My dog Lucie and I are a therapy dog team for the local hospital, Tucson Medical Center. Lucie loves the work, and I used to call on TMC in my Pharmaceutical rep. days. Going into the patient rooms is different than selling drugs to the pharmacy, at first I was taken aback from talking to people when they were so vulnerable. Plus, Lucie has a way of making people accessible. She leans over backwards and places her head on a patient’s heart chakra, or at the very least leans over and puts her head on the patient’s shoulder. This unarms many.

More than once, I have had Lucie put her head on a person’s shoulder, only to have them burst into tears. The first few times it was alarming, A woman who had a stroke broke down because she didn’t have the money to pay her hospital bill, and she couldn’t be discharged to a rehab facility until she did pay.

A nurse, (yes, they also use the services of the therapy dogs) who’s mother had a heart attack, and several patients that had done poorly that week burst into tears. She dried them quickly, said she wished she could pet Lucie forever, and then went back to work. Many others have fallen under Lucie’s spell. She puts people at ease because she is totally trusting, totally accepting, as pure love as possible. Lucie is all about the pure love. She came to the Small Paws rescue, a beaten, thin scared dog, and left Small Paws with me. She asked me once how some people can be so good, and other people so bad. She can’t get her head around that. She knows however that with me she is safe. I always have one hand holding her backside, and she knows no harm will come to her when she is with me.

Yesterday was our day to go to the hospital. I could hear the nurses calling Lucie’s name when I was in the patient rooms, saying how Lucie was their favorite. When Lucie and I got to one of the nurses station, they told me I had to see the man in 650- that he loved dogs and couldn’t have his dog with him in the hospital.

When Lucie and I got to the room, the man was sitting up in a chair. He was the victim of a stroke. I leaned down and let Lucie bend over onto the man’s shoulder. As many people do, he started to cry.

Because of the stroke, he was having a hard time getting words out. He told me that his dog was a decorated war veteran, that his dog served several tours overseas. But dog had been hurt, and he was the only one willing to take the dog home and pay for his veterinary bills. His dog was a German Shepard, and he loved him dearly.

The man had a stroke several days earlier, and the firemen broke down his door to put him in an ambulance and take him to the hospital. The man did not tell me of how scared he was that he may be dying, or that the stroke hurt and confused him. He did not give one thought to himself. He told me the only thought he had when the fireman crashed in the doors was that he didn’t want them TO KILL HIS DOG. He said it was all he could think about it, but he couldn’t say it, He couldn’t gesture it. He was helpless to protect this German Shepard that had fought so valiantly for the United States Military. He said he didn’t relax until his neighbor came over and put the dog in another room with his chew toy.

All during this story, the man was crying gigantic racking sobs, and speaking slurrily, out of control of himself in so many ways. But thank God his dog is still alive. The volunteer coordinator came and got me, as she almost always does, because Lucie and I are lagging behind the group and staying too long in one place.
I gave the man’s shoulder a squeeze, and thanked him for sharing his story.

The made me question many things about our government. I don’t know if the worst is that you have to be afraid that the fire dept. are going to break down your house and kill your dog, or that after 4 tours of duty a canine soldier doesn’t get free medical and a trip back home. I really thing the dogs would deserve one.

: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

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