Follow by Email

Friday, April 27, 2012

Facing Myself

Disclaimer for close family and friends. This piece describes difficulties I have faced, please know that I am doing better now. I have always felt the best way to deal with emotion was to face it head on, analyze them, and try to understand them, Carla has informed me that this is abnormal, but healthy. It's intention is not to upset but to serve as information as to how Gopher has helped me, and how our therapy work has served to help in healing.


Working with a therapy dog, and one as gifted as Gopher has been a saving grace for me. I have spoken before about how much I benefit from the interaction, seeing my boy work with patients are among the most awarding times of my life. In doing this I have found strength, confidence, and purpose. Everyone in their own lives suffers from trials and tribulations, some may seem great and some may seem minor, but no one person’s trials should be disregarded. My sister goes with the mantra, ‘It could always be worse.’ I understand its intent, and purpose and the truthfulness, but it does not work for me. This mantra seems to belittle my own trials. ‘You are not alone in this.’ Also another powerful mantra that some find helpful, but due to my own psyche makes me feel selfish for feeling as I do. 

Over the course of the last few years on many days I want nothing more than to crawl into a hole, a place of safety where no element of the outside world can touch me. Inside I still want nothing more than to pull the covers over my head, that impenetrable shield that protected you from the monsters when you were a child. I am not alone; many people are facing the same trials.  In addition I have a wonderful community of friends, a loving and doting family, and an adoring partner; by nearly every measure I have had great success in my life. My own psyche and anxieties, allows me to see this but not be as comforted by it as I probably should.  My family loves me deeply and I know this and I feel it and it is a great comfort, but at the same time my own trials make me feel as if I have failed them, not lived up to their expectations, hopes and desire for me as a person. No amount of action and words on their part, of which there have been many, can make me feel any different, it is a part of my psyche and it is a part of who I am.

The ongoing fight, manufactured by my psyche and not unlike others is as follows. My parents and family give their love and support, and although parents always worry about their children the result of my own inadequacies has put undue stress in their lives, they deserve better. My in-laws gave their blessing to our marriage, and while their daughter has lived up to her end of the partnership, I have failed in living up to my end, and they worry, and they deserve better than this. My wife deserves better from me, she has assured me many times that she is happy, and takes the good with the bad, and I am lucky, but I still know she deserves better, not the fortunes of the world mind you although it would be nice, but the ability to live with more comfort and less stress. My community of friends who have shown me nothing but love, support and encouragement, deserve better from me. They all deserve better, not only for any stress that I may have caused any of the parties above, but because of my own psyche, I have to fight every day not to push them away, they don’t know this, but I want to go to my own hole where no one can find me, the perfect impenetrable blanket. I want to run and hide, this should not be how I feel, the loved ones in my life want nothing more than to help and they deserve better.

It is a vicious circle created in my head. Gopher and our work has been the life preserver I needed. Because of him I have the motivation to pull back the blankets stand up and face the day. This may seem off to you, or may not since you do spend some of your days reading about us and our work, but he has. This should not devalue any of my human relationships as it is not that they are not reason enough to move forward, it is just that due to how my psyche manufactures things I see my wife, and I feel disappointed in not being able to do better, the same with family the same with friends, their eyes show me nothing but love and caring, but in my head reflect back to me the disappointment I have in myself, my fears, may anxieties, and any burdens I have put on them real or perceived.

Gopher and I started our journey, I had to get up as patients were relying on Gopher to be there, not me, him and I am his chauffeur. So the work became a crutch, the rope I have grabbed onto, since I knew my mind was deceiving me, the strength I needed to face the day.  That was step one. Then as we continued with more and more visits, the smiles and laughter of the people we visited bouncing around my head fighting off my own demons. Some of them I have shared with you, others I may someday as well. I always thanked Gopher for his work that day and still do, and late in the night, when the house is quiet and I can’t sleep I talk to him. I open up about my fears, my anxieties he seems to know and does not look at me so I don’t see a reflection of disappointment I manufacture in the eyes of family and friends; he just rests his head with his ears drawn toward my voice. He does not offer assurances or mantras which although meant to be helpful, don’t help me because of how my psyche processes them. We went on more visits, and the since of purpose it gave me allowed me to attempt to face the battle in my head. I worked hard at hosting game nights, and events at my home to escape the feelings of needing to run from the people who care about me. I still needed to do this in my home as I still needed a place of comfort, my impenetrable blanket, with a few people allowed underneath in there with me as well. Still too scared to face the outside world without that comfort, and Gopher and I continued our sessions late in the night when no one was listening.  No mantras, no looks, just ears pinned towards my voice, my therapy dog.

