Tuesday, April 9, 2013
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.
The last couple of weeks have given me several moments to reflect due to some perfect moments in time. Carla and Squirrel have joined Gopher and I on a large number of visits lately, and although I love working with the many talented animals and handlers there is just something about getting to work as a family that makes me especially happy. Thanks to our friends Liz, Annie and Greg, and their pups, Pond, Josey and Mjolnir, Bert our third golden has had ample entertainment allowing us to work together without feeling as guilty leaving Bert.
We have been visiting a local hospital as family and have had some amazing experiences. One night in particular it seemed as if all of the start were aligned. Carla and Squirrel take half of the floors approved for animal assisted interactions (AAI) and Gopher and I take the other half. It is very efficient and as two teams we are able to cover the entire AAI floors in about 90 minutes visiting with every patient that wishes to have a therapy visit.
Although therapy animals have been around for many years now and our becoming a commonly known part of our society, we are still met by surprise of the patients when we come. Every night is a little different sometimes patient population is low, sometimes the patients do not wish to take part in a visit, which is also fine. This one night in particular it seemed as if every door we were greeted with an,"Oh, yes" we would love to have a visit. Each of these rooms were also a 'quality visit' where every patient was deeply involved with seeing the dogs, telling stories, smiling and thanking us for our time. The appreciation for this simple gesture was overwhelming and one of the first time Carla and Squirrel had an opportunity to receive it. I always give the standard reply, "No thanks needed, I am just the chauffeur, Gopher does all the work and loves his job." I don't tell them the little secret but the visits are as much for me as they are for them, see 'Facing Myself' or 'Gopher's Biggest Fan' for more information as to why I truly feel that it is more for me than anyone else.
It was a great night and a lot of fun. I think it also served as drawing to a perfect moment that would happen the following evening.
Carla, Squirrel, Gopher and I arrived at the facility the next day and went in, within moments we were surrounded by a large number of kids. Both boys laid down and stretched next to one another and the kids made a circle. The room, much like a living room was homey and warm. It was at this moment that I looked out on the scene. Carla across from me, and couldn't help but notice the beauty of what was before me. The kids were all different ages, ethnicities. Some were perfectly healthy the siblings at the facility whose brother or sister was needing extra care. Others were bald or balding from treatments. There were tubes going to different devices strapped to some of their sides. Some bore scars and some were developmentally challenged.
Their differences were clear, but in that moment petting both Gopher and Squirrel the tubes, scars, and other differences disappeared. In that moment they were just a group of kids, not different, just kids, laughing, petting dogs and telling stories. The boys, both of them, perfectly calm as a result of training. I looked over at Carla and she noted a small tear in my eye. This was it the Perfect Moment, the product of the training and time invested. It had dawned on me more in that moment how special our two boys were not just for the training, but their nature to handle the complexity around them, and even just for a moment allowing the kids to be kids.