Sunday, June 7, 2009

Coming Into Her Own...

Over the last few months, little bean has really started to come into her own in her therapy work. I had started to notice this over the past few months, but really noticed on our special visit yesterday.

A few weeks ago, an email came out to our therapy dog group about someone wanting a visit for a loved one in hospice in a nursing home. I thought it was the retirement home in the back of our neighborhood, so I volunteered. Of course, there is more than one of these, but it was just down the road, so I thought, what the heck? I was mildly irritated at the lack of response I got from them about getting a visit set up. So I finally hear back, and decide that our first priority on Saturday morning was to visit.

Guess what? We got there, only to find out the lady we were going to visit had passed the night before. Terrific. But being as we were there, I thought, why not, everyone loves dogs? Someone was coming in - this lady loved dogs and took us around to a few different places. Overall, it was a very successful visit, from the dog's perspective. The human's perspective, well, it was a little difficult.

We were in a health care/assisted living center. It was very, very hard for me to see. I won't go into to too many details, but I am not sure we will be going back, simply because I can't take it. I am more greatful than ever that we did not have to ever, ever come near making a decision about whether or not to have to put my grandmother in a home and am very greatful that my parents see their long term care insurance as a top priority. I told my mom today that the money they invested in having long term care insurance was money that would save their children great heart ache one day for not ever having to decide when it was time for them to no longer live on their own.

Chelsie was nothing short of amazing yesterday...coherent is not a word I would use to describe anyone in this place, but they all knew she was there. She marched right up to wheelchairs and sat right next to them...stood up a few times when people would scratch her ears - they loved seeing her tail wag. We also ended up in the Alzheimer's unit - I won't go into too much detail there either, other than to say there was this lady in a wheelchair in the doorway to her room, screaming randomly - sometimes at people, most of the time at nothing. Chelsie just ignored her, and focused her attention on a man named Daryl. Daryl was very taken with her and had her face in his hands, just talking to her. She was oblivious to everything else around her...a few times she tried to jump up and lick him, but I had her on a very short rope and was able to nip that in the bud very quickly. Daryl probably had no recollection of petting her 30 seconds later, but the time she spent with him was priceless.

I know the people in there really loved having us there...but I don't know if I am mentally and emotionally prepared to visit a place like that regularly. Because my grandmother lived with us for so long, I have a soft spot for the elderly...and it breaks my heart to see them in a place like that, so isolated and so alone, with very little quality of life. Although there were many things I had to tell my grandma multiple times, she always knew who I was (even if I got called three names before my own came out) I don't think I could have taken her not knowing who I was.

So the million dollar question is whether or not I have the capacity to allow Chelsie to continue to do her good work at this particular nursing home. I am so proud of her - all of a sudden, she just seems to know what people need. They may want to pet her, want to see her do tricks, or just look at her as she lays down on the floor. Whatever it is, she/we make a difference to them.

This has not been an easy weekend emotionally - first the situation with my friend Kristin's baby and then this, along with a few other things I won't go into detail about. But this weekend has given me a greater appreciation for those in my life I care about, and had reminded me how truly precious life is...


Becky said...

How sweet you are and what a special impact you have on those you visit. By your post, it is evident what an amazingly kind, caring person you are - so true, life is precious we must enjoy and appreciate each day we have - its a gift. You inspire me to do so!

Cabana's Puppy Raiser said...

What a quandary! But I agree with Becky's comment. You and Chelsie may never know how much your presence positively impacted the people there, although I'm sure there will be a ripple effect. However, I do think that in order for you to sustain an activity, it needs to be something that you want to do and enjoy at least somewhat, not something you have to grit your teeth to get through. Perhaps there's a way that you can find to share Chelsie with people in need, but which will be less emotionally difficult. But I hope you can feel good about what you and Chelsie did today, without dwelling too much on the decision, which doesn't need to be made today or even this week, which has, as you said, been an emotional one.