Izzy's Archive

Izzy and Marion – falling in love

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Falling in love with Marion

Sunday, July 27th, 2008


July 27, 2008 – Izzy and I have fallen in love with Marion, who I have previously written about here as “Mary.” I want to use her real name and her photo, which I am doing with the consent of her family, and also, after convincing myself that she understood what I was doing and agreed with it. 
 She deserves a face, and I love photographing this radiant and loving presence. 
   Marion convinced me today that she would be happy to have her picture taken with Izzy, and she wanted people to see the work dogs can do in therapy. 
  Marion is not enrolled in hospice, but we met her visiting hospice patients in her nursing home, and we visited her regularly, as does her daughter. We see two other patients who are enrolled in hospice, in the same facility.
  Izzy and I have rarely connected to any human beings as quickly as powerfully as we have connected with Marion, who lived on a farm, and dearly loved her dog Scout, a “groundhog dog,” she told me, who ran down groundhogs, and put them on her porch every morning. “I loved Scout,” she said, “but I think I love Izzy more.” Izzy shamelessly flirts wth Marion, and she is insistent on giving him biscuits, which I bring.
   Marion exudes love and affection, and she talks about Izzy often, asking her daughter and the staff when he will be visiting. She has some difficulty hearing and seeing, but she knew Izzy was there the minute we knocked on the door. She had, the nurse said, been waiting all day for him. I love her stories about the farm. Communicating with her is not simple, but we are doing it, making progress, learning.
   Today we talked about her life, her husband, and some losses she has suffered, and Mario can teach all of us quite a bit about grace and affection.
  From the first time she saw Izzy, she loved  him and he loved her back. The two of them are having their own affair. “I love you, Izzy,” she said when we came into the room today – she had been in the hospital for a day or so. “I will never hurt you, and I think you are the most wonderful creature.”
  Marion was overjoyed to see him and Izzy hopped up onto the bed next to her wheelchair, and the two of them spent nearly an hour cuddling with one another. I don’t really know what it is about Izzy and other animals that unlocks people’s hearts that way, but I see it so often now that I have no doubt it is true.
   I am fortunate to know Marion, and proud to show her real name,  face and a bit of her life to the world.

“Ghosts,” by Warren, a poem

Sunday, July 27th, 2008


Izzy and Warren

  July 27, 2008 – Izzy and I made four different hospice visits today, and all of them were powerful and worthwhile. I have never made that many in one day and normally wouldn’t, but there were extenuating circumstances in all four cases, and this was in so many ways an important day, and full of meaning. In between visits, I rushed out and took photos because I needed to.
    Izzy was heroic. I am resting Lenore in the heat, because she gets restless and hot being in the truck so much in that kind of weather, whereas Izzy is always the same, rain or sun, heat or cold.
  I want to post a bit about all of these visits, but first I want to share a poem Warren and I worked on this morning, about remembering his wife Helen, who died several months ago after 60 years of marriage:

  “Ghosts” by Warren 

 ”Thinking about things,
  I hear Helen, in my mind’s eye,
  giving me advice.
  We always discussed things,
  it’s just as if she were still here,
  out of the corner of my eye,
  I see her.

  I’ll her a noise and it’s Helen,
  she’s in the kitchen
  doing things, puttering around.

  It’s not the least bit frightening,
  she’s a good ghost.

  When there is a financial decision to be
  made we discuss it.
  I know it’s in my mind,
  it’s like a ghost,
  talking to me.

  Rustling in the kitchen,
  working in the living room,
  sorting things upstairs.
  When there’s a brilliant display of lightning,
  I hear her comment, about common sense things,
  “we better be sure things are unplugged.” 
  and from the kitchen, looking out the window,
  I can see her in the garden, and when I go out
  there I always say “hi, sweetheart,”
  and she says, “hi.’”

What I don’t like about hospice work

Thursday, July 24th, 2008


Izzy, in a nursing home yesterday visiting a hospice patient,  always gets the girls

