Category Archives: Pet Therapy

Spreading the Love Thursday

Last week we visited hospice and hospital over Valentine’s Day and experienced some of our best visits. Ever. Sam was especially extra patient and loving on both days.

Sam spreading the love

We typically make a swing through the surgical waiting area before heading up to our assigned floor to visit with family and friends waiting for their loved ones and this week was no exception. Sam seemed to sense the first group needed extra attention. They included a husband, wife and another friend of the family’s. The husband’s face lit up as we came around the corner and Sam made a beeline for him. His wife squealed when she turned around, but Sam was determined to say hello first to him. His tail was wagging like a wound up metronome as he gazed into the guy’s eyes, so deeply in fact his wife commented on it. Sam turned toward her and she melted under his hypnotic spell, then he turned his gaze back to toward the man again. We spent several minutes chatting, learned he retired from being a police officer for over 40 years. Retirement wasn’t exactly his jam so he started working part-time at Home Depot for a while and shared several photos of pups who came in with their owners and said how much he appreciated it when people brought their 4-legged ‘handyman’ in to provide TLC with employees. He was totally in Sam’s paws, so much so, that he began leaning against the guy’s leg. Sam laid down next to him knowing he needed to chat and share stories of how much he enjoyed that job with those pooch encounters.

It became clear we could have spent loads of time visiting with this couple and learning more about them and their own dog at home but saw several other groups in the waiting area so we began to wrap it up. As we prepared to leave for the next family, the man asked me to say a prayer for his 91-year-old mother-in-law. Bless her heart, she was having a serious procedure done and worried about her long-term prognosis. Now I completely understood why Sam spent so much time with him. Sam knew his visit was what the doctor ordered for this family.

Sam spreading the love

We moved on to the next family whose elderly mom was the patient, Sam gave and received loads of kisses and hugs from the two sisters and aunts and uncles waiting to hear how their loved one fared in surgery. It’s always touching seeing this knucklehead spreading pure joy among people whose hearts are heavy as their family faces uncertain times. He seems to know who to visit first and for how long. Ironic considering when I try to get him to do something along our daily walks, he looks at me like I’m speaking in tongues.

Following the hospital visits, we went over to hospice where the nurses in particular needed Sam’s loving presence. Overnight, 5 patients had passed away, something that’s extremely rare for one day, and the staff needed some puppy love from a sweet loving therapy dog. While we were there, the last body was removed and as noted before they perform a Tibetan bowl ceremony while the body is removed. It’s a beautiful ceremony and Sam sat solemnly next to the line of nurses lined up watching as the body is removed from the building. Once the body was removed and everyone went back to work, he spent extra time with each one of the nurses on the floor. They needed his special attention and tail wags and they all expressed gratitude for his visit. While we’d just been visiting a couple of weeks earlier, I was particularly glad we answered the call to help them deal with the loss on what was a probably an extra difficult day at work.

This silly, goofy dog had the perfect touch for our Valentine’s Day visits and I couldn’t be prouder of this boy for doing what he does best. Making people smile and feel better, even if just for a few moments. While I know his days may be numbered as part of the pet therapy program, I know he will always give it his all.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Not Even Close to Wordless Wednesday ~ Long Shadows Edition

Sam, the Dogtor, is making rounds again (today he’s at West Pines) after some incredible visits yesterday with so many nice people. We hope to share a story or two about those visits soon. For today though, we thought we’d share a photo from the recent snowstorm. Hard to believe long, winter shadows arrived shortly after 2:00 PM across the snowscape, topped by a cornflower blue sky. Those gorgeous blue skies brought a smile to my face. Colorado’s weather is nothing, if not changeable. If you don’t like 10 inches of snow, wait a bit and you’ll see something like this. The temps will be warming to 50ºF over the next few days. Ahhh. Not too shabby for being mid-winter.

Long shadows

Have a great Hump Day.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Therapy in Action-Mexican Style

Pirate coffee hutSince returning from Mexico I have been frequently thinking about the impact of pet therapy more than usual. While visiting south of the border, I witnessed first hand the absolute power of pet therapy on a spontaneous walk I took in the vicinity of our resort. My intention was to walk up the main roadway toward where the river flowed out into the bay. I knew from walking along the beach that near the confluence, a number of egret-like birds hung out. I was also told by a local person, crocodiles could also be found upstream. I planned on avoiding the later but hoped I could get some decent shots of the former.

