will be filming Misty as we visit the Palliative Care Unit at Lakeridge Hospital in Oshawa, Ontario. That’s the same unit where sweet, little Jasmine used to visit with her owner, Michele. The day the photos at left were taken, Misty, Jasmine, Michele and I met with Dog Park Tales producer, Stephanie Lynn Robinson, and representatives of the hospital. Jasmine and Misty sat patiently during all that talk, talk, talking (as you can see by looking at the photo of Jasmine, left) no doubt sensing that afterwards, they’d be rewarded with a trip to the park across the street (where the photograph of Misty and I, above left, was taken. The arm in that photo that reaches out to stroke Misty, belongs to Stephanie.)
Since the day of that meeting, Misty has become further accredited to be able to visit with children (a certification already held by Jasmine and a growing number of Therapeutic Paws of Canada -TPOC- dogs to meet this growing need)... and the Dog Park Tales crew was on hand to film the entire accreditation process (with some chill-laxin’ in a local off- leash park afterward. So in the next post, you’ll find details about all these events, including the requirements a certified Therapy Dog must pass to become further qualified to be able to interact with children.
But for now, I’ve got some kisses to describe. It seems there are myriad types of kisses, just as there are many types of music, flavours of food, or fragrances of blossoms... each being an experience ... something having the power to excite, delight, overwhelm, soothe. Below are three very special kisses...
This is the happy-to-know-ya... I-want-to-help-you-feel-better... type of kiss that Misty lays on (and on and on) her patients. And so it was one evening Misty planted herself up close to a woman in bed and set about nuzzling into that patient when she froze. A sound had erupted in the next cubicle. The unfamiliar noise clearly grabbed Misty because she eased off the bed and turned to nose her way under the curtain separating the two beds in the room.
The noise, in fact, had been the screechy protest of an infant which halted abruptly with the unexpected arrival of the canine nose into the cubicle. It seemed Baby was as unfamiliar with Dog as Dog was with squalling Baby. Since Job One as a Therapy Dog’s Handler always is to be in full control of your dog, I was trying to find an unobtrusive way to reunite with Misty’s head – a feat made somewhat of a challenge by the bulk of the curtain and by Misty’s fluffy tail which had starting wagging ever faster. She started pulling me in the direction of Baby and three other children (seemed like even more in the cramped space). The kids started laughing and calling, “Doggy! Doggy! Doggy!”
A boy with dancing brown eyes asked loudly, “Is the dog 6 years old?”
“No, she just turned 10.”
“But she’s 6 too! Like me!
“Oh! ... Right! ... She’s 6 and she’s 10.”
“No you’re not! You’re 6. I’m 10.”
“The doggy is like both of us!”
Through all this reckoning Misty was leaning as close as she could come toward the Baby, who now was grinning and kicking. I knew what was on Misty’s mind... she wanted to lick that little girl. An obliging parent lowered the infant closer to Misty and finally, finally, Misty was able to lay on her dog kisses. In the irresistible way of babies, the tiny girl responded with her total body wiggling, arms and legs busy showing delight while all the grown ups, including the skeletal woman propped up in the bed, oooo’d and aaaaw’d with the happiness of the precious moment.
One of the rooms on the PCU, a private room, tends to be used for people who are very, very sick. I tapped quietly on the open door of that room one night, then Misty and I took a few steps inside. A very young woman, perhaps still a teenager, was in the bed talking to the nurse. Her mother smiled broadly when she saw Misty.
“Chantelle!” she whispered. “Look at this beautiful dog!”
Chantelle shook her head and continued a rather intense conversation with the nurse.
I held up my hand to signal to Mom that it was okay – Misty and I would leave.
“No, don’t go.”
With that, Chantelle turned to look at her mother.
“Don’t go, please. I’d like to see the dog.” Mom’s hands reached out for Misty and, on that cue, Misty walked over to Mom. Whispers. She was whispering as she slowly and gently ran her fingers over Misty’s face. Misty stood, tail moving so very slightly. A butterfly’s wings. “Beautiful dog... beautiful dog... such a beautiful dog...” Softly spoken words floated over Misty’s head.
A short time later, Mom straightened up. Something seemed to have shifted in her. She walked back to the bed where her daughter lay and brushed a tendril of hair off the damp forehead. Mom leaned over the bedrail and kissed her child’s face.
Before illness struck, this woman must have been gorgeous. The might of chemotherapy had taken the woman’s hair, eyebrows and eyelashes but her face was still lovely with large, dark eyes and full lips. An attractive woman with those same eyes and lips sat beside the bed, while Husband towered over the bed from the opposite side.
Sister explained that she had flown in from Calgary so I began inquiring as to whether she had been affected by the recent flooding. Sister chatted about her community, the floods and mud and cleaning up, all the while rubbing Misty’s ears softly. I looked over my shoulder to the woman in bed.
“Oh... Oh Dear,” I said, “some-... something’s wrong.” The woman was crying.
“She’s having a bad day,” Sister explained to me, “she’s been crying a lot today.”
On the PCU, Misty and I have seen many family members and other visitors crying, but it seemed unusual to me to be seeing a patient crying -- to be a different type of suffering. Such grief was truly heart breaking to witness.
Husband leaned over, taking his Wife’s hand in his and saying, “It’s okay, Honey. I’m here. I love you so much. It’s okay.”
The tears continued.
Sister spoke. “I’m here, too, Sharon. And I’ve come a long way just to see you.”
The weeping continued.
“Ya well, that’s been the unfortunate part.” Husband winked playfully to Sharon while Sister chuckled, then he looked at me at and said, “Don’t mind me... sometimes I’m just a dork.”
Sister cracked, “Ya got that right.”
Sharon started to laugh. She was crying and she was laughing.
“I’m here, Honey. I love you so much.”
This time Husband bent down to kiss his wife. It was a long, long kiss. I felt a little awkward – but so privileged, so honoured, to be able to share these precious moments with families. Misty and I stood together looking on at this very special kiss.