Saturday, July 31, 2010

An Extraordinary Day

I have said it before and I will say it again...I love, love, love taking NIKKI to the hospital! I can only hope that the patients get as much out of our visit as I do! Yesterday was an extraordinary day. We went a little earlier than usual so that we can go to the outpatient unit before the pediatric unit. We had been getting there later in the morning and many of the patients were gone, sleeping or just not interested in seeing the dog. But yesterday, everyone wanted to see NIKKI. The patients were very excited to see her. We spent several minutes with each patient, petting NIKKI, talking about dogs in general and talking about their beloved dogs. What I notice when people share their dog stories is their whole body language changes. They often sit up, start to smile and then start laughing as they recall dogs of past and present. Dogs seem to be so therapeutic. It is amazing some of the stories I hear. It doesn't seem to matter if the dog is an inside dog, an outside dog, a big dog or little dog. People love their dogs. We give them personalities and we are convinced that they do what they do on purpose. And they know what we need. I am sure there are studies out there about the therapeutic benefits from being loved, showing love and laughing. And if there isn't, I don't need a study to tell me that a dog's presence makes a huge difference our lives.

Speaking of research studies...I recently read an article on how service dogs assist disabled individuals become more socially accepted. The article states that when the service dog is present people are more likely to make eye contact and engage in a conversation with an individual with a disability. I can absolutely verify this study! When I am at the hospital I wear a volunteer uniform...its not the most becoming teal smock but I wear it none the less. The reason I tell you this is because I do - as least I think I do - stand out. I consider myself approachable and I do try to make eye contact with everyone I pass. Well, when I have NIKKI with me nearly everyone smiles at me or engages me in conversation. I always plan extra time to walk between units because I always get stopped. It is wonderful and people are always so nice. Yesterday was a different story. I had my daughter come get NIKKI at the end of our visit because my husband and I had an appointment and he asked me to stay to help him move into his new office. Several times that afternoon I was walking down the hall and was very much surprised at how ignored I was!! I don't mean to imply that I am something special and everyone should be looking at me but without the dog I was almost invisible! I think I got an idea of what it might be like for a individual with a disability. Wow, it was amazing. Being a physical therapist, I am not afraid to engage an individual with a disability but I will certainly be more conscientious about it from now on!!

I do like to include pictures of NIKKI in my blogs but since I can not take pictures at the hospital I will post some that my sister in law, Karen, took a few weeks ago when she and her family were visiting us.
When company arrives NIKKI somehow gets all the attention. As you can see she certainly doesn't mind three beautiful girls loving on her!
Karen was trying to capture NIKKI's personality. I think she got it perfect in these two pictures....This last one is the "I'll take that food you have in your hand" face!!

Just 2 more weeks and I will be back to work. It will be a few more weeks before NIKKI will be back in the classroom as the first weeks of school are hectic. I am sure she will not mind the down time as NIKKI's only goal in life is to be petted ....and she gets plenty of that around here! Stay cool!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Just a quick story...

Just a quick story....NIKKI had the opportunity to spend some time with some folks that were in the middle of a painful and tragic situation. NIKKI - of course - not realizing the situation just was NIKKI - gladly allowing rubs and petting to any part anybody wanted to rub. I really think that petting a dog has a way of calming and relaxing people. When the moment lightened up a little bit NIKKI went through her tricks and that is when the smiles and giggles started. NIKKI is usually pretty good with her "reading" but on this particular day she was about 50% correct. On a couple of the words she went through her whole set of tricks until she got it right! It was almost like she knew these people didn't need to be impressed so much as to laugh. At the end of the session one of the girls revealed that she is terrified of dogs - normally running in the other direction at the sight of a dog. I am so glad she allowed NIKKI to visit her...I think this allowed her to forget about her situation for just a few minutes. I just wish we could have done more to change the circumstances.