For a period of three years, my wonderful dog James and I visited hospice patients at a nursing care facility.
Even though I had spent over twenty years visiting the elderly in assisted living facilities, hospice care took our visiting to an entirely different level. When our first patient died, I wept into the phone when I received the call from the nurse in charge of her case telling me she had passed. We had visited this woman every Wednesday afternoon for seven months. We grew attached, and the last time we visited, she petted James on his head and said, See you next week, boy. See waved and smiled at us as we headed out the door.
I was shocked by my reaction to the news of her passing, even telling the nurse that I wasn’t sure I was cut-out for this type of work.
The nurse responded by saying, Your dog’s visits meant the word to that patient. She talked about James all the time and how much his visits brightened her days. The last few days leading up to her death, she became extremely weak and knew she was ready to pass. As weak as she was, she kept talking about James and how much she appreciated seeing him each week. The nurse ended the call by saying, I hope you don’t stop. Your visits are so meaningful.
To this day, I am so glad she said that to me. James went on to brighten the days left here on earth for several long-term patients, and a few we visited for just two or three weeks before they passed.
I learned a lot about life and living from these folks. Each of them in their own way, told a story about their lives. The good things and the bad. Their joys and their regrets. They always spoke directly to James – and he looked right up into their eyes, as though listening and understanding every word.
James and I had the honor of visiting a dear lady who was 106 years old.
She had been living in her own home, just a block away from her daughter, up unto she entered the nursing care facility several weeks before she died. On our first visit, I stood at the door, asking my usual question, Would you like a visit from the dog?
I will never forget her response…
By all means, come in! I love dogs! I’ve had dogs all my life. Big ones. Small ones. All different kinds of breeds and mixed-breeds. I was never without a dog. We love dogs so much!
Then, she said, I’m 106 years old, you know! And, I’m sure I’ve lived this long because of the dogs! Dogs make me feel happy! They’ve kept me feeling young!
All this while she sat in her chair petting James and smiling.
James and I had six wonderful visits with this exceptional 106 year old woman, who looked more like 80.
She told James and me that she had been through two World Wars, and other bad times…
…but enough of that. I never dwell on the bad times, just all the good times with my family and my dogs.”