For the last 15 years, Christmas Day has been a mixed day of emotions for me. While the true meaning of Christmas always rings loud and clear, there is one memory that stirs within me with all sorts of emotions on every Christmas Day. December 25th, 1998 is when Meggie Sue and I stomped through 6 inches of snow walking around our 5 acres, running and throwing sticks, pretending to chase a rabbit out from under the woodpile, stopping to observe Meggie doing “the snowplow” in the new powder and just enjoying the beautiful Christmas Day of sunshine and Christmas magic. Meggie Sue was a very special lady only 11 years of age at the time. Her life was spent as a working dog for us on our last Dairy Farm west of Loveland. Meggie and I did everything together. She was such a big help to me with the cows, protected me twice from a major mishap with the breeding bulls and always stood faithfully by to help move a calf or cow anywhere I wanted it to go. Meggie Sue was a Blue Heeler/Black Lab mixed breed dog I found at the Boulder Humane Society around Christmas time in 1987. I always called her “my very smart love muffin”. I promised myself long ago that I would write a book about all the things I learned from Meggie and the wonderful events her and I experienced together. Believe me, there really is enough to fill a book easily. Meggie was an amazing dog. I hope some day I can actually take the time to document those wonderful stories.
Daryl & Meggie Spending Time
Going back to that Christmas Day of 1998, Meggie Sue and I arrived back at the house when she came across her long time rival, a cat named Scotchy. Meggie dominated all the cats around the Dairy Farm, but Scotchy was a large male cat who wasn’t about to be intimidated by any dog. When we retired and moved off the Dairy to our home near Berthoud, Scotchy was in a field behind our house and obviously was an abandoned cat. After several days of watching Scotchy, we finally adopted him and gave him a place to stay with us as an outdoor cat. Meggie took it upon herself to keep Scotchy in line by giving him a tiny growl and a slight jump in his face as she walked by him, but Scotchy would just look calmly at Meggie and ignore her. Those 2 carried on like that for nearly 6 years. It was entertaining to watch. On that Christmas Day, Scotchy was by the back door of our house and as Meggie and I passed by him, Meggie gave him a little growl and a slight jump which never ever worked, but it became the salute from one to the other.
Meggie and I walked into the house, I removed my coat and wet boots. I heard a moaning noise which caused me to turn around and then I saw Meggie Sue was having a seizure on the floor. She was laying on her side, went into a coma and died within a few seconds in my arms. I couldn’t believe it after spending such a high quality moment with her out in the snow frolicking around like 2 kids enjoying a perfect Christmas Day. Meggie had some seizures before, CSU diagnosed it as an inoperable large brain tumor several months earlier. So while this event wasn’t a total surprise, the final moments played out as if it were some sort of a beautiful farewell plan.
A very big chunk of my heart went with Meggie Sue that day. I know many of you have gone through the same experience and no matter how many times you go through it, it never gets any easier. Losing Meggie hurt so bad I never wanted to get another dog ever again, but after two years I finally did………her name was TILDA. Tilda gave me part of her heart and once again a large chunk of my heart left with her when she died. It was Tilda who managed to teach me that with every new dog comes new adventures and experiences. All of them much different then than the last dog, yet it all seems to fit together into what feels like some marvelous plan of life. After Tilda, Sissy-Biskit came into my life and this shy and super sensitive little dog has brought about a bunch of brand new rewards and wonderful experiences. Again, much different than Meggie Sue or Tilda brought to me, yet it all fits together like pieces of a puzzle. Sis brings to me things that Meggie or Tilda couldn’t. It is like they all have been discussing this back and forth between them with a lesson plan of what the old man needs to learn this time.
A dear friend of mine named Linda S. of Utah sent me a birthday present in November. This present is most fitting to mention here as it was a wall mural of a phrase that says it all:
“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them, and every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”
Sissy-Biskit wanting a good treat.
I want to thank Linda S. for this mural as it appears to explain exactly what has been going on in our hearts as dogs become more and more of our lives. We do end up being better people for it.
So on this Christmas morning, my thoughts are with Meggie Sue. 15 years ago today, we shared one of those very sweet and very sad days. I still have all of our memories of us together and pray I can keep them forever. She lived 11 years with me so have 26 years of remembering those great times with Meggie Sue. In dog years, that is a very long time. Thanks so much, Meggie, for finally steering me to Tilda that day at Longmont Humane Society who in turn steered me to Sis-Biskit almost immediately after Tilda left. I know beyond any doubt that Tilda still lives on through Sis every day. Meggie Sue continues to be the Matriarch of all of us. It is simply a fact that it is her way of doing things. Thank you, dear girl. You are never forgotten and Christmas Day will always be your special day with me!!
‘Til we meet again!
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Doing therapy dog work is always rewarding, but it was Tilda Dog who taught me to watch for the special moments and cherish them as one of the most precious treasures of life. I have a great example to share with Tilda’s Friends in this writing which demonstrates the powerful connection that therapy dogs can bring about. It is so easy to miss these tiny moments, but without a doubt I will carry them with me forever.
Tilda entertaining the children
When Tilda first started working as a therapy dog at Avista hospital in Louisville, Colorado, she was about the 2nd active dog team visiting the facility as that therapy dog program was just getting ready for a rebirth. One day a very nice lady named “Ann” saw us in the hospital hallways and invited us up to Dr. Nelson’s Pediatric office to visit with staff and patients in that area. Tilda really enjoyed it as there were children, treats and lots of fun. She loved laying on the floor on her side while the kids rubbed her belly. She also loved demonstrating her tricks for the kids such as “high five”, “high ten” and “high twenty”. The children enjoyed it very much and some actually thought she could count. In the pediatric office area, it is always filled with wonderful sounds of joy and exuberance and the crowded little hallway between the exam rooms is filled with staff, children and parents all enjoying the antics of that scenario. Tilda always was given treats from the staff of Brenda and Ann, then the children had their turn so it was an event for Tilda (and myself of course). Dr. Nelson was always busy with patients, but he showed lots of tolerance and understanding working around and through the crowd in the hallway to get to his next patient examination room.
Then one day, Dr. Nelson himself gave Tilda a treat and from that day on, it became a tradition that Dr. Nelson would always give one treat to Tilda and then went back to his patients. Tilda looked forward to that moment and anticipated it on every visit. Of course she would sit pretty like a little soldier when Brenda or Ann were feeding her treats. Those were golden moments for Tilda.
Tilda visited this office every week for a good long time, but then day came when Tilda was not able to visit anymore due to her illness. However, Tilda was followed by many, many good therapy dogs that were fast coming into the Avista program and we led them all in the direction to Dr. Nelson’s office on the second floor so they could do their magic with the dogs and visa-versa. All the dog handlers simply love going to Dr. Nelson’s office and the dogs can almost find that office by themselves without the handler I would bet.
Sissy-Biskit wanting a good treat.
Then early in 2012, Sissy-Biskit started visiting at Avista and of course was introduced to Dr. Nelson’s office and the children. Sissy being a lot more shy than Tilda didn’t quite know what to make of all the fuss over the therapy dogs. But over time, Brenda and Ann had Cheerios which Sissy liked very much and started doing her “spins and twirls” for them and the children. The most hilarious part for us humans during this visit time was that Dr. Nelson himself would do the usual appearance with his private dog treat and would give one to Sissy-Biskit. She would spit it out on the floor and didn’t want it. One of us would finally encourage Sissy to eat it, but she simply wouldn’t eat it from Doc. This became somewhat of a comedy between us all, but Dr. Nelson never gave up. He actually purchased other treats that he thought couldn’t miss with Sissy and he finally hit on one that Sissy loved dearly. It was some sort of “meat treat” and Sissy was nuts over it.
Not too long after that day, Sissy had a couple bad incidents in other locations with some very loud sounds and with a male patient who grabbed at her aggressively before I could react. From that moment on, Sissy became fearful of men so we put her in a “leave of absence” mode for 90 days from her regular schedule at all the hospitals. I am still sporadically visiting with her for very short periods at some of the hospitals and at a memory care nursing home in order to build her confidence again. It is gradually working.
One day in early December, 2012, Sissy-Biskit and I visited Dr. Nelson’s office for the usual fun and fanfare. I was talking with the staff and I noticed Sissy kept pulling and pulling hard on the leash as if she wanted to go to the back of the area. I kept pulling her back and she would turn and pull again. I finally asked if there were any patients in the office today and the answer was “not right now” so I just dropped the leash as I knew Sissy would be fine as she headed back towards Dr. Nelson’s private office. The staff and I finished our conversation in a minute or so and I headed down the hallway. As I turned the corner to Dr. Nelson’s personal office, I saw the most amazing sight. It was one of those moments whereby the image of it speaks a thousand words and will stick in my mind forever. Dr. Nelson was sitting in a chair out in front of his desk with his special treats that Sissy loved so much. He was having Sissy “sit”, “shake”, then come up on his knee all while he encouraged her to nibble the treat out from between his fingers. Sissy’s tail was wagging high with her ears perked and erect. What I saw was a dog and a doc having a very special moment with each other and both were smiling. This from a Doc who had been rejected by Sissy but he wouldn’t give up… and from a dog who was presently fearful of men.
Dr. Nelson giving Santa his Christmas list.
While you may be preparing yourself that this is the end of this story, it isn’t. On December 13th, 2012, several of the Avista therapy dog teams attended the event of Santa Claus coming to Avista to listen to the children’s requests while they sat on his lap. The dogs entertained the children while they waited in line for their turn on Santa’s lap. I was given the wonderful task of taking pictures to document the joyous moments of the children with their eyes as big as saucers with some only peaking at the large white beard out of the corner of their eye. It was adorable. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, came Dr. Nelson walking through the crowd and he walked over to Santa and pulled up a seat on Santa’s lap himself as shown in the great photo on this page. I couldn’t resist snapping a photo and as the Doc left I wished him Merry Christmas and shook his hand while saying “I will get this picture to your office soon” and we both had a good laugh.
On December 17th, 2012, Dr. Nelson experienced some serious medical issues and was hospitalized. He passed on out of this life on December 24, 2012. His memorial service is today, December 29th, 2012 and is the reason I stopped everything to document the wonderful moments experienced by Tilda, Sissy-Biskit and all of the dogs in the Avista Animal Helpers therapy dog program who visited his office. While it is a time for some very strong emotions, the memories of it will continue in all of us for a very long time. Hopefully, Dr. Nelson’s office will be able to continue the great pediatric service and the dogs will be able to continue to visit in his honor and as a tribute to an individual we all hold in high esteem.
A special thanks to Brenda and Ann of Dr. Nelson’s office who always welcome and greet the dogs with fanfare and lots of fun. Thank you, Dr. Nelson! Your memory is etched inside us for all the good things you’ve done. Also, a big thank you to all of the Avista Animal Helpers dogs who so graciously dedicate their time and effort to bring smiles to the faces of people needing a break in their day. Here are a few of the dogs presently doing this wonderful work at Avista (in no particular order):
Sissy-Biskit, Donna and I made the pilgrimage to Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming on Saturday, August 4th, 2012. It was a couple days short of one year when Tilda, Donna and I made the trip on August 6th, 2011. That was the trip when Tilda really didn’t want to get back in the truck after laying in the grass in the city park in Laramie. The air was very cool in Laramie a year ago and Tilda was really enjoying the cool air on her bumpy skin. That trip with Tilda to Laramie was during the last 3 weeks of her life and she enjoyed it immensely. Her skin was always so hot from the Mast Cell tumors and when I would throw a cold wet towel over her back a big smile would arrive on her face. She especially liked the towel at the city park that day.
Sissy & Donna visiting Tilda’s favorite spots, August 4, 2012.
I am quite sure that Tilda made the trip last weekend with us. She hitched a ride with Sissy as she always does, yet she allows little Sissy to be herself. It is a very wonderful thing to observe and I see the phenomenon now and then almost every day. Tilda is not near ready to give up on any of us yet, but we are not complaining and cherish every moment. That attitude might sound a bit strange for some, but very easy to understand when one gets to experience it first hand as we have. All dogs have unique traits that you witness day in and day out and know that only they can do these things. It is their personality and their demeanor. But when you see those personal and private traits being re-enacted by another dog in the same precise manner without being trained or coaxed, it simply takes your breath away. I used to think I was probably dream wishing or fantasizing, but soon learned that I wasn’t. It is real and I love it.
The date of Friday, August 24th marks ONE YEAR since Tilda passed. For those of you that have Tilda’s calendar, you will see the date is identified. The August 2012 calendar picture of Tilda brings back lots of great memories with her. She just love fruits and veggies and her favorites were broccoli and pineapple. She had this wonderful stare and if she could hold it long enough, her thoughts would finally get my attention as they penetrated. That dog knew how to “reach into a person” and get her point across and guess that is why she was so remarkable as a therapy dog.
Little Sissy-Biskit is doing great as a therapy dog. She is now working all 4 Boulder County
Tilda & Donna at one of Tilda’s favorite spots in Wyoming, August 6, 2011.
hospitals and she also stops by a new assisted living center for Alzheimer’s patients in south Longmont every Friday afternoon. I already have a whole backlog of great stories to tell about Sissy’s visits, but there simply isn’t any time to write about them these days. Normally, Sissy is a very quick visiting dog. She doesn’t like dog treats very much unless they are homemade and contain peanut butter (well, excuse me…….such a picky little girl). But I found out by accident several months ago that she loves Cheerios so I carry a waist pouch on my side when we are visiting and I put some in the patients hands so they can feed Cheerios to Sissy-Biskit. She has a very soft touch with her mouth and the kids just love it and giggle delightfully until I have to laugh myself. For the small children, Sissy learned from Tilda that a doggie has to get down on the floor and lay on their side so the kids can pet the dogs tummy and rub her side. Sissy loves it and I can tell her favorite child is a small girl around 3 to 5 years of age………..exactly like Tilda.
Tilda under the tree at Laramie City Park August 6, 2011
Sissy at the Laramie City Park in the same spot under the tree, August 4, 2012.
Sissy isn’t as tolerant as Tilda was when visiting……..she is always happy and loves to meet, paws up on the knee or on the bed (very gentle and sweet) and then she goes into this “where are my Cheerios?” thing and after eating the snack it’s on to the next person as if to say “thank you very much and have a nice day, but I have other people to see now”. The Border Collie friskiness in Sissy really shines when we visit the hospitals. She gets so excited and is memorizing the route. She already knows what corner to turn and which direction. Once in a while she stops, looks left, looks right, looks back………….as if she is lost. Then she looks at me and I will tell her “this way” while I tug the leash in a certain direction and she is off and trotting again. It is pretty darn sweet to watch.
Elaine & Toby, Margaret & Tillie, Daryl & Sissy working at The Dog Posse.
On another subject, recently a small group of therapy dog teams at one of the hospitals started an enjoyable adventure called “The Dog Posse”. Normally teams visit one team at a time during a certain scheduled time at the hospital. However, several of the experienced teams got together and accidentally stumbled across the idea of doing a “flash mob therapy dog visit” to the hospital on a weekend day when no other teams were scheduled. Sissy just loves doing this event as do the other good dogs. We still observe all the rules and only visit one dog per patient at one time, but the patients and staff get to see 3 or 4 dogs…….one right after the other which is a lot of fun for everyone including the teams doing it. This certainly is the next level of therapy dog visiting as it requires extreme concentration on the part of the dog handlers while at the same time participating in the excitement that this concept brings about.
Sissy tries so hard. Now and then she has some quiet moments with a person and it is very eye catching to watch. She has learned that she can crawl up on the bed or on a sofa and lay/sit beside someone and just hang out. She is not allowed to do that at home so it is amazing how quickly these dogs learn what is permissible away from home. Sissy’s best visits have been on a sofa or bed curled up beside someone that needs a bit of special loving that day. Last Friday, there was an elderly lady in a wheel chair in her room who wouldn’t go outside the room and was being anti-social with a very negative attitude. The
Sissy hanging out with some Tilda Friends jabbering about old times.
attendant pushed the wheel chair along side the bed and I asked Sissy to get up on the bed beside the wheel chair…….and she did. Sissy had her front legs/paws hanging over the side of the bed so the lady started petting Sissy’s legs. The petting stroke was very much a repeated rhythm, stroke after stroke and all of a sudden I could see the lady wanted to say something as her lips were trying to form a word. I asked the lady if Sissy had soft legs and she immediately replied “Yes, very soft”. The lady then asked me how old Sissy was……..and the conversations began. Within a couple minutes the lady was talking NON-STOP and suddenly became so excited about her day. She asked me lots of questions and soon was telling me all about her dogs of the past. Then the lady talked directly to Sissy telling her all about the dogs she has had and Sissy was motionless just looking at the lady’s eyes and listening. The most touching part was when the lady told Sissy “my favorite dog is named Lucy and I can’t find her. Some people tell me she died, others tell me she is still alive…..but I can’t find her. Sissy, if you see Lucy will you please tell her where I am so she can find me?” At this point, as you might well imagine, the attendant that was in the room with me totally lost it and had to walk out for some Kleenex. I was concentrating on Sissy to make sure she was okay, but my eyes were getting blurred with water also. I tried to fight it back as Sissy is my concern and she trusts me to look out for her. Sissy was fine and this conversation went on for around 30 minutes and the lady never quite stroking Sissy’s paw/leg. That is the longest visit Sissy has ever done and she still was in no hurry to get up and leave. So something was going on there and it was all GOOD for sure. I found out later this lady is 97 years old and is a native Coloradoan.
The attendant came back in the room and asked the lady if she wanted to join some other people out in the community area and watch TV and play some games. The lady responded “yes, that would be fun” so away they went. I got up off the bed and so did Sissy. Sissy looked at me as if to say “did I do okay, dad?”. I spoke out loud telling Sissy that she did great!
Thank you, Sissy! Thank you, Tilda! Wow! I love these dogs!
Quick update on Sissy-Biskit: Sissy is doing just fine and enjoying her rounds at the Boulder County hospitals. She has had one unique experience already causing me to shake my head in amazement, but that is all I have managed to catch so far during an official visit, that is. She is such an active dog and moves between visits like something just short of the speed of light. She is already learning the routes and knows the next stop. We settled on tempting her with Cheerios breakfast cereal as treats. She loves those a lot so her visits are rewarded with the person being visited feeding her some Cheerios. Sissy is about at her
Sissy Says: These little sheep are all mine!
correct weight now (so says her Vet) so we are being careful to keep her in tip-top shape. Just like Tilda, Sissy has lots of good visits and then some visits she could care less about and is ready to move on quickly.
Sissy is now a professional Stuffed Toy Herding Dog. I developed the title, Sissy does the work! She is simply amazing how she takes such good care of her stuffies……she still has her first one and it is without damage as are the other 30+ stuffies. They are all her babies. She herd’s them into a pile and then wraps her self around the pile or buries herself in the pile. Her favorite thing is for me to pile all the stuffies on top of her. Then she goes to sleep as everything is calm and okay. She knows them all by scent and can quickly pass over the pile with her nose and immediately knows if one is missing. If there is, she will go on the “herd” to find it and bring it back to the pile.
Tilda’s Friend Tara wrote a letter that she wants to share:
I wanted to share with you that we believe that our first black lab, Sam, picked out Buddy for our family. Sam was very sick his whole life, and we lost him when he was just 8 years old. We got Buddy 6 months after Sam died, and some of the coincidences and similar behaviors between Sam and Buddy are just uncanny, similar to what you describe in Tilda’s Blog!
My family always said that Sam would have been an incredible therapy dog, but unfortunately he was VERY dog aggressive (probably because of the numerous medical issues he suffered as a puppy and an adult), so we never pursued therapy work with Sam. But this missed opportunity with Sam was absolutely the motivation for me to put Buddy and myself on the wait list for Boulder Community Hospital.
Sam also helped us to train our little Stellaluna, who was a real wild child when she was
Stella is a very pretty girl!
a pup (we actually chose Stella because she was so fearless, we knew we needed a dog with a personality like hers to get along with our Sammy). Many of Stella’s behaviors today are ones she learned from her big brother. I have Sam to thank for getting my Dad and I involved in therapy dog work, and for guiding us to our sweet Stella and Buddy. Isn’t it amazing the lasting effects that our dogs have on our lives, even years after we have to say goodbye?
Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences with Sissy on Tilda’s Blog. This one really stuck a chord with me, thank you!
Note: Sissy had a most interesting visit with Tara in a parking lot one day a couple weeks back. It was the first time they met and those two fell in love immediately and it looked to me like they were having private conversations between them. That was very touching and sweet plus it caught my attention as Sissy was really moving into Tara with purpose.
And then there were the Butterflies:
For many years now, I have spent a great deal of time working with antiques and collectibles specializing in clocks, vintage movie equipment, typewriters, etc. One thing about that industry, you get to meet a lot of wonderful people who are associates doing the same thing with other items or customers interested in similar things. One of those people is a lady named Linda Najjar who is also one of Tilda’s Friends. Linda and I go back a few years when we were both collectible dealers and rented space in a local collectible store. Linda has since become a published author writing short stories of her real life experiences. Recently, she wrote one that involved Tilda and myself several years ago. This story really happened exactly as she described and it is reprinted here with her permission:
After my mother died I inherited her collection of vintage costume jewelry. Treasure hunting at garage sales was her weekend sport for fifty years and she loved to show me all the stuff she’d found. To revisit our good times together I sorted through boxes of baubles and bangles she’d collected. The memories of my mother were dear to me, not the items themselves, so I kept only a few items to remind me of her, ones that I would like to wear and I decided to sell the rest of her collection. I rented a display case at a local antique mall and filled it with her great finds.
One sunny summer morning I stood in my garden of ripening apples and pears, and I smelled the sweet fragrance of roses and lavender. The multitude of butterflies around me inspired me to pull out all Mom’s jewelry with a butterfly motif. A pewter box with a butterfly on it, an inlaid butterfly ring, filigree butterfly earrings, a butterfly cloisonne pin, and butterfly necklaces. Mom loved butterflies!
After pricing each one I arranged these butterfly themed pieces on a black foam core board. I wondered if I should add a title of “vintage Butterfly Jewelry” but saw that all these butterflies spoke for themselves. I then covered the display with butcher paper and white plastic bags to insure its safe transit across town in my car.
At the antique mall I carried in my wrapped up display like I was delivering a pizza. Daryl, a fellow dealer, shouted from behind the counter in his booming six foot tall voice, “Well, Hello, Butterfly!” I stopped in my tracks, or, rather, I hovered mid-flight. There was no way Daryl could have seen what was inside my carefully wrapped package!
I’d never heard Daryl call anyone “Butterfly” and I’d never been called “Butterfly” by anyone! “What’s wrong,” he queried, “Don’t you like being called ‘Butterfly’?” When I asked him if he was in the habit of calling people “Butterfly” he said that he couldn’t recall ever calling anyone that. Stunned, I said, “Daryl, look at this.” and I dramatically unwrapped my package on the counter in front of him. His eyes widened when he saw all the butterfly jewelry. “Stop it! You’re frightening me,” he said. “Me?” I responded, “You’re the one who’s reading my mind!”
The owner of the shop came over and noticed a Sarah Coventry butterfly necklace on the display that she said was just like the one she’d worn as a young girl. The next day she called to tell me that a woman came in and purchased that same necklace. “But wait,” she said, “Daryl has another butterfly incident to tell you about.” Daryl took the phone and told me his story.
At lunchtime he drove home to let out his dog, Tilda. After she did her duty, she abruptly and uncharacteristically turned 180 degrees and raced under a pine tree like she was chasing after a rabbit. Instead, a Monarch butterfly flew out. Tilda then calmly sat back on her haunches to watch the butterfly in flight, as if that’s what result she had intended! Daryl said that this behavior was completely odd for the dear old girl. She has a sweet disposition and is built round like a barrel, so she doesn’t turn quickly and has never been known to rouse a butterfly!
Then as Daryl stood about twenty feet from the pine tree, he watched in disbelief as Tilda’s Monarch winged its way directly towards him. The butterfly landed on his right shoulder and stayed there, he swears, for about forty five seconds!
Butterfly events kept arising for awhile. A man brought a large butterfly specimen to the antique mall. After chatting with him for awhile he said he’d moved here from a small town twelve hundred miles away. It was the same town I was planning on moving TO in a few weeks. He warned me against moving there, but I ignored his warnings and went ahead with my plans to move there. I moved away from that town within two months. Before these butterfly events I never had experienced clustering of synchronistic events. And Daryl had his own experience of other butterfly synchronicities.
My mother and Daryl’s mother both died about a year or so before these occurrences. Both of these women loved butterflies. Could it be as we suspect? Did our mothers get together in spirit to send us a message? Did they synchronize a symphony of butterfly events as a grand “Hello! We love you!”? And did Daryl and I experience a form of thought transference? Did Daryl pick up an aura or imprint of “Butterfly” around me?
And what about Tilda? Was she just uncharacteristically chasing a Monarch or was she inspired by a nudge from our mothers on the other side?
Now that moving story has another beautiful note to it. After the butterfly left my shoulder, it fluttered about here and there and landed in a flowerbed on the other side of our house. About the only flowers blooming in that flowerbed were Zinnias and they were my mother’s favorite flower. The butterfly landed there quietly and was flexing its beautiful wings back and forth as they do. I turned and ran to the house to get the camera and when I returned the butterfly was still there. I snapped some pictures and then it lifted off and flew straight up and away. I never saw it again that day. You can view the butterfly picture here and think you’ll agree it was pretty special.
Now, since that butterfly moment there was another butterfly incident with another one of Tilda’s Friends in Utah recently whose name just happens to be “Linda” also. I will call her Linda S. as I didn’t ask her permission to use her name. Linda S. is a past customer who evolved into a dear friend some years ago and we have stayed in touch all this time as there appears to be some sort of connection between us that neither of us understand. When Linda lost her mother recently, the butterfly thing came back big time and it ended up becoming a very important part of Linda’s life for a few months and it all stacked up to be just a bit more than simple coincidences. So it appears to me that there are some mothers somewhere who are having a great time throwing the butterfly themes at us.
Whatever it was, I appreciate it, Mom! Thanks for checking in. And Tilda, thank you for the awesome rainbows……..they were wonderful!!!!
You are probably asking yourself “who in the world is Sissy-Biskit?” We renamed Sissy to Biskit as she was so shy when we first got her we didn’t want to tag her with the “Sissy” name. But then everyone already knew her as Sissy and she answers to both names. Hence, the name Sissy-Biskit. I have a lot of fun joking with people about her name. “You can call her Sissy if you want, or you can call her Biskit, or you can call her Sissy-Bisket”. I used to follow that phrase with “or you can call her Rambo” in hopes that would help Sissy with her shyness. But then my friend Margaret mentioned that it should be Rambette since Sissy is a lady. Margaret has a large Rottweiler named Jake so we both agreed that a fun name for Jake would be “Fuzzy”. Can’t you just picture Fuzzy and Rambette crusing the halls of a hospital? Yikes! There is a picture for a wild imagination.
The good news is Sissy has really crawled out of her shell. If you recall, she came from Houston, Texas and belonged to an elderly lady who passed. The family didn’t want Sissy and took her to the animal shelter……..which happened to be a Kill Shelter. Thank
goodness for good communications with the Colorado Dalmatian Rescue as they found Sissy and brought her to Colorado. I found Sissy on-line and we adopted her on October 25, 2011 immediately after visiting with her. Sissy was so shy (still is sometimes) that I couldn’t even walk with her outside. She kept looking at the sky and lowering her head like she was afraid it was going to fall on her. I was told she spent 60 days in the shelter waiting for her ride to Colorado. I think that time severely affected little Sissy, caused her to be very sensitive of other dogs and caused her to not trust much of anything or anyone. Our first walk outside on a leash was exactly 55 feet. Actually, it totaled 110 feet if you want to count the return trip of Sissy dragging me back to the front door like a runaway horse pulling a plow. So the patience and training began. Day by day, event by event, it sometimes appeared hopeless, yet sometimes there was a slight glimmer of her true personality which I was sure deep inside her somewhere. The characteristic that kept giving me hope is she loved meeting new people. She met Donna and I very well the first 30 seconds we visited with her. She has met hundreds of people since then with similar intensity. Sometimes she is hesitant, most times very loving. She seems to size people up very quickly and has a good sense of what is going on with the person she is visiting. To me, that was the end result I was looking for. A meaningful dog does not have to like everyone, but it has to be willing to give it a try.
I had a very difficult time getting started with training Sissy-Biskit as she would not eat
Sissy-Biskit gets so sleepy and loves to put all her legs in a pile.
treats, dog biscuits, not even people food. She wasn’t interested in that stuff at all. I thought to myself……. “this is going to be difficult to begin training a dog without rewards”. But then one day I was nibbling on some peanuts and I dropped one on the floor. Sissy ran and cobbled it up before I could even move. I offered her another and she snapped it right up. Bingo! We found a treat she wanted and would work for. Some people tell me that peanuts aren’t good for a dog. In researching it, most vets say it is not a problem when used in moderation……..so I wasn’t too worried. Besides, my Vet said she was about 5 pounds too light so we needed to gain a bit of weight anyway. I trained Sissy all the way out of her shell of shyness (for the most part) using dry roasted peanuts (of all things). Who would of thought, but it worked. Later, she learned to like Cheerios. So now we switch back and forth between peanuts and Cheerios. She has nearly gained the 5 pounds the Vet wanted and is in perfect condition according to him. So now we will just try to maintain that weight.
Sissy's Therapy Dog Graduation Certificate
Sissy has gone through the therapy dog classes, has her certificate and is now completely signed up and visiting all 4 Boulder County hospitals. She also passed her Therapy Dogs, Inc. test and observations and is now officially a registered therapy dog. Sissy-Biskit and her dad are a registered team together and we are having a great time following some of Tilda’s old routes and meeting her friends of the past while introducing Sissy to a wonderful new life for her. Most people that knew Tilda remark how much Sissy is like Tilda in her manner, her calmness and her demeanor. I certainly agree with that and will take it one step farther. I think Tilda picked out Sissy for sure and probably has imprinted some things on Sissy in ways that are certainly mysterious to me, but am convinced it is true. More on that later.
