The volunteer theme at OSU this year is "Stories of Caring", and our pet pal coordinator has asked us to contribute something to be shared with the volunteer, staff and hospitals. Below is the contribution I submitted as our "story of caring".
Team: Nicole Paloney and Chelsie Belle, F/Black Lab (Dodd 4)
Chelsie and I have been volunteering on Dodd 4 for about 15 months now. I was so proud of us for accomplishing my goal of being a certified therapy team and was very exited to start "sharing" her. I knew she would do great with the patients, but in no way was I ready for the impact our volunteering would have on my life.
As a patient, Dodd Hall is a very challenging place to be. Many of our patients are very mobility challenged, and endure long, exhausting days of rehab. Many of them are not from Columbus, so it is difficult for their families to be able to spend time with them. But week in and week out, the patients continue to work hard - while we tell every one we hope to only see them once, it is very rewarding to come back week after week and see improvements. Because it is not always easy for our patients to move around to see the dog, Chelsie has learned a new command called "chair". "Chair" instructs her to jump in a chair beside the patient's bed, so they can easily see her and touch her. The patients love this.
Weekly, I am reminded not to guess who might or might not want to see the dog. I walk by a room and decide they probably aren't interested in seeing her, yet oddly enough, those are the patients that really want to see her. Chelsie knows who the "dog people" are - and when she finds them, she sits in her chair for as long as we stay there. If "dog people" are identified, I usually cue them to the fact she loves to have her ears scratched...and when they find the right place, she will lean her head into their hand, sigh and groan. What this little series of events does for the patients cannot be put into words.
As I looked back through the blog I keep of our visits, what I realized is that each visit and each patient are unique. Every time I leave Dodd Hall, I am reminded of how life can be irreparably changed within seconds. A stroke, a broken leg, a car accident - whatever it is, a few seconds can change the course of someone's life. I am reminded weekly of the greatest gift I have been given, and that is my health. No matter how crazy the schedule gets, or how tired I am, our volunteer night remains very high at the top of the priority list. I love to see the looks on people's faces as we trot through the hospital on our way to Dodd. I have to say, Chelsie is right proud of herself, and knows she is doing a good thing.
People ask why we chose Dodd - when we first started, there were not a lot of therapy teams there and they had requested some pet pal teams, so that was where we landed. It is an environment that seems to be mutually beneficial to Chelsie and the patients, so onward and upward! We look forward to our weekly visits to Dodd and hope that our patients do as well!