Aby-a-Day – July 31: Jake’s first ArtBeat (Friday Flashback)

Jacoby went to his first ArtBeat in 2010.

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He was amazing. He was just over a year old, but he hadn’t been with me a year yet.

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We didn’t have a stroller yet. We used his Snoozer Rollaround carrier. But it was partially because of ArtBeat that I decided to investigate getting a stroller for Jake.

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Jake took to ArtBeat like a natural.

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The best interaction was with a boy named Jason.

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Jason was developmentally challenged, and he was a sweetheart. He loved Jake and even gave me a big hug. It was the moment that I knew that Jake would be a good therapy cat, and that we’d be a good therapy team. I’ll really miss going to ArtBeat…it’s really a very special event.

Aby-a-Day – November 19: Wordless Wednesday (Jump)

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Aby-a-Day – November 16: Assessment

Jacoby and I had our recertification assessment for Pet Partners today. Since he didn’t pass the last time, we didn’t take the train; my husband drove us. We also took the test in a different room that was completely dog-free.

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Jake did a lot better this time than last time; being in the new room definitely helped.

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And he was really happy to be back in his stroller. In fact, he was a little too happy to be back in his stroller…and that may actually have been part of the problem.

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When Jake was doing the parts of the assessment that involved him not being in his stroller (on someone’s lap, being held by me or someone else, or on a table), he hissed and growled. Not at anyone – these were “in general” hisses and growls – and once he was back in his stroller, he would purr and knead his cushions.

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However, the growling was bad sign, regardless of the reason for it, and he didn’t pass his assessment again. Deb, the person who did his assessment today and who’s done all of his previous assessments, is afraid he might be suffering from therapy burnout. He still obviously loves and enjoys aspects of therapy visits, he doesn’t seem to love all of it, at least when he’s being tested. He’s never growled or hissed on an actual visit, but the concern is that if he does it during the test, he could do it on a visit, and the last thing you want to do is scare a patient. So, for the time being we’re still on a break.

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We aren’t going to take the test again until March, and if he doesn’t pass then, well…maybe he’ll be a retired therapy cat. We’ll just have to see.

Aby-a-Day – September 18: Waterfront walk

After our trip to Grafton on Sunday, Jake wanted to walk home, and since we don’t have all that many more nice warm days left, I indulged him.

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When he feels like walking, he just hops out and trots along next to the stroller.

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He didn’t walk for very long, though. We were both pretty tired.

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It was a long day. When we got home, we both took a nap together.

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Hard to believe that soon it’ll be too cold to take walks like this.

Aby-a-Day – September 14: Trip to Grafton

Jacoby and I took the Commuter Rail out to Grafton today for our recertification assessment.

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It was a nice, uneventful trip, unlike last time.

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He had a pretty good time exploring the lobby of the Tufts Veterinary administration building.

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Despite all the dogs.

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I was very happy to be able to get a few more copies of the Catnip newsletter with the article about therapy cats and Jake.

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I was only able to get one copy mailed to me because I’m not a subscriber. I tried using the “but that’s my photo of my cat” argument, but it didn’t work. So it was an unexpected boon to get a few more copies.

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On our train ride home, Jake made a new friend.

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This little girl was thrilled to see a kitty on the train.

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And Jake was pretty happy to have a little girl pet him. He’s so great with kids.

Aby-a-Day – September 12: Certifiable (Friday Flashback)

This weekend, Jacoby and I need to go out to Grafton and get recertified with Pet Partners and Tufts Paws for People. Basically, every two years we need to have our skills and aptitude assesed so we can renew our documents and continue to visit.

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I’m not too concerned about passing; after all, Jacoby is a bit of a natural.

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But the first time we took the assessment…

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…I’ll admit I was a little nervous.

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I knew he’d be great with strangers.

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But there’s one part of the test where he has to sit on someone’s lap for 30 seconds without anyone touching him. I wasn’t sure he could sit still that long.

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I needn’t have worried.

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We passed the first assessment as well as our reassessment in 2012. We should be just fine on Sunday.

Aby-a-Day – December 19: Winter vet visit

Kylie’s been having runny, goopy eyes lately, so last week I took her to the vet.

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It was really cold when we went – something in the high teens, if I remember correctly, so I took her in the stroller with the SnuggleSafe heating pad all warmed up. She also wore a little fleece jacket, so she was nice and toasty.

