Hospice for Dogs

We visit hospice patients, staff and visitors all the time. And we really like it, too. But did you know there is hospice for dogs too? Sam here. Last weekend, Mom and I went to the annual anniversary picnic of our photographer friend, Ariane at DelaFoto Studios. You may remember her, right? She’s the one that makes me look soooo good here and here. Each year, Ariane hosts an anniversary picnic for her clients and hosts a rescue group.
finalThis year one of the rescue groups that participated was Cayleb’s Kindred Senior Dog Rescue (“CKSDR”). We were able to meet with the Executive Director, Sophiane Nacer and Rebecca Shattuck, Behavior Specialist. These two amazing women work tirelessly to provide foster, forever, and sanctuary homes for senior dogs in need. This small rescue accepts adoptable, terminal, and special needs dogs over the age of eight and firmly believe that no dog is too old or too “un-adoptable.” Sophiane introduced us to little Annie, a sweet, albeit slow moving 16 year-old Pomeranian who was quite the life of the party. She entertained everyone with her always hanging-out tongue and tiny arthritic steps around the picnic area. Don’t you just want to put her in your pocket?!  Little Annie attends vet classes with Sophiane and goes with her everywhere and is one of several grey muzzles currently with CKSDR. While Annie has only 3 teeth left, that ‘minor’ fact doesn’t seem to keep her from filching Cheerios and giving loads of kisses. Even though she has many physical ailments including kidney and heart failure, a collapsed trachea, severe arthritis, and difficulty hearing/seeing, she still manages to enjoy life to the fullest. According to the website, Annie is “a little dog with a big heart (both figuratively and literally), and an even bigger personality. She continues to bring us joy each and every day that she’s been with us-now going on three years.”


We were so impressed with their program where they provide a sanctuary home for senior dogs so they can live out the rest of their lives in a home environment. It’s basically a hospice center for canines. While it’s been said all dogs may go to heaven, on occasion some of them go to hospice first.

How does it work? Volunteers open their homes to terminally ill or otherwise un-adoptable senior dogs, giving them a place to live out their lives however long they have left, and then they can pass away peacefully in a home environment rather than in a shelter. Even thought it’s a very tough part of senior dog rescue, it is also the most rewarding knowing you made the end of their lives just a little bit better.

CKSDR provides all medical expenses with arranged vet visits. Basic supplies such as leashes, collars, ID tags, blankets, crates can be provided if needed and food when donated. Behavioral training is also provided free to the pets. Volunteers are expected to care for the pet for the rest of its life. Many of the terminal dogs may only live a few weeks, some rebound in a loving home environment when expectations are exceeded. But when the time comes for the dog to cross over the Rainbow Bridge, CKSDR provides assistance through that process for both the volunteer and the dog.

Since mom and I work at our local hospice, we know how tough it can be, and how wonderful the staff caters to patients and their families. CKSDR does the same thing for these dogs. How cool is that?!

Do you have a canine hospice in your vicinity? What are your thoughts on canine hospice?

Live, love, bark! <3

Fluff, buff…then off it’s off to work we go

As I mentioned the other day after I was so rudely woken up, we received our assignment and needed to get ready for our visits. Sam here. Therapy work can be daunting and difficult. This month’s assignments were some of the most intense we’ve ever done. But first…we had to get ready which means…


…I get tortured. First mom bathes me. Blech! I despise getting wet. Here I am trying to work the pitiful ‘woe is me’ look. What do you think? Pretty effective, huh? Certainly I deserve a handful of treats for having to endure this torture, don’t I? Luckily mom thought so too even if I may have overplayed it just a tad. Note all of the ‘implements of destruction’ next to me? Trust me…with that much torture in a bucket, I absolutely deserve all the treats I can eat.

See, first there’s the bath. That’s bad enough. It means I have to get squeaky clean from top to bottom, including removal of any ear schmutz and eye snot. Mom complains when I don’t cooperate on the ears. But then again, do YOU like water in YOUR ears? Yeah, I rest my case. Then there’s the conditioner. Which means more water rinsing me out. Ugh. If that’s not bad enough, I have to suffer through endure loads of drying with tons brushing out and then mom loves to get carried away floofing out my Swiffer nice tail. Have a mentioned I HATE having my tail messed with?!

