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, Squirrel, Chad, and Carla are all volunteers. They do not officially represent any institution that may be mentioned.
Squirrels turn. The glass of the room Carla and Squirrel were assigned allowed them to see the family and staff in the room as they approached. The illness was not known but given the location of the room and familiarity with the facility it was known that the patient had been on a difficult road.
When Squirrel and Carla came to the room the small figure in the bed seemed to be encapsulated by the equipment that was helping him. He was small frail and seemed oblivious to his surroundings. Mom, dad and nurse surrounded him attempting to get him to acknowledge them. The patient remained still and would have been seen as lifeless had it not been for the ECG that told a different story.
“Joey, there’s a dog here to see you.”
There was still no response.
The excited family showed Carla into the room. “Joey, there’s a dog here to see you.”
This time, the news of dog seemed to pierce its way through the fog of pain, medication and illness.
The motionless limbs a moment before now attempted to move as his face turned. A huge smile filled his face as his half opened eyes tried to take in the dog that was before him. The muscles seemed to betray him in his efforts to reach Squirrel and despite being motionless a few moments before his parents had to struggle a bit to keep him in bed.
Carla had to find a way to make it easier, with his size and the amount of equipment there was little space. She knelt down on the floor on a single knee and gave Squirrel the ‘Up” command to get him to place his paws on her knees so he could get within reach of the patient in the bed. She had trained this, but this was the first time she had attempted in a visit. Despite being in relatively good shape from years of Search and Rescue training it became obvious that with the weight of a 65 lb Golden Retriever resting on her thigh additional lunges would need to be added to her fitness repertoire.
The family that was present was astounded by Joey’s response. Moments before they had been struggling to breakthrough, and now a smiling patient laid in the bed attempting to pet Squirrel.
Carla and Squirrel bid their farewells, his job done and an overly grateful family left behind.
A few weeks later Squirrel and Carla would get the opportunity to see Joey, this time with Gopher and myself. He had left the bed behind and was walking the hall with equipment still attached and the aid of a walker. More mobile, but his face showed a look of sheer determination. Once he saw the boys though a smile filled his face, his eyes danced with joy and he came over to be near them and pet them. It is not often the boys visit the same patient at the same time in the hospital, but there in the middle of the hall they would go through their “Who is the better therapy dog competition.” Squirrel clearly won, this time, claiming Joey as his very own patient.