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The stroller has a cover that helps block any wind and keep in the heat. The front is a tight mesh, but cats can see out through it.

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Jacoby also came with us, to help keep Kylie warm and to lend some moral support.

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Jake is the only cat I know who enjoys going to the vet. He loves to see everyone and he loves all the attention.

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Nothing fazes him, not even the canine patients, which included a very active 4 month old puppy.

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Lyndsay took this one of Jake showing off in his holiday hoodie for treats. Dogs? What dogs?

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Kylie, on the other hand, was perfectly happy to stay in the stroller.

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In fact, as soon as Dr. Yollanda finished examining her, Kylie went straight back into the stroller to cuddle up with Jake. Jake is such a good therapy cat – he helps humans and felines!

Aby-a-Day – May 17: “Therapy is incredibly therapeutic” (Friday Flashback)

While today Jacoby is a veteran therapy cat, that wasn’t always the case.

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Everyone has to start somewhere. Jake and I started in 2010.

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First I took a class to teach me to be a therapy human.

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Then Jake and I went out in public to practice. We did the things we do now, really: went shopping, hung out at Art Beat, the usual.

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Finally, we had to pass a test that involved real-life scenarios we might encounter while on a visit.

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Our first assignment was at a nursing home in Dedham.

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It was a great facility, but it was complicated to get to without a car.

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The program director also resigned a month or so after we started, so we started going to a different nursing home.

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This one was easier to get to, but it was still a tricky commute on the T’s green line.

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It also turns out that Jake’s therapy talents aren’t really geared towards nursing homes. He’s not so much a “sitting on the bed quietly” sort of cat as some other breeds are.

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When we went to visit students in the residence hall during finals at RISD (the Rhode Island School of Design), it was clear that Jake had found his therapy niche!

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And of course, now, with our regular visits to Tufts Medical Center…

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…and special assignments, like our trip last month to visit first responders at the Boston Marathon finish line bombing, it’s clear that Jake is a consummate therapy cat!

Aby-a-Day – February 24: We DO need those stinking badges!

Yesterday Jacoby and I went to Tufts Medical Center to get our volunteer ID badge photos taken.

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Of course, it involved getting his photo taken, so it was a pretty easy task to complete

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According to hospital rules, every volunteer must wear their own badge.

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Including the animal volunteers!

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Now that Jake and I are all badged up, and we have our Tufts volunteer vests, we’re ready to go to work!

Aby-a-Day – July 15: Two more years! Two more years!

Today was a pretty big day for Jacoby and me. Today we went out to Tufts Veterinary Campus out in Grafton to get our <a href="certified Pet Partners” target=#>Pet Partners certification renewed.

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You may remember when we got certified the first time, two years ago. Jake passed with flying colours; in fact, our evaluator, Deb Gibbs, told me that Jake was born to be a therapy animal.

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Today was hot and humid, and I guess Jake was a little cranky because I carried him more than I usually do. He hissed at the “neutral dog!” He’s usually unfazed by the Canidae family, and he was fine before and after with the other dogs in the lobby.

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Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone to take photos of us actually doing the evaluation this time, but here’s Deb, the person who conducted the test, talking to Jake after we were done.

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It was a really long day for us both. We were both exhausted when it was all over.

Aby-a-Day – June 15: Commonality (Friday Flashback)

The recent trip to Boston Common Jacoby and I took last weekend, and the children we met with, reminded me of the first time we went to the Common.

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This was our first outing of the spring, the first day it was warm enough to go outside after a long Boston winter. Jake, having been born in April, didn’t get a lot of outdoor leash-walking practice during the previous summer before it got too cold to go out.

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Nevertheless, he marched around the park like a pro. I always say that he’s a natural when it comes to walking on a leash, and this is why. I’ve had a lot of leash-trained cats in my life, but Jake has always been the most at-ease.

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When we met this little boy, it didn’t faze Jake one bit.

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That’s another thing about Jake that has always amazed me. He just likes little kids. I think, in fact, that this was the first child he ever really met. And he was so good with the boy, and so relaxed, it was like he had been raised around children.

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This is why I want to find a therapy gig working with kids. I think Jake would really be awesome at it. He just naturally seems to appreciate human kittens.

Aby-a-Day – May 7: Well-trained (Hipstamatic Monday)

To get to the cat show this past weekend, Jacoby and I took the Commuter Rail to Lowell, where my friend Karen, who lives in New Hampshire, picked me up.

