Ragnar’s 6th Grief Therapy Class

For our final therapy class, we visited the nice folks at the VA. We got to hang out under the trees and socialize with a bunch of friendly veterans, which the dogs loved of course. Socializing is essentially what Ragnar does on a daily basis at work, so he was very much in his natural element. One of the directors at the VA mentioned that she’d love to have Ragnar come back to visit again and we said we’d be more than happy to oblige! The opportunity to mingle with some American heroes was the perfect way to wrap up Ragnar’s training since it relates closely to what he does every day at Oakey’s. This class was laid-back, fun and a heartwarming way to witness the progress all the students in the class made over the last two months. Now, on to the testing and certification! Wish us luck!

Ragnar’s 5th Grief Therapy Class

For the next-to-last class in our therapy training course, we went to Home Depot to do a little real-world interaction. We practiced walking through the store, greeting friendly shoppers, and even dodging the forklifts that seem to be cruising through the building on a continual basis! We made our way out into the garden supplies section to run through a drill Candice set up that involved us walking in a complete circle around a long row of alluring objects without picking them up. The objects were different types of food and toys. Ragnar drooled all the way down the line and back. He managed to resist even the open jar of peanut butter though, so we were very proud of him! Back in the store, we worked on applying some of our classroom exercises in a real-world setting. Ragnar and his classmates practiced walking, sitting, staying, and coming when called. The dogs did a great job showing off their training and good behavior to all the people at Home Depot and received plenty of admiration and love from both shoppers and staff as a reward!

Ragnar’s 4th Grief Therapy Class

In our fourth class, we had a guest visit with us to share some insight into the testing and certification process. She gave us an idea of the expectations, both for the dogs and their handlers, that testers have on test day. This informative, and much-appreciated visit lasted for about half of our class period, and the other half was spent going over some of our previous exercises and reinforcing those lessons. We worked on walking through the obstacle course, maintaining composure amidst unusual sounds and stimuli, and a few other quick exercises to make sure we were doing our homework outside of class! This was our last week in the classroom, as we are heading out for a couple of field trips during the final two classes. So thank you, Green Ridge, for having us and putting up with our shedding every Thursday!

The LATE Show

“If you’re not here in the next sixty seconds, I’m leaving without y’all!” As I texted those words to two of my friends on Saturday, I (and probably they) knew that I was bluffing. But we had tickets to see guitarist Laurence Juber in Northern Virginia that evening and I knew that our schedule was going to be tight. Several minutes later, my pals showed up and we headed up the dreaded I-81 to catch an incredible concert.

Everybody in my circle of family and friends knows that I am a true stickler for punctuality. If we agree on a certain time, I expect you to be present and ready at the appointed hour. Whether it’s for a concert, going out to eat, a sporting event, or simply a walk on the greenway, BE ON TIME! This mantra drives my wife and son crazy, but it’s now an inherent part of my DNA and I’m too old to change. Heck, I’m the one on time, so why should it be ME that’s expected to change?

My dad was like this too, and I can remember him pacing and stewing as my mom was still getting ready to go out for a function. Since I obviously “got” this trait honestly, I’ve been aware of it for decades. Not only do I have to be on time, I feel that if I’m not early, I’m actually tardy! While it may be a hereditary thing, I also feel as if my chosen vocation of funeral service may have played a huge part in my propensity to live by the clock. Almost everything we do at Oakey’s has to do with time. What TIME is the funeral? What TIME is the family coming in to make arrangements? How much TIME do we have left to get the obituary in the newspaper? Is it TIME to gather the relatives into the family room and close the casket? While I know there have been times we started funerals late, I take it as a personal failure if the clergy does not begin the service at the exact minute the attendees expect it to start. Kin of the decedent can probably see my stress level rise as they tell me “We’re going to have to begin the funeral late because (insert name of the family member here) isn’t here yet.” It certainly doesn’t help when they find out that the late relative is still 25 minutes away from Roanoke!

And there are times when someone will ask me a time-related question that I have no idea how to answer. When calling the police department for an escort to the cemetery, the dispatcher invariably will ask “What time will the funeral be over?” Well, I’m certainly not going to ask the preacher “How long are you going to go today?” and I’ve seen services last anywhere from five minutes to two hours! I’ve been on church funerals where the reception committee hosts a luncheon after the cemetery committal and they will ask me what time I think friends and family will be getting back to the church for the meal. That’s impossible to pinpoint, although I will give them a guesstimate.

Talk about stress levels rising: we schedule our services at 10 AM, noon and 2 PM at our chapels in order to keep them from running into each other. Since the average time of a funeral is about 40 minutes, this works out well 99.5% of the time. But remember earlier when I mentioned funerals that can last two hours? Can you imagine clock-obsessed Sammy sweating bullets on a 10 AM service that is approaching 90 minutes, as attendees for the noon service begin to filter into the building? Heck, I get a queasy feeling in my stomach just THINKING about it! I’ve even heard stories about my great-grandfather walking into the back of the chapel and giving the hand-across-the-throat motion to the minister, to let him know that it was time to begin wrapping up his remarks! Pretty sure that wouldn’t happen today!

I know “stuff happens” and delays can occur. Flat tires, traffic jams, sudden illnesses, accidents, and emergencies are part of life. But habitual lateness drives me batty, as everyone who knows me well can attest to. So blame my dad, blame the funeral profession or blame my OCD tendencies. But just know that there’s no such thing as “fashionably late” in my vocabulary.