Over the next few months I began to notice something else a confidence I have never felt in my life to this point and as a direct result of the work we were doing, and that was I was not afraid to speak, an item I discussed extensively here: Gopher's Biggest Fan. That new confidence, combined with a sense of purpose and my late night therapy sessions allowed me to face more of my own fears and anxieties. It allowed me to feel more comfortable, to be able to look at my friends, family and my wife and not see disappointment all the time. I felt more able to go out of my fortress (our little house) and be more sociable, more like I used to be. I know that even today I am not better and I still face the anxieties and fear every day, and the reflections of disappointment still glimmer, but it is now more in check and I can function.  

Thank you for reading and sharing these experiences with me, I will continue to write about them. I hope this gives you more insight in to how I have often mentioned that I am not sure who benefits more from this work, me or the patient.  The events in my life that turned a part of my psyche that had always been there into a seemingly insurmountable wall have not changed much, every day I still fight, and when they resolve it will probably be some time before they are put away to the darker recesses of my mind. Today, yesterday, and the day before are better, I feel like I can face my own demons and it is thanks in a large part to Gopher and our patients that allowed me to face and rationalize my thoughts and gave me the strength to put one foot in front of another.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gopher Teaches Squirrel

Personal information obtained on therapy visits is confidential. When applicable the name/location/sex/condition of persons visited may be changed to protect privacy. However, the interactions, conversations are true and did occur as written. 

Gopher, Chad,  Squirrel and Carla are all volunteers. They do not officially represent any institution that may be mentioned.
Our recent visit had us working with a patient who was visually impaired. The patient was nervous and unsure of their surroundings and walked with the aid of family. On this visit Gopher and I were also joined by Carla and little brother Squirrel. The mere sight of the patient made Squirrel very excited and he wanted to give him all his Golden love right away. Having met this patient before I knew of their hesitancy and fear, and Gopher and I moved in quickly to allow a more calm less excited presence.

Gopher went right to work, lying flat on his side, with his head down and back to the patient. The laughter and smiles were amazing. Gopher answered with gentle flaps of his tail against the floor. He continued to lay there peacefully while every part of his body was reached touched. He is a good boy who seems to not only know his job, but love every minute of it.

My concerns over Squirrel were quickly silenced as Squirrel observing his big brother Gopher started to emulate Gopher, becoming very calm, and laying down on the floor. Soon the patient with assistance was interacting with both of them. Squirrel did a great job and that night, Gopher was not only a great therapy dog, but a great teacher, and Squirrel a wonderful student.

The patient enjoyed petting both Gopher and Squirrel for about twenty minutes.  The patients face was stiff and reflected uncertainty upon arrival, but when the time came to leave, a smile graced a relaxed face. It was great to see, and I couldn’t have been more proud of Gopher and Squirrel for their work.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Enjoying the Little Things

Those who are dedicated readers, and those who have met Gopher, know that there are few things in this world that he loves more than chuck it. The bounds, leaps and dancing he performs in expectation of the first throw would be the envy of most ballet companies, if he wasn’t quit so lumbering and awkward that is, he is not the most coordinated and graceful. I have share this video a number of times on this blog, but here is Gopher enjoying a little chuck it time.

As much as he loves chuck-it in all its wonderful forms with various balls for distance, and effect, he loves nothing more than a fresh new tennis ball out for its first time. His eyes have a little extra sparkle, and the golden smile is just a bit wider, and his tail wags even harder. This morning I paused and I looked at the fresh new tennis ball I pulled out for him. It isn’t anything too special; it is still bright yellow almost fluorescent without a smudge of dirt. The ball is fully pressurized still smells of the natural rubber of which it is made, and it bounces higher than an older or used ball. The felt is still raised and not flattened by hundred of throws and retrievals, and it is not valuable. The cost of production is low and depending on a few variables could retail for as little as 90 cents to five dollars. To Gopher though that new ball is among the most valued items available in his world, one he does not like to give up when presented unless the chuck it is in hand.

When playing chuck it with a new tennis ball Gopher will run with a pinwheel tail showing his extra excitement, on older balls it is wagging, but not the full pinwheel he saves for special occassions, like seeing his favorite humans. When he retrieves an older ball he merely runs back with it in his mouth maybe adjusting it a few times, but a new ball he rolls throughout the retrieve the new felt creaking on his teeth with each roll in the mouth. In a quiet park you can hear, ‘creaka, creaka, creaka’ the entire distance.

