Stan never appeared too interested in Gopher on our visits, which is not something that has ever deterred me. I can only go to the facility and do my best to make sure Gopher is well mannered and direct him during visits. That is all I am supposed to do, visiting a therapy dog is entirely by choice and no matter how great I believe Gopher is, it is not my job to force him on any person. When I say Stan never appeared too interested in Gopher you might misunderstand what I mean. In the months that I would know Stan he always came by and petted Gopher and said hello at least one time during a visit.
When I came to visit I would often see Stan early on in the visit. He would come over and say his hello’s and then be off to take part in one activity or another. I was never offended and very pleased that Stan took the time to say hello to Gopher and give him a pet. He never stuck around like some of the kids often do and sit or lay on the floor petting Gopher sometimes for the entire duration of our visit. He simply said his hello and left, always seeming to be on an itinerary, when he was feeling well.
On days when I visited and he was not feeling as well he would sit in the same room I was in with Gopher, without his customary hello and pet. His mother and I would ask if he wanted to see Gopher and he would simply shake his head no, but always looked at Gopher and gave him a weak smile. Occasionally Stan would stop and talk with me for a few moments, never an extensive discussion, but more than sometimes being just the ‘other end of the leash’ I am used too and happy to merely facilitate Gopher and not be acknowledged. That means I am doing my job, keeping Gopher safe and allowing his visitors to have a little taste of home or a friend to talk to for a few minutes that is what I am supposed to do.
The months went by and Stan continued his routine, on good days he gave his pat said his hello, and went about his day, or on the bad days just sat in a chair and looked at Gopher. That was the extent of their relationship. Gopher always wagged as Stan approached, but he is a Golden and I have yet to see him not wag when approached by anyone who might give him a pet or a treat. The winter of Stan’s arrival faded into, spring, and then summer. Stan’s bad days became fewer and farther between so I could only presume that he was improving, or the treatments were being given at lower and lower doses.
Stan came up to Gopher at the beginning of August, but his routine had altered. He sat down, and began to stroke Gopher along his neck, back even his snout. Gopher always eager for pets did not seem to notice the change as much as I did and merely did the ‘Golden lean’ putting as much love into Stan as he was getting in pets. Stan did not say a word and the two stayed in their respective positions for fifteen minutes. Then Stan turn, sitting on his knees, and looked Gopher right in the eyes, leaned forward and gave him a hug, it was while hugging Gopher that I heard Stan speak for the first time on the visit. He said, “Goodbye Gopher, I’m all better now and get to go home on Friday. I know I won’t see you again, you made things less scary, thanks for being my friend.” Then Stan stood up told me goodbye and walked away.
I was shocked, I never thought Stan disliked Gopher, I knew he liked him, but I never thought Gopher meant that much to him. Goes to show how little I know about what Gopher and I are doing. Thank you Stan for teaching me that lesson, Gopher and I will miss seeing you.