Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Therapist Is In: Visit 2

Big Pupi's back with the badge:
On Wednesday my mom and I returned to work at the hospital. I was excited, perhaps a little too much so once again, but all that spunk wound up being a blessing because this trip would be a little more difficult than the last. Sure, there were more kids this time which for me meant a lot more hoops to jump through and many more spins to be spun. But I can muster energy for days and making a few extra leaps through the air took little out of me. Emotionally however... emotionally this particular trip to the hospital was exhausting.

For the most part the kids were new this time. Out of the 6 human pups only one boy was without tubes and wires, machines that beep and tall poles with bags of fluids dripping and dangling like ripe fruit. There was a brightness about this boy - something shining and energetic. He was quick to raise a hand and offer himself as The Special Assistant in any manor of tricks and games, and his smile would stretch clear across his face sending his light into the room. I've discovered that little boys tend to take to the beast with the mohawk rather quickly, and I soon became his favorite. It was a good thing that I started work with him because he certainly put me through my paces and took the edge off my energy reserves, enabling me to sit still for the first time all morning. Whew. That was some warm-up.

My friend from my last visit was wheeled into the room. The scar on her scalp was healing wonderfully and the stitches had been removed. We were ready for another round of physical therapy and both her parents were in attendance this time wielding cameras and cheers of encouragement. But it was not to be a success story as it had been on the last visit. Unable to keep herself awake the girl slept hunched over in the chair, only to have ice pressed upon her back which sent her arching into fits of anger and frustration. And then she would sleep. They had been talking about me for 2 weeks, her mom said. For fourteen days she waited, and when the day came for her routine to be brightened by a canine visitor her brain betrayed her and left her sleeping. The lucky mohawk went untouched and no amount of kisses could get a response. I missed my friend and hoped for a better visit next time. But that's another fourteen days away.

My mom and I have discovered that there is usually one patient that remains in your thoughts long after visiting hours are over. There is the memory of one person that is haunting and sticks with you like a shadow. On this visit my shadow came in the form of a little girl who appeared as to have been pulled from the pages of a nursery rhyme. Blond curls pinned back just so. Eyes blue and dark. She was about 6 I would guess, dressed in a hospital gown which hid a mass of tubes reaching into her like so many tentacles. Three feet behind her at all times was her pole with her bags of fluids and her very own relentless beeping machine. Her mother carried with her a bucket for the child to spit up in whenever she needed - which was often.

The child was lovely but subdued. Deep behind her eyes lied a person who in her youth was forced
to understand all that had been brought upon her and all that was going on around her. There was a physical pain and it was visible to anyone looking at her. It was like interacting with a person who hid deep within a cave.

And yet she walked. With me. She insisted upon it.

We attached my extra leash and she grabbed it tight and short. We pushed slowly on making a lap around the room, her mother keeping the pole and bags in tow. She grew tired quickly and her blue eyes darkened even more. The girl climbed back into a chair and leaned over her bucket. I leapt into the seat next to her and remained there as she rubbed the lucky mohawk and stroked my ears. I bent my body in such an impossible manor that allowed me to expose my belly, then I sat and pressed my side hard against the arm of the chair so she could reach me easily as she stroked me with the back of her hand.

She was tired.

A type of tired that most of us will never understand - and be grateful for that. It went beyond a physical exhaustion and the only way to describe the depths of the condition is to say that it had infringed upon her soul. She was just so tired. And so was her mother.

There is something that so many of the mothers we see with their children in the hospital have in common. They are thin, frail, bluish behind the skin. Eyes sunken, broken, lips dry. They cheer and speak happily and make pleasant conversation with the volunteers. They see their children perk up if only for few moments when the dogs come to play but none of this seems to override the sound of the machines beeping beeping forever beeping.

A nurse turns the machine towards her, writes down some numbers and leaves the room.

There was sadness in this visit. Sadness that should never be allowed into a room with a child. Sadness that invades everyone in its presence and sticks for days. Mom and I could understand it fully even though we knew nothing about the patients' conditions - we are not allowed to ask. It sits so heavily upon your shoulders and it makes you just so tired.

We will go back in two weeks. We will go back and pray that we see some of the same faces and feel as though a weight has been lifted. I will go back and spin all the spins to be spun and offer the mohawk to outstretched palms. You go back because that's what you do after a rough day and you maintain the belief that there is good in the world and just maybe you can contribute to just a little bit of it.


My dearest blogging folks~
I apologize for the general gloominess of this post. I will leave you with the lesson learned from my super brief time as a therapy dog:

Life is about perspective. Take stock in what you have and what you hold dear. As the economy sits precariously on the edge of ruin, the job market shrinks its waistline and you worry about shrinking yours, or that co-worker who always says the wrong thing is rounding the corner - these are truly not problems in the grand scheme of things. Save your head the worry. Just spend some time with the people you love this weekend. Find yourself in the presence of what truly matters.

And pet your pup where the mohawk would be.

-Big Pupi


Dughallmor Beagles said...

Hey Stanislaw! We thought we were already following cos you're in our list....but Mum had forgotten to click .....duuuh!
Anyway that was a lovely post, tinged with sadness, but we loved hearing about your therapy work, you sound like a lovely welcome visitor to any ward! Alfie wants to become a therapy dog too :o)
We're off to see if we can grow a mohawk now BOL!
Slobbers xx
pee-ess, we are busy gnawing on tasty knuckle bones while Mum types for us, you jealous? Sluuuurp!

Fenway said...

That's a sobering post, Pupi, but it's a message that we all need to hear. A glimpse into that world puts EVERYTHING into perspective. There are so many patients and their families who would savor a healthy day full of angst, annoyance, petty anger and inconvenience....just because they felt well.