I do not know for certain, but I have a feeling that the feeling I get from seeing this is similar to that of a parent, watching a child and their wonderment at the world. It is a great reminder, even though I pride myself on remembering the little things, how truly important the little pleasures in life are, and how they make even the most seemingly insurmountable problems seem less significant. So Gopher and I challenge you to play with whatever your idea of a new tennis ball would be and remember the little pleasures in life.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Gopher is NOT a Service Dog

Once again, I find it is necessary to give a little more of an informational post due to recent events in the news and consistent questions I get regarding Gopher. 

Gopher is a working dog yes, but he is not a service dog. Both Gopher and a service dog provide for the ill and impaired, but at the end of the day Gopher goes home with me, and he is done working. His distant cousin the service dog however is still working, and is working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for life or until retirement. Even when at play with their human a service dog is working.

Fun commercial regarding service animals from the Australians.

In our work, we have had the opportunity to work near and meet several wonderful service animals, and to describe them as remarkable would be an understatement. There is one thing I would like people to remember regarding service animals and therapy animals, both need to be trained extensively, and audited by an outside party.  I spoke on this extensively in (How do I become a therapy animal team?) on therapy animals, please take a look if you are interested in this work, and feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.  Do not simply buy a tag offline that says therapy animal and go to work; you put yourself, your partner, the patient all in danger. Additionally as well intentioned as you may be if a mistake happens you will not only put all of you in danger you may permanently injure the ability of a therapy partner to work in that environment ever again. That is not to say officially recognized therapy animals cannot make mistakes, it is just they are less likely due to the third party auditing and there is a contingency in place to make the impact less harmful.

The same is to be said about service animals, they too are extensively trained, most of them from birth and go through a rigorous auditing program. There are isolated instances where a family pet has been elevated to a service animal, but it is rare and unlikely, and will still need a third party audit. We are all biased to the animals we share our lives with, and often look over or gloss over mistakes and errors. However in both of these scenarios the result of an error can do great harm.

Service animals are so astounding; they come in all shapes and sizes and are used for various purposes. Most commonly known are Seeing Eye dogs, but there are animals used for the deaf, limited mobility, seizure disorders, and even the not immediately visible areas of PTSD and Autism.  They also often do much more for their charges than pick up items, open doors and turn on and off lights. Some have been trained to retrieve medication and will bring it to the person before they even realize an episode is starting. They provide comfort and react to elevated heart rates, elevated blood pressure, and increased anxiety for those afflicted with PTSD. Sometimes this might only be a lean or nudge to create a connection. This is beautifully detailed in Capt. Luis Montalvan’s book Until Tuesday.

Here is a video of Capt. Montalvan and Tuesday.

In doing our work I have also become more interested in helping those afflicted with Autism. While seeking treatment and education do not overlook the possibility of a service animal and contacting training organizations. The benefits of a service animal paired appropriately with an autistic child are immeasurable.

Now it is time for me to rant a bit.
  1. For both service and therapy animals go through a third party auditing.
  2. Do not claim your animal is either unless this is done.
  3.  DO NOT decline access to any service animal to any area, not only is it illegal, but this the equivalent to denying access to a cane or a wheelchair.
  4. Yes, you may have canine allergies, and this is understandable. DO NOT attack the person for their service animal, if in a closed area you can request to be relocated. A good business will oblige for both. Yes you have an allergy and it is unfortunate, but often this service animal is the only way the person using may be independent.   
  5.   DO NOT INTERACT with the service animal, or any animal for that matter without explicit permission.
Thanks and I hope this clears up misconceptions and gives some information on the difference between the two.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Not always welcome.....

Advisory: This entry has language some may find offensive.

Personal information obtained on therapy visits is confidential. When applicable the name/location/sex/condition of persons visited may be changed to protect privacy. However, the interactions, conversations are true and did occur as written. 

Gopher, Chad, and Carla are all volunteers. They do not officially represent any institution that may be mentioned.

Gopher goes on a wide variety of different visit types, sometimes they are group visits to a facility and other times they are targeted visits to a single patient in a facility. Tonight we were assigned to visit a single patient. When we arrived we found Jerry sitting in the common room finishing dinner. The hustle and bustle of a facility can be quite alarming to a first time visitor with an animal, but at this point Gopher and I are seasoned veterans. We let Jerry know we were there, and not to rush but we would be over when he was finished. 

