Thankful Thursday ~ January 16, 2020

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.

Sam

Live, love, bark! 🐾

The Dogtor Makes His Rounds ~ January 15, 2020

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.

Dogtor Sam
Dogtor Sam getting ready for last rounds

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.

Sam
Mwah 😘

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings ~ December 23, 2019

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.

Fish

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!”

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Working Wednesday ~ December 18, 2019

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.

Sam

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.

Dogtor Sam
Dogtor Sam

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.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nearly Wordless Wednesday ~ December 4, 2019

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.

Make it a great day.

Dogtor Sam
“Dogtor” Sam

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings ~ November 25, 2019

It’s almost here, the eat-yourself-stupid ‘howliday’ that dogs all over America howling their approval. Sam gave his sister the “talk” about how it goes down.

Thanksgiving

But before Thanksgiving arrives, Sam and I will be working at the hospital the next couple of days bringing cheer to patients and staff at the hospital. We will also be training a new therapy team who is joining our ranks. Woof woof! Let’s just hope Sam doesn’t give the new guy a similar Thanksgiving “talk.” Our hospital visits may limit our ability to post or comment much this week but we will do our level best.

Mother Nature plans to factor into the holiday with a winter storm watch being issued with up to 10″ of snow expected to start arriving later today. We’re keeping our fingers crossed it doesn’t impact travel plans.

We hope you have a safe and happy ‘howliday’ and Elsa in particular, is wishing you drop a few peas or gravy drippings for the 4-legged visitors. Remember though, turkey skin is bad for dogs but sweet potatoes/yams are good if you’re sharing any bounty.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

West Pines Wednesday ~ October 23, 2019

As October quickly advances toward Halloween, we’re enjoying the gorgeous autumn weather. Today we’re headed for West Pines (if you’re not familiar with WP, you can read more about West Pines in the link). Sam really enjoys visiting with the folks at this facility located just south of the hospital. From the staff to the residents, he is extra calm, patient and sweet to those whose hurts are invisible.

Sam

The outdoor grounds make for a nice place to contemplate what burdens some folks carry in their hearts and minds. So today, we raise a paw to those brave patients trying to improve their lot and to the people who help them on their journey.

We’re halfway through the week. It that Friday I hear beckoning us?

Live, love, bark! 🐾

On-Call Wednesday

Now that I got the call, I’m all spiffed up, ready and raring to go visit my friends at hospital and hospice for the next couple of days so please forgive mom if she’s a little slow in reading and responding (I think she’s forgotten how to deal with more than just leashes). We’ll plan on seeing you guys again soon once I’ve managed to make patients and nurses smile. Loads of tail wags from me, Dogtor Knucklehead.

Dogtor Sam

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Therapy Thursday ~ September 5, 2019

🎵  Scooby-doo-bee-doo…ooh baby…oops, wrong opening chorus. Hi-ya…Sam here. While I can’t sing this post, I can share some of the adventures from last week in my triumphant return to hospital and West Pines. Now that I’m finally back to 110% it was nice to get back in the saddle and visit with my friends.

ELMC, West Pines Sam

Naturally mom said I had to be spiffed up. Ugh…not a bath, mom!! Seems like the nurses like a sweet smelling boy so I didn’t mind too much when she put a blend of relaxing essential oils on me after the bath. Chicks seem to dig that and well…when there are hugs and “atta boy’s,” how can I refuse?

It only took a few nanoseconds for me to remember some of my favorite peeps who I’ve regularly visited in the past. Mom thought we should go visit the Lab and soon there was a crowd of the regulars welcoming me back. One of the managers is a favorite of mine so I spent a long time visiting with her. I sure have missed her so it was a great way to start out what would end up become a long shift.

After our swing through the Lab, we made it down to the surgical reception area for another memorable visit. I like going through this area providing comfort to peeps waiting for their loved ones to get out of surgery before moving up to their rooms. One lady with a mini-peep tagging along lit up like a candle when she saw me. She told my mom they loved us poodle-y dogs. What I loved was her mini peep…a twenty-two month old granddaughter who was exactly my height and the two of us had a great time visiting. She had this weird thing in her mouth (mom said it was a nuk) that I was kind of interested in at first but realized the chubby little hands that pet me ever so sweetly were much better than some slobbery chew toy. I spent a long time with her and her grandma was very happy for my therapy.

