This work has a way of granting you big ole doses of perspective and gratitude, often when you least expect it.

Hope and I had a bittersweet pet therapy visit this morning. It was our third visit to the Health and Rehab Center.

On our first visit we met the gentleman in this photo and his roommate, who introduced himself as “Old Leo.” When I said “nice to meet you Leo,” he corrected me, saying “not Leo, Old Leo!”

Despite being in his 90s, Old Leo was one of the spunkiest patients we’ve met in more than five years of doing pet therapy. He was completely lucid and sitting on the edge of his bed, petting Hope and conversing with me. We bid them farewell that day and I told them both I’d be back the next week with my other therapy dog, Faith. Old Leo thanked me again for coming and said “see you next week.”

The next week, when Faith and I popped into their room, Old Leo was gone. His roommate told me Leo was in the hospital with pneumonia. I left one of Faith’s bookmarks on Old Leo’s table so he’d know we’d been by and hoped to see him on our next visit.

Not the sign we wanted to see

When we arrived this week, the sign on the outside of the room stating it was being deep cleaned was not a good sign. We looked inside and the roommate was sleeping. Normally we don’t disturb sleeping patients but the nurses let us know he needed a visit. He was sad because his roommate Old Leo had passed away. So we went in, woke him up, and did our best to help him feel better.

We’ve been doing pet therapy for 5-1/2 years and honestly we haven’t lost many patients, at least that I know of. Even though we only met Old Leo once, he left an impression. He wasn’t one of the patients that I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear passed away. Instead, he seemed so full of life, talkative, smiling, and so very grateful for our visit.

I left thankful that we could help sooth his roommate, and sad that we won’t get to see and chat with Old Leo again.

Perspective and gratitude

This work has a way of granting you big ole doses of perspective and gratitude, often when you least expect it. I was dealing with a few personal challenges before we went on the visit this morning, and by the afternoon’s light I was reminded that my challenges are minor in comparison. I was also reminded to be grateful to just be here, and to be able to share my girls’ love with those who truly need and appreciate it. 

Hope and her handler Debbie have been certified for five years. They are certified with Love on a Leash and Alliance of Therapy Dogs. They live and work in Hendersonville, North Carolina.