I knew Wilson has always had a soft spot for older people. Until yesterday, I didn’t know to what extent. For whatever nervousness I might have had going into our first assignment as a Hospice Pet Therapy Team, Wilson quickly set me at ease. How like the dog to comfort his master.
The moment we entered the skilled nursing facility, it was like a ripple went through the building. Wilson was in the house! He sat. He shook hands. He blew kisses. He let the ladies tussle his hair, the men pat him on the back.
He was a rock star, wagging to the beat of his own brand of Led Zeppelin. He was Mick Jagger in a fur coat singing 100 Years Ago.
Wilson went from room to room, person to person, carefully sidling up to say hello. To leave a bit of magic.
During training for Hospice we were taught that dementia patients, even when unresponsive in other ways, often amazingly respond to three things: touch, music and surprisingly, pets. It’s true. Everywhere we went, fragile hands with papery skin reached out to touch the dog. Tightly closed eyes opened even if just for a moment. Women cooed. Men sat up a bit straighter. Small shaking voices talked about their own past dogs. One man called Wilson by his own long lost dog’s name. One person declared him a Great Dane and a “fine one at that.”
We’ll be back next Friday. I have new friends now and Wilson, it would seem, is developing a small following. Nevertheless, if we left just one person with a tiny smile, if we left just one person’s fingertips alive with the memory of soft fur, if we allowed one person a moment of distraction from what might seem endless confinement, we did a good and generous thing.
Good job, Wilson! Good job.
Nice writing style. I look forward to reading more in the future.
I could just cry!!! Wilson we LOVE you , you precious boy, and your mommy to for sharing you with others who need your special brand of TLC. We are going to dedicate a whole page on our site to WILSON THE WONDER DOG so that you can inspire your siblings and even strangers to get out and spread some love. GOOD BOY!!!!!!!!!!!
Wow. Wilson’s own special page! Honestly, Lisa, you were the best “first mom” to Wilson and we tell everyone we meet about Chatsworth Labradoodles and your special love for all your dogs. If Wilson is special it’s only because you gave him the best start possible.
Somewhere recently I read an article about the special relationship our pets (or other peoples’ pets) have with us. The piece went so far as to suggest that the act of petting an animal released hormones or other substances that helped calm us. In return the animal also released similar chemicals that had the same effect.
I’ve heard the same, Dave. All I know for certain is that animals deserve the right to be loved, cared for properly, kindly trained and given the best we have to offer. In return, they will give EVERYTHING they have. As for their calming effect, there’s nothing like a loving animal to soothe the savage beast in us.
I know how much your dogs meant to you.
All the best,
I love this idea, and appreciate that you are taking the time and energy to do this.
I saw first-hand the soothing affect a pet can have when my grandfather was in his final years of Alzheimer’s. He grew very attached to the family pet, and would spend hours petting and tending his best friend.
Best of luck to you and Wilson. I’m sure your efforts will mean a great deal those you encounter.
Thank you, Drew. I think this new gig is a real win-win. Wilson and I get to do something fun together and, in the process, we meet lots of lovely people. It’s so true that Alzheimer’s patients light up around a pet. Wilson is HUGE, but even with his size, our grand new friends couldn’t get close enough or spend enough time with their doggie visitor.
The thing that surprised me the most was how Wilson was so careful in spite of his youth and his normal exuberance.