Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Story Retold

A had a new member of Love on a Leash ask me about hospice visits so I shared this story with him. As I wrote it out, I thought I would share it here with you again.

Our First Visit

My name is Sue, and I organize a chapter of Love on a Leash folks in San
Diego. I've got 4 Golden Retrievers and do therapy visits with one of them. We
started when my boy was just over a year old, and that was nearly 3 years

I stayed away from hospice visits for about the first year, figuring I
wasn't suited well for it. We were doing a lot of visits at a local VA hospital
and senior facilities in the area. Then, about 2 years ago we were approached
by one of the recreational therapists at the VA to start visits at the VA's
hospice ward. I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a try.

On our very first visit we encountered a family who's loved one was in the process of passing away as we entered the room. Talk about a tough situation! Oh my gosh, I felt as if we'd walked in on a family's most private moment, but as I tried to quickly excuse ourselves, we were asked to stay, and the wife of the patient got down on the floor and hugged my dog, and thanked us over and over for coming. She said that her husband loved dogs, and this is what he'd been "waiting for"....My boy, Kona, is a white Golden, and she told me that she thought Kona was her husband, Jerry's "white angel". She kept saying, "look Jerry, your white angel is here. Look at the beautiful dog here for you Jerry...he's here just for you."

Needless to say, I don't think I'd ever bitten the inside of my cheek
harder to stop from tearing up more than I did at that moment. We stayed for
about 10 minutes, until all of the family members got to spend a couple of
minutes with Kona and we felt it was the appropriate time to leave. We heard
from the recreational therapist that the patient passed away within the hour of us leaving.

I thought long and hard about going back after that visit, and even went to
a grief counseling session after that. My decision boiled down to how Kona
reacted to the situation. He was perfect. He sat calmly as strangers hugged
him, and clutched him tightly while they wept. He looked to me occasionally for reassurance, which I have him in the form of a quiet, "good boy." I was so proud.

We've been back to the VA hospice every month and added another hospice to
our regular visit schedule. We've lost several patients we've come to
be friends with, and it's never easy, but I always remember our first visit and
the comfort we brought to that family.


The Life of Riley said...

What an amazing thing you and Kona did for that first family just when they needed it most. I'm sure that when they think back on Kona being their for thier loved one, that memory helps them still.


A really beautiful and inspiring story, Sue. One must always have a vision ...and this is yours.
sending lotsaluv

Anonymous said...

thank you sue. you guys are amazing.