There are some residents who, according to staff members, have not spoken to anyone for months. On many occasions, however, when a dog arrived at the scene, it was chatter, chatter, chatter. Often, the resident then begins to speak to the volunteer also. There is something about the non-threatening presence of an animal which brings people out. Here are a few more significant stories.
- one occasion, a young, comatose boy, was visited by a volunteer and her Golden Retriever. There had been a similar dog in the boy’s home a few years earlier. As the dog placed his two front paws on the side of the bed and looked into the boy’s face, there was no response. However, when the volunteer commanded him to speak, he gave a hearty bark. At that point, the boy opened his eyes and turned his head a little. There was no immediate cure, but that event led to recovery from the coma during the next few days.
- A very despondent lady would not leave her room at a rehabilitation hospital. Her eyes had been gouged out by her drug-crazed son, so she was suffering both physically and psychologically. A large Golden Retriever was brought to the door of her room. Because she loved dogs, she hesitatingly asked them to bring it into the room. The staff fibbed, saying the dog was not allowed to come into the room, but she could come out to meet him. After many tears, the lady came out, sat on the floor, and petted and hugged the dog for some time. There were wet eyes all around.
- All of the Pets on Wheels volunteers and their pets are very special citizens, but a few stand out. One great Labrador Retriever did his regular visiting with double hip replacements. A few volunteers have been visiting although diagnosed with cancer. A few of the dogs have done their jobs, also with cancer, and continued to work as long as possible. About 20 percent of the volunteer pets are rescued animals which would have been destroyed, if not adopted. Two volunteers have made their visits in wheelchairs with their dogs at their sides or riding at their feet. In 1992, a very special volunteer did her nursing home visiting with her guide dog and an African Pygmy pig. She had been blind from birth and didn’t consider it a handicap, although she had to have her business partner drive her to her destinations. In addition, she was a single parent of two small children.
- A suicide watch dog — A few years ago, an elderly gentleman met with the Manager of the Scottsdale Civic Senior Center. He said he had a dog story which he believed reached the peak of human-animal communications. Despondent over recent loses, both of loved ones and material, the man, at a time of greatest depression, took his gun into the living room, loaded it, and readied himself for an end to his troubles. While lining up the barrel for a hit to the most vital spot, the steady gaze of the dog at his feet caught his attention. In that moment, he related, while the dog looked at him as if to say, OK, what are we going to do now? What will happen to me? The intense train of thought was broken. He suddenly realized that he still had love and responsibility so, he put down the gun and re-examined his life. Then, he told the Center’s Manager, as a start, I have come to volunteer my time and services to others.
“Pets add years to our lives and life to our years.” [Quote by unknown author]