Pirate coffee shopWhen it became clear no good shots of the birds could be had without climbing down a step river bank (umm, no thanks, no photo of a bird was worth a potential encounter with a croc sighting, thank you very much). Instead, serendipity arrived in the form of a little coffee stand in the shape of…a pirate ship. ‘Argh,’ I groaned but quickly realized this little hut and companion playground held potential for a few photo opportunities. The proprietor greeted me (that’s him waving in the first photo) and we exchanged limited greetings, he only spoke Spanish and beyond ‘Hola,’ I could only smile. But I wandered around hoping to catch some locals taking a break when I saw a small boy playing in the playground area, but realized there was something special about this little boy. The boy was chasing and being chased by a small puppy who constantly dashed after this blur of a child, and the two rambunctious dervishes chased and played with each other with pure abandon. After several minutes of watching the scene, a thin slip of a young woman with a beautiful smile waved and came over to chat. She was the boy’s mother and we began a long chat about the two bundles of energy. The puppy was a Pit/Lab mix, about 4-months old which she had obtained for her 4-year old autistic son. She had gotten the dog in hopes of giving her son a companion that he might be aided by the fur companion. She related how owning this little ball of energy had made a significant difference with her son. When I revealed Sam was a therapy dog, she began asking me a jillion questions about training the new addition while repeatedly re-directing the pair away from the busy road.

Mexican therapy dog

A brief  moment of stillness

I barely was able to catch the pair still enough to capture any photos (never did get one of the boy who was either blurry or where he looked away), but in the shot above, the little ‘therapist’ was catching his breath for a few seconds before resuming the chase with his human friend. Watching the two of them and talking with the mom, it really struck me, how often dogs manage to understand their role with their humans. They instinctively seem to know what we need and provide it willingly. The mom, a transplant from Alberta Canada, mentioned that day was to be the last one with the little dog officially. The landlord said no pets and was adamant about the rule. So like mom’s everywhere, she found a solution to comply without moving by paying a nearby neighbor a few dollars a month to care for the dog at night and bring him back to play with her son during the day. I can only hope this solution works well for them, the little boy was clearly attached to his pal and the little pooch was thrilled to have his ‘2-legged puppy’ companion with whom he could romp and play during the day.

I thought about that family when Sam went to West Pines last week. We visited with a number of folks who for a brief few minutes, came out of their shells to twirl their fingers around the soft fur of a loving Knucklehead. One woman in particular sat down and had Sam sit in front of her crossed legs. Her face lit up and her soft voice shared her story about adopting a pair of Potcake dogs (you can read about the breed here) and how much she missed them. I could tell this tender-hearted woman needed a few minutes with Sam and he was more than willing to let her gaze into his eyes and stroke his ears. A fellow resident who was far chattier and extroverted then took his turn with Sam who accommodated him with a totally different energy. I couldn’t help but think of the little Pit/Lab mixed puppy a 1000 miles away chasing the pant legs of a little boy while romping together and then smiling. It was then while I typed this post that I realized Sam had his head pressed against my thigh. Without consciously thinking I reached down and twirled the fur on his ears and he leaned in and then looked up at me. Yes, therapy dogs are the same no matter where they are and I couldn’t be more pleased about that fact.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

The Dogtor Will See You Now

Sam here. I was told today is Giving Tuesday (whatever just happened to plain old Tuesday?) so I’ll be giving back by making rounds with patients and staff over the new few days. We’ll back toward the end of the week.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

It’s that time…

Last evening Sam was scheduled for his semi-annual re-evaluation to continue participation in the pet therapy program at Lutheran Hospital. Pets in the program receive a general health check as well as an evaluation as to suitability to participate. As I prepared the paperwork questionnaire, the Knucklehead could sense sometime beyond the usual evening routine was afoot. It’s always impressive to watch dogs intuition play out and he dashed from the back door to the garage in happy bounces. He sailed into the back seat and readied himself for the adventure.

