Monday Moanings

This past week was pure hell. There I said it. Work was beyond dreadful with challenges like I’ve  never seen, this all coming on the heels of a fantastic week (guess the pendulum does swing both ways 🙁 ) All in all it was one of the worst weeks in a long time. So it made perfect sense to end all that with a stint at the hospital.

Sam and I needed to recharge our soul batteries and I can think of no better way then to give back to those to absolutely need the kind of energy Sam can bring. And what visits we had including being chatted up by 3 fellow Standard Poodle owners. Woo-hoo!

Ready for duty!
Ready for duty!

Sam knew right away we were heading for the hospital as soon as I pulled his bandana down and was he ever excited, jumping around like the pogo-stick that he is when he expresses his joy (it was all I could do to get him to ‘sit’ for this pic-notice he’s on ready to spring into action with his hind legs though). Becoming impatient with me while I was getting stuff together, he started whining loudly and when that didn’t jib with his dog watch timetable, he resorted to loudly barking at me and racing around in circles in front of the doorway…something he almost never does unless you’re the serial killer mail lady. Once I gathered everything we needed (you know…treats), we were off. Sam left skid marks out the door, raced over toward the garage and stood there dumbfounded since the door wasn’t open. The look on his face said what the heck?! He shot me a withering glance as if I had just stepped on his baby sister’s tail. I had to laugh at his reaction (I had moved the car out on the street earlier). As I moved toward the street and he heard the familiar click of the doors unlocking and he bounced out toward the car. I nearly had a heart attack as he started moving into the street as if to enter the car through the hatch door (stupid dog!) but when I opened the side door that he normally enters, he jumped in faster than a flea hopping on a dog. He was certainly R-E-A-D-Y to get to get going and get to work. 🐾

Once we got to the hospital he shifted into his ‘going to work’ stride. Head and tail erect, confident and purposeful gait. We first visited with the high schoolers manning the information desk as well as Sam’s buddies in the gift shop. Can I just say I totally love it when young male volunteers turn into puddles of cooing baby talk with loads of ahh-ing around Sam? So adorable.

The first person we visited with up on the floor was actually a visitor who was with his adult son in the hallway. He immediately (and correctly) identified Sam as a Standard Poodle. Normally that shouldn’t be a big deal, but because of his coloring, 99% of people we encounter think Sam is some sort of doodle hybrid. He told me about his black standard, BB who was over 17 when he passed recently. 17 years old? Seriously, were you giving him water from the Fountain of Youth??? Holy yikes, that’s quite the number with ANY dog, let along, a large one. We chatted a bit and some visitors from a nearby room came by and entered into the conversation. Then a patient getting in a couple of laps around the floor joined our merry little band and we all had a lovely visit talking up the virtues of Standard Poodles.

Later we stopped by BB’s mom who was a patient. She was laying on her bed, adorably cute and very diminutive with a sassy ball cap with a flower on the side. She was so excited to see Sam and told me about her sweet BB who guarded her whenever people were around. Apparently BB was not one to shirk his duties unlike another standard poodle I know who would probably point toward the jewelry box if a stranger came in the house (normally poodles are excellent guard dogs but nothing is very normal about Sam). Allie really enjoyed Sam’s visit and we left her smiling and grateful after a few minutes since she was pretty tired and needed to get ready for some medical tests that afternoon.

After visiting with other folks familiar with Standards and hearing their personal stories about those super smart dogs (I’m jealous at the lucky owners at times though I am reminded you just can’t buy Sam’s level of sweetness). We left for hospice and met the Ressler’s who owned a Standard Poodle named Sumo (get it, “sumo wrestler?” 🙂 ). They were such a sweet family, with kids, sons and daughters visiting and Sam was in hog heaven with all the attention moving from one member to the next.

Sometimes when Sam is on duty at the hospital, he seems far more focused on me rather than patients. He watches me and my every move carefully though I’m not sure exactly why my dog must be a mama’s boy, sigh. When he realizes the Pez treat dispenser was no longer flowing, he became a little more engaged. Seriously, I’m gonna have to make him work first then get treats later. But he will lick his chops on command (both sides on cue even) and everyone seems to love that particular (and only) trick that the dimwit will perform.

