Edith's Archive

For the dogs, a painful challenge

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Team Hospice at the Pleasant Valley Nursing Home

Team Hospice at the Pleasant Valley Nursing Home
June 27, 2008 – Izzy and Lenore went with me this afternoon to the Pleasant Valley Nursing Home in Argyle, N.Y., and there, was saw two Hospice patients, Edith and Diana. Lenore is coming of age, calm, appropriate, friendly and increasingly focused.
But izzy did some of the best work of his hospice career, especially with Edith, who suffers from dementia, (Diana has an advanced brain tumor) and can no longer communicate easily or directly with people. These are dfficult environments for dogs, filled with machines, wheelchairs, and people who do not act the way dogs expect people to act, often shouting out in pain, confusion or alarm.
Edith at first refused to acknowledge me, Izzy, or Keith Mann, a hospice official. Keith and I have worked with izzy for more than a year now, and we have learned to wait, and give Izzy a chance to find a way to connect. Edith was turning her wheelchair in circles, saying she has things to do, waving us away, ignoring us. Izzy had to manuever quickly to get out of the way of the wheelchair, which was turning in all sorts of directions. He approached from one direction, then the other, while Keith and I tried to connect with Edith. Finally, she put her hand out and Izzy rushed forward and put his head under it, and Edith froze, smiled, then reached down and patted Izzy on the head. One of the nurses said she was ready to cry, as she had never seen Edith be that responsive.
For five minutes, Edith turned away again, then came back to pet Izzy, then let Lenore come up and lick her hand. Keith and I looked at each other when we saw this connection being made, and it was a powerful experience, reaching through the screen of that disease, and connecting with the spirit there. I love this week. We didn’t do as well with Diana,  unfortunately, who was in too much pain and confusion to focus on Izzy or Lenore.
We tried, then left.
But we were both impressed once more by Izzy’s remarkable gift for finding ways to make contact with people, even on the edge of life.