Apr 16th 2008

A powerful day for the Soul Dog

Posted in Barb, Caleb, Izzy

Izzy the lap dog with Barb
Izzy the lap dog with Barb

April 16, 2008 – Today was a powerful day for the Soul Dog.
I’m taking most of April to learn Hospice work, to learn more about the dying process, and train Izzy and Lenore fully, and today, for various scheduling and geographic reasons, we were on the road for hours, from the Adirondacks to Granville to a nursing home near Ft. Edward, making five different Hospice visits. It was a long day, a tiring one, and a test even of Izzy’s skills, and it was a great day, and a real opportunity to see a skilled and generous working dog do a lot of great work for human beings in need in very different circumstances.
Hospice nurses and health aides also got to work with Izzy today and that was helpful as well as instructive. Every time I see these people, I learn more about this work, and how challenging it is.
Everything about Hospice work is unpredictable and different – the people, places, circumstances, emotions. We climbed several flights of stairs in a big old house in the Adirondacks to see Caleb,  almost totally paralyzed by several strokes, and able to only move one hand. Since he couldn’t move, we had to get to him, and he smiled from ear to ear when Izzy came in, and the dog climbed up onto the wheelchair and lay still for nearly an hour while he was petted and held. The room was crowded with medical equipment, warm and cramped. And the patient was unable to communicate in ways dogs expect.
It was one of the most powerful visits we have yet made in Hospice, seeing the emotional transformation in Caleb before and after Izzy’s visits. Caleb is well cared for, yet struggling with his illness, and alone with health care aides most of the time. He was overjoyed to see and hold Izzy, and it lifted him up, and eased his struggle. We sat and talked for an hour, and I told him about the Yankees, who he loves, and about Izzy another dogs.
I left Lenore at home today because I want to continue working with the dogs alone, to train and observe them. And she has a sore leg, garnered plowing into a post after a ball.
We went to another town to see Barb, above, and she has been asking for Izzy for several days, and while Izzy sat in her lap, we worked on a poem together, which I will post tomorrow. “I was worried about him,” she said. “I was afraid something had happened to him.”
Barb is soft-spoken and exhausted, and I love the way she stares at Izzy and says, “good dog, good dog,” softly and with so much love. It is an opportunity for her to be nurturing and to open up emotionally.  Izzy responds in kind.
We then stopped off at Warren and Helen’s to bring some pansies, and Izzy spent some time with Warren. Talk of another poem there.
We went to a nursing home to see two patients, both with Alzheimer’s. Izzy, now tired, was patient, working from the floor by putting his head in the lap’s of both patients, one of whom lashed out at him in confusion. She was in a noisy and crowded hallway, with some extreme dementia patients, and it was confusing for him, a real test of his patience and calm.
I brought him back to the patient who lashed at him, a few minutes later, and both Izzy and she were calm.
Izzy’s day began at 9 a.m., and ended at 9 p.m.
I am somewhat in awe of this dog, and the skills he brings to this work, his gentleness, boundless affection, his confidence and judgment, and his ability to focus on people, as well as his agility at getting himself into tough spots and staying there for long periods. He is almost always watching me for cues, and we communicate on a different level after nearly a year of this work. He enjoys this work, but I feel now that he does this work for me, as dogs often do for humans. As our visits progress, he attaches to patients, and I think, does some of the work for them.
I would not normally work him (or me) this hard, but I had fallen behind a bit on some of these patients, and that is not an acceptable breach, especially when you realize how much it means to them to see Izzy and or Lenore.
Hospice work has to be managed, for me and the dogs, and I am closely monitored by  the Hospice nurses and staff, as are all volunteers,  but I have cleared time for this work, this month and beyond, and want to know more about it, and about how the dogs work in it.
It was a tough day, and a challenging day. It was nothing but a good day, and I am grateful for the blessing of Izzy, who not only has enriched my life, but continues to bring light and comfort to the lives of  people who very much need it.
Izzy is, in fact, a Soul Dog, by which I mean he has the ability to connect with human spirits – human souls – in tangible and meaningful ways. I do not claim to understand what is going on in his mind, but am determined that his gift, and Lenore’s growing skills,  be used whenever possible.
I don’t know if dogs have souls or not, but if they do, Izzy will get to a place with acres of sheep and bones.
He has been asleep since we got home, and I will follow shortly, once I check on the farm and the animals (a goat was running around the backyard when I got home).
Good job, Iz.