancient Egypt, domesticated dogs date as far back as 4000-4500 BCE. Judging by what we know about how some of those dogs were treated when they died, they must have melted the hearts of their families as much as Teddy melted mine.