Sunday, August 5, 2012

It's my pleasure

Hey, Dad? Here, let me have your hand.

With fingers outstretched, a hand is placed atop the dog's warm and softy furred head.

A smile.

He looks just like Goldie, Dad.

A nod. The smile broadens.
The hand is making smooth stroking motions, fingers feeling the long hair on the dog's ears . . .

And then Micron starts up a vigorous slurping party with his tongue on the guy's hand and the moment is gone.

Oh! This dog and his tongue, I say, fishing into my bag for the hand sanitizer. Ugh, I'm so sorry. Here I have some. . .

No, it's ok, says the son. Goldie used to do the same thing. Dad would let her do that after he came home from work. It was how he relaxed.  See? Look at his face.

I do. His head is held high, the unseeing eyes focused on nothing, but his mind's eye is bringing back memories of his Goldie for him.  This is a man who has known the love of a golden retriever.

And in this frozen little niblet of time, he is happy. 

Thank you, says the son.

It's my pleasure, I say.

Because it's true.

And so goes our mvPTa volunteer work as a pet therapy team at Hospice of Dayton. We still have oh-so-much to learn at this gig, but our mistakes so far have been blessedly few.

I've learned that just because a family wants desperately for your team to visit, the patient may not always agree. Some may even have a fear of dogs that we need to be in tune to.

Micron's learning that some other therapy dogs actually have a need for a little personal space and don't want his tongue up their left nostril right now, thank you very much.

And we're both learning those things that you just can't get in a training session.  The truths that can only be reached by the experience of it all.

Every room we enter has a person with a life story. We don't know any of the chapters they've written, but we do know that if we make it into their story it will not be anything more than a few words surrounded by parentheses (we saw a dog today).  But that's ok, really. We're not after any big picture stuff here.

All we have to offer is a moment of peace of mind or to be able to open up a happy memory that's been put away in deep storage. To bring a distraction to the heavy thoughts of the day.

That we can do, Micron and I. 

Good Dog, Mikey, I say.

Micron looks at me and wags his tail.  It's my pleasure, he says.


6 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Hi Leigh Ann - Absolutely, I agree! They can reach people in ways we'll likely never understand. It's been amazing and we just got started!

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  2. Donna, my Mom is in a Nursing Home in her final stages of Alzheimer's. My daughter and I always take Zoltan with us to visit her. Mom always loved dogs, would let them lick all over her, bite her hair, you name it! Now it depends on her day. Sometimes she'll push Zoltan away, but I don't let that deter me, I just tell him "lap" again and he happily jumps up and usually she'll come around :)
    We mainly take him to give him socialization (he's just 6 months old), plus they have 2 in house cats that is good training for him too, but most all of the other Alzheimer patients just love him. They are so happy to pet him, and it brings a smile to my face seeing a spark of joy in their otherwise confused days.

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    Replies
    1. Alzheimer's is such a thief, sorry that your family is dealing with it. How wonderful that Zoltan can bring your mom happiness. And some joy to the other patients as well.

      We brought Micron to the Alzeimer's unit at our Dayton VA hospital and he was a rock star. Bringing up memories and putting smiles on faces. You've reminded me we need to make another visit soon.

      But wait . . .Zoltan knows Lap at six months? Wow, well done.

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  3. Donna,
    Thank you both for touching the lives of our patients here at Hospice of Dayton. This blog post is beautifully written and i have shared it on our Hospice of Dayton Facebook page so that others may hear your story as well. It is also our pleasure to work with such dedicated volunteers and I love your perspective on the time that you spend here. It is valuable and so much appreciated!
    Thank you for all that you do.
    Ashley Wright
    Content and Publications Specialist, Hospice of Dayton

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    Replies
    1. Ashley, thank you so much for the kind words and the share on FB. There are so many different ways we could put Micron to work in his new therapy career, but I had a gut feeling that Hospice was where he needed to be spending his time. This dog has a way of reading people and their moods.

      We are glad to have even this small role for Hospice of Dayton. What wonderful work you do for people and their families. Thank you for letting us be part of it.

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