I had a lot of dates with nurses encounters all over the hospital and it all began to come back to me. The ladies in the gift shop were as nice as always and told me about their summer adventures. I listened and wagged my tail at all the right times. They seemed to appreciate my listening skills. They were equally impressed I remembered where the treats are stashed.

The next day we went to West Pines. The director who shepherds us around to the various buildings on campus is one of my favorite hospital peeps. When we arrived at the first building, it was like I’d never been away. A number of patients were super excited to see me. They asked me all sorts of questions…how old was I, what was I, you know, stuff like that. I was the ‘pawfect’ gentlemen and let them all hug me and tell stories about the dogs that were in their life. Then there was one woman who just sat back on the other side of the room and watched me. When mom asked her if she’d like to pet me, her face lit up with a huge smile. I pranced sauntered over and sat in front of her and looked her in the eye. She began to talk to me and that made my tail wag. Her fingers were soft and gentle on my ears as she pet me and we both relaxed like old friends. When it came time to leave, mom offered her hand to shake and wish her well but her arms withdrew and her head turned, much like a turtle. Her face grew dark as she looked away. Clearly she has issues with people and touching and it left me sad. Everyone likes my mom but the patient only had eyes for me I guess. Hopefully the staff will help her learn to trust again, in others and in herself. I liked visiting with her.

All the way home, mom just couldn’t get over that young woman. The pain in her eyes when she folded up on herself left her very sad. It seemed my therapy work wasn’t over even though we left the hospital. I wanted to give mom some therapy when we got home. I stayed with her and she pet me. Whenever my tail wagged, she’d smile and say I was the bestest boy in the world. All the attention she gave me really cheesed Elsa off but I knew mom needed cheering up. She kept whispering “but for the grace of god, there go I.” Not sure what she meant by that, but was glad I could be there for her when she needed me. Ater making her feel better, I relented played with the Ninja and then took a nice long nap. It sure felt good…both the making peeps smile part as well as the long, rejuvenating snooze. Life is good around the Ranch and this work makes us really aware of that.

Sam

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Pet Therapy Thursday ~ August 29, 2019

Hi there peeps, it’s me, Sam. As you may recall, I went back to work this week but wanted to share a couple of photos from the annual award ceremony. Can I just say it felt great getting back in the saddle. It was a little weird at first and I had to rely on my super powers to remember what I was supposed to do but luckily, it comes pretty naturally for me even if it had been forever since I was last there. Although I had been sick in June and again in July, my hospital friends welcomed me back with open arms and lots of treats.

So let’s check out some photos of my fellow pals from Pet Therapy who were at the awards ceremony. Mom says it’s hard getting us all to stay in line while 87 other moms are trying to take pictures. I have no idea what she’s talking about.

Pet Therapy
Pictured: Back row, Mandy, Charlee, Akira & Logan, Little One, Kai, Dolly. Front row: Yours truly, Bindy, and Axel.

My best friend, Teddy received a special award (he’s retiring from the program). We are sure going miss him. Luckily his mom is friends with my mom so hopefully I’ll still get to hang out with him once in a while.

Teddy, Pet Therapy

With Teddy leaving our program, my newest pal is Axel, the handsome dude next to me. Axel is new to the program but already is making friends all over hospital. He’s a Black-Mouth Cur, a breed with which we weren’t familiar. He was rescued from a shelter in Texas. And everyone loves his mom who is one of the most cheerful people in the program-she always has a big smile on her face. We’re excited to have Axel and his mom join our merry little band.

Axel, Pet Therapy
Pictured: Me, Axel and Dolly

Yesterday was my first day back at West Pines. Mom is working on a special post just for that visit and always tells me “but for the grace of Dog there go I” whenever we leave that place. I’m not sure what she means by that but I’m just glad I was able to visit the medical staff and nurses again with a couple of extra special encounters with patients.

Here’s a close-up of the award I received. Who knew I’d have more than 200 visits? We’ve met so many wonderful people as a member of the pet therapy squad and hope we can continue for future special times being a part of this amazing group.

Pet Therapy

Don’t we have a great looking group? They all enjoy making peeps smile and I hope there are loads of ear rubs and treats in the future for all.

Live, love, bark! 🐾