We were at the hospital nearly two hours, a long time for him to be so on target for and it started to show. By the time we were finished I could tell he’d hit the wall. We went home and he took a long, deep sleep, ready for his next adventure on the evening walk.

On Sunday he was even more focused on me except when we made our rounds among the high school volunteers (Sam has a long history of loving kids and these kids are no exception). One new young and especially petite girl absolutely fell in love with Sam. I thought she was gonna kidnap him and judging by the heavy lean into her (causing her to nearly topple over by the way!), I think he’d have readily gone home with her. That is until I touched the magic pocket with the high value treats. Hey, I’m no ordinary fool! Plus when we got home I gave him an elk antler for all his efforts making people smile.

imageNom…nom…nom.

So what did you do this past glorious weekend? Enjoying the pre-Autumnal weather?

Live, love, bark! <3

Let’s Go, Already!!

IMG_1947   Sam here. Boy oh boy, did we have a good weekend at hospice and hospital though it started out decidedly unpleasant for me.

Nobody warned me I had to take a bath again! After all, I just had one last month. And here I thought you peeps had my back. 😉 So mom tricked got me into the bathroom with a couple treats. Can’t believe I fell for all her sweet talk…again! That woman knows exactly how to torture me and it’s a four-letter word I can’t even say…B-A-T-H. Blech, I hate baths, but I was mostly a very good boy and stayed there and took it like a man like the pitiful wuss I really am when it comes to water. She used a new conditioning shampoo that smells pretty good if I do say so myself with Rosemary and Mint. If I wasn’t so scared in the bathtub, I might have licked it off.

H.E.L.P.  me
H.E.L.P. me

After the bath water torture, she use the hairdryer on me. The only thing I despise more than bath time is the drying misery. Fortunately she toweled me off really well before hand so the drying with the blowing air torture device was minimal. But then she brought out the clippers to trip my feet, ears, tail and bum the torture continues. Boy, I must say though, she did a pretty good job; several people even commented on how handsome I looked and when I looked down at my paws, they even impressed me. I wonder why Heather at the groomers can’t seem to get my toes quite that spiffy. Maybe I do too much of the fast paw-dance for her. Heh, heh.

Once mom put my bandana on, I hightailed as fast as I could toward the car. I even barked at her a few times-something I rarely do. I really wanted to go to the hospital and she was lollygagging around. Man, she moved so s-l-o-w-l-y I never thought we’d get to the hospital. Open up the car door, woman and let me in! Sheesh, I already do all the work at the hospital, do I have to drive now too?

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Once we finally got there, there were loads of patients and visitors I was able to visit receive tons of attention from and I got to see my favorite nurse at hospice. I totally love Ann and there she was…woof, woof! I leaned in real close to get her attention and it worked. She gave me a big hug!

A couple of patients didn’t want to see me though on Sunday. The first lady had some people visiting her and when my mom knocked on her door to ask if she’d like a visit from pet therapy, she said no at the exact same time her visitors all shouted YES! She laughed and then invited us in to say hi to everyone. I had so much fun going from one person to the next one. I could hardly contain my glee and nearly wagged my tail completely off. Then as they were talking to my mom, I decided I should just lay down next to the bed. That means I’m very comfortable with the people and energy in the room. They thought I was tired but mom explained it’s just my way of letting them know I’m on guard duty. When we left, the patient said she was very glad I came in to visit.

The other lady was all alone at hospice. She smiled at me but said she “didn’t care for a visit from a dog.” Mom was very nice and smiled back, saying no worries and we moved down the hall to another family that really wanted to  pet me. Mom told me that if she was ever in hospice she hoped that she’d ALWAYS want a visit from a pet therapy dog. I didn’t understand what was going on. I mean I took a bath, groomed up all fluffy and super handsome and was a complete gentleman. I guess some people just don’t like dogs. Maybe she was in a lot of pain, I don’t know, but it made me a little sad andI think it made mom a little sad too knowing I wasn’t able to spread my magic Ju-Ju on her.