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I don’t know what it is about trains and Hipstamatic, but they seem to go together so well.

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It must be the whole retro-1970’s vibe both Hipstamatic and most of the Commuter Rail trains have.

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But as were were saying all weekend, Mr. Bulletproof is really placid in the show ring.

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Like, unnaturally-for-an-Abyssinian relaxed. Like, are-you-positive-this-isn’t-a-British Shorthair-on-downers-in-an-Aby-suit calm, cool and collected.

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Did I spoil him for the cat show circuit by taking him out on adventures in public transportation?

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Did training him to be a therapy cat, unfazed by dogs, machinery or unexpected things make him less representative of his breed in the show ring?

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Perhaps. I mean, there aren’t many cats on the planet that will sit on the seat of a train with his paws folded beneath his chest.

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Well…I guess that makes the ribbons awarded by judges who see through his tranquil façade all the sweeter, then, doesn’t it?

Aby-a-Day – March 28: Wordless Wednesday (Ready to go!)

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Aby-a-Day – March 8: An impromptu trip to the vet

Kylie came down with a case of the sniffles, so just in case I took her to the vet yesterday for a quick look-see. Since it was cold and very windy out, I took her in Jacoby’s stroller so I could use his heating pad.

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As an additional warmer and moral supporter, I also brought Jake. I figured Kylie would like the company, especially since she’s never ridden in the stroller before. Also, after his accident I figured a trip to the vet in which nothing bad happened to him would be a Good Thing, and anytime we go out is good therapy practice.

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Kylie seemed to enjoy riding in the stroller, and she spent most of her time on the heating pad. One thing she did that Jake really doesn’t do was look out the back window. I thought it was cute that Jake joined her; it was almost like he’d never noticed it before!

Kylie is fine. She had an X-ray taken (I was afraid she might have inhaled some water during her last bath) and she’s on antibiotics and Hill’s a/d canned food, so she’ll be fine in a couple of days.

And then, a call to therapy

Out of the blue on Friday, I got this email:

I am writing to ask whether you and your Pet Partner would be willing to come in to visit residents at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center at NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham.
Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Dedham provides both short-term rehabilitation and long-term care to a total of 268 elderly residents. Our facility has been open for a little more than a year, and as the Volunteer Coordinator, one of my highest priorities is to bring in canine-human volunteer teams. We are a dog-friendly facility, and the presence of animals here would truly enhance the quality of life for many of our residents.

Wow, right? I’ve been wondering how we were going to break into the therapy thing. After Jacoby’s escalator incident, and then the holidays, therapy visits have been on the back burner. So to get this email out of nowhere was pretty awesome. There was just one tiny little word that worried me… So I responded:

There are just two things…
One, I don’t have a dog. My partner is an Abyssinian cat named Jacoby (Jake). He’s very interactive, loves people, and isn’t afraid of very much at all. He loves meeting people and would be great in your situation. If you check my blog (address below), you will see photos of him out on adventures with me.
So, if you don’t mind a feline-volunteer team, we’d love to come in!
Second, I don’t drive…but I assume you’re T accesible?

Luckily, the answer was quick and positive!

I would LOVE to have you and Jake come…I had assumed he was a dog because I haven’t heard of two many cats doing this type of work. I have two cats myself, and they are a little too high-strung. I think our residents would absolutely love it!
If you take the Orange Line to the Forest Hills T station, we have a
shuttle that picks people up on a regular schedule and brings them back to our facility. We are not right on a T line, but lots of the employees and some of the volunteers travel here that way. Is that doable for you?
I’d love to meet with you at a time that works for you.

After a game of phone tag and an actual conversation, Jake and I will be going on a visit to the center on Monday afternoon. I am excited and yes, a little nervous. This is going to be a big week for me and Jake, both as partners and individually.

Aby-a-Day – Day 256 of 365

As promised, here are some photos of Team Jacoby becoming certified Pet Partners yesterday. The assessment was done at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton. I must thank my husband not only for driving us there but also for taking all of these photos!

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Jake in the waiting room before our test. They were actually running a bit behind schedule so we had to wait longer than we expected. There was a dog there who was also waiting to be recertified, and of course Jake had to go check him out.

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Here we are meeting with Deb just before the actual assessment began. You can see that Jake, while accepting pettin’s from Deb, is also getting distracted by my husband and the camera. “Hey Dad! Watcha doing over there?”