Anyway, then she trims hairs around my bum (whoa…that’s kinda personal back there lady…be extra careful!), my feet, my regal nose and head. B. U. Z. Z. What’s a poor mistreated poodle to do? Ooh, I know, I know…work that pitiful look down to a science before she gets out the nail clippers. Yikes!!!

After 87 hours, drying, brushing, trimming and clipping, I was finally able to go to work. We met a lot of people and had some very intense encounters with some folks from the 4th floor. It’s always a gamble when we go to the Senior Behavioral unit. You never know how lucid the patients will be or if they will freak out with a large and, dare I say, handsome pup like myself. Mom tells me not to take it personally and I don’t but this was one visit I’m not likely to forget any time soon.

The charge nurse asked if we wouldn’t mind visiting with “Ethel” (names here have been change to protect their identities) to see if we might persuade her to ‘voluntarily’ go back to her room. Mom said sure, why not. They warned us.

Ethel was at the end of the hallway, lying prone in the middle of the hall in front of the locked exit door with a blanket over her head and shoulders. She was arguing with the CNA about not wanting to go back to her room to lay on her nice comfy bed. The CNA asked her if she’d like to visit with a therapy dog and for a moment I thought I might be able to get her up upright. She briefly looked at me, so I wagged my tail like the good boy I am and waited for her to want to touch me and then she shrieked “I know what you’re trying to do and I’m not going to do it!” Mom was surprised and when the nurse asked her if she wanted to pet the dog, she yelled, “No, I know what you’re trying to do and I’m not falling for it.” As a calm therapy dog, I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I laid down next to her hoping it would make her feel better. She just said to go away so mom and the nurse shrugged and we went down to the Day Room to visit with “Mary” and “Henry.” They enjoyed my visit very much and Henry was wearing a t-shirt from the Orange County Animal Shelter where he had volunteered with the dogs. He loved on me and then I spent time with Mary. She almost wouldn’t let us go…she was so excited to have someone to talk to who had a dog but her conversation was confusing and all over the map. I just looked into her eyes and wagged my tail while she went on and on about every subject under the sun. It was a challenge trying to follow what she was talking about so eventually we bid our good byes and then I got to spend some quality time with the nursing staff.

Those ladies are angels. They deal with some difficult patients yet always have a smile for me. Plus their treats are pretty tasty too. Mom is ever so grateful for these angels. They have challenging jobs with some hard to handle patients. Mental illness and dementia are tough areas to work in and these nurses deserve all the kudos they can get. Big tail wag applaws from me.

We also visited at Coronary ICU where I ran into “Marie” whose husband was making a recovery after months of being very ill. She took one look at ‘Moi’ and melted. Then her husband’s PA came by and did the same. You bet I strutted my stuff and received lots of attention and ear scratches for it.


We stayed for a very long time for me and I was pretty exhausted. Mom drove me home (at least she’s good for something, right?) and I didn’t eat any dinner but instead went straight to slumberland. When I woke up later that night, mom was talking with a friend on the phone so I curled up by her feet and zonked out again. Those girls blabbed talked for a couple of hours catching up and every once in while I’d look up to see if they were talking about me. Once I realized I was the subject, I’d drag my butt get up and put my head in mom’s lap and look up lovingly at her. She smiled and then finished talking with her friend sheesh you uprights can sure gab a lot about nothing.

On Friday we went back for more patient visits and surprise…a photo shoot touting pet therapy. Yours truly was there and hopefully once those pics are ready, mom will share them. Woof! Following our visits there were more naps. Hey, I have to be ready for the weekend, right?


Wishing you and yours a pawsome weekend with fun and loads of rest. Looks like autumn is finally starting to arrive most everywhere and this here pup couldn’t be happier about it. We’re going to a picnic rescue benefit for fun and games with dogs that need new homes and I’m hoping to snag a crumb or two. Let’s hope they find new fur-ever homes.

