Category Archives: Pet Therapy

Reflections on Therapy Visits ~ Part 1

Sam and I visited the hospital a couple of weeks ago for the first time since December and while we’re visiting again this week, I wanted to share our last experiences. My mom was again hospitalized in December (you can read about the first time she became ill here ), so pet therapy visits were put on hold while I drove back and forth to visit her a 100+ miles south of Denver. When she was released four weeks later, my brain apparently excised all previously felt fears, memories and hospital experiences as life returned to being more “routine.” The whole family was jubilant she was still with us despite various setbacks experienced while in the hospital. Walking into the hospital now with Sam, I was soon to be again teleported back in time where I saw more than my fair share of hospital waiting rooms, heard overhead notifications, watched medical treatments and overworked staff dashing from room to room. The hospital lighting and odors of hospital corridors suddenly triggered deep memories swirling deep within my brain as I recalled many once forgotten memories a couple of months ago as I watched her in ICU and prayed like a monk she would survive again. Funny how that kind of experience transports you back in a heartbeat.

Sam eagerly entered the hospital during the week where our temperatures had been in the single digits, with a dusting of snow. As a safety measure, the hospital tends to over salt all walkways so I decided to make sure Sam’s feet were covered to keep his paws from being burnt by nasty de-icing chemicals. We went to work right away even though I learned when it comes to wearing snow boots on freshly groomed paws, they can act like a new pair of shoes does on uprights, cause a blister and they rubbed one toe raw (so sorry buddy). Luckily treats seemed to keep me in his good graces even if that one toe in particular looked very angry. Being the pro he is, Sam was pretty nonplussed. We started out in the lobby area, picked up a hot beverage at the coffee shop and began to re-acquaint ourselves with all the lobby traffic. Next to the coffee shop is the out-patient surgical waiting area where we drop in to visit folks waiting for word on how their loved ones endured their procedures. Soon we were surrounded by several nurses and medical staff wanting to say hello to the Knucklehead.

Because it’d been so cold that week, I had left Sam’s hair long, just cleaning up his face, feet, and tail. He was brushed into a giant fluff ball and always manages to attract a crowd who want to run their fingers through his soft hair. It wasn’t long before we were approached by a couple of women. The first one said Sam looked just like her three-month old standard poodle puppy and she showed me a video of her pup who was enrolled in a class in preparation for being trained as her own therapy service dog. She explained she was an Air Force veteran and looking forward to her ‘baby’ helping her. We talked for a long time about training methods, etc. and Sam sat contentedly near her as she recalled time spent in the service and of her beloved puppy. Her friend chimed in and shared stories of her own pets and experiences as a military contractor in Okinawa and how much she loved living there. These women were friends and the military contractor was vacationing with her friend. There was a deep bond between the woman and we chatted a long time. Realizing we needed to get on with our appointed rounds, we bid each other adieu then made our way through the lobby when I heard two young girls squeal a frequently heard comment, “Oh my gawd, there’s a dog here!!”

Student CNAs, Alyssa (L) and Danais (R) enjoying a break with Sam

These two girls fussed and fawned over Sam, took selfies of him and I was beginning to think  I might have to arm wrestle Sam away from Danais. They were just finishing up their shadowing experience and shared details of their training and all the steps they were taking toward future plans with becoming RN’s. Not sure I was ever that well-organized in high school…heck, I’m not sure even now as an adult, come to think of it.  Yet these two young women gave me hope for the future as young people begin to take their place in society. Today’s youth seems to have their lives well mapped out.

A quick swing through the gift shop and along other public areas and we were ready to hit our first assignment. We’d already been there well over an hour.

As we made our way to the assigned floor, a tall elderly man rushed up to us and asked if we would visit his wife who’d love a visit. “We’d love to brighten her day,” I replied. He smiled broadly at Sam, and the two of them looked deeply into each other’s faces. It was one of those lingering moments and then he abruptly turned, thanked us for going to see her and proceeded on his way toward the elevator. As I walked toward Alice’s room, memories suddenly flooded my psyche…the lighting, the odors, the hectic pace of the nurses dashing from room to room and the look of concern on people’s faces. And in a snap, I was reminded of my mom’s stay. Sam must have picked up on my energy and he stayed close though he did visit with Alice briefly.

By now, my brain was in a fog triggering recollections from those four weeks while I visited my mom in her hospital room. My soul had been deeply touched with the memories flooding back and yet we still had more visits at hospice. Sam seemed to sense that I and everyone else we encountered that day needed his attention. His energy level was beginning to wane, yet we soldiered on to hospice.

We walked in and were warmly greeted by the staff. The palliative staff at hospice are angels on earth in my mind. Theirs is a difficult job transitioning people through whatever comes after life and yet they always manage to stay warm, calm and comforting. One of the nurses asked us to stop in and see a staff doctor before visiting patients and we happily took the detour. Dr. R was thrilled for a break and gave Sam loads of attention. Leaving her to return to visits, we moved to see the patient in Room 213. The desk nurse said she’d be non-responsive but her husband could use a bit of diversion and a friendly face.

