August 2016 – Meet the Team
When did you and Cisco become a team? – In 2011.
What other partners have you had? – None.
In what type of facility are you visiting? – Hospital.
In what other Therapy Animals activities do you and your partner participate? – We love mentoring new teams.
Tell us something about your partner that we may not know. – He’s actually a husky/malamute blend. He loves a good storm – gets as close as he can to the thunder and lightning without getting wet, turns over on his back and soaks it all in.
What Therapy Animals leadership position(s) do you currently have? – None.
What other leadership positions have you had? – None.
Tell us something about yourself that we may not know. – I’m mostly retired but still have a small part-time practice. Cisco “works” my appointments with me, sitting quietly between us; if the patient begins to become emotional, he gets up and puts his head in their lap. He has such compassionate instincts.
Cisco & I have worked out a system which has a few steps:
1) I check to see what shape the patient is in. We’re on a Telemetry floor & most of the patients are middle-aged and older; they are in various stages of recovery from heart procedures.
2) If the patient is awake, responsive, and receptive to our visit, I then check to see if space is available on the bed for Cisco.
3) I then ask if the patient would like Cisco to sit on the bed with them, explaining that, although we will be using a lint roller, he does shed (he’s a Husky – no amount of brushing or blow-drying seems to handle that) and the roller will get most of it. I’d say about 80% of the patients are delighted to welcome him onto the bed.
4) He lands very gently: we practiced this during the first 2 months we were visiting. He does not touch the body or any lines, tubes, etc. He does not move forward or give kisses unless invited.
5) When we leave, I run the lint roller over where he’s been and my escort nurse (they actually come in on their day off to accompany us!) gives the patient & visitors a dollop of hand sanitizer. If it’s a rare occasion that we’re without escort, I pass out the hand sanitizer, usually saying, “This way you get to clear the dog and keep the love.” (Phrase coined by Marilyn Mitton – Thank you!)
In the initial visits back when we first began, we had a couple of missteps (none at all serious). I took note on how they had occurred. Cisco & I worked together so that A) he could trust that I knew what level of contact was appropriate, and that adequate ‘landing’ area was available, and B) I could trust that he would carry out his part as we had practiced.
The biggest leap of faith & trust happened a few months ago when we came upon a very thin, frail, elderly patient whose recovery required him to lie flat. He saw the dog out of the corner of his eye and pleaded to pet him. There was just too much ‘stuff’ around the head of the bed area for Cisco to get close enough. I couldn’t see a way to do it and neither could Teresa, my nurse escort. And yet when I looked at Cisco there seemed to be almost the same pleading in his eyes as there was in the old man’s. I ‘heard’ a little voice in my head say, “Trust the dog,” and I said to Cisco, “If you see a way to pull this off, go for it.” Teresa & I held our breath as Cisco hopped up on an empty area near the foot of the bed. And then Cisco very carefully placed his paws on either side of the man’s body and very slowly moved up (never touching that small form in the bed) until his front paws were on either side of the man’s shoulders and his back paws were on either side of his hips. Then he slowly lowered his head so that the man could pet him. The old man cried. I cried. Teresa cried. She signaled the nursing staff and most of the ones that came in got teary. Then Cisco very carefully backed out the way he came in and hopped off the bed. It was an extraordinary moment.W