Spend this shift with an amazing nursing home caretaker and we guarantee you will be comforted as you smile, wipe your tears, and hold your dog closer….
by Jim Papworth
Two A.M.: The Nursing Home halls are quiet and dim. I walk through the first floor, looking in each room to make sure my charges are resting easy. I pass the nurses station, nod in silent greeting. I come to Tommy's room, he's awake in bed, whimpering. Tommy was Thomas when he came here to live. Then he became Tom and now he is Tommy. He's not really aware of where he is any more. I go in and sit beside him. He likes me to do that, it seems to bring him comfort. Soon he is asleep again.
Back to the nursing station, push the button to summon the elevator. My colleagues are down the hall helping Norma into bed after her hourly trip to the bathroom. The elevator door whispers open, I get on and press the button for the second floor where I get off and walk down the north wing. Everybody seems to be OK. Out the door onto the terrace.
The nights are turning warmer and it's clear and beautiful out here tonight. Two of Ginny's grown grandkids are standing out here, sneaking a smoke. They tell me Ginny seems to be more "there" tonight. Ginny has just had hip replacement surgery. She has lots of kids and grandkids that try to share time so that "Gins" is never alone. Nice Family.
I go inside and head down the South wing. Ina is reading, she doesn't sleep much. She likes war novels. Can you believe that? Here is this 91 year old woman, hair primly "up" for the night, commanding fleets and armies, courtesy of Tom Clancy. I get the latest about how we SHOULD have resolved the thing with China holding our Navy plane crew. I agree. Hey, do you think I'm going to argue with a woman who thinks she's Robert E. Lee, The Duke of Wellington AND William Wallace all rolled into one?
Nanny is in 211. Nanny has a "private duty" care-giver. Nice guy. Nanny's two sons and her two oldest grandkids are here tonight. That's good to see. All too often when one of our residents gets ready to leave, nobody comes to sit with them and help them prepare for the trip.
I continue on my rounds. The Duke lives in 228 B. His real name is Harold but nobody EVER calls him anything but "The Duke". He's another of our "characters". He pretends to be an old curmudgeon but he's really an old sweetie. The Duke sees us and goes into his routine about: "How can a guy get a little rest in this joint with every (blank) (blank) body parading by every (blank) (blank) ten minutes?" The Duke's room is a double but we try not to give him a roommate ;-). He gives me his usual little kiss and pat. All the girls working the Floor say you got to watch The Duke, he's got "fast hands". He's another insomniac and has his coin collection spread out all over the vacant bed in his room. The Duke was in the Navy and has coins from all over the world. Each coin has a story and if you don't mind the frequent themes of bars, fights and the many ladies that have graced The Duke's life, the stories are fascinating.
I leave The Duke's room so "A guy can get a little rest and maybe, if you don't keep thundering back and forth all night, a little (blank) (blank) sleep!" I love The Duke.
Well, time for me to take a break. The kitchen crew will be in soon, I'll be supervising breakfast. This is a really full, full time job. I've no complaints though. I wouldn't want it any other way. A little over a year ago I was really down and out. My family had broken up and it looked like I wasn't going to have much of a future. When you think about it, I'm lucky to be alive at all.
I'm needed here and valued for what I bring to the job. My name is Angel. I'm a 5 year old, female (spayed, natural ears, docked tail), Boxer. A former owner surrender. Today I'm a full time, Resident Therapy Boxer in a Nursing Home in New Jersey.
Note by Jim Papworth ~ Angel really exists. I wrote this story while I sat with my Mom in the Nursing Home after watching Angel work. The residents portrayed; Tommy, Ina, Ginny, Norma and The Duke are real examples of some of the wide range of people who now call this home, Home. Nanny of course is my Mom and Caesar is truly Nanny's "private duty care giver".
Angel does make her "rounds" each and every night. She does it "solo," has the run of the residence and uses the elevator. She can open doors on her own. When I'm with my Mom, Caesar will go along with her for a time, helping her to check up on her "charges". She is always supervised but not closely. She has earned the very special trust she now enjoys. Besides her night rounds, Angel works with the physical therapists as an Animal Assisted Therapy Dog during the day. Her main job though is to bring comfort and joy to people who all too often have none of that in their lives. She's very, very good at her job.
Editor’s note: No photo needed for this extraordinary story. We requested permission to publish. Jim responded... “Feel free to use the story. I'm glad you liked it. Another reason I wrote about Angel is that the Resident Therapy Dog program is just one more way that dogs are finding employment in our modern society. I am fortunate enough to be partnered by Caesar my Boxer, Seizure Alert/Response and Mobility Assist Service Dog.
“Perhaps because Caesar himself is a owner-surrender rescue, I became involved in helping to place older dogs from rescue who have the personality and ability to fill the demanding role of Resident Therapy Dog. This is very good way to utilize the special older dogs we see in Rescue.”
The NetPlaces Network thanks The Papworth's - Jim, Brian, Krissie and Caesar (9yr old fawn Boxer, Medical Service Dog) Red Bank, N.J.
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