Happy Monday, troops. This week we restart the process of getting back to pet therapy with an updated orientation class on Friday. While Norman won’t be attending that session, he still continues to update his K-9 levels through lots of people interactions.
We hope you have a ‘pawsome’ week and get daily doses of the magic K-9 vitamin.
Today’s smile will be good advice for Norman who received notice last week the hospital will be re-opening up for pet therapy visits. Exciting news for him as well as for Elsa who seems thrilled that he’ll be occupied for a few days a month. Meanwhile, Norman and I will be working hard polishing up on our skills to bring smiles to patients and staff soon and hope to sail through the certification process easily.
One year ago today you looked around and suddenly decided it was time to watch over me from a different world. That cold February day continues to replay, one agonizing frame at a time and still remains incredibly vivid in my mind. Not a day goes by that I don’t choke up, shedding tears I know you’d lick from my face with a warm comforting tongue. I’ continue to recall the many ways you enhanced my life, as well as those whose path crossed yours. You are still so very missed…your sweet, gentle ways, that silly expression you had…and that Swiffer tail. A tail that always wagged so hard I often wondered how it didn’t lift you up off the ground.
I’ve gone through hundreds of photos taken of you over the years, fondly recalling each moment. I remember times when you ‘snoopervised’ my garden redesign by sleeping in the warm sunlight while I removed sod and reshaped the landscape and how you’d leap up flinging yourself like a slingshot, doing half gainers whenever someone walked by and asked about you. You were known as the Neighborhood Canine Concierge, welcoming all who passed by. How you’d go nuts barking at the mail lady like she was some sort of serial killer until the glass door opened and then you’d lean against her legs, looking appreciatively up into her eyes, tail wagging like crazy. You loved her and she loved you.
I knew early on that your sweetness would make you the perfect candidate for therapy work but wondered if your knuckleheaded-ness could be properly channeled. Little did I know just how you’d morph into one truly amazing therapy dog. When we attended training classes, I worried if you’d ever be able to focus on this important job. And then you aced your tests, outperforming every dog in the class, and far beyond any of my expectations. My heart still swells with pride recalling how well you performed at your Canine Good Citizen certification.
Your unbridled joy to life brought so much happiness to hospital patients and staff alike, their squealing egged on your tail-wagging delight whenever you’d visit. You never knew a nurse you didn’t adore and watching you around ‘your harem’ always brought big smiles to many hearts.
The way you endeared yourself with the vet who performed the twice-a-year pet screenings. How you somehow managed to stick that long nose into faces, armpits, and other places to inhale the people you loved and how they’d giggle. I recall how you became a rock star entertaining mental health patients at West Pines by licking your chops on command, first on the left side and and then on the right; that long pink tongue slowly sliding back and forth on command all the while looking earnestly at the treats you knew you’d receive. They wondered why you would give so much of yourself for such a tiny reward. They just didn’t understand that was the essence of your spirit. You were always about giving, even to your last breath. You lived to hear the magic word…aww and then would respond as if you’d just won the biggest Lotto jackpot.
I will forever miss you leaning against my legs looking up at me with those gorgeous soulful eyes, as though you were asking, “well…what’s next, mom?” And how I often wondered if you weren’t part pogo stick because of your constant bouncing up and down, especially when I pulled down your hospital bandana when you’d go absolutely bonkers knowing we’d be heading to the hospital to meet all your fans. Even though you’d be bouncing off the walls, as soon as I pulled into the parking lot, a whole other Sam emerged. The calm, focused Sam who loved people with all his heart.
You were such an ambassador for therapy dogs, walking purposely, with such calmness, ready to brighten a weary heart and provided unparalleled love for everyone you met, with never any thought of judgment. You loved the idea of going to the hospital in the car, but I knew you hated the actual ride but were excited about the thought of making new friends every weekend we went to the hospital. It was always about getting there to share your love for people. Even if it meant riding in a car, an endeavor you did not enjoy but accepted with grace. The payback was what mattered most to you.
