Dr. Jules: “The Therapist Is In.”
By Joy Davy, MS, LCPC, NCC
Joy Davy is a therapist in Hinsdale. Website: www.joydavy.com
Jules was elderly,blind, homeless, and grieving the death of the one person who had lovedhim. And then, his luck changed. He re-invented himself. He found his passion. He is now on a Path with Purpose. Jules is a rescue dog, a blind “senior” poodle, who has found a late life career as myco-therapist.
This is his story.
When Jules' elderly owner passed away, he found himself without a home. He was brought to a wonderful animal rescue based in Woodridge: Cry for Help. I met him there when he was blind and guessed to be about 10 years old. (I now think that was an underestimate!) On that fateful day, I had no intention of adopting another dog. I was just attending an adoption event to “help out.”
As I spent time with Jules, reflecting that he would be passed over by all the people looking for a younger pet, I was impressed with his confidence and solid self-esteem. And that was even before he showed me how he can dance on his hind legs.
I brought Jules home, and neither of us knew that he would soon join me in my private practice where I work as a therapist, helping people with depression, anxiety, grief, and relationship issues.
Jules’ first client was a 16-year-old girl who suffered from anxiety and phobias. One of her most inconvenient phobias was of dogs. This fear prevented her from visiting friends’ homes, and made her insecure about taking a walk in her own neighborhood—or anywhere else.
When I asked her if she would like to overcome her fear, she said that of course she would; but she had been afraid of dogs for as long as she could remember, and had lost hope that this could change. On a Saturday afternoon, the young lady came to my office to meet Jules.
The young girl (let's call her “Heather”) was brought by her dad, who stayed in the waiting room. When Heather entered my office, Jules was lying in the crate. Heather said, "Aw, he's cute," but took the seat farthest away from the crate. We talked about the issues we were working on, just letting Heather get used to there being a dog in the room with her.
After a few minutes, I told Heather I would just take Jules out of the crate and put him on my lap, if that was okay with her, as we continued to talk.
About 15 minutes into the session, I asked Heather how she would feel about letting Jules walk around in the office. I told her Jules would probably approach her. Heather was in favor, so I put Jules down, and he followed Heather's voice and went to her to be pet. Since Heather had no experience with dogs, she didn't know how to interact with him, so I suggested she just give Jules a pat. I gave Heather a couple of dog treats to feed Jules, and he did his funny poodle dance, and then took the treats very tenderly and carefully from Heather's fingers.
Then Jules did the most amazing thing. Instead of attempting to get closer or get more attention, as he normally would, he simply turned his back on Heather and leaned against her leg: a dog's signal of trust. Then he lay down at Heather's feet. There he stayed, giving Heather a chance to get used to this new closeness to a dog.
After a few more minutes of our discussion, Jules turned to Heather and stood up, putting his small paws on the couch next to her. I told Heather that Jules was asking to sit on her lap, and asked if that would be okay. Heather said yes, but she had no idea how to pick a dog up, so I put Jules on her lap. Jules immediately lay down on Heather's lap, making himself as flat as he could, and she began to stroke him. She was smiling, and said, "Now I kinda want a dog." Jules then began to rub his woolly head against Heather’s shirt affectionately, and settled down again, making himself flat and still on her lap.
I said, "Look at you, with a dog on your lap! How is your anxiety level now?" Heather said, "I'm not anxious at all!" I said, "Should we call your dad in?" She nodded happily. She wanted her dad to see her interacting calmly with a dog.
Dad came in and Jules greeted him warmly, and Dad expressed his love for dogs, and then Jules went right back to Heather and pressed his back against her, as if to say, "You and me, Friend."
I did not train Jules to do therapy. I would not know how to train a dog to be this sensitive and wise.
Heather left my office confidently, with a big smile. As she left, he asked if Jules could see her next week again.
That’s how Dr. Jules began his career as my co-therapist.
There is a healing circle between animals and people. As we care for them, they care for us. As they heal us, we heal them.