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.