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Here he is being handled and brushed by a stranger. Jake’s pretty much fine with people who want to pay attention to him. Shocking, I know. In case you’re curious, I am wearing my “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this” T-shirt, which I thought was appropriate to the situation.

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This is a part of the test called “Out For a Walk,” for which cats can be carried (dogs have to walk both ways), but we actually walked the course one way and I carried him on the way back. I’ve always said Jake has an incredible “follow” instinct, and he didn’t let me down this time.

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This part of the test involved Jake going to sit in three different strangers’ laps, with me encouraging him.

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This bit was a little trickier – he had to sit and stay on each person’s lap without jumping off and without them (or me) interacting with him – this was the one test I was most worried about, as you can imagine, but he actually managed to sit still on all three laps for at least 10 seconds! Not bad for an Aby.

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Here he is being petted and handled by a stranger wearing “different” attire (hat and shawl) and using a walker while there’s an argument going on behind him. I thought the Red Sox hat was appropriate.

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Jake being petted by a mob all at once. We know he’s good at this one, although he usually does it on the ground or in his stroller, not in my arms.

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And, at last, here he is relaxing after it was all over…flat on the floor! I know I just posted about both him and Angel lying like this just last week, but it still never fails to make me laugh.

So that’s it! Now we just mail in the paperwork and wait for our credentials. And that’s what I did on my summer vacation.

Aby-a-Day – Day 255 of 365

I know you’re all dying to know how Jacoby’s assessment went today…

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Well, long story short…Pellburn’s Jacoby Stealin’ Home and I are a certified Pet Partner therapy team!

Aby-a-Day – Day 254 of 365

Jacoby and I have our Delta Society Pet Partner therapy team assessment tomorrow. I’m not nervous, exactly, but I’m pretty excited for the test. It’s been pretty much my major focus all summer long.

One thing that we started doing is going to the SoWa Open Market in the South End. It’s not at all far from where we live, and it’s great practice for therapy visits. One time we went, a little girl just fell in love with Jake and not only hugged and kissed him, but she took her doll and put it in his stroller so it could kiss him, too. We tried to go last Sunday for one last practice run before the assessment, but it was closed for the holiday weekend. That was disappointing, since we won’t have time to go tomorrow.

The market has a great outdoor craft fair and farmer’s market, and inside is an antique mall. Jake even had his photo taken by the official market photographer!

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Jake seems to think that apron would look a lot better with cats on it instead of dogs.

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Inside there are huge fans running to keep it cool. Jake is unfazed by the noise and the wind produced by these mini-turbines.

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He is also unimpressed by a bossy chihuahua’s attitude.

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He handles being around strangers’ feet and petting hands with aplomb. I hope that means he’s ready for the exam tomorrow.

Aby-a-Day – Day 228 of 365

We went home from the Apple Store on the #9 bus after getting our iPhones. The subway is usually the best way to go anywhere in Boston, but in some cases the bus is actually more direct.

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Jacoby’s ridden on a bus before when we’ve gone to see the vet, but this was the first time he’s been able to have a view out the windows.

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One completely great thing that happened while we were on the bus was that a woman sitting near us happened to drop her cane, which fell to the floor with a loud bang. Jake barely noticed it; he may have flicked an ear in the direction of the sound, but he wasn’t at all startled. This is another thing he’ll be tested for in his therapy pet partner evaluation; when I was helping out, we actually dropped a set of crutches. So his not reacting to a loud crash is awesome.

Aby-a-Day – Day 227 of 365

This weekend was the Sales Tax Holiday in Massachusetts. To celebrate, my husband and I went to the Apple Store on Boylston Street to get our new iPhones. We took Jacoby along with us, since it was a nice day, and because we knew that well-behaved pets are allowed in the Apple Store. And it was the first real-life trial of Jake’s new stroller.

He was so calm and relaxed, it was incredible.

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He was also undaunted by the long line.

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And he was completely fascinated by watching people go up and down the big glass spiral staircase.

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A small dog didn’t escape his notice, either. This was one of at least four dogs we saw in the store.

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The number of people didn’t faze him a bit. At one point, he was surrounded by three young boys, all reaching into the stroller and petting him at once. He didn’t even blink, which made me so happy. That’s actually one of the things they test for when certifying therapy animals.

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He did get a little bored after a while, though.

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In the end, though, we emerged from the Apple store victorious, and went to catch the bus home with our new iPhone firmly in paw.