After confirming with the facility staff we visited some of the other patients who were waving Gopher over and he had a great time greeting all of them with a tail wag and smile. After a few minutes Jerry had finished dinner and we started our visit. Our visit with him was typical and he fully engaged with Gopher, petting him and telling stories of dog she had during his life. Even though we were targeted to visit with a single patient since we visited in the common area we had to be vigilant of our surroundings so as not to hinder the facility staff or put Gopher or myself in a place to be hurt. Since we were in a common area we also had to deal with other possible distractions and Gopher did very well, although another patient in the common area provided quite the distraction.

We had just  began to visit with Jerry when across the table a patient whom we were not assigned gave us our challenge of the night.

"What the hell are you doing here", she yelled out, "animals are not allowed in here they are dangerous, filthy disgusting god damned beasts."

"No need to worry ma'am." I replied, "He is a special animal, he gets to be here, he is very safe, clean and will not harm you, we are here to visit with Jerry, and we will not come over if you do not wish."

I turned back to the patient.

"You are a fucking bum, no place to live coming in here with you damn vagrant dog I am calling the police." 

I smiled and asked Jerry if he would like to visit in his room, he said yes, but needed some assistance which as a volunteer I am unable to provide. We alerted the staff, apologized for our disruption and upsetting the other patient. They told me it was fine and they would be over to help as soon as possible.

Gopher and I returned to Jerry to continue our visit.

"You fucking bum, get the fuck out of here, I told you, the police are coming."

I turned to her again, and calmly apologized."I am sorry we have upset you ma'am, the staff is going to come over and help Jerry to his room where we will continue our visit, until then I am going to sit here with Jerry. I promise you, my dog will not hurt you, he is supposed to be here, and we will not come over."

Jerry was grinning and laughing when I turned back to him patting Gopher on the head.

"Don't worry boy, she's is just mean, not as kind as you are and this wonderful dog." Jerry stated. I smiled and continued our visit. The nurse came over to tell me again not to worry they were short handed and would be coming to help as soon as possible.

We continued our visit.

"Fucking bum" 
"Get outta here, I told you , police are coming"
"You're an asshole"
"You're an asshole"
"You're an asshole"
"You're an asshole"

She continued this like a broken record for twenty minutes, while staff stopped by telling her it was fine, telling me I was fine. At one point during this yelling Gopher turned towards the yelling woman, pushed his ears forward, cocked his head, smiled and wagged his tail.So proud of how solid he was to handle this adversity. Finally the staff was able to assist Jerry to his room, where we finished our visit in peace and scheduled our follow up. On the way out, he turned to me and asked if when I came again if we could spend a little time in the common room, as he hadn't laughed that hard in some time. I smiled and said we will see, and walked away. As we headed toward the elevator through the common room again, "FUCKING BUM, GET OUTTA HERE" rang again through the corridors, the elevator dinged and I could hear Jerry laughing in his room. Not the intended therapy from a visit, but we did leave him laughing. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

Personal information obtained on therapy visits is confidential. When applicable the name/location/sex/condition of persons visited may be changed to protect privacy. However, the interactions, conversations are true and did occur as written. 

Gopher, Chad, and Carla are all volunteers. They do not officially represent any institution that may be mentioned.

 On a visit we met a lovely woman who was sitting alone in her room staring out the window watching the rain fall. We knocked and announced are visit and she waved us in and patted her leg to get Gopher to come over to her side. I took another chair in the room and sat down near her. She pet Gopher for several minutes, and then sat upright while she let her hand gently stroke his head.

She started talking about her old dog that she had on her farm back when she was a young wife with a new family. Her husband at one time had sustained an injury out in the fields, and their dog had come to the house. Typically this dog stayed with her husband the entire time she worked so she knew something had to be wrong. She put the dog in the house and took off running in the direction her husband was working.  She said it was only a mile, but it felt like an eternity getting there. She saw the equipment on the horizon, but no sign of her husband.  When she arrived she found him unconscious with a badly mangled hand.  She then said, “I don’t know how I found the strength, but I got him up and in the back of the truck.”

She took off and rushed him to the hospital, where unfortunately several fingers and a part of the hand were amputated. She told me it was the first time she had ever driven, and was happy not only that he would be okay, but they made it there without further injury and laughed. She then went on to tell me how after that day things had changed, when she was growing up and as a farmer’s wife she was expected to care for the home and the kids as he cared for the fields. She then told me it was not that he was mean, or unfair, it was just the way it was. After he lost part of his hand though he needed more help and we were in no position to get a hired hand, so not only did I learn to drive a truck, but learned how to disc a field, care for cattle, and even how to work on an engine. That moment she felt the farm had really became a family business. She also told me that even though before that time she never wanted a dog, there was always a dog in her life at the farm after that.

