Hey, Dad? Here, let me have your hand.
With fingers outstretched, a hand is placed atop the dog's warm and softy furred head.
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.