Sissy-Biskit is visiting the these hospitals on the following days:
Avista Hospital, Louisville, 2nd & 4th Thursdays
Boulder Community Hospital, Boulder, 1st, 3rd & 5th Wednesdays
So we visit two days per week which is about Sissy’s limit for getting started. She is doing very well and I am so proud of how far she has come. One thing for sure, from here on it will get better and better as she gets to know the buildings and some familiar faces. Her transition from “fear of going outdoors” to a dog that is coming into her true personality is an amazing story in itself. Every week I took her to the antique stores I visit in Fort Collins and there she would walk with me through the stores, meet the owners each week and just mingle. Week by week it got better and better, but a very slow process. Then one day, our good friend Franny gave Sissy a squeaky toy. At first she didn’t quite know what to do with it. After a few days, it became Sissy’s “property” and I noticed she acted like she was trying to herd the toy as if it were a sheep. Her being part Border Collie, I understood that natural
Sissy-Biskit herding her stuff toys
instinct so I bought her a dozen squeaky toys over a few weeks. THAT WAS IT!!! She started playing with those toys……..ever so tenderly. She treats them as her babies that she rounds up and stacks them in a pile, then she claims them as her own. Then I found a flea market with some good used stuff toys and got Sissy a bunch more. She doesn’t need squeaky toys, just stuffed toys will suffice as all she wants to do is herd them and carry them home. She handles them so carefully that she still has her very first toy from Franny in perfect condition. She does not tear at them, just mouths them and carries them around, but they have to be in a pile. The most fun thing with Sissy is to sit on the floor and toss them all over the house and she will round them all up and build the pile again. Pretty cute.
The side benefit of this stuffed-toy-herding was something I didn’t expect. Doing this herding gave her confidence that she could put things in order and satisfy her stronginstincts at the same time. Week after week, I could see her confidence level greatly increase. At the same time, I did the same thing with Sissy that I did with Tilda. I kept her with me all the time, 24 hours a day. She goes everywhere with me, never is left alone at home. She is either at home with me laying on her rug by the computer, or she is in the truck with me in Tilda’s back seat bed, or she is walking with me somewhere and doing
"These babies are my little sheep, hands off!"
something. That created a bond which in turn created some trust. Then she began to look at me for guidance when venturing to new areas she normally would have been in a panic over. Sissy-Biskit has come a very long ways and continues to get better with each new day. Her true personality is now coming forth and she is a fun-loving dog who is very quick and smart. It looks to me like Sissy’s life has finally started and she is now nearly 6 years old. But that is okay, at least we have a start and she is absolutely the greatest dog this old man could ever hope for. She has no bad habits and is the true meaning of a “loyal sidekick dog” and a true friend. She never gets tired of going places and now is really into that excitement. When it is time for her walk, she stands up alongside my chair and takes her leg and pounds me on the shoulder repeatedly until I give in and put her leash on. This dog now walks with the leash wrapped around her neck while walking along side of me. We can walk a mile or two without difficulty of any kind……….she loves it. She does tricks along the way and is so happy, it brings tears to my eyes some days. Let me tell you, it is a long way from the first day of our 55 feet walk of torture for both of us.
I will always believe sweet Tilda brought me Sissy. Tilda knew me better than anyone and she picked a new dog that fits every need I have. I am also convinced, as I said earlier, that somehow Tilda did some imprinting on this new dog. How all that works I am not sure of at all, but I see the results of it and they are unmistakeable. As times goes by, Sissy’s attitude and demeanor is more like Tilda all the time. There were certain traits which were unique Tilda traits that Sissy now does and without any initializing or encouragement from me. It is just the way things are. Over time, I have learned to simply accept it and not question it. Much more fun that way! Sissy is not Tilda, Tilda is not Sissy. They are uniquely individual dogs with lots of overlap and similarities that will make ones jaw drop during some moments of the day. Rather than bore you will all the details of it, I will simply share one example with you:
Tilda used to lay by my side while I worked at the computer (so does Sissy). Over the years of us walking together up the steps to the upper level of the house, I trained Tilda to lay down across the very top step of the last flight of stairs. There I would give Tilda a body
Tilda doing her Top Step for massage time
massage and she just loved it while groaning and grunting the whole time. After several dozen times of doing this maneuver, Tilda began doing it most every time we walked up those stairs…….especially at dinner time as that is when she knew I would stop and take the time to give her a body massage. Now Tilda died on August 24 last year and am sure you all remember that time very well. 61 days later we met Sissy, which was rather fast, but I knew Sissy was the dog I wanted immediately when I saw her. It was not only because of her looks or demeanor, it was mainly because of what I felt inside. It about 3 weeks after we brought Sissy home that a very strange thing happened. I was walking upstairs for dinner and Sissy was hopping up the stairs in front of me when at the SAME TOP STEP, Sissy did a quick left turn and
Sissy doing the Top Step on her very own
plopped down sideways on the top step and laid in the exact same position that I had trained Tilda to do. I did not touch Sissy previous to this……….never showed her anything. Sissy did all this on her own at nearly the same time of day, same step, laying in the same position. This is far from a coincidence and it was actually a bit frightening to me the first few seconds as Sissy just laid there and looked at me deep into my eyes. I then came to my senses and called Donna over to look at what Sissy was doing and we both cried happy tears as we felt the love of Tilda like it was coming from a blast furnance. This event was less than 3 months after Tilda died so you can imagine how powerful it was to witness Sissy doing that procedure all on her own.
The great news is Sissy and I still do that top step procedure and I get to hear the same grunts and groans that Tilda always gave. I thought I had remembered taking a picture of Tilda in that position on the top step and using that picture in a Tilda Dog Blog one time. The reason I took the original Tilda top step picture is that it took me a while to train her to do this and thought is was unique and quite an accomplishment. I found the picture and it is posted here. The wonderful thing is I had the camera near that top step as I was taking some other pics of Sissy the night before so I snapped a picture of Sissy laying on the top step. Look at the two pictures for yourself and see what you think. Keep in mind that it took Tilda quite some time to learn that trick. Sissy did it on her own as a total surprise to me. Look at the position of the legs of both pictures and other similarities. This is only one example of what has been going on. Very fun stuff for sure and no complaints from this fellow.
All I can think to say is Thank You, Tilda…………Thank You, Sissy-Biskit!
‘Til Next Time………………..
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It has been proven to me time and time again that after good therapy dogs get into the routine of visiting the hospitals regularly, they will absolutely amaze you with their instinctive abilities to connect with people in need. I am so fortunate to be able to watch so many dogs doing what they do best. Sometimes I am not present for some of these special occasions and the dog handlers write their story themselves so they can be shared with all the Tilda Friends. Here are two of those stories I was given recently:
Daisy & Brenda on May 18, 2011
Brenda Writes: “Daisy and I were making our regular rounds at the hospital today when we walked by a patient’s room that was not on our list of visits, but the door was open. I looked in and saw a man sitting on the side of the bed leaning on his tray table in obvious discomfort. We were getting reading to walk right by when I looked again and saw one of Daisy’s favorite nurses sitting in the patient’s room at a computer. Daisy is always happy to visit this nurse, so we turned around to see her. She called us into the room and asked her patient if he wanted to see Daisy. He had little reaction due to the fact that he was not feeling well. As the nurse always does, she kneeled down on the floor to visit with Daisy,
Sweet Daisy the Bloodhound
but Daisy seemed much more interested in the patient. Daisy was looking into the patient’s eyes and all of a sudden she lifted her right front leg very slowly towards him in an effort to get his attention. It was as if she was saying “Please don’t feel bad” or “I’m here to make you feel better”. Whatever it was she was communicating it worked, as the patient started paying attention to her and started petting her. Daisy kept trying to get close to the patient so we moved the table away so she could get up closer. She turned around and snuggled right up against him and turned her head all the way around to look into his eyes. All of us who witnessed this knew that it was a special moment and that Daisy knew that this patient needed extra attention today. It was one of those “WOW” moments that we as Therapy Dog Teams have the wonderful opportunity to experience every once in a while.”
Tillie & Margaret on February 7, 2012
Margaret Writes: “Last night was an amazing night at one of the Boulder County hospitals. I almost didn’t go in and had even called the volunteer office to let them know I wasn’t coming in. I was a bit emotionally upset and us teams know how that can flow down the leash to the dog. I thought there was no way we could have a good visit with anyone because of the state of mind I was in. At about 3:30pm, I suddenly changed my mind and decided that if I started with the waiting areas it would cheer me up and then I would do some patient rooms if it was going well so I called the office again and let them know we were on our way.
The moment we walked into the hospital we saw a young girl and her mother. The girl smiled real big and I knew I had made the right decision. I was already feeling better just by seeing that one big smile.
It was a night of changing my mind because as soon as I walked out of the volunteer office after signing in, I headed towards the waiting area but immediately decided to go to the patient floor instead. So much for starting with visitors to test my mood!
Wonderful Tillie the Rottweiler
When we got to the patient floor I looked on the list and headed to the closest room. On the way down the hall and past several rooms we saw a nurse coming toward us. She was one that especially likes Rottweilers so she was really happy to see us. She got down on the floor to pet and hug Tillie. She told me how much she loved hugging dogs and Tillie was so very hug-able and she really needed it. I know the nurses see a lot of things throughout their shifts and these visits are as much for them as they are for the patients. She really needed this therapy visit tonight. Once again I was thrilled I had changed my mind and came in. After visiting with a couple more nurses, we continued on our way. When I looked at the patient list I realized I had walked past a few patient rooms that had requested a pet visit. I headed back down the hall to the missed rooms immediately. We saw that nurse we first encountered and she had another therapy visit with Tillie and just thanked me and thanked me. When we finally got to the 1st room on the list there was a hoard of people visiting the patient. There were at least 8 visitors in the room! Tillie just loved it. We had a lovely time visiting the patient and everyone in her room. They were all “dog people” and Tillie showed her stuff. She visited with the patient and then made sure she visited each person without me having to lead her to each one. We were almost finished when the nurse we had visited with twice already came into the room and tapped on my shoulder. She asked if we could please go to the room across the hall as soon as we were finished and told me the room number.
As all therapy dog teams know, it is always mixed results when someone requests a team to visit a room that is not on the list as the patient may not see things the same way as the nurse does, but I can never say no.
When we got to the room the patient was sitting up in bed, but completely covered in blankets and looked at us with a blank stare. I thought “here we go, this may be short as this patient may not want to see a dog after all”. When I asked the young man if he would like a pet visit he just looked at me but other than looking in my direction, he didn’t respond. I noticed from looking at him that something was a bit unusual about his appearance. I double checked to make sure there weren’t any isolation signs prohibiting me from entering the room with Tillie and there wasn’t. The patient’s mother was in the room and she came over and said “oh yes, he just loves dogs”. The patient still didn’t respond but I proceeded with the visit. I asked which side would be best – I had no clue since the patient didn’t move. The mother picked the side closest to the window so we walked around the bed. Tillie sat right next to the bed and laid her head up on the side of the bed as high as she could but the patient still didn’t move.
Tillie Looking Majestic
The mother asked if Tillie could put her paws up on the bed and she would reach under the covers and pull the patient’s hand out. Tillie could have done a “paws up” but she doesn’t hold it very long so I said it would be better she could sit in a chair next to the bed. I pulled the chair close to the bed and helped Tillie get up in it. After she was up I pulled her and the chair to the best position for him to reach her. The mother pulled the patient’s hand over toward Tillie and as soon as his hand touched Tillie he moved his hand to pet her on his own! This was the 1st response I had seen from the patient. Tillie immediately started licking his hand and he responded even more. I normally do not let either of my dogs lick a patient like that but the mom and the nurse were so thrilled to see him respond I let her continue. Tillie would lick his hand and then lay her head over and rub his hand with her head. It’s like she knew he couldn’t really pet her so she was petting him! She would rub her head and then kiss his hand some more and then rub again and again. The young man was enjoying the visit and ended up grabbing her leash and clasping onto it even with her kissing and rubbing. Tillie even put one paw on the bed to try to get closer to him and gently nudged the patients side with her nose. The mother and the nurse just couldn’t believe how the patient was responding and how much Tillie was trying to draw him out even more.
It was truly one of the best visits we have had and I kept thinking “I would have missed this if I had stayed home like I originally planned”. Even though everyone was enjoying the visit, I knew it was time to leave so I thanked them for letting us visit and started to get Tillie back on the floor when I realized how much of a grip the young man had on Tillie’s leash. The mom had to pry his fingers off the leash as I replaced it with a treat for Tillie. After we made the switch, Tillie ever so gently nuzzled the treat out of his fingers and he relaxed his hand.
I got Tillie off the chair, moved everything back and made sure the mother was about to wash her son’s hand – even though it was very clean! It was just a little wet from all Tillie’s kisses.
When we walked out of the room the nurse called us over and walked a little ways down the hallway with us. She told me that the patient was on his last hours. All his organs were shutting down including his liver and he may only have a a day or two left. This was the first time that day he had really responded to anything.
The mother added the young man to the visitation list and I added a note for all the teams to please visit again. I will even called the office to make sure he was added so other dog teams would visit the patient. I hope that every team visits him. I know the nurses at that station could all use some extra therapy also. You can imagine my thoughts about this special day all the way home.
The next day after this visitation, I had to go back to this hospital to work with another dog team on some routine reviews. I couldn’t help myself when we got to that same patient floor and room. The door was closed so I peeked in and the room was empty, bed made as if no one was even there the evening before. I wanted to ask about the patient at the nurses station, but that would not be proper and so I didn’t as I felt I already knew the answer.”
Daryl’s Summary Comments:
Thanks to Brenda for a wonderful story about Daisy. Margaret, a special thanks for sharing such a moving experience as you had with Tillie and the patient. There are many times when the therapy dog handlers are tired, worn out from the day’s tribulations and simply do not feel like walking their dog all over a hospital and dealing with the stress of the tasks. But experienced handlers will all tell you that about the time you think you don’t want to do this today is the time you will miss experiencing a golden moment that will put the spring back in your step and peace back in your heart. Doing therapy dog work is a lot like a treasure hunt. Wonderful things, that you’ll never forget, seem to happen when you least expect them….and pop up right in your face making you think “Oh my goodness, and I almost missed it if I wouldn’t have come to visit today”. The rewards of making a difference in someone’s day at the hospital can only be felt in the heart and it is wonderful.
Thank you Daisy……..Thank you Tillie……..Thank you Tilda!
I wanted to tell you what a GOOD girl Stella was on Sunday at Avista. The upstairs patient floor was busier than I have ever seen it on the weekend and everyone was very excited to meet Stellaluna! The nurses kept running up to us and giving her rooms to visit. In one room she was surrounded by 3 little kids who petted and hugged her for at least 20 minutes. She would sneeze or make a funny noise, and they would laugh at her and her tail would just start wagging like crazy. She also visited with at least 4-5 adult patients, and she was so good about getting in a chair and letting me push her over the bed to visit. She would just nuzzle their hands and let them play with her ears, and she seemed SO happy! She also sat with a little girl while she did her breathing exercises, and when the nurse unhooked the oxygen it made a VERY loud noise that startled me, but not Stella. She was such an angel, and I don’t think her tail stopped wagging the entire time she was there. I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to get her started as a therapy dog. Thank you so much, Daryl! And I am so glad I didn’t take the vet’s advice of not visiting with Stella (the vet who performed the Behavioral Exam on Stella) as doing so would have not even given her a chance. If it wasn’t for your advice, plus Jan and Margaret’s advice, I would have been talked out of pursuing this therapy dog work with Stella. I am so grateful to you for helping my dad, me, Buddy and Stella through everything. Thank you so much.
Stella Looking Pretty!
This is such a wonderful story that I asked Tara’s permission to share it in one of Tilda’s Blogs. Tara and her Father, Al, both work as therapy dog handlers at two Boulder County hospitals. They started with their good dog named Buddy. Buddy is a black lab and just a peach of a fellow. He is the type of dog that loves everyone and always happy to see people on his rounds at the hospitals. A few months ago, Al had mentioned that maybe their other black lab named, Stella, might be a good therapy dog but that she was really an excited dog when meeting new people and sometimes was a bit shy. Luck had it that we had an opening in the class we were conducting at that time because someone had to drop out due to a personal emergency. I asked Al if he wanted to try Stella in class as this would be a perfect opportunity if he was interested. He discussed it with Tara and they were thrilled about maybe giving Stella a try. In class, Stella was a good girl but she was indeed really excited to meet all the new people and dogs. However, Tara and Al did a wonderful job of keeping Stella focused and it could be seen that Stella definitely had some great potential for being a therapy dog. Stella had a good heart mixed with a very loving character about her.
Stella at Work!
After class, each dog needs to be examined for proper behavior called a Behavioral Exam. On Stella’s vet visit day, she was not thrilled with the idea of the new vet facility with all the smells and was very shy around the vet. There was no show-stopping negative issues found with Stella……no growling, barking, nipping, biting……..none of the items that would disqualify a dog. Stella was just extremely nervous which caused the vet to think that maybe this dog wasn’t cut out for doing therapy dog work and without knowing the dog, it was simply an opinion. Of course when the vet shared this with Tara, it broke her heart as she had high hopes for Stella. But the vet did approve the exam and passed Stella with notes of what was witnessed which was the proper action on the vet’s part. Tara contacted Jan, Margaret and myself right away wondering if she should remove Stella from the program. Our advice was to trust in the dog and give it a chance by actually visiting a few times to give Stella a chance at her new career and to focus with concentration on Stella and let her know that you are there to support her, guard her, keep her safe and to blend in with her to work as a team to perform the tasks at hand. Once a dog gains that confidence, it will usually begin to do some amazing things all on its own. Our best advice to Tara was to not worry about the vet exam, but to concentrate on Stella and keep telling her that you are going to give this a try and work it as a good team.
Buddy the Therapy Dog
From Tara’s letter, I would say she did exactly that and did it magnificently. Obviously Stella has a good bond with Tara and once the focus began on each other, things started to come forth. It is such a wonderful event for me to read letters like this one from Tara. These dogs are wondrous creatures capable of some tear jerking moments that can bring about a peaceful calm and a loving solitude to some patients who had nothing going for them but to feel those feelings on that particular day. I know for a fact most dogs have this instinct inside of them and the amazing part is they know when it is needed. They just have to know that we know it’s there and to believe in them to get the job done. It doesn’t happen overnight, but with that good dog, Stella, it came about pretty fast.
Good work, Tara! Good work, Stella! Good Work, Al and Buddy. My guess is there will be lots more stories to come from this four-some.
Emily and Molly Inspired on Christmas Eve
I read your latest blog about Drambuie and it inspired me to take Molly to Boulder Community Hospital on Christmas Eve. I have always signed up for Christmas Eve duty at the hospital, but this year we were really “snowed in” (we got about 2 1/2 feet of snow and our road is virtually impassable, even with plowing ) – so, I wasn’t terribly eager to get in the car and go in to Boulder. However, after reading the Buie story and your thoughts about why we do therapy work, I decided to make the effort and go.
It turned out to be a magical evening at the hospital. I only visited about 10 rooms, but each visit was significant in its own way. Only one of the patients had any Christmas decorations in their room and only one patient had any visitors, so I think that our brief visit made a difference to each and every patient. Thank you SO much for inspiring (and reminding me) about why the time, money, and effort is so worthwhile! I also liked your observations about “coincidences”- so many things lined up on Christmas Eve that made good things happen at the hospital- really makes one wonder about such things!
My best to all of you in the new year. Love hearing about how Sissy is coming along. She sounds like a real “keeper.”
Emily and Molly
Beautiful Molly G
Emily and Molly also visit two different hospitals with their therapy dog work and have been doing such for many years. They are a very experienced team and I am sure have seen lots of wonderment that probably has provided more questions than answers. I asked Emily if I could print her letter above and asked her to share some of those Christmas Eve experiences when she has time. She said her computer is acting up at present and as soon as that is resolved, she will write some of the Christmas Eve experiences her and Molly had. That is the way the lessons learned from therapy dogs work. That wonderful dog named Drambuie inspired me to write about his connection with a patient that touched my heart and I am sure it also touched many hearts of people reading about it. That inspiration gave birth to another set of events for Emily and Molly causing them to be inspired enough to get out on a nasty night of impassable roads and make the effort to do something kind and meaningful for others who had to spend Christmas Eve in the hospital.
Thank you, Emily! Thank you, Molly!
And last, but not least, Thank You, Tilda!
‘Til Next Time……………………………………….
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I received a phone call recently from the Longmont United Hospital asking me to stop by and pick up Tilda’s Planetree Award medallion she had been presented from the Planetree conference in Nashville recently. Tilda was not the overall winner as she didn’t live long enough, but they presented her with a wonderful award. Tilda knew she was entered in this contest and I could tell she was very excited about it. She really wanted to go to Nashville, Tennessee in her truck back seat and get up on that stage with her tail waving “howdy” (just like she did on the old Boulder theater stage) while wearing her special kerchief to compliment her Nashville presence. You might remember reading her special submission essay to enter the contest. A lot of people at LUH worked hard to help Tilda with the best chance they could give her to win that contest for LUH. But, not too long after her story was submitted to the Planetree people, Tilda was diagnosed with her cancer crud. As if the sadness of this tragedy wasn’t enough, Tilda also knew that she probably wouldn’t be able to visit the hospitals anymore and that her contest winning fantasies would probably need to remain just that.
I will never forget the moments right after the vet at CSU gave us Tilda’s prognosis with Tilda at my feet paying attention to every word coming from the lady’s mouth. I had a
Tilda’s expression at CSU when she found out the bad news.
camera with me and couldn’t resist a photograph of that expression on Tilda’s face as the doctor spoke as it “said it all” in a nutshell. Tilda could understand things, maybe not the English, but she understood the aura or general tone of most conversations she was around. She may have been doing that by recognizing my feelings and emotions and interpreting them, I am not sure. I just could tell that she knew exactly the summary of what was being said.
Back to the Planetree Award….I did make the trip to Longmont United to pick up the medallion and it is beautiful. The medallion is attached to a gold neck ribbon that would have went around Tilda’s neck and the colorful display would have been striking with Tilda wearing it with her pink color and brown ears. Wouldn’t that have been fun walking through the halls and waiting rooms with Tilda wearing her prize? She would have been so proud and would have represented LUH very well with that very big smile on her face and tail waving like a flag.
Tilda’s 2011 Planetree Award
There was also a photo of Tilda in the Planetree Conference book along with all the other contestants from all over the country. Her beautiful picture did LUH proud I think. Above my computer is one of Tilda’s calendars and presently it is open to January/February and her February photograph still makes me smile. It was a perfect snapshot of her personality by a photographer named Will at the Exempla hospital (Thank you, Julie). She already had cancer the day of that photo shoot and her side away from the camera had bandages and tumors at the time, but she was still smiling and doing what she loved best……posing for the camera.
My personal thanks to Linda, Carol, Laura, Stacey, Fran, Jane & Joan at Longmont United for their part with Tilda in the Planetree event. An unpredictable chain of events came about that wouldn’t allow this to come to fruition, but I am sure Tilda is looking down with much pride for giving it a good effort while she good. Her gold ribbon with the Planetree medallion is now placed around her cremation box right over her pink collar and it looks awesome.
Therapy Dogs, Inc. – Cheyenne, Wyoming
Tilda was also remembered in the Therapy Dogs, Inc. magazine that I received recently. She was memorialized on the last page of the magazine along with Katie who was Jan Fincher’s darling Aussie. Katie crossed her Rainbow Bridge this last year also. Katie and Tilda were both registered with Therapy Dogs, Inc. Jan and myself are also Therapy Dog, Inc Tester/Observers for the organization. Special thanks to Billie Smith, Executive Director at TD, Inc, and all the rest of the folks there who are doing such a wonderful job with this organization.
Katie & Tilda in the Therapy Dogs, Inc. Magazine
While some say that all things come to an end at some point in time, I would prefer to believe that good dogs live on and on in our hearts, minds and our soul. It is never pleasant to lose a good dog, yet the memories of all the special times, special deeds and special accomplishments are something we can hold on to forever and be proud of the fact we were able to witness what went on with these wonderful canines. Tilda’s story never seems to be quite finished even though her physical presence is long passed. She touched the hearts of many people who will never forget her as long as they live and I count myself as a loyal member of that Tilda Club enjoying all the experiences. Of all the tributes Tilda has realized, may the best of all be that we never forget her and other good doggies like her. They have worked so hard to bring a smile, a laugh, a few tears…….which allows our lives to be more complete and to be a better person because of them.
Thank you, Tilda! May your spirit live on forever.
Christmas is that magical time when good hearts are full of love, fellowship, family connections and good cheer mixed with the spirit of giving from deep within. I can think of nothing more appropriate during this Christmas week than to write about a wonderful therapy dog visit by a dog named Drambuie……..most call him “Buie” and so will I.
Drambuie the Therapy Dog
Buie is not new to therapy dog work, but had been a therapy dog registered with Therapy Dogs, Inc for some time but only recently went through class for joining the hospital therapy dog group. I volunteered to guide them around the facility on their first day of work and introduce them to people which was a pleasurable experience to say the least. Buie is a happy-go-lucky black Poodle and is simply adorable. He is a miniature Poodle standing 15 inches tall to the top of his back and weighs approximately 15 pounds. He is always excited to meet new people and is simply a mile-a-minute dog with lots of energy and a wonderful loving enthusiasm. Buie is one of those dogs that has a permanent smile plastered on his face when out in public. When people pass him in the hall, smiles break out everywhere.
Lena, Buie and myself met at the hospital around 10:00am on a Thursday morning for the tour and review of the layout they would be working at the hospital. Little did I know at the time that this was going to be a very special day. Of course, I have been so fortunate to be blessed with many special days with my good dog, Tilda……….. so it is easy for me to recognize when things come about, but I just never know when it will happen. To tell the whole miraculous story of all the events that led up to this happening requires me to go back to earlier that Thursday morning. Just before this day, I had set up a communications list for all the therapy dog handlers for this hospital………an email list that they could exchange information and help each other out from time to time with coverage, messages, notices, etc. It is something new we are trying for the first time at this hospital. Just before I left to travel to the hospital, one of the team handlers posted a message to the handler email list. It read something like this: “If anyone is visiting the 2nd floor today at the hospital, be sure to stop by room 208 and visit the young lady there as she loves dogs and would love to see you”. I made a mental note of this wonderful remark and told myself that Lena, Buie and myself need to stop by room 208 for sure. I was happy that the handlers were using the list in this manner as it really makes for some organized communications between us all and results in excellent patient coverage.
We got started touring the facility and went through all the normal places including
The "Buie Look"...........What a great face!
waiting rooms, hallways, staff offices and Buie was a real hit. Buie was like a ball of black Poodle fur bouncing around everywhere, dancing on his back legs for treats and everyone found him most entertaining. Buie is loaded with personality to bring a smile to anyone’s day. About half way through our visits we were on the 2nd floor and had just finished walking around visiting the staff. I asked staff if there was anyone that might like to visit with a therapy dog and no one could think of any patient that wasn’t busy at the moment.
So we headed for the elevator to move up to the 4th floor and as I pushed the button, something told me WAIT A MINUTE! Aren’t you forgetting something? Who, what or how that message arrived in my brain is still unknown to me. For a few milliseconds my mind was searching for “what am I forgetting, what am I forgetting”? Then it dawned on me that we are on the 2nd floor and we were supposed to stop by room 208 to see the lady that loved dogs. “Good grief” I told Lena, “I cannot believe I forgot this” and then explained to her about the message that was posted on the handler email list earlier that morning. I told Lena “we need to turn around and find room 208 as there is a patient there waiting for a dog visit”.
We found room 208, knocked on the door and a young lady said “come in”. Lena announced herself and Buie and explained the purpose of the visit. The lady was ecstatic with high pitched joy, sat up in bed and slapped her hands on the bed inviting Buie to come on the bed to visit with her. The bed was up pretty high for such a small dog, but Buie took a short run a bounded up on the bed as if it were only a simple exercise (first clue to something unusual about to happen). Normally, we are to put a pad or sheet down on the bed before the dog jumps up to visit and then only at the request of the patient. But this time it was obvious this meeting of the minds was high gear as it was all underway so fast that Lena or I didn’t have a chance to react. This visit was progressing at a rapid rate that took both of us by surprise in a good way. Just at that moment Buie became unusually still up on the bed, didn’t move a limb at all, mouth closed, facing the patient and just stared at the lady as she was sitting up, scooting closer to him while looking at him and not saying a word. The patient extended her arms and put her hands on Buie in a loving and careful manner and Buie leaned forward and uncharacteristically started licking the lady’s face. The lady closed her eyes and tears started flowing and Buie licked them quickly as they raced down her cheeks and was very calm, insistent and loving about doing that task. Lena and I looked at each other in amazement, yet both of us knew what was taking place here. It was a unique and special moment when the hearts and souls of this dog and that patient met each other in an effort to calm whatever needed calming. Buie knew it, the lady knew it…………….and Lena and I watched in astonishment and appreciation. This is the exact reason why we spend the time, effort and dollars to do this sort of work. Buie taught us both once again that HE KNOWS and if allowed, he can handle it. This lasted only a few seconds and then Buie stepped back, turned and faced Lena and sat upright as if to say “okay, I am done. You can put me down now”. Lena then put Buie back on the floor.
Buie posing for a side view
Handlers never ask a patient anything. It is not our place to do such. We are there to provide a service and there is no need or necessity for an explanation as that is private information. Sometimes when we leave a room after an occurrence like this, we never know why things happened the way they did…..it just happened and all we know is something good was exchanged in those moments because we know our dogs and can see the changes that come over them. However, in this case things were different. As if this incident wasn’t enough excitement all by itself without knowing the reason for any of it, the lady finally opened her eyes and explained to us that her own Poodle dog had just died a few days before. It was a white Poodle of the same size as Buie. Her Poodle’s name was Sampson. She said Sampson would always lick her eyes if she closed her eyelids and when Buie started licking her it felt just like Sampson was there doing it himself. She said “I miss him oh so much”. Oh My Goodness! Lena and I looked at each other and both of us had “watered up” eyeballs and knew it was time to move on. We chatted with the young lady for a couple minutes and left her to relish whatever private moment she had there with Buie……..or maybe Sampson. As we walked back to the elevator again, Lena and I discussed the event and both found it very meaningful and exciting. Buie, the wonderfully spirited dog that wants to have fun with everyone became a very serious, calm, lovingly gentle being with deliberate intent to connect deep within this person………AND knew exactly what to do to make the connection. Lena says this licking behavior is not Buie’s normal characteristic. Wow! I still get chills up and down my spine just thinking about these moments. The hair stands up on my arms when I try to tell others the story. The Boulder County hospitals are most fortunate to have therapy dog teams of this quality.
One thing for sure, Buie has the spirit to make the connections, however that may happen.
