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.
He sat alone.
His eyes fixed on a point on the other side of the room, and only he could tell us.
This was a group visiting situation, and Gopher and I had arrived at the spot and began visiting with the various residents that were waiting for us at our standard spot.
His gaze shifted to Gopher, and an observant nurse noticed. She leaned over and asked if he wanted to visit the dog. Nothing, no affirmation nor was there a refusal. She did what many a caretaker has done, and said why don’t push you over. He is very gentle and if you do not wish to pet him, you do not have to. Once again she was met with silence, and no acknowledgment.
As she wheeled him over his gaze stayed on Gopher and as he got closer his head moved for the first time so he could watch him. There was no fear or apprehension in his gaze, he was just focused.
Gopher got up and separated himself from the group that was pining over him and went to sit by the chair. The gaze followed.
As he arrived at the chair, he sat down and leaned into the chair. Fortunately the caretaker had set the brakes. The gaze was still upon him and as he leaned a sparkle in the eye of his new patient greeted him.
His hand rose gently with a light tremor, he reached down and began stroking his side. Gopher leaned in harder, and everyone watched as our new guest and Gopher became the only thing in the room of interest.
The moments passed, while the two new friends became better acquainted. Gopher returned his gaze with the affectionate brown eyes I have had the privilege seeing so many times, staring back in the man’s now sparkling eyes as they had a silent conversation.
“You are very handsome” the man said to Gopher barely audible to the crowd now watching.
A gasp from a few spectators, behind me broke the focus on the interaction and the room fell silent again.
He started telling Gopher the story of his life. The dogs he had, his parents, his wife, and their kids.
He reflected heavily on the last few years, how slowly things had started being taken away from him.
His ability to sleep through the night, as he was awoken by the need to pee, or the soreness of his aching muscles.
His home where they raised their kids, because they could no longer afford to care for it, and no longer had the ability.
Being able to hit the open road, and how he missed taking off on adventures with his wife to see something new.
Most recently his wife, one night they were there in their apartment, saddened but had spent the evening talking about their blessings. Then he awoke in the middle of the night, needing to pee, and when he came back he realized he was alone and she was gone.
How after the services the world kept moving, but he just stopped, and then he was here.
He stopped telling his story and continued to pet Gopher.
After a few minutes, he asked the nurse if she could take him back to his room.
Then said, “I think I am ready to see the doctor now, can he come by?”
The nurse and him started talking about the next steps, as they wheeled off in the distance. Gopher had returned to his group and was even more surrounded with hearty pets, and even a few kisses.
Another resident placed her hand on my shoulder. “He has not spoken since he arrived, not in group, not to anyone, not even in the night when some others choose to speak when they think no one is listening. He has not said a word. Gopher is amazing.”
I smiled and said the same thing I have said a hundred times, “He is happy to help.”