Tuesday, March 8, 2011
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ORDINARY
Sometimes gifts are given in the middle of the ordinary! These gifts come unexpected, unannounced and deliberately. Such a gift arrived yesterday.
The past few weeks have been full of chaos, confusion, frenzy, and one hell of a painful kidney stone. I was due a gift in this day full of 86,400 seconds. A simple phone call, the messenger of this stray gift.
As the voice on the other end of the phone quietly introduced herself, I am certain she had no idea that what she had said had been an answer to a prayer. Not only a personal prayer, but an unknown prayer from many, many frightened children.
It comes as no surprise to any of you that have followed this blog and Penny's From Heaven Foundation that we have an elite group of dedicated, hardworking, trained dog teams that venture out into the everyday world and spread sunshine. Offering their gifts of their therapy dogs to those who need them the most is challenging, exhilarating, and most of the time exhausting. If they do it right!
Whether it is a wounded warrior who has lost his way and is stuck in the quicksand of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an amputation or a severe burn survivor, or a child who has been sexually abused and must testify in front of his attacker, to a hospice patient snuggling a dog perhaps for the last time, to a cancer patient clinging to hope, our dogs are there offering what they give best - their gift of presence.
As Executive Director, it has been my vision to place our dog teams in places undiscovered. Undiscovered in the sense that perhaps no dog has been provided there as a modality before. Today the benefits of pet therapy are huge in a myriad of venues. When I think that twenty to thirty years ago, families were sneaking grandma's dog into the hospital to see her through the back door, to today when dogs are present in almost any and every health care facility you can imagine.
Tragedy, crisis, and the promise of a whispered prayer seem to be answered when a dog is part of the equation. Children and pets just go together. They have a bond unlike none other. This is especially true when a young child is frightened, has been molested, perhaps raped, terrified, and his or her life completely changed at a very young age, in he blink of an eye.
A most handsome golden retriever named Chance for many years has been present for the messiness in the lives of children. A PFHF Foundation Honorary Therapy Dog, Chance has worked in the Bexar County Court House calming and comforting frightened and anxious children who have to testify to abuse or witnessing abuse. He has been there to simply hold on to and snuggle in scary times. This big dog with a big heart is a teddy bear come to life. He manages to awaken childhood again to children who have, temporarily, by no fault of their, own misplaced it.
He may never see these kids again, but for a few moments in a bustling court house he allows them to relax and focus on his soft brown eyes, touch his big nose, and bury their faces into his soft golden fur. It is then that they sometimes realize that telling the truth might not be so scary after all.
Faced with lawyers and judges and others throwing questions at them, these children will lie down, and snuggle up close to Chance and quietly whisper their fears to him. He in return in his unique way, lets them know it is going to be alright.
Chance, has been a comfy and safe landing place for children's tears and fears. He has also been present at adoptions of children into new lives and families. Perhaps families that will allow them a big cuddly dog like Chance.
Chance is retiring soon. That is where the phone call came in. Penny's From Heaven Foundation has been asked to provide a successor for Chance! We are humbled and grateful and honored.
Bailey, will be Chance's successor! Bailey has big paws to fill. But there isn't a doubt in my mind that Bailey will do his best. He won't ever be Chance, but he too will be a big comfy landing place for these kids in crisis whenever needed. God bless them both for the gifts they have given and the gifts received. And God bless Becky Snodgrass for sharing her most treasured gift with the world and Suzette Cerrillo for embarking on a journey of a lifetime. I am proud!
You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers. ~Seneca