I recall the first time you rode in an elevator and how you had this panicked look with your legs somewhat splayed out to keep your balance. You looked to me for support encouragement to overcome the fear. But in no time, you became a champ elevator rider who made sure to say hello to everyone riding with us forgetting your fear. I’ll forever cherish our routine where we visited the staff in the reception area and the young college student you adored who would coo over you. When I asked you to say hello to her by putting your front feet up on the counter, you jumped up on top, all four feet in the center of her workspace and she gasped, “oh gosh, wasn’t expecting that!” Nor had I but we both laughed, your tail wagging furiously without any worry that you’d somehow breached good therapy dog manners. I still blush recalling my embarrassment that day yet I’m sure you thought you were supposed to get up close enough to say hi.
I also recall those times you welcomed my sometimes over-the-top grandkids with their noisy rambunctiousness and busy fingers outstretched to touch your dandelion soft hair that smelled so incredible after grooming. You were always a model around them and often far more patient than I was at times. You never shied away from any chaotic attention, always happy to be around people, and particularly children. I often wondered if you ever realized you were a dog and not a human.
My heart aches at these memories but I will always and forever be grateful of that fateful day when a colleague shared your photo with me after seeing it on a website looking to rehome you. You turned her into one of your biggest fans even though she was not a big fan of the breed initially, thinking like many others, ‘oh they’re too frou frou’ but she knew I loved the breed having owned several over the years. But none of them were anything like you. You were…special…so extraordinarily special from any dog I’ve ever know. And I saw that specialness the first day I brought you home.
So, on this first anniversary of your passing and with tears streaming down my face, I wanted to say how special you still are to me. I know you’re welcoming all pets who have crossed the Bridge this past year, showing them your joyful self because that’s just how you rolled. Know I’ll always love you and you’ll always be my heart and soul companion.
Before we get to Monday, I wanted to express my heartfelt thanks to all who were so kind with their welcome back comments on our last post and extra thanks to those of you who reached out privately over the past six weeks. It has been so incredibly touching and most appreciated. The pet blogging community is quite special and I will always be grateful to each and everyone of you for your kindness and caring. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Now, let’s get to Monday. For those of you living in the US who are not quite ready to welcome another week of the campaign, I hope you find comfort in the thought there are only two more weeks until the election. Thank heavens for small miracles. I’m sure everyone will be grateful for the end of the weirdest election ever. But if that doesn’t make you smile, how about seeing therapy dogs in action from Norman’s recent inaugural visit to Lutheran. The panDAMNic has taken a real toll on healthcare workers everywhere and it certainly disseminated our therapy ranks, but ten dogs were scheduled for this event, five for each shift, which was a nice way to start up again.
Even with reduced numbers, there was still a good variety of participating pups from tiny Bindee to buffalo-sized Norman. Whatever your jam, the Lutheran pet therapy dogs have you well covered.
Norman was especially taken with little Bindee, wiggling his butt non-stop whenever he was around her but always remaining a well behaved, gentle giant. I wasn’t 100% completely sure how’d this mass get-together would fly but Norman showed why he should do quite well when it comes to pet therapy work. There were loads of “hi there, how you doing, nice to meet you” kind of sniffs with tails wags and wiggles by all the dogs. It was particularly nice to also see the handlers after many months being away.
While I personally wish there had been more doctors and nurses from the Emergency Department (they had been lobbying for dog visits for some time and could definitely use the pet therapy visits as the hospital is once again full with patients as the city’s COVID numbers have spiked lately), we did get a few drop in’s from folks I’d previously seen around the hospital with probably half a dozen EMTS and police officers.
Everyone seemed very pleased to visit with all the dogs on a perfect autumn day with mild temps and the dogs were glad to be back to work. We’re all hopeful that we can do this again soon.
Rylie also made her maiden voyage with Norman. She’s going to be a great addition of the group. At the end of the day, the Good Dogs of Lutheran’s pet therapy program made the event a resounding success and everyone is already jonesing for the next time when these special dogs are able to make people smile and breath just a bit easier in these weird times.
Hi there, remember us? You know, that merry band of misfits consisting of two dogs and an upright who thinks she runs things but let’s face it, we all know Norman and Elsa are the real brains around the Ranch. Sorry we’ve been AWOL. A series of life events tripped us up pretty hard and took the wind out of my sails with little to no bandwidth remaining in the tank to do any kind of job at blogging. I began to sink in mental mud rather than focus on much of anything else.
