Not always a happy time… MERRY! HAPPY! JOYFUL! Words we hear throughout the the holiday season. We greet people we see by saying Have a Merry Christmas! Or, end a conversation with Happy New Year! We are surrounded by holiday music and people talking about their family plans for the holidays. Be cognizant when making visits with your therapy dog that folks in facilities may not be seeing anyone, or doing anything during that period when supposedly everyone is jolly. In particular, patients in mental health facilities have a very hard time getting through this period. For them, holidays may conjure up very unpleasant memories; residents in nursing homes may not have any relatives nearby to visit them on Christmas. Stop for a moment and think what it would be like… then, think about how happy people are when you visit with your therapy dog… your DOG and YOU are creating the joyful moment. The opportunity for the person you’re visiting to spend time with your dog; perhaps the dog showers her with kisses, cuddles in her lap, or just lies down by her feet. If the patient was sitting sadly thinking about holidays past, your presence has brightened her day. Often, I have taken a photo of my dog with the patient ahead of time – then given it to the patient at that particular visit. She then can enjoy looking at the photo after we have left – which brings to mind HAPPY thoughts. Visiting folks at the holidays is very important. Try not to miss your regularly scheduled visit – and perhaps you can make it a bit longer. The gift of comfort and caring will bring immeasurable JOY.