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My 10 year old therapy dog, Tali, who has visited the hospital on a weekly basis for the past 7+ years, has suddenly developed an aversion to working there. She has always been amazing -- full of love, super gentle and also pretty good at tricks. Tali has even been featured on a couple of cable TV shows and has gotten awards. Now she shows a lot of stress when we visit, won't do any tricks, is disinterested in treats and just wants to leave. I can't pinpoint anything that may have happened to explain this new behavior. She is absolutely fine everywhere else. We took a few weeks off, but this has not helped. Today I tried taking her to a different unit in a building several blocks away from the main hospital, but again she was stressed and unhappy. Yet, when we visited the volunteer office across from the hospital, she behaved normally. Tali has given so much of herself over the years that I am beginning to wonder if it's possible she's gotten burned out from working with hospital patients. Has anyone ever heard of something like this? Any other thoughts?
 

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First order of business would be a health check up including a thorough eye exam and a Six panel thyroid sent to DR Dodds. It could be an underlying health issue causing her to have some anxiety or just causing her to not feel up to being around people she doesn't know.
 

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First order of business would be a health check up including a thorough eye exam and a Six panel thyroid sent to DR Dodds. It could be an underlying health issue causing her to have some anxiety or just causing her to not feel up to being around people she doesn't know.
Thanks for your response. A vet check was something that crossed my mind and I will follow through on this. Who is DR Dodds, by the way?
 

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I agree with cshellenberger, because the dog may have started to have pains from arthritis, etc., and she doesn't want the extra effort needed for therapy. If the Vet doesn't fnd anything and doesn't recommend pain meds, then I suggest that you stop going to therapy, if it is no longer fun...
 

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Look at the top of the health forum, there's a sticky on how thyroid affects dogs with an article by dr dodds, a vet the has researched the subject
 

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Dr. Dodds is located in CA, but you can ship blood samples to her from anywhere. She is considered an expert on dog thyroid diseases. Her prices are relatively inexpensive and her services allow you to rule out problems that a normal blood panel would not look at.

It may be your dog's age. She may have arthritic changes going on, or hearing and vision changes (which can make a hospital setting scary). Definitely think she needs to see the vet.
 

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Maybe perhaps something happened there?

Could be health related with a bad association. My one dog got sick at my friends house and won't go there anymore.

She's done a far and good service to people that any amount of doing so is commendable. She doesn't sound like in a position to give when she needs to get attention now. She has to be happy and willing to give. Nothing wrong if she is done with that time in her life and she may very well be done for good.

Hope everything healthwise is alright.
 

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I did take Tali to the vet today for a complete check-up. I will get the blood test results shortly. She is such a good creature -- beloved at the vet's too. I thank you all for your advice and concern. And please know that I will absolutely allow her to retire from being a therapy dog if need be. Her joy at doing this work was always apparent and if it is gone, then I will understand and accept that this chapter of our lives together has come to an end. And, by the way, Tali's story is a particularly touching one, since she was seized by the police due to serious neglect at about 1 1/2 years of age, at which point I adopted her. Despite (or perhaps because of) all her trauma -- and it was apparent for the first few months I had her -- she is one extraordinary dog.
 

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Please let us know how Tali is doing! Pictures too please. :)

I have heard of burn out in SAR dogs. I guess it happens to most if not all of them before they retire. Its a lot of stress and hard work! I've read that especially for SAR dogs in disaster zones, if they are 'finding' a lot of cadavers, then the best thing to do is get a few 'live finds' in as well. It really helps to keep the dogs motivated.

I don't know if this is relevant or not for you, but maybe the mood in the hospital has been rather grim? Does Tali have a favorite patient she likes to see or someone who really loves when Tali comes and could be really cheerful for her? Maybe she just needs to be reminded of how loved and special she is. Or maybe it is time to retire...
 

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So far all of Tali's blood work has come back negative, except for a positive Lyme titer, which may or may not mean anything. I'm taking her back to have some more blood drawn for a different Lyme test, so we will see about that. Insofar as her hospital work, which is primarily in Pediatrics, Tali has always gotten lots of hugs and smiles from both patients and staff and even gets into bed with the kids for a cuddle. The atmosphere is generally not grim at all, but Tali does give her absolute all to each patient. So I'm thinking she may just have gotten worn out and she is getting older, although that's still hard to see (the vet told me she's actually closer to age 12 -- a bit of denial on my part).
This probably sounds a bit flaky, but I may also contact an animal communicator to see what she comes up with. I met her last year and was initially quite skeptical, but she told me some pretty impressive stuff (including the fact that Tali had been a shelter dog who came there due to neglect and was now a wonderful therapy dog). Go figure!
 
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