Buie in the snow doing his "regal" look
I am sure many reading this will have their own opinion of how this all came about and why, but all I know for a fact is that it was very, very special. This only happened a few weeks ago and I have been thinking a lot about it since. What is amazing to me is the timing of it all and how one event had to happen first before the next step in the events could happen. In this case, the volunteer coordinator at the hospital requested for me to develop a handler communications email list which was the first step. One of the first few messages on that list was the notice to go visit room 208. We were almost to leave the 2nd floor that day when something kept telling me I was forgetting something as I pushed the elevator button. And to put the finishing touches on the whole story, the patient in 208 had just lost her white Poodle dog and Buie was licking the lady’s eyelids just like her dog Sampson used to do. Now all those “coincidences” had to line up as if someone were guiding them………yet they all happened, on time and in proper order. Or, maybe they weren’t coincidences at all. Could it have been Sampson guiding us all, or maybe even Tilda trying to help Sampson as she would know I would “get it” and pay attention to the details. We can all speculate to our hearts content as it is indeed one of the therapy dog stories with a hint of magic and wonderment about it. Now that brings me right back to the magic of Christmas. An appropriate story for an equally wonderful season. Merry Christmas to you all and to all a good night!
Update On Sissy Girl!
The warm sunshine makes me soooo sleepy!
Sissy has captured my heart! It only took a short time to do that for sure. She is such a loving dog and she is eager to learn new things every day. Whether or not she will ever be a therapy dog is unknown at this point, but she is sure getting a lot of practice in. She goes with me everywhere, is beginning to know certain people and enjoys them a lot. Children appear to be her favorite thing. She also loves it when people squat down to her level. All dogs are different and this one is becoming my entertainment in addition to great companionship. Sissy is hilarious in how she does certain things and it looks to me like maybe she is beginning to accept the fact that she might just have a permanent home here. She needs lots of exercise which means I am getting lots of exercise, so this is a win/win deal for sure. She runs like a greyhound and has a heart that is so full of love I find myself spending lots of time just sitting on the floor snuggling with her.
I have a good time introducing Sissy to people. I always say “This is Sissy, you can call her Rambo for short”. That combination of names is most fitting for Sissy. There are times she jumps a foot high because a bug is crossing the road, yet there are times when she is fearless with loads of spirit taking on the day with gusto like any person would admire. I already know one thing for certain……The relationship between Sissy and I is going to be something very special.
Thank you, Tilda!!!!
‘Til Next Time……………………..
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Update on Sissy: Sissy has been with us for 12 days now and she is adapting wonderfully. Many are asking about her background, so here is a quick run down on what I know. Sissy is 5 years old and her home was in Houston, Texas with an elderly lady and obviously it was a very loving and good home. The lady passed on and her family did not want Sissy so they took her to a shelter in the area. Unfortunately, it was a kill shelter so Sissy’s doom was predetermined. However, the different dog organizations around the country leave their contact data at these kill shelters. The Colorado Dalmatian Rescue people were contacted about the plight of dear Sissy as she was thought to be part Dalmatian and part Border Collie mix. I think their mixed breed heritage guess was perfect as Sissy acts and looks exactly like a cross between these two marvelous dog breeds. One of the good Fostering ladies of Colorado Dalmatian Rescue drove to Houston to retrieve Sissy.
While Sissy was being vet checked, photographed and getting ready to go on the CDR website for adoption, she moved around though a couple Fostering homes here in Colorado, whoever had room for her at the moment. I saw Sissy on the website and she looked a bit overweight, but I asked about her anyway. They said she was overweight but they had her on a diet and she was 20 pounds lighter now. So I contacted the Foster Mom caring for Sissy and we made a date to visit with Sissy. We spent a couple hours with Sissy and she went home with us for permanent adoption and all that has been completed. Sissy has blended right into our household and is very appreciative of the fact that she only has two senior citizens to take care of which is not a task for her at all. She has more than enough love for the both of us and is already becoming permanently attached to me as an extra limb. Sissy is a real good “buddy” dog and loves going everywhere with me. We have traveled over 800 miles already with her in the back seat resting in Tilda’s bed. She simply loves it and a great riding companion. She doesn’t quite yet know what to make of all this fuss, but we are off to a great start with her trusting me a great deal. Sissy is very smart, just in this short time she has already learned the commands Sit, Down, Over and Stay.
Sissy’s welcome smile called a “Smarl”
She is very suspicious of most anything yet, but that is to be expected. In time, she will learn that we always come back home no matter if it is driving 50 miles away or just walking around the block.
Sissy has this adorable Dalmatian smile when she is happy. In Dalmatian language I am told it is called a “Smarl”. It looks like a wrinkled up nose snarl expression showing her full set of teeth, but it is her happy smile and she does this while dancing with her front feet in a sitting position. It is absolutely darling and if she is away from me more than a couple minutes, she always sits up and greets me with that beautiful dancing Smarl.
Tilda and the Young Lady That Wouldn’t Speak!
This story happened long ago and early in Tilda’s work as a therapy dog. The experience was one of the first events that caught my attention as to Tilda having some talents in regard to connecting with people. This event not only startled me a bit, but also those people standing nearby who witnessed the happening. It took place in a rehabilitation area that housed patients with what appeared to be mental struggles. The area was behind locked doors and to enter it required someone to let you in and someone to be with you and the dog at all times. Most times it was a challenging atmosphere, but many of these patients love dogs also and it was a spark in their day. The RN’s and Doctors would sometimes observe a dog visit with the patient to witness the patient responses in order to assist them with making certain changes according to what they saw in the patient/dog exchange.
Happy, Happy Tilda
What is most educational to understand about this type of facility is that dogs judge people by a whole different standard than us humans do sometimes. It has nothing to do with how intelligent we are, how beautiful we are, how poor or how wealthy we are. It has everything to do with a sense of feelings and impressions based on some simple facts that “everyone needs someone”. A good therapy dog recognizes this need and when conditions are right, the dog will pick up on that need and try to resolve it if possible. This is why good therapy dogs can play such a major role in many different situations. It can be a healing role such as lowering the blood pressure. It can be a role of physical encouragement such as young handicapped children learning to walk with a dog. It can be educational development such as a child learning to read by reading to a dog and the dog listening. Dogs can also play an important roll in mental therapeutic events such as small children being encouraged to achieve certain things with the dog that they ordinarily would not attempt (I have witnessed this at a special school in Denver and it is wonderful). In Tilda’s case regarding this story, it was a life changing event for a patient…..one that tied hope, emotional beauty, trust and goodness together in a solid relationship between a dog and a lady. The story starts like this:
We visited this facility every week, announcing our arrival through the intercom outside the door. Upon introducing ourselves, a nurse came to the door and escorted us into the facility. The nurse would make the announcement on the floor that Tilda dog was in the front lobby and available for play time or a loving visit. Soon the halls filled with people as they came out of their rooms and lined up to spend time with Tilda dog. One by one, Tilda would greet them, sometimes she would lay down and roll over so they could easily rub her side, several people at one time. The patients loved to feed Tilda small treats and of course Tilda thought that was great. There was always lots of cheer and plenty of questions to go along with the visits.
Tilda hanging out on the stairs
One week, a special lady caught my attention while she was visiting with Tilda. She was a lady, maybe in her early 20’s, that was very serious and the love in her eye when she looked at Tilda was unmistakable as I had seen that expression before in people that loved dogs very much. The interesting thing about this lady’s visit was that Tilda was very attentive and sitting squarely in front of the lady who was down on her knees and facing Tilda directly, almost head to head. Most people will talk to Tilda, but this lady just stared into Tilda’s eyes. Tilda would raise her left leg and offer a paw and the lady would kiss the top of Tilda’s foot and then massage it tenderly while looking into Tilda’s eyes. Of course Tilda picked up on that quickly and soon the lady was quietly hugging Tilda and Tilda stayed sitting and was loving back. It almost looked like a personal encounter and I felt a bit like an intruder watching it all. However, I noticed something unusual about this visit. Not only was the lady especially loving to Tilda, she never spoke, not one word, not even a whisper. I no more than finished running those thoughts through my head and the nurse standing next to me watching the whole thing whispered in my ear that this young lady has not spoke a word, nothing, in a very long time. I nodded my head affirmatively and then some of the exchange between Tilda and this lady started to make sense to me.
Several weeks went by and each visit to this facility yielded the same result. Lots of fun and games between Tilda and all the patients except for this one lady. Tilda’s visit with this lady was always subdued and very direct, quiet and persevering. One time the doctor was even called to observe as the nurse thought maybe this lady was actually trying to make contact with Tilda which would be a major event for this lady. On that day, I asked the nurse if the lady has spoken to anyone about anything yet……..she shook her head “no”. It was wonderful to watch Tilda work with this young lady. Those two obviously had something going and only those two knew what it was.
Tilda chilling her toes at the doggy swim party!
Then on one crisp morning we rang the buzzer again to this area and announced ourselves for a new visit day. The nurse once again came to get us and escorted us to the lobby. She then announced our arrival over the public address system in the area. She said “Tilda dog is here if you want to see her”. Immediately there was a loud and very excited scream from the rear of the facility so the nurse and I leaned our heads around the corner to see what was going on down at the end of the hall. What we both saw I will never forget as long as I live. It was this same young lady running as fast as she could down the hall yelling “Tilda, oh Tilda, I love you Tilda…….Tilda, I love you Tilda!” The lady was coming at high speed and I became concerned for Tilda’s safety but it looked to me like the lady wasn’t out to do any harm. Just at that moment, I felt Tilda’s leash tighten and as I looked at her she was on her back feet, reared up like a horse with the front feet pawing towards the lady fast approaching her. Tilda had the biggest smile on her face and was pulling so hard trying to get to this lady while still standing up on her hind legs when the lady came in with that baseball-like “sliding into home plate” maneuver. As Tilda and the lady softly collided into each other, Tilda was making all sorts of loving grunting sounds and the lady just could not stop talking and screaming Tilda’s name and saying how she missed her and loved her. By that time both Tilda and the lady were down on the floor on their sides and the lady was kissing Tilda all over while Tilda was licking the lady’s hands and arms everywhere she could while kicking her legs with joy. What a Blessed event that was to behold.
Ready for work. Time is a wasting, dad!
The nurse had tears running down her cheeks as I did, but she had the perception to get on her cell phone and call the doctor over. He was there within seconds and witnessed dog and lady rolling around on the floor with the lady talking and cheering to Tilda. After a couple minutes the reunion settled a bit and while the young lady was hugging Tilda the doctor started talking to the lady and she answered him saying things like “I love Tilda very much, she is a good girl and she has really helped me, she understands. Thank you my dear sweet Tilda”. After a while I could see that the doctor wanted to work with the patient so we said our goodbye’s and as we left, the nurse said to us “I hope you know what you two have done for this person”. I just turned around and told her with my voice breaking up “Tilda did this, I had nothing to do with it…….I am just her lucky escort”. The nurse was wetting her own tissues also as the emotions of the moment caught us all by surprise.
As the locking door closed behind us on our way out, I stopped, took a deep breath, looked down into Tilda’s eyes and there was total happiness…….happiness of the kind that makes one realize that all the gruesome details of life don’t really matter. It is the lovingly meaningful things that count and Tilda just taught me that once again. I wiped my tears, put a smile on my face and took a step forward and Tilda was once again in sync and ready to roll. As we walked down the hall alone I looked down at Tilda as she was looking up at me and then told her “thank you, Tilda, you did really good back there” while I patted her on her right side as I always did after one of those events. She looked up at me with that darling expression as if to say “yeah, wasn’t that simply just too cool? It really felt good to me too. Come on, dad, let’s go find another one”.
Until Next Time……………..
Posted inAll About Tilda|Comments Off on Tilda and the Young Lady That Wouldn’t Speak!
Calendar Sales: The calendar sales for Tilda and the other 4 hospitals are going well. Thanks to all of you that have purchased and I appreciate all the great comments. I am glad you are enjoying them. You can purchase your calendars now by clicking here.
Quick Update: Thanks to all of Tilda’s Friends that continue to share their Tilda Rainbow experiences. I never knew so many double rainbows occurred. It is simply amazing. It is almost serving a dual purpose. The initial purpose is Tilda saying howdy to her friends, but then when those friends are considerate enough to relay that information to me, it is almost like Tilda is sending me a direct signal again letting me know she is still involved. What a magical story this has become. Out of the saddness of being without Tilda comes more happiness that she is still there watching over us. There is still a lot of stories to be told about Tilda and I hope to put them all down on paper, one at a time. Somehow, I have this feeling that new stories will continue to flow because of Tilda as in the story I want to share with you today.
Dreams of Tilda
I have had several dreams about Tilda lately. They were all good dreams and very vivid. The first one of a few weeks ago was so funny I want to share it with you. In the dream, I was walking across a very large vacant parking lot of some sort, maybe 5 or 6 acres in size. In the far corner of the lot were some storage containers and all of a sudden I happened to glance in the direction, while walking, and a small image of what I thought was a dog came walking out from behind one of the containers and started walking towards me. I looked, looked again, strained my eyes to focus better, it kept coming closer and then I said to myself “is that Tilda?” The dog was the same color but much younger, like a two year old Tilda. The dog was the same color with those distinctive markings. I started calling to the dog “Tilda, is that you?” over and over and over again as Tilda came running in my direction with that wonderfully joyful gait trotting sideways with her body at an angle as she always did. I then started screaming her name very loud over and over and DARN IT………I WOKE MYSELF UP!!!!
An interview with "Midnight"
I tried to go immediately back to sleep again hoping to pick up where I left off, but nothing doing. I startled myself so much, I was wide awake so finally just got up and thought about it for a very long while. I must have scared Tilda also as I didn’t dream about her for a couple weeks after that time, but then she started to come back again. We really didn’t do anything in the dreams, just sort of hung out together and she gave me impressions that she was doing great and it was time for us to move on and she would help us with another doggy adventure. So Donna and I have been looking at other dogs. Many people are trying to help by looking out for us in case they see a rescue dog that needs a great home. We know we want a larger dog (50-60 pounds or so), must be a female, at least 2 years old, must be gentle and hopefully something that might have other things going for them besides playing ball or retrieving a Frisbee or a stick. Since I spent so much time with Tilda, I know the look, the eyes, the depth of eye contact, etc. So I will be trying to find a dog with similar traits. I am not looking for another Tilda, that doesn’t exist. I am looking for a new dog with potential for some wonderful new skills all of her own. That would be most exciting. So the hunt begins. I know it’s out there, it just has to find me.
A really sweet dog named "Midnight"
So far we have spent a couple hours with a lovely dog named “Midnight”. She was a 4 year old Black Lab/Dalmatian mix dog. We had a fun time, but it wasn’t a match. Next Tuesday, we have an appointment in Denver to visit a couple hours with “Sissy” who is a 6 year old Border Colline/Dalmatian mix. Sissy has “the look” in her photos, but we’ll see if the rest of her traits are compatible. Midnight and Sissy are in foster homes with the Colorado Dalmatian Rescue organization. Wonderful people are doing this for those dogs who have lost their homes and keeping them out of the kill centers. We visited briefly with a young dog named “Heify” in Fort Collins. She was a cute little thing, but too small and not old enough. I have been
How does the Sissy face grab ya!
frequently visiting the Humane Societies also and nothing so far has caught my eye. Of course I want a dog that has the ability to be a therapy dog again so I can get back to work after the dog is ready. So there are lots of parameters to consider such as attractive, calm, walks on loose leash, good with children, not aggressive to other dogs and a dog with a great face and smile. All those things are the makings of a super therapy dog that becomes enjoyable for the person being visited and for me. If any of Tilda’s Friends know of something like this description, please let me know. Now for today’s true story:
Rescuing Buddy….Was it Tilda at Work Again?
Donna and I had an appointment to spend some time with a dog (I call it a dog interview) in Fort Collins at 11am sharp. We were excited as this was our first dog interview so we left a bit early around 10am. As we were driving up the asphalt road a couple miles from our house, Donna said to me “is that a dog coming down the center of the road way up ahead?” I strained my eyes to look and sure enough, it looked to be a large red colored Golden Retriever and it was running frantically right down the center of the road in our direction. I stopped along side the road and the dog came running at us full speed and in a major panic, it ran around and around the truck and then jumped up on the driver’s side door and wanted in badly and started scratching the door violently. To prevent any further
Sissy looks like she could melt a heart
damage to the paint on the door, I quickly opened in and noticed the dog had a collar so I grabbed it and led the dog around to the other side of our vehicle so it would be off the road. The poor dog was breathing so hard and about that time Donna opened her door and the dog tried to jump in on top of Donna. He wanted in the vehicle so bad. Donna then helped me look at the tags on the collar, no address at all (lesson for all to learn right there). There was a medallion for the county license and there was a number on it so I tried to call the county license office and they didn’t open until 11am. Actually, that is where we were headed as the Humane Society in Fort Collins does the licensing in this county.
We then discussed the situation and were sure the dog’s home was probably close, but we have never seen the dog before and had not a clue. Donna suggested we put the dog in Tilda’s compartment in the back seat and go back home and wait until 11am and call the Humane Society to see if we could get an address or phone number for the dog. I had a strong leash in the truck so we hooked it to the dog’s collar and opened the rear door and that dog went flying into Tilda’s compartment. We had to wrap the leash around Donna’s seat as the dog was not happy just sitting there and wanted to jump up front with us which was not going to happen. It was a very large male dog and very strong and could have done some real damage if it got up front with us. With everything in place, I turned around and we drove back home.
At our house, I unloaded the dog and he was so excited and nervous. We calmed the dog down for a while and when it came close to 11am, Donna sat on a ledge outside and I tied the dog to a post near her so she could comfort it while I went inside to call in the information. Donna happened to say at that moment “so doggy, we need to call you something while you’re visiting us here. What are we going to call you…….how about BUDDY or since you’re a boy, we can make it Buddy Boy. Will that work for you?” The dog looked at Donna very calm and wagged its tail…..we both looked at each other and just shrugged our shoulders and I said “that’s a good a name as any, so Buddy Boy is it”.
I went into the house at 11am and called the Humane Society. They were very helpful and gave me the name of the owner and their phone number. I asked for the address, but they said that was private information and not given. I asked what I should do if the owner doesn’t answer the phone and they said to call back in that situation and they would try some other things. The lady on the phone then said she wanted to verify that this was the licensed dog. She asked me if it was a red colored Golden Retriever and I acknowledged that for sure. She then said “it looks like we have the right dog and and by the way, HIS NAME IS BUDDY!” Well at that point, as you can imagine, I nearly fell off my chair. I asked her “what did you say?” and she repeated the dog’s name was Buddy. I then said “is this a joke?” and she laughed and asked me why I would say that. I then explained and she said “wow, this is probably one of the strangest occurrences I have had” and of course I couldn’t disagree with that statement. I then told her about Tilda and that maybe this incident wasn’t quite so strange after all. She agreed that certainly could be a possibility as it is a bit beyond total coincidence.
This is what Buddy looked like
I then called the owners and thank goodness they were home and lived about 2 ½ blocks east of where we first saw the dog. Situation solved…………..except for the curiosity of Donna getting the dogs name right. I went outside and asked Donna why she picked the name Buddy. She replied that is just felt right and it was the very first name that popped into her head immediately. When I told Donna it was his real name, she was as amazed as I was. She just kept saying that she had the impression of Buddy when she asked that question out loud. Wow! How’s that for something to ponder over for weeks.
Here is the afterthoughts of this incident. Normally, it is not uncommon for a dog to be on the road and normally we may have driven right on by thinking that it belonged to one of the houses on the road and all would be fine. But for some reason, this dog was in a panic mode and that concerned us both. Something was telling both of us to make an attempt to find this dogs home as it might get hit by a fast moving car when the dog was in such a panic mode. I now think maybe it was Tilda helping this dog and Tilda even gave Donna the name of the dog to help calm it down. Could it be? I think it may be possible it was Tilda, but you be the judge now that you also know the whole story.
This story has a happy ending as we loaded Buddy into our vehicle and went over to his place a couple miles away and as we drove up, his mommy owner was standing by the front door with the door open and all I had to do was open Tilda’s compartment door and Buddy went flying out of there and headed for his home. Just before he went inside the house through the front door, Buddy stopped for only a moment, looked back at Donna and I as if to say Thank You, then went inside. That was a perfect ending to an very happy story. Thank you, Tilda!
Until Next Time…………..
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Tilda’s Memorial Tribute calendar is hot off the press and ready for your purchase. This calendar is very special as every month has a picture of Tilda or something to do with Tilda. The shopping cart page gives a small icon preview of every month with front cover and back cover. This calendar is unique in that it is spiral bound and lays flat against the wall and if you hang it so front and back covers face outward, it makes a sort of wall mural with Tilda keeping an eye on you long before 2012 and long after. Tilda’s spirit is bringing peace and good things to lots of people through her rainbows and through her pictures.
$4 of each purchase will be split evenly between the 4 hospitals were Tilda worked as a therapy dog to help keep the programs sound and allow the doggies to keep working on behalf of Tilda. Hopefully, Tilda will be watching over them too. You can view/purchase your calendar(s) now at http://www.tildadog.com/Therapy_Dog_Calendars.php.
You can also purchase therapy dog calendars from the 4 hospitals as each hospital has its own calendar this year. Help support these wonderful programs. Calendars are mailed in sturdy bend-proof envelopes to any address you request. If the shipping address is to be different from your own billing address, just specify the shipping address in the shipping data on the shopping cart form. These calendars make great Christmas and Birthday gifts!
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Keeping my promise to Tilda, I will continue to document more of the incidents I witnessed of Tilda encountering people in a somewhat magical manner. Tilda’s Friends are so wonderful as they are sending me pictures of their “Tilda rainbows” so I will use some of those pictures again in this blog and add some new ones. People are so excited to know Tilda is watching them. I have heard from Linda, Mara, Joan & Alec, Elaine, Margaret, Bonijean, Fran, Debbie, another Linda, Julie, Cathy, and another Linda, Jane, Kathy, Karen, Leslie, Laura, yet another Linda, Pat, Stacy, Mary, all saying they have been touched by Tilda’s rainbows shining down on them and recognized it as such, or have had another incident when Tilda was brought forward in their mind. There are more people that have written talking about their Tilda rainbows and other connection items, but this gives you an idea what a phenomenon this really is. Thanks to everyone for sharing. Thanks to Tilda for keeping her friends close to her heart and thanks to her friends for doing the same.
Now on with Tilda’s story:
In the early spring of 2011, we were doing our regular visit routine at a local hospital. It was sort of a normal day with the same meetings and greetings of hospital staff, a couple wonderful patients and some nearby doctor’s offices with children mixed in with a few hospital offices. Tilda just loved doing this and it was she that would take me on the rounds…..I just held the leash. She knew the people that would give her back rubs. She knew who gave her treats and she knew who would give her a belly rub if she rolled over at the right time. She knew where the kids would be and she knew when it was time for a drink of water and a potty stop. If I forgot or missed something, she would stop and look at me as if to say “hey, wake up and get with it, old man!”
It didn’t even matter if we walked the route backwards. She knew who was where and what time things needed to take place. This by itself is not unusual at all. Many handlers of good therapy dogs will tell you the same thing. These dogs are very intelligent and very task oriented with tons of anticipation going on in their mind.
We were about half through our rounds at this hospital and had just gone through the
Lenina’s Rainbow from Tilda
patient hospital bed area where we did visit with a couple people that were most appreciate and fun for Tilda. We had finished that area and began walking down the hallway to leave. Tilda was at my side and the two of us were just strolling along the very wide and carpeted hallway when suddenly we met a lady coming towards us and going by us that appeared very sad with her head down and looking straight forward. When the lady was about 10 to 12 feet beyond us, Tilda stopped………ears perked, tail wagging high in the air with her head turned and looking back to the lady in earnest. I whispered to Tilda “what’s the matter, Tilda?” Tilda then turned her body completely around and took a few steps back from whence we came and clearly was trying to get the ladies attention. The leash was tight in my hand so I turned around to look also and just at that moment the lady slowed, turned around and saw Tilda tempting and luring her into a visit. I immediately knew what was going on but just stayed where I was holding Tilda in a tight leash. Tilda’s head was held way high, tail up over her back “flag waving”, ears at attention. As the lady saw the stance Tilda was taking, she hollered “oh puppy, I would like to meet you today, do you have a moment?” I spoke loudly “of course, this is Tilda and I think she wants to visit with you.”
Tilda pulled me towards the lady as she came walking briskly towards us. When Tilda and the lady met, the lady got down on her knees, Tilda went down to the floor with a big “uuummmppphhh” groaning sound. The lady sat on the carpet with her legs folded and Tilda wiggled herself onto the lady’s lap looking up at her. I thought to myself “uh oh……….here we go” as the lady tilted her head and got nose to nose with Tilda. It was at that moment I dropped the leash and walked about 10 feet away and leaned up against the wall trying to butt out of that special moment between Tilda and this lady. As therapy dog handlers, we are to never drop the leash and need to remain in control of the dog at all times, but at this moment it was a judgment call as I know Tilda is trying to connect and this is what she was there for so I just need to get out of the way and remain watchful of the situation to give the lady a bit more privacy. To me, it is what this work is all about……a private moment of letting go of the anxieties between good dog and good person.
Bonijean’s Rainbow from Tilda
All of a sudden I heard intense sobbing from the lady and knew then I had made the right decision. I would turn my head towards them now and then to make sure all was okay and each time Tilda and her were locked in a head to head hugging position of endearment. The lady was gently rocking the both of them back and forth in a most loving and touching manner. It indeed brought tears to my eyes to watch as Tilda just cuddled the lady back while still on her back with head in the lady’s lap. One time I saw Tilda licking the tears that were streaming down the ladies face. Another time I looked I saw a concerned nurse approaching from the other end of the hallway and I raised my hand, waved to get her attention. She saw me and I motioned to her that it was okay and then motioned for her to stay back as to not interrupt them and the nurse quickly broke into tears also watching this take place right on the floor a few feet in front of her. With a minute or so, a couple other nurses and a doctor came up behind the first nurse and she explained to the rest what was going on…….needless to say, it was a dramatic event of the very best kind for all of us to witness.
By this time, Tilda was still nose to nose with the lady and had her right leg up on the left shoulder of the lady, sort of in an embrace. Tilda was being so tender and loving while yet being almost motionless and allowing the lady to respond as she needed. The sobbing finally stopped, then the lady looked up and saw us all looking on with smiles on our faces. She got up from the carpet, put Tilda’s head on the floor as she rose, then Tilda got up and stood beside her and leaned up against the lady’s leg and looked up at her. I slowly approached the couple to pick up Tilda’s leash again and the lady said “Sir, I thank God for you today. This dog knew exactly what I needed and she provided it for me. I was to the point of almost no return and was so sad that I really didn’t want to live another day. Somehow that all changed in these few moments and I won’t forget this experience the rest of my days.” I gave the lady a good hug and told her I was glad that the rest of her day was going to be a good one. I didn’t have to say anything more as I thought Tilda had said enough for the both of us.
Original August 30 rainbow at our house put together by Margaret from the 3 photos taken that day. Thank you, Margaret. It really shows how large this double rainbow was and how Tilda was trying to get our attention.
Before we left, the lady shared she was a close family member of a terminally ill patient down the hall. Tilda recognized the turmoil in this lady as she met us in that hallway through whatever means she uses to sense that fact. Tilda immediately picked up on it, flipped around and somehow, some way, she got the attention of that lady to bring about something that demonstrates the character of the entire therapy dogs programs at these hospitals. A good therapy dog is not only about saying “howdy” to everyone and getting treats, there is something more that they develop and mostly do this on their own when given a chance to do so…..with the people that need it most. I am quite sure that Tilda will live on in this lady’s mind for a very long time to come. I know the sight of those two on the floor, in their embrace, will live on in my mind for a very long time to come.
As we left that patient hallway and rounded the corner, I reached down and patted Tilda on her right side and said “Thank You, Tilda! You do good work.” She looked up at me and gave me that big mouth-open smile as if to say “Yup, that was really cool, wasn’t it dad?” Today, as I reflect back to this time, I am so thankful I was able to witness this event and others like it. If I were asked to pick one thing I miss most about not having Tilda with me any longer, it would be these times of her special magic to latch onto person’s heart and take it for a short ride to freedom from all the daily woes. Witnessing that event always stirred my emotions reminding me there is more to life than death and taxes and that we all have things to be thankful for and something to look forward to. Thank You, Tilda!
Until Next Time………………
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“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
– Will Rogers
September 7th, 2011, barely visible rainbow after 2 days of heavy clouds.
It has been 18 days now since Tilda left us and the rainbow reports just keep coming in. It rained at Tilda’s old house all day Tuesday, September 6th and all day Wednesday, September 7th. Donna and I were sure there would be no rainbows on these days as the cloud cover was so thick, the sun couldn’t possibly get through. However, at 6:30pm on Wednesday we noticed while eating dinner that the sun was trying to peek through the clouds in the west over the mountains. We quickly ran to Tilda’s deck on the upper level east side and watched with anticipation. Within a couple minutes, the clouds began to lift towards the southeast and a faint rainbow appeared. I tried to take a picture of it as I had camera in hand and ready, but it was so faint it was difficult to see as the sky was still hazy with thin clouds. The good news it indeed was there and I can send you the large original picture if you would like to see it more clearly. Within 30 seconds or less of taking this picture, the rainbow disappeared again. In summary, there have been 3 rainbows seen by Donna and I from our house. Tilda died on August 24th. The first rainbow was on August 30th, the second rainbow was on September 2nd and this last rainbow was on September 7th. Thank You, Tilda!
In the previous blog we talked about Tilda being on stage at the old Boulder Theater for a Cabaret Event connected with Boulder Community Hospital. Since I wrote that blog, Jan Fincher of BCH and I have been communicating and she found a picture someone took of Tilda and a couple other dogs on stage with the master of ceremonies. It was so cute with Tilda that evening as she was walking through the crowd previous to that stage event
Tilda on stage at the old Boulder Theater, August 2010
wanting to meet everyone and doing tricks, etc. With Tilda, the more people the better and that was a consistent fact with her no matter where I took her. We walked up the stairs to get on the stage that evening and Tilda was immediately in “7th Heaven” without a doubt. I could tell by her demeanor and her “vibes” that she thought this experience was way too cool and she was taking it all in with total concentration. The master of ceremonies with the loud microphone (speakers were directly in front of us on stage) intrigued her a great deal as she could hear the MC talking and yet his voice was booming out in front of us through the speakers. Her tail was wagging like a willow branch in the breeze as she had the biggest smile just enjoying the moment. I tried to get her to sit by tapping on her butt a couple times, but she was way too involved in what was going on. She would turn to look forward at the crowd and it was like “Wow, I want to meet all those people” followed immediately by a thought “sure is a good view from up here, this must be special”.
