Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Unknown

The Unknown. The Unknown I’m so fortunate to live near many college and universities. Maggie and I have had the opportunity to visit students at Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, Immaculata College, Philadelphia College of Medicine, Rosemont College, University of Pennsylvania Medical College, and Villanova University. So what do all these college and universities have in common? A lot of students that are stressed work hard and have a love of animals. As much as the students don’t look forward to mid-terms and finals, Maggie and I do, so we can visit and help relieve their stress. Over the years we have met many wonderful people and had some amazing conversations. But one student stands out the most in my mind. This girl came to “Pets on the Green” as it is known with two of her friends. I noticed her sitting quietly and tried to engage her in conversation. “Do you have a dog at home?” “No,” she replied “Do you like animals?” They’re ok she replied. I quickly realized she was probably just waiting for her friends to finish visiting with Maggie, and probably didn’t want to have a conversation. I did however notice a sadness in her eyes, but decided not to comment about it. After her friends finished their visit and got up to leave she turned to me and said “I’m from Sandy Hook and after the shootings they brought in therapy dogs. It did a lot of good. “ A chill ran down my back. I’ll never know if her sadness stemmed from her stress at school or from her thinking about the events back at home. I did however appreciate her sharing those words with me. It reminded me that we never really know what goes on in someone’s personal life. I do hope she finds a way to heal.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Great Strides

Great Strides. With the school year coming to a close it is amazing to see the growth in all the children. I’m not talking about their height or even their ability to read. What I’m talking about is in their ability to connect with Maggie. With so many children visiting Maggie there are those that have fears and will not pet her or even approach her. I have tried to explain the difference between Maggie and a regular dog (Maggie being very calm).But to no avail. We do not believe in pressuring any children so we just let them watch her from a distance. But this last week has proven that with repetition and positive reinforcement come great strides. I was witness to two young children that previously would not approach Maggie. But over the course of the school year this has changed. They not only felt comfortable approaching Maggie, they also adapted to petting her. One child even sat with her for roughly five minutes. The smile on these children’s faces reached all the way to their eyes. What a pleasure to see how Maggie has helped them grow. (if not for the privacy laws I would have taken a picture). Maggie recognizes most of the children that we visit. But I find it interesting to see her get more excited with certain children. Generally these are the children that have an animal at home and know how to handle her (I know this because I have asked them if they have an animal at home). No poking her face , pulling her tail and no touching her feet, all sensitive areas for her. Some young children need to be watched more than others as they get excited and don’t pay attention to directions very well. All in all it has been a good school year and we look forward to the next school year as well.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lesson Learned One of the more difficult visits is when you get to the hospice unit and realize a patient there was once on a regular floor. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. The first time this happened I tried to mask the surprise on my face. I hope I was successful, but honestly I don’t know if I pulled it off. As time progressed I have learned to manage my facial expressions to the point of keeping my emotions inside. I do know there have been additional times the same thing has occurred and upon entering a room on the hospice floor I have recognized a former patient from a regular floor. My comment was “Mr ____ there you are, so nice to see you.” This actually evoked a smile from the gentleman as he recognized Maggie and replied “good to be seen” I realize it doesn’t matter what you say as long as you say something. Many people are lonely and long for a conversation not related to their medical condition. So what do we talk about? I usually introduce Maggie (in case they have forgotten who she is), tell them how old she is and talk about what breed she is and how I care for her. If they seem interested (and they have the energy) I ask them questions as well. Did they ever have a dog? If so what breed? What was the name etc? Every case is different. There have been times when a patient has talked non-stop and there have been times when a patient has fallen asleep mid-sentence. Once after a visit Maggie and I were walking down a hall. We were approached by a couple who introduced themselves as (grown) children of a patient we had just visited on the Hospice floor. They pet Maggie for a minute and proceeded to thank me for taking time out of my day for visiting with their loved one. “My pleasure,” I replied With tears in their eyes they said “You don’t understand. Many people say they will come visit but really don’t. I’ve seen you and your dog wandering around here before. You make a lot of people happy.” I gave them a smile and repeated” it’s my pleasure.” I left the facility not only feeling like I accomplished something in my day but really learning the meaning of giving of yourself.