Mar 10th 2008

Caleb, Izzy, Lenore

Posted in Caleb, Izzy, Lenore

Ready to work Ready to work

March 10, 2008 – Izzy, Lenore and I ventured far out into the countryside today, to see Caleb, a 90-year-old who entered the Hospice program last week. Caleb can’t speak, and can only move one hand. He is a lifelong dog lover and the broad smile that erupted on his face lit up the room when he saw Izzy, and then Lenore.
Izzy is by now a Hospice supervisor, the Hospice staff jokes. He came into the house, found the stairs, rushed up to Caleb’s room, found him sitting in a wheelchair, and by the time I got up there, he had his head under Caleb’s hand.
Lenore did beautifully. She gently climbed up on the chair so Caleb could pet her, and he seemed, after awhile, to want to see Lenore, who is, after all, the Light. Izzy backed up and watched, and he seemed almost bemused by Lenore’s spotlight-stealing.
This was, in many respects, one of our tougher Hospice visits. Caleb can’t speak, so we had to pay close attention to his reactions. These are difficult behaviors for most dogs, including mine, to read. Izzy is experienced at this now, but it was new to Lenore, who seemed tentative at first (quite naturally.)
Izzy put his head in Caleb’s hand, Lenore seemed initially confused, then seemed to figure it out. At seven months, and only two weeks into Hospice work, she has not yet developed Izzy’s confidence at entering a new space, and going to work. He always has done this, but has gotten more focused, even businesslike, with experience. Izzy has changed after nearly a year in Hospice.
After a few minutes, Lenore lay at Caleb’s feet and waited to be petted.  We helped him reach his hand over and stroke her back.
He smiled repeatedly, and nodded enthusiastically when asked if he enjoyed the dogs.
Then we got Lenore to climb up and cuddle with him, which he clearly enjoyed.
We will see him again in a few days. This is a challenge for us. It was a valuable experience for Lenore, who seemed clearly to pick up on the idea that she was there to pay attention to someone in particular. I can’t be sure, and am loathe to guess about a dog’s mind, but she seemed to be watching Izzy closely, and after a few minutes, it seemed to me that she was following his lead. We will be back in a few days. This is the second time I’ve used both dogs, and it worked well, one lying down, getting out of the way, while the other worked. Good visit, by which I mean we clearly brought pleasure and comfort under circumstances that were challenging for the dogs, and for me.
Every Hospice visit is different, and asks and requires something different from the dogs, and from me. It is a powerful experience all around. The dogs seem to grasp that this matters, and they work hard. I take it seriously, and expect a lot of them, and I’m sure they sense this purpose in me.  These are important times for the people we visit, and I feel very strongly that they not be alarmed, or made uncomfortable in any way. No mistakes are appropriate here, and I suppose that is a lot of pressure on the dogs.
In addition to nursing and home care, Hospice musicians are coming in to bring Caleb some music
Both dogs collapsed when we got home and have barely moved. I’ve noticed this repeatedly in the Hospice work with dogs – they are quite drained afterwards. Lenore is always animated in the evenings, but she is lying at my feet and hasn’t moved since we got home.

By the time I got upstairs, Izzy was at work. Izzy has the touch.

Lenore calmed down quickly, kept an eye on Izzy, stayed out of the way when it was his turn.
She’s got it.