When Tilda first came to live with us, we took her lots of places where thick crowds were the normal happening. In my opinion, it is a real test of a dog’s stress tolerance and “dog to people” social abilities to walk the dog on a short and snug leash going slowly through heavy crowds. That is a perfect opportunity to practice bonded control and get the dog and human used to how each maneuvers back and forth in tight situations. It necessitates using all the basic commands and the dog almost has to obey them or there could be a disaster. That is a stressful situation on the part of both the handler and the dog, but with practice it really gets to be fun for both and solidifies the relationship quickly if done correctly. It can also be far from desirable if the dog or handler is not having a good day for some reason. So Tilda and I would practice at summer festivals such as in Estes Park and other small towns in Northern Colorado. It was also a good practice session teaching Tilda that other people’s food was to be ignored unless she is invited to partake. Tilda and I went to Berthoud Days in Berthoud, Colorado every June and we started a tradition with Tilda
Typical crowd scene at Berthoud Days June 4, 2011
the first year we attended which was not too long after Tilda came to live with us. The tradition was to first lay in the park on the cool green grass and watch the late-morning parade. Then we would head from the food park a couple blocks south and Tilda would search for AND FIND the smoked Turkey Leg stand. The first year (just by chance) I bought a Turkey Leg and Tilda and I sat in the grass and shared it. Wow! That was a home run hit with Tilda. We continued that tradition every year. This last June, 2011, I already knew that Tilda has cancer so Berthoud Day celebration was going to be special. When we were walking about a block from the food park heading in that direction, Tilda’s nose went in the air and she began to track the Turkey Leg stand. She smelled and tracked, smelled and tracked and took me right to the stand front and center. She stood with me while I order one Turkey Leg and a glass of water for us. We found a shade tree in the cool green grass and laid down and this time I fed her the entire leg for herself. Oh my, those eyes were as big a saucers, she was so excited. I asked her if she wanted some more and she shook her skin meaning “YES”. We bought a second leg and repeated the process again. I held the empty bone in my hands and she took her front teeth and ever-so-gently nibbled every last bit of meat off the bone. I looked at Tilda and said “You know what, Tilda? We may not be able to ever do this together again so how about we spring for a 3rd Turkey Leg and go out in style.” Her tail was wagging so hard with the best of the best smile on her face. I got up and we went over and got a 3rd Turkey Leg and did it all over again. I thought I had better stop with that one as I didn’t want to cause her to get sick, but she was fine through all 3 legs and we had a great time doing it. At $5 per leg I was about out of cash anyway, so time to call it quits. However, the memory of that $15 dog lunch of Turkey Legs at Berthoud Days was one of the best memories ever. Tilda’s cancer was affecting her right front leg that day and it was beginning to swell and caused her to limp a bit going back to the truck so we took our time and met people on the way and periodically stopped and to take a break now and then.
Now back to more rainbow stories that apparently are Tilda’s connections with other people. Some of these stories are fascinating. Is it a coincidence……….not for me to judge for you so you be the judge.
The T POT Continues (The Power Of Tilda)
BCH Canine Corps Newsletter rainbow experience
This last week I had a need to look back at the newsletter to find a date and time for the upcoming therapy dog summer party at the lake. While I was scrolling through the newsletter, I happened to read again the wonderful writing about Tilda that Jan Fincher wrote………….and THEN, I couldn’t believe what I saw and don’t know how I missed it before. Jan had put a cute rainbow by Tilda’s story. This is the same newsletter I sent to all
Tilda's Rainbow in BCH Canine Corps newsletter
of Tilda’s Friends on August 27th, 2011 so everyone could see Jan’s writing. I then became curious as to how Jan picked a rainbow icon to put by Tilda when she also wrote about 2 other dogs that has passed this last year and didn’t put a rainbow by them. I wrote Jan to find out if she already knew our discussions of Tilda’s sign possibly being the rainbow. I asked her which came first……..her knowledge of our discussions and that explains the reason she put a rainbow beside Tilda’s writing or if it was an unconscious thing happening before our discussions. She responded that the discussions about Tilda’s rainbow on the Tilda’s Friends list and her putting that rainbow by Tilda sort of came about at the same time, but not sure now. I then went to check the dates of all the events as it was traceable. Here is how it went:
August 24th, Tilda passed away
August 27th, Jan wrote and sent the BCH Newsletter with the rainbow by Tilda
August 28th, I sent a link to Tilda’s Friends about Jan’s Newsletter tribute to Tilda
August 30th, the first double rainbow appeared from Tilda.
August 31st, I wrote blog saying the first rainbow appeared to be Tilda’s sign.
So Jan had no idea at the time of her writings about the rainbow possibly being connected with Tilda. Quite possibly, Jan’s little rainbow icon for Tilda is the first rainbow coming through from Tilda via Jan. Tilda liked Jan a lot……..especially since the day she allowed Tilda to be the “demo dog” for a new therapy dog class at BCH last May. Tilda loved that day and I think all of the students in class that day will not forget it soon either. She would go by herself from person to person collecting pets or just to say hello……..she did that most all day long in between naps. The Veterinarian that day also used Tilda to demo what she would be doing to the students dogs on their Vet Behavioral Exam. I suspect Tilda had something to do with the little rainbow by Jan’s story in the newletter, but again, you be the judge.
Tilda’s Friends sharing experiences by email
A friend of Tilda’s named Linda writes:
“Hi Daryl — I love that T POT – the Power of Tilda! I read what you wrote about Tilda in front of the honking truck — who knows, maybe Tilda knew something that day, like that truck driver needed to slow down!!!
On Saturday I went into Boulder to walk along the creek at that Boulder hometown fair where they hold the annual Zuchini Races! Every year I find Brother Sage who sets up to give massages. I reclined on his chair ready for my annual foot massage when a chilly morning breeze kicked up. I asked if he had a blanket or a jacket. He whipped the brightly colored sheet off his display and said “Ah, wrap yourself in this wonderful warm rainbow!” I immediately thought of Tilda and told him about her! I can go for weeks, months without mention of rainbows. Tilda continues to touch all her friends!
A friend of Tilda’s named, Bonijean, writes:
Bonijean's Rainbow from Tilda
I saw the rainbow too at 5:05pm! I took a picture of it, but because we have houses behind our house, I couldn’t get the entire rainbow picture. Here is what I could get without any houses or power lines behind it.
One of Tilda’s Friends named Linda from Utah writes:
“I’m so terribly sad for you. I know that Tilda wasn’t well and it was her choice to go, but I also know first hand that this doesn’t make it any easier or less painful for you and Donna. That it doesn’t fill the empty space that she filled so beautifully and graciously. I’ll miss her terribly even without having ever met her. She was special to so many people. Because she was a very special, caring girl. I’m so terribly sorry for the loss of Tilda and so terribly glad that she got to share her life with you.”
There are more reports of TEAPOT experiences, but this is probably enough for this time. It is wonderful to hear about all the situations surrounding these events. Thanks to everyone for sharing those moments and also many thanks to some of you who have shared your touching experiences from your past with animals and others.
In addition, Donna and I also want to shout out a special THANK YOU for more cards, letters, books and flowers received from Tilda’s Friends. Something arrives every day and the outpouring is an amazing tribute to Tilda’s life of love and affection for other people. Another big “thank you” goes to the Friends of Tilda that made contributions to the Longmont Humane Society and to the Longmont United Hospital Foundation on Tilda’s behalf. Tilda certainly was an “Ambassador of the Heart” to all her friends and Donna and I stand in awe of how many lives were touched by her character and personality. Good things begat more good things! Thank You, Tilda!
In the previous blog story, we discussed the wonderful appearance of a double Rainbow on August 30th, 2011, straight to the east when standing on our upper level deck and I recorded the time of the sighting at 5:05pm on that day. I speculated that this might be Tilda’s way of waving a big “hello” to all her Tilda Friends. Since that double rainbow was so special and spectacular, I stated in that story that I was sure that the rainbow is probably going to be Tilda’s sign for getting our attention from time to time, just to let us know she is with us still and watching over things.
As rare as double rainbow’s are, one would think that this rare phenomenon is over and the world moves on, but no, Tilda is obviously having a great time smiling down on all of us while she races around with our passed doggy friends and at the same time letting us know she is there and in full color. On Friday evening, September 2nd, another double rainbow appeared in the east in the same position as the previous one and Guess What?……..exactly the same time of 5:05 pm. The odds of a double rainbow appearing at the exact same minute of the day, 3 days apart, in the same location and with similar intensity is simply remarkable. I wasn’t at home when this second rainbow occurred. Tilda’s mom, Donna, was home and saw it immediately and actually she admits she was hoping for it when the short rainstorm burst began. She called me later as I was driving home and told me of the event and the time. After I hung up the phone from Donna, I was just shaking. This was so obvious and blatant, Tilda was waving “howdy” again.
When I arrived home, there were two phone messages on the home phone. One was from
Tilda and her cool green grass!
Stacey, one of Tilda’s Friends, saying she just left work to pick up her children and she is witnessing Tilda’s Rainbow again and it is a double rainbow as before. The second recorded message was from Jane, another of Tilda’s Friends stating that she was on her way home from work and this huge double rainbow was blasting the sky just as in the first double rainbow 3 days earlier. Both phone call recordings were time stamped within a couple minutes either side of the 5:05 pm time frame to confirm Donna’s time record. Because I was not at home, I didn’t get any pictures of it and that saddens me, but I now can’t help but to think there will be another time. Another of Tilda’s Friends named Laura also wrote an email about that time:
Stacey just left the office and called to say that there is a double rainbow. She got your phone number from me so I hope she connected!! What I wanted to let you know is that after looking at the photo of the double rainbow and reading your blog – I would like to say that the rainbow to me is the path of Tilda’s tail wagging – back & forth like a windshield wiper. So she’s up there giving us all rainbow wags!!! What a super dog. An aside: When we ask our 7 year old daughter what her favorite color is, she says, “Rainbow.” Children & dogs – gotta love them.
Tilda was obviously a very, very busy girl yesterday, Friday, September 2nd, 2011. I was getting emails from Tilda’s Friends citing rainbows they had never seen before, rainbows on items, rainbows on papers, rainbows on ballons, rainbows everywhere. Donna and I also received two rainbow sympathy cards in the mail recently. It is quite a sight from this chair to watch this phenomenon grow as people everywhere are looking for a sign from Tilda and getting one. That is pretty special. Here is a fun example email I received:
I have to tell you how much we were all surprised today. I have
Calendar about rainbows.
told all the front office girls about Tilda’s Rainbow and ALL of the rainbows that we are convinced are because of her. Jolene has a “Dear God” Calendar and she just changed months so it is now showing September. When she flipped it to September, she yelled “Bonijean, come here now!” When I ran to her desk, she pointed to the new picture for September. It is attached and I hope you can see it. We all looked at it and just looked at each other. WOW, The Power Of Tilda. I think this phenomenon should be called for short….T.P.O.T. You can pronounce it “teapot”. Just a suggestion. I hope it brightens your day, like it did ours….AGAIN! Thanks Tilda!
The photo above shows the calendar and how precious is that! Now, we all know that calendar has been on the wall probably most of the year and that rainbow picture was there from the beginning, but how ironic that Tilda seems to tie all this together with her rainbow magic. The Power Of Tilda…..also now known as TEAPOT. How wonderful is that? Then there are wonderful and heart-warming emails like the following:
This morning I attended my Prayer Shawl meeting and talked about Tilda and her wonderful way of addressing people and their feelings. I can tell you that everyone was so impressed with the stories that I told of her. There were tears in many eyes as I relayed what you had written to me. Tilda, even though she is gone, is still here. She is still touching people in special ways. Isn’t that just like her? I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your writing to me and letting me know about such a wonderful pet as she was.
God bless her and you and Donna.
Tilda’s story has touched the hearts of many people and it is so rewarding to know that many folks are having some connections with Tilda as times goes by. There is no better tribute to one’s history here on earth than to be remembered as Tilda is remembered for all the good things she had done. Tilda was a grand standing, front row – center stage kind of dog, but she wouldn’t hurt a fly and didn’t. She would run away from a housefly and not snap at them. Tilda and I were actually ON STAGE one time together at an event for the Boulder Community Hospital where we and two other dog teams walked up on stage at the old Boulder Theater to introduce Therapy Dogs to the people of Boulder. Tilda love it and stood up there looking out into the crowd seeing all the people, but the bright lights were on us and the people were hard to see so she just kept staring out into the crowd with her flag tail wagging slowly.
Tilda had a kind soul. She would chase a squirrel if allowed, but if the squirrel stopped, Tilda stopped, game over. She would never harm anything and only wanted to play chase. She was also not afraid of anything. She would walk down the street in front of a large moving van truck and never a thought of getting out of the way. That actually happened one day when I first adopted her as I had turned my back on Tilda for a few moments while working in the yard and when I looked up, here is this large truck following Tilda down the center of the street with his bumper about 2 feet behind Tilda tooting his horn while Tilda just walk steadily forward taking her time and tail waving like it always does. Consequently, I learned that day that Tilda had to be leashed or I would have to lock the gates at the end of our lane anytime there was traffic present on our street as she never feared and never understood the threat. She was that trusting and docile all at the same time.
Donna and I have received a lot of wonderful cards, plants, wonderful mementos and
Flowers, Cards, Gifts & Mementos from Tilda's Friends
other items from people extending their prayers and best wishes to us. Some day I would love to put all this cards on Tilda’s website on a special page, but that will be a project for a rainy day way down the road. Donna and I tried to line up all the items and take a picture of them including Tilda’s vests, some leashes, pictures, etc. Tilda’s ashes are in the picture………it is the white container on top of the sewing machine, in the center, with Tilda’s pink collar around it. There is also my little green vintage clock that Tilda gave me for Father’s Day this year setting on top of the sewing machine, off towards the right. The pedal sewing machine was purchased new by Donna’s Great Grandmother in Aurora, Nebraska in 1904 and was passed down through the generations. No one used it for many, many years as parts were coming unglued and the machine was in need of serious repairs. When Donna received this machine, all the parts were still in a box and the cabinet looked like it had been through a couple wars………which it had. I spent 2 months stripping, sanding and re-gluing, then refinishing and repairing the machine back to its original state again and it is working fine today. Tilda had her stuffed toys setting on the pedal of the sewing machine. She never played with toys but enjoyed looking at them and sniffing them.
Tilda Visiting with William
I had the wonderful pleasure on Thursday, September 1st, 2011, to walk through Longmont United Hospital with my volunteer uniform on and meet some of Tilda’s dear friends. It took me a couple hours to get through the facility, but it was a lot of fun to see everyone again. But, it was a lonesome feeling and something significant was missing……my dear Tilda. Walking through those rooms and hallways, I had constant flashbacks of the wonderful times and experiences Tilda showed me there. We had a route and followed it religiously, then sometimes (not often) we would do the route backwards. Tilda knew the path and what came next, no matter which direction we went. She associated PEOPLE to her path and she knew who was in which room and where. She knew the which corner to turn, which aisle to go straight. We always played games to make the visiting venture fun rather than a chore. At some blind hallway intersections, Tilda was trained to STOP and look both ways. Then I would say to her “do you see anything coming?” and she would intently look again both ways and if there was something coming, she would just wag her tail and not move……….nothing coming, she would step forward and move on. At some hallways we would run to liven up the effort a bit so as we turned a corner into the “run” hallway, Tilda would take off and break into a trot. In one area there was an emergency bed in readiness and we always stopped by there an practiced her “paws up” command. The last few months I just tapped the bed and she would raise up and tenderly put her front paws on the bed. She knew where we stopped for a drink of water. She knew where all the treats were and where the people are that give them. She also knew who needed help with their moejoe that day as while we walked down the hallway and met a stranger, sometimes she would stop after the stranger passed, turn around and want to go back after them. One thing about Tilda, she always knew what she was there for, yet tried to be a good dog and do stuff at the same time.
She never tired of doing this. The only time she wasn’t with the program was when I
Tilda and Stacey hanging out.
sensed she may not be feeling well and then we would just quit and call it a day. I want to thank all the wonderful people at Longmont United and the people in the Longmont Medical/Surgery Center for being so kind, thoughtful and endearing. I plan to visit the other hospitals and do the same thing as it is comforting to share stories with people that cared about Tilda. I was explaining to one lady how amazed I am at how living life has its unique twists and turns. Tilda originally found me by a sheer split second thought of me turning off the street suddenly to pet a dog and stopping at the Longmont Humane Society where Tilda was in the first cage as you walked into the kennel area. When we applied to adopt Tilda, after getting to know her, they informed me we were 3rd in line for her and the others had first dibs. Donna and I went home and actually wept as we wanted that Tilda Dog so bad as she was perfect for us. With 3 people ahead for a wonderfully kind dog like Tilda, fat chance we would ever see Tilda again. Two days later the phone rang asking if we were still interested in Tilda as all the rest of the folks in line for her declined. Obviously, I now know all about “THE POWER OF TILDA” and she pulled that one off masterfully. Donna and I have always joked between us in front of Tilda that she must have gone to the front desk and told them to call the other people and inform them she wouldn’t be available as she wanted to go home with the “old folks”.
Now I look back at that day, in honor of Tilda, and think to myself how one, just one, tiny, fleeting moment of me suddenly turning right into the parking lot of the Humane Society while cruising down the street headed for another destination………….how that has affected my life and ended up affecting literally hundreds of other people. I would have never been introduced to the wonderment of volunteering at the hospitals if it weren’t for Tilda. One cannot help but think that there was a purpose to all this. Well, I think Tilda had a purpose to all this and she achieved it in a manner none of us will ever forget. The best part of it everything was that this was ALL GOOD and contained the love and affection that binds people together for a very long time, maybe forever and beyond. Thank you, Tilda!
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
– Anatole France
August 30 Double Rainbow - Unretouched and as taken by camera.
It is often said by inspired dog lovers that our lost loved one’s sometimes give us a sign from their new location and dimension to let us know that “all is well” and to give us a big “hello” to remind they still are around us in spirit. While that may sound hokey to some and I understand that, to others it is a meaningful happening and I count myself to be among the later for sure. An animal adventurist knowledgeable in the now and hereafter parts of the life cycle will always tell you to look for the “sign” or signs and if you pay attention to them, they will reoccur time and time again as little (or large) unspoken messages for you. You can choose to ignore them and scoff them off as coincidences or you can enjoy them and take comfort from them at the same time. I choose to enjoy them and I also find great comfort in them.
I am strongly suspicious that Tilda’s “sign” may be the Rainbow. The word “Rainbow” has popped up dozens of times now in the last days of Tilda’s life with lots of friends talking about the “Rainbow Bridge” and me hearing the song “somewhere over the rainbow” twice this last week on the radio when I haven’t heard it probably in 30 years. Then to top it off, this happened yesterday evening, August 30, 2011:
I came home about 5pm yesterday, walked to the upper level and said hello to Donna and
Left third of Double Rainbow on August 30th
she yelled “come quick and look at the rainbow”. It was raining a few drops outside and as I walked out on the front upper level deck where Tilda and I were sitting exactly a few hours before her passing, I saw what grabbed my heart. THERE IT WAS, it was the largest DOUBLE rainbow with a beautiful solid color center between the bows I have ever seen. This double rainbow was front and center of the deck chair I always sit in when spending time on that deck with Tilda. I quickly got the camera and took 3 pictures. The rainbow was SO LARGE, it took 3 shots to get it all. I think Tilda was saying “hello” to all her wonderful friends as this rainbow had to reach out for many, many miles. As you can see from the photos with reference to the house on the ground, it was a miniature house compared to the size of this double rainbow.
I sent these pictures to a half dozen friends last night and to add one more cute wrinkle to this story is a response I received back from one of those close friends. She writes:
“What is strange about the rainbow is that I bought a card for you and Donna and sent it in the mail yesterday….it has a rainbow on the front. Kinda gives me goose bumps when I think about it because in my mind it confirms that there is something after our life here on earth!”
Right third of Double Rainbow on August 30th.
What it confirms for me is that Tilda indeed is flashing her neon welcome sign stating that all is well and she will check in often. I am convinced already that the rainbow will be Tilda’s marker of letting us know she is around her good friends. I have experienced this phenomenon with the passing of family members before. With my mother, the sign was a butterfly and that bit of fun went on for months. There are some wonderful stories about me and butterflies and a few times it got to be hilarious, but once I finally understood what it was, it was fun and comfortable. I know there is at least one member of Tilda’s Friends (a long time friend of mine) that lived through those “butterfly” times with me and it was pretty amazing conversation. Since then, I have had some other connections with loved ones and believe it or not, with loved ones of other friends that I have never met. So no matter what your thoughts are about these things, it is still fun to think that maybe Tilda was indeed saying “Howdy, How Ya Doing, Miss You!” to us all last night. At the very least, it was a dramatic display of how wonderful Mother Nature can be and what a wonderful universe we live in.
To me, the display last night was a flashing neon sign of Tilda’s Rainbow Bridge letting me know all is well and “miss you dad”. So the next time you see a rainbow, tell Tilda you got the message, keep up the good work and to look up your beloved doggies of the past and frolic with them as well. Somehow, I think Tilda was right when she got my attention on her last day here on earth…..her work is not near done yet!
“To make Heaven the perfect resting place for loved ones we adore, God made sure those Pearly Gates contained a doggy door.”
The last few days with Tilda were a most interesting adventure all of its own. She was starting to get a bit uncomfortable late at night as her skin was so hot from all the tumors (over 400 estimated now) just under the skin. She would go to the lower level of our house to the tile floors as that felt cooler for her I would guess. But, then about every 2 hours she would go into a panic attack with the heavy breathing. When that happened, she would go upstairs to our bedroom and wake me up so I would take her outside and soak her skin with a wet towel while she lay in the grass. After a few nights of that, I finally went to town and brought home a twin size mattress and put it downstairs on the floor with her bed close by. Of course, she really liked that and when she had the attacks we could just step outside together and make it better.
Tilda at Roger's Grove
That system worked very well until Monday night, August 22nd. Tilda was restless all night long. She would come to my bedside and stick her nose right in my face……sometimes even licking my face. Of course I was awake. It was a bit difficult to sleep through those episodes. This happened about every 10 to 12 minutes all night long. On two occasions when I took her outside for a break, when I let her back in she charged for my bed and after I had locked the door, turned around, there she was all snuggled in my covers on my mattress and nearly sound asleep. On the second occasion, I just relented and let her have my bed while I went to my office computer and worked as I couldn’t sleep anyway. Something was going on with her that night, but I never picked up on it too much. I really thought she was just having a bad night. Maybe this is what they meant by “the Dog Days of August”.
On Tuesday night, August 23rd, I shut the door between the upper and lower levels of the house and I slept upstairs as I was exhausted from the night before. Tilda was fine downstairs by herself and I am not sure if she even moved from her initial position. Around 2pm, I went down to give her an outside break and I had a hard time getting her up. She was acting a bit distant and maybe a bit depressed. I thought to myself that the next night I would stay with her again as maybe, just maybe, she was trying to tell me something the night before. But for now, I was exhausted and just wanted to get back to bed for a bit of sleep. Later while laying in bed awake, I happened to think back that Tilda did not really want her dinner on Tuesday evening which is a “first”. Tilda always ate very well and loved her food. I promised myself I would pay attention to that clue in the morning with her breakfast and we’d see how that goes.
A New Day
I woke at 5am on Wednesday morning, August 24th. It was my standard routine these last weeks to wake Tilda at that time to give her some liver rebuilding pills that were supposed to repair damage done by the first CSU Clinical Trials which were stopped because of liver problems. She had to take those 1 hour before she ate breakfast so 5am was the opportune time to get that done. She was not to take those pills with a large breakfast, so I would take a small piece of shaved ham and roll the pill inside it and she would always gladly slide the “ham pill” down her throat. She loved the shaved ham and it always worked as an aid to get something inside her that she needed to have. But, it was not to be on this day……..she turned her head and would have nothing to do with the ham pill. I tried and tried, nothing
"Tilla the Pilla" and dad taken early summer 2011
doing! I then got some sliced cheese (which always works) and made a “cheese pill” which Tilda would nearly take your arm off for as she loved it so much. Nothing doing! She would just turn her head and ignore with this very sad look on her face. I was puzzled and asked her several times “Aren’t you hungry?” and she would just sit and stare at me as if I was missing something. Rather than get impatient over this, I decided to pour myself a cup of coffee and turn on the news for a bit. I sat in my chair with my morning coffee and Tilda came around the front of me and sat………stared! I then asked her “what do you want, Tilda?” and there was no clue as to what she wanted. Then I asked her if she wanted to go “out” and she shook her body (like a dog does when trying to shed off water) which with Tilda means a definite YES. Now I know that sounds weird, but I learned this about Tilda long ago and it was always correct to interpret an intentional body shake as a YES answer to a question just asked. That is how Tilda communicated. If she didn’t shake, the answer still could be a soft yes, most likely an “I’m not sure” or it could be a definite “NO”, but you never knew for sure. Most times though, no body shake was she didn’t understand the question or she wasn’t interested in the question I asked her. Anyway, she made it clear to me that going “out” would work for her that morning so we went and did that chore. She did go out and take her bathroom break and then came right back to me again.
After we got back in the house, I asked her if she wanted to go for her morning walk……………..not interested! She just stood there again and stared at me. I thought to myself ”maybe try some of her old favorite canned dog food and see if she is enticed by that”. I opened a fresh can of all beef chunks with her favorite gravy and offered it to her. She turned her head again and just sat and stared at me. Oh my, now I am stumped. She
Tilda, Tillie and Jake hanging out in early summer 2011
didn’t appear ill, but she was doing her heavy breathing with very short panting breaths but that was her normal method these days. I finally sat at the dining room table to think this through while she continued to stare at me like I was forgetting something. I finally asked her “Do you want to go in the truck?” which meant to go somewhere and do something together. She immediately stood up and lifted her head a slightly perked her ears with interest. Knowing that I was possibly on the right track, I asked her “would you like to go to Tilda’s Park again today?”. She immediately shook her skin violently and then lifted her tail and wagged it like crazy for the first time that day and her ears were perked as high as they could get. I think we just hit a “Bingo”. I told Tilda that I wasn’t sure I could get her in the truck again as on Tuesday at CSU, I barely got her into her back seat area of the truck and then had a hard time getting her out again……….just very weak. So I asked her openly “will you try real hard to get in the truck?” Believe it or not, she shook her skin again. So I covered the open can of dog food and put it in the fridge and began preparing myself and Tilda for our ride to Tilda’s Park up on Highway 34 west of Loveland. I quickly fixed myself some breakfast, offered Tilda some of it, nothing doing. I showered, shaved and got myself together in a hurry while Tilda stood there the whole time with a happy face, wagging her tail. It was so good to see that again after it was missing for a few days.
Off To The Park
Within an hour and a half from the time I first woke Tilda, we were all ready to load in the truck and head for the foothills. At 6:30am I put her carpeted ramp up to the truck door and as she tried to walk up the ramp, I quickly stepped behind her and pushed her the rest of the way into the truck as she couldn’t make it on her own. She immediately laid down and we were on our way.
At 7am in the morning, we arrived at Viestenz-Smith Park (Tilda’s Park) and there was not a soul around……..didn’t even see a bear this time. I set up the ramp again and Tilda came wobbling down the ramp as I held her from side to side so her feet would stay on the ramp. She made it fine and seemed determined to get that done right. I grabbed the camera, put her short leash and collar on and before I could even stand upright, Tilda was off walking and leading the way. She went immediately down to the “race pond” or fish pond to watch the big Rainbow Trout swimming in the water feeding on such a beautiful day. She just stopped by the pond and watched the fish. I took a short video of that event and here is the link to watch it on youtube so you can get a feel for the demeanor of Tilda at that moment:
Or, I have embedded the video below if your computer can view it in this manner:
She then immediately turned to the north and headed for the river……..towards the log steps that go down to the water’s edge. One step was about a foot tall which at least 5 times before this day, she bounded down those steps full speed ahead. This day she couldn’t step off the log and was afraid she was going to fall as the step was too big for her. She looked up at me as if asking me to help her………..so I took her to the edge of the steps where the dropoff wasn’t so great and she made it fine. She went down to the water and just stood there again looking up stream and down stream.
All at once Tilda went back up the log steps and down the sidewalk and across the spillway
Tilda in the cool water
to another picnic area near where we saw the bear a few days before. I then remembered that my wife, Donna, wanted me to take a picture of the history board that was ahead about 300 feet so she could read about the old log cabin and the park history as she loved reading about those things. So I asked Tilda if we could walk over that short distance so I could get the picture. I tugged her leash to go forward and she took 2 steps and stopped cold and just stood there looking at me. I then told Tilda “are you sure you can’t come with me as it is only a few steps more and then we can take a picture to show mom?” I tugged the leash again, nothing! She had her head down, tail between her legs, sad face again. I was beginning to think this dog is getting very spoiled…..much like a 2 year old might act, but quickly got my mind off that as she was not feeling well and if she didn’t want to go, we would do it another time. About that moment, she pulled back from me and went over by a nearby picnic table and stood there staring at me. Well, my legs were getting tired so I went over to the table and sat facing outward towards Tilda. I offered her an Auntie Jane cookie from my shirt pocket and she turned her head indicating she wanted nothing of it.
Oh Tilda, Now I Get It!
Tilda was about 3 feet from me just standing there looking at me, still breathing very heavy with short pants and mouth open, ears down and tail slightly wagging. She just stood there and stared right into my eyes. I then asked her “Tilda, what is it you want?”. She immediately moved forward and slide her head right between my knees and rested her jaw in my lap. She then stopped breathing completely, had her mouth closed, tail stopped wagging……….totally motionless. All of this obvious attention-getting demeanor was immediately followed by this “Flush of Energy”, which is the only way I know how to describe it, and as I looked into those eyes Tilda was blasting me with an energetic impression of “Dad, I love you a lot and I hate to leave you, but my work is done here and I am not feeling well. I am ready to move on. Please help me”. Now of course, she didn’t talk those words to me. Those words are a description of what I felt as she locked eyes, heart and soul with me. My first thought after the “Flush” (for a lack of a better word) was “Oh My God! Here I have watched this dog connect constantly with other people when they needed her help and now when she needs help the most, she has connected with me.” After thinking back through all this, I understand now why people sometimes said “What is she doing?” as I witnessed her obviously connecting with them. That burst of energy she gave was unmistakeably powerful and made the hair stand up on my arms and back of my neck. It was an effect of a chilling awakening that felt good. I knew EXACTLY what she wanted and the message was so loud, clear and without a doubt. At that very moment I smiled at Tilda and said “Oh my darling girl, I finally understand, I finally GET IT. Thank you for letting me know and of course I can help you……….let’s get started”. I have not a clue why I did what I did next, but I reached back into my shirt pocket for an Auntie Jane cookie and offered it to Tilda and she grabbed the whole thing and chomped it down.