Live, love, bark! <3

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

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

A New Partner

Sam here. We went to the hospital and hospice this week and were joined by someone who was able to came along on visits with us. Normally, pet therapy teams operate alone so this was a great treat for me to have someone else by my side all day. Our new fur-iend Sandy, is joining our merry little band of volunteers at Pet Therapy. We were asked to have her shadow our visits to see what it is we actually do. Once again I did the work with patients and staff mom just drives me and holds the leash. She seems to be a weak link in this ‘pawtnership,’ but that’s a subject for another time. We arrived early and waited in the hospital lobby to meet Sandy and I got to spend loads of time schmoozing with a number of volunteers and visitors. I didn’t get my normal lengthy meandering in the morning because mom had this weird idea I needed a bath and to have my furs trimmed so I didn’t cooperate too much. Let me just say I AM NOT a fan of that process and absolutely despise having my feet furs trimmed!

finalAny who…yesterday was a super busy day at the hospital and fortunately I had plenty of pogo-sticking in me plenty of energy to spare for everyone. There were lots of comings and goings with people everywhere. I met the nicest man being discharged who was so excited to be going home to his own pup that he had been missing. He was willing to give me nice ear scratches so I wagged my tail for him and looked deeply into his eyes. He smiled and praised me for stopping to say hello. What…are you kidding, it’s what I do best! Saying hello is my middle name. Then we went up to the Senior Behavioral Health Unit and I was lucky enough to meet Phil who loved me from the first second our eyes met. He walked down a long hallway just to greet me and I felt the same and enjoyed his sweet smile, twinkly eyes and the stories he told. Usually there are more women at the unit so it was a welcomed change of pace that we were able to visit with a number of fellas this time. We never know what to expect on that floor but it turned out to be a great day for visits and Sandy enjoyed it as much as I did. Phil was a real special upright who has an amazing ability to connect with animals. Those kinds of people always make me feel extra special. The staff was super excited to see me perform my one and only trick, licking my chops on command. First I do one side, then mom asks me to lick the other side so I do it (I mean, how hard it that?). Then she tells me to do it again while holding on to an extra special treat so ‘natch’ I do it. I’ll do just about anything for those Zuke’s treats. We play this one side/other side licking of chops to the delight of everyone. No one seems disappointed it’s the only trick I do. I mean seriously even cats can shake paws, so why would I do something that easy? Why is it uprights think dogs want to shake hands with them anyway? Eew…they touched my feet – gah!!!

Sandy’s pup is a 2-1/2 year old Golden Retriever named Captain. No doubt he will command the pawfect ship once he officially passes the remaining  requirements. Sandy told me he’s super smart and so well-behaved with loads of energy. With her husband, the 3 of them will bring smiles and comfort to patients, staff and visitors alike. And she hopes to meet as many terrific people as we did.

Trust me, it was a very long day with lots of people to visit and chat with for a few hours, far more than usual for me. After we finished up, I was completely wiped out. I didn’t even eat dinner I was so tired. Being a therapy dog can be hard work but I completely love it. Keep your paws crossed I get to see Sandy again and get to meet her Captain soon! We wish them the best of luck as they begin their own comforting work in pet therapy.

Watermarked Photo

Live, love, bark! <3


Fitting In

Sam in uniformSam and I were finally able to go to the hospital after this week’s Snowmageddon to visit with patients and staff. It seems so odd to visit during the week. For the past couple years, we’ve been going in on the weekends and the energy is decidedly different. Since retiring in January, I’m still trying to figure out where my own energy resides. Luckily, people like the some of the ones I met Thursday are helping me figure it out.

