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Monday, December 23, 2013

The Importance of the Chair

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.

Chairs come in all shapes and sizes and most people I know have a favorite chair. I never rally thought much about chairs I either liked the one I was using or did not.  What seems like a lifetime ago though when I was taking therapy classes with Gopher I had my first in depth discussion regarding chairs. Now that I teach a class, I am leading the discussion of chairs, never thought growing up, or throughout school I would spend any amount of time talking about furnishings, but here I am.

Chairs have come to the forefront of my mind when entering a facility, a new home or anywhere we may be visiting. All of the furnishings, equipment and more are important and I look at all of them , but nothing has the importance of the chair.

When Carol, my instructor brought up doing chair work, teaching Gopher to get up into a variety of different chairs slowly and comfortably I scoffed.  Gopher is a Golden Retriever, he weighs 65 lbs and is 2 ft at the withers he will never need a chair for someone to reach him. Being a diligent student and also it was a bit to see Gopher get into a chair and sit regally as if he was on a throne.

So we worked, padded chairs at first, then the more difficult slippery unpadded chairs, and folding chairs that required me to brace them before giving him the indication to get up.

I am glad we spent so much time working on it as it has utilized on countless occasions. Our patients have been able to get just a little bit closer, and get the pleasure of the golden lean despite the wires and equipment.

Our chair work has come in handy, but more so on a recent visit. Gopher and I have been visiting a patient for some time who is in end of life care. We visit every other week, and she absolutely loves her time with Gopher. I have even written about our visits with this patient in Marge.

Over the months since I recorded that visit with Marge she has grown weaker and in our last few visits I have had to bring a wooden folding chair to facilitate our visits. I get Gopher in position and Marge buries her head in his golden fur taking in his warm smell. She strokes him all over and Gopher sits in his chair, patient and regally. Adding the chair has allowed us to stick with the 30 minute visits as it is not as exhausting for her to visit with him.

On our most recent visit Marge immediately told Gopher how tired she was that day. I put Gopher in his chair, and Marge leaned in buried her face and wrapped her arms around him. Gopher leaned in and wrapped his head around her neck, hugging her back. There they stayed for the entirety of the visit. Neither of them moved a muscle and no more words were spoken.

It was a beautiful moment and reminded me of the importance of a chair.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Forgiveness

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 and I have spent a large amount of time interacting with patients that are at the end of their lives. I personally enjoy working with hospice patients, and have a lot of fun doing it. This may sound surprising that one would say it is fun working with the the dying, but it is, the honesty, the joy they share and the clarity one can have at the end of their life is something to be experienced.

The Showtime series "The Big C" in its final season "The Big C: Hereafter" explained this experience beautifully via the Hospice nurse when Cathy asked her if it got to her working with all of these dying people and she responded with, "When people are close to death they open up like flowers, they teach me so much and that I can provide a little comfort it sure makes me feel good."

With all of our visits whether in hospice or otherwise I get so much out of it, I get to work with my dog and that is amazing. I have the unique opportunity to see the human-animal bond in its most splendid form, and I almost always learn something from our patients.

Recently I was able to learn first hand about forgiveness.

We had been visiting a patient for some time, in his life he had served America in an armed conflict. He was proud of his service, and had been a prisoner of war. In our visits he spoke about many things, his family, his marriage, his children. It was a visit when he was laying in bed and had Gopher cuddling when we spoke about his service.

He told me he had enlisted and was excited to serve his country. He was not on the front very long when he and a fellow soldier were cut off, captured and became prisoners.

He spoke to Gopher and I about the tremendous horrors he saw while he was held, how he witnessed his fellow soldier die as a result of his captors neglecting to administer medical care. He never said how long he was a prisoner of war, but the atrocities he described to us were nearly beyond comprehension. He witnessed suffering, torture and the deaths of fellow prisoners.

He himself had been beaten, would only be given mere scraps once a day. Conditions were deplorable and he wasn't sure how he survived a fever he experienced during his captivity.

He audibly sighed and kept stroking Gopher. He looked at me and said, "It was awful, and I hope if it was different and I was guarding them I would have done better, but I don't know if I would have I was young and they were the enemy. I hope I would have done better. If I had time to do one more thing I wish I could find the men who held me and tell them it was okay. I forgive them. It might not mean much, it might make a difference for them, but I do forgive them. I would also thank them, for each day since I have never taken my freedom for granted."

The sentiment was so sincere, and so powerful. It was a great lesson for me as well, and I only hope in my life I can be half as forgiving as he was, and I am so thankful that Gopher and I were able to provide him with a little comfort.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Thank You!


Mother Teresa once said, "It's not about how much we give but how much love we put into giving."

Over the last six weeks, since we announced "The Brother's Rodent Cuddle Caps" this quote has kept coming to my head. We have been overwhelmed by the response so far, and although the hats may seem small the investment of time, the creativity captures the spirit of this quote, for this could not be done without a large amount of love. 

Here are some of the items that have been completed and shared with us so far, we are so excited for the future of this project and hope to share with you images of the patients enjoying your wonderful contributions soon!









Thank you all so much again!! These are all amazing! 

The boys are ready to hand them out and cannot wait to see the smiles you are helping put on so many faces!


If you are interested in learning more about how you can help with this project please go to: Brother's Rodent Cuddle Caps

If you are not creative and would like to help with the purchase of supplies and postage go here.

If you need a kit, please send e-mail us at chadandgopher@gmail.com