We also visited with some of the staff. One nursing assistant dropped the bedding she was changing and ran over to hug and pet me, squealing like a little girl. She really loved dogs and kept saying how wonderful I was. I caught mom beaming at me and then the treats started coming. Finally!

We were there for quite a while on Sunday and when we came home I crashed took a nap. Making people smile takes a lot out of me and I need to reenergize so we can take nice long evening walks when I wake up.

What did you do over the weekend? Did you have as much fun as we did?

Live, love, bark! <3

Hospital Howlidays

IMG_1918 Even though it was a few days before July 4th, I didn’t get a chance to share our adventures last weekend when we had shifts. Sam brought the same red, white and blue spirit to hospice and hospital as he does every time we go. When we went into the gift shop to say hello to the volunteer high school girls he loves so much, I spied a battery operated necklace that would show off Sam’s ‘howliday’ spirit. Everyone seemed to love it especially when Sam cast a handsome pose my patriotic buddy in the lobby, all lit up.

A young woman came down from visiting her mom while Sam was posing and asked if we wouldn’t mind dropping in to say hi to her folks-she thought they’d both enjoy the visit. Of course, I said and we went up to her room; sure enough she was right. The mom and dad very much enjoyed Sam’s visit (even though he seemed pretty interested in the dad’s roast beef sandwich-oye that dog!). Then we went off to our assigned floor to visit the short-term behavioral patients. When we arrived, “Mary,” was one of the patients who instantly captivated with Sam. He patiently allowed her to hug him repeatedly around the neck while she practically squealed with delight. Both her and the therapists kept saying how calm and sweet he was to allow all that neck-hugging attention. It’s always rewarding when we can put a smile on a patient’s face and make their day a little bit brighter for them, both literally and figuratively. The light-up necklace was a huge success. 🙂

Live, love, bark! <3

From pitiful to ‘pawsome’

We had hospital duty over the weekend and you know what that means…a bath for the “Muppet.” Cue the scary music…dum, dum, dum. Poor Sam, have you ever seen anything so pitiful looking?

H.E.L.P.  me
H.E.L.P. me

Can’t you just practically hear that tiny little voice from the movie The Fly?  I nearly wet myself laughing at his pitifully sad, drowned-rat expression. To get even at my laughing, he shook water all over me, twice. 🙁

What a difference a couple of hours makes! Such a handsome boy and you could see from his prancing around, he was thinking he’s a real dandy. Well, YOU can’t actually see it, but trust me on that–he was doing the happy dance prancing all over. 🙂 He was so soft and fluffy, like a big dandelion. A couple drops of an essential oil blend later (clove and vanilla-my current favs) and W-O-W, he smelled just fabulous on top of it!

IMG_1379

So off we went to hospice where Sam’s favorite nurse, Ann was back (yay!). He was so glad to see her and immediately started loping toward her so he could do the ‘lean’ against her leg. She laughed and said how much she’d missed him. It’d been a couple of months since we last saw her and Sam had missed his favorite nurse.

Hospice was filled with loads of people visiting loved ones–I’d never seen the parking lot as full before. When we first walked in, there was a sobbing young girl near the lobby entrance, perhaps 6 or 7 years old with her mom who was trying to comfort her. Sam’s ears pricked up as I logged us in and he immediately pulled toward her. He’s super sensitive with crying kids and I knew it was upsetting him that this little girl was so crestfallen. He walked up and pushed his noise under her elbow between her and her mom. She turned and laid her hand on Sam’s head and began petting him. His tail started that furious, crazy wag and she stopped crying (her mom smiled, mouthing “thank you” toward us). Sam must have thought his job was done there because he turned to leave and encountered an older fellow who was sitting nearby reading a book. As he began to pet Sam, a family came by and oohed and awed and from then on Sam was in 7th heaven with people. The family asked all about him, “What’s his name, how old is he, is he a poodle or a doodle, how’d you get him so soft?” The usual small talk. I answered their questions and then the fellow reading his book chimed in that he’d never seen a big poodle. We all chatted for a few more minutes about poodle size and other sundry stuff and then Sam and I went to check in at the nurses desk. Sam had begun working his therapy mojo making people smile.

