Misty kickin' back...
Life is full of surprises. For example, I’m not sure when Misty began to – um – empty on command -- but what a nifty surprise it was to discover we had this communication going for us. And now, it’s a gift to be sure, on the evenings we visit the Palliative Care Unit, to walk my Therapy Dog to a spot...The Spot – it’s a ways away from the hospital entrance where I say “Go pee, Girlie” and she readily complies. This is one skill not taught in obedience classes. Delaney, now 8 months old and as big as Misty, has yet to surprise me in this way, but I live in hopeful anticipation. My Therapy Dog-in-training has much training yet to do...
We arrived on the floor, Misty’s coat and the pads of her feet sanitized, and with tail wagging she simply wandered in where the Nurses had gathered to take report. Hands reached out to welcome, hug and pat their fellow Team Member, while the reporting proceeded without skipping a beat.
I picked up our list of patients to visit that evening and we set off down the hall. The first room we entered had last week, been occupied by a man who, according to his son, was “always so much better” when Misty visited. Now, however, a very, very sick woman was in this place, but clearly not for long. Misty looked at the wizened figure lying comatose in the bed and pulled me in her direction. Then she raised herself up and placed her front paws on the bed beside the woman. For a long moment Misty observed the woman’s laboured breathing. Misty then eased herself off the bed and turned her attention to the school aged boy who sat with his back to the woman in the bed. His mother sat in another chair wearing her sadness. The boy’s focus was welded to an electronic thingey he manipulated. Misty made her choice. She pulled me in the direction of the boy. With tail wagging everso slightly, Misty put her nose over the gaming device, so the boy had to look at her sweet face.
Would you like to give her some treats?”
The boy mechanically held out his hand, then held one between his thumb and forefinger.
“Try holding it like this,” I piped up, showing him an outstretched hand with fingers held flatly and together where they couldn’t be mistaken for part of the carroty offering.
The boy followed my example. Misty was happy to relieve him of the treat and licked his palm. With that, he recoiled, wiped his hand on his jeans and went back to his game avoiding eye contact with Misty, me and his mother.
The boy’s mother mouthed, “Thank you,” to me and Misty and I all but tiptoed back to the hall.
Bette was in bed. Uh-oh. Usually she was in a wheelchair “walking” the wheelchair up and down the hall. I never saw her without a smile on her face, including that night. Ever the gentle clown, Bette would pat her bald head as though brushing back luxurious curls, and tell Misty and I how she had to beat back the paparazzi who never gave her peace.
“Misty, where have you been?” Bette took great care to stroke Misty’s face and ears. “I’ve been waiting and waiting for you to show up! Ooooo and I smell your chicken toothpaste! Mmmmmmmm.”
The adoration was mutual. Misty was generous in her smooches planted up and down Bette’s arms and her face.
“Wait, Misty...” Bette turned her face to make it easier for Misty to cover the other side of her face with kisses. “You forgot this side.”
Smooch. Smooch. Lick. Lick. Yep. The adoration was quite, quite mutual.
On this evening, Bette was in bed with oxygen flowing through a canula into her nostrils. She was very pale. Scary pale. But still up for schtick, as we were to discover.
“Bette, do you feel like having a visit with Misty?”
“Oh yes...” she puffed. “Always... I’ve been waiting.”
I pressed the button to elevate the head of the bed. “How are you tonight?”
“Oh, I’ve just got a cold, dear. Don’t worry about me.”
This was more than a cold, of that, I was certain. I wondered if Bette realized that, as well...
“Misty, Misty, Misty...” Bette stroked Misty’s face and spoke with reedy, breathy voice. “Didn’t your Mummy bring any treats tonight?”
“Of course!” On cue, I passed 4 or 5 little carroty bits into those white-blue hands.
“Here, Girl. One for you...” she placed a treat in Misty’s eager mouth. “ ...And... one for me.” With surprising swiftness, shocking even, Bette flicked a dog treat into her cracked, dry mouth and laughed.
I think my mouth dropped.
A Nurse appeared beside me. “Did... did she...?”
I nodded mutely. Bette did her best to crunch the dessicated treat, but she and Misty were smiling.
We spent a long time with Bette that evening... the longest time we had ever spent visiting her. Bette just kept stroking and patting and loving Misty and Misty stayed half on the bed, the two of them sharing carrot breath and The Joke. When finally Bette was fatigued, she bid Misty and I goodnight.
As we left the room, I turned and waved to Bette, wondering if ever Misty and I would see her again. One week later I learned that we would not see Bette again in This Life.