Our current therapeutic pup is Murphy, a one and a half-year-old Bichon Frise. He has received extensive training and has achieved his Canine Good Citizen award through the American Kennel Club. Other pluses are that he is hypoallergenic and does not shed.
Murphy’s role in the treatment setting is primarily to help build rapport and to create a warm, comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. His appealing personality and welcoming manner are excellent tools to “break the ice” and make the experience of coming to a therapist a positive one from the outset. Consistently, we have observed the positive and often dramatic impact Murphy has had on our adolescent patients, their parents, and the overall therapeutic process.
Murphy offers a warm greeting to even the most resistant patients. He is affectionate without being intrusive, and meeting and petting him is often a way to ease into the therapeutic encounter. Most adolescents and parents immediately connect with him. Often, they associate him with pets they currently have, to beloved pets of their past, or to wished-for pets.
Murphy’s presence in therapy sessions is as indirect or active as each patient desires. He can be unobtrusive or a source of physical comfort allowing himself to be petted or hugged. At times, he also serves as comic relief with patients who choose to be playful with him or to help direct him in performing his repertoire of tricks.
Visit the Murphy Photo Gallery.
Read how Murphy helps young patients battling eating disorders in this Washingtonian Magazine story.