At the encouragement of a very dear friend of mine, I have created this blog to document our weekly therapy dog visits to Dodd Hall. I might add this particular friend of mine took great joy in reading my Asia blog, especially the enrty about the grouper staring me in the face all through lunch. I should also add she volunteers with one of her dogs in the same capacity as Chelsie and I do - only Keyton is much better at playing up "look how smart and handsome I am". There is really no arguing with him though, he is a beautiful dog.
As many of you know, Chelsie and I are certified as a therapy dog team through Therapy Dogs International, based in NJ. To get certified, Chelsie and I took a class that was not only geared toward the certification test, but toward our therapy visits as well. The class introduced us to wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, loud noises, etc, which has proven to be very valuable. In our work at Dodd Hall, we encounter many of these items.
For those of you not familiar with Dodd Hall, it is a nationally renowned rehabilitation center. Patients at Dodd are those patients well enough to be released from acute care hospitals, but not well enough to be home yet. Dodd 3 is where the spinal cord and traumatic brain injury patients are, while Dodd 4 is where the general population is. We volunteer on Dodd 4, as the brain injury patients can be impulsive and yell at people - not an ideal situation to say the least. Mom is perfectly fine with staying on the 4th floor.
From the outside, Dodd does not look like much. However, there is a lot packed in that building. There are several rooms where patients complete rehab during the day, with the main room being on the first floor. There are all the things you would expect to see in such a place, with a few other things as well:
1) Kitchen - many people have to re-learn how to do normal every day tasks such as cooking, washing dishes, etc. Rehab specialists oversee this in the full kitchen on Dodd 1.
2) Laundry - another task many patients have to re-learn. Right next to the kitchen is a washer and dryer.
3) Fully equipped apartment living - If patients are going home by themselves, they must first show they can function on their own. To ensure the patients will be safe, there is an apartment situated on the first floor where patients will go and live for a few days to show the therapists they are capable of being on their own.
The volunteer process at OSU is a long process. First, I had to take Chelsie to meet one of the volunteer coordinators. We are what is known as "Pet Pals". Once it was established that we were indeed fit to be pet pals, the process began. I had to attend a few meetings and was subjected a background check equivalent to something someone seeking classified information must go through. By the time the meetings and background checks took place, nearly 9 mos had passed and TDI was wondering why I had not been out on visits.
Anyway, suffice to say, we have been volunteering now for about 2 mos. Every Monday night, I get her little red jacket and her special collar with her therapy dog tag and off we go. Up to Dodd 4, where Barb, the nurse coordinator greets us. Chelsie greets her by sniffing the trash for leftovers, in true scrounging form. We figure out who is in isolation (we cannot go in those rooms) and who we know would not be up for this and then we take a walk up and down the floor.
Even though we have been doing this for only a few mos, I know we have made a difference in people's lives. There was one girl in particular this last time who was very taken with Chelsie. Apparently, she had a baby about 4 mos ago, and something went very, very wrong. It was obvious she had brain surgery - the front of her head was shaved and you could see where the scar had healed (staple marks had healed also). Somehow in all of this, she had lost her hearing as well, so the only way you could communicate with her was to write everything down. The attendant told me she was not sure how much she had seen the baby since this happened, however, I did notice a picture of a baby on her bed table. We spent quite a bit of time with her, and one of the nurses commented that it was nice to see her happy, she usually was not. Further proof we should not take pregnancy and the birth of a healthy child for granted. Or the health of the mother, for that matter.
People were in a good mood the other night. We went into one room where the lady said she had always seen these dogs on TV, but never thought one would visit her. We proved her wrong. The first room of the night heard us coming and was just thrilled. In that room is a lady we have seen for the past three weeks, and unfortunately, we will probably be seeing her again. Not wanting to insult anyone, we hope we only see them once. That is a luxury many of them wish for but seldom achieve.
There was an older gentleman we have seen for the last 2 weeks who was a real spitfire. His grand kids drew pictures for his, which he has posted on his door and is very proud of. We went back to one of the first rooms we visited at the end of our night - they were eating when we first got there, but wanted to see the dog so we came back. There was yet another gentlemen who was going home the next day and was thrilled to have a dog come visit him. So many different stories...
At any rate, I hope you all enjoy out stories. This is our way of making a difference.
Nicole and the Chelsie Belle