A New Partner

Sam here. We went to the hospital and hospice this week and were joined by someone who was able to came along on visits with us. Normally, pet therapy teams operate alone so this was a great treat for me to have someone else by my side all day. Our new fur-iend Sandy, is joining our merry little band of volunteers at Pet Therapy. We were asked to have her shadow our visits to see what it is we actually do. Once again I did the work with patients and staff mom just drives me and holds the leash. She seems to be a weak link in this ‘pawtnership,’ but that’s a subject for another time. We arrived early and waited in the hospital lobby to meet Sandy and I got to spend loads of time schmoozing with a number of volunteers and visitors. I didn’t get my normal lengthy meandering in the morning because mom had this weird idea I needed a bath and to have my furs trimmed so I didn’t cooperate too much. Let me just say I AM NOT a fan of that process and absolutely despise having my feet furs trimmed!

finalAny who…yesterday was a super busy day at the hospital and fortunately I had plenty of pogo-sticking in me plenty of energy to spare for everyone. There were lots of comings and goings with people everywhere. I met the nicest man being discharged who was so excited to be going home to his own pup that he had been missing. He was willing to give me nice ear scratches so I wagged my tail for him and looked deeply into his eyes. He smiled and praised me for stopping to say hello. What…are you kidding, it’s what I do best! Saying hello is my middle name. Then we went up to the Senior Behavioral Health Unit and I was lucky enough to meet Phil who loved me from the first second our eyes met. He walked down a long hallway just to greet me and I felt the same and enjoyed his sweet smile, twinkly eyes and the stories he told. Usually there are more women at the unit so it was a welcomed change of pace that we were able to visit with a number of fellas this time. We never know what to expect on that floor but it turned out to be a great day for visits and Sandy enjoyed it as much as I did. Phil was a real special upright who has an amazing ability to connect with animals. Those kinds of people always make me feel extra special. The staff was super excited to see me perform my one and only trick, licking my chops on command. First I do one side, then mom asks me to lick the other side so I do it (I mean, how hard it that?). Then she tells me to do it again while holding on to an extra special treat so ‘natch’ I do it. I’ll do just about anything for those Zuke’s treats. We play this one side/other side licking of chops to the delight of everyone. No one seems disappointed it’s the only trick I do. I mean seriously even cats can shake paws, so why would I do something that easy? Why is it uprights think dogs want to shake hands with them anyway? Eew…they touched my feet – gah!!!

Sandy’s pup is a 2-1/2 year old Golden Retriever named Captain. No doubt he will command the pawfect ship once he officially passes the remaining  requirements. Sandy told me he’s super smart and so well-behaved with loads of energy. With her husband, the 3 of them will bring smiles and comfort to patients, staff and visitors alike. And she hopes to meet as many terrific people as we did.

Trust me, it was a very long day with lots of people to visit and chat with for a few hours, far more than usual for me. After we finished up, I was completely wiped out. I didn’t even eat dinner I was so tired. Being a therapy dog can be hard work but I completely love it. Keep your paws crossed I get to see Sandy again and get to meet her Captain soon! We wish them the best of luck as they begin their own comforting work in pet therapy.

Watermarked Photo

Live, love, bark! <3


Brooklyn ain’t just in NYC

Ahh, Brooklyn, the most populous and ever so hip borough in New York City. Well I can tell you flat out, Brooklyn ain’t just in NYC!

Brooklyn So over the weekend we hit the hospital/hospice trail. It was a glorious Autumn day while we weren’t able to visit with any patients on Sunday (they were all either asleep or unable to have visitors) it that didn’t stop us from having a terrific day. Little precious Brooklyn, an adorable 18-month old toddler spotted Sam from the opposite end of a the hallway, and came running up to hug him, squealing “doggie!, doggie!” the whole length of the hallway. I wish I would have had the presence to video her and Sam’s reaction. He was so excited to see a little kid tottering toward him since he absolutely loves little kids anyway and especially little girls. His tail was furiously wagging. Brooklyn and her family were visiting her grandpa who was being moved from one room to another so the family was migrating with their personal items toward the new location. Like most little kids, she was completely captivated by his super soft hair and continually wove her fingers through it the whole time she petted him. They had quite the ‘visit’ with her smiling and speaking an unintelligible language, but saying his name over and over. It really was quite cute.

After spending quite a bit of time chatting with Brooklyn and her lovely family, we visited with a number of staff members. I am in awe of the work they do daily; their giving just never seems to stop-be it for patients, visitors, or one another. They all  wanted to take time out to get in a few ear scratches and enjoy the ever present “I really like you lean-in” from Sam who seriously crushes on more than a couple nurses.

Saturday we were scheduled to visit the Senior Behavioral Health unit, an inpatient geriatric psychiatry program at the hospital designed to address the complex mental health and medical needs of older patients. We have visited this floor before, but this time I was particularly struck by the fact that 99% of all the patients were elderly women. Is it because women live longer as a general rule or is it something else? In any event, we spent a lot of time with Annie and Karen. Despite my lack of formal training, I was struck by the fact that both women appeared lucid, knew what was going on around them and were very much aware of what was going on in the outside world. Annie, at age 82 was a real charmer. She had a twinkle in her eye and was completely captivated by Sam who made her beam from ear to ear as he leaned against her leg and looked fondly into her sparkly blue eyes. She was ever grateful we took time to visit her and thanked us repeatedly. I suspect she may have been quite the gal in her time. She left me with a smile in my heart at meeting this lovely woman despite her future being a bit uncertain with unresolved issues as to where she would be going next.

After visiting with Annie, we talked for an extended time with Karen who was in better physical shape and younger. Both Karen and Annie were to be released some time this week and both mentioned they had no family to go ‘home to’ which left me sad. I wonder how many women across the country are in the same position? And why as a society have we allowed so many to get in that position?

As you can see, Karen enjoyed her time with Sam and we talked about her family and how they’d abandoned her and how she decided to ‘create a new family’ for the holidays. She gave me her recipe for pecan pie right off the top of her head and asked if we had family to visit for Thanksgiving and if not, to please come by; she’d love to have both Sam and I. The gracious invitation from this kindly Southern-raised woman was tempting though I know my own family will be assembling for the annual football and food fest and we’ll have much to be thankful for this year (more on that in a later post). She continued on with the details surrounding the preparations for the roasted pig and shoat she was going to serve (doing it southern style for 3 days in the ground and wondering out loud as to where she’d get banana leaves to wrap the pit). I offered a solution which she thought might work and she made a note to herself to contact a floral shop about getting some from them.

Karen Grant

While I have many more thoughts about Karen, Annie and folks like them, I will continue to contemplate the state of health care for older people, particularly women. Still, all in all it was a good weekend to visit with patients and staff.

Have you ever wondered what happens to older patients with no family to care for them? What are your thoughts?

Live, love, bark! <3