It’s always touching seeing someone visiting a hospice patient-we often see too many who are alone. We knocked, introduced ourselves and were greeting by a kind face. ‘Calvin’ unconsciously began to pet Sam who sat between his legs while sharing a number of long stories about his wife, ‘Jeanette’ who was a handful of years younger than her youthful looking husband. She had suffered repeated health issues during her life and he seemed the need to share details of her life to assuage a soon-to-be uncertain future following a grim prognosis. After a long visit, Calvin thanked us, we exchanged well wishes and then left. It had been a bitter cold day and though I experienced many warm thoughts toward everyone we visited, I couldn’t shake the reality of what it’s like on the other side of the leash…exactly where I had been just two months earlier with my mom. It weighed on my heart and made sleep pretty elusive that night.

Tomorrow we’ll visit West Pines again and should have more stories to share later. Last month’s West Pines visit touched me and it will no doubt likely be the same again this time. We continue to be moved by the residents at West Pines. They often impact us for days and even weeks later.

Live, love, bark❣

Trot, Trot Tuesday

Single digits are not stopping this dynamic duo. Hiya, Elsa here. We finally got some snow with a couple of days of bitter cold. Mom hitched us up in our paw mittens and coats and then spent 87 hours putting gloves, hats, mittens and boots on herself before we could go galloping out in the elements. Snow? We don’t let a little stinking snow stop us.

We traveled over hill and over dale like jackrabbits hopping along, dragging pulling mom along our walk. Sam is headed over to the hospital today while I stay home practicing my Olympic skating skills. I swear, I don’t get how he can get all tangled up in his leash, come to a complete screeching stop and then look up so pitifully at mom with a H-E-L-P me look on his face whereas I can skate at full speed, perform a double Lutz jump into a full-on poop stance in the blink of an eye. Boys…sheesh. Talk about snowflakes!

While Sam is putting smiles on patients faces over the next couple of days, I’ll have a few hours of peace and quiet each day watching the snow accumulate and our evil squirrel. He better hope he doesn’t slip off his branch while I’m outside. Stay warm and we’ll be back soon.

Live, love, bark❣

From the Desk of the Dog

Hi there, Sam here with the latest S.A.M. Report. S.A.M. being “Standards Are ‘Mazing,” that is. Mom hasn’t been able to post much lately so I put my paw down and wanted to update you since you’ve probably have been missing me us.

My grandma went back into the hospital and everyone’s been focused on getting her better. Luckily she has great caregivers so I’m hopeful I’ll get to see her and spread my magical poodle good Ju Ju soon. In the meantime while mom is helping her and the family out, I’ve been trying hard to be good even though I miss my mom. I’ve only run down the alley once in the middle of the night and my sister hasn’t even eaten any more of mom’s reading glasses. We’re both counting down the days and hours when some jolly fellow is supposed to arrive. If he’s wearing any kind of uniform, red or otherwise, I’ll be showing him my pawsome poodle security skills.

My mom came home for a couple of days to take me to West Pines for a visit. Our program doesn’t have too many dogs right now that can do WP and there wasn’t a replacement to fill in so mom took me back there. Pfft…as if they could find a replacement for Moi anyway. It felt good walking into that place and we also went to the hospital to pick up more of my business cards. I loved visiting with the volunteer staff at the hospital even though I was pretty wiped out after West Pines. The nice young girl who cried last month was there in a different building for out-patients and she remembered me. This visit she smiled so my pawsome poodle powers must have worked. I even got to visit with an Army veteran who told me he would be receiving a service dog to help his PTSD next year who will help him cope better. Seeing me made him smile and he was glad I made the trip. Another patient who also suffers from PTSD asked how she could get one and he gave her some suggestions.  She said her own pup helps somewhat (because that’s just what us dogs do) but she thinks she probably needs a professional service dog. Hopefully her case worker will provide her with enough advice to make it happen.

So…from our house to yours…we wish you a very Merry Christmas and hope 2018 is a pawsome year.

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

Monday Musings ~ November 13, 2017

We’re off to the hospital for a few visits this week. Here’s hoping your week will be pawsome.

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

Hospital work can be hard as well as rewarding

We’ve spent the past several days working at the hospital lately. For my little senior citizen, it’s been a lot of time spreading joy throughout the hospital system. In addition to our actual visits with patients, we’ve been helping the program out by selling the annual calendar for next year which funds our program all year-long. The whole calendar project was grueling work for me as I helped put it together and dealt with the marketing folks who seem to reside on another planet when it comes to design…read inflexible and a printing company less inclined to work on the attendant issues that came up during the printing process. In other words, exhausting. But nothing compared to what poor Sam endures when greeting visitors in the lobby selling them on cold hard floors in the lobby. I often joke about him doing all the work and me just driving him but that really isn’t too far off the mark in all actuality, especially during the sales part.

