Gopher, Chad, and Carla are all volunteers. They do not officially represent any institution that may be mentioned.
Gopher and I were on our way to work this week and we, meaning me, were challenged at first. The weather has taken an early turn to be both warm and beautiful. It was difficult to think about leaving home for a car ride to be locked indoors among the first days of beautiful weather. It was however our night to be at the hospital, so time to smile and be enthusiastic. No problem, we both love this work.
On the way to the hospital the fair weather was encouraging people to go out and grill, and as a person who loves BBQ ribs I couldn’t help but notice some delicious smelling ribs being grilled in a front yard on our short drive. I also couldn’t help but notice how much Gopher and I are alike. He will sniff in the direction of any food, but this was the first time I saw his eyes as big as saucers, nose twitching excitedly, and drool coming out of his mouth in a manner that would make Niagara Falls jealous of its volume and ferocity. We thought about stopping and offering them therapy, but decided it would be best to make our scheduled appointment.
When we arrived at the hospital it was still a few minutes before we would begin and I met with my fellow therapy teams of the evening. Then it started and despite the distraction of beautiful weather and ribs, Gopher and I could not be any happier with our decision to keep our appointment and visit with the teams. The place was packed with patients and families easily well over 50 in number. We visited with as many as we could make it to and then it was time for the ‘Dog Show’ a sort of exhibition of our dogs where we tell them about our partners, do tricks, and then the next team goes. Gopher and I were up first as we were asked to do the individual room visits that night. We did our portion and were off.
The individual visits are set up in advance and were for kids who are unable to make it to the large group gathering. Our first a young girl limited to our bed who was probably more excited than a Golden Retriever to see Gopher. We spent several minutes with her and her face lit up as soon as we entered the room, and I am guessing her smile didn’t fade until long after we left. We followed that up with another young girl, and two young boys who due to recent procedure were only able to manage the slightest smile, and pats for Gopher. Then we headed up to another floor where we met with two more young men who enthusiastically pet Gopher, the final one telling us eagerly about his upcoming Service Dog.
Finally we made it back to the main room just as the show was ending and visited individually with those we missed on the first pass. The smiles of the kids, as contagious and wonderful as with all of our visits, seemed especially bright that night. It was incredibly busy, much busier than ever before when I have visited this facility. Once it all settled I smiled at the not so gentle reminder of one of the many reasons I do this work. None of these kids were able to go out and enjoy the weather; they needed the sunlight brought to them, in this case, in the form of Gopher. He made them smile, so despite the urge to ‘play hooky’ I was reminded how much we were needed and tonight on an equally beautiful day Gopher and I will take the time to enjoy the weather, satisfied that on the previous night we did the right thing and were reminded of our importance.