Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Without love there is nothing left to feel. More times than I care to mention, I find my sole solace lies in helping others.
Last week I was at the rehab hospital with 'Kelsie'on the Animal Assisted Therapy table waiting for the next patient to come and work on achieving some goal or expectation, whether standing balance, fine motor skills, attention to task, manual dexterity or some other small step toward rehabilitation.
The occupational therapist wheeled this particular patient to the table and told me that this man is a 'mystery.' He had been found in his bathroom after being in there for three days. There was no known diagnosis, except dehydration. He sat in his wheelchair studying me with perfect eye contact. I cocked my head slightly and simply smiled at him. Kelsie was lying on her side and turned her head to look at him. But his eyes never left my face.
I began telling him about Kelsie - how old she is and how many pounds she weighs. I told him about her history of being bred in Canada to be a guide dog here in Texas for the blind and about how she had spent several weeks in Dominguez State Prison here with an 'offender,' as her basic obedience trainer. I asked him to pronouce her name. He did. I extended the handle of a rubber brush to him and asked if he wanted to brush her. He raised his arm, took the brush, and started brushing Kelsie in one place on her side, not moving his arm or the brush. But he was brushing her. Then he began brushing the blanket she was laying on. I really didn't think too much of it at the time, but soon I noticed the occupational therapist signaling to others to look. "That is the most 'anything' we have seen out of him since he has been here. This is wonderful."
It seems that Kelsie's presence had unlocked a door inside this man that hadn't been opened in a long time. As of now, no one knows what battle this man has carried, what his future holds, but for this one moment he said the word 'Kelsie,' and he brushed a dog, and he had made one small step forward.
I have hundreds of stories of dogs whose mission is to help people heal, stories that bring people to tears and to a place of wonder. This is but one. This man seemingly locked inside was wearing his loneliness, but just for a moment opened his heart and allowed a therapy dog inside. It was one of those moments when words are meaningless. One of those moments that erases everything bad. For that moment he was here. And perhaps, just perhaps, for that moment Miss Kelsie was a bandaid for his loneliness and perhaps for mine too.
"You are alive. It does not matter how old or how maimed you are, as long as you are alive, anything is possible."