Monday, March 4, 2013


Sometimes things happen that we are present for and miss completely.  Sometimes things happen that we don't understand.  Sometimes things happen that totally throw us off balance.  And then sometimes things happen that are quite simply almost impossible to understand even though we were witness to them.
I still find the abilities and intuitive nature of a dog one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.  I don't understand it.  I now simply accept it, after seeing inexplicable things happen time and time again by my therapy dogs, Penny, Gracie, and now Kelsie.
A little over a week ago I was in the rehab gym at the VA with a patient.  A Vietnam vet, who had recently lost his left leg below the knee, was laying on the mat just inches above the floor with the physical therapist working with him on increasing muscle tone in that leg.  The patient invited Kelsie onto the mat.  She most willingly jumped up and snuggled up close to his side and laid her head on his shoulder as taught.  She delicately sniffed his neck and then settled in to do what she does best~provide a distraction from pain while this man lifted his stump with a 5 pound weight on it multiple times. He rubbed her side, took his hand and scratched under her therapy dog vest, and then stroked her from head to tail, all the while talking about his dog at home!

The session lasted about 15 minutes. After the weight was removed, I told the gentleman how pleased we had been to spend some time with him and wished him well, as he was to be released from the hospital the next day.
I told Kelsie, "up".  She instantly stood and I waited and waited for her to jump off the mat, as she is trained to do.  She would not budge!  She planted all four feet onto the mat and stood rock solid.  I again told her 'off'.  And again nothing.  I gave her leash a gentle pull and again nothing.  I quite honestly was flabbergasted.  For as long as I have had her in service, she has been impeccable in obedient behavior.  Until this time. It boarded on embarrassing.
I then took a deep breath and decided to listen to what she was trying to tell me.  I gave her free reign. She turned and went back to the gentleman, still lying on the mat, sat down next to him and ever so gently laid her head on his chest.  Then I knew.  She was trying to tell all of us something. The man softly petted her head and gave the top of her head a little kiss.  She then stood up, backed up, and came to me and jumped off the mat.
I did not have a doubt in the world but what this man had had a heart attack or was going to.  As soon as he returned to his room, I intercepted the PT and his nurse and asked them if he was aware of what Kelsie had done in front of us all.  He said he thought it was odd, but didn't really pay much attention.  I told him my suspicion about the man's heart and without a missed beat, the PT told me that he had/has multiple coronary problems. Kelsie did everything possible to tell us herself. 
I love what I do.  I love Animal Assisted Therapy.  But most of all I love the surprises and mystery of it all.  Kelsie knew.  She just quite simply knew.  What happened was to be recorded on his medical record.  Kelsie was unaware of doing anything out of the ordinary.  But she did get extra love and pats that night and a few extra dog biscuits.
I learned to pay more attention.  To listen, to observe, to quite simply be more aware.
God bless this dog and all others like her who have great wisdom in their hearts. For it is from them that we can all become better people, more observant people, and more aware.

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