Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dog Day Afternoon

Or, Chico’s First Day on the Job

Friendswood Health Care Center
 It was our vet’s idea. The veterinary hospital/kennel where Chico stays when we travel has long said he would be a good therapy dog. “He’s the perfect house guest!” Dr. Kivney enthused. He must be, since he never wants to leave when we come back for him. Spoiled rotten to boot.

So I called the Activities Director at the nearest nursing home. Her name is Rose, and she was delighted. In fact, she’d declared the entire month of July as Dog Days and was actively seeking volunteers.
And so, with no training or any idea what to expect, I duly reported to Friendswood Health Care Center yesterday, July 4, at 3:15 PM with Chico in tow.

A bustling commons area opened directly off the entry foyer. A boom box blared patriotic music while Rose served coffee, ice cream and red, white and blue cookies. Chico, rebelling against the unaccustomed harness and leash, anxiously headed for the action.  Immediately he became entangled with table legs and between spokes of wheelchairs. On hands and knees I struggled to extricate him, ultimately having to remove the harness assembly completely.  And he was off, eagerly seeking people to pet him.
A nurse quickly called a halt to that. Things must be under control in a nursing home, after all. Understandable, but it would’ve been better for Chico to choose his own petters. Handing him from person to person made him wary, and the shaky hands that reached out evidently reminded him of the jerky motions of grandsons. He actually snapped twice at residents who would’ve loved to hold him. I was shocked and mortified, but the folks were forgiving. No one wanted him to leave.  Finally I learned how to gauge an encounter and Chico did score some quality lap time.

It was better going into residents’ rooms where it was dark and quiet. Rose pointed me toward patients who were lucid but immobile. I politely knocked, and was granted the acquaintance of an amazing 95-year-old. Chico nestled in next to her with no hesitation while we visited.  He was more fidgety with the next lady, but then she was sitting up and didn’t have much of a lap.
On the way out he garnered more attention at a nursing station, which he ate up with no reservation whatever. 

I stopped at Sonic for hotdogs. It was the Fourth, after all. But once home, Chico showed none of his usual frenzy for people food. He went straight for his bed.

No comments: