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
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.
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.
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………………