Big Pupi on "Training my Human"
On Saturday my mom attended her first "without dog" observation, which is one of the human requirements that must be met before she is able to work with her fabulous and outstanding therapy dog (me, of course). She woke early on that day. I got an early breakfeast and then she was gone until afternoon. When she returned on the sunny Saturday, the first thing she did was snap on my leash and take me for a walk. I guess it was part determination to help me ace that exam, and part of her needed that sunshine and air. We had to be out and moving and seeing and breathing and why? Because we could.
Mom met two ladies, each with 100 lbs of dog at their side at the entrance to the hospital. They made their introductions and together they swooshed through the hospital lobby into a hallway lit yellow and bright. They peered into doorways and offered a visit from their patient pups. Some said Yes and others No, and together the group weaved and bobbed between the rooms.
A woman, sitting upright in a metal chair next to her bed said Yes to the dogs and in they went. In a shaky, weakened hand the woman balanced a bowl full of feastables and bit-by-bit she fed the dogs from a fork, like one would a child. The woman concentrated hard to coordinate the tasting, and she never dropped a single niblet. Never even came close. She did it for the dog and she was talking and happy all the while. A few more days and she'd be home.
In another room, a man laid in his bed with a nurse at his side. On his face was an expression of shock and amazement. Dogs in the hospital? Big dogs? He was in his 50s and never in his life had he touched a canine. And now he was feeding one neatly with a utensil as it perched its massive hindquarters on his bed. Mom never thought a smile could get so big or eyes so wide. When snack time was through the man clasped his hands together and declared this to the highlight of his stay. He was counting the seconds until he could tell his wife all about this. "Just wait until he finds his health again," mom told me. We're certain we'll see him proudly walking his first dog around town.
Into another hospital room... it was quiet. A woman lay low in her bed, thin and weak with dark eyes. Unmoving. Tubes of all sorts were attached to liquids held high and they darted into the sheets and disappeared. The room was warm and sweets sat on a table uneaten. And then there were the dogs. And with their entry came life to a frail body and light behind her face. She struggled to speak and begged the dogs be brought closer and closer. A chair was set next to the bed and the massive canines took turns sitting nicely and accepting treats and pets. It was happy.
Until the woman began to cry.
They were sobs from a body unable to find the energy for tears. There was a sadness so deep from a young person facing something she didn't seem quite ready for. Paper-thin hands were held tight and tears gently pat away. Soft words were whispered but how can a human really understand? One that is well and walking... how do they find the words to comfort another? It was then that the rottweiler hoisted his triple-digit body onto the bed. He was careful with his feet, balancing gingerly on the bed's edge and resting his mammoth head so gently on her fragile chest. Tears melted into kisses and arms wrapped snugly around the dog's neck. They laid like that for some time - the dog still and comforting.
The big pup had patience for days. He would lie there with her and melt into her embrace. Food was no longer interesting. Life was on pause. This was his place and he was her medicine. The woman's body relaxed and she drifted lightly to sleep.
In time the dog dismounted and parting words were said, along with promises that next week they'll be back and next week she will have a furry neck to hold and a fuzzy forehead to kiss. And next week she can drift to dream feeling life and warmth lying next to her, unafraid of her, giving her more than words ever could. And we all hoped and prayed for next week.
An hour visit to a hospital may not be much out of a schedule. An hour visit from a week's-worth of hours may not be a whole lot to ask. But somewhere in that hour humans are changed deeply. And suddenly an hour just doesn't seem like enough when it means a lifetime to someone bound to their bed. One hour and suddenly the world looks different and it wouldn't be possible without the therapy dog.
So take 60 minutes and spend it with your dog today. Walk, talk, play and pet. Take it all in, every last little bit of it. There will be a day when you can no longer do this.
Today is not the day.