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! 🐾


Therapy Tuesday

Last week I worked my shifts magic at the man hospital and hospice. Sam here. Yes…it was disappointing that West Pines wasn’t on the schedule but I made the trips worthwhile nonetheless. While the hospital was a bit slow, I was busy, busy, busy visiting with many nice people.

Whenever I go visit, mom always makes sure we pay attention to staff. They need therapy visits too she says and wished she had a dog visit when she worked at the law firm but I think she wanted a guard Rottweiler most of the time. Any-who, we always try to swing by the gift shop. the coffee bar and the reception wait areas. Lately she’s been going up to the Lab because everyone there loves visits from all of us therapy dogs. I love them because they make such a fuss over me are so nice. It’s definitely a win-win for everyone.

On our second day of visits, we had to drop by the Facilities Department to replace my badge holder that snapped off on the previous visit. Located in the basement, it’s kind of a dreary place with no windows or sunshine. We had to walk around to find it and saw lots of people scurrying around heavy mechanical equipment. Some of the engineers I meet on the various floors and they know me well. It’s always nice to run into them because being engineers, they know right where my sweet spots are on my ears. Ahh…they rub them sooo well.

We walked into Facilities and Rachel was there so I patiently waited outside her office as she helped another person on the phone. When Rachel got off the phone she looked a little frazzled and asked who I was since we hadn’t met before. She chatted with mom and told her my story. I only remember the ‘blah, blah, blah’ part. It was then that I took matters into my own paws and sidled up next to her and looked long and lovingly into her eyes, wagging my tail. She melted. Bingo…score! She began rubbing my ears and telling my mom what a rough day she had been having but seeing me made it all better. My job there was done so after a few more minutes, off we went to visit other staff folks and patients throughout the hospital.  This was one of my best visits of the day.

It always makes us feel good to lighten the load of hospital workers and patients and this time was no different. Mom always asks me how do I know how to make people smile, but I just wag my tail. A guy’s gotta have a little mystery about him, right? I’m already looking forward to next month’s visit.

Live, love, life! 🐾

A-Visiting We Will Go

If you don’t hear from us, it means that Sam and I are visiting with patients and staff for the next couple of days but are looking forward to sharing our adventures with you soon. Have a super ‘Furs-Day.’

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Mental Health Mission ~ August 2, 2018

Seriously…it’s August? Where has this year gone? As I sit in my studio and contemplate how two-thirds of a year seems to have flashed by, my thoughts turn to other ponder-ables. At this stage in my life as a recovering cog in a large law firm, life has given me the luxury of contemplative reflection after an early morning walk with the Knuckleheads. Acknowledging “life is good” I stop to wonder about some of the patients Sam and I visited last week.

We arrived at West Pines only to find the discover the entire parking lot is filled to the brim. Grr, I growl. We end up finding a spot in a nearby parking lot and will need to dash back toward the facility. It’s a silly annoyance but one that seems to wrap its ugly tentacles around my brain. It makes me feel rushed knowing how critical adhering to the schedule is for the facility and we’re close to being late because of this inconvenience. Finally I arrive and take a relaxing deep breath. Donna, the coordinator seems frazzled herself and asks if I mind if a colleague conducts the visit. I realize then we each have our own little crosses to bear, whatever they might be. Mine is a minor inconvenience, Donna’s is a state of overwhelm of more work than seems possible to manage while filing in for others on vacation while having thoughts for her daughter who recently had knee surgery and how she will function easily with a toddler and newborn without her help. It’s there that I realize everything is relative to the moment, and reassure her it’s no problem, no apologies are necessary and Sam and I are there to make things as easy as possible for her. She smiles gratefully, Sam wags his tail at her and we are introduced to her substitute, a lovely woman whose name sadly escapes my memory and we move toward the first building. Let’s call her “Chris.”

Chris is a warm soul, gentle with a cheerful smile. She’s worked at West Pines for many years, knows the ropes, the people and the mission. We move toward our first stop. She tells me the facility is at capacity, somewhat unusual. She also tells me our visits will be closely monitored as the patients we are visiting may be potentially combative and our safety is paramount. I understand and put on a brave face. I can’t help but wonder if the upcoming lunar eclipse and blood moon has some impact on these folks.

In the year and a half we’ve been visiting West Pines, we have been fortunate to never have any negative incidents where I thought Sam might be at risk. His calm nature and sweetness in fact, seem to calm everyone. I rely on his posture and physical signals to guide me as to how we function in each situation.

When we arrive, the floor facilitator cautions us again. ‘Chris’ reiterates the message and I acknowledge my understanding. As soon as we walk into the ‘day room,’ one young man slowly moves over toward us and politely asks if he can pet Sam. Sam wags his tail in agreement and I stand close, observing him. His somewhat vacant eyes suggest there’s a lot of mileage on his soul, despite being maybe in his late 20’s. We chat casually when I catch a glimpse of another very young man who clearly is interested. I watch him and ask if he’d like to pet Sam…he nods affirmatively. A quiet, dark man with long slender fingers, he moves over to sit eye level on the floor and pet Sam. His whispers his name is Robert.