We were assigned to visit the Senior Behavioral Health floor. We’ve visited before, but I’m never sure just what to expect. These folks can have significant issues. Some seem lost within themselves, others are warm, caring and loving examples of humanity interacting with an unparalleled charm. Willie was that patient. The charge nurse said Sam and I should visit with Ruth and Willie. Once the staff got their Sam fix, we moved toward Ruth who immediately told me she was a ‘cat person,’ having grown up with cats her whole life. Right away, I wasn’t sure how to connect with her and Sam seemed confused as well. I’m guessing her mental issues make interactions somewhat difficult. I was trying to coax out some other common ground we could share when Willie walked up and started petting Sam who was more than willing to garner his attention and began leaning against him…a sure sign he was enjoying this gnome-like man with twinkly eyes and a radiant smile. As quickly as he appeared, he vanished. Ruth’s disinterest in Sam was our signal to move onward. I touched her on the arm and wished her well, Sam nearly ripped my shoulder out of the socket to move into the activity room and see Willie who had relocated there. I’m always entertained at his ‘yea or nay’ assessment of people. He doesn’t judge people mind you, but is able to easily move on when necessary. I need to take notes about that dog so as avoid moments when my fumbling attempts to steer around them seem uncomfortably awkward. Being an introvert isn’t the easiest road to take when trying to connect with total strangers.

When we arrived at the hospital it seemed like everyone was racing around, updating charts, dealing with patients and seem more hectic than our weekend visits. Oh, sure the staff is always eager to meet Sam, but they don’t linger long…work calls. Their responses were short and to the point. There was little in the way of back and forth. Just statements like “stay out of rooms with iso-carts and the patient in #209 likes dogs.” On weekend visits, I’d often hear stories about former pets, the neighbor’s dog who was like Sam, the dogs their kids had, and similar stuff like that. This new paradigm has me feeling ‘outside’ of my previous existence.

Since retiring, I don’t feel like I fit in like I did before. Oh sure, my working friends and I still keep in touch but it’s different. Their lives are more work centered and our common interactions are diminished because we relate from a totally different perspective.

It’s odd for me to have Sam groomed in the middle of the week. Our MO in the past was to do grooming sessions on Saturday’s since we would only visit patients on weekends when I worked full-time. This is the second month where I had the luxury of scheduling a grooming in the middle of the week and easily be able to choose any date and time slot to coincide with our scheduled visits. Weekends were always booked well in advance so  future appointments had to be booked at the current one. That all changed with retirement.

I’m sure there’s an adjustment period getting used to not running in the hamster wheel, and no doubt I’ll get there eventually but for now, it feels out of step and off-balance rather than just squeaky and spinning fast. Like the new kid in school who is viewed as an oddity initially, we will eventually catch our stride and find balance. Till then I want to sit and chat with the Willie’s of the world who make us feel like a fluffy, dimwitted dog is the only thing that matters.

Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in to a change in life circumstances?

Live, love, bark! <3

Monday Moanings

This past week was pure hell. There I said it. Work was beyond dreadful with challenges like I’ve  never seen, this all coming on the heels of a fantastic week (guess the pendulum does swing both ways 🙁 ) All in all it was one of the worst weeks in a long time. So it made perfect sense to end all that with a stint at the hospital.

Sam and I needed to recharge our soul batteries and I can think of no better way then to give back to those to absolutely need the kind of energy Sam can bring. And what visits we had including being chatted up by 3 fellow Standard Poodle owners. Woo-hoo!

Ready for duty!
Ready for duty!

Sam knew right away we were heading for the hospital as soon as I pulled his bandana down and was he ever excited, jumping around like the pogo-stick that he is when he expresses his joy (it was all I could do to get him to ‘sit’ for this pic-notice he’s on ready to spring into action with his hind legs though). Becoming impatient with me while I was getting stuff together, he started whining loudly and when that didn’t jib with his dog watch timetable, he resorted to loudly barking at me and racing around in circles in front of the doorway…something he almost never does unless you’re the serial killer mail lady. Once I gathered everything we needed (you know…treats), we were off. Sam left skid marks out the door, raced over toward the garage and stood there dumbfounded since the door wasn’t open. The look on his face said what the heck?! He shot me a withering glance as if I had just stepped on his baby sister’s tail. I had to laugh at his reaction (I had moved the car out on the street earlier). As I moved toward the street and he heard the familiar click of the doors unlocking and he bounced out toward the car. I nearly had a heart attack as he started moving into the street as if to enter the car through the hatch door (stupid dog!) but when I opened the side door that he normally enters, he jumped in faster than a flea hopping on a dog. He was certainly R-E-A-D-Y to get to get going and get to work. 🐾

