Momi's sister became seriously ill a couple of weeks ago and had some very serious, immediate surgery. She is now in an acute care convalescent hospital. Ricky and his "tia" have been very close over the last two years whenever she would visit us. It was always love at first sight between the two of them. On their first meeting, tia said, "he's got so much hair, I can't tell which end is which!"
We drove to visit her in the hospital for the first time last Sunday. It is a 5 hour trip each way. We were reluctant to take Ricky with us because of the long trip and we did not know the rules regarding pets in the hospital. But I decided to gamble and take him with us. He is a good traveler and we just can't bear to be without him.
Although Ricky has no experience or training as a therapy dog, I know his temperament pretty well by now and I was prepared t keep him "eyes on" at all times while we were in the hospital or stay with him outside if not permitted. Upon arrival, Ricky and I walked into the hospital with Ricky taking the lead, ready for new adventures. We stopped at the front desk and the staff said, "Oh good, a therapy dog, and so cute too!" I said, "Uuuuuuh, yeah, right." They said, "We've been waiting for you, you have a lot of meet and greets today." I said, "Okay, I mean GREAT!" We asked for Tia's room number and went there first; Ricky was just fascinated with the whole situation. Tia was eating, sort of, her breakfast in bed when we walked in and her face lit up. I had Ricky in my arms, but he was struggling to greet Tia and help her with the sliced ham on her breakfast plate. I was able to quiet him and he had to stay on my lap. Tia is seriously ill and was not able to converse much, so Ricky and I left the room after about 20 minutes and left Mom and her sister have some private time together.
We made our way to the activity room (the activity being watching TV) where several residents were gathered, some of them mumbling incoherent sounds. All eyes turned toward us and the mumbling stopped. Ricky was on his leash but he instinctively and dutifully went around to greet each resident. Some were bending over in their wheel chairs to pet him while I had to pick him up for others so they could pet him. Although Ricky is an extremely high energy dog and when he is play mode, no piece of furniture or ceramic vase is safe with him around. But here at the hospital, he was so gentle and calm and submissive. He would give "kisses" to everyone and the residents were delighted. Comments were, "he is so soft" "what a pretty girl
" "can I take him home?" Then I had Ricky do all of his tricks. Ricky is a showman and loves to perform in front of a crowd. He got lots of laughs and applause. Ricky was in doggie heaven.
With both of our confidence up, we visited other rooms to spread some "therapy." The staff would stop their work and come and watch. One staff member said, "I can tell he's been doing this quite a while." I said, "yes, about 30 minutes now!
" Then Ricky let me know he needed a potty break.
We went back to Tia's room. She had finished her breakfast and was now sitting in a wheelchair. Although Ricky was still on his leash, he immediately jumped onto Tia's lap which she always liked for him to do. Tia broke out into a look of surprise than a big smile. Tia's son and DIL were now there and they said that this was the most animated they had seen her since her surgery. Momi scolded Popi, "Is that all the better you can control MY dog?" She took Ricky onto her lap and Ricky gave Popi the "are we in trouble?" look.
After a bit, I took Ricky back out to spread some more cheer among some new residents that had assembled. After about 4 hours it was time to return home. I could tell Ricky was dog tired since he had no naps during the day. So I took him out to the car and fed him his supper which he ate with gusto (as always). As we left the facility the staff said, "Will you bring Ricky back tomorrow?" (they were now on a first name basis). I said maybe in a couple of weeks. We then departed on our 5 hour trip back home. All told, it was about a 15 hour day for us and we were all exhausted, physically and emotionally. Ricky and I discovered somethings about ourselves, that we may have yet another calling in our lives
This Havanese breed is so d**n versatile - conformation, obedience, nosework, dancing, therapy, service, or just plain stay at home house pet - it is just amazing. The more work you give them, the happier they are. You think you have seen it all with this breed, and then they will surprise you with something new. Although we are all grief stricken about Tia, we take comfort and solace from each other. We look forward to our next visit with Tia in a couple of weeks, we hope.
Ricky and I are now exploring opportunities at some of our local hospitals to do some therapy work, maybe just 30 minutes at a time. We have also contacted the local canine therapy club to get Ricky certified as a legitimate therapy dog with a vest. It's all good.
Momi and Popi love you Ricky Ricardo