The nurse aid interrupted after that story, to check on her and let her know that lunch would be coming soon.  She told her thank you, and that she was going to return to her visitors until lunch, and the aid left.
She gave a few more reflections on her life, her marriage that lasted 43 years until his death. How even after his death she ran the farm and maintained the fields, only to give it up, get moved to the city to be nearer to her son, and eventually into the facility when she could no longer care for herself. She smiled, and thanked me for coming by, but it was time for lunch. We thanked her for the stories, set up a new time and left.
We went to the nurses’ station to sign out, Gopher getting all the pets you can imagine as he is quit the ladies’ man. I smiled and thanked them, and turned to leave when the aid that had stopped by the room moments before stopped me and asked how long we had been visiting. I told her we had been working for a year and a half, but today was our first visit to this facility. She leaned over and pet Gopher, then told him how remarkable he was. She stood and reported to me that in the last six months she had not heard the patient speak, all she did was stare out the window. She apologized, telling me she had been eavesdropping on our visit. She went on to tell me that when she first came in she was warm, pleasant and talkative. In the last few months as her disease progressed she had become more confused and disoriented and in fact had not spoken in over a month. She thanked me and Gopher again for our visit, and told Gopher he was a miracle worker. 

I had heard of this happening before, but this was a first to me. Had the aid not told me this woman had not been speaking, I would have thought nothing special of this visit outside of the opportunity to meet someone new and hear about their life. We had the pleasure of visiting her a few more times before her death. We did not have a repeat performance of storytelling, but she always smiled and pet Gopher. I don’t know if we will understand in my lifetime what allowed her to connect with the world around her like she did on our first visit, but I am happy that Gopher allowed her to tell some of her story at least one more time, and we will not forget who she was.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Maintaining Professional Distance

Personal information obtained on therapy visits is confidential. When applicable the name/location/sex/condition of persons visited may be changed to protect privacy. However, the interactions, conversations are true and did occur as written. 

Gopher, Chad, and Carla are all volunteers. They do not officially represent any institution that may be mentioned.

As Gopher and I continue our journey it is becoming more and more apparent that those ‘special’ patients who make you want to push the boundary of professional distance are more numerous than anticipated.  It has also come to my attention that the very nature of our volunteer work pushes that boundary in and of itself. We as therapy animal handlers have a few concrete responsibilities first and foremost are the safety and happiness of our partners, second the safety of the patient, and finally respect for the facility and its policies. That is our responsibilities as volunteers. Everything beyond that is additional, and merely supplements to those three rules.  I could give lectures, discussions and article after article giving tips for success while volunteering in this role and Gopher and I are actually working on some of this as well. This will discuss how Gopher and I have handled professional distance.

For this discussion I am going to use stories relating to a single patient with whom Gopher and I have visited the last several months. He is a young boy, incredibly sweet, with a deep love for the dogs that visit him. He is consistent, prompt and had never to my knowledge missed a visiting time. He took time to get to know all of the dogs, their individual quirks, and the names of the handlers. I look forward to seeing him on our visits, and as he is getting to go home soon, I know that I will miss him.
I have on many occasions stayed a little longer on our visits, allowed him some leeway in ‘teaching’ Gopher new tricks, accepted one gift from him (you will see this later) and addressed him by name with enthusiasm every time I see him. I have also made a point of letting him hug Gopher goodbye at the end of every visit, something he had initiated. I allow all patients who want to hug Gopher to do so, there is no change here, I just make a point of making sure this patient was able to do so before leaving. These items have made our visits successful, allowed him some extra comfort, and I have not broken a single one of the three primary rules.

Some persons may feel that allowing Gopher and I to stay a little longer is not keeping consistent with professional distance, we had a job to do, a time to do it in, and the time had ended. Anything beyond that is becoming personally involved with a patient, and goes against maintaining a professional distance. I go back to the three rules, and I did not break or even bend any of them. Gopher was safe, happy and content, the patient was safe, and the facility rules and policies were respected. I also know that although my wife was waiting for me to come home and make dinner, she understood that this happens, and is pleased to be a part of this small compromise.  So I was not truly compromising my personal life. I also have to ask myself, “Would I do this for another patient?” Yes, I would and I have. It is not a common practice for me to extend my scheduled times with any patient, but there are times doing this work, when you realize 5, 10, 15 minutes of extra pets are needed. Whether this is merely to dissolve boredom or something you can tell a patient needs to help ease fear, anxiety and/or sadness. In those moments, there are smiles and laughter. It should not be done every time, should not compromise the three primary rules, but I feel strongly it should be done when needed. How will you know? Time, observation and experience.  If I miss these needed moments, Gopher will also tell me, by not responding to a command that it is time to leave. If this is tip toeing over the line of professional distance then I will confess now that I will continue to do so, and that professional distance although important should not interfere with the goal of this work.