Our first visit was a rarity-the patient was quite conscious and chatting with this sister. “John” reached out to shake my hand and held it firmly, with clear eyes locked on mine. This wasn’t what I expected from a hospice patient. Sam wanted to get in on the action so we put his front paws up on the bed next to John. His sister was so taken with Sam and he with her because he immediately got down from the bed and went to her side which was where he stayed most of the rest our fairly lengthy visit. Sam senses when someone needs him and clearly she did.

John was one of the most charming and delightful humans I’ve ever met. It was hard for me to see this lovely man in hospice especially since he was probably around my age. I just wanted to hug him and take him home with me. Even the nurse said they were all going to miss him very much when he left. He was one of those kinds of people who impress you with their genuine spirit and lovely demeanor. He talked about when he raised Angora goats and we smiled at all his stories. When we finally left his room, I was profoundly affected. It is so rare that I get an up close and personal idea about a patient and their life first hand but this visit I found a light that shined from within this gentle man’s spirit.  He will indeed be missed not only by his family but by those of us who recently had met him. When it came time to leave, he again firmly took my hand and repeatedly thanked us for visiting. He wished us well. A life can be defined by those who greatly impact it. While it was a chance encounter, I am much richer for making John’s acquaintance. I can only hope we made as much of a difference to him as he did for us. I know that Sam had impacted his sister, and just hoped our visit did the same for John; he truly deserved that much.

No sooner had we left John’s room but we visited with the same family we encountered when we first walked in. Their mother was the patient and although she was sleeping, the son asked if we’d put Sam’s feet next to her so they could let her hand touch him. When I put his feet up, the son tried to wake her to no avail and rather than pull away, Sam completely relaxed and sank deeply onto the bed. The grandson lovingly took his grandmother’s hand and stroked Sam’s head. It was sweet seeing these men in a tender moment and Sam was a great therapy ambassador.

Shortly thereafter a woman came running after us to see if I’d bring Sam by for a few moments. We always accommodate requests whenever possible and Sam happily strolled in, ready to be the center of attention. They all fell in love with Sam and he made the rounds with each person. We answered all the questions about him and he ended up laying next to the most vocal in the group, a daughter. She was so touched by Sam’s response to everyone that she reached down and hugged him mightily, saying how she just loved him.

This kind of interaction always deserves a treat which I bring to keep Sam fully engaged while he’s working. Normally, he either doesn’t understand the concept of tricks for treats, or he thinks he’s cute enough not to have to perform them. The only ‘trick’ he will do on command is to lick his chops when a treat is offered. Trust me, I have no idea where he picked that up-as I’ve said many times before, this dog, sweet as he is, is about as dumb as a stump! He’ll lick the left side and when I say “can you lick the other side?” he promptly licks the right side. It cracks me up every time and he always impresses patients and visitors. Right on cue he sat like a prim and proper gentlemen and when I asked him to lick his chops, he did it twice, alternating each side when prompted. The family absolutely loved it, Sam loved his treat and we all smiled. It was that way the entire weekend, great connections with wonderful people and lots of shared smiles.

Normally after our sessions, Sam is pretty wiped out. Being such a good boy and absorbing all that negative energy for even a few minutes can take a real toll on his energy level and he will fall fast asleep when we get home. Gotta love the one paw hanging out there. He never even stirred when I got up to grab the camera. My buddy was a super star this weekend and I couldn’t have been any prouder of his hospital work. Care to share any proud moments of your ‘pawsome’ pet?

All tuckered out
My work is done for the weekend

Live, love, bark! <3

It all changed in a heartbeat

Good dog.
Good dog

It started out like most hospital weekends…running a few errands early on and then getting ready for our shift. Every time we work at the hospital Sam has to be bathed. He’s professionally groomed every other month, but it was my turn this time. I’m pretty good at the in-between clean-ups and certainly think it’s easier on Sam since we can take breaks if necessary but it’s definitely not our favorite activity (oy my aching back).