Once we got to the hospital he shifted into his ‘going to work’ stride. Head and tail erect, confident and purposeful gait. We first visited with the high schoolers manning the information desk as well as Sam’s buddies in the gift shop. Can I just say I totally love it when young male volunteers turn into puddles of cooing baby talk with loads of ahh-ing around Sam? So adorable.

The first person we visited with up on the floor was actually a visitor who was with his adult son in the hallway. He immediately (and correctly) identified Sam as a Standard Poodle. Normally that shouldn’t be a big deal, but because of his coloring, 99% of people we encounter think Sam is some sort of doodle hybrid. He told me about his black standard, BB who was over 17 when he passed recently. 17 years old? Seriously, were you giving him water from the Fountain of Youth??? Holy yikes, that’s quite the number with ANY dog, let along, a large one. We chatted a bit and some visitors from a nearby room came by and entered into the conversation. Then a patient getting in a couple of laps around the floor joined our merry little band and we all had a lovely visit talking up the virtues of Standard Poodles.

Later we stopped by BB’s mom who was a patient. She was laying on her bed, adorably cute and very diminutive with a sassy ball cap with a flower on the side. She was so excited to see Sam and told me about her sweet BB who guarded her whenever people were around. Apparently BB was not one to shirk his duties unlike another standard poodle I know who would probably point toward the jewelry box if a stranger came in the house (normally poodles are excellent guard dogs but nothing is very normal about Sam). Allie really enjoyed Sam’s visit and we left her smiling and grateful after a few minutes since she was pretty tired and needed to get ready for some medical tests that afternoon.

After visiting with other folks familiar with Standards and hearing their personal stories about those super smart dogs (I’m jealous at the lucky owners at times though I am reminded you just can’t buy Sam’s level of sweetness). We left for hospice and met the Ressler’s who owned a Standard Poodle named Sumo (get it, “sumo wrestler?” 🙂 ). They were such a sweet family, with kids, sons and daughters visiting and Sam was in hog heaven with all the attention moving from one member to the next.

Sometimes when Sam is on duty at the hospital, he seems far more focused on me rather than patients. He watches me and my every move carefully though I’m not sure exactly why my dog must be a mama’s boy, sigh. When he realizes the Pez treat dispenser was no longer flowing, he became a little more engaged. Seriously, I’m gonna have to make him work first then get treats later. But he will lick his chops on command (both sides on cue even) and everyone seems to love that particular (and only) trick that the dimwit will perform.

We were at the hospital nearly two hours, a long time for him to be so on target for and it started to show. By the time we were finished I could tell he’d hit the wall. We went home and he took a long, deep sleep, ready for his next adventure on the evening walk.

On Sunday he was even more focused on me except when we made our rounds among the high school volunteers (Sam has a long history of loving kids and these kids are no exception). One new young and especially petite girl absolutely fell in love with Sam. I thought she was gonna kidnap him and judging by the heavy lean into her (causing her to nearly topple over by the way!), I think he’d have readily gone home with her. That is until I touched the magic pocket with the high value treats. Hey, I’m no ordinary fool! Plus when we got home I gave him an elk antler for all his efforts making people smile.


So what did you do this past glorious weekend? Enjoying the pre-Autumnal weather?

Live, love, bark! <3

The work never stops

This weekend was hospital/hospice duty and coincidently, it was also a 2 year anniversary of my reconstructive surgery from a bad motor scooter accident. Our current duties gave me pause paws to reflect about that day two years ago where Sam demonstrated why he’s such a great therapy dog.

I knew he would be-this dog loves people more than oxygen. He loves to be around people, even when they run up to him squealing and carry on, with loud voices, people with cigarettes, with strollers, dogs with retractable garroting leashes. He loves them all. And he has shown me those loving feelings over and over again.

