Over the weekend, Grampa had a particularly tough morning. His sleeping has been all turned around for quite some time, and he had been up most of the night again. I visited until about noon, and left to head home, promising that I’d be back.
When I was signing out, at the nurses’ station, I remembered that I’d seen a dog in the hall when we first brought Grampa to his room. I asked the nurse on duty if therapy dogs came often, thinking we might like a visit. And then I remembered why I love smaller hospitals (this one is very small).
“Oh, no,” he said, “We actually allow dogs to come onto the ward.” Then he added, “We love dogs!”
I went home, and got a few things done.
And then I asked Blaze a question I’d never asked her royal dog-li-ness before.
“Hey Blaze,” I asked, “Do you wanna go to work?”
Always up for something, in the great tradition of ShepHerds everywhere, she tilted her head to make sure she understood, and we headed for the door.
I was half way to the hospital, Blaze enjoying the ride and checking out scents on the wind, when I wondered how she would do.
She is a good girl, a pretty gentle girl. But she’d never been in a hospital before. Heck, she’s never even gone to a groomer (preferring the privacy of my shower for her royal grooming needs).
Things would beep and whir and patients might not move gently if they wanted to pet her. And what if… and where would… and how could…. and… yikes!
And then I felt a sense of calm descend.
I could trust her.
I just knew it.
In the hospital parking lot, we warmed up by dusting off her ‘sit’ and ‘heel’. We did a couple of ‘downs’ too. And a ‘stay’.
Then we were approaching the door, and it automatically slid open. And we went in.
And all I could think of was the advice a mentor gave me a long time ago…
“Act like you’ve been there before.”
And so we did.
We greeted the woman at the information desk and she smiled at us as we walked by.
We passed a young boy, in tears and holding a newly bandaged hand, and his Mom. The boy’s tears stopped right away when he saw Blaze. He bent down and I asked if he wanted to meet her and he nodded. His mom looked at me nervously (Blaze is a big ShepHerd) and I told her that this was Blaze, and she’d never met a handsome young man she didn’t like.
And her streak didn’t end as she made a big, but gentle, deal out of the boy.
From there, we rounded a few corners, her leash slack, with me quietly saying, “dis way” to guide her, the way I did when she was a puppy.
When we arrived at Grampa’s ward, we pushed a button to be let in and Blaze sat still at my side, while big doors automatically opened wide. At that moment, a door opened beside us and a nurse stepped out and was shocked to see a big German ShepHerd in front of her (not a daily occurrence, I assume), and she squealed in surprise.
Blaze took it in stride and greeted her easily.
Stepping through the doors, there were patients in the hallways, and nurses pushing blood pressure machines and wheel chairs. General hospital activity for sure.
We walked up to the nurse’s station to sign in and the nurses all wanted to meet Her Royal Highness. I tapped on the counter top and she gently stood on her hind legs and greeted them all, gathering scratches and snuggles in the process.
She didn’t even know the ‘tap on the nurses station’ command, or anything else we were doing, really. We were making stuff up on the fly. Even though she was welcome, and we weren’t lying, I felt like we were bullshitting our way through pet therapy work. Blaze was a natural.
We greeted staff and patients on the way to Grampa’s room, where I knocked gently on the door.
I heard him say, “Come in”, and opened the door slowly.
“Hey. I still haven’t slept yet.” He said, and sighed.
“Well…” I said as I opened the door. “I have someone here to see you.”
“Who dat?” he asked (yes, Grampa sometimes speaks ‘New Orleans'(N’Orlins))
And Blaze and I walked in.
First time that day.
And I brought Blaze to the bed, and he put his hand on her head.
“Hi Blaze.” he said quietly, looking into her eyes. She looked right at him. Didn’t look away.
When Fred died last month, Grampa was devastated. Old Yankee Men are dog people. I have actually seen, on many an occasion, a usually stoic Old Yankee Man publicly sob over the loss of a great dog. Grampa loved Fred something awful (he also fed him way too many bones and allowed him to drool all over his trousers any time Fred felt like it). Last month, Grampa pledged never to get close to another damn dog.
But Grampa began to wordlessly stroke Blaze’s head, her chin resting on the bed beside him.
And I watched my own Old Yankee Man, who had such a tough morning, and could not calm himself, relax to the point where his hand went still, and he slipped into a much-needed sleep.
And when that happened, Blaze licked his hand once, and settled down beside him. She was doing her job, as if she was built for it.
“That’ll do, Blaze.” I whispered, tears in my eyes.
Thanks for readin’.
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