Tuesday, February 14, 2012


"Let your soul stand ajar, always ready to welcome the ecstatic experience."  ~ Emily Dickinson

Love can be so many, many things.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, "No one is useless who has a friend, and if we are loved we are indispensable." Such it is with our four footed friends. Most of the 'ecstatic experiences' I have been witness to have occurred with patients, warriors, and therapy dogs. The interactions, the facial expressions, the unbridled joy and excitement of simply being in the presence of a dog are packed full of love. 

Therapy dogs are my life, they are what I do, they are where I see love at its best, at it finest, at its most real and truthful.  For me I have learned to love complete strangers, because I have learned what makes, or has made, them substantially vulnerable.  What makes them laugh, what makes them cry, what makes them afraid, what makes them alive and come to life.  A dog, snuggled close, brings a longing for a moment or two of peace, of recognition of another time and place. 

Therapy dogs give with no expectation of receiving anything in return.  They are someone with whom patients can share their deepest longings.  Patients can break into unashamed tears or laughter or both.  They can return to being a person that they used to be, a person they were "before".  They can find harmony and inhalations of fresh air just by gazing into the eyes of this creature, who at the same time is most wondrous and strange. 

They are two souls suddenly bound, perhaps for only moments, where silent memories or longings erupt and reality of illness escapes and peace and love takes its place.

Tom Burns has said, "You can close your eyes to what you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to what you do not want to feel."  So it is with our therapy dogs. So it is with our personal dogs.  So it is.  We have no say in the matter.  We are simply observers.  We are there to provide our most precious gift, to those who need it the most.

We do not have to have expectations as to what will happen when we walk into a healthcare facility with our dogs.  What we do have to have is an open heart, an open mind and an understanding that whether we will ever know it or not, something amazing will happen. 

"Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness." ~ Tom Burns

Our Penny's From Heaven Foundation therapy dogs unlock places and spaces in people that they didn't know were even locked. A letter on this Valentine's morning, simply said, "Thank you for what you do! "  It is not me that requires or even deserves this accolade.  It is the magic, the miracle that occurs when a therapy dog opens a door to allow healing to begin.

What looks at us with contentment and love is where it all begins and ends.  Two beings of different species connecting in a way that is impossible to be defined.  It is enough that there is this connection...this love...one for the other.  Anything else simply does not matter.

Happy Valentines Day!


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