Two years ago he literally took care of me. Oh sure, my daughter made sure I made all my doctor appointments and follow-up sessions, but Sam was there next to me on the sofa when I couldn’t sleep due to pain, when I couldn’t get comfortable to save my soul. When I had to go to the bathroom, he was there, watching me, making sure I was safe. He couldn’t do anything like help me get dressed (it’s amazing when you can do when you have to by the way) but he always supervised, making sure I didn’t do anything to pull out stitches, or bump the shoulder against a door jamb. He watched me like a hawk and checked in countless times during the day, putting his head on my knee or thigh, looking up at me with soulful amber eyes, as if to say “You need anything?” His companionship was paramount in my healing process and I often wonder if his assistance made the difference in my recovery. It was then and it is still is today.

Sunday was our day to visit hospice and the coronary ICU unit. As is typically our MO, we mill around the hospital coffee shop and first floor reception areas, swing by the gift shop and generally check the pulse of goings-on before we head up to our assignment. A small little shoeless girl saw Sam and squealed with delight rushing up to us, yelling “Doggy!” Her mom came from around a partition and said, “Don’t run up to the dog,” but she was in motion and we all know moving objects tend to keep moving and with her will, I suspect she was not to be contained. I said, it was fine, Sam ‘loves little girls’ so the mom acquiesced. the little girl oohed-and-ahed over Sam and was delighted at his super fluffy coat (yup, another bath day torment session but that’s a whole different story). She put a huge kiddy bear hug around Sam’s neck and while he checked in with me through his eyes, but he never moved a muscle. Just stood there and let her hug the dickens out of him. Her mom kept saying, “Don’t squeeze so hard,” but she couldn’t seem to let go of Sam. He let her hug him and I let him do what he does best, minister to people, large or small.

After our encounter, we proceeded to our assigned floor, had some amazing connections with some really remarkable people and I couldn’t stop thinking about how Sam takes everything all in stride, today as well as he did two years ago.

We finished up at ICU and then went on over to hospice. There weren’t many patients to visit, though we got in some quality doctor and nurse time which is always gratifying-I know they need the therapy dogs as much as the patients do. The one patient we did get to visit was more than a challenge. She was unhappy that her son and grandson hadn’t visited her, she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t get the video player work so she could hear a movie and begged me to put a different DVD in for her. I tried to accommodate her while Sam watched. He watched this woman and tried to get her to focus on him, She wasn’t really up for a dog visit, preferring to make us run to get a nurse to ‘fix that damn thing’ and then a second trip get her a glass of milk. We did both without complaint. And once we got her settled in, her breath leveled off and she relaxed by letting go of all the things that aggravated her and sank back to watch the movie. We left her shortly thereafter, the end result of the mental numbing watching a movie although I doubt she heard me say goodbye knowing she’d be falling asleep soon. And that was ok, I cannot imagine being alone in a hospice center knowing the end was near and not being able to make the last few moments of life be somewhat enjoyable or at least comfortable. That’s cool, but I hope that when my time comes, I want to leave this earth with dignity and graciousness. The idea of being fussy and crabbish is too overwhelming for me. Please understand I say that with no malice or judgment, just that once again, another person is alone at the time when they especially need their family which may have been why she was so cantankerous. But who knows?

IMG_0618 After a very long, deep nap when we got home, Sam was ready to go out for our evening constitution. We walked our usual route and ran into several people who asked if they could stop and pet Sam. One woman who was walking with her daughter stopped us and asked if she could pet Sam. We chatted for a few minutes and Sam’s therapy work came up. She replied, how coincidental since they we’re out trying to suss out a difficult problem and she thought this therapy diversion might be just the ticket. She looked into Sam’s face and asked him whether he could give her some momentary balance because she needed it. I gulped hard thinking she might break down and sob, but said of course. Both she and the daughter petted and hugged Sam for a long time and again, he stood there, patient, motionless knowing he was doing what he was meant to do. When we finally bid our farewells, I couldn’t help but see this affable goofball in a proud light. He proved once again, his work never stops…he’s always on the clock and so the naps he takes are exactly what he needs to rejuvenate and be ready for the next one who will need him, be it me, a patient, doctor or nurse or someone just out walking the neighborhood.

