Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would experience the other side of pet therapy. But as my Nana used to tell me all my life –
never say never!
As the Pet Therapy Program Coordinator for the largest hospital in South Carolina, I’ve felt comfortable with my knowledge and understanding of the benefits a pet therapy visit can bring to a patient.
But after last Wednesday, I can honestly say, I “get it” and trust me – its an entirely different connotation.
UNDERSTANDING PET THERAPY –
For more than five years I’ve been on the other end of Harley’s leash watching strangers (patients, family members and medical staff) interact with him as if he were their own.
I understand the benefits of pet therapy, and why it’s offered in so many medical facilities. I believe in its purpose.
Every time I enter a patients room I stand quietly at the side of a hospital bed and observe the instant connection. Rarely do I engage unless I’m asked a question, and seldom is there a need. That’s how powerful interactions between humans and canines can often be.
His presence is comforting. He eradicates loneliness. With the swishing motion of a wagging tail and the ability to cuddle up close, he reminds us of hope and represents all that is “good and right” in the world (if only for a moment) regardless of ones physical severities…
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE –
At least once a week I hop on Maggie – my sky blue beach bicycle – throw my book bag in her white utility basket and pedal the 1.2 miles from my doorstep to the hospital.
It’s a short ride so there’s never any reason to speed – and I get a little cardio in before I start my day.
Last Wednesday (halfway to my destination) as I crossed the street – a car crashed into the right side of “Maggie and me” sending me in the air like a kitchen trash bag headed for the dumpster.
I landed on my left side in the middle of the street, kissing a manhole.
I am blessed beyond measure to have no broken bones. Just bruised and 50 shades of purple on my left side, but that will heal.
Due to the fact that a car hit a bicycle, Ashley Avenue looked like a scene out of Chicago Fire with police cars, EMT’s and a firetruck. #wheresmattcasey
Whisked away in the ambulance to my place of employment – I was conscience the entire time and well aware of my surroundings.
Doodle Dad was there in a flash, and as we waited in the ER together for the results of my x-rays – the gravity of what happened started to take on a life of its own. I realized the severity of it all and it scared me.
I “GET” THE POWER –
A faint subtle knock on the door caught my ear and caused me to look as it slowly opened.
There standing in the doorway was a therapy dog!…
As soon as I laid eyes on Rags (abbreviation for Ragamuffin), I felt an immediate sense of calmness.
It didn’t matter that I knew Rags, because of my role as Pet Therapy Program Coordinator. I was like any other patient trying desperately to cope and comprehend a significant emotional experience without losing it completely.
Rags plugged the dam of tears from over flowing. She diverted the fear of my reality from taking complete control.
I “get” the power of pet therapy in a way like never before. My stay was all of 60 minutes or so, not days. My diagnosis was neither grave nor terminal, and my prognosis was excellent.
But my fear was still real, and the comfort this dog gave exceeded anything a family member could have done for me at that particular time. #keepingitreal
VALUE IN THE VALLEY –
I am a firm believer that we can ALWAYS find value in the valleys of our lives. We can dwell on/in the valley should we choose, or we can strive to crawl out, and look around at how our experience (no matter how grim) has changed us for the better.
It will be impossible for me to view pet therapy in the same manner as I did prior to Wednesday. #cant #wont #ever My focus is sharper, my energy is stronger, my understanding is now personal. I “get” it.
MAGGIE AND ME –
In the event you were wondering, Maggie also survived the crash…
She will need a new basket, and some TLC on a few sections of her frame, but she’s a road warrior. We will be back out there but more like later than sooner.
I’m resting and getting all the pet therapy one person could ask for. Harley is the bed warmer. He cuddles up around my feet, sticking to me like Gorilla Glue.
Jaxson is more of an “in your face” kind of therapy dog. And I mean that literally…
Blessed I tell you, that’s me!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday –
Hug your pups, love your family and be thankful and grateful for every single moment you are not kissing a manhole!