Although we were served a large crap sandwich, I realized when I ran into a nearby neighbor couple this morning that life can easily serve a bountiful meal as well. They were loading their newborn baby boy into the car (egad, I hadn’t even been aware they were expecting)! What a beautiful and reaffirming sight to see their new son peeking out over dad’s shoulder gazing at the world while the two fur beasts and I observed this blessing from a more than social distance. The realization that a new life joined the rest of us in 2020 had an impact on my psyche and that made me realize I absolutely needed to begin to post.
In the ‘more good news’ category, the hospital recently contacted the pet therapy teams to see if we were interested in participating in some form of hybrid form of pet therapy visits. While visiting patients and staff in the hospital would not be possible (and probably won’t for the foreseeable future given the recent uptick in cases in the Mile High City), they worked on creating a new way to bring smiles at least to the staff of the Emergency Department. Norman is scheduled to visit their parking lot venue for greeting doctors and nurses (today is our first day and we’re wiggling with excitement and will report back on just how it goes so wish us luck). Norman is all spiffed up having survived the water torture and is now ready to make his first appearance spreading a little joy later this morning.
Please know we’ve missed you all and hope to pick up where we left off with new adventures to share. I’ve continued to visit your blogs and left a few microscopic comments but you’ve all been in my heart. It appears the summer has been good to the fair majority of you and we hope autumn continues in that vein. Until the next time where we update you on how Norman’s inaugural entry into the world of pet therapy goes, remember…
As you might expect, yesterday was a very emotional and overwhelming day. So emotional in fact, I was unable respond to all of the touching comments and well wishes you left about Sam’s last day as a pet therapy dog. To say I was a basketcase as I read each of your sweet notes is more than an understatement. Please know I am ever so grateful for your support and kindness as we begin to write a new chapter in life as we learn how to cope with a new reality in the days ahead.
To say that Sam left it all on the field yesterday is an understatement. Not only did he see more patients at West Pines than we have ever visited with before, he was sweetly patient and attentive as loads of people showered him with loving praise. As usual, he had to sniff out all the go-cups of coffee (don’t know what it is about coffee-he wouldn’t drink it but loves sniffing at their cups), and performed his ‘licking his chops on command’ trick for everyone. It’s the only trick he has ever performed (it’s his belief that performance art is beneath him) and managed to visit with each and every person we encountered. Naturally he spent a extra moments with several people, all who clearly needed the love of a sweet dog sent to put a smile on their face and in their heart. And yes, there were some tears shed by more than one patient at this wonderful dog’s ability to read what people need.
As I tear up just writing this post, I can honestly say I’ve never been more proud of this silly Knucklehead. The staff was touched by him and more than a few tears fell at the thought it was Sam’s last visit. Because we’ve met so many wonderful, caring folks in the nearly seven years of visiting the hospital, I decided we’d also swing by the main hospital to bid our favorites a fond farewell. Once people realized it was our last visit, we were surrounded by folks (many who were new to us) to praise Sam’s efforts. This silly, sweet ‘Dogtor’ has chalked up 219 visits over the years, reaching out to hundreds if not thousands of people extolling the virtues of pet therapists everywhere. I didn’t check to see how many hours he’s logged, but I can guarantee it’s been loads.
As a final act of doing what this boy does best, we went to say goodbye to our friends in the hospital lab. When we arrived, there was quite the commotion going on in the waiting room. A baby was wailing his head off much to his mother’s chagrin. She was unsuccessful at comforting the little tyke but once he saw Sam he blinked through tears, babbled something I couldn’t decipher as Sam stopped dead in his tracks. There was one more person to comfort before saying goodbye. He walked up to the little guy who patted his back with chubby little hands. Then the little boy kissed Sam on his fluffy back and head. Repeatedly. Sam stood here relishing the attention and stuck his nose in the little boy’s face, as if to say, “there, there, little man…it’ll all be good. With tears dried up, the little boy began to smile and continued to simultaneously pat and kiss him as he tottered around Sam on wobbly legs. I nearly lost it at this point especially when people commented on how sweet the whole scene was.
Certainly that small chance encounter was emblematic of what we’ve experienced over the years but this one was an extra sweet experience and one that will remain in my heart for a long, long time.
