Chad visited a Long Term Care Home shadowing another team on 1/25/2011
Names/conditions and other personal information from a Therapy Visit cannot be shared.
Chad Burgess, Carla Donovan-Burgess and Gopher are volunteers and do not officially represent any institution mentioned in these visits. The names of the institutions have also been changed or not used and if the name of a person is used it will likely be changed as well.
The experiences, conversations are true and really took place the names of persons, and institutions have only been changed to protect the privacy of those we visit.
When starting off as a visiting animal/handler team there are many situations when you are asked to shadow another team to ensure you would be interested in visiting the facility. This was the case on January 25th, 2011. I left a very pouty Gopher at home on Tuesday evening, when I grabbed my Delta badge and placed it around my neck he was up and ready to go, the look of dismay he appeared to have when I didn't grab his equipment and walked out the door turned to a nasty looking glare as he rested his head on the window sill watching me start the car and leave without him.
The faclity I visitied was a long term living facility for the families and their children whom are going through extended treatment and needed to be close to the hospital. The children undergoing treatment are very ill and often fighting for their lives. I arrived quite early and met the handler team whom I would be shadowing a lovely woman, and her bigger than average Golden Retriever, Zeus.
The visit was quite astounding with not just patients and a few visitors and the staff coming to see the dogs, but often it was a whole family many of whom were from great distances away and had uprooted their entire lives to live near a foreign hosptial, in a foreign city, getting the treatments their child needed and hoping and praying for the best possible outcome.
The visit lasted for roughly an hour with many children coming over to pet Zeus with their families. Throughout training Gopher, our extensive reading and through discussions with experienced handlers there was one common theme that never went unmentioned. It was that, "Often you will find that your visits will lean less towrds the person it is targeted for, and more towards their families, and the staff whom are in desperate need of a break and the type of therapy only a good dog can give:" While raising and training Gopher I have also become a little biased toward Golden Retrievers and I now proclaim proudly they are my favorite breed. The one thing I have heard the most since making this proclamation is, "They're wonderful dogs, but I don't like all that fur." That night allowed me to see with my own eyes how much a therapy dog is needed by the families and not just the target of the visit and gave me an answer to those who remind me of the amount of hair a Golden Retriever has.
A half hour into our visit we had a lull in children as there was a very nice activity with beautifully carved wooden puzzles going on in the adjacent to the sitting area we were assigned to be in on this visit. This gave me an opportunity to discuss some thoughts and concerns regarding this facility with Zeus's handler. Zeus meanwhile laid on the floor getting occasional pets from three women who were also in the room and whose child or grandchild had just left to get a puzzle.
The three women began to discuss where there respective children were in treatment for their similar diseases both of which were life threatening. They exchanged some different thoughts and talked about the when they were going to hear from the treating physicians when they could go home, even if only for a little while with their kids. Both of the families involved in the discussion had been there for months, and some had only gone hom for a few weeks and had been there for several months during the previous treatmert. The conversation carried with occasional breaks in talking while one or the other attempted to recompose themselves. Each break was accompanied with more pets for Zeus and a quick diversion to saying things like,"Isn't he the biggest Golden Retriever, you've ever seen." Inevitably the conversation returned to why the women were there to begin with.
The womens discussion turned toward death and I was stricken to hear both women talk about other children and their families whom had lost the battle, and they would refer to it as "We lost another one." or "Last time we were here all 7 on her floor died and one was a friend of my kids." They never reffered to the kids who were gone as, children or by name or by family, but always by this one or that one, I presume this is a way to cope with the difficuties these women have seen.
They returned to a discussion their current treatments and discussed various donors and how one kid got to meet their donor and really liked them. It was then that I got to see another wonderul interaction between therapy dog and the person whom needed them, one of the women stated that, "We are really happy to have so many potential donors, the last time there weren't as many, she will get the treatment on Thursday and pending there are no complications we will go home for awhile next week. It always seems like that doesn't it, pending no complications, it feels like we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. We are lucky however if this donor takes than she will need a new kidney someday, but not right now and no more major treatments, that is all I wish for though she will need a new kidney someday but not right now and for a little while she will have more life." Her eyes were reddened and the tears were just starting to form and as if on cue Zeus stood up and walked toward the woman and placed his paw gently on her knee, she chucled petted him and leaned over to give him a kiss. When she leaned over to kiss him she buried her face in that excessive some people feel Golden Retrievers have letting it dry the tears that had started to form and regain her composure. Zeus had done his job and done it well, fortunately he returned to the spot he had been before near me allowing me to bury my face and use that beautiful Golden coat to dab the tears that had started to from in my eyes. Gopher and I are comleting the paperwork now and should begin visiting this facility soon.