A Day Among Angels

Last week we visited the hospital and it was even more touching than usual. Our first visit was actually with a young visitor who was seeing her grandpa. Little ‘Angelica’ saw Sam and came squealing into the hallway. “Oh my gosh, is THAT a poodle?” she whispered. I assured her that in fact, Sam was a poodle. “But he’s soooo big,” she said. “Well, that’s because he’s a Standard Poodle, I replied.” I didn’t want to disillusion her by saying he’s really a substandard poodle-I mean, the kid is only 6 years old, who am I to burst her bubble at such an early age?

This little girl was one of the sweetest kids we’ve ever visited with since joining the pet therapy program. She had a bright twinkle in her eye, a soft voice and a special appreciation for that fluffy knucklehead. He nuzzled right up next to her and the two of them began an organizational meeting of their mutual admiration society. Sam leaned in heavily toward her and she kept stroking his head and ears and when she realized that she’d flattened his topknot, she fluffed it up. This little girl was absolutely adorable and we stayed chatting with her for quite a while. We sat on the floor in the hallway just outside the door to her grandpa’s room but didn’t go in because there were family members talking in serious tones and I didn’t want to crash their private time. Sam didn’t seem particularly interested in going in either; but he seemed to know this little girl needed him and he answered the call ‘pawfectly.’ My only regret was not grabbing a quick snapshot of her with Sam, but I’m religious about getting permission for photos at the hospital but especially where kids are concerned and there wasn’t an adult available to obtain the necessary okay without going into the room.

A couple of doors down from her grandpa’s room was another amazing opportunity for letting Sam do his thing. The patient had what looked like his daughter visiting with him but it became clear that the visitor was actually a sign language interpreter who the hospital had brought in for the benefit of any deaf patients. She asked if we’d drop in before leaving the floor, to which I said “we’d love to!” Sam took my enthusiastic response as his cue and he practically loped in to meet them. John’s face lit up when he caught sight of Sam, far more than most of the folks we visit. We learned that he also owned a Standard Poodle who was almost the exact color as Sam. He stroked Sam’s head and had I given him any indication it was ok to do so, Sam no doubt would have jumped up on the bed and crowded out the poor fella. Luckily he didn’t, instead he curled up right next to the bed while John (through the signer) told stories about his poodle. He had numerous questions regarding Sam…how old was he, how long had he been a therapy dog, stuff like that. Frequently when Sam is content with the energy in a room, he will lay down next to a patient. People think he’s bored, when in fact, he’s just comfortable with the person. We had a nice chat and when we started to leave, it was all I could do to get Sam up. He was prepared to stay with this kind, sweet man and the lovely woman who was helping him communicate the love for his own dog and the breed, as well as his appreciation toward the one visiting with him that day.

Sam in uniformAll in all, I couldn’t have been more proud of Sam and his visits that day. He showed why he’s a great ambassador for the use of pet therapy.

There are two entrances to the hospital grounds. You can enter the hospital from the north end of the campus which is where we usually arrive since it intersects with a major arterial road with quicker traffic flow. The other entrance from the south end is closer to the hospice center. We generally first visit the hospital entering from the north side and then head south toward hospice in kind of a loop. I had never before put 2 plus 2 together (math is NOT my forte) that the hospice is across the street from a large cemetery. It seemed ironic that you had the last stop for the living before heading across the street to a final resting place in such close proximity. That’s when I decided to swing by Crown Hill cemetery after we finished our visits to  meander among some of the older headstones.

When I was in college, I took a B&W photography class that sparked an interest in old cemeteries. In fact, my final portfolio was mostly of photos from a couple of the oldest ones in the metro area. How a society acknowledges the dearly departed says a lot about its customs and values so Sam and I walked around checking out some of the graves giving special notice to dates. It had rained hard when we left the hospital and the sky was moody and dark. After being touched so profoundly by our visits, it made me reflect about the lives of the people whose headstones we saw and it must have made Sam contemplative as well since he seemed pretty focused on one of the more distinctive ones ending a fascinating day among angels, past and present.

Have you ever walked through an old cemetery to see various headstones or am I just weird?