Robert clearly is troubled, though I know nothing of what led him to this mental health center. He starts to babble a bit in unintelligible phrases and Sam looks deeply into his eyes. Robert’s calm but potentially capable of changing quickly. Within a few minutes he hollers “Jesus!” a couple of times. I’m not certain how to respond, looking both at the unit facilitator as well as Chris for clues. Their reassuring smiles comfort any trepidation on my part.

Another young man, perhaps in his mid-30’s, comes from down the hall and wanders over. His name is Chad, he’s warm and engaging-the exact opposite of Robert. Sam picks up on his energy which is, dare I say…normal. I can’t help but wonder what it was that brought both of them here. And then it occurred to me of all the different and sometimes serendipitous life happenings for the Robert’s and Chad’s of the world…and I can only conclude…but for the grace of god, there go I. While my heart is sad there are those who are less fortunate, I am grateful at that moment.

Visiting patients always impacts me deeply, but none more than last week. I know there are those less fortunate than me and I recognize how truly lucky my life journey has been. While I can’t say with 100% certainty that I’m ‘normal‘ by comparison, I do recognize my good fortune of at least being considered socially appropriate enough to function without medication or intervention and lucky enough to meander through life with a sweet furry companion. I am blessed and easily conclude that visiting patients like Robert and Chad is a privilege and hope to continue bringing them a moment of respite, even a smile or two to those who are sick or troubled. Sam will do the work and I will drive and find that elusive parking slot in a stressed world. And while doing that, I will remind myself to not grumble about it. Life could be so much worse.

Life, love, bark! 🐾

Wash Day Wednesday ~ July 25, 2018

We’re off to West Pines today which requires Sam get bathed. Do you think he could be any more pitiful? The scar looks worse when he’s wet but does seem to look more pronounced than we thought though the vet said the hair might grow in but it could take a couple of months. I rather doubt it, but it does kind of give him some street cred.

Elsa was afraid she might be the next bath victim subject when Sam was finished and immediately declared ‘King’s X’ and ran to her self-designated safe spot. These knuckleheads should get an Emmy for best dramatic performance by a dog.

I am declaring a time-out. I’m not taking a bath, no how, no way.

Happy Hump Day.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

While we’re providing therapy at West Pines today, here’s an image that might provide you with some visual therapy. Here’s to a happy Wednesday.

Sunset-El Moro Fortress, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Live, love, bark! 🐾

And We’re Off

Greetings, uprights. Sam here. 🎶Hi-ho, hi-ho🎵  it’s off to work I go for the next couple of days.  We’ve had some pretty good weather (as long as you don’t count the hail storm that shredded leaves everywhere) but now the temps are going up-up-up. By Thursday, it should be about 101 so it will be nice being inside in air-conditioned conditions spreading my tail-wagging wellness with patients.

Here’s hoping you have a great week. We’ll try to stay caught up with you in between our shifts. But now, like a certain group of little dwarves, it’s off to work I go. Hmm, why can’t I whistle?

Live, love, bark! 🐾


Heroes of Hope ~ Event Highlights

Smiling for attention

This past weekend mom and I ‘pawticipated’ at Lutheran Medical Center’s Heroes of Hope race featuring a 10K, 5K and a 1-mile walk. Sam here. Like a few others in the pet therapy program we competed in the 1-mile walk. But first we had to check in at registration where this terrific volunteer had to have a photo with me. She told me I could help her check in the other pawticipants but it was such a lovely cool morning so I decided to ‘walk the walk’ with my peeps figuring there would be all kinds of fur-bulous adventures just for me. It was a good calculation on my part as you can see from mom’s gazillion photos below.

Lutheran’s Heroes of Hope Run/Walk is the largest National Cancer Survivors Day event in Jefferson County (which is just west of Denver). We had a good time and got to see some of our favorite therapy peeps. Naturally there were a ton of kids, dogs and folks walking along the scenic course through Lutheran’s tree-lined campus. This race, designed for fun for the whole family, celebrates and benefits the hospital’s cancer survivorship program including “genetic counseling program, patient navigation, survivor and nurse education and patient care on the oncology unit.” Following the race, we met some hopeful candidates wanting to join our therapy program. Woo-hoo, that means more cool dogs! Well color me happy on this gorgeous cloudless day.

Runners… take your mark, get set…GO!!
Post-race hydration

I finished first among the pet therapists though mom was a little cheesed at me since I stopped to say hi to a bunch of kids lined up along the curb several yards before crossing the finish line. She said I could check out my adoring fans AFTER we actually finish the race. Oops. Still it was only another 3 or 4 minutes additional time. Sheesh…talk about competitive-lighten up, ma!

