Therapy opportunities in strange places

DSC00045As 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

43 thoughts on “Therapy opportunities in strange places

  1. Your Sam reminds me of Sampson. But in a calmer way. My guy LOVES people. He gets that hitch in his giddy up when he sees a person on our walk. It is just another opportunity for him to make friends.

    He has made a friend up the street and when she’s out working in the yard, we often times stop for a chat. We met her last summer and she would watch us walk this past winter, well Sampson tore his CCL and hasn’t been up that way, so the first time she caught us she was very relieved that he was okay. She even asked me if something were to happen to him, if I would let her know. 🙂 A couple of weeks ago, when we stopped for a chat, she called her neighbor over to meet “the best Golden-Lab ever.”

    It makes me smile from ear to ear too, he is a special dog, as is your Sam.

  2. Sam is such a heart-warming doggy, and the way you write about him makes me realise how wonderful you must make all those people feel when you and Sam visit the hospital. Poodles are very intelligent dogs – one of my best friends in South Africa has one of the smaller poodle breeds and he is the most loving and attentive animal.

  3. Sam, you are a good therapy dog, it is in your nature. Me too. Sometimes, when I have to stay home with Dad, Mom says I need to take care of him because he feels bad and needs me. On those days I don’t ask for anything (which, believe me, is very unusual) except to sit in his lap (which, believe me, is even more unusual). He always knows I am “therapizing” him.

  4. I’m still smiling over the idea of a Dachsund/Lab mix (can’t quite figure out how that worked) and shaking my head over someone not loving a poodle but Sam, you’re the man and we all love you!

  5. Good job, Sam!!! That woman needed you last night and you were there for her. Good job to you, Ms. Monika, for making sure Sam was in the right place at the right time! *ear licks* Noodle

  6. It’s so wonderful, all the dogs and their people who are therapy dogs. It takes a special pair to do a tough job. My mom couldn’t do it. It would make her too sad, but we admire all our friends who are in the “therapy business”. Nice job!

  7. Beautiful post…wish I could gaze into Sam’s eyes for a little animal-assisted therapy sometimes! I used to do the same years ago with my older brother’s sweetheart of an Old English Sheepdog. <3

    1. Oh gosh, an OES?! Having owned two with the most expressive eyes, I can only imagine the therapy your brother’s dog provided. The mere thought of having them around to share their drooled and hairy faces sweet brown eyes made my heart sing. Thank you! <3

      1. Gaah, I loved that dog! Her name was Chelsea. I used to push the hair out of her eyes and whisper to her. She’d kind of talk back to me. I need a tissue now! 🙁

        1. Brought a tear to my eye too! The ‘comedians’ of the dog world definitely worm their way into your heart, that’s for sure. Puck was such a rotten pill and Eliot was the biggest worrier I’ve ever seen but I loved those hairballs to pieces. <3

  8. I would like to say that I have had such an experience, but sadly that is not so. Sam is such a special dog bringing calmand peace to people and in his own way BJ is too – at least he is to me.

      1. <3 I have a story about my magical backyard coming out I think this afternoon. You must read it this afternoon – snorts with piggy laughter. XOXO – Bacon

  9. For all Sam’s idiosyncrasies, and he seems to have many based on your various Posts here, you just have to love him! 🙂 Way to go Sam! 🙂

  10. I do NOT do as well as Sam in the area of sitting still for long periods of time, but I do love meeting new people and always make them feel like they are my best friend immediately.

    Love and licks,

  11. yes Sam you are super special… and I bet you have magic powers…. you bring joy to people and you can create smiles… that’s what this world needs :o)

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