Note: This is a guest post by my mom Nancy Stordahl who maintains a breast cancer blog at NancysPoint.com. She is the owner of a springer spaniel and a golden retriever. She has owned other breeds and is probably the reason I became such a dog lover.
I am amazed that more schools, hospitals and nursing homes do not allow pets to visit. Such visits can be so beneficial for everyone. My mother was one of the lucky ones in that regard. While living out her last days in a nursing home with terminal breast cancer, she had several four-legged visitors. Our dogs were allowed to visit at this particular nursing home, something I will always be grateful for. Our entourage of pets made their grand entrances! Not all at once, mind you. We were careful to always have just one furry friend visitor at a time.
Mother’s cairn terrier Mandi made numerous visits. Being somewhat “high energy” she never really quite felt at ease in this unfamiliar setting. She usually made her presence known upon entrance with a few barks as if to say, “Here I am.” My brother’s cairn Radar probably visited most often simply because by having a very “laid back” personality, he was the most well behaved. He made himself right at home each time and took it upon himself to make friends with as many residents, workers and visitors as he could.
My daughter’s mutt Ace also made an appearance all the way from North Dakota (Yes, the same Ace regularly written about on this blog). He is a big, leggy, lovable, black-labbish looking sort of mutt. His only fault is he drools a lot, but even that is not his fault! In fact, it almost makes him more lovable.
One of my dogs, Sophie, also made one visit. My other dog would have been just too nervous – you have to respect a dog’s limitations, or maybe in this case it was more my own limitations! Sophie is a springer spaniel with a wonderful, happy disposition. She has the ability to make you feel better by just looking at her. She never quite felt comfortable in that strange room with far too many worrisome smells and sounds. But, she was her usual cheerful self and at least made me feel better with that wagging tail and “smiling” face.
We did get our share of looks and even a few scowls (although very few) whenever one of us visited with a dog in tow. Undoubtedly, their presence was far more for our benefit than it was for mother’s. She was pretty much ambivalent toward everything by this time. Still, this little bit of normalcy in such an abnormal situation felt very comforting. Pets, especially dogs in my opinion, can be so therapeutic not only to the terminally ill, but also to the nurses, aides and miscellaneous people in such facilities.
I have also read about dogs who attend schools. In one particular instance, dogs came in every day and sat with children while the children practiced reading out loud to them. These children were having difficulty reading and when reading to a dog, there would be no pressure, just a warm body and an accepting audience with no judging! This is such a simple idea that can have amazing results. All it takes is an open mind and some flexible, patient teachers and administrators. Of course, obviously you have to bring in even-tempered, well-socialized, trained dogs who would not be threatening to a child. I truly hope that canine visits some day become commonplace. Who knows what the results could be!