Sam waits patiently, leash fully taunt waiting for them to buy a calendar stop and say hi as we man the sales table, his tail wagging like crazy at each passing visitor or hospital person. He tosses his head as if he knows each person as if they are some lost friend, looking longingly when they walk past by, without stopping. He turns around and walks back to stand next to me and mans his position with the hopefulness of a true optimist that the next person will stop for a moment. 

Luckily he is rewarded quickly. One of the nurses we visit with from a floor upstairs stops for a long ear scratch and shares lots of ooh’s and ah’s, the equivalent of auditory nirvana for Sam, his tail upright and flitting back and forth like a Swiffer duster hard at work. Sam loves nurses.  They are loving, kind and sweet in his mind and he can’t get enough of them.

As we work the lobby, several people ask if we would come upstairs and visit with the person they are there to see. I diligently take down the room numbers and make notes so we can swing by following our shift selling. It’s clearly gonna be a long day but one that will make lots of people happy.

And then the lottery jackpot falls into our lap. A small toddler about 3 years old walks in. She’s adorably precious with curly blonde hair and wears thick glasses. She’s not much bigger than a minute, and it was touching seeing her eye to eye with Sam. She and her mom are visiting her grandmother. She squeals with delight when she recognizes Sam and rushes over to twirl her fingers through his soft hair. Her mom explains she’s close to being blind in one eye and they are working to strengthen her vision with the glasses. The little girl smiles and coos, Sam is in heaven as he absolutely adores little kids and patiently allows her to pet him ever so gently. She leans in to kiss him to the nose. He wags his tail and looks at me as if to say, “It’s ok, right, mom?” I asked her if she’d like to give Sam a treat and she tells me “oh yes.” Sam has died and gone to heaven. A little kid AND a treat. What could be better than that?

We spent over two hours visiting with folks in the lobby, chatting about our program, showing the calendar to countless people showing them Sam is Mr. May and featured in another photo in the calendar demonstrating what we do. I can see he is tired. All this ministering to people and their various emotions as they come to the hospital taxes him. It taxes me too. We go upstairs and visit with those who requested it and by the time we leave, it’s been over 3 hours of non-stop therapy work. Even a young dog would be spent but I knew Sam was particularly tuckered out. So tuckered out in fact, he never flinched when his sister greeted him in his bed when we arrived home. Normally he’d go off to find another comfy spot. Instead, he just laid there letting her curl up next to him. In her own way, I think she was providing some well needed therapy for Sam. It was the end of a very special day for a hardworking pup.

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

Monday Musings ~ October 23, 2017

Holy cow, last week was a blur of daily commitments (about which we’ll hopefully have a post to share soon). It looks like this week is going to be almost as busy with more hospital work. Whew! Hopefully the parking lot will be completely repaved now so we don’t have to walk a marathon after parking. This parking experience has been a real “adventure” driving around from building to building to find a spot during the construction project that repaved the lot in sections and has been going on for the past 2 months. Ok, enough whining, we’re off to get ready for today’s hospital work but before we go, here’s a little smile to begin this week. Watch out for those clippers and where you park. 

 We hope life at your end of Blogville has been treating you well. Make it a great one!

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

Monday Musings ~ September 25, 2017

Happy Monday, sports fans. Hope you had a marvelous weekend. Last Friday we broke a temperature record hitting 92 but then in a blink of an eye, autumn arrived with cooler temps and some much welcomed rain. Good thing I pulled out the long pants and sweaters because the mornings are crisp hovering in the mid-40’s.

When we visited hospice last week, I spent a few minutes in the chapel contemplating some of our visits and came across this saying from Ralph Waldo Emerson. I thought it was a beautiful sentiment and hoped it provided the visitors some measure of comfort. As it turned out, it seemed especially poignant with one of the patients, a young fellow who had the largest crowd of visitors I’ve ever seen at hospice. In fact, there were too many people to fit in his room at any given time. We met up with a number of them in one of the anterooms. Clearly this man was well-loved by his tribe. All his visitors were well tattooed, wore lots of leather and more than a few pony tails hung down the back of several of the guys. Even though we weren’t actually able to see him personally, I guessed he probably had some of the same tats, pony tail and no doubt the same road warrior twinkle in his eyes that his visitors displayed as Sam made the rounds with them. They seem to channel that their lifestyle was a total joy riding down the road, with the wind in their faces. Perhaps that’s why the Emerson quote resonated so much with me that I made a note of it and why I added it to a spider web photo taken near Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

And so friends, I would encourage you to live deeply today, and always. You never know what direction the road in life may take you.

Live, love, bark! ❤︎