Does you dog provide you with life balance and comfort at those exact times when you most need it?

Live, love, bark! <3


Let’s Go, Already!!

IMG_1947   Sam here. Boy oh boy, did we have a good weekend at hospice and hospital though it started out decidedly unpleasant for me.

Nobody warned me I had to take a bath again! After all, I just had one last month. And here I thought you peeps had my back. 😉 So mom tricked got me into the bathroom with a couple treats. Can’t believe I fell for all her sweet talk…again! That woman knows exactly how to torture me and it’s a four-letter word I can’t even say…B-A-T-H. Blech, I hate baths, but I was mostly a very good boy and stayed there and took it like a man like the pitiful wuss I really am when it comes to water. She used a new conditioning shampoo that smells pretty good if I do say so myself with Rosemary and Mint. If I wasn’t so scared in the bathtub, I might have licked it off.

H.E.L.P.  me
H.E.L.P. me

After the bath water torture, she use the hairdryer on me. The only thing I despise more than bath time is the drying misery. Fortunately she toweled me off really well before hand so the drying with the blowing air torture device was minimal. But then she brought out the clippers to trip my feet, ears, tail and bum the torture continues. Boy, I must say though, she did a pretty good job; several people even commented on how handsome I looked and when I looked down at my paws, they even impressed me. I wonder why Heather at the groomers can’t seem to get my toes quite that spiffy. Maybe I do too much of the fast paw-dance for her. Heh, heh.

Once mom put my bandana on, I hightailed as fast as I could toward the car. I even barked at her a few times-something I rarely do. I really wanted to go to the hospital and she was lollygagging around. Man, she moved so s-l-o-w-l-y I never thought we’d get to the hospital. Open up the car door, woman and let me in! Sheesh, I already do all the work at the hospital, do I have to drive now too?


Once we finally got there, there were loads of patients and visitors I was able to visit receive tons of attention from and I got to see my favorite nurse at hospice. I totally love Ann and there she was…woof, woof! I leaned in real close to get her attention and it worked. She gave me a big hug!

A couple of patients didn’t want to see me though on Sunday. The first lady had some people visiting her and when my mom knocked on her door to ask if she’d like a visit from pet therapy, she said no at the exact same time her visitors all shouted YES! She laughed and then invited us in to say hi to everyone. I had so much fun going from one person to the next one. I could hardly contain my glee and nearly wagged my tail completely off. Then as they were talking to my mom, I decided I should just lay down next to the bed. That means I’m very comfortable with the people and energy in the room. They thought I was tired but mom explained it’s just my way of letting them know I’m on guard duty. When we left, the patient said she was very glad I came in to visit.

The other lady was all alone at hospice. She smiled at me but said she “didn’t care for a visit from a dog.” Mom was very nice and smiled back, saying no worries and we moved down the hall to another family that really wanted to  pet me. Mom told me that if she was ever in hospice she hoped that she’d ALWAYS want a visit from a pet therapy dog. I didn’t understand what was going on. I mean I took a bath, groomed up all fluffy and super handsome and was a complete gentleman. I guess some people just don’t like dogs. Maybe she was in a lot of pain, I don’t know, but it made me a little sad andI think it made mom a little sad too knowing I wasn’t able to spread my magic Ju-Ju on her.

We also visited with some of the staff. One nursing assistant dropped the bedding she was changing and ran over to hug and pet me, squealing like a little girl. She really loved dogs and kept saying how wonderful I was. I caught mom beaming at me and then the treats started coming. Finally!

We were there for quite a while on Sunday and when we came home I crashed took a nap. Making people smile takes a lot out of me and I need to reenergize so we can take nice long evening walks when I wake up.

What did you do over the weekend? Did you have as much fun as we did?