Tilda's truck showing her back seat compartment.
While still chewing the cookie, Tilda backed out from my knees and took a gasping breath of air and immediately started the heavy breathing/panting thing again, tail was slightly wagging. Before I could even stand up, she had turned around and began marching back to the sidewalk, up the hill at a fast pace at least 30 feet ahead of me, dragging her short leash, with a distinct and intentful purpose. There was no stopping to smell things, no stopping to go potty like she always had previous, marching right up to the top of the hill, across the wood deck by the log shelter, then onward down the winding path to the truck in the parking lot. I was walking as fast as I could to try to catch her although I wasn’t worried as there was still no one else in the park. When I looked up at the truck I saw her waiting for me at the door, ready to get in and go home.
I got out the ramp, helped her get in the truck again where she laid down on her mattress and we headed home. On the way home she looked at me constantly with a wonderful smile on her face again, panting and breathing hard, but happy. I made plans in my mind of what we would do when we got home and told her of those plans while I was driving. She really liked what I was saying and acted as if she totally understood what I was saying. It was almost like she was so thankful that I finally “got it”. When we arrived home again, she actually walked steadily down her ramp coming out of the truck all by herself. I let her in the lower level of the house and she just collapsed on the tile floor with a loud groan. Within a couple minutes she was sound asleep. My office is about 10 feet away and I started making the dreaded phone calls which I know Tilda heard while she was dozing. But that was okay as I wanted her to know I was quickly working to meet her wishes and help her on her way.
The Next Hour
The next hour went by very fast. I would guess it was about 10am by the time we got back home again. I had pre-arranged with a vet firm named “Home to Heaven” to help with the process when Tilda’s time came so all I had to do is call them and set a time. They had a 2:30pm appointment open so I asked them to hold it for me while I called Tilda’s mom, Donna, to see if she could make it home from work before that time. Donna said she would be there so I called Home to Heaven and confirmed. Around 11am, Donna called and said she was heading home and would be there by 11:30 so she could have some quality time with Tilda. Tilda was still napping a few feet from me during all of these phone calls. One time I rose from my chair and checked on Tilda and she heard me walk up, opened her eyes and started wagging her tail. She hadn’t done that for days in that position on the floor. It was like a constant “thank you, dad” feeling all around her and that is what her demeanor was now displaying.
Time To Eat – The Feast Begins
Donna came home from work as planned and we coaxed Tilda upstairs. She was delighted to see Donna as always and seemed very happy that our family unit was back together again. Tilda’s tail was wagging
Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger. I love Cheeseburger!
and she was smiling again. I asked Tilda “would you like something to eat now?” Tilda shook her skin so I got some shaved ham and cheese out of the fridge. She took those from my hand like she hadn’t eaten in a week. Then Donna asked her if she wanted a cheeseburger and the tail was wagging high again. I asked her if she wanted a can of cat food (which I was using to get her to eat sometimes this last week) and her tail wagged even faster. I opened the cat food and she gulped it down. I then went to the fridge and got the open can of beef chunks and gravy that she wouldn’t touch earlier for breakfast. I offered her some in her dish, she ate it all immediately. I gave her the rest of the can and she devoured it. In a couple minutes Donna had her cheeseburger done and she really enjoyed that morsel. I then gave her some milk in her food dish and she lapped it all up and then looked up and smiled at me licking her lips. I then had my lunch and she shared some baked chicken breast with me also. I asked Tilda if she wanted more to eat as we would empty the refrigerator if she wanted us to, but she walked away happily and went down the hallway towards our bedroom door (where she used to sleep with us in the good old days) and there she laid down at the end of the hall facing back towards us. Donna went over to her and hunkered down for some good girl-talk while I went downstairs to answer some emails from some of Tilda’s Friends who were asking about her that day.
Farewell Letters For Tilda
Tilda and dad, all dressed up and plenty places to go.
I responded to those emails explaining the plans for Tilda at 2:30pm and how I was so confident this is what she wanted as she was making it very obvious. Almost immediately I had a half dozen responses back from those people with letters of love and farewell to Tilda, written to Tilda directly. I printed them all and went upstairs where Donna and Tilda were still discussing things. I interrupted and told Tilda that some of her friends had written to her and I wanted to read those letters to her. Tilda wagged her tail, had a smile on her face and her jaw was resting firmly on the floor between her front legs as she so often rested in that position. I began to read the first letter and about half way through it, I lost it and couldn’t continue. Let me say this about these letters……….the people that wrote them know who you are and these were the most loving, caring, enthusiastic, enduring, compassionate letters I have ever read. I mean, everyone should be so lucky some day for someone to read letters like this to them when they are ready to move on. I had to stop several times to straighten up, take a deep breath and try to continue again. Tilda knew exactly who wrote them as when I said their names, she would smile and wag her tail but never lifted her head from the floor. She just looked at me with those loving eyes and affirmed she knew who had written the letter. If you can imagine reading get-well cards to a loved one in a hospital bed and picture the smiling eyes and face of the patient while listening to the words being read, that is exactly what this scenario was like and how Tilda was responding only 10 times more emotional because of the situation and the words being read. All of this happened with both Donna and I on the floor at the end of the hallway with Tilda. No doubt about it…..a very special moment. Thanks to you wonderful people that provided the farewell letters for Tilda. She definitely knew who you were and followed every word. The beautiful part of all this is it wasn’t planned. It just happened!
Tilda’s Hour of Reflection
Tilda's vests & awards
By this time it was nearly 1:30pm and the vet was due to arrive in about one hour. I think most of Tilda’s Friends already know that Tilda really enjoyed her work at the hospitals. All therapy dogs do important work and give of themselves in hopes of making things better around them. One of the first things we learn in therapy dog class is a dog’s instinct is to “calm” things around them. They want calm and seek it out and will work towards that goal if the surroundings are different than calm. Tilda thrived on the touch and smiles of others and if someone needed a quiet moment just to love a good dog, she would lay down on her side and allow that to happen as long as the person wanted. If the person wanted to “horse around” rubbing butt, wrestling each other,
Tilda reminiscing the good times
tilda could do that also. If a person simply wanted to give her a treat, which some times was therapeutically calming in many ways, she was usually ready for that too. Her hospital visits were most important in her life and she just couldn’t get enough of it. Whenever I put her vest on for that day, her tail was wagging so hard it actually made it difficult to fasten the vest buckle. Tilda was very proud and joyful about what she had accomplished. That was always obvious to most that knew her well. So I told Donna that during this last hour it would be fitting for us to get out all of Tilda’s work clothes, awards, special photos, news articles, special pendants she has been given and allow her to mingle with it all as it has been nearly a couple months now since she has been able to see them.
Tilda sporting her LUH vest and badge
I went to the truck to get Tilda’s wardrobe briefcase. As I brought it in the house, Tilda saw it and got up and came into the living room and sat with us. Donna and I both talked to Tilda telling her what we were going to do and she was all excited. I opened the briefcase and removed all 5 vests……..one from each hospital and one from the Therapy Dog, Inc. Registration (which we also used as a Christmas vest as it was bright red). I laid all her vests on the floor in a row along with her plaques, etc. As soon as I had them positioned, Tilda went to smell them all and smiled with her tail wagging. Then, she sat on the floor, sort of in the center of the display, and just stared at the vests and other items. I tried to take several pictures of this
Tilda sporting her BCH vest and badge
as I had the camera handy. I was sure this would get a response from her and it would be an enjoyable one. Then I asked Tilda if she wanted to try all the vests on and I would take her picture. She seemed to like that idea so we started the process, one vest at a time. All 3 of us had a wonderful time going through that routine and Tilda finally brought out that big sunshine smile which I think you will be able to recognize in the photos. It brought tears to my eyes and Donna’s also. The photos are not great as I couldn’t see very well for all the water running out my eyes, but hopefully they are clear enough you can get a feel for the moment.
Tilda sporting her Avista vest and badge
Donna moved Tilda’s Afghan from in front of the fireplace to a position in the middle of the floor in front of Tilda’s vest display. She folded it nicely so it would be soft and cushy. I went to change into one of my therapy dog handler uniforms to honor Tilda as I knew she would recognize those clothes. During that time, Donna said Tilda went to the Afghan all by herself and laid down directly on it, perfectly in the center of it, in a position that she could still see her vests while her head was on the floor between her front legs again. As I came out of the dressing room, Donna got my attention as to what Tilda had done. I looked at the clock and it was 2:25pm and the vet was supposed to arrive at 2:30. I told Donna and Tilda it is probably time I go out on the front deck to make sure the
Tilda sporting her Exempla vest and badge
vet lady doesn’t miss our driveway as I know she is on a time schedule. At 2:35pm I asked Donna if she thought we should call (maybe they are lost) or wait a bit longer. Looking at Tilda on the Afghan, it was obvious to me that Tilda was preparing herself for her journey and was ready for liftoff. That moment of silence was broken by the phone ringing and it was the vet saying she was 10 minutes behind and was nearly at our location. She arrived at 2:45pm.
Tilda’s Brave Farewell
I showed the vet upstairs and introduced her to Donna and Tilda. The vet sat on the floor to the rear of Tilda. Tilda just laid there all those minutes with her eyes open looking at her vests, her jaw on the floor between her legs, resting squarely on her favorite Afghan. I wish I would have taken a picture of that sight as it was so beautiful, but emotionally I wasn’t able to think to accomplish that task and am so sorry I missed it as it was a scene that said a thousand words and clearly demonstrated Tilda’s desire to move on. Here is a most important observation……….Tilda did not ever lift her head to look back at the vet coming up the stairs or taking a position on the floor behind her. She just looked straight forward towards her vests with a steady deep breathing rhythm and kept focused. Never did she turn around to see who was there, not even when the vet shaved her rear leg preparing for the injection. She never moved a muscle and just kept focused on Donna and myself and her vests. I never spoke anything to Tilda with commands or such at all. She did this all on her own merit and will. Donna told Tilda while the vet was preparing that there would be a little needle stick but that the vet was just trying to help her get on her way.
Cool Green Grass Forever!
Now, some people say that dogs can’t understand English and that might be true, I don’t know for sure, but I do know they certainly interpret what we are saying and it is not only by familiar word association. Tilda understands what you are telling her most times if she is focused and Donna knew that Tilda understood what she was telling her. The proof of that is when the vet stuck Tilda’s leg with the needle, there was not a flinch………..NOTHING! She laid there in the same position with her eyes open, head between her front legs, looking at Donna and I while we said repeatedly “Thank you, Tilda. Thank you, Tilda” while I patted her on her side until she fell asleep at 3:05pm. Those were the same words I always used with Tilda when she was working at the hospitals and did a good job. I patted her on the side during those times also so she knew what I meant when that action occurred. During those times she knew, that I knew what she had done and it was a fitting tribute to a very brave dog in her last moments.
Finally to a Summary
The summary of it all is this; Tilda guided her exit from this world with the same
Tilda's Therapy Dog, Inc vest we used at Christmas time along with her jingle bell collar which she loved so much
dedication and intensity that she lived all of her life while with me. Some might say that the story ends here, but I think probably it is only the beginning. Tilda has built a circle of friends that continue on with memories of her in their hearts. I know for a fact some people have had their souls touched by Tilda and that encounter will last a lifetime within them. I also know some of Tilda’s Friends will be visited by Tilda from time to time from her new location where I am sure she will use her new talents to make their lives a bit more interesting. I firmly believe that a good dog comes on this earth with a purpose, or for a purpose, however you want to view it. Whether or not it can fulfill that purpose depends on lots of things I would imagine. I am positive that Tilda fulfilled her purpose and did a wonderful job of finding me and guiding me and others in the right direction so she could accomplish her tasks. I would bet God has given her an A+ with a special note of “well done”.
Tilda’s history as a therapy dog was short, but intense. She started her first Hospital at Longmont United Hospital only about 2.5 years ago. She started the second at Boulder Community Hospital only a 1.5 years ago approximately and Exempla and Avista hospitals less than a year ago. She accomplished a great deal in that short time, but Tilda’s master plan obviously said she passed the test for this trip and it was time for her to get on with the next step. I am comforted by the thought that Tilda and I can spend some time together at some point again. I am looking forward to it. One of Tilda’s Friends named Maribeth summed it up nicely with a quoted paragraph:
“I believe that God uses pets to help humans learn about love. From pets, we learn mercy, compassion, patience, and understanding — and we also learn what it means to receive unconditional love. If pets are a means by which we are taught about love, must we assume that once we have learned the lesson, we must then be forced to lose that love forever? Shall we assume that God, the author of love, has so little compassion for us that He first gives us pets to love, and then tells us, “Yes, well, I know that you really loved that little dog or precious cat I sent your way, but rules are rules”? Would heaven be a wonderful place — would it truly be “paradise” — if our pets weren’t there? For many, the answer is “no” — and obviously, God knows this! I firmly believe that God takes care of all His creation.” Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed.
Wonderful Comments From Tilda’s Friends
I know you can read this because once dogs go over the Rainbow Bridge, they can do anything! Please say hello to Katie and Maggie. You will really enjoy playing with them, and I know they will LOVE you. Maggie is the red-tri Aussie sitting in the shade under her favorite tree, and she will be happy to share it with you. Katie is the one who wants to play all the time. You’ve probably met her already. She is a little social butterfly (so to speak) and might have been waiting for you. So you can see what wonderful companions they will be. We miss them everyday, even though we have Dusty and Tiger to keep us company now.
I will sure miss you, too. You are a very special dog!
Just know that I love you and Tilda. My heart is broken, even though this day was not unexpected. It never makes it any easier, especially with such a special furry friend like Tilda. You tell her that she needs to start training those doggies in heaven who are planning on returning to earth to be as wonderful, smart and intuitive as she was. She will be missed, and I will always remember her smile when she came in here, and how soft her head was.
Soft head is a very special memory for me. You see, when I was a little girl, I was deathly afraid of dogs (I know-hard to believe, but true). Dad decided to get my one brother and me over our fear of dogs by bringing home this cute little black lab puppy. Well, I was terrified of this beast (when you’re 5, even an 8 week old lab puppy is intimidating). I remember that the first time I was brave enough to pat him, it was only on his head, I was too afraid to pat him anywhere else. I remember at being amazed at how soft the top of his head was. So, for the longest time, I felt that was the only safe place to pat him. Tilda brought that memory back to me the first time I pat her head. It was soft like Mike’s. She always did work her magic.
With loving thoughts, and special prayers,
FOR ALL OF YOU WAITING IN HEAVEN: I thought of you today, but that is nothing new. I thought about you yesterday, and days before that too. I think of you in silence, I often speak your name. All I have are memories and a picture in a frame. Your memory is a keepsake, from which I’ll never part. God has you in his arms. I have you in my heart.
Tilda…you will forever be in our hearts. May you rest in peace, sweet puppy!!
Love from your friends…
Annette & Lonnie
I am so sorry for your loss. Tilda was very very special to you and many many other people. She touched so many hearts and will always be remembered for the wonderful joy she brought to so many.
God bless her and you and your family as you go through this very touching time in your lives. She was always proud of you and loved you so so much. May you find peace in knowing the strong feelings she had for you and the many she knew. She lived a good life.
With my deepest sympathy,
What a special soul we lost today. It was an honor to know you Tilda. Condolences to you Daryl and your family. Tilda, rest in peace.
Daryl and Donna,
Thank you for your e-mail. My heart goes out to you both. May God give you strength and may the happy memories of Tilda carry you through this sorrowful time.
At 3:30 today (I wrote it down) I had a vision of calmness and a little visual of Tilda peeking thru the split rail fence at Rainbow Bridge. She was smiling and wagging her tail. I have a web-cam there in the ‘windmills of my mind’ to help deal with the loss of previous pets. I know it sounds weird, but it helps me cope and I have used it for years. When I get to thinking about my little lost loves, I “tune in to that web-cam” and I can see their faces. They are happy, and smiling then they run off to play. I hope this story gives you as much comfort as it does me.
Blessings to you both……
I am so sorry to hear about Tilda. She was truly a special dog. She (and you) have touched so many lives, including mine. I really do believe that she is in a better place and not suffering any more. I have a feeling she will still be hanging around you, so look for signs from her. I have really enjoyed her blog. It has been so much fun reading about all the lives you guys have touched and what you two have been up to. It was a pleasure and blessing knowing Tilda!
Dear Daryl and Donna,
I have to admit it seems strange writing directly to you instead of Tilda. Just wanted to let you know how very much you’ve been in my heart and on my mind these past two days. Anyone who has had the great fortune to be gifted with a dog in their lives knows too well the pain at their departure. I needed to tell you Tilda continues to touch hearts. There is no one I speak to about Tilda’s last day who doesn’t tear up at her story. My 33 year old daughter cried and said “Oh Mom! I didn’t even know her and I’m crying!”
I’m glad you have something to keep you busy – as I hope you do too, Donna. It provides a distraction from the deep pain of these first raw days. I know there will come a time when you can think of Tilda (and I speak for all of us) when your heart doesn’t feel like it’s being ripped out of your chest. But, as hard as that is, how much worse it would be if your paths had never crossed.
There are dogs, good dogs, great dogs, and those few “once in a blue moon” dogs like Tilda (and the lab, whose story was reported yesterday in the news, who lay down at his Navy Seal master’s casket during his funeral.)
I know you’ve said how honored you are to be chosen to be Tilda’s escort. But, you also need to know how VERY lucky Tilda was to have you both as her Mom and Dad. No one could have done more or loved her more. I was telling someone Tilda’s story today and they said – “Wow! If I’m ever re-incarnated, I want to be Daryl and Donna’s dog!” You both are examples of all that is good and honorable and compassionate in humankind. It’s an honor to know you both. I count myself one of the blessed and lucky ones to have you in my life.
Be kind to yourselves. Know how very much you are cared about!
The last 9 hours of Tilda’s life went from pure misery and confusion trying to figure out what was wrong about her not eating and constantly trying to get my attention for something that I didn’t understand………..to moments where I was clear of thought, determined to help her get to where she wanted to go. All of it topped off by Tilda making me so darn proud of her on how she progressed right through the final hours knowing for certain she wasn’t going to miss her connecting flight and would lift off on schedule with her family unit all united beside her and ready to help her launch. All I can say is “What a gal”.
Meggie Sue and Dad, late 1980's
As you can tell above, Tilda has developed many quality friends and the above is only a small sampling of the emails received. There were over 300 emails this week from Tilda’s Friends wishing her well on her journey. I am a most fortunate fellow and I say that so often, some must be tired of that phrase by now. Tilda chose me to escort her through her journey here on earth for the last 7 years of her life. It was a wonderful ride and I learned a great deal from Tilda about life and identifying what is important in life. I have been blessed with 3 intuitive animals in my life of which the 3rd one was Tilda. The first was a Holstein cow named Betty who lived to be 14 years old and died on March 10th, 1987…….24 years ago and I still think about her often. The 2ndintuitive animal was a dog
Betty's Son "Betty Boy" with Meggie in lower RH corner making sure I was safe - Late 1980's
named Meggie Sue who lived to be 11 years old and died on Christmas Day in 1998. Meggie was a Blue Healer/Black Lab and was a real soul mate for me….only in a much different manner than Tilda or Betty was. Meggie had so much loyalty and brightness in her character, she actually saved my life TWICE from nasty Holstein bulls that caught me in some bad situations when I was tired and being stupid. Meggie taught me that trusting and believing in your dog with the same loyalty they give you results in a bond that brings both of you through some very interesting adventures in life. I always like to think that Meggie picked Tilda for me as Tilda fit me 110% and allowed me to bond with her to accomplish whatever was at hand for us.
“Properly Trained, A Man Can Be A Dog’s Best Friend.”– Corey Ford
I promised myself early this year that I would write a book about Meggie Sue as her life was that exciting and adventurous. Meggie’s story is worthy of documentation without question. I still plan to get that done, but now I am committed to put Tilda’s record to a book as she touched the hearts of so many people and did wonderful things for hundreds rather than only me. These blogs have been mostly about Tilda and her therapy dog work. There is another whole story even more exciting about simply living life with Tilda. I am guessing now that this could be the title of Tilda’s book…….”Living Life With Tilda” and hopefully it will be an interesting read. Tilda went with me everywhere as many of you know. We logged over 106,000 miles together in that Ford F150 truck. She loved every minute of it in the back seat laying down as she would get car sick sitting up and never wanted near a window. The best part is that I LOVED IT TOO!
Combined Award presented by all 4 Boulder County Hospitals.
I am hoping there will be another dog in my life in the future, but topping Meggie Sue and Tilda will be difficult and challenging. But, as Meggie taught me, never say never as “it can happen” and I know that without a doubt. It will just take time and perseverance for a Tilda II to find me, but if I put myself out there so she can find me, it will happen. Tilda taught me to trust in that fact and I do. The lesson to learn is that a person does not go searching for a good dog. A good dog will find YOU as part of its journey and your journey together. I just picked up Tilda’s cremains in Loveland at Rainbow Bridge Pet Crematorium and while holding Tilda, I was discussing this very subject with the owner, in fact, he brought it up. If I learned anything with Tilda, it was that she picked me and I am so glad she did.
I will continue to work towards writing the rest of Tilda’s stories and incident experiences with these blogs. Now it can be done as a tribute to the memory of Tilda and as a long lasting bond with the circle of Tilda’s Friends. It is exactly as Tilda would have wanted it to be.
Thanks to everyone for all the cards, letters and emails. They are very meaningful for Donna and I at this time. Tilda’s Friends are the greatest, but then I am not surprised as she picked you too!
Until Next Time………………
Tilla and her Pillas taking a snooze - June, 2010
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Update for Tilda for August 21st, 2011
On the last day of Tilda visiting a hospital to make her working rounds, she had a most interesting incident. I want to share that with you in a moment, but first:
Tilda at a dam on the Big Thompson in Loveland
On our last visit to CSU, we asked for a follow-up blood test as it has been 2 weeks since the last one. I wanted to see if the liver enzymes (counts) had changed since the last test as we have been doing some things trying to prevent Tilda from liver failure due to the high output of chemicals from the tumors. The good news is there was NO CHANGE in the test results from the test 2 weeks prior. Previous to that earlier test, her liver values report were worsening week by week, so I was pleased to hear this last test had stabilized in that regard. I have been working steadily with others overseas (another story for another time) for the last few weeks trying to come up with ways to alter Tilda’s condition as none of the chemo drugs were working at all.
Tilda at Viestenz-Smith Park in the mountains
I am pleased to report that as of this last week, part of Tilda’s situation appears to have stabilized. While her good days may not be getting any better, her bad days are not getting any worse. The best news is there doesn’t appear to be any new tumors developing and possibly the size of the old tumors are staying the same now. This is a major step to slow down this process, but still is not a cure by any means. Until we find a way to stop the old tumors from producing all those chemical overdoses, it is pretty much a losing battle. Right now I am successful trying to balance the side effects of the overdoses with medications and herbal remedies. That appears to be working now, but the problem is there is no way to know what damage has been done internally which continues to occur when the balance between chemicals and treatments is not quite right. The goal is to attempt to “starve off” the old tumors while not allowing any new ones to grow, but not sure we have enough time left to accomplish that feat. However, I am very pleased with what we have accomplished so far as now Tilda is a bit more predictable than she has been concerning her symptoms.
On the other side is the sad news and that is Tilda is wasting away rapidly now. She eats as much as she wants of good cooked meat (carbs and/or sugars feed the tumors so don’t want to do that) many times per day and is still losing weight. The old tumors are of the size where they take all the nutrition and her body gets shorted. The reasons I have been told is that a normal cell has one or a few nutritional receptors. Tumor cells have nearly 160 receptors so in this situation, you know who wins in the fight for nutrition inside her body……and Tilda’s body shows that without a doubt. This is why I say we are running out of time and probably cannot win this battle, but we will learn a great deal along the way.
Tilda on trail just before bear appeared
I have video verification of Tilda’s endurance. About a week ago, Tilda and I went back to what we call “Tilda’s Park” which is the Viestenz-Smith park west of Loveland on Hiway 34 to continue our adventures visiting places from the past. This is Tilda’s most favorite park. Her and I were alone very early one morning (no one in the park yet at all) and were walking down a dirt road and all of a sudden a BEAR crossed the path up ahead in the shadows. I had Tilda on a leash, but she went into this explosion of protection by standing in front of my legs crossways and began barking like I have never heard her bark before. Tilda is NOT a barking dog……rarely does she ever bark, but this bear had her very concerned for my safety and hers. Now, get this picture if you can…………a very ill dog with bandages all over her head, body and legs…..still trying to protect her master and fend off a wild animal by barking like crazy (which she never does). Our good fortune was that this bear was more afraid of us then we were of him and he disappeared quickly. When I thought it was safe, I dropped Tilda’s leash, took out my camera and started to take some video of Tilda at that moment. For those of you who know Tilda, you won’t believe this video. I have uploaded it to YouTube so some of you may not be able to open it on your work computers, but you should be able to open at home. The bear crossed the path in the shadows just beyond the red sign in the video:
After I stopped the camera, I grabbed Tilda’s leash to go forward and she would not move forward. Instead, she pulled me off to the right…….through the pole fence and way around the area where the bear had crossed. That’s “Our Girl”. I am not sure if Tilda’s barking scared the bear or if it was the sight of her stamina and attitude with all those bandages on. Another great experience with Tilda!!!
Tilda’s Connection With a Special Lady on Our Way to “The Den”!
Tilda at CSU on the day we found out about her cancer
Tilda has had to stop her work at the hospitals some time ago, but early on in her disease, she was still able to do hospital visits as there were no open sores and her condition is not contagious. During her last hour of visiting on her last day of visiting, we were headed down to the lower level of a hospital to visit a group of staff people that always enjoyed Tilda’s visits. They call this room “the den” as it is so far removed from the main part of the hospital and it is a long ways to get there from the main hospital.
I wasn’t sure if Tilda could make it that far on this day as she was already weakening from her situation, but I thought we would just head in the general direction as it may be the last time Tilda could make that trip………so we headed there and Tilda made it just fine.
As we turned the final corner and walked down the narrow hallway to the den, there was an small office on the right with one lady sitting at her desk. As Tilda and I passed her office doorway, Tilda stopped and looked in at the lady with her tail wagging straight in the air. We had never stopped at this office before as it was always vacant so this lady was a total stranger to both of us. I feared that Tilda was going to tire before we got to the den so I asked her to “come Tilda” and she didn’t move………just stood there gazing at the lady with her tail wagging high in the air, her ears perked and a big panting smile on her face. I stepped backwards to the doorway and the lady was watching Tilda, but not smiling much so I apologized that we interrupted her and told the lady we would move on…………….so we did.
Tilda dining with Auntie Jane and Dad
We only spent around 5 to 6 minutes in the den with the ladies there as Tilda seemed either tired or distracted for whatever reason. She was nice to them of course, but not her normal self so we said our farewells and headed back down the hall. As soon as we stepped out of the den office, Tilda immediately pulled me down the hall with a great deal of intent and went right back to the small office with the one lady we had passed by earlier. This time Tilda marched right into the lady’s office, walked up to her, sat, stared at the lady with perked ears, I saw Tilda’s tail winding up into that high speed connection mode and then I figured out FINALLY what was going on. I looked at
the lady and said “I am so sorry, I don’t know why Tilda is wanting to be with you but she is insistent about it”. The lady then smiled and said “it’s okay, I think she is sensing something today”. That was my clue to BUTT OUT and let things be and to say NOTHING while Tilda went at what she does best. The lady rolled her chair out in front of Tilda and cuddled her head in her lap while Tilda incessantly looked up at the lady’s eyes as tears began to drop from them. As she reached for a tissue, I backed myself out of the office and leaned up against the wall by the door in order to give them
both some time to share. After a couple minutes, Tilda came walking out of the office and I grabbed her leash and thanked the lady and wished her a good day and she did the same to me. I started to walk down the hallway and Tilda was at my side for about 20 feet……when Tilda stopped, turned around and went back to the lady’s office pulling me the whole way again. As I walked into the lady’s office AGAIN, I threw up my hands to her and she said “it’s okay, she has me pegged right today”. I didn’t ask why, not my place to do that………….Tilda knew what was going on and it was my job just to let her take care of it.
In Wyoming the sky gets sooooo BIG!
Tilda and the lady visited intently for a few moments and then all of a sudden, Tilda got up, turned around with tail wagging high (which to me means “I am done and let’s get on with life……..where are we going next?).” We walked down the long hallway again and this time her mood was happy, smiling and peaceful. On the way I reached down and told Tilda “Thank you, Tilda” while patting her on the back as I knew what had just happened. She looked up a me while walking and gave me that darling smile with her eyes and face. She knew that I knew exactly what she was doing and had done.
Tilda and Donna in the good old days
Sometimes these incidents happen and I never learn why they happened. However this time, several weeks later, I was walking a new therapy dog team around that same hospital introducing them to all the people, showing them where to go, who to visit, etc. I walked the new team to the den again and on the way we met the same lady that Tilda had visited so intently. She asked about Tilda and I brought her up to date on the situation. She asked me to tell Tilda that she was praying for her and thinking about her and wished her to get well soon………….and to thank Tilda for what she had done for her that day. I explained to the new team what had happened on Tilda’s original visit with this lady and it was then that the lady shared that on the day of Tilda’s visit to her, she had just found out that a loved one was diagnosed with serious cancer and the report had just came in that morning of Tilda’s visit to her. OKAY……….now we all get the purpose and reasoning behind Tilda’s actions that day. Of course, I knew it was something like that, but Tilda is always the one to pick up on it and then trying to make it better. I think she succeeded once more and what a fitting tribute to her last day of work at a hospital. Thank you, Tilda!
Tilda and I continue our ventures to revisit all the wonderful places we cruised together when we first met over 7 years ago now. In dog years, that would be nearly 49 years ago so indeed it was a long, long time ago. We have discovered a lot of great places on our walks and short trips here and there. Slowly we are getting them all revisited again and Tilda is enjoying it immensely. Tilda doesn’t forget a favorite spot nor does she forget a favorite pastime or game we play. She always remembers all the rules, no matter how long it has been.
Short Update: We have slowed our visits to CSU as there is no progress whatsoever. We are still trying some things at home without much success and go to CSU every other week now to have her blood counts checked to see if there is any changes noticed with liver functions. Tilda is getting much weaker these days and the tumors are growing in size and in numbers. There are several hundred now…….just too many to count. Being just under the skin and sticking up as large bumps under the skin, the inflammation is significant and
Tilda with her ice cold wet towel in the cool green grass.
her skin always feels hot to the touch where the tumors are located. This causes Tilda to feel hot, but yet she has no body temperature and her rectal temp is normal all the time. What really helps her is to go for a swim in the rivers of cold mountain water so we have been doing a lot of that lately. We also figured out that soaking a large bath towel in cold water and tossing it over her back like a wet blanket really helps her settle down from panting when she gets into that mode. Anything that helps cool the skin is greatly appreciated and that will last for several hours. Tilda’s attitude is still absolutely wonderful and that welcoming smile rarely leaves her face.
