When James and I visited the nursing home last week, I noticed a new name on the nameplate at his door… Allan had been bedridden for the past several weeks. It did seem unusual to me because he never spent time during the day in his room. Though, several of the residents had been down with a stomach bug this spring and it had taken them quite a while to get back on their feet. But, no… when I saw the name change, I knew this wasn’t a good sign. I’d seen this many times before… and yes, the nurse confirmed that Allan had passed. She told me that many of the residents were shaken by his loss – one woman in particular who had been his special friend.
Allan was a robust man – friendly with everyone. During the day, he buzzed through the hallways in his motorized wheelchair, and always took part in activities being offered. He was a man who loved dogs… the bigger, the better. Allan became my official assistant evaluator – helping me to decide whether or not a dog being evaluated would make a good therapy dog. He’d pet the dogs and talk to them. He’d tell me, Definitely take this one, he’d be a great therapy dog. Or, This one’s a bit shy. I’m not sure she should pass, but maybe she just needs to get used to the place. He watched for all the dogs coming to visit and remarked on the different breeds. He missed having his own dog, he told me. But, seeing the dogs visit, helped fill the void.
I remember one day last year, he took me aside when I was there evaluating a dog and said, You won’t be seeing me anymore after today… My daughters live far away from here and want me to live closer to them. I’m going to miss this place, but that’s what they want. I hope they have dogs at my new place. When I returned the following week, much to my surprise, Allan was tooling through the facility in his motorized chair. I called to him, Hi there, Allan, I didn’t expect to see you here. When are you leaving? With a huge grin on his immense face he exclaimed, I’m staying! My daughters understand that I’m happy here where I am – and I’m so glad. I would have gone for them, but I really want to stay right here.
This was a very happy man. He made the best of his situation. Everyone loved him, not just his fellow residents, but the staff did, as well. People do come here and end their days… sadly, without much notice. But this was a man with a contagious smile. He made everyone’s life a lot happier. His daughters made a wise decision to leave him just where he was. It is understandable why he is missed by everyone here. I miss him, too.