We arrived at the volunteer office located on the south end of the main hospital building. This entrance is generally locked after hours which is no problem as my badge will provide access. We were greeted by a hospital volunteer who was stationed there for those who neglected to bring their badge with them. We’ve encountered Dave many times in various locations throughout the hospital. He always has a warm grin but especially when he sees the dogs coming. Sam adores him and immediately leaned in against his leg for a good ear scratch.

While we waited, a couple of volunteers came by to sign out. One was a high schooler who was super delighted to visit with Sam after his evening shift. Sam’s tail went into overdrive. Once they left, I reflected how well Sam connects with everyone he encounters and my heart swelled with pride with this sweet pup. When our number came up, we went in to visit with Dr. Diana Roberts, one of the volunteer vets who donates her time supporting our program. We hadn’t seen Dr. Roberts at our last two evals and were thrilled to see her again.

Sam adores Dr. R and not just because she provides scrumptious treats. She’s beyond kind, smiles a lot and has a soothing touch, all ‘wagnificent’ qualities for a vet. Sam passed this latest eval with flying colors and then we spent several minutes joking about his knuckleheaded-ness. Ok, maybe that was just me. They just laughed at my stories. The volunteer who coordinates all of the evaluations  ribs me when I say Sam is a knucklehead and then, naturally he does something that proves it and we all laugh; but a sweeter dog would be difficult to find. This photo, taken just before we left for the evaluation, seems to underscore that sweetness.

Sam

We’re looking forward to our visits later this month and during this month of thankfulness, I find how truly grateful I am for this amazing dog and for the pet therapy program where he can bring smiles to others.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

 

Fall Festival Pet Parade

Over the weekend, Sam ‘pawticipated’ in the Lutheran Fall Festival hosted by the hospital for staff, volunteers and their families. Normally we have our own get-together but this year we decided to be a part of the hospital’s event being featured in a Pet Parade complete with ‘Howloween’ costumes.

It’s well-known that knuckleheads Standard Poodles were originally bred as waterfowl retrievers. It’s a known fact that Sam hates water. He will walk around puddles on sidewalks. Imagine my surprise when I could hardly keep him away from the ‘duck pond.’

Perhaps his DNA leans more toward ‘fishing’ than retrieving.

Sam had a good time seeing his favorite therapy friends and making new ones. One of his besties is a toy poodle, named Teddy. Teddy was a puppy mill survivor who lost an eye but has never lost his heart to make people happy whenever they see him…all six pounds of him.

Teddy

Not one to shirk his therapy duties whenever there’s a crowd, Sam got busy visiting with all the children attending. And of course, investigating all the sweet treat smells, which to Sam are just as nice as little girls.

Sam adores firemen. Always has. As soon as he spotted this guy, he couldn’t get over to him fast enough. ‘Course, seeing our newest therapy teammate Zoey there probably helped too. She’s such a cutie and is going to make a wagnificent addition to our ranks.

We love attending these kinds of events because of all the terrific people attending. Sam thought he’d try his paw at face painting because he loves little girls and is so creative. Not. But a kid’s lap is just too tempting to not try to investigate. They invariably will deliver a nice ear scratch. Maybe he’s not as dumb as I think he is??

No pet therapy event is complete without little Bindy. This tiny scene stealer with her hanging out tongue is always a therapy hit.

It was really good seeing our buddy, Oreo especially since he’s been under the weather lately with bladder stones. As you can see from his smiling face, he was glad to be back in the saddle. Oreo is also a therapy dog at Denver’s International Airport and brightens the day for DIA’s many travelers.

Two of the longest-serving pet therapists were also in attendance. Beau and Mandy compete in national dance competitions in addition to bringing smiles to patients. They dress up nicely, don’t they?

Coco, the Mountain Dog looked dashing in her pirate costume.

Coco, the Mountain Dog

It was a lovely day for a festival with a good turnout of some of the program’s favorite pooches and peeps. Even Sam tried his level best at ‘Bee-ing” good for his autumn ‘pawtrait’ taking.

Sam, "Being Good"

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings ~ October 29, 2018

It’s Halloween week-are you ready for visits from big and little goblins? 