"It feels so good on my legs."
Meanwhile, Tilda and I have been on a long joy ride doing a lot of fun things Tilda enjoys. One of our first stops was a short walk at Rogers Grove in Longmont. I was so surprised Tilda was able to walk as far as she did. From the parking lot by the restrooms we walked east to the main path and turned north and stopped to let her wade in the river, then we headed on west under Hover bridge and went about another block. She knows that area as Bunnyville and Squirrelville as there are always lots of Bunnies and Squirrels in that area. She was so excited. She walked very well on the way back and we took the river dirt path which she really enjoys. We then headed back to the restrooms and to the parking lot, but just before we stepped off the curb to enter the parking lot, she suddenly stopped, turned her head looking back to the park and just stared for maybe 10 seconds……….then she looked up at me, then forward to the truck. That was a goodbye stare if I ever saw one. I just told her “we’ll come back soon, Tilda, it’s a beautiful place”. I wonder if she senses something…..it was so obvious like a slap in the face. There was no one around anywhere and she wasn’t looking at anything specific….just that “last look” gaze.
Cookie Picnic made possible by my friends at Longmont Surgery Center.
On another day we made it to Golden Ponds in Longmont. Tilda and I have walked lots of miles at this park years ago. She remembered all of it. She had to stop several times to take a break and eat some cookies she got in the mail from the wonderful ladies at the Longmont Surgery Center at Longmont United Hospital complex. While she ate the cookies, I reminded her that Bonijean had sent them on behalf of all her friends in the Center and she smiled and wagged her tail as if she remembered those names and the hundreds of people in the waiting room in that Surgery Center who gave her a pet and a smile many, many times. We visited the waterfall in the park and Tilda went wading and enjoyed the cold water. Years ago, when coming back from the waterfall we used to turn towards the east and walk around the front lake. On this day, it looked to me as if Tilda was
Mr Golden, a young boy and Tilda!
getting tired so as we approached the turnoff I told Tilda we had better take the shortcut and stay on the concrete path and get back to the truck. I tugged at her leash as we went by the turnoff and she just stopped. I looked back at her and she looked at me as if to say “you’re going the wrong way”. I didn’t say anything and just tugged on the leash again and started to walk forward. She took a few steps and stopped again. This time she turned around and started walking down the old path. I asked her if she really was up to going that long way around back to the truck and her tail wagged insistently. So we went the same old way around that lake we have always gone years before and she was happy and wagging her tail the whole way back to the truck. After all that time away, she remembered the route and wanted to stick with it.
"It just doesn't get much better than this." Loveland Greenway
We made several trips to Loveland to walk the Greenway path along the river from the ball field complex on 287 heading west to Taft going under the Taft bridge and continuing west to the waterfalls on the river there. This is also one of Tilda’s favorite spots as she just stands in the water and gazes at the falls and listens to the sounds. One day, she stood in this position for over 15 minutes in the ice cold water just looking. Once in a while she will take a drink of the mountain water, then resume looking out at the waterfall again. It is nearly a one mile walk round trip and Tilda did it every time in stride. Some days she would have bandages on her legs and when we got back to the truck we would have to wipe her down, remove the bandages, disinfect the ouchies and put on new bandages again. She didn’t mind at all as it gave her more time in the shade on the cool green grass.
Donna & Tilda in the cool green grass of Laramie
I used to make the trip to Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming quite a bit years ago searching for treasurers in flea markets and antique stores. Tilda always enjoyed those trips even though it was always a long ride. It is a beautiful drive from Fort Collins on 287 to Laramie. After some shopping we’d have lunch and then drive over to Cheyenne on I-80 for more shopping. It’s a fun one-day adventure and especially fun in the summertime as it is always cooler in that country. Laramie is around 7100 feet in altitude. Tilda loves cool weather the best so always looks forward to Laramie. After some stops to review her favorite pit stop places between Fort Collins and Laramie, Tilda’s mom and I did some shopping in Laramie while Tilda waited in the air conditioning and took a nap or two. We then decided to go to the nice park downtown and see if Tilda wanted to enjoy Tilda’s Park in Laramie, Wyoming. We arrived at the park and I took her bath towel and went to the park restroom to soak the towel in ice cold water. The temperature outside was a sunny 73 degees at high noon with a slight breeze and very dry air. Tilda came out of the truck, using her carpeted ramp, and lay down
Tilda & Donna at Lincoln Highway rest stop on I-80
immediately under a large oak tree in the gorgeous and cool green grass. She spread out in the grass until she couldn’t stretch any farther. I took the water-soaked towel and covered her with it. Wow…….did she ever love that situation. Donna and I had a cup of coffee and enjoyed watching Tilda enjoying the day and the weather. We were there for some time and finally I told Tilda we had better head on down the road to Cheyenne. I removed the towel and she didn’t get up as she normally does. I tried to coax her into the truck……no dice. She made it clear she wasn’t going anywhere and that if we were so darned anxious and in a big hurry to drive on the interstate, go right ahead as she was staying right were she was enjoying the real things of life. So we waited a few more minutes and then I said “Tilda, would you like to go to McDonalds and get your very own Cheeseburger?” Finally she got up herself and went to her ramp and walked into the truck. Another observation here, before she started up the ramp she again turned around and gazed around the park. Why she did this, I don’t know, but it sure appeared to be the “parting stare” again. I told Tilda “Yes, this is a beautiful place”. She smiled at me and hopped up the ramp and laid down in the truck. We all went to McDonalds for a cheeseburger and Tilda had her very own with a couple french fries from mom.
Tilda wanted a ride on "Bigboy".
At Cheyenne, Tilda visited another favorite spot………the Union Pacific “Bigboy” park where an actual Bigboy #4004 steam engine sets in the park in front of a nice lake that has lots of tall oak trees with several acres of cool green grass. There also are a lot of Canadian and Domestice Geese thriving at this park and it is a lot of fun to watch the people feed them and take the pictures.
Tilda is really missing all her friends and fans. I can also tell she is missing her visits with total strangers. As we walked into CSU Veterinary School this morning for her scheduled appointment, I put her e-collar on so she wouldn’t be tempted to lick the bumps on her legs when not with me. The reception desk is in an open cubicle that has short swinging doors to keep the dogs out of that area while she checks them in. As we approached the lady at the desk, Tilda went charging right through the swinging doors, pulling me along briskly, and went up to the seated lady and
Tilda with her Buds Auntie Jane & Franny.
laid her head across the the lady’s lap, e-collar and all. Of course that captured a heart and was a great maneuver on Tilda’s part as it got her about 4 treats so you can bet that will be a standard routine from this point on.
Tilda wanted me to tell everyone that she really appreciates all the emails, treats, prayers and good thoughts. She loves her friends and misses you all very much.
Until Next Time………
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When Tilda and I first started visiting hospitals a couple years ago, we noticed something from the very beginning. People would look down at Tilda and SMILE. Most never raised their head to look my way or say anything to me, but would simply look at Tilda and smile while they met us in the hallway or saw us in hospital waiting rooms. After a while, doing this 4 days per week, we finally had a pattern of enjoyment between us. Everytime Tilda would see someone look at her and smile while we were walking, after they passed she would look up and give me a little smile as if to say “did you see that one, wasn’t it beautiful?” While walking so many hallways and entering into large waiting rooms of people every week, it actually became very noticeable that many, many smiles were being created by Tilda. Eventually, this wonderful response from people became a big part of my day and even if Tilda didn’t experience anything of a soul searching nature on a particular day, we still came away with a whole room full of beautiful smiles. After witnessing this day after day I can say without reservation that it was a touching feat to experience putting so many smiles on so many faces that otherwise may not have happened at all for those people on that day.
Tilda – Just hanging out.
I know Tilda very well as we spend so much time together and she knows me extremely well also. I could sense both of us searching for the smiles and when they broke across the face, it was like “mission accomplished” for the both of us. We both loved it as it made a somber day for someone into a better day with a smile. We saw this so much that I actually ordered a very small hand-held counter from the internet. Then, Tilda and I set out to count every smile that broke across someone’s face when they were directly looking at Tilda. I counted smiles every visit day for 2 months (8 weeks). The total number of smiles achieved was 4, 456 smiles in the 8 week period. That is an average of 557 per week or 139 smiles per day of visiting. That is a lot of walking, smiling and clicking. Tilda and I like to think of it this way………….Because of Tilda, 557 smiles per week were achieved that probably would not have occurred if Tilda wasn’t there at that moment on that day. Now you may be asking yourself “Okay, so what?” Dogs already know the importance of a smile. They watch us humans for that recognition and place themselves in a special mood when they see the human smile. Why is it so important for us humans to smile? Read the following information I found on the internet and think about it:
Smiling Makes Us Attractive
We are drawn to people that smile. We want to know a smiling person and figure out what is so good. Frowns, scowls and grimaces all push people away, but a smile draws everyone in.
Smiling Changes Our Mood
The next time you are feeling down, try putting on a smile. There is a good chance your mood will change for the better. Smiling can trick the body into helping you change your mood.
Smiling Is Contagious
When someone is smiling, they lighten up the room, change the moods of others, and make things happier. A smiling person brings happiness with them. Smile lots and you will draw people to you.
Smiling Relieves Stress
Stress can really show up in our faces. Smiling helps to prevent us from looking tired, worn down, and overwhelmed. When you are stressed, take time to put on a smile. The stress should be reduced and you’ll be better able to take action.
Smiling Boosts Your Immune System
Smiling helps the immune system to work better. When you smile, immune function improves possibly because you are more relaxed. Prevent the flu and colds by smiling.
Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure
When you smile, there is a measurable reduction in your blood pressure. Give it a try if you have a blood pressure monitor at home. Sit for a few minutes, take a reading. The smile for a minute and take another reading while still smiling. Do you notice a difference? Now you know why it is a well known fact that therapy dogs lower blood pressure. They put a smile on your face.
Smiling Releases Endorphins, Natural Pain Killers and Serotonin
Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. Together these three make us feel good. Smiling is a natural drug.
Smiling Lifts the Face and Makes You Look Younger
The muscles we use to smile lift the face, making a person appear younger. Don’t go for a face lift, just try smiling your way through the day. You’ll look younger and feel better.
Smiling Makes You Successful
You smile at me, I’ll smile at you!
Smiling people appear more confident, are more likely to be promoted, and more likely to be approached. Put on a smile at meetings and appointments and people will react to you differently.
Smiling Helps You Stay Positive
Try this test: Smile. Now try to think of something negative without losing the smile. It’s hard. When we smile, our body is sending the rest of us a message that “Life is Good!” Stay away from depression, stress and worry by smiling.
A care-giving facility like a hospital can be a stressful place for people to be. Even the employees and staff deal with lots of emotions simply to get through their day. Family members wait with concern, some with sadness and grief. Visitors for patients and for family members are sometimes anxious and a bit on edge because of the situations surrounding their loved ones, their neighbor or their friend. I am the most honored person to experience Tilda bringing about 557 smiles per week inside this type of environment. Of course there always were situations when the frown persisted with an individual but that frown was followed again by 40 more smiles for Tilda. The best fun of it all was seeing Tilda smile back as I knew then that she was enjoying the venture also. Watching that exchange made me smile so everyone wins!
Until Next time……………..
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Tilda had her CSU appointment on Tuesday, July 19, and the news was once more disappointing but everyone is trying their best. The Vinblastine chemo showed no response as Tilda’s condition continues to advance rapidly. They have no options left although we will keep trying some things with the goal of making life a bit better for future doggies if there is such a thing with this affliction. CSU has stopped the Vinblastine and on Wednesday, July 20, we started a new experimental drug called “Masitinib”. Tilda is getting significantly weaker now so with the hot weather going on, we try to limit her activity to no more than what she is comfortable with.
Her walks are very short, but she still really enjoys them. It is one of those situations where the idea of walking still perks her eyes and ears, yet actually doing it is a different situation. Her physical appearance is changing fast now because of all the issues, but her attitude is still the greatest and she is by my side constantly…….even right now as I write this update. Several of the tumor bumps on top of her head erupted on a Saturday night and Tilda and I spent a very long night trying to deal with that situation. We finally got things under control and then transported her to CSU on Sunday morning, July 17th at 5am. They shaved the top of her head and attended to the injury and she is fine with it. I customized a funnel bonnet for her with padding inside to protect her from any further damage. She wore one of those years ago when she had a kidney stone operation so she didn’t mind the head cone at all.
Tilda & Her Very Own French Fries
On the positive side, Tilda has been enjoying lots of fun things with family. Everyday Tilda and I do something together that is special. Last Sunday, we stopped at McDonald’s and got Tilda her very own cheeseburger. On Monday, we shared an ice cream cone……I ate the ice cream (it is too cold for her tummy) and Tilda ate the cone. On Tuesday Tilda had her very own broiled chicken breast from A & W. Wow! She really liked that idea. Dad took the bones out and Tilda gratefully ate the rest and didn’t feel guilty about not sharing a bit of it. On Wednesday, we stopped by Wendy’s and Tilda received her very own order of french fries. She was so excited and the look in her eye was something like “where has this been?”. Her favorite comfort spot is anywhere there is “cool green grass” under a shade tree. So each day we seek out a comfort spot where she can stretch out in the grass and nibble on the goodies of the day.
Today (Thurday), we are heading for Longmont to see if we can find some delicacy there. A couple of Tilda’s Friends suggested a “Spoonbender” from Good Times so maybe we will try that one today……….sounds fun! Tomorrow, we will head for Loveland to a favorite spot by the lake where she can stand in water and then put in some time under the shade trees while watching other people. We try to do these things early in the morning so she can get her rest at home the remainder of the day.
Tilda at Veterans Park in Loveland Enjoying the Shade
Her “bump count” continues to escalate daily. I am only counting now for the record book as the hope for a cure has gone past the point of any return. On Wednesday evening, July 20th, I counted 274 tumor bumps all over her body. The medications are really helping, however, and seems to keep her in comfort and of good spirits most of the time. It is only when she really wants to do something and finds she can’t that she gets frustrated. But so far, that doesn’t last very long with Tilda.
Tilda wanted me to thank everyone for all their emails, cards, letters, e-cards, wonderful doggy cookies and phone calls. I have read them all to Tilda and she looks at me with that smile on her face so know she understands. We are all so fortunate to have come across such wonderful people that are now good friends. Tilda’s Friends are simply the greatest and they all have one thing in common…….their love for animals and their compassion and love for the comfort of others. In a sometimes troubling world these days, it is very peaceful to witness the personal values of Tilda’s Friends. Thanks to all of you!
Until Next Time……………….
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Last Monday, July 11th, Tilda and I reported to the CSU facility for her normal weekly examination and blood test. Tilda was doing great previously until late Sunday afternoon, July 10th, through the night and early morning, July 11th. Something was changing for Tilda as she was acting disoriented and lethargic. When asked if she wanted to go outside, she acted like she didn’t know where the door was and kept looking around for it. Sunday night she had a miserable night with heavy and fast breathing acting as if she were toxic or very stressed. I was glad the weekly appointment was the next day so I could talk with the new doctor.
Upon arrival at CSU, they took Tilda to a back room for examination. Within 10 minutes they brought her out again, gave me a exit certificate stating the Clinical Trial for using “Palladia” drug had been canceled. The doctor thanked us for participating and said our original Oncology doctor would be out to see us shortly. I stood there in shock……absolute shock! Dr. Rachel Venable, our original cancer doctor came out within a few minutes and took us back to a small conference room. On the way to the room I asked “What just happened here, I am confused, to say the least?” The doctor explained that the Clinical Trials Tilda was in had been canceled as the Palladia drug was failing which was allowing the Mast Cell cancer to progress. I asked the doctor “now what?”. She said we could work together to design a maintenance program to keep Tilda comfortable and do the best we can.
Happy Tilda Doing the Best She Can
I then asked the doctor about Tilda’s mid-section which appeared to be swelling or getting larger. She asked when I first noticed that problem and I told her about a week ago. She said for us to just wait until they get the blood test results back from today and then she would call me that evening. She called around 5pm and she stated the the red and white blood cell counts looked okay, but the counts for the liver had gone “ballistic” and were way out of the normal levels. She said “I think Tilda is having some troubles with her liver and she may be toxic and explains why she is disoriented sometimes. She went on to say “Liver blood counts like these are seen just before the liver shuts down completely”. She said that she needed to see Tilda the next day as early as possible to start some test work as the liver may be enlarging or abscessed. We made an appointment for 9:30 am the following day, July 12th. I ask doctor if I should continue the Palladia as I just received a new prescription and she replied “stop the Palladia immediately”. “Do not give any more Palladia to Tilda”. I thought to myself “uh oh”. Before I got off the phone, I asked the doctor why her blood work was clear the Monday before and she was puzzled also. The week before a Clinical Trial doctor had given me the report that her blood was normal and the tumors had stayed the same or shrank some. I was positive the tumors were not under control at all as the numbers and sizes of new tumors continue out of control. I expected to see this same doctor this week, but I was told she had been rotated out of the Trial and was working elsewhere. There are lots more details to this which I will hold for another time.
Tilda Helping at the Therapy Dog Class by being a Good Dog
On Tuesday, Dr. Veneble worked on Tilda with another scan of her liver and organs. Upon a complete examination, she reported the good news that Tilda’s liver was not any larger than it was 3 weeks previous………which is good news. So she is suspecting some liver damage which is causing the abnormal blood test. She is putting Tilda on some special enzyme therapy to help repair the liver and after a tremendous amount of discussions of pro’s and con’s to all sorts of ideas, we decided to go for the “Vinblastine” Chemo therapy treatment which is an intravenous liquid treatment once per week for 4 weeks, then very 2 weeks for 4 more times. Vinblastine has liver healing properties and is about the only method that doesn’t carry with it some liver side effects. Tilda is too far advanced to stop the disease progression, but it may make her a bit more comfortable during this time.
Posted inTilda's Illness|Comments Off on CSU Canceled Tilda’s Clinical Trial
On Tuesday, July 5th, Tilda received her weekly examination under the schedules set up for her participation in the CSU Clinical Trials. My personal observations this last week is that Tilda is doing very well overall except some days she has trouble with higher body temperatures and fast breathing (panting) on the days she receives the Prednisone medication. She seems to struggle a bit on those days, but the doctors assure me it is normal and that we should not consider lowering the dose of Prednisone at this time. The Prednisone is an important part of this overall treatment even though it appears to be the most aggressive part of the treatment.
CSU has rotated its Residency Vets again so Tilda now has a new doctor by the name of Dr. Kelly Carlsten, DVM. Dr. Carlsten examined Tilda on Tuesday and reported to me that of the original bumps that were recorded for size and shape, most all of them have not grown any larger and some of them have shrunk in size. This is good news according to Dr. Carlsten. What I see on Tilda is lots of new bumps since those original bumps were measured and recorded and they are growing in size at a rapid rate but not part of the tracking process for this Clinical Trial. I am not sure if one scenario has anything to do with the other so for now we just keep a close eye on things. Dr. Carlsten had no comment on the newer bumps as this was her first exam of Tilda and has no reference. Only the bumps located and identified are being tracked (documented) for this study. Dr. Carlsten told me they took a blood sample again from Tilda and she would call me later in the day with the findings of that report.
Tilda's Posing with Cathy
Around 7 pm on the same day, Dr. Carlsten did call and apologized for calling so late and said she had great news as to why the late call. Tilda’s bloodwork was NORMAL for the first time since Tilda has been going to CSU. No abnormalities were found in her bloodwork. Dr. Carlsten said this was some astonishing news for a dog in Tilda’s condition and no one quite understands this yet. She said the call was so late as they did a retest to make sure the test was accurate and did some tracking to make sure it was indeed Tilda’s sample of blood. She said everything checked out and they are sure that Tilda’s bloodwork is normal again for whatever reason. She also stated that this is great news and no normally what they would expect to see at this stage of Tilda’s conditions. Dr. Carlsten said that next week’s exam will give us a better view if this is a trend or a fluke so for now, don’t change anything.
I told Dr. Carlsten that Tilda’s attitude and demeanor has been excellent except for when she is given the prednisone and we are dealing with that through frequent cold water baths of the garden hose outdoors and then back inside the house to be pampered with more Air Conditioning to keep her cool. She said that is excellent and keep making that effort. She commented that whatever we are doing appears to be a step in the right direction.
The brief hospital staff visits we did last Thursday and Friday really helped give Tilda some spunk again. She really enjoyed and it seemed to put that smile back on her face again. In addition, I know lots of Tilda’s friends have been sending their hopeful thoughts and prayers to Tilda and I have read her every one of the emails, cards and letters she has received. Somehow I suspect she knows there are a lot of people pulling for her and if she had her way, she would rather just get back to work. But for now, we’ll keep her calm, cool and enjoying life as best she can. Thanks again for what all of Tilda’s Friends are doing.
Posted inTilda's Illness|Comments Off on Weekly Update Report on Tilda’s Condition
Tilda is Assigned a Treatment Within CSU Clinical Trials.
Tilda Loves Green Grass
On Monday, June 27th, Tilda was randomly assigned to the “Palladia Treatment System” within the CSU Clinical Trials for Canine Mast Cell Tumor Cancer. The Palladia treatment is not Chemotherapy, but rather a strong drug given by pill every other day.
Tilda has also been assigned a new Doctor at CSU for the Clinical Trials. Her name is Dr. Kristen Weishaar and she works with Dr. Doug Thamm who is the Principle Investigator for the CSU Clinical Trials program.
It was confirmed that Tilda does indeed have a Grade 3 Mast Cell Tumor invasion (very aggressive) and the stage of the cancer is Stage 3 (shows progressively greater signs of invasion with multiple tumors, etc.). The likelyhood of turning this invasion around is not a good scenario, but we already knew that and why Tilda is in the Clinical Trials. The good news is she can offer her assistance in testing a new drug that may or may not be a tremendous influence on this disease. She is fortunate to be testing this for safety, side effects and effectiveness against the disease.
What are Mast Cell Tumors?
Colorado Rivers, Green Grass & Tilda
Mast Cell Tumors are cancerous proliferations of mast cells. Although they can and will spread throughout the body, the danger from mast cell tumors arises from the secondary damage caused by the release of chemicals they produce. These chemicals can cause systemic problems that include gastric ulcers, internal bleeding, and a range of allergic manifestations. Clearly, mast cell tumors are referred to as “the great imposters” as there is no way to definitely identify them without a biopsy and pathology report. Mast cell tumors vary widely in their size, shape, appearance, texture, and location. It can be difficult not only to recognize mast cell tumors, but to predict their course. They may be relatively innocent or aggressively malignant. As mast cell tumors are very common in dogs, it is important for the regular pet owner to have at least a basic understanding of what they are and how they work.
Mast cells are specialized cells that normally are found distributed throughout the body and help an animal respond to inflammation and allergies. Mast cells can release several biologically active chemicals when stimulated, among them histamine, heparin, seratonin, prostaglandins and proteolytic enzymes. Although these chemicals are vital to normal bodily function, especially immune response, they can be very damaging to the body when released in chronic excess.
Following are the CSU instructions given to us for Tilda to follow:
Clinical Trials: Instructions for Palladia Administration
Palladia is a new drug approved for the treatment of mast cell tumors in dogs. Evidence suggests that it may also have activity against other tumor types, and studies are ongoing to evaluate this activity. Palladia works by blocking a variety of receptors (viagra, PDGFR, VEGFR, Flt3) on the surface of the tumor cells and blood vessel cells. These receptors signal into the cell and Palladia blocks their ability to signal. In the case of mast cell tumors, the tumor cells often rely upon Kit for survival. In the case of new blood vessels, they often rely upon PDFGR and VEGFR for survival. In this way, Palladia can act as both
Tilda Visits Fran, Jane & Bridgette
an anti-tumor and anti-angiogenic (blood vessel) drug, working to possibly kill the tumor cells and prevent the growth of new blood vessels into the tumor. Palladia is not a true chemotherapy agent, but because it has the ability to block blood vessel growth, women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should not handle the drug.
While Palladia is often well tolerated by dogs, it can cause a number of clinical side effects. Most of these are very easy to treat if caught early. In general, all dogs that receive Palladia will likely have some side effects at some point that are usually transient in nature and readily treatable. In fact, many dogs will stay on Palladia for 6 months or longer with an excellent quality of life. However, it is very important that the dog is monitored closely for any of the signs listed below:
Blood in the stool
Nearly all of these side effects can be treated with either a dose reduction, the addition of other medications, or both. I you cannot immediately reach a clinician at CSU and you are not sure whether you should give the next dose of Palladia because of side effects, just skip the dose until you are able to speak with someone.
We look forward to working with you during your dog’s Palladia treatment. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions at all as we want your dog’s experience on Palladia to be a good one.
Dr. Kristen Weisharr
So Far, So Good!
Tilda has been on the Palladia treatment program for one week now and there have been no side effects noticed from the Palladia. She is given the Palladia pills every other day with Prednisone on the alternate days. The Prednisone days seem to be the most difficult days for her and maybe that will have to be adjusted by CSU doctors. We go back for a checkup exam on Tuesday, July 5th. Her total number of bumps on her skin now number 104 in total count.
Tilda has had a marked improvement of her life quality over the past week. She is doing
Tilda and Bonijean Spending Time
very well and looking great. She has been so spunky and ready to go somewhere to visit that I asked the program leads at the hospitals if it would be okay to visit staff and some of Tilda’s favorite people. We received that approval so on Wednesday, June 29th, Tilda visited Longmont United Hospital for about 2 hours with lots of rest periods in between. Friday we did some visiting at Boulder Community Hospital, then went on the Avista Hospital and Exempla Hospital for a couple visits each. As long as she could rest a bit now and then, she did great. Tilda actually tried to have a “soul seaching” event with a staff member at one of the hospitals on Friday and made several attempts to reach this person for whatever reason. It was quite a dramatic event and it was great fun to feel her energy again. This visit was so pointed with Tilda’s extreme concentration that after we left that staff member and went down the hall about 40 feet, Tilda turned around and pulled me back into the office of that staff member again (which was not easy to find, but she went directly to it). There she took her stance once more trying to connect with a person she had never met before this day. All I can say is that it’s an amazing experience to witness this part of Tilda and I am so thankful that she is still able to give it a try. I will tell the whole story another time.
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Findings Report for Tilda from CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital
by Dr Rachel Venable
June 20, 2011
Tilda was presented to CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital for a complaint of a previously diagnosed mast cell tumor on her head and approximately 53 other masses all over her body. Upon physical exam, 54 masses were noted, including a rather larger fluid filled mass in the right axilla and another firmer mass in the left caudal mammary chain. No lymph nodes were palpably enlarged.
Tilda & Daryl
Various diagnostics were discussed to further stage the masses and Mast Cell Tumor diagnosis. These included: thoracic radiographs to check for metastasis to lymph nodes, abdominal untrasound to see possible visceral organ involvement, blood work (CBC and Chemistry), and Fine Needle Aspirate of 2-3 masses to further confirm diagnosis of the other masses as Mast Cell Tumor. No abnormalities were seen on thoracic radiographs. Abdominal ultrasound showed an enlarged liver which could be due to steroid hepatopathy (which can be seen in older dogs) or infiltration of mast cells. The ultrasound also showed some hypoechoic nodules in the spleen. Because of these findings, the liver and spleen were aspirated to check for mast cell infiltration. Both of these aspirates showed mast cells and confirmed that the tumor has spread to both the liver and spleen. Abdominal ultrasound also showed stones in the urinary bladder. A urinalysis was performed via cystocentesis and showed increased bacteria. Because of this finding, a culture of the urine was done. Tilda’s blood work was normal except for mild anemia. FNA’s of a few of the masses on her skin were positive for Mast Cell Tumors. An aspirate was taken of the mass in the left caudal mammary chain and was inconclusive for a definitive mast cell tumor. However, this is the most likely diagnosis.
Based on the findings of today’s diagnostics (multiple, generalized mast cell tumors with abdominal visceral involvement), Tilda is a Stage 3. As discussed, this is a poor prognosis. Various treatment options were reviewed, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and a clinical trial study. Due to Tilda’s abdominal visceral involvement and multiple mast cell tumors, surgery and radiation therapy are not plausible options. We recommend that
Tilda & Her Therapy Dog Friend Stella
Tilda be involved in the Clinical Trial Study. This involves taking a biopsy of a few of the mast cell tumors, looking at the physiological properties of the tumors, and then randomly assigning a chemotheraputic agent (Vinblastine or Palladia) based on the previous physiologic findings. The biopsy was performed today, and once the results are received, we will assign a chemotheraputic agent for Tilda. We will call you with those results as soon as possible and inform you of the therapeutic plan for Tilda.
Until you hear from us, please administer the drugs dispensed according to the directions. It was an absolute pleasure working with Tilda. She is one of the sweetest and kindest dogs I have met. I appreciate you entrusting her in our care!
Posted inTilda's Illness|Comments Off on The Final Prognosis From Tilda’s Doctor At CSU
Originally written June 20th, 2011: I asked dad if he would sit for a while and write to my friends as so many of them have written wanting to know how things went today on my checkup visit with the Oncology Dept at Colorado State University. First of all, I am the most lucky dog in the entire world as I have so many friends sending their thoughts and prayers. Thanks to every one of you for trying so hard to help me. It is really appreciated!
Tilda at the Doctor's Office
My appointment today was for 9:30am and mom went along with dad and I today so that was a lot of fun. They took samples of my bumps, counted my bumps and they agreed with dad’s count on Saturday night of 54 bumps (tumors) all over my body. They also shaved my belly and did an ultrascan of all my organs. Dad told them I probably wouldn’t need any anesthetic if they just would let me know what they wanted to do. They following that advice and said I was the perfect patient with only mild sedation, no anesthetic. They said I was the easiest dog to handle they had ever seen. Well, nothing tough about this……..they were very good to me and spoke to me nicely and I can follow right along when people do that with me. They also took blood samples, liver samples, and several other samples such as urine and of course the tumor tissue samples.
The doctor lady called mom and dad back together around 4pm after all the work was completed. They offered to show dad the ultrasound photos on the computer so he studied them with the doctor. In a nutshell, here is what they found today:
1. All the bumps they sampled were indeed Mast Cell Tumors. All 54 bumps look the same although they did not sample them all as that would aggravate the situation and not really help matters.
