Kun Li’s 12-year-old daughter was so scared of dogs, she’d run off the sidewalk and into the street if she saw one coming.
“This is very dangerous,” the worried mother tells BarkPost.
So Rou the Pit Bull therapy dog was enlisted to help, in a most creative way — a way that helped the girl let it go, let it be.
Rou is an 11-year-old pup who was rescued off the euthanasia list of an Illinois shelter back in 2007.
He was a goofball with no obedience training at the time, and “I never thought he would be a therapy dog,” says adoptive mom Callie Cozzolino, executive director of Chicago-based Canine Therapy Corps.
But the good boy had a knack. And in 2008, Rou was certified. For the last eight years — between naps — he’s helped out at places like hospitals, rehab centers, and schools.
Canine Therapy Corps specializes in what’s known as “goal-directed” therapy — meaning the dogs don’t just go visit folks to cheer them up, but participate in a person’s treatment to achieve specific objectives.
In this case, the objective was to help this girl not react to dogs in ways that’d put her life in danger.
To reach that end, Rou’s handlers employed a number of techniques: they held a therapy dog parade on the grounds of the hospital where the girl gets her treatment; they have her practice making eye contact with whomever is walking Rou.
And then, one of the Canine Therapy Corps team-members came up with the perfect way to help their charge really let it go.
The girl — whose name has been kept quiet to protect her privacy, so let’s just call her “Elsa” — is a big fan of the Disney film Frozen (as may be legally required of all 12-year-olds?).
So Callie and her team created a series of cards that referenced the film and had Rou hold them in his sweet mouth while the girl sat nearby.
Callie says she doesn’t quite remember how the idea of incorporating Frozen into therapy arose. Just that she and her team are always looking for creative ways to help clients reach their goals, to “figure out what will motivate them the most,” she says. “There’s always something you can do.”
The signs “really seemed to help,” says Aveline Ajalan, a Psy.D student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology who is working with “Elsa” on her dog fear. She “loosened up” around Rou, and the signs “got her to be in the same space as him.”
“Elsa” is away with her family for the summer. Calle is “excited to see when she comes back, see what it looks like,” she says. “It’s just a really wonderful family.”
Our hope: When the girl and her therapy dog reunite again, love will be an open door.