Hi, I’m Dr. Harley (aka “Dog-tor” Harley). I’m the resident therapy dog here at Austin Pets Alive!, providing a much-needed listening ear, emotional support and calming presence to the humans working hard to get dogs like me adopted. My days are pretty jam-packed and I never know what they’ll bring. Sometimes my clients present with a classic case of separation anxiety, while other times I’m just a sounding board for their doggy drama. I get asked all the time what it’s like to be a four-legged therapist, so I’m pulling back the curtain to give you a glimpse into a day in the life of Dr. Harley. (All names have been changed to maintain client confidentiality.)
7am: I prefer to sleep at the office, since I like to be here for my clients at all hours of the day. As soon as I wake up, I do a quick yoga routine (downward dog is my favorite pose), have a glass of cold water, and fill out my daily gratitude journal.
8am: First client arrives. Marvin has been coming to see me for a couple of years to treat his ongoing pug addiction. He’s a man of few words, but seems to benefit from my soft tail wags, puppy-dog eyes, and occasional well-timed woofs. Before we complete our session, I gently remind him that he’s two months behind on payment. (I gladly accept all standard payment methods: pets, toys, treats, “good boys.”)
9am: Quick break to take care of business. And I don’t mean bookkeeping…
9:35am: Bethany arrives (five minutes late, as usual). We had a major breakthrough in her last session, but I can tell she’s deflecting today. All she wants to do is talk about me: Am I potty trained? Of course. Do I get scared when left home alone? Nope. Do I consider myself adventurous? Yes. Do I want a home to call my own? Absolutely!
11am: Well-deserved lunch hour. I like to get out and stretch my legs to release some tension between sessions. I meet up with a human buddy to play a rousing game of fetch (which I’m pretty good at, if I do say so myself.)
12pm: My next session is especially gratifying. Natalie has what’s referred to as OPD, obsessive petting disorder. In other words, if she sees a dog, she has to pet it. And pet it. And pet it. Personally, I find nothing wrong with this, so I’ve chosen to use the classic Gestalt practice of exaggeration, where I encourage her to pet me as much and as often as she wants to within the confines of my office. It’s working really well for me—er, her, I mean.
1:30pm: Continued education and compliance training. According to my supervisor, one of my clients reported that I wasn’t respecting their personal space enough. But it’s not my fault I’m 65 pounds of pure snuggly softness.
3pm: Walk-and-talk session with my client, Enrique. I’m trying to help him recover from an upbringing in which he wasn’t allowed to have dogs. I find this particularly troubling and remind him in a joking (but also serious) manner that he could always adopt me.
5pm: Close out the workday by visiting my own therapist. Because all good therapists have a therapist, after all.
7pm: Netflix and chill while chowing down on some dinner. I’ve been really into this new dog-umentary series lately, so I binge watch a few episodes to unwind after a long day.
9pm: Mini meditation and quiet reflection time. Head to my crate to catch some Zzzs, dreaming of that beautiful adoptive home Bethany asked me about today.
About Dr. Harley: Harley is the unofficial emotional support dog for the Behavior Team at APA!, sharing the office space with many close staff and volunteer friends. At 10 years old, he’s the perfect combination of mature gentleman and sprightly young soul, with a passion for fetch, tennis balls, and big sticks. His hobbies include scent work, begging for booty scratches, and flashing his trademark grin. He’s an excellent at-home companion who’s just as happy to snooze on a comfy dog bed as he is to go for an outdoor adventure. He’s currently looking for a foster or adoptive home, and you can meet him by emailing [email protected].