After the post-race celebratory refreshment, I begin to mingle. This is our fur-iend Zoe, (whose mom is also a blogger (check out her blog here). She’s going to be joining our ranks in about 6 months (she’s a little under age now as dogs must be at least 2 years old). Is she just as cute as a button?!

Zoe, the adorably earnest Corgi

Here are some other photos from the event.

Spreading the word about pet therapy
Focused Kai, an agility champion and Dogtor
Little One, a beloved Greyhound racer from the program
A costumed team from the 5K

Little Riley below is waiting to join our ranks next year. Her mom had a Golden in the program up until last year when Roxie passed away unexpectedly. We’re looking forward to the day when she is old enough to follow in her sister’s fore-paws.
Look at THAT face!

Meet Calypso, a Keeshond who is currently a pet therapist at a non-hospital facility but who is interested in joining our group.

Meet adorable Calypso

Naturally I had to scope out all the cute girls. Here’s Jillian, who placed first in her race.

Last but not least, is our own little Bindy, who is the current Miss June in the calendar. You may remember I was Mr. May. What a cute little pocket dog! Everybody loves Bindy who has been a long-time therapy dog.

Little Bindy, 5 pounds of adorable with a long tongue

We had a great time, for a great cause. Mom took me home where I got to have a nice nap while she then went over to the Rocky Mountain Pet Expo. She’s working on a post showcasing that event for later this week. If you follow us on Instagram (you do follow us, don’t you?), you may have seen some of the photos posted there. Mom said it was a nice expo and she learned lots of interesting stuff.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings

We’re trying a new cleaning tool around the Ranch…this one’s aim is a bit off target most of the time but works mostly as well as the commercial Swiffer version. When that tail gets going, boy the dust ends up…going, going, gone!

Sam and I ‘pawticipated’ at the hospital’s annual Heroes of Hope benefit race/walk for cancer survivor’s over the weekend. We hope to have a post chronicling our adventures soon. Let’s just say Sam is still a competitor, even if he has to stop along the route to administer therapy to all the well wishers and course volunteers. Knuckleheaded dog.

Hope you had as ‘wagnificent’  a weekend we did. Here’s to a ‘pawsome’ week!

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Mental Health Thursday

How can I help you?

We visited West Pines yesterday (read about a previous visit here and the kinds of patients we see) and noticed that most of the staff were wearing green remembrance ribbons attached to their ID badges. When I asked what the occasion was, they said it was Mental Health week. I didn’t find anything online about it (it could have been a hospital campaign although I note it was Mental Health week in the UK from May 16 through May 22).

In any event, Sam was ready to provide his own version of therapy for a number of staff and patients. Here are some of Dogtor Sam’s therapy session notes.

From the moment we walked into the facility, Sam realized there was work to do. Not one to shirk his duties, he began even before our chaperone arrived to take us on our rounds. He   strolled over to a visitor sitting in the lobby. She sheepishly asked if she could pet Sam and as soon as the words came out of her mouth, he was standing next to her, tail-a-wagging. She got down on the carpet and looked deeply into his eyes. She bent close to him and whispered something in his ear. His tail wagged even more feverishly and he sat next to her while she began to massage his ears. It was the beginning of many massages for the furry therapist.

Sam saw several people, all of whom genuinely enjoyed seeing him. But his most memorable visit was with “Sarah,” a tall, thin woman with a vacant stare. She politely asked to face him as she sat in a chair and began stroking him gently. He looked deep into her eyes and seemed as if he was completely mesmerized by her gaze. She told me of her own service dog but I’m reluctant to quiz patients about their personal lives (HIPAA plus it’s really not my place to question them). It’s better just to let them share whatever they want. I could tell she was missing her service companion greatly but seemed more than happy to spend time with Sam. A few moments after she sat in front of him, a young bearded fellow came over and sat next to Sam. It seemed too much for her to have someone in such close proximity and she got up and moved to the other side of the day room but keep a watchful eye on her new furry friend. The young man sat and talked to both Sam and I, saying how much he enjoyed dogs and how much they seem drawn to him. Sam was enjoying his presence and after a few minutes sitting on the floor, he decided to get up and move around to loosen up a sore hip. As soon as he left, Sarah returned and sat down cross-legged on the floor in front of him. Sam seemed to realize she needed more of the kind of therapy he can provide and sat patiently with her. Soon he was laying on his side next to her while her fingers returned to massaging him in his favorite spots. A few of the staff commented at how relaxed Sam was and I noticed Sarah seemed more relaxed too. My heart swelled at the thought of this knucklehead making Mental Health Week a little more pleasant for a few peeps in need.

Live, love, bark! 🐾