Ted: Thanks for sitting down for an interview. Sorry it took so long, but it has been a pretty busy 8 months for us.
Rufus: Tell me about it. I was on death row at that high kill facility in California, before being rescued, first by the Northern Nevada Humane Society, and then Homer J's. Now I am a working dog, with people who count on me for comfort and companionship, it has been quite the adventure.
Ted: In a future post, we can talk about your life prior to coming to the sanctuary, but today I want to talk to you about your experiences as a therapy dog. First, could you tell me about the places you have been performing your duties?
Rufus: I would be happy to. For the sake of confidentiality, you know... therapist client privilege and what not, I will not give the specific names of the facilities or people I have been visiting, but just a general description. Most Saturdays we visit two residential facilities for senior citizens. One is a long-term rehab facility, the other is for long-term dementia care. Both places are full of people who benefit from the presence of a loving animal.
Ted: They sure do get a kick out of you. Is there a big difference between your experience as a therapy dog between the two facilities.
Rufus: The residents in long-term care seem to suffer more than those at the dementia care facility. Most are struggling with physical and emotional pain, some have little to no mobility, and many struggle to communicate.
Don't misunderstand me, it is a nice facility and the staff are very caring. That does not overcome the fact that most are crowded 3-4 to a room, hallways are lined with people in wheel chairs waiting to be moved or taken to the shower, and the patient to visitor ration is not that great. A few will die in that place, and they are often aware of it.
One of my favorite people to visit there is Ms. L. She lets me sit on the end of her and she will stroke my stomach for as long as I can sit still. I heard her telling you that she is the last of her family, and never lived in the area, so we are her only visitors other than the nurses and staff. I guess you could say I was in a similar situation when I was in the shelter in California, but at least they were going to put me to sleep with dignity. Ms. L might live another 5 years like that, I guess I just don't understand.
Ted: I like her too. She is pretty sharp, and like many of the old timers we visit, loves to reminisce about the dogs she has loved throughout her life. She is a big dog lover and really enjoys getting to spend time with you; you do a great job with her.
Rufus: Well, I can empathize with her situation, and that makes me want to help out, just like you helped me. I was blessed to be given another chance to make family and friends, and it is the least I can do to help another experience that same joy, even if only for a short visit.
Ted: We have been going every Friday now for the last couple months. It is safe to say you have made an impact on a number of people in that place. They certainly recognize us as we are walking down the fall; they wave, smile, and get their petting hands ready. It has been a great experience so far, and I am looking forward to many more visits.
Rufus: Me too. Hey Ted, do you think that someday, when we have a sanctuary with ample space and lots of old dogs, we could save space to give somebody like Ms. L a home where they could live out their years amongst friends and family who care?
Ted: Of course Rufus. Our vision for the sanctuary is not just a home for senior canines you know.