Sam I Am went to the women's shelter. The weather was rude - sleet, snain, freezing cold - but our visiting room was warm.
I would love to tell you about each visit in minute detail, but of course I can't. But I can share some of the absolute, unqualified miracles performed by one little therapy dog.
We haven't visited in a while. Sam doesn't like visiting the hospital so much, and I've decided to stop going there with him. I think it's just too much for his sensitive self. He's not afraid, he's sad. Sam is so attuned to human worry, pain, fear; I think he is bombarded with too much sickness at the hospital.
So I was relieved to see him wag like crazy when we got out of the van at the shelter and pull me to the visiting room. He jumped around doing the "I'm too sexy for my coat" dance and said hey to the staff member.
And then, when his client came in, he sat facing her on the blankets on the floor and devoted himself to her for the next forty-five minutes. He smiled at her, over an over, because she was so thrilled when he did. He kissed her, Sammy style (nose dabs). Sammy smiles and kisses are rare indeed, but he did both repeatedly. When she said something from her heart, he stared right into her eyes, his own eyes huge and deep.
a rare Sammy smile
I pretty much stay out of the interaction. I will offer a few words. "Dogs don't judge." "Dogs understand feelings, spoken or secret, in a way we humans simply can't." "He likes you."
I watched Sam engage this client. She needed reassurance that she mattered to the dog, and over and over and over, Sam offered a paw, a smile, a kiss, saying as loud as he could, "You MATTER to me!" He did his tricks. He sat, he downed, he play-bowed, he wagged. He bowed his head into her chest and closed his eyes.
By the end of the session, she believed him. Softly she said, "I think you really like me."
I took him outside for a quick pee, just for a break, really. He pulled me right past the van, back to the visiting room to meet his next client.
I watched my little dog transform.
This client was different. She was weeping softly as she sat on the blankets. Sam looked at her. He looked at me for assurance. Good boy. You're fine. You're a good dog, Sammy. He completely changed his manner, his posture, his dialog, his shape. He quietly curled up next to her. Her hand never stopped stroking him - not once in the next forty-five minutes. He lay quietly, perfectly still, his head resting on her thigh, his eyes not leaving hers. She softly spoke of mistakes made. Dogs don't judge. Of not being able to express herself. Dogs understand feelings, spoken or secret, in a way we humans simply can't. Of feeling unlikable. He likes you - just look at his eyes.
I would have sworn I was watching two different dogs.
Sam - and the whole waggle - got hamburger for dinner.
And my reward? Hearing a woman say, "You know, I feel so much better now. He has really made a difference. I know I'm going to be all right."
hug your hounds