Ragnar’s Third Grief Therapy Class

In the third week of therapy class, the students reviewed some familiar exercises and were introduced to a couple of new ones as they prepare for an upcoming field trip to a local nursing home. Hope and Candice tested the students on their reactivity to people using walkers and wheelchairs. The dogs were expected to remain calm and unphased when encountering such people. Ragnar definitely had an advantage over his classmates in this scenario because he meets and socializes with guests with disabilities on a daily basis at work. The dogs were also tested on their ability to remain confident and poised when people argue or talk in a loud, emotionally-charged manner. Though this situation was not as familiar to Ragnar, he did just fine. His favorite part of the class, and possibly out of the entire six-week course, was the circle of love. Each dog was expected to approach a circle of seated people who want to meet him or her and politely engage with the crowd as they love on the dog. It’s no exaggeration to say that this exact experience is what gets Ragnar out of bed and running into work every day. Sitting or lying in the middle of a group of people while they pet him is Ragnar’s favorite pastime and what he spends a large portion of his work hours doing. Needless to say, the hardest part of this exercise was getting him away from the people!

Stay tuned to see what Ragnar and his classmates do in week four!

Check out the recent story about Ragnar from WSLS10. 

Ragnar’s Second Therapy Class

Ragnar came to class straight from an evening visitation he was requested for and still managed to do a commendable job staying alert and involved. This week we worked quite a bit with the students’ abilities to maintain composure and hold commands amidst distractions. Distractions included loud and unusual noises, people moving around the dogs, items rolling across the floor, food shown to the dogs and other commotion that is often distracting to pets. We practiced the familiar exercise of moving around a set of cones which involved sitting and turning at certain points while walking on a loose leash and Ragnar did a wonderful job. It was evident by the end of class that Rags was worn out and ready for a good night’s sleep. While Hope was answering some questions from the other doggy parents, Ragnar made his way behind our chairs to curl up and close his eyes. We’re proud of our hard-working boy and all the progress he’s made!

Ragnar’s First Therapy Class

The first week of therapy dog class for Ragnar went great. Three of his classmates from the Canine Good Citizen class are in this class, along with four other friendly dogs. Week 1 was an introduction to what the expectations and requirements are for getting certified as a therapy dog, plus some review of what we covered in the CGC class. The therapy dog certification test is actually about 80% the same as the CGC test, so Ragnar already has a great foundation for his upcoming test. We found out we’ll be doing some field trips in this class, such as visiting a nursing home or some other facility where therapy dogs can gain some hands-on experience. Ragnar will definitely have a great time with that! Stay tuned to hear about next week’s class.

Ragnar’s Final CGC Class

Thursday night was the big night for Mr. Ragnar…test night! After six weeks of class, plus plenty of practicing at home and around the office, the final exam finally arrived. We are thrilled to announce that our sweet, hard-working man completed every one of the exercises in the test, flawlessly! The “Ragamuffin” passed with flying colors and is officially a Canine Good Citizen. The final phase of Ragnar’s therapy dog certification will be a six-week therapy-specific course, at the completion of which he will take the exam to receive his degree. We’re so proud of Ragnar not just for his outstanding job in the CGC class, but for all of the time and effort he has enthusiastically put into his work over the past year. He truly loves people and loves comforting those in need. We’re overjoyed that Ragnar gets to work in a capacity that allows our clients, visitors, and staff to all benefit from his presence. This kind soul is already a friend to so many people, and we look forward to his many years of service ahead. Stay tuned to follow along on Ragnar’s upcoming therapy dog class!

Ragnar’s 5th Class

The fifth class served mainly as a review in preparation for the test that will be conducted in the sixth and final class. The dogs and their handlers went through each part of the test as a sort of dry run so everyone will know which areas their dog might need a little more practice in before week six.

Ragnar handled most of the exercises nicely but was a bit distracted during the drill that requires him to walk on a loose leash around a series of cones. He stopped to sniff a spot on the floor that attracted the snouts of his classmates the whole evening, and he wanted to keep an eye on some of his friends who went outside for a bathroom break but were visible through the windows. Aside from his wandering attention during this one exercise, Ragnar demonstrated a reassuring preparedness for his final examination. His naturally inquisitive spirit sometimes steals his focus, but our buddy has come a long way with his ability to resist distractions.

We think Ragnar’s curiosity is a great asset when he’s at work though, it helps him pay close attention to the people around him. If he spots someone who is exceptionally emotional or behaving out of the ordinary, he will diligently go to visit with them. When he sometimes works off leash, he will often do this even without being prompted. Ragnar is truly a sweet, attentive boy!

Ragnar’s 4th Class

This was the fourth week of Ragnar’s six-week Canine Good Citizen class, and our favorite good boy made us proud once again! He and his classmates spent time reviewing some of the lessons from previous weeks and started some new material too. Raggy-boy had a bath earlier in the day, so he was looking and smelling like a million bucks for class. One of the new skills we practiced was the dog staying in a seated or down position while the handler walked across the room, and then walking to the handler when summoned. Ragnar was able to do this with no problem, even amidst the barks and movement of a few of his classmates. Later the dogs practiced staying in a seated position next to their handler while a friendly stranger approached and greeted the handler/dog unit. Ragnar, despite being just under three years old, is such a sleepy old man at heart. As he waited for Candice to make her way around the room greeting the other dogs and humans, Rags tried multiple times to lay down. Mitzi would bring him back up to a seated position, and a minute later he would start to make his way back down to the floor. I think we can safely say Ragnar has no trouble remaining in one place when told to stay! Ragnar’s ultra-mellow and borderline lazy disposition might be a little sluggish for some of the exercises he does in class, but we think it’s perfect for his line of work. He loves to lay down at people’s feet and let them love on him, and he is so gentle you can trust him around even the tiniest of children!