It begins when the collar comes off. In the past, removing Sam’s collar always seemed to make him jump for joy at the thought of complete and unbridled freedom. Lately though, I think Sam has figured out that removal of the collar is a prelude to getting a bath, an adventure in which he’d rather not partake. I gather up the necessary stuff while he’s celebrating but think he’s on to me now. He used to be so excited at getting the collar off but now he seems to have figured out that it will involve being in a room where there’s running water and Sam avoids water like the plague. I grabbed a pile of towels…some for him as well as for the walls afterwards and the shampoo but he went MIA. I called and called but no Sam (cue cricket noises). Once I found him, he assumed the hang-dog posture as if he was being horribly abused and s-l-o-w-l-y made his way to the ‘liquid guillotine.’ Sheesh, talk about dramatic! Despite having webbed feet like all Standards (who were originally bred to hunt and retrieve waterfowl mind you), Sam despises water and has been known to completely walk around puddles on sidewalks. Lately though I think he might be harkening back to a previous life…one in which he had been an attorney specially trained in finding loopholes–in this case, an escape for himself.

My bathroom has one of those sprayer attachments but it’s just about 6” short of completely reaching the back-end of the tub easily.  Sam will reluctantly hop into the tub, with the “oh my God, I can’t believe you’re making me do this” look on his face. But lately his MO is to hop toward the back of the tub, with a ‘ha, ha, ha…the water can’t reach me’ smugness.  This forces me to get into the tub with him so I can keep him from hanging back just out of reach or from jumping out (which he did this time anyway).

As soon as I got him firmly positioned in the OSA (optimal spray area), I started the sudsing/rinse cycles. We go through lots of body shakings with water & suds flinging all over on the walls, window & ceiling so as soon as the dog is sparkly clean, I get to start mopping and cleaning up–oh joy. It’s a regular ritual which makes me often wonder if doing him at home is worth the effort of bathing and cleaning up rather than just going to a dog-wash. This time we tried out a new rosemary/mint-scented shampoo with built-in conditioner. Suffice to say, this stuff was ‘pawsome’ and I could hardly wait til he hopped in bed with me later that night. He smelled that good!

In addition to not liking water, Sam despises hair dryers too but he did remarkably well while being fluffed-n-buffed. He patiently endured a few swipes with the clippers and scissors and 90+ minutes later he emerged a sweet-smelling, handsome dude. We were ready, or so I thought.

It was a lovely Saturday and we excitedly left for our assignment. First we visited with several people with loads of little kids. Sam loves kids so it took us a while to finally get to see patients; they all want to touch and pet his soft hair. Many patients were being released and there were family members there to take them home. It can be kind of hectic for the staff but they manage it all really well.

One of the more memorable patients we visited was a young woman, Frances who had been in the hospital for a week but was being discharged that afternoon. Her Mom, Barbara was there to take her home. Frances fell in love with Sam since his fur reminded her of the two Bedlington Terriers they’d once owned. After both of them had passed away unexpectedly, her Dad couldn’t bear the thought having to say goodbye to another pet so they were now bereft of any dog companionship. Sam was spot on, letting everyone hug and pet him all the while staying incredibly calm and completely into it. After spending several minutes with him, they were both eager to work on Dad to get another pooch back into the household. I had to chuckle since they planned to use Sam as Exhibit A as he was so patient at allowing the daughter to weave her fingers through his fur, while he looked soulfully into her eyes and leaning against Mom. I was beyond proud of him and left smiling knowing they were determined enough to probably convince Dad to let them bring a new addition home soon. 🙂

Then it was off to hospice. Sam loves going to hospice-the staff is wonderful and there usually are a number of people we can visit. The first was a young woman visiting her uncle. She lived in Florida but had come back to support her Dad while he said a final goodbye to his brother, her uncle. She fawned over Sam and he responded sweetly. We had just started to make our way to the uncle’s room, when a man probably in his 50’s approached Sam and got down on the floor and hugged him. It was quite unusual since most adults that age don’t normally sit cross-legged on the floor and hug a dog while sniffling and drying their eyes in the middle of a corridor. The man talked to Sam as though no one were around. He said, “my Daddy is going to die soon and be with his dogs, so if Sam could come by room 214, it would mean a lot to my Daddy.” The niece was touched by this man’s display of bare emotion and said no worries since her family had decided against a visit.