2. The lungs are clear, the heart looks good……….but the spleen has tumors which look to be Mast Cell tumors and the liver is oversized and irregular shaped with many cystic spots that appear to be Mast Cell Tumors also. They sample one of those cysts on the liver and it was Mast Cell Tumor cells.
3. As if I don’t have enough problems, my kidney stones are back again. Good grief! I sure hope one of the big ones don’t try to escape as that is what happened to me 7 years ago right after I adopted mom and dad. I spent several days in the hospital over that episode. Oh well, the stones are the least of my problems at the moment.
Bad News Summary: This is the Mast Cell Tumor complex disease of the worst kind.
I guess I'll get used to it!
This doesn’t make me happy for sure, but at least we all know now what we are dealing with. They are not going to remove the tumors as that would be a redundant exercise at this point and impossible with 54 of them as they need to take a good amount around each tumor and I wouldn’t have any body left, plus more would just take their place anyway. They can do Chemo treatments in an attempt to have a bit better quality of life and many add a couple months. This situation is very terminal and it could be weeks or it might be months before it finally wins. No one knows that for sure. Dad and mom don’t like this much at all, but they were prepared for that outcome.
Good News Summary: The nice folks at CSU were so impressed how calm and cooperative I was, they offered me an opportunity to possibly do some good ONE MORE TIME. I have been helping people for a long time now……hundreds of people. CSU said they would like me to participate in a trial program of a new drug for dogs that was especially made for this disease. Dad asked me what I thought and I let him know pronto that this is what I want to do. If I can help some doggies live a few months longer so they can help their people just a bit more, then I have fulfilled my goals and aspirations of making this world just a bit better for people with the help of their good doggies. Watching people with their dogs in the waiting room today tells the whole story. Peoples lives are built entirely around their beloved doggies and it is the most wonderful thing to witness. I want to help make that even better if I can.
My Therapy Dog friends, Jake & Tillie
Next: Dad takes me back to CSU tomorrow so they can enroll me in a special program that is closely monitored and administered. They say I have the perfect setup to be involved in this clinical program. I am glad they think something about me is perfect as to me nothing is going right at the moment except for this clinical program. Maybe I can do some good before this has to end, at least it is worth a try. The program I will be on is not a cure……there is no cure for this disease. However, it is possible that it will greatly increase the life expectancy or if not, the quality of whatever remains. I am honored to take part in this trial and look forward to it. So tomorrow it is a bunch more tests, proding and poking, measuring, photographing, x-rays…………….all in order to create my benchmark before starting this task. Then, treatment begins and they say that part won’t be too drastic at all.
Now About Your Thoughts & Prayers: Thank you all from the bottom of my heart (which is still in great shape by the way) for all the thoughts and prayers you extended. I could feel them all and you know what? THEY WORKED!!! No, they weren’t meant to be any miracle for me, but they might just work some miracles for some other dogs in the future. Isn’t this just the best thing that could come out of this situation? Thank all of you for what you have done!
Dad said we were going to take one day at a time here for a couple weeks and see how all this works through. The really good news is that I felt GREAT today and my right leg swelling is gone again (that is a Mast Cell Tumor inside the leg muscle by the way) so I can walk on all 4 legs today………my attitude was great as I got to see a lot of people today and YES, I had to go around the waiting room and meet all the people and their doggies. My tail was wagging high today and my head was held high with a smile on my face. Meeting lots of people and getting them to smile at me just makes my day. Dad said we have lots of good days yet to spend some great times together. He promised we would go to Tilda’s Park in the mountains and to Tilda’s Lake. He said on a good day we could walk and meet people in Estes Park which is about my favorite thing to do. AND, hopefully when I am feeling good with everything healed up for a bit, maybe I can come see some of my good friends at the hospitals.
Posted inTilda's Illness|Comments Off on Tilda Reports On Her CSU Oncology Appointment
Since May 15th, Tilda has been displaying some puzzling physical symptoms. First, her left front leg swelled, then swelling went down within a couple days. A few days after that, the right front leg swelled so much that she couldn’t walk but on 3 legs. I took her to the Veterinarian and he was puzzled also as he could find no Bee/Wasp sting or any spider bites. Then next day, May 27th was the day of her photography portrait for the “Once In A Blue Moon” award which was taken at the base of the Flatirons in Boulder, CO. I had built a ramp with carpeting so I knew she could get in and out of the pickup truck without problems, but her leg was swollen so bad she had to hop to the photograph site which was about 100 feet away from the truck.
Tilda & Daryl
I lifted her up on the rock, sat down beside her and put her into a sit and then put my arm around her to lean her against me so she would not have to put any weight on the right leg. It worked and the super professional photographer, Donn Bruns, got the photo perfectly even though he had to nearly stand on his head while snapping his fingers to get Tilda to perk her ears. She was a real trooper that day and hopped all the way back to the truck and again hopped up the ramp into the truck and laid down in her bed.
When I lifted Tilda up that day to put her on the rock for the photo, I noticed what I thought was some extra swelling inside her leg up by the chest. Later, that swelling increased to the size of a baseball hanging off her side and chest. I took her back to the Vet again, not a clue. The next morning the swelling decreased again and was totally gone within 24 hours. This time there was a bump on the lower part of her leg after the swelling disappeared. How strange? I thought at the time it must have been an insect sting.
Mixed up in these events was some minor surgery done by the Vet to remove a small wart on top of her head as when she visited people in hospitals, they would constantly rub on the wart while petting her and sometimes it would get sore. The wart was removed on June 6th. When I arrived at the Vet’s office to pick up Tilda, the Vet said he found a bump on the back of her head that looked suspicious to him so he biopsied it for further testing. The lump/bump was about the size of a small marble. I never knew it was there and it was just a few days earlier that I had given her a bath and washed that area of her head. There was no bump there at that time.
In a couple more days, around June 9th, I was feeding Tilda and noticed more bumps sticking up on her right shoulder. Those were absolutely not there a couple days prior. I then asked Tilda to sit, lay down and roll over so I could examine her which she was very willing for me to do. I found lots of bumps on her skin which were not there when I last gave her a bath. Later that day, she came to me at my office desk and immediately
Bum Leg Tilda
vomited without warning. Very Strange! That same day the Vet called and said the lab results came back on the biopsy he took from the bump behind the head. He said it tested POSITIVE for a Mast Cell Tumor and that I should immediately make an appointment with Colorado State University. They are renowned to be the best in the US for matters like this. I called CSU and got an appointment for June 20th at 9:30. I felt lucky I could get in to the oncology unit that quick. So now all we have to do is wait and then get to the appointment, so I thought.
On Saturday night, June 11th, she scratched one of the larger bumps off her shoulder during the night, or attempted to do that anyway. She came and woke me up from a deep sleep and I could tell by the look on her face something was wrong. I turned on the light and there was a lot of blood on her right side. The wound was still bleeding so I attended to her, cleaned her up and laid with her for a while until she fell asleep. The next morning when the sun came up, I called and made an appointment with the Emergency Pet Clinic at CSU as the wound looked nasty. They got us right in to take a look at her and quickly attend to the wound. We weren’t there for major exams and testing, that would be done on June 20th. As we walked into the facility, there was a large waiting room with 15 people or so, all with emergencies. I was headed for the front desk check-in clerk when Tilda yanked me off to the left and she started visiting with people in the waiting room going right down the row as if she was working at the hospital waiting rooms which she does so well. She visited with each and every person there, then we went to the check-in clerk to let them know Tilda had arrived. We the went to a quiet place in the waiting room, Tilda looked at me strangely and vomited on the floor right in front of me. Oh My! This was not normal and most concerning. One of the attendants brought some towels and we cleaned it all up and Tilda had her ears down as if to say “I’m sorry”.
Finally the Vets and assistants came and they examined Tilda in one of the exam rooms with me present. The Vet said clearly that the bumps indeed appear to be Mast Cell Tumors, but for today, the immediate task is to clean up her wound. He said the reason she scratched the bump is that they secret a toxin that itches like crazy, plus they secret chemicals that make her sick to her stomach. Yup, I can certainly agree with that diagnosis. So he stated that his goal this day was to fix her wound, then put a T-shirt on her to keep her from tearing open any more of her bumps. He also prescribed some meds to help with the upset stomach and to help with the itching hopefully.
I asked him what the next step was after today and he simply stated to come back on the 20th for the analysis with the oncology dept. They will do an MRI and other tests to determine the “stage” or the “grade” of advancement of the Mast Cell Tumor activity. Grade #1 is curable by 90% most times. Grade #2 has a curable rate of around 55%. Grade #3 is terminal and only a couple percent survive it as with this grade, it is usually found in the spleen, liver and bone marrow.
In order for me to pay attention to Tilda’s condition, I have been counting the bumps on her skin each evening. She seems to be very fond of the attention and lays very still through it all with her eyes wide open. She knows that I know and nothing more needs to be said about it. On Monday night, June 13, there were 32 bumps on her body. On Tuesday night, June 14, there were 39 bumps on her body. On Wednesday night, June 15, there were 45 bumps on her body and on June 16 there were 53 bumps on her body. These hard bumps ranges in size from the size of an eraser on a wood pencil to a small marble. All are very hard and almost cylindrical in shape. She has a very large one right on her left ear, one on each cheek of her face, many on her neck and legs, just about everywhere except on her tummy. However, on June 17th, she is limping on her right leg again. If this follows the same pattern as previous, her right leg will be swollen tomorrow. I have read on the internet that these Mast Cell Tumor and invade the Lymph Nodes. If that is the case, it may be an explanation of the leg swelling. I am thinking now all of this is connected to the Mast Cell Tumors including the vomiting, the horrible scratching and the leg swelling.
The good news is the vomiting has stopped so the pills seem to be working. She does still
K9's Against Cancer
try to scratch at the Tumors, but the T-Shirt is protecting the bumps pretty well. I took her in for a bath on June 14th and she loved that so much and got to visit with a lot of her friends at the dog wash. We also went visiting some other folks in public places and she was very sweet and loving. The morning after those visits, she strutted like you wouldn’t believe as if to say “Yes, I am back to work again doing what I love
best”. That visiting seemed to lift her attitude more than anything and she came back to her old self again. She has been full of good spirit and even did her daily bark to let me know the UPS man had arrived. She hasn’t done that for over a week, but for this day she is back for another try. That event brought tears to my eyes as she ran out to greet the delivery man to beg for her treat and then turned right around and sat up straight at the steps of his truck begging another treat from him while wearing her floppy T-shirt.
These are tough times for all of us that care about Tilda. None of us live forever and Tilda is already 13 years old. But, she loves her work of visiting people so much and even doing it 4 days per week didn’t phase her zest for it one bit. Hopefully, with all our hopes, good thoughts and prayers, Tilda can battle her way through this tragedy and get back to work very soon. She can always find people that need her attention. About all I can say is we are sure going to give it our best. We won’t know anything more from the Vets until after the appointment on June 20th so give a shoutout for Tilda in the most positive way you can. I will keep Tilda’s Friends updated as new information comes available.
I am so excited to tell this story. It has the makings of the most wonderful Tilda Dog Blog ever. On June 3rd, 2011, the Volunteer Services Directors, Coordinators and therapy dog program leaders from four Boulder County hospitals gathered in a private room in a Longmont cafe for a recognition celebration honoring Jan Fincher and her dog Katie plus Daryl Holle and his dog Tilda. The hospitals represented were Avista Hospital in Louisville, Boulder Community Hospital in Boulder, Exempla Good Sam Medical Center in Lafayette and Longmont United Hospital in Longmont.
Tilda and Daryl
The purpose of the gathering was held very confidential. Tilda and I knew something was going on as we were asked to show up at Chautauqua Park in Boulder to meet a portrait photographer in front of the Boulder Flatirons for a picture taking session. We also received an invitation in the mail from Julie Adams, the Volunteer Director of Exempla Hospital, to show up at the cafe at 3 p.m. on June 3rd. I questioned everyone in the Volunteer Office at each hospital as to what was going on and all I could get in response was “none of your business right now” or “you’ll have to wait and see” and many times absolute quiet followed my question. Tilda even tried her best to break the silence by sitting up straight in front of the organizers and begging for an answer (and maybe a treat if she was lucky). Nothing, no comments, absolute secret that was well kept. If I ever needed to tell someone a secret, I know first hand it would be safe with these people.
At the celebration, Pat Dimond, who is the Volunteer Director of Boulder Community Hospital and also now President of the Colorado Association of Healthcare Auxilians/Volunteers, stood up and talked about something she called “Once in a Blue Moon Award”. The following wonderful story was written and told by Pat:
The origin of the elusive “Once in a Blue Moon” awardby Pat Dimond
Back in September 2000 an older gentleman came into the Boulder Community Hospital Volunteer Services Office. He sat in a chair and said he would like to volunteer. He said he would do anything that needed done. Then he started to softly cry. His wife had just died and he knew he needed a reason to get out of the house. He was 88 years old and lived with his son and daughter-in-law. He didn’t want to be a burden and needed to be productive.
He became our “dispatch” mail service volunteer. He volunteered Monday through Friday – rain or shine. The only thing that would keep him from coming to volunteer was 1) an ice storm, 2) a trip to visit his other son in North Carolina or 3) a scheduled gambling expedition to Black Hawk. Once, when his daughter-in-law was recuperating from surgery and his son suggested he stay in North Carolina for a bit longer, he called, arranged and paid for a temporary room at an assisted living facility because the people at the hospital “need me”.
He was a man of routine – he would come in every morning promptly at 8 a.m. – go to the cafeteria and have his breakfast – oatmeal or cream of wheat and toast. Then he would pick up his mail cart and do a “round” visiting all the departments throughout the hospital. This would take him until 9:30 a.m. when it was time for his break. He would head back to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee. 15 minutes later he was ready for his second round. Lunch was at noon. Lunch was 30 minutes – no shorter – no longer length of time. He always had an entourage surrounding him. After lunch he would come to our office or another one to help with mailings or other projects. At 3 p.m. he’d put on his coat and tip his hat and say “Goodbye ladies. See you tomorrow!”
He knew everybody at our Broadway campus by name. He knew who was a new employee, who was retiring; who was on vacation (and where); who was sick; who was getting married, having a new baby or grandchild… He knew because he truly cared about every person he met. And everyone loved him in return. He was everyone’s father or grandfather.
In 2008 he suffered a stroke. Even though he was a Kaiser patient he got special permission to stay at BCH because we were his family. When he was transferred to the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, he called down to our office – he was bored. We would take work up to him. The therapists even retrieved his mail cart to help him gain his strength and practice walking – much more effective than a walker!
2009 saw several more strokes. It got harder and harder for him. Then, on New Year’s Eve, 2009, he left us – on the night of a blue moon. We mentioned at the time how appropriate it was for him to take his leave that night because a person as rare and special as he was only comes along once in a blue moon.
We held a memorial for him at the hospital for the employees who wouldn’t be able to attend his funeral. One of the staff members suggested that a special award be named for him – the “Once in a Blue Moon” award.
We think it’s very appropriate that all four hospitals in Boulder County came together to honor two rare and special volunteers, Jan and Daryl and their four legged partners with this award. [End]
What a terrific and humbling honor this has been to receive this Blue Moon award:
Once In A Blue Moon Award for Daryl & Tilda
In case you are wondering what a “Blue Moon” is and how often it occurs, here is a clipping of a newspaper article written in December 2009 just before the passing of Pat Dimond’s referenced Volunteer:
“THERE will be a blue moon on Thursday as New Year’s Eve revelers welcome in 2010 – the first time since 1990 that a blue moon has coincided with the end of the year.
A blue moon – the second full moon in a calendar month – happens only every 2½ years on average. This month, full moons occur on December 2 and December 31.
Astronomer David Reneke from Australasian Science magazine said it was rare for the event to happen on New Year’s Eve – another blue moon will not fall on the last day of the year until 2028.”
The next Blue Moon will be August 31st, 2012, with the first full moon for that month arriving on August 2nd, 2012. So indeed it is a bit over 2.5 years in between Blue Moons.
Jan & Daryl
Jan Fincher and myself are both very dedicated to the operations and promotions of the therapy dog programs at all four hospitals. We both enjoy our work very much. One day, over a cup of coffee at Starbucks, Jan and I brainstormed an idea to start a website uniting all four hospital therapy dog programs that would explain the details of each program and allow a place for people wanting to enroll themselves and their dogs to sign up and be put on a waiting list for a future class. I told Jan that I could do the website work if she would write the words and like magic the work began immediately. We worked diligently with these four hospitals for approvals, procedures, applications and implementing their ideas and suggestions. It was a tremendous joint undertaking by everyone. Hence, http://www.therapydogsbouldercounty.com was born and it has really brought together the wonderful talents of all the hospitals and their Volunteer staff.
The honoree Jan Fincher is well known as a therapy dog classroom instructor. She develops the curriculum, procedures, rules and most base regulations that all four hospitals use to operate their therapy dog programs. She also teaches the classes for each hospital and is very well known for her dog behavioral skills. Her dog Katie was a very popular therapy dog for many years working at Boulder Community Hospital and helped start the dog program at Longmont United Hospital. Katie died a few months ago and everyone misses her a great deal. She was a very talented visitation dog. Jan’s great work is all voluntary as are all the volunteers working with these programs. Jan spends countless hours and many gallons of gasoline supporting the hospital therapy dog programs in Boulder County.
Tilda and I have gone through the enrollment process for all four hospital therapy dog programs so we learned quickly how each program works and are constantly looking for ways to help the program to be even better than it was when we arrived. Therapy Dogs perform a most important function within the Volunteer Services departments of each hospital. Since these dogs do such close work with patients, visitors, visitor families and staff each day, it becomes paramount that each dog be tested for good behavior, be healthy, be well-mannered and that it passes all the class criteria and the individual hospital criteria all at the same time. The human part of each team (called the “handler”) also has to go through specific training and orientation for each hospital. A lot of effort goes into these programs to make sure everything is safe, scheduled and well organized.
The individual therapy dog organizations operating at the Boulder County hospitals are:
Avista Hospital: Animal Helpers
Boulder Community Hospital: Canine Corps
Exempla Good Sam Med Cntr: Caring Canines
Longmont United Hospital: TAILS (Therapy Animals In Loving Service)
All therapy dogs working in hospitals are required to wear a dog vest and have a dog badge pinned to the vest with their picture. Handlers must also wear a picture badge and the Volunteer uniform for that specific hospital. The next time you see a dog team in any of the above hospitals, walk up to them and introduce yourself and thank them for their time and expense to make some lives just a bit more tolerable that day. It will be appreciated and makes us all work even harder to keep the smiles on faces wherever we go.
Thank you Katie and Tilda!
Thanks to all who had a role in this recognition. I am honored.
Representatives for Boulder, Exempla, Lafayette & Louisville Hospitals with Jan & Daryl
The following incident is a report written by Margaret about her dog, Jake. They are a therapy dog team in Boulder County, Colorado:
Jake is a 7 year old Rottweiler that thinks he is a lap-dog. He adopted Margaret and her family when he was about 1 year old. Jake was rescued from a situation where he was neglected and hasn’t looked back. He is a loyal and loving dog and totally enjoys getting petted by anyone he meets.
Jake got to visit someone on the cardiac floor at Longmont United Hospital in 2008 and absolutely loved the whole experience. This one small visit to a friend led to Jake becoming a fully registered therapy dog in February 2010.
Jake started visiting at The Bridge Assisted Living and Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in February and March of 2010. Jake joined the TAILS program at Longmont United Hospital in December. He loves visiting so much that he expanded his opportunities for getting petted and getting treats to Avista Adventist Hospital in early April of 2011.
Jake has had some wonderful experiences at the places he visits and recently had an awesome encounter with a wonderful lady in an Intensive Care Unit waiting room. Normally Jake heads straight for the reception desk where he knows he will get a treat or two – today was much different. As soon as we entered the doorway I saw a group of four ladies surrounded by pillows and blankets. It was obvious that they had been there for a while. Jake usually heads for the closest person but today he made a beeline for the one lady that was the furthest away. When he does this, I know we are going to have a great visit. As soon as this woman saw us coming she started crying and reached out for Jake. I didn’t need to ask if she wanted a visit, I just stood back and let the scene unfold. This was one of those times when I wish I could become invisible and just let Jake do what he knows he needs to do. At this point, Jake didn’t even acknowledge the three other women, he focused on this one lady and gave her kisses and sat down right in front of her. After a couple minutes when the lady stopped crying and began talking to me, Jake greeted the other three women and then went back and sat down in front of his new friend again. As she kept talking he laid down right at her feet and put his head where she could reach him easily. As she talked and told me the story of how her husband of 17 years was in ICU and in a medically induced coma, I knew why Jake went to her. What started as an asthma attack quickly turned into a life threatening event and her husband might not make it. She went on to tell me about the problems his family is causing and how they are treating her. The whole time she petted Jake’s head and ears. Occasionally she would start to cry and Jake would sit up so she could reach him even better. When she would calm down again, he would lay back down at her feet. I know all three ladies with this woman knew the whole story she was telling to me and Jake, but it was obvious that she needed to talk it out again. Jake and I were honored to be there for her.
Little did Daryl Holle know what lay ahead when he and Tilda, a female German Shorthair Pointer/Bloodhound mix, adopted each other at the Longmont Humane Society seven years ago. Tilda’s ability to search for soulful connections with those who most need it makes her unique among her fellow canines. When Daryl noticed this special gift several years ago, he took the steps to get her enrolled in the Pet Therapy program (TAILS) at Longmont United Hospital. Tilda has had such success as a therapy dog that she now works two days per week at LUH, plus one day per week each at three other Boulder County Hospitals.
One of Daryl and Tilda’s goals is to put a smile on the face of patients, family, staff and visitors to the hospital, whether it is during an official visit or simply passing by. Daryl carries a clicker-counter and counts each smile he sees as people gaze at Tilda. She is averaging over 550 smiles per week!
Tilda has had a dozen or so very intense connections with people. Daryl has learned to recognize the body language prior to these events and does not interrupt that process, because Tilda handles it beautifully. One day, the two of them were getting on the elevator with four ladies, including one with an obvious physical affliction and other special needs. The woman’s arms were shaking uncontrollably and her shaking head was tilted upwards with eyes a bit unsteady. As the doors closed, Tilda immediately turned her body towards the woman, who didn’t see her, but Tilda latched onto her intently with ears perked and serious intensity. Daryl noticed that her little tail was wagging very fast on the floor. When that happens, he knows that Tilda is about to do something wonderful, if she is not interrupted. One of the other ladies happened to glance down at Tilda, just as she took a small “scoot” towards the afflicted woman. The rest of the women looked at Daryl with puzzled looks, so he quickly put his finger in front of his lips to signal them not to say a
word. Tilda took several more scoots towards the woman, whose hands were moving frenetically, but she managed to lick one hand as it passed by her head. The lick caught the attention of the woman as she guided her head down to see Tilda. Tilda then raised both of her front feet and sat up on her hind legs trying to get the woman’s full attention by propelling her paws at her. Finally, when the woman saw Tilda, she just sank down on her knees in front of her, gave her a big hug, and they both ended up on the floor. As the elevator arrived at the 5th floor, Daryl looked up at the other ladies’ faces. They all had their hands covering their mouths in amazement and tears streaming down their faces.
This is only one example of the healing moments Tilda has shared with the people she connects with. Other compelling stories can be found in her blog on her website at http://www.tildadog.com.
Posted inAll About Tilda|Comments Off on Tilda Is Longmont United Hospital Pet Therapy Nominee of 2011
The lady and I visited about the situation for a while afterward. She repeated that her Dad loves dogs and just knew he would know there was a good doggy there for him. She too said she couldn’t believe what this dog had done and asked if she was trained to do this with patients. When I told her absolutely NOT and that what Tilda did was all on her own merit, she was totally awestruck with one hand in front of her mouth to fight back the tears. It was quite a moving moment for the both of us. After that, Tilda was really tired so I took her to the waiting room on the 5th floor and I sat there while Tilda napped on the floor for a while. That was the day the Planetree tours were going on and in about 30 minutes a couple buses came in and Tilda met most of the people as they came in the lobby of the hospital and was her normal self again. I then thought we would finish her rounds for the day, but Tilda was totally spent so we just called it a day and punched out. She slept through the drive home and the rest of the afternoon after that experience.
Looking back at this event later that day, it was the look in Tilda’s eye and her body language she was demonstrating while I was arranging the chair beside the bed. It was like she was telling me “I get it, just be quiet and allow me to do it”. That look caught my attention and again, I knew this was going to be special from that moment on. The man never opened his eyes except once when he first felt Tilda’s ears and then only he looked at the ceiling with a smile on his face. I am so fortunate to be part of those special moments! They have to happen all by themselves and one can only pick up on them if one is paying proper attention. I will never know for sure what was going on there, but whatever it was, I am honored to witness it.
Tilda and I were visiting a facility a few months ago where people from a nursing home were all gathered in a community room listening to beautiful piano music being played by an individual on a piano. As we walked by this room, it grabbed our attention as the music was spectacular and all around the area were elderly people in their wheel chairs lined all around the room who were attentively listening to the wonderful songs of the past being played.
As we were standing nearby, I noticed a lady seated on a sofa chair in the room who was trying to get my attention so Tilda and I walked over to her and bent down so she could whisper to me that I should feel free to walk Tilda around to all the guests as they would really enjoy meeting her. I told the lady we would do that immediately. So Tilda started cuddling her way into each wheel chair meeting this person and that person, carefully making her way in between the obstacles. It was lots of fun for her and every stop was greeted with a very big smile of approval. Tilda was very happy waving her white tall as if it were a flag blowing in the wind.
There was one elderly lady way in back of the pack who was also sitting in her wheel chair. This lady was motioning to me as we came closer to her that she wanted us to come see her so I steered Tilda in that direction. After Tilda pulled up to her chair so the lady could pet with both hands, I could tell this lady dearly loved dogs. I bent down so my face was at the lady’s level and remarked “you love dogs, don’t you?” and she shook her head yes. She was very lovingly stroking Tilda’s head and messing with her ears which went on for quite some time. Every now and then the lady would look and me and smile as if she had something she wanted to say but was hesitating. I finally asked her if she ever had a dog of her own and she said “yes, many years ago”. She went on to say that not having a dog now is one of the things she misses most. She then said “and I miss my little Frankie the most. Frankie was……” and then she quickly stopped. I leaned over and asked her “What about Frankie, was he your dog?” She shook her head no and just kept looking at me several times as if she wanted to tell me something but was holding back.
All those minutes went by and she continued to fondle Tilda with loving eyes and soft pets. I had straightened my back by standing up again as it was beginning to ache a bit from bending over. The lady then looked up at me and used her index finger to motion for me to bend down to her level again, so I did. She whispered in my ear “Can you keep a secret?” I told her that it depends on what the secret is. She replied “well, you can tell my story but please don’t use my name or tell anyone where I live or I might get into trouble”. Again, I repeated that it depends upon what the story is but I would be happy to listen if she felt like it.
The lady immediately started telling me that when she lived “at home” there were some nice neighbors next door who both worked during the day and weren’t home. They had a small dog which she said was a Boston Terrier which during the warm weather days, they left in the back yard which was fenced in. She said “I used to go play with the dog through the fence during the day as it was so sweet and once in a while I would give it a small dog treat. One day I told the neighbor lady that I really liked their dog and that if they wanted me to take care of the dog during the day while they were away, I would love to do that for no charge as I love dogs and would appreciate the companionship. The lady declined my offer and said that the dog was very active and might get in the way causing me to stumble and hurt myself and it was best if the dog stayed at home. I was sad but said nothing and respected her decision.”
The lady then told me she quit going to the fence and quit giving the dog treats as she didn’t want to cause trouble. She said the dog would whine now and then wanting her to come over but after a while it stopped. She went on to say “Then one day, I was sitting on the step of my back porch getting some fresh air and I heard something jump up on the porch and here it was the neighbor’s dog which came over and laid down beside me. I petted the dog a few times and then he crawled in my lap and almost went to sleep while I was petting him. After a while, I put the dog on the porch and went into the house to get him a drink of water and a treat. When I came back outside he was gone and as I looked up into the neighbor’s back yard, there was the dog again, back home and safe.”
I told the lady that obviously this dog really wanted to spend time with you. She replied “Yes, I know he did. In fact, he would come over every day that I sat outside for a few minutes and I finally discovered a hole under the wire fence that he had dug which he passed through each day to come see me for a few minutes. He always came over for a drink of water and a treat and then we spent some quality time. I named him Frankie as I didn’t know the dogs name and he seemed to like that name just fine. This went on for months during the warm time of the year and then in the wintertime, he was locked in the garage so I never got to see him.” I asked her why she didn’t want me to tell anyone her secret and she answered “because I don’t want to get Frankie in trouble as we loved each other very much. He was very special to me.” Later in the conversation, she did give me permission to document the story as long as I didn’t reveal her name or address which I didn’t know anyway. The lady ended our conversation by telling me “I really, really miss my Frankie and nothing would be better than to spend a couple hours with Frankie.” I asked her what year that happened and she thought it was around 1995 or somewhere in there. We said our goodbye’s to the lady and she had this major big smile on her face that I will never forget.
Now whether this was a true story or simply a fantasy story, it didn’t matter to me. The moral of the story is this lady had a vision of what might be only that or could have been a very special time in her life with a dog named Frankie. Frankie may have been a real dog or it may have been her imagination, but to her it all was as real as if it were yesterday in her back yard.
Dogs continue to supply us with fond memories even after they are long gone. This lady was clear proof of that fact for whatever reason. Frankie had to have been a very special dog that saw a special need and the beauty part of it all is that the lady saw the same needs in Frankie. Life is good when there’s a dog involved.
Just when I thought it wouldn’t be possible for Tilda to have another interesting connection in the same hospital ICU waiting room for a good long time, it happened right before my eyes. I would think that the odds are so against this happening so many times in one room of the same hospital it had me re-examining exactly what I saw on Friday, February 18, 2011. After this occurrence that day, I went to a quiet area to sit down and contemplate what I just saw Tilda do. It was so dramatic to me as the previous incident was only the week before, exactly 7 days prior.
Now that I have had some time to think through each second as they occurred in the room that day, I know for a fact that what I saw was real and the energy around Tilda at that moment was so strong you could almost feel it in the air and so could the occupants of the room. I have been discussing this phenomenon with some other very knowledgeable dog people and I think we may have a clue as to what is going on with Tilda inside this room which I will explain in a moment. First I want to tell this beautiful story;
We were working our normal once per week shift at the facility and all in all it was a normal day with lots of visits to all kinds of people bringing many smiles to lots of faces. Tilda was in a great mood and very attentive to nearly everyone that had the time for her. As we approached the doorway to the ICU waiting room, I could see there were 4 people seated in the chairs along one wall and a Doctor was seated in front of them discussing some things with them. I pulled Tilda back immediately as those appeared to be family/Doctor discussions and not proper for us to interrupt. We wandered on to the next stop on our rounds and in about 20 minutes we came by the ICU waiting room again. This time there was nobody in the room, it was empty.
