Jul 17th 2008

Mary’s joke

Posted in Izzy, Marion, Mary

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.