Your animal should always be under your control this is implied by rule one and two. I have on many occasions allowed patients to give Gopher established commands under my strict guidance. Gopher will almost always look to me to give him a head nod letting him know it is okay.  This ‘special’ patient after many, many visits showed a desire to teach Gopher new tricks, or at least try to. I stayed true to the three primary rules but allowed him to do this. At all times it was under my guidance, but he showed a natural inclination on how to teach a dog new tricks. He was the first patient I have allowed to do this. Would I do it again, maybe, but it would have to be similar to our relationship with this patient. Many of our visitors have given commands, some Gopher knows, some he doesn’t. It is a part of human nature I do not understand. Do you go out and give a stranger an order? No. However people see a dog and want to give it an order. He never did. He was observant, asked first, and followed my instruction. So if another patient were similar in this aspect I would let another patient do this again.

Gifts are a difficult matter and Gopher and I have given gifts, this is where you have to be especially careful. Giving gifts must be equal to all persons, you are not allowed to single a patient out, and this would be going beyond tiptoeing on the line and into the realm of breaching professional distance. We have also received gifts, cards, and crafts. Every one of these is special and has been placed in a special place in our home. Our latest, does not break policies (value greater than $20.00), we find it priceless and are framing it in our home.

When he presented it to Gopher and I, the smile on his face and excitement were contagious. We thanked him for such a wonderful gift. To not accept it would have been hurtful to him, I know gift policies for volunteers are justifiably outlined, but go through the process and thank the patient. If you need to surrender it, pending your facilities policies, surrender it at a later time. Never ever tell the patient directly you are unable to accept, unless it is a financial gift. I am fortunate in that I am able to keep this and other gifts presented to us so far as they have been within policy and reported as well.
Now comes the most difficult part. This patient has meant more to us than we can ever say, he has been an absolute pleasure to visit, and I am not certain if he did more therapy for Gopher and I or we did more therapy for him. His gift to us will remain with us for as long as humanly possible. It will be treasured the entire time. He is fortunately able to go home in the coming weeks. Our relationship is at an end, and there will be no more. This is the part of professional distance I will not bend, and assuredly will not break. I will forever be curious as to how he recovered. I will miss seeing him, but equally pleased that he no longer needs us.  It is a mixed bag of joy and sadness. I do know there will be another patient around the corner and although every patient is different there will be another with this type of bond.  Our time with this young man is coming to an end, our hope is that his health continues to improve and he will not have to face the situations that brought him to this facility again. It is tough to say good bye sometimes. There will however be more. We will continue this journey for as long as Gopher would like to, and the memories of this ‘special’ patient will stay with me. His memory along with the memory of our other ‘special’ patients will remain with us as we continue to visit, and remind us when to bend professional distance.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Changing a Negative to a Positive

Today is April 1st, April Fool's Day, and for the last eleven years it has been a somber anniversary for myself, Carla and our family. In 2001 in the early morning of April 1st my grandfather passed away from multiple terminal conditions. He had a great influence on me growing up, he took me on rides and drives to see scenes of nature, let me bottle feed calves and truly loved all natural wonders and animals. Lessons he taught my father, my father and him taught me, and has led me down the path where I spend so much time in the company of and working with non-human animals. Although he had been the old man since I can remember, often disappearing to bedrooms for naps at family gatherings his death had a profound impact on my families dynamic.

This April 1st, the 11th anniversary of his death. Gopher, Carla, and our youngest Squirrel changed the somber mood this day has always brought to our home. It was Squirrel's first official therapy visit. Carla and Squirrel, Gopher and myself went together, as two separate teams, but as a family. Gopher and Squirrel can now claim April 1st 2013, not just as the 12th anniversary of the death of my grandfather, but as the one year anniversary of Team Brothers Rodent 1st therapy visit. The memory of the death of my grandfather will never fade, but now this day has a positive anniversary as well.

Team Brothers Rodent Therapy Debut!!

Welcome team Squirrel and Carla!!