On the third round we stopped at the room again and the same family was there and appeared to be just hanging out spending time. As we entered the room I saw what looked to be a man, a woman and two teenage children. I assumed this indeed was probably a family. As I walked in with Tilda, I announced ourselves as the man looked at us and smiled. He acknowledged that he would love to meet Tilda so we headed in that direction. However, he was not the easiest person for Tilda to get to as this time the family was sitting in a half circle with a small coffee table in front of them and the man was in the middle of the group. All 4 people had there eyes on Tilda when we were still around 15 feet away from them, but suddenly Tilda’s leash tightened up and as I looked down at her, her ears were perked and she had already zeroed in on the man. She headed right towards him with that familiar driven intent and went behind the coffee table, stepped over the teenagers feet and pulled right up to the man and locked herself into a strong and attentive “sit”. I was off to the side over by the woman, holding the leash, and knew right away that something is going on here. Tilda’s eyes were locked on the man’s eyes and her ears still in perked position. The man leaned over, took both hands and begin to massage her ears and neck on both sides in a very loving manner with Tilda still sitting at full attention between his legs. Normally when someone does this to Tilda, she will lower her head and attempt to rub on them and love them up a bit, but at this moment Tilda didn’t move from her eye-lock position and just kept staring at the man’s eyes.
At that very moment, the Doctor came back in, moved the coffee table and pulled up a chair in front of the family and began discussing things. I softly said “Tilda, we have to go now” (while the man was still massaging Tilda aggressively with both hands. I gently tugged on the leash as that is the signal to Tilda that it’s time to move on. Tilda would not budge from her position or look at me at all. The man looked up at me and whispered in a low voice “Please let her stay” so I just slightly turned my body away from the group but kept my eye on Tilda for her safety while the Doctor continued to speak. Then suddenly, the conversation went towards a very unhappy prognosis concerning a family member and I just kept saying to myself “I shouldn’t be here, I shouldn’t be here” and I then looked at Tilda and she was still in her intent staring position, nothing had changed. I tried to tune out the conversation but that didn’t work well either. Suddenly, the man lowered his head and began weeping with his hands motionless yet still grasping Tilda’s head in an affectionate manner. Tilda just kept staring at him. The woman looked at my face and saw my concern and she just motioned to me that it was okay as by now I think she saw this special moment also. By this time the gentleman’s sobbing turned into crying and at that very moment, Tilda took her right leg and raised it up very slowly and lovingly and put her paw in the gentleman’s lap while staring at his face. His hands were still around her head. He didn’t respond so she lowered her leg and repeated the maneuver again and this time he saw the paw and said “Oh Tilda, you are so special”. The Doctor was done talking but he didn’t leave and watched also. The man leaned way over and hugged and kissed Tilda and she began licking his face, then put her paw back up on his lap again in a reassuring manner, all while still staring him in the eyes. The man was smiling and wiping away his tears and I tugged on the leash and quietly told Tilda “it’s time to go, Tilda” and she immediately turned and was ready to leave. Tilda took about 4 or 5 steps and then turned her head back to look at the man again with her tail wagging and held high. The woman looked at me and put both her hands over her mouth in a gesture indicating she was overwhelmed by what was going on here. Just at that moment, the man looked at me and said “Thank you, sir and thank you, Tilda, for being here”.
As you might imagine, the goosebumps on my arms were now almost welts and again I had chills running every which way. In a broken voice I politely thanked the group and we left the room with the Doctor following us out the door. Just as the Doctor and us were about to split up and go our separate ways, he said “thank you” which caused me to turn around and say “you’re very welcome and thank you for what you do”.
That is the end of the wonderful story. An interesting afterthought for me in thinking back through these moments was that Tilda never paid any attention to anyone else in that room (the other 3 family members). She totally ignored them which is not her normal style at all. She zeroed in on the man as if she knew he would be the one needing her assistance and reassuring attention and she was very dedicated to that effort. Whatever mystical thing occurs during these times (and I call it that as I don’t know what else to name it), it appears to me that Tilda knows what she is doing with her soul-searching stare being almost spiritual in a certain way. But, the question is WHY is this happening in this room so often? That question puzzles me immensely and the only reasons I can come up with (us humans have to understand everything, you know) is the following:
The room is dimly lit and is in an older facility. That room has been there for a very long time, must be decades now. Being a room where families gather in times of caring support, stress, happiness, quite often sadness and many times an area of Doctor visits bearing not-so-good news as it was in this case. What I am trying to say is this room has witnessed thousands, if not thousands many times over, of very emotional conversations with many of them causing people to re-examine their own life reaching out for help with the pain or joy, whichever fits the circumstance. A possible reason Tilda does this so often in this room is that she senses this aura when entering that room and is on alert and immediately searching for whatever it is she keys in on. It is also important to know that no food or treats are passed to Tilda before, during or after visits to this room. Tilda is doing this from her own initiative and that is indeed what is “mystical” about it. I am such a lucky fellow to witness these special moments. Thank you, Tilda! I really am trying to understand.
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As I have said a few times before, one just never knows what the day brings when showing up with Tilda to do some therapy dog work. Sometimes it is simply a great event giving opportunities to meet a lot of very nice people (occasionally some not so nice also) and then once in a while that special moment comes out of nowhere grabbing at your heart strings until the hairs stand up on your arm and the tears begin to drip down your cheeks.
Tilda has visited several hundred people since I last wrote about an incident. When she works 4 days most weeks for a couple hours each day, there is a great deal to observe. While it is all very special most of the time bringing lots of smiles, laughs and loving time sharing, last Friday (Feb 11, 2011) was one of those special days when things were lined up perfectly for some very special moments. How those special moments come about is still beyond me. I don’t understand it and I don’t for one minute pretend to have a clue what is going on. I just pay attention while witnessing it and report it as fairly and accurately as I can.
As we were making our rounds, we stopped in the Intensive Care Waiting Room in the hospital. It was very dark in there and at first I thought there was no one around, but as my eyes adjusted to the light I could see one elderly lady sobbing in one corner of the large room and another man and wife couple on the other side of the room. The man was sleeping on a sofa and his wife was seated in a chair next to him. Since the elderly lady was having a sad moment, I led Tilda towards the other couple first. That lady saw Tilda immediately and had this wonderful smile on her face. As we approached the lady, I asked her if she would like to meet Tilda, a therapy dog here at the hospital. She immediately made it clear to me that she could not speak and could not hear and then motioned with her hands for Tilda to come closer to her which Tilda did immediately. I thought to myself that this was a challenge that I haven’t had to deal with before and was wondering how I could make the visit meaningful to the lady. I knelled down and lifted Tilda’s Volunteer Badge so the lady could read it, then I showed the lady Tilda’s collar tag from Therapy Dogs, Inc that says “I am a therapy dog”. The lady was then very excited and started signing to Tilda and Tilda immediate moved right into the lady’s lap with her head and neck and starting being very sweet to the lady. The lady then held Tilda’s head in her hands and they both just looked at each others eyes for what seemed like a good long time. Tilda normally doesn’t allow that for more than a couple seconds. It caught my attention wondering what was going on and just that fast, Tilda drew back, sat upright and took both paws and raised up in the air and gave her paws to the lady on her lap. That was my clue to watch closely. When Tilda does that, something is going on and it is a special moment. Right at that moment a doctor walks in, turned the lights on and wanted to talk to the couple. I tugged on Tilda’s leash to break up her endeavors and waved goodbye to the lady and she understood we were leaving and waved back. Tilda and I left the room to allow privacy for the doctor and family.
About 30 minutes later, we came back to that room. The elderly lady was gone, but the couple was still there only this time the man was awake and sitting upright next to the lady. About 10 feet from the lady, Tilda charged her in a very playful manner. It all happened so fast the leash went tight and I couldn’t keep up with her. At the same time the lady was signing to Tilda as fast as she could while sliding down off the chair and on to the floor. They both sat and hugged with Tilda putting one paw up on the lady’s shoulder and then began licking her face while the lady was hugging Tilda and lovingly wiggling her from side to side as if it were a “welcome home” event after a long absence. Then just as quick as this explosion of affection happened, it ended just that quick with both sitting on the floor facing each other and just staring into each others eyes again. Tilda was motionless, just staring, no expression except maybe a calming sort of expression. Then the lady began signing to Tilda again rapidly right in her face and Tilda just watched intently and never moved a muscle. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as this response with all that hand waving and gyrations no dog would sit still for that long. Then suddenly the lady stopped signing, put her hands on Tilda’s shoulders and they just fixated on each others eyes again. No movement from either, just a solid stare with their faces about one foot apart.
Then suddenly the lady started aggressively signing to her husband. She was trying to hurriedly tell him something and he motioned back to her with an expression on his face like “what did you say?” She quickly signed some more to him and then looked back into Tilda’s eyes again. All these moments, Tilda has not moved a hair—nothing, just sitting intently and staring. The man shook his head “No” to the lady and it looked to me like he did not want to do what she was asking him to do. I could tell now that she was insisting and was pointing at me also in between hand signs. The man finally spoke to me saying “I want you to know I don’t believe in this sort of thing, but she is telling me to tell you that this dog Tilda is speaking down deep inside her and it feels to her like a large burden has been lifted from her”. As the lady is now looking at me I replied to the gentleman to please tell her that I understand. He did so in sign (at least it appeared he did) and then I immediately gave her a thumbs up gesture and she immediately grabbed Tilda and gave her a big hug while tears started to run down her face. Well, that did it for me as the tears came rushing out and as I looked at her husband, he was wiping his eyes also. The lady jumped to her feet and gave me a big hug and clearly mouthed “Thank You” to me with her happy tears running down the cheeks. There was no doubt about what this moment meant to her. Tilda was then ready to go so we waved our goodbyes and walked out of the room. We both went to a quiet place in the hospital and took a 10 minute break. Tilda actually fell asleep in that short time.
Later, we returned to the room and it was once again empty. People come and they go in life and sometimes the paths cross. Most likely Tilda and I will never see these folks again, but we both know that for just a few minutes something very special took place that was great for all involved.
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This story emphasizes the importance of the work Therapy Dogs do and the roles they play in what might seem to be just an ordinary day.
Tilda and I were just finishing our round of visitations at a local hospital that morning. It was an extremely busy day with lots of visits with many, many people. I could tell Tilda was wearing down a bit and appeared to be overly anxious to go so we headed towards our coat locker to grab my coat and headed for the vehicle. We had another couple hours of visits to do at another hospital in the afternoon so thought she would need a good rest before heading in that direction. The temperature outside when we arrived on this cold morning was -6 degrees and Tilda was “high stepping” all across the parking lot as we came into the building. On our visits that morning, people kept asking me why we came on such a bitterly cold morning. The only thing I could think of to respond was “because we wanted to” which may have seemed a bit of a lame response, but it was the truth.
As we were heading down the hallway towards our exit, we passed by the Transitional Care area of the hospital. This is the area where some patients pass through for special attention or therapy before they are discharged to go home. Part of our job is to pay attention to what is going on around us at all times. This is for Tilda’s safety and to make sure we don’t miss anything as we are roaming around the facility. When we passed by part of the TCU area, suddenly I felt Tilda’s leash get tight as she had stopped behind me. I turned to look at her and she had her ears perked up high and looked at me as if saying “we need to stop here”. At that very moment, I overhead a therapist telling an elderly lady that she needed to stand up now and grab the walker so she can get mobile again. The lady was crying out loud saying “No, I don’t want to” and every attempt by the therapist yielded a similar response. Then I heard the lady say “I don’t want to stand up, I want my doggie”. Of course, that phrase is a bell ringing attention grabber for Tilda and I and we both were at full atttention. We turned around and took a look around the corner so we could see what was going on with the patient in the adjourning hallway. The lady was in a wheel chair and the therapist had put a walker in front of the chair and was asking her to stand and try to walk a few steps with the walker. The lady was really distraught over this request and obviously wasn’t going to do the task. The therapist was very patient and just kept trying to convince the lady that she needed to make an attempt so she could be prepared for going home. The therapist was standing between us and the lady so the lady did not see us as we approached the couple. When we were about 20 feet from them, Tilda and I stopped and waited. The therapist turned around and saw us, smiled, and made a hand motion for us to hold fast and stay put, so we did.
The therapist then asked the lady “did you say you wanted your doggie?”. The lady responded immediately that she wanted her doggie and didn’t like this idea of having to stand up when she couldn’t as it hurt too much. “I just can’t do it” she screamed. The therapist then said “Do you like all doggies?” and the lady quickly shook her head affirmatively. The therapist said to the lady “Look at what just came to see you” as the therapist took a step to the side so the lady could see Tilda. The lady screamed for joy and was clapping her hands in wonderment and repeatedly said “a doggie, a doggie, oh my, a doggie”. The therapist said to the lady “if you try to stand up and grab this walker, I will ask the doggie to come visit you so you can pet her. Would that work for you?” The lady’s face immediately took on a whole new concerned and dedicated expression as she grabbed the walker and scooted her body forward and straightened her legs and stood up with a smile on her face that would glisten any moment in one’s life. When she was upright, the lady just kept repeating “come doggie, come doggie” over and over again. The therapist then waved us forward and Tilda went towards the lady with gusto and a tight leash ahead of me (that is what she does when she is purpose driven). It was as if Tilda knew exactly what was going on and wanted to give the lady her prize of a few pets.
Tilda lifted her head up high so the lady could reach the head for petting with one hand while holding the walker with the other hand. The lady stood straight and tall while the therapist took a position on the other side of the walker. After 30 seconds or so, the therapist asked the lady if she could take a short walk with the doggie and she responded “Oh Yes!”. So the therapist was on one side and Tilda on the other with me walking tightly alongside Tilda and everyone walked down the hall together slowly and carefully.
It was at that moment when I knew the answer to the question of why I came there on this cold morning. To witness that beautiful and loving smile on that wonderful lady’s face while walking with Tilda was “what it was all about” that day. I reminded myself on the way out of the building how it is so amazing to me to view this set of circumstances and how these dogs can make a difference in someone’s life for whatever reason. If there is any magic to these things, it all starts by allowing it to happen simply by being there, paying attention and following the dog’s instincts. I dread the thought of what I would have missed if I would have wimped out and stayed home because of the cold. Tilda’s tail was wagging the whole time. She knew! On the way out, Tilda kept looking at me with that smiling expression as if to say “we did a good thing there, didn’t we dad?”
When we arrived at the vehicle, I praised Tilda and thanked her for doing such a wonderful thing for that lady. The best part of it all was feeling the same smile on my face as I saw on that lady’s face earlier. What a great way to spend a few moments with my best friend. I am a very lucky fellow!
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Tilda was invited by the Boulder Community Hospital Therapy Dog group, called the Canine Corps, to attend and work the Lafayette Oatmeal Festival on January 8, 2011. We arrived early at 7:15 am and after we received our instructions, we were ready to go to work. Our job was to make the visitors to the large hospital trade fair feel at home and welcome. We operated 2 dogs on each 2 hour shift for a total 3 shifts (6 dogs total). Tilda and I spoke for the 8 to 10 am shift and the time just flew by. The Quaker Instant Oatmeal fellow came by and wanted to pose with Tilda. The costume didn’t bother Tilda at all. She just sort of looked up at him as if to say “Oh, it’s just one of those Quaker Instant Oatmeal clowns, not a problem”. We posed for more pictures with some other folks and their cameras and then we finally decided that we had work to do and Tilda was ready for the challenge.
Tilda in Her Children Position
One part of the trade fair was a place where kids could get fingerprinted, photographed and have ID’s made up (with parents permission of course). This is a great idea and Tilda visited with the kids while they were doing their tasks which helped them feel a bit less intimidated and it sort of spread out their comfort zone a bit. On a good day of visiting, if Tilda likes someone and is comfortable with them, she quickly responds to my command of “sit”, “down” and “over”. She does that all especially well with children and they love it as it gets Tilda down to something below their level and it is not so intimidating for them. Of course the children then begin to rub her belly and play with her legs and she loves that attention and acts as if it is her duty to give them this pleasure. Her big brown eyes are wide open during the whole process. Another interesting trait Tilda has is that if the adult will kneel down also, Tilda will put one of her front paws firmly on the adult as if to brace herself and yet letting the adult know that what is going on is all okay. She is just starting to accomplish that effort in the above photo.
Tilda’s Leg on Mom (respectful order of love)
You can now see in the photo on the left, how Tilda managed to complete her braced leg to the adult. She will stay like this for some time (sometimes 30 seconds, sometimes several minutes – I saw her go over 20 minutes once in the lobby of Longmont Hospital) and then she will use leverage from that braced front leg to roll her rear legs and tummy another 45 degrees so we have what I call “Pink Side Up” which is when her pink tummy is exposed and she throws her hind leg in an open stance. The Pink Side Up command is a new command I am trying to teach Tilda. We don’t quite have that one accomplished yet, but she is doing it about one time out of 5 now, so progress is being made. Even if I do finally have results with teaching Tilda this new command, I doubt she will do it on command every time even though she knows what I want. She has to feel comfortable with the situation surrounding her as she is making herself vunerable and it just isn’t going to happen if it’s not right. You can see how much she was loving these two little girls and their mom also. Keep in mind this is the first time she has ever seen these people.
Oh My! One in Front & One in Back
A good Therapy Dog has to be ready for nearly anything that could come about. This photo shows a great test for Tilda. I saw some things about to take place that could be a very stressful situation about to happen. There was a delightful little girl behind Tilda who was not afraid of big dogs at all plus there was another small dog in front of Tilda wanting attention of Tilda. In addition, there were lots of people standing close around so I put Tilda in a “tight sit” (that is to firmly tell her to sit with a lower voice, she knows the difference). The father of the little girl told his daughter to hug the doggy and the small dog came in closer to see what was going on when this picture was taken. Tilda held strong and never flinched. As you can see in the photo, Tilda was more concerned about what the dog was going to do to her rather than what the child was going to do.
I need a break, Dad!
The rest of the two hours there was lots of fun also. We walked around and saw all the displays of modern medical technology and ideas. We even got to see a very large robot surgery machine that was operated by a surgeon which gave him super precision skills. Tilda visited at least a couple hundred people that day and after her two hour shift, she was exhausted. It was a fun day for the both of us and we once again learned how well dogs can relate with people if people will just give them the chance.
We love doing events like this as it is a learning experience for sure. It is amazing to me how these dogs get so involved in their work. Some people look at these dogs and think it is just a dog that loves pets and treats. When I watch most of these dogs, I see a whole bunch more as the good dogs could get away with doing a whole lot less and still get the same reward, but they don’t. They give it their all and try to make a connection statement if they can and are allowed to do such (which depends on lots of things going back and forth between human and dog). It is very interesting and challenging work without a doubt.
This story started in the Lobby of a local hospital as Tilda and I were handing out some doggy calendars to her friends as she was pictured as Miss February and we were so excited about that fact. It was around the first week of December, 2010. There were quite a few people that gathered around having a good time looking at the calendars and talking up a storm with lots of laughing and ooohs and aaahs while looking at all the dogs in the calendar. After a few minutes a dear old friend walked up to me (I will call her Lucy) who works in one of the Doctor’s offices in the complex. Lucy asked me what was going on and another lady nearby showed her the calendar and we all had a great chuckle. Lucy then leaned over and whispered in my ear “I think it is imperative that you come visit with a patient and his wife at our office”. I told Lucy “of course, right now or at a later time”. She said “right now”. I excused myself from the gathering and Lucy, Tilda and I began walking briskly towards Lucy’s office.
While walking Lucy explained that a 40+ young man was just examined and they found cancerous tumors all over inside of his mouth. She stated the man was in a shocked state of mind and his wife was dreadfully sad and it might be that Tilda could bring a bit of a break to their grief. As we walked, I noticed Tilda was not walking her normal meander gait which is always a half leash behind me. She was walking between us with a purposeful gait and it caught my attention that she was walking as if she knew she had work to do and was needed.
We got to the office. Lucy took us back to the patient exam rooms, walked us in where the young couple was and she introduced me and Tilda to the couple. The lady was distraught and standing next to her husband who was sitting in a rather high exam chair. The man was sort of “out of it” as if his mind was somewhere else and our presence didn’t impress him much I could tell. Tilda was straight in front of his chair several feet away. I addressed the couple by saying “Hello, my name is Daryl and this is Tilda, a Therapy Dog here at the hospital. Would you like a visit from Tilda?”. Well, Tilda is keen to those words after all these months of saying them. Before I could do anything with Tilda, she sat down and was very erect with both ears perked up high as she quickly and nervously scooted towards the man’s knees which in the tall chair were about the height of Tilda’s head while she was sitting upright. The man didn’t even look at her, he was looking down at his hands while fidgeting with his fingers. Tilda was looking directly at the man’s eyes as she took one last scoot while at the same time raising up on her back legs just enough to allow her front right leg to raise high in the air and she gave the man’s left knee a brisk swat with her paw as if to get his attention. The man had jeans on so I wasn’t concerned. The wife looked at me with a smile with tears flowing and I could tell she was about to say something so I put my index finger on my lips as if to quietly say “shhhh” as I knew then that something was about to happen. I let Tilda’s leash drop to the floor as I knew she was on a mission of some sort and trusted she could handle it. All of a sudden that little white and skinny tail of Tilda’s began rapidly wagging back and forth across the floor as she still was sitting upright directly in front of the man’s knees with her ears perked up as high as they ever get. Tilda then sort of repositioned herself a tiny bit nervously as the man raised his head to look at Tilda. At that very moment, Tilda raised up on her back legs, stood tall while both of her front legs went high in the air and came down slapping the man on both knees like she was saying “listen up, you”. In that position, Tilda leaned her nose into the man and he finally leaned over and petted her head with both hands and kissed Tilda on the nose. Tilda immediately began incessantly smelling the gentleman’s mouth back and forth, back and forth several times. Right at that moment, Tilda pulled back just a bit, finally lowered her ears and then began licking the gentleman’s hands which were now laying in his lap. Tilda’s back legs were beginning to shake a bit from standing so long so I grabbed the leash and told her “Thank You, Tilda” and she sat back down and was just looking straight into the man’s eyes with the tail wagging again and ears down.
The wife witnessed all this also and then whispered to me “What was that?”. I said “I don’t know. I have seen her do these things and when I see it coming I just stand back.” The lady then knelled down and gave Tilda a bunch of hugs and Tilda then paid attention to the lady for the first time. I thanked the couple for their time and the man thanked me and said “That is a very special dog. It is as if she can see right through and make things better for just a moment”. I excused ourselves from the room and we left the offices.
Tilda was really dragging herself while walking back to the lobby. I had to stop a couple times as she just could not keep up. We were only half done on our rounds that day at this point but I already knew Tilda was done for the day. I found a soft chair in the lobby while Tilda lay in front of me on the floor. She rested probably 10 minutes or so and I could tell by her eyes that she was really, really tired. I told her “let’s just head for the truck and we’ll go home now” and that is what we did. She literally collapsed in the truck and slept all the way home.
During early December, 2010, we were signing in about to begin Tilda’s visitation route at a local hospital. While doing that, the volunteer at the front desk (who knows Tilda well) informed me there was a very large group of people in the ICU waiting room today and they were having a very sad day with a family member and if I could find an opportune time to work our way in, it might be heaven sent for them. I assured her I would try if at all possible without being intrusive.
On our rounds, I stopped by the ICU waiting room 3 times over the next hour. The first two times looked to me as though it was not good for me to enter. On the 3rd stop, the cries of sadness had slowed somewhat so I let Tilda lead the way into the room as I followed. I announced that this was Tilda, a therapy dog and that was all I could get out as Tilda immediately zeroed in on what I am guessing was the family matriarch (I would guess it was Grandma) and Tilda quickly went to a sit position on her own with ears fully perked, began scooting and wiggling her way to the lap and into the heart of this sobbing lady. The entire room was full of adults, no children, with no empty seats (probably around 20 people) and most were sobbing quietly. Tilda focused on Grandma and had her crying joyful tears within 30 seconds as Tilda lovingly put her head onto the lady’s lap while looking up and gazing right into the lady’s eyes with her tail wagging with insistence (it was almost like Tilda was telling her to “stop for a moment and follow me”). It wasn’t but a few seconds before the entire room was echoing with oooh’s and aaaah’s. Tilda didn’t show any interest in anyone else, just Grandma. The tension in the room relaxed, I could just feel it, so I finally spoke to get Tilda’s attention and asked her out loud if she cared to do a couple tricks for these fine people and she immediately turned around towards me and sat in a locked position and did her “give me 10” trick. Then she responded quickly to “shake” (which she rarely does). I thought to myself “wow, this is interesting. Maybe I’ll just keep going and see if she will do some other things we practice now and then that never go very well. Tilda is not into tricks much. She immediately responded to “down” and laid flat on the floor with her head resting on her paws. I then gave her the hand signal and said “over” and she immediately rolled over on her back in her pink belly position, just as precious as it gets. By that time the room was in laughter and applauding while at the same time crying “happy tears” with the women mopping their eyes with tissues. She did all those tricks perfectly using every effort she could to please which has never happened before, EVER. The room suddenly became a different place and much of the tense feelings had disappeared momentarily. I could feel that everyone had just one moment to release a bit and enjoy but yet I felt we needed to be respectful of their situation so we thanked the people and walked out. On the way out, there must have been a dozen “thank you, Tilda’s”. I won’t soon forget that one. It is what this program is all about and what keeps me making the drive and taking the time.
For the short time I have been working with Tilda at this endeavor, I have already learned that these dogs are very, very special once they understand what it is they are supposed to be doing. The amazing thing is that therapy dogs like Tilda do “get it”. Most times they are very low key and just want to see their people friends at the hospital. All they want is a warm massage rub, a loving pet or two, maybe a treat if Daddy allows. But once in a while, a “happening” comes about and it is INSTANT and it all happens so fast that it really jerks at the heart strings. The key to the experience is to just “allow it to happen” and be ready for it at every potential visit. I really have to concentrate and watch her moves carefully as she gives me the clues when its about to happen. The “drive” that Tilda displays during these events is very purposeful and most intentional and there is nothing casual about it at all. That is my cue to “shut up and watch carefully” as something very special is taking place. That is the feeling I get each time I see one of these events. In this case, Grandma was way across the room, nearly the farthest person from the door, but Tilda went straight for her and was staring her down with intent and kept pulling/scooting towards the lady. The lady had her head down with her face in her hands so something went on there that cut through all that emotion and pulled it back towards the center. I don’t know what that is, but I think the volunteer at the front desk was right; it may have been heaven sent for those people on that particular day and moment for those folks. I also know that one cannot “train” a dog to do this, they pick this up on their own if its in their nature to do so.
I get teary-eyed every time I think about that day. It would have been interesting to know all of the background behind those people that day, but then again, this was pretty darn special without knowing a thing except for what one saw in the room and how the tensions changed with Tilda at work. That’s her job and I see my job is to be there in her support and allow her to do it. I have had several of these now and when I witness it, I feel I am the luckiest man in the world. Life just doesn’t get any better than these times.
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Recently, I was most fortunate to witness a wonderful dog program being conducted at Skyline Vista Elementary School in Denver. This program is assisting children with special needs and it brings tears to the eyes to observe how these dogs take their work so seriously. I was extremely impressed with the program and asked Jennifer Lundman if she would be so kind as to write a short summary of what her and her dog, Luna, are doing for these children. Following is her entire report. Thank you Jennifer Lundman and thank you, Luna, for what you are doing:
Skyline Vista Elementary School
Dogs Assisting with Wellness and Growth
Jennifer Lundman, MSW, LCSW
Two Bears Pet Services, Inc.
The DAWG Project (Dogs Assisting with Wellness and Growth) at Skyline Vista Elementary School was created in 2007 as an intervention for students with needs beyond the ability of a classroom teacher to meet in a standard day. It has served for several years as a classroom and Special Education resource for students who need non-traditional instructional supports. Its intent has been to assist in raising student performance of at risk students.
In recent years, research on the human-animal bond has shown that children can benefit from specific interactions with an animal in the areas of self-esteem, empathy, social interactions, and behavior. In fact, some emerging research in the field of the human-animal bond indicates that behavior extremes, such as aggressiveness and hyperactivity, can be decreased when regular contact with an animal is provided. The DAWG Project provides an intensive intervention in a school setting, measured through treatment plan goals or Individual Education Plan goals, to students with identified behavioral or emotional needs that impede education and academic success.
The intent of the DAWG Project is to identify a specific student need and work to increase their skills in that area using the therapy dog as a modality. Currently, the main component of the DAWG Project is agility work, under the guidance of trainers from Two Bears Pet Services, with two trained therapy dogs. The students learn how to train the dogs to complete agility tasks and then participate on agility courses. This training and structured activity with the dog helps aid the development of concentration, focus, and problem-solving skills. Students who have participated in this intervention have experienced increased self-esteem and confidence as well as reduced behavioral issues in the general education setting.
Goals of the project
1. Incorporate animal assisted interventions into the school setting to address the needs of struggling students
2. Incorporate an animal into mental health work with disabled and at-risk children
3. Utilize animal assisted therapy and activities, such as dog agility training, as modalities for treatment of students with identified mental health and/or behavioral needs.
Research to Date
Success of the DAWG Project is measured in several ways, including a pre and post-assessment from the referring teacher, a self-assessment done by the student at every session, goals set by the student at each session, and a measure of emotional state at each session both before and after working with the dogs. In the last three years alone, over 40 children have been served through the DAWG Project and data collected over the last two years has shown the following gains:
Overall Rates of Improvement, 2008-2009:***
(Determined by pre and post assessments given to teachers)
Area of Assessment
Pre Test Average
Post Test Average
Overall Rates of Improvement, 2009-2010:***
(Determined by pre and post assessments given to teachers)
Area of Assessment
Pre Test Average
Post Test Average
4: Student is exceptional in this area and could mentor another student about it.
3: Student does well in this area and meets classroom expectations 80% of the time.
2: Student is working in this area but needs reminders and help sometimes to meet classroom expectations 50% of the time.
1: Student needs a lot of assistance in this area and struggles to meet classroom expectations 50% of the time, even with help.
Overall Rate of Affect Change for Students in a 4-session Intervention in Spring 2010:**
(Determined by self-assessment from each student before and after participating in a session)