Monday, January 30, 2017
It’s not uncommon to see people milling around on wheelchairs at the VA hospital. It’s also not uncommon to see people with missing limbs. When I first started bringing Maggie to the VA hospital about 2 ½ years ago my head would turn every time someone with a missing limb passed me. Today I don’t even bat an eye. When I first enter the VA hospital Maggie and I visit the physical therapy room. The physical therapy room is well equipped with state of the art work out equipment, weights and mats. By looking at it one would think it is a regular gym at a facility anywhere. A big shout out to the people that work there who give it their all. Tuesday afternoons (the day Maggie and I visit) are always busy. I appreciate their ability to give personal attention to the residents and deal with our interruptions without missing a beat. Many of the residents enjoy our visit and like to engage in long ended conversations. I end up having to pull away with comments like “so sorry but I have to continue with my visit” or “so many people to see.” The best way to end our visit is to ask if anyone wants to give Maggie a treat. This is usually answered with a yes and Maggie ends up very happy. This past week after completing our visit in the physical therapy room, Maggie and I continued down the hall when a gentleman was rolling in a wheelchair towards us. On his lap was a shoe. As he came closer I asked if he wanted to pet Maggie. He said he did. “Where are you going with the shoe?” I asked. “My prosthetic leg is in, “he answered with a smile. “Oh so nice,” I replied. “Just the temporary one but still it will be good to get out of this chair, “he continued. Our conversation went on for a bit while Maggie enjoyed a little attention as well. I knew he was headed to the physical therapy room as that is where he will be fitted with his prosthetic leg. After some adjusting (of the leg) the team in the PT room will come up with a plan for him to do daily exercises to strengthen the muscles that he hasn’t used in quite some time. I know I will see him up and about really soon!
Monday, January 23, 2017
I was wracking my brains trying to figure out a blog to write for this week’s installment. As I have been sick and unable to take Maggie on our usual therapy visits I had resigned myself to skip this week. But finally feeling a little better I took Maggie on a walk this morning and ended up at Starbucks. As we sat outside (me drinking my chai tea latte and Maggie drinking her water) Maggie got to watch everyone coming and going. A number of people approached us and asked permission to pet her. Well this made Maggie’s day! A conversation or two and then we set off for home. Some of my greatest thinking occurs on my walks with Maggie and it occurred to me while I was sick with the flu (and I got the flu shot I might add!) Maggie being a therapy dog, was actually giving me therapy. She stayed by my side without complaining. Actually I did enough complaining for both of us! For four days I would crawl out of bed to let Maggie outside to do her business and then let her back inside. We would then go back upstairs so I could lie in bed. Maggie either lied in bed with me, on the carpet next to my bed or in the bathroom (she likes the cool tile) that connects to my bedroom. When I would turn over she would poke her head up to see what I was doing but then she would lay her head right back down when she realized I wasn’t getting out of bed. Not once in four days did Maggie whine or bark at the change in our regular routine. On the fifth day when I had a little more energy and I managed to sit in the den, Maggie was thrilled! I could almost detect a smile on her face. At one point she brought me her favorite toy, a stuffed armadillo, and we had a nice game of tug-a-war! They say therapy starts in the home and Maggie has proven that concept. Thanks dear Maggie for keeping me company when I was at a low point and needing someone by side. Sorry for the cliché but a dog is truly man’s (woman’s ) best friend!
Monday, January 16, 2017
Maggie and I met an interesting individual this past week. He was at the VA hospital so he could receive attention to help him manage his pain. When I popped my head in and asked if he wanted a visit from a therapy dog he answered that it was just what he needed! He mentioned that he was at the hospital last year but I do not recall meeting him. As he was petting Maggie he told me that his time spent in Vietnam led him to be come in contact with Agent Orange. Coming into contact with this chemical caused him much pain over the years and this led him to years of drinking, which damaged his liver. Eventually he was added to the transplant list to receive a new liver. No judgement here as to who gets to be put on the list-where you are on the list depending on your habits drinking vs not drinking after all this man served our country! This individual did eventually receive a new liver but while on the operating table coded and had to be brought back to life. His wife didn’t tell him this right away but when he found out he turned to religion. Why? Because he felt God kept him alive many times. We had a pretty good discussion about his experiences. He said he still did not know why God chose to save him while in Vietnam when his buddy to his left was killed his buddy to his right was killed and he was spared. Then again on the operating table his life was spared once again. I answered quickly and said your purpose on earth in not yet finished. He stopped petting Maggie turned to me with his deep blue eyes and nodded his head with an understanding. As I exited his room I turned one last time and saw him looking out the window. I had no idea what he was thinking but I do hope my visit with Maggie was beneficial and eventually his pain will subside.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
When Maggie and I enter a facility we never know what (or who) we will encounter. Over the last couple of weeks we met with a few individuals that were “down in the dumps”. One of our regulars “Dave” who is confined to a wheelchair would wait for us outside his room. Although he cannot move his arms or his hands we always make sure to stop by and engage him in conversation. Maggie sits by his side patiently listening to our conversation. This past week when I turned down the corridor and didn’t see “Dave” outside his room I became concerned. I poked my head in his room and noticed him in bed with the covers pulled up to his chin. I put a smile on my face and Maggie and I entered his room. He explained that he was under the weather. I asked him what he was under the weather with and he responded a cold. I know he isn’t telling me the whole story as a cold doesn’t put Dave in bed, but I don’t pry. I talk about his favorite topic-politics, hoping it will distract him for a few moments. At this point Maggie has made herself comfortable on the floor. As we finish our conversation and get ready to leave I wish him a speedy recovery. His comeback is “it is what it is” I smile as I direct Maggie out the door and wonder if he has any family members planning on visiting for the holidays. At another facility I encounter a woman calling me over. “I love dogs, I just love dogs,” she says “I rescued five greyhounds!” “ Wow,” I said “what were their names?” I ask “Can’t remember,” she says after a pause, “What’s your dog’s name?” she asks, “Maggie,” I reply, “Oh, that’s the name of my daughter in law…I don’t like her,” she continues. “Well if you prefer you can call her Margaret, she’ll respond to both.” I’ve seen this woman before but have not officially introduced myself to her. She proceeds to pull out pictures of her dogs, but ends up showing me pictures of her and her husband. So nice I respond. Well, it wasn’t such a good marriage she answers. I realize this woman must have had a lot of knocks in her life, but her dogs were a positive aspect for her. So I sit there with her and let her pet Maggie and listen to her complain in hopes it will make her feel better. “I just love dogs and if I wasn’t living here I would have two or five,” she adds “Well I’m happy to be able to bring Maggie here to visit with you.” I say We banter back and forth until she abruptly turns her wheelchair and exits the room. I’m sure I will see her again at a future visit and we’ll do this over again! I can’t help but think of these individuals over the holiday and wonder how they are fairing.