As I walked toward 214, the nurse said the family was in the room and we probably shouldn’t go in. I mentioned the son had specifically asked for us just a moment ago and she said then she’d check with them and sure enough, they absolutely wanted Sam to come in the room. We walked in to see the whole family gathered in a circle around the patient’s bed, arm-in-arm holding onto one another. This was not what I anticipated since the son was full on sobbing now as were a few others.

At times like this, I’m not really sure what to do or say and think probably the best approach is to not say anything. It’s hard enough to know what to do with someone you actually know but even more difficult with a complete stranger. Sam seemed a little bit nervous but at the insistence of the son, we put his feet on the bed touching his father’s hand. Sam must have sensed something because he pulled back quickly but had managed to touch the man’s hand and arm. The son thanked us and I tried to be as supportive as possible with a smile and a squeeze on the son’s arm. We left the room quietly. As I walked out with the nurse, she thanked me for going in because it had meant so much to the family. I told her, “I don’t know how you do it day after day.” She smiled, said they did it for the families and I knew exactly what she meant.

As I was walking toward the exit, the attending doctor was doing paperwork and Sam expressed an interest in visiting her. He had walked past her when we first arrived so she was all too happy to snuggle with him. As we spoke, the nurse came in and said “call it 3:52 for Mr. Walsh.” The doctor smiled and said thank you to us for visiting. I knew there would be more paperwork for them to handle now. It was 3:55 and I realized that Sam had touched the man moments before he passed. Maybe he knew he was on his way to ‘see his dogs’ and it was ok for him to join them, maybe it was just coincidence. All I knew was that in a blink of an eye, the weekend went from smiles to tears. It left me feeling off-balance. There’s nothing that could have been done to change the outcome for Mr. Walsh, but just knowing Sam’s presence meant a lot to his family was somewhat comforting. In the hub-bub of the staff making the arrangements for transporting Mr. Walsh to the mortuary, I hugged Sam extra tightly. He responded like he always does, a serious tail wag and then a ‘let’s go look–there are others to comfort.’ We started to walk out and a small family was meeting with a social worker. They stopped to hug on Sam and thanked us for coming to hospice; it had meant a lot to them and their loved one. Sam acted as if they were the first people we’d seen that day and gave them his all.

We left shortly thereafter for home where Sam enjoyed a deep sleep as he is apt to do after a long or draining shift. We’d been there much longer than our usual visits and I could see it had affected this loving creature. While I watched his chest rise and fall with each breath, I sat and thought about all the memorable patients we’d visited that day. The smiles with Francis and her Mom at the thought of going home and the sad tears of loss by Mr. Walsh’s son. These human connections, the hello’s and goodbye’s bind us all together and are all inevitable. We can only hope they know that we wish them well on their journeys, whether here or in the next world.

<3

Doctors vs. Nurses

Is it just me or are most doctors too busy or too important to be friendly toward volunteers? Nurses and staff often times come running down the hallway just to say hi and catch a snuggle from Sam.  I have yet to see a doctor make eye contact let alone say hello or smile with the single exception of one doctor who also owns a Standard Poodle. And she thinks Sam is a bit on the chubby side because you can’t see bones sticking out (but that’s a post for another day rant). What IS it about professionals? I mean I know doctors are busy saving lives, being heroes and all, but would it hurt a brother to crack a smile? I may just be a volunteer but sheesh, really?

It kind of reminds me of my day job at a large law firm. Our lawyers are really busy advocating for their clients.  They need to be because time is money in a large firm.  They do however tend to look right through the staff like they had X-Ray vision. If a fellow colleague walks by though, they sashay up and start chewing the fat like they’re long lost BFF’s. Granted, I didn’t go to law or medical school but is the common courtesy of a simple smile too much to ask?

Still this weekend when we are visiting patients around hospital and hospice, Sam and I will still happily walk around smiling & saying hello to everyone we see-patients, aloof doctors, adoring nurses and all the other staff. We <3 them all…even the ones that look right past us. Lawyers on the other hand…well, I mean it’s not like they’re saving lives now, are they? 😄