My Ms. Alpha is a breast cancer survivor and got to see firsthand what that world is like, She was lucky...Stage 0, and fully recovered because she was diagnosed very early, had the best medical care (and could afford it!), and acted decisively and heroically. Once she toured the chemo and infusion areas of the hospital she knew there was NO fooling around with half measures.

Eight years later, Ms. Alpha is privileged to be healthy and active. Her life was changed forever... but she feels it was for the best. She knows how to savor, be joyful, silly and so rapturously happy. And thankful.

Anyone who reads this MUST KNOW THE LESSON:
Ms. Alpha had no family history of cancer, was in tiptop athletic shape, ate an extremely healthy diet and really took care of herself. She did not fit the Cancer Profile, yet she got cancer anyway. Why is a mystery. Her stroke of luck was that she always gets the recommended annual check ups, screenings and tests. This made ALL the difference—her cancer was detected very early and could be dealt with. Please, everyone, go get screened if you are overdue!

Your pal,

Fenway said...

One more post, and this is for Stan.

Tell him to check out the Hail To The Beef post...he will see for himself how to grow so big!

Canine Aficionado said...

Hi Pupi,

We are so grateful to you for your work as a therapy dog. Our pal, Fenway, (another Fen, not the one from Fenway's Park) is starting training and certification soon!

You are doing a wonderful thing. I hope as you ponder your experiences with the children you are helping, you get to chew on a bully stick, to keep your mouth as occupied as your brain.

Your pal,

Maggie and Mitch said...

Mom couldn't get through this posting without tears, Big Pupi! You are doing a world of good for these sick kids! We know they want to see you again as much as you want to see them!

Love ya lots,
Maggie and Mitch

Asta said...

What a bootiful bwought teaws to ouw eyes..but also joy in knowing that you made the day of thoe poow sick hooman pups..just being wif you and feeling youw wondewful enewgy and sometimes being able to wub youw lucky mohawk must bwithen theiw lives a little..those awe vewy pwecious gifts you give
Thank you
smoochie kisse to you and stanislaw
love you

Niamh said...

You are a wonderful boy Big Pupi. I am sure it is hard for you but any little bit of brightness or comfort or distraction you can bring to those kids is worth it. Thanks for doing an incredible job.

Your friend,

Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

My mom and I are both kind of numb and leaky after reading this one...

Why oh why must the little ones be so totured?

They so don't deserve it...

Woo are to be khommended fur what woo do AND for being strong and brave enough to share it with us!

Khyra and Her Mom

The Daily Echo said...

Khyra sent me over to read your post today. You are a hero and your advice is well noted. May God bless you for the work you do.

Mack said...

Oh BP - You are such a wonderful pup to let those kids pet you and stroke your belly like only children can do and still stay so sweet and calm to them. Mom says she has only one dog that gentle in her lifetime - it was my Aussie Shepherd momma, Emily Matilda.
We know you are such a blessing in their lives and they are in yours too.

Those children and their parents are such wonderful people. There is absolutely a special place in heaven for them....


Summit the Super Mal said...

Woo there Big Pupi~
Bless you and the work you do. We will cross our paws for all your precious, young heroes who are fighting a battle beyond their tender years. May their doctors and nurses reach deep into their knowledge and medical tools to save as many as possible and may those that are called to be angels leave a legacy of bravery and strength with those they touch. May those that they touch share their lessons so that all of us become better people. A legacy of hope and the understanding that it is only about hugs, smiles and love.
Keep sharing as many and as much as you can.
Your pal,
Summi and his Mummi

Joe Stains said...

What a great post. The work you guys are doing is important and appreciated. We are glad there are people and pups like you out there to do this kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Big Pupi, You and your mom are doing such important work. Mom's eyes were leaking by the time she finished reading this. Bless you bot in your efforts to encourage and help these children.

Rusty (& his mom Sharon)

Stanley said...

Hey, Big Pupi!

You may never know just how much or how many lives you change just by being the good boy you are. We are proud to know ya, and your sweet mama. My girl is seriously wishing she could pet your lucky mohawk!

Thanks for sharing, and keep telling us about your experiences. We love hearing about your work.

Now, go give Stan a big juicy smooch from us, will ya?

Goober love,

Scottie the 'cutie' said...

Thanks for sharing all your visit stories, Pupi. It is heartbreaking to read about the children who had to go through so much pain when they are so little...I think you're doing a great job helping them heal and making them forget about the pain and suffering, even if it's for a moment. Kudos for that...keep up the great work!


the 4 Bs said...

hey Pupi,

you are an angel and a hero to those kids and a compassionate dog. we're glad you and your mom are visiting them and making their days a little brighter.


Clover said...

Oh Pupi,
Thanks so much for sharing your stories with us. We always shed a tear or two when we read these posts, but they are so inspirational. You are doing such a wonderful thing, and your observations on the world are very thought-provoking. I really appreciate the way you make me think about life in a different way, and I always leave your blog with joy in my heart!!
Thanks so much for stopping by my blog with the nice words for my cousin, and for the tips about my ears/face/food allergies. I am going to make sure my parents have a good read.
Love Clover xo

Dewey Dewster said...

Thanks for the inspiring just never know how lucky you are until you hear about the troubles of someone else....and children should not have to suffer such must be very hard to watch and even harder to go back and see it all over again with a new set of faces....what a wonderful person and doggie you both are....

Dewey Dewster's Gram.....

FleasGang said...

Big Pupi, you and your mom are just the best. Please pass on slobbery kisses to all the kids for us.

Shelly & Tommy