We finished our goodbyes to those who had been ever so gracious and kind over the years with vows of staying in touch. As I sat in the car ready to head home, I had to spend several minutes composing myself. Once again, the hospital gave us more than we left. I am truly blessed to have experienced such camaraderie over the years to both me and to Dogtor Sam. What a community of people, those we visit and those who visit us, here as well in person. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of you following us, leaving such special comments over the years and supporting our efforts to make this world a bit better than we found it. Mere words of thanks don’t seem sufficient for all you’ve given us but please know I feel profoundly blessed and grateful for each and every one of you.
It’s West Pines Wednesday but today is different from all the ones we’ve done over the past several years. Today is Sam’s last day at a therapy dog. This day brings loads of mixed emotions as we always look forward to our time at Lutheran Medical Center and especially West Pines. Sam has repeatedly shown me how much of a difference he makes to all he meets and no doubt today will be the same which leaves me with a full heart of gratitude and pride. Still, it’s also a sad day knowing it is the last day he’ll be doing exactly what he does best. We will miss seeing the many friends we’ve made over the past seven years and the nurses who have showered this boy with loving affection and he in turn, returning the love with his soulful sweet spirit.
The time has come for Sam to sit back and relax in his old age. Though in good health, the rigors of being an all-in Dogtor ever willing to leave his heart on the floor is beginning to take its toll. Recovering after a shift takes much longer and while I know in my heart he would soldier on if asked, it became clear to me now is the right time to let him enjoy what time is left this for this 14+ year old boy. He can nap to his heart’s content, dance with his Ninja sister, play neighborhood concierge as he waits for that Social Security check to show up now that he’s retiring.
As you might expect, this will be a tough day for me and may take a while to process emotionally. I don’t plan to give up pet therapy entirely, in fact, I’ve actively begun searching for another pet who can step into Sam’s bandana and provide the same kind of canine care of a special kind to patients, staff and hospital visitors. We hope the process doesn’t take long but as I’m working with a rescue group, those kinds of special dogs don’t come around nearly as often as I’d like. We’ll keep you posted on that process and hope to share a few memorable stories that we haven’t yet shared about some of the more impactful visits Sam has had.
Happy Monday peeps and pets. The big day is almost here…are you ready? Today is Monday and we always like to start the week out with a smile.
You may recall that last week Sam worked at hospital and West Pines bringing relief and smiles to staff and patients alike. We’ll share some details of a couple of those visits soon.
As we were leaving West Pines, for some odd reason, Sam was mesmerized by the fish tank in the lobby. In the past he’s never paid any attention to it, we’ve walked past it a jillion times. Yet, this time he just couldn’t stop watching one of the large angelfish and seemed to be captivated by this swimming creature following his every turn, from one side of the tank to the other.
Sam seemed to be wondering if Santa visits those fish. The funny thing is that fish followed him as much as Sam followed the fish. Maybe he needed some pet therapy too?
Here’s hoping the smiles are plentiful this week and you are filled with the love, joy and peace of the season. We will be taking a few days off from posting and wish you all Happy “Howlidays!”
Hi there, it’s me, the Ninja. While most of Blogville is participating in Wordless Wednesday, today is a working day around the Ranch, at least for one of us. Today is the last working day this year for my knuckleheaded brother to spread smiles at West Pines. But first, I have to get him out of bed. Looks like yesterday’s hospital visits took a little out of him. As soon as he came home, he took a long nap.
Meanwhile for me, there are stuffies to attack play with and squirrels to bark at while he’s working and far too busy to miss him while he visits his friends at West Pines. I just hope he doesn’t try to use that stethoscope on me.
Happy mid-week. Maybe I can help huMom out later after she comes home with some of her Christmas preparations. I have offered to help her out in the kitchen, by licking keeping the floors clean while she’s making treats but she keeps shooing me out. Not worries for me though, I can block sit in the doorway and obstruct her path almost as easily as I can under her feet. Then again I can always use a paw to help tie bows on presents she’s wrapping. I’m a equal opportunity, multi-dimensional helper.
Hey guys, it’s me, Sam getting ready to make rounds at the hospital over the next couple of days. I’m also going to train a new member today. Woof, woof! I’m tail-wagging happy to greet a new pet therapist into the program. Fresh new dog hair blood is always a great thing and I don’t mind sharing the nurses with this new buddy, a Huskie, Lab, Shepherd mix. Wish us luck.