Sunday, March 18, 2018
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
I recently took a weekend trip to New York City. As I couldn’t take Maggie with me, I placed her in the very capable hands of my adult children. I missed her the whole weekend.
Walking around the city I was amazed at the number of dogs who were living with their owners. Why you might ask? Only because being such a suburbanite, I am so used to giving Maggie the ability to run in our backyard whenever she needs exercise and activity. Guess I need to get out more often, as these dogs look perfectly content and cared for.
As the weekend wore on, I missed Maggie more and more. So each time I took a walk I would consciously look at any dog that I passed and try to determine their age and breed. I would also try to make eye contact with their owner. This way I might be able to engage them in a conversation and possibly ask if I could pet their dog. No such luck. I did manage to tell a few people their dogs were beautiful. Most people kept walking, but I got a few nods of the head.
It was my way of getting a little therapy while I was away from Maggie.
While it was an enjoyable weekend, getting back to Maggie was even better.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Shout out to Villanova University on their creativity and concern for their students. Maggie and I (and a number of our furry friends) were invited to attend Villanova’s “Love the Skin Your In” walk the runway.
We were invited to give support and comfort to the models behind the scenes, but then it was decided to include us in their fashion show. It was a wonderful experience for both our pets and for the audience to see the therapy dogs (and rabbit). We got a lot of oohs and ahhs as we walked down the aisle.
Villanova has really stepped up their game this academic year. Every Wednesday between 4-5 pm Therapy dogs are invited to help destress the students in the health center. What a brilliant way to get these kids to become familiar with the center and not see it as taboo if they are feeling anxious, homesick, or having difficulty navigating something in their lives. While there, they can visit with the dogs, and just chill for a while. The health center in turn has raffles for the students and other small activities to make the students feel welcome.
Maggie and I are happy to be part of this process and have met some wonderful people; students and faculty alike.
Monday, October 30, 2017
After visiting the VA Hospital for three years one gets to know many of the residents. I like to refer to them as my regulars. Although rooms will get moved and roommates shifted a good many people have been there for many years. Maggie and I have gotten used to seeing these people every other Tuesday when we visit and they tell us they look forward to our visit as well.
So when I walked in last Tuesday after missing a week (because of my travel schedule) and was told two of my regulars had passed away I nearly stumbled over Maggie, as I had not been anticipating this .
Len was known for his chocolate candies (no he never gave any to Maggie) and his amazing orchards that were always in bloom on his window sill. I don’t know how long he resided at the VA but he was there longer then we had been visiting. He loved to watch old movies and we always had an interesting discussion about them. He always thanked me for stopping by. I know Maggie and I were there to offer him comfort, but every time I left his room I felt uplifted.
Len- rest in peace, I know you are in a place where there is no pain.
Bruce was a man of few words, but always eager to interact with Maggie. We could always find Bruce and his aide wandering the halls, sitting and watching TV or participating in horticulture class. I could see Bruce’s mind was on the go. I understand Bruce’s Mom would visit often although I never had the opportunity to meet her. I know she was a dedicated mother. I feel for her loss.
Two men living under the same roof living very different lives.
As an outsider the one amazing thing I admire about the VA hospital is the brotherhood and respect you feel. The Honor Guard comes forward when one passes. A person from the same division will put on their uniform and stand guard outside the room until the body is picked up by the morgue.
What a wonderful way to honor the deceased.
Monday, October 16, 2017
The other day I stopped into a store to pick up a drink. The clerk was friendly and asked what I had planned for my day. When asked these types of questions I usually respond with “ you know a little of this and a little of that.” But that day for some reason I decided to share a little more. I told the clerk my therapy dog and I had a session planned for the afternoon, a visit to a college. She looked at me with concern and said “I hope your dog feels better soon.”
With the rise in popularity of therapy (and service) dogs I imagined the majority of people are aware of their function in the world. However, clearly the word has not reached everyone. I decided to take a few minutes to educate this person on the role of a therapy dog, not for a pat on my back, but rather so she can educate the next person.
Similarly, I had a conversation with my niece who is raising a dog to become a seeing eye dog for the blind. Dino is 9 months old and travels everywhere she does, He wears a vest identifying himself as a dog in training. My niece also carries an ID card. Unfortunately there have been a few occasions where people have been confused and denied her (and Dino) entrance to a building. They have asked her if Dino is blind. They have asked her is she is blind. They have a hard time comprehending her role in training this dog. (The early years are spent socializing the dog before determining if the dog can pass the requirements to be a full service dog for the blind).This is an unfortunate situation as she is a volunteer and is doing this out of the goodness of her heart.
Although therapy and service dogs have two completely different roles they both help people overcome obstacles. My hope is that in time and with more education people will recognize the good they do in people’s lives.
Monday, August 28, 2017
I remember each time entering Mr. D’s room. Even before I had a chance to ask how he was feeling he always said “Hi Blondie,” the name he had given to Maggie.
Mr. D passed away last week. He was one of my regulars at the VA hospital and definitely one of my favorites. You never heard a complaint come out of Mr. D’s mouth. Always a smile on his face. His favorite topic-baseball-and I never admitted I didn’t fully follow the game. He probably knew but never let on. We danced around the topic. We enjoyed each other’s company and conversation. But most importantly he enjoyed his time with Maggie. I know Maggie enjoyed her time with him as well. When we turned the corner near his room she used to pull on her leash eager to enter his room. This past time she pulled on the leash and then stopped. The smells were different. She looked up at me.
“I know,” I said “I miss him also,” I told her as I patted her head.
Is it wrong of me to ask how he passed?
I was told Mr. D was transferred to the main hospital for a procedure. He was left alone momentarily in search of a consent form. When they returned … he had passed.
So like Mr. D. No complaints, and in his own terms.
Goodbye and a salute from Maggie and me.
You will be missed.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
With schools being closed over the summer Maggie and I have had the opportunity to shift out focus and spend time with middle school kids (and the literacy program) at many libraries across the area. We’ve traveled to the East town Library, Ridley Park Library, Ridley Township Library and the Gladwyne Library. Seeing smile’s on kid’s faces when they greet Maggie is one thing but when they have a book in hand adds to the delight. Many of these programs are scheduled in the evening as these kids are in camp during the day. They come in raring to go with tons of energy to read and tons of questions about Maggie.
I am always curious which books each child picks to read. This season I have seen a lot of “Captain Underpants”, Pete the Cat series”, A bunch of books about animals, “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, and some “Judy Blume’s a tale of the Fourth Grade Nothing”.
Being a part of the Literacy program is a wonderful experience. The idea is for the kids to read to the dog (or rabbit) in a non judge-mental environment. I love that the program continues over the summer as well. It helps reinforce their reading skills.
Does anyone remember the old Zany Brainy stores? They had a summer reading program for kids. The idea was to read a book a week and come in to the store and talk about it. What a great concept. Parents had to come drop the kids off for reading/discussion time at the store. Reading time=shopping time! My kids were part of this program and loved it as well. (I can’t begin to tell you how many toys we bought at the same time!)
This summer reading program has been a win win (and win). Maggie gets lots of hugs and treats. The kids get to practice their reading while petting Maggie and I get to be in my most favorite place.