Live, love, bark! <3

40 thoughts on “A Day Among Angels

  1. What a moving and heartwarming post. Recently lost a family member to cancer and know how important hospice care is. I know that Sam makes a real difference…even if he is a “substandard poodle” LOL! <3

  2. Not weird at all! Cemeteries are very peaceful places. I love that Sam brought so much joy to people in just the right ways. Must have been his poodle-intuition! What a special day!

  3. I just love that he can bring such comfort to people who are often times dealing with the most difficult situations. Kudos to you and Sam.

    When I was in 5th grade our teacher got us into gravestone rubbings. Where you take some tracing paper and place it over the writing on the stone and then rub it with a crayon. Often times you can get information from older stones, that might not be easily read. I grew up in Coventry, CT the birthplace of Captain Nathan Hale, so there were some really old and cool stones there.

  4. My peep grew up in Sleepy Hollow country and the gravestones are fascinating (if they’re still legible). Some are from colonial times.

    1. Headstones and cemeteries in general are beyond fascinating to me. I could spend hours looking through them. In some places in Europe, they are even more remarkable and generally well maintained family plots. Part of the family ritual is to go regularly and spiff things up. I would love seeing New England cemeteries!

      1. Although the same peep went to school in New England (didn’t learn anything useful), Sleepy Hollow is up the Hudson in NY.

  5. Oh Sam, you are such a good therapy dog!! I have a feeling Shadow would be, too, but all that into and out of the car stuff would wreak havoc with her arthritis nowadays.

    1. Getting into and out of vehicles could pose a problem. We have a huge Newfoundland in the program who I swear must be a shift changer and wonder if her mom uses a ramp to get her in and out of her vehicle. It’s a wondrous thing to see dogs do this work and no doubt sweet Shadow would be a champ at it.

  6. Oh Sam, what a gift you give. I walk around cemeteries so often my husband now asks if I want to stop. I love history and if only I could time travel for a visit! My favorite cemetery is Stockbridge CT. I did a post last halloween about it. In fact I wondered at cemeteries, their care and lack of visitors this last trip. LeeAnna

    1. Cemeteries are truly fascinating places and they really make you think about what kind of lives the people led and what impact they had to those around them. The cemetery where I photographed early 1800’s for my final portfolio told quite interesting stories just by dates and the length of their lives. Their history is so rich with striking stories!

  7. I am in awe of your abilities my sweet friend. You are awesome! You are kind! You probably can’t even imagine how many peeps lives you touch with your services. I love you! XOXO – Bacon

  8. How totally adorable! sounds like Sam had a great day and i bet he slept like an Angel too! i love cemetaries i find them tranquil and full of history..as much as i will not end up in one as i plan to be scattered at sea..typical dramatic Virgo that i am 🙂 Hugs and love Bev xxx

  9. There is a very old cemetery in Sydney that has been made a leash free dog park. I love reading the headstones and wondering about the people resting there. I can’t help thinking they would like the dogs being there and having such a wonderful time playing amongst the graves.
    Charlie’s Mum, Lynn.
    Hey Sam … Great job at the hospital, mate! I visit a nursing home with my Mum. It means a lot to the peeps, aye? … Charlie!

  10. I can imagine the little girl who met Sam, even without a photo :o) We are eggstra weird on that cemetery front… my granny always watched the cemetery first when she visited a new town/village… she said in case something will happen, she wanted to make sure that she will like it to stay there and we haven’t to pay for the back haul… and although we laughed at her, we do this now too … not for staying there, just to read the names and to ponder about the people… it became a family ritual somehow :o)

    1. She was such a little doll. With big brown twinkling eyes and a mile wide smile; it’s no wonder Sam adored her! Cemeteries are such fascinating places; I was especially fascinated with the ones I’ve visited in Germany too. So orderly (well…no surprise there!). And watching surviving family members tending the plots to keep everything so well maintained…it’s all truly special to see.

  11. Awwww! What a great day for you guys! 🙂 I have not walked thru a cemetery before to observe the different headstones but I want to.

    1. They are quite peaceful and contemplative places. I may do this again soon just to see different areas in that cemetery. You can definitely see how different people are even in death just by where their remains lie.

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