okay. so this post is going to be distinctively not gluten-related at all. in fact, it has a lot to do with feeding dogs wheat pasta off a fork. sound interesting? oh you have no idea.
i call one of my dogs my "special" son. the other is my gifted boy. Mr. Smarty FurPants knows about 150 commands and nothing makes him happier than training, working, earning and learning. since i find myself now too strapped for funds to dole out the mad cash necessary to continue his agility training, i have searched for a new activity for us to focus on.
i think i've got myself a swell little therapy dog over here.
sure, there's lots of training to be done and a very difficult obedience test to pass (no, not for me, for the DOG!). but we'll do it. you can bet your buttons we'll do it. and after my experience this past weekend i couldn't fathom NOT doing it. oh my dear readers you have no idea until you see it and feel it and know it in person. you just have no idea.
on saturday i attended my first "without dog" observation, which is one of the human requirements that must be met before i am able to work as a therapy dog handler. i woke early on that day and was gone until afternoon. when i returned on the sunny Saturday, the first thing i did was snap on my dog's leash and take him for a walk. i guess it was part determination to help him ace that exam, and part of me needed that sunshine and air. we had to be out and moving and seeing and breathing and why? because we could.
i met two ladies, each with 100 lbs of dog at their side at the entrance to the hospital. we made our introductions and together we swooshed through the hospital lobby into a hallway lit yellow and bright. we peered into doorways and offered a visit from the patient pups. some said Yes and others No, and together as a group we weaved and bobbed between the rooms.
a woman, sitting upright in a metal chair next to her bed said Yes to the dogs and in we went. in a shaky, weakened hand the woman balanced a bowl full of feastables and bit-by-bit she fed the dogs from a fork, like one would a child. the woman concentrated hard to coordinate the tasting, and she never dropped a single niblet. never even came close. she did it for the dog and she was talking and happy all the while. a few more days and she'd be home.
in another room, a man laid in his bed with a nurse at his side. on his face was an expression of shock and amazement. dogs in the hospital? big dogs? he was in his 50s and never in his life had he touched a canine. and now he was feeding one neatly with a utensil as it perched its massive hindquarters on his bed. i never thought a smile could get so big or eyes so wide. when snack time was through the man clasped his hands together and declared this to the highlight of his stay. he was counting the seconds until he could tell his wife all about this. i am certain that once he finds his health we'll see him proudly walking his first dog around town.
into another hospital room... it was quiet. a woman lay low in her bed, thin and weak with dark eyes. unmoving. tubes of all sorts were attached to liquids held high and they darted into the sheets and disappeared. the room was warm and sweets sat on a table uneaten. and then there were the dogs. and with their entry came life to a frail body and light behind her face. she struggled to speak and begged the dogs be brought closer and closer. a chair was set next to the bed and the massive canines took turns sitting nicely and accepting treats and pets. it was happy.
until the woman began to cry.
they were sobs from a body unable to find the energy for tears. there was a sadness so deep from a young person facing something she didn't seem quite ready for. paper-thin hands were held tight and tears gently pat away. soft words were whispered but how can a human really understand? one that is well and walking... how do they find the words to comfort another? it was then that the rottweiler hoisted his triple-digit body onto the bed. he was careful with his feet, balancing gingerly on the bed's edge and resting his mammoth head so gently on her fragile chest. tears melted into kisses and arms wrapped snugly around the dog's neck. they laid like that for some time - the dog still and comforting.
the big pup had patience for days. he would lie there with her and melt into her embrace. food was no longer interesting. life was on pause. this was his place and he was her medicine. the woman's body relaxed and she drifted lightly to sleep.
in time the dog dismounted and parting words were said, along with promises that next week they'll be back and next week she will have a furry neck to hold and a fuzzy forehead to kiss. and next week she can drift to dream feeling life and warmth lying next to her, unafraid of her, giving her more than words ever could. and we all hoped and prayed for next week.
an hour visit to a hospital may not be much out of a schedule. an hour visit from a week's-worth of hours may not be a whole lot to ask. but somewhere in that hour humans are changed deeply. i was changed deeply. and suddenly an hour just doesn't seem like enough when it means a lifetime to someone bound to their bed. one hour and suddenly the world looks different and it wouldn't be possible without the therapy dog.
so take 60 minutes and spend it with your dog today. walk, talk, play and pet. take it all in, every last little bit of it. there will be a day when you can no longer do this.
today is not the day