LESSON #1 IN HOW TO BE A THERAPY DOG TEAM started where many significant meetings in the hospital occur: at the Tim Horton’s ... and it started without Misty.
I met the Therapeutic Paws of Canada (TPOC) Team Leader for our area, Michele, and her sweet, little dog, Jasmine (pictured left). Of course, Jasmine was the centre of attention for all those milling about the hospital entrance. Michele had an interesting tote on her shoulder and chatted easily with everyone coming to pat Jasmine. Before we left the area, Michele led us to the hand sanitizing station to demonstrate how she prepares Jasmine for each visit: with a squish of sanitizer on her head, back and paws.
Jasmine was resplendent in her red vest, complete with TPOC badge and her monogrammed name. She stood up on her back legs so Michele could wipe sanitizer on her front paws. Clearly, they’d done this a time or two before.
Then the three of us went upstairs to chat with *Linda, the Recreation Therapist who arranges Therapy Dog visits (among other things!) After running through usual and expected questions, my orientation started with a review of“Codes”: “Code Red means..., Code Orange means..., Code Blue means...” Basically in those instances Misty and I have one job and only one job to do: stay the heck out of the way.
There were other “what if’s”, like what if we go into a room and find a pill on the floor? What if there’s fluid, identifiable or not, on the floor? What if a patient had wanted a visit from the dog but is sound asleep?
The Moment had arrived: time to go to the Palliative Care Unit (PCU). Physically, it was well lit, well appointed, with a welcoming and Life-Affirming display of plants. Jasmine wagged her greeting to people who moved about in the hall, her face open, sweet, intelligent. We moved past room after room not going in.
I was disappointed not to be talking to the patients and families, but our turn will come. Linda explained that I’d be required to sanitize my hands before going into each room and upon leaving it.
The tour proceeded: here’s the TV lounge and the sink where you can get water for Misty. “Do you have a dish to bring for her?” Oh yes... running with your dog means you need a collapsible bowl for whistle-wetting.
When we reached the nurses’station I saw the sign-in book for the Therapy Dog
Team. It contained a list of the patients on the floor with a notation made by Linda that morning about who was asking for a visit from the Canine Therapist and who was declining. Jasmine and Michele already had visited the“yes” patients before I got to the hospital and Michele had made her notations beside the names in the book -- things like: “had a lovely visit” or “couldn’t visit –sound asleep – sorry”.
All too soon we were finished. Linda returned to her non-dog work, while Jasmine, Michele and I returned to the hospital’s lobby – but I had to know – just had to – “Hey, what’s in your tote?”
Michele called it her “diaper bag”. It contained a little blanket for when Jasmine
administers to her patients on the bed (definitely not an issue for a big, Golden X, West Prince Girl like Misty). There was a bottle of water and a cute, little, plastic jar to hold the water, so small that Misty could empty it in once slurp. A stack of paper napkins was all the emergency equipment she had and there was a wee bag of Cheerios in case someone wanted to offer Jasmine a snack.
I was hooked. And exhausted –how was it Jasmine and Michele could look so daisy fresh?
Well, our turn is next. Michele will monitor the first three visits, beginning on Tuesday, September 4th, 2012. NOTE TO SELF: bath and brush Misty on Monday!
*The names of some humans and animals will be changed in this blog, where I haven’t yet obtained permission to use actual names.*
HELP! There is a shortage of Therapy Dogs and a long list of facilities waiting for them. If you think you are living with a potential canine therapist, if you'd like to learn more about programs that benefit from the love of Therapy Dogs, OR if you'd like to support or volunteer, please visit the website for Therapeutic Paws of Canada @www.tpoc.ca