Witnessing Drambuie Doing What Therapy Dogs Do Best!

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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