  July 24, 2008 – What I don’t like about hospice is when I show up at a house or a nursing home, and the patient is gone. Sometimes there are people standing around, a gathering that suggests death. Sometimes, as happened Friday it’s an empty bed and a nurse shaking her head,  telling me somebody I have connected with on the edge of life is gone, or has been rushed to the hospital. This bothers me more than sickness or death, and I can’t say I really know why. 
  Mary is not officially in hospice. We met her at a nursing home while visiting a hospice patient. I’m not sure I ever saw anybody connect with me or with Izzy so quickly. She grew up on a farm, from an old farm family, and especially loved and remembered her border collies. She was an Alzheimer’s patient, and was confused, repeating some words and phrases, but she was not confused about Izzy. But she has the broadest smile and the most beautiful and penetrating blue eyes.
   Mary glowed at the sight of Izzy, taking his head in her hands – and saying “what a wonderful dog,” and telling me how much she loved him, how much she wanted to give him a treat. Izzy drinks up this kind of attention, and returned it with interest and the two of them just lit up the room flirting with one another, loving each other, hugging.
 Izzy can really turn it on when somebody loves him. She turned to me and clasped my hand, and she was so gracious and generous, and said. “why, how can I thank you for coming to see me and bringing this wonderful dog and reminding me of my border collie, so long ago?” And I was overwhelmed a bit by that, and then she looked at me a bit vacantly, and then turned to Izzy and stroked his head.
  And I told her I would be back, and I meant it, and today I stopped to get some flowers and brought them to her room at the nursing home, and when I came in the room I knew instantly that something was wrong, as almost all of Mary’s things were gone, and I put the flowers down, and Izzy looked all around the room and then we walked quickly out into the hallway and found a nurse, and asked where Mary was, and I know that look by now, and she shrugged and said she had just been taken to the hospital, and she didn’t know when she would be back or if she would be back.
  So Izzy and I visited our hospice patient, who was also glad to see him, and then we drove to Glens Falls Hospital, where we were told that Mary was not able to receive visitors, and perhaps we could come back tomorrow. I hope we get to see her.
   Mary got to me, and I connected with the warm and love in her spirit, and so did Izzy, for sure.
  I took photos of Mary and she and her daughter both gave me permission to use them (one partial photo is above) and I have debating all week whether or not to use them, but her daughter is comfortable with it and I actually think it’s important to bring some fuller identities to the people we meet when possible. It makes them more real.
  But I will wait to see.
  It’s odd, really, because I have seen illness, some suffering and death in hospice work, and I am okay with it. But I don’t like showing up to see people we know and finding their rooms and beds empty. Volunteers are not, and shouldn’t be, the first people called when somebody is sick or dying. People have other things to worry about. But I’ll never get used to it.
  I may post a photo of Mary over the weekend, but I want to see how she is first, and whether or not we can visit her.

Hospice standoff – Izzy and the nursing home cat

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

June 20, 2008 – A cat lives in the Alzheimer’s unit Izzy and I visited yesterday, we discovered to our surprise, when the imperious creature appeared in the doorway of a patient we were visiting, as if demanding to know what we could possibly be doing in her territory. Izzy tensed up, but stayed calm, until we went into the hallway and Her Majesty appeared again, outraged by Izzy’s sauntering around. The two had a stare-down, and then Izzy ignored her and went on to spend time with his pals.
  It was fun, but it did remind me that you need to have an even-tempered dog for hospice work. Could have not been fun.

Marion, a tea party to remember

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

July 18, 2008 – Hospice is one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and it continues to surprise me and bring me to once unimaginable places. Yesterday, Izzy and I hosted a tea party for Alzheimer’s patients, some with dementia, and I ended up deeply affected. We brought fresh flowers and chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies, and Izzy and Marion fell in love with one another. I was fairly smitten myself by this warm and loving spirit, very much in evidence.
  Marion used to live on a farm, and had a border collie, and she just lights up at the sight of Izzy and keeps trying to give him a cookie, and she looks him in the eye and talks to him in the way he absolutely loves and responds too, and the two of them cuddled and talked for nearly an hour, and she took Izzy’s head in her hands and told him, “why, I just love you. You are just a wonderful creature.” 
  And Izzy stared back, and it was quite a thing to see Marion smiling and laughing and asking when Izzy could come back, and for the umpteenth time, could he have a cookie, or could I bring some for her to give him. She so wants to give him something, and I will bring some biscuits next time. It is late, and I am tired – after the tea party we went to the Washington County band concert (see below) and so I will post more about the tea party in the Hospice Journal today – Sunday. The Hospice Journal on this site will go live this week, but I will continue to post the journal entries here on the Farm Journal, but all of the Hospice Journals and photos will be collected in one place (see tab above) for people who want to see them.
  I believe strongly in the hospice idea, and I am forever humbled and in awe of the work Izzy does, and the way he connects with the soul of people, and draws them out. We will see Marion often.

Mary’s joke

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

July 17, 2008 – I was much affected by my visit to the Alzheimer’s dementia ward at a nursing home in Argyle, N.Y. yesterday, and today went back again to see Mary, a hospice patient. She had been uncommunicative, even hostile to visitors and volunteers, but in her second meeting with Izzy today – I want to go several days in a row to encourage her recognition and Izzy’s work with dementia patients – she said, “well, Izzy,” when we arrived, and then patted him several times, before telling me an hour’s worth of stories about her grandfather, her dogs, and the horses she used to ride and care for.
  “How long have you known this dog?” she asked me, and when I told her, she asked me again, and then once more. She even started to tell me a joke about a horse she once had, but couldn’t quite finish it. The nurse was amazed that Mary was telling a joke.
  Izzy was swarmed with people in the ward who wanted to touch him, be near him and it was very different from our first visit. The nurses said Mary was calmer than before, and much more talkative.
  I felt much more comfortable there, and so did Izzy. Her zeroed in on Mary, and then we visited several other patients who were not in hospice, but are dog lovers.
  I’m learning to be much more “up” in my conversations with these patients. To speak clearly, slowly, directly. To act certain that they understand, because I am already learning, that sometimes they really do.
  And there are many sweet spirits in this forgotten little world. It has caught my imagination, and I want to focus on it. And Izzy is really, really good in there. And I can see he is doing good.
  This weekend, Izzy and I are hosting a little party in the ward. We will bring some flowers and cookies over the weekend, and maybe give Lenore a chance to brighten some corners as well.
  This is a genuine outpost on the edge of life, and the nurses tell me that even therapy dogs usually bypass this unit. Made me appreciate Izzy all the more.