Live, love, bark! <3

Deaf or Dumb?

Remember this not-too long ago post about our hope to share great adventures from our visit to hospice and the hospital? Well, I’m here to tell you that “great’ might have been a bit of a stretch and over zealous on my part. Truth be told, I am more flummoxed than ever. Apparently getting even for the bath thing was on the agenda though I didn’t know it at the time.

I’m never quite sure which Sam will show up when we go off to the hospital. It could easily be ‘deaf Sam’ where he just doesn’t hear my commands. Granted, I am somewhat soft-spoken at the hospital. Personally, I think it’s important not to go inside sounding like a stevedore shouting out greetings and what-have-you on our shifts. But I suspect it’s more a case of selective hearing. ‘Yeah, I know you said to do “X” but I’m gonna act like I didn’t hear you and not do it.’

Then again it could be ‘Simple Sam’ (otherwise known as the dummy) who shows up. When I give a command for him to put his feet up on a bed, he’ll look at me as if I just spoken to him in Yugoslavian.

Lately though he’s done really well with the “Feet”command where he puts his front paws on a bed to let a patient pet him or to get a closer look at those sweet eyes. If I were to say “Up,” he’ll pogo-stick his entire body up on the bed and while it can be weird endearing sort of, it more often it startles patients, not exactly the kind of practice conducive to healing, now is it?

So after we checked in, I made my preliminary rounds which means stopping by the front desk and saying hello to our friend, Nicole. She’s super adorable, cute as a button with a million watt smile-just the kind of person you’d want greeting visitors at the hospital. Often times, there may be a student volunteer there as well helping out and I know they enjoy Sam’s visits and it gets him ready for the harder work with patients. We also swing by the Gift Shop too since it’s almost always manned by high school student volunteers and the girls absolutely LOVE Sam and he naturally loves their attention.

So imagine my surprise when I gave the “Feet” command and pointed to the counter and Sam popped up like a Jack-in-the-Box with all 4 feet landing on the counter looking quite innocently and pleased with himself. Sweet Nicole laughed and said “oh my, I sure wasn’t expected that!” Naturally, I was horrified by his broad interpretation complete disregard of the command. He’s actually done so well with it lately, it just never occurred to me that he’d completely blow me off, especially around someone he knows.

Yet he wasn’t quite finished being a toad. A few minutes later when we were up on a floor,  I gave the command again (could it be that I’m the numskull here since we’d already had an epic fail downstairs–what was I thinking?). I thought he’d actually put his feet up on the bed for a patient who was very excited to see us. What did that dog do?

IMG_1816You may not be able to tell from this photo but how about full on “Scoot over lady…INCOMING!!” He totally jumped in the middle of her lap. OMG, what is wrong with this doofus? While it’s not specifically against the rules when dogs are invited up onto beds with patients, the key word here is being ‘invited‘. As you can see, she was a very good sport about it, albeit surprised but I was completely embarrassed and horrified. We visited with her for a few more minutes, all the while she kept petting Sam and saying what a sweet face he has and, of course he was eating it up like crazy. No doubt in his smug mind pea sized brain, I’m pretty sure he was subconsciously sticking his tongue out at me and thinking “Ha, ha so there–give me a bath will you!” He pretty much did the same thing to a guy we visited shortly thereafter but that guy so missed his own dog, I don’t think he realized that Sam was being a brat. Course, he did casually mention that Sam was kind of nudging him over to the far edge of the bed (OH MY GOD, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THAT DOG?!). We joked about that (I tried desperately not to totally wig out choke the life out of that miscreant therapy dog) and then Sam and I left to visit with patients, visitors and Sam’s favorite nurses over at hospice. Ever since though, I’ve been trying to decide whether or not Sam is deaf…or dumb.

Then again after several days of reflection, I’m wondering if there isn’t a very fine line between being dumb and being stubborn. Now to just figure out which one that dingbat dog is because he clearly hears me open a package of cheese from the fridge no matter where he is at in the house, so we can probably rule out his being deaf! 😉

Live, love, bark! <3