Sam I Am has started his career as a Therapy Dog. It is high time. He has quietly been doing wonderful work unofficially with his friends and neighbors. This community is the result of an Artist Relocation Program, sponsored by the City of Paducah. It has won big deal National Awards. People moved here from all over the country, leaving family, long time friends, home, and security nets to rehab crumbling old homes. It was, for everyone who came, at times overwhelming.
And there was Sam I Am. I knew better than to flatter myself thinking that our neighbors were coming to see us. Oh, certainly Bill's pasta had a hand in the steady stream of visitors arriving at supper time. But sooner than later, the guest would be sitting on our kitchen love seat, Sammy next to them, with his head in the visitor's chest and a paw gently resting on the lap.
He started his official visits at the hospital. The physical rehab floor. Sammy shows his innate gifts by waggingly walking into a room with four people: a nurse, two family members, and the patient. He greets each, and then glues himself to the patient. I don't know how he knows. The patient in one room was sitting in a chair, and his wife was sitting on the bed. Sam went to the chair, and nudged his pointy nose under the hand. He knows.
Today we visited at the women's shelter. We entered a room where Sam had never been. The therapist introduced us to Sam's new friend, who was newly arrived from the Rape Crisis Center. She was weeping, quietly. The therapist left the room, which surprised me.
I explained to Sam's new friend that I was not a therapist. Sammy was the one who would be listening to her, and I showed her his bright yellow certified therapy dog tag. I explained that dogs have a miraculous capability of listening, and taking in pain and sorrow, and giving back love. I said that dogs were incapable of judging, and that I believe that dogs are our constant example of unconditional love. I told her also, that dogs, unhampered by spoken language, can hear unspoken words perfectly, and that whatever she wanted to say or not say was just fine.
I took Sam I Am's coat off, and watched him do magic. His new friend softly stroked his head. "He's so soft," she whispered. Her tears dropped onto Sam's head and she rubbed them off. At first she was a bit tentative; her hands kept returning to her face, covering her mouth, wiping the tears in vain. More just kept coming.
Sammy looked at me for reassurance, worry in his eyes thick as storm clouds. I pulled out some little treats and put them in front of his new friend. She gave him one treat, and another, until they were gone. Sam did not look to me for more, he leaned into her. She kept stroking his head and quietly weeping.
After a bit, Sam looked at me for help. There was an upholstered bench in the room. I asked Sam's new friend if she would mind sitting on the bench, because I thought that Sam wanted to get closer. She moved to the bench, leaving her wad of tissues behind. She sat on the bench, and I prayed to Sam. I didn't need to. Sammy hopped up next to her, gently sat and by lifting a paw in a "please" gesture, asked permission to lay in her lap. She patted her leg, and Sam softly placed his head and one paw on her thigh. "I miss my dog," she cried.
They sat like that for, well, I have no idea how much time passed. Twice Sam looked up backwards and lifted his nose to her face. "He gives nose kisses," I explained. "And I want you to know, that Sam I Am kisses are rare indeed."
"He sure is beautiful," she smiled. Sammy nudged her hand which had stopped stroking him for a nanosecond. She laughed. "Can you believe it? I haven't been able to stop crying since I got here. I wasn't allowed to cry, and since I got here I can't stop. But he's got me smiling."
As we were leaving she gave me a hug and said, "Thank you. Thank you for bringing your beautiful dog. Thank you."
"No," I said.
Hug your blessed hounds