The neighborhood Knucklehead wasn’t too sure about posing with these seasonal decorations from the neighborhood shopping district recently and it required several attempts. Of the dozens of photos taken, this was the best one of the lot. The others were horrible photo-fails. He kept looking over his shoulder at them as if they were going to either (a) pet him or (b) scare him out of his fur.

If you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen some photos I posted of Sam while he  “pawticipated” at an event for hospital staff and volunteers as he strutted his stuff in the Pet Parade along with other members of the pet therapy team. We’ll share photos from that event tomorrow. Till then, have a ‘wagnificent’ Monday.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Almost Wordless Wednesday ~ October 24, 2018

Sam & ER nurses

Sam drew a bit of a crowd yesterday in the ER Dept. Two more doctors and another nurse joined the group right after this photo was taken. Dang, if only he liked people, although this might actually qualify as a harem in some books.

Happy mid-week. We’re back at West Pines today hopefully bringing more happiness.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

…and we’re off

Greetings, poodle fans. Sam here. I’m off to the hospital for he next couple of days but wanted to make sure you saw our post yesterday and commented to be entered into our first contest. I’m personally snoopervising the contest to make sure my Ninja sister doesn’t have a heavy paw on the scale of fairness when we pick a winner for the reversible Halloween bandana. Contest closed tomorrow so hurry and go here to leave a comment. Best of luck!

Nurse Sam

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Mental Health Thursday ~ October 4, 2018

Last week we were fortunate enough to spend a couple of days visiting with mental health patients. Sam here. First we visited at the Senior Behavioral Center and then the next day at West Pines. Talk about feeling blessed beyond measure.

Waiting to go to work

It was a glorious day for a visit, one of those cornflower blue Colorado skies with a golden autumn light to make me look good after a nice floof job by mom. I’m still not keen on the bath thing, but visiting with mental health patients makes up for it.

At the Behavioral Center, we visited with a really nice lady named Agatha (all names have been changed in accordance with HIPAA privacy regs) and she was one of the nicest patients I’ve visited with in a long time. We visited with a couple other patients in the Day Room who seemed to enjoy my attention and then I went in to Agatha’s room for a one-on-one. She couldn’t stop saying what a nice boy I was, so naturally my tail went into overdrive. Yeah, I. am. shameless. when it comes to attention but seriously, she was so sweet and kind to me and rubbed my ears just the way I like it. Swoon. We visited for a long while and she told mom stories about all the German Shepherds she owned over the years. While she doesn’t have one now while she’s transitioning to a new living arrangement, she misses having a dog in her life so I just ‘made her day’ (her words, not mine).

The next day we went to West Pines. I absolutely love all the peeps there. I visited with Suki who spoke to me in a low melodic voice, I practically melted looking into her kind, soft eyes. Then I met Rachel who owned 3 Standard Poodles! She was missing them very much while she was receiving care so my visit was very welcomed. She talked so much with my mom that we were late visiting with other patients throughout the campus. Oops. Sometimes mom loses track of time when someone is enthusiastic about my breed but I try not to hold it against her. Then again, I know exactly how to get her back on walks. {snicker}

As we were ready to leave the main reception area, I was visiting with a man who had come to pick up his wife. Guess who his wife was? Yup, my fur-iend, Suki waltzed through the doors and squealed with delight when she saw me. She then told her husband to stop ‘wearing me out’ saying she thought I might be ‘full.’ Mom said I was full alright, but I think she meant something else. I snuck in a tiny little kiss and she smiled deeply. I’m very happy she got to go home and mom wished her well as we left.

All in all, we had such meaningful visits both for me and for the patients. I love it when they enjoy my tail wagging escapades and I’m happy to sit, listen and stare deep into their eyes. Sometimes I see a lot of hurt behind those eyes but then they seem to brighten for a few moments and their eyes show some momentary relief to the often chaotic lives they are experiencing. Life can be hard and overwhelming-we all know that, but when I can bring a moment of cheer and make them feel a little better, then I’ve done my job. And so long as mom doles out loads of treats, then she’s done hers as well.

Live, love, bark! 🐾