As the driving half of a pet therapy team, I know how great Sam is at visiting patients at the hospital and hospice. It’s his special gift where people are drawn to him whenever he trots down a hallway. Thought I don’t expect it to happen outside the hospital, sometimes therapy encounters happen in the strangest places.
Take for example last night. We were out for our evening walk. It had rained earlier and the air was pleasant with the fresh scent of rain still clinging to flowers, grass and trees. About 2/3 of the way of our usual path, we encountered a couple of ladies, a mom and her adult daughter walking an adorable Dachshund/Lab mix. Yes, it was a strange-looking dog, but cute as a button. “Molly” seemed to gravitate toward Sam and her owner said she generally likes tall male dogs. We talked for several minutes and Sam kept gazing into the daughter and the mom’s eyes quite intently. The conversation turned when they said how they just couldn’t get over his soulful eyes and I mentioned he was a therapy dog. At the same time, they both exclaimed, “no wonder…that totally explains it!” The mom it turned out works as an admittance nurse at another metro area hospice center and she remarked how perfectly suited Sam was to ministering to patients since he was doing the same thing with them. The mom admitted she had never been a fan of poodles in the past but there was something very special about Sam. She proceeded to get down on the sidewalk and sat next to Sam and repeatedly stroking his head and ears for a good number of minutes. It was really remarkable how he patiently and genuinely waited for a signal that they were finished and yet he seemed to hang on their every word as if he completely and deeply understood what they were saying.
As someone else who works in the palliative care biz, it was a real treat to talk with someone about the job and what we often see that is less than flattering about humans at the end of their lives. She observed how wonderful it was and how much they appreciated volunteers and their dogs when they to come to her facility. Sam watched her every move, followed her words with his eyes as if she were the only human that mattered at that moment. She was very impressed with his calm presence as was her daughter, a legal assistant. She and I talked about her job and I could totally empathize with the non-reaffirming work she was doing. It made me wonder how long she could stay in the field as she seemed more empathetic in nature, just like her mom. Both were caregivers at their cores and Sam totally picked up on that and lingered with them.
When little Molly voiced her displeasure at missing out on her walk, we bid adieu with the hope of running into one another again in the neighborhood. Then the mom turned and came back one last time and petted Sam for several more minutes. She laughed that maybe she needed ‘therapy’ as Sam was incredibly focused on her and I know he always stays with someone as long as they need him. “He just knows a good soul when he encounters one,” I said. And with that, she smiled, cocked her head toward Sam and said good evening. The rest of the way home I kept thinking about what a blessing it was to cross paths with such a really neat woman.
We really are fortunate to be able to ‘minister’ to patients and staff and as we discovered on the walk last night, to meet and visit with a couple of neighbors who really touched us. It made me very excited and grateful about being able to do this work and I’m looking forward to our visit later this week at the hospital.
Do you experience such beautiful and serendipitous encounters with your pup that leave you smiling from ear to ear?
Live, love, bark! <3