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
“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,
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
“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!
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.
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!
‘Til Next Time………