A Therapy Dog visit can perform miracles for nursing home, hospital or hospice patients! Grab a Kleenex and read Poodle owner’s true story and think what your dog could do...
THERAPY DOG CHRISTMAS
Vickie Haywood, USUI Reiki Master
Many years ago I was very involved in therapy work, mostly in nursing homes.
This was long enough ago that we had to work hard to even get in the door with a dog... At that time I had Ch Oakwood Cantellees Devonson, CD and my standard poodle ShaePre Loganberry CDX as my companions and we visited nursing homes in Scotland and Moore County.
This time I visited the nursing home in south Scotland County where I had been many times. The nurses all knew me and the dogs. Generally we were met at the door by one nurse or the other who would give me clues to the gathering that day. She would say things like Mrs X has been sick she needs some extra dog hugs, or we have a new patient that is a stroke patient can’t use this hand or that hand. Or, someone is very sad today. Knowing these things we could act accordingly.
On this visit I arrived with my therapy poodle, all dressed up for Christmas. He wore a collar with miniature lights that flashed and it was very cute. I wore a sweatshirt with a poodle on it and it had lights too. A little Christmas spirit please… nursing homes can be so depressing.
There was quite a gathering in the TV room, some in wheel chairs, some on walkers and other patients quite spry. I would always give a short demonstration of obedience work. More like every trick the dogs knew!! Logan was especially adept at find and seek so I often had a nurse give a patient a toy to hide in a lap robe. Logan's trick when I sent him to "seek" was to find the toy and gently place a paw on the persons lap. It was always a big hit with the older folks.
On this day he did his tricks with aplomb; speak and whisper, dead dog, sit, down on hand signals, fetch a dumbbell, say your prayers. He did the "seek" and received much applause. Then we went to visit individuals.
All the while, I had been watching a patient in a wheel chair that never showed any interest in what we were doing. Logan, being an astute dog, always made a B-line for the person who needed him the most and I always followed his lead. On this day he went directly to the lady that had shown no interest. I stood to her left with Logan on my left and asked if she would like to pet the dog. She nodded her head so I gave Logan the command for “paw on lap for petting” and he looked at me, flipped around to the other side of her chair and again looked up at me. Being the dog trainer that I am, I corrected him to my left side once again and gave the command a second time and got the exact same response.
As my mind was saying “hummm training coming...” the nurse came over and whispered to me "I’m so sorry Vickie, I forgot to tell you she’s paralyzed on her left side."
I felt about an inch tall. So I switched to her right side gave the command and not only did my dog disobey me, he broke a huge rule - he actually put 1/2 of his body in the patient’s lap! Before I could reach down to remove him, she started bawling, buried her face in his fur, and said "oh my darling, I’ve missed you so." She chatted for several minutes with my dog, completely ignoring me.
I shrugged it off but when I was done visiting and approached the front desk to check out one of the nurses came to me crying. She said, do you have any idea what just happened in there? I said other than needing to train my dog some more, no what??
She laughed then and said “Mrs X had her stroke 6 months ago, she’s been here 2 weeks and has not uttered a word until today.”
I was utterly dumbfounded.
As I was driving home that evening the words of Ken Nagler, my long ago Obedience teacher, came to me. "Trust your dog." A small Christmas Miracle had happened that day. Logan made many more visits to see her before she passed away. I learned in broken sentences that she had owned several Standard poodles in her life, and the nurses told me her family was delighted when she told them about her poodle visitor.
So my friends, get out there and do some visiting. You just never know when you might make a huge impact on someone’s life.
Oh, and Merry Christmas.
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