The room was dimly lit and the only sound was that of a breathing machine.I tapped on the door and gently pushed it open seeing an elderly man sitting quietly by the bed looking tenderly at the woman lying in it. The nurse at the ICU nurses station had complained we check room # 4, saying the gentleman there with his wife had seemed to have had a sad and lonely day. Maybe a visit would cheer him. You see, me and my dog Olliver-a175 lb. Great Dane-are a pet partner team and we volunteer at the local hospital. Our job is to bring a smile and hopefully a little joy to what can be a sad, lonely place for some people.
The man seemed a bit started to see us at the door. But I introduced myself and Olliver explaining that we were visiting a pet partner team and would be pleased to visit with him if he would like. He took my hand in one of his and stroked Olliver's long ears with the other a smile bright on his face. He asked several questions about Olly and we shared several laughs about what people think when they see such a large dog, especially in a hospital! Bit by bit he began to unfold his past. All the while clasping my hand, stroking Olliver and staring lovingly at his wife. Olliver is a wonderful therapy dog. He stood patiently then finally laid down the man. The advantage he has by being so large is that he is easy to reach even when lying down! The old man shared stories of their life on a ranch, the horses, cattle and of course the dogs that had had. By the look on his face I could tell he was a long way away, living that past again. Olly and I listened patiently as he relived the many adventures he and his wife had shared. It was a pleasure to see his rugged face light up as he laughed and told story after story. I do not know how much time passed, it did not matter as I knew this would be our final visit for this night. Sometimes you just know where you are really needed and it does not matter how much time it takes.
Finally he blinked back some tears and squeezed my hand real tight. He ruffled Olly's ears and saved him a little hug. "Oh my", he said. "So many of these things I have not thought of in years? Thank you so much for the wonderful visit. . "
We shared our good-byes and as I closed the door I saw him reach for his wife's hand and heard him say. "Yes, we did make good memories, we did not." And he leaned over to kiss her cheek.
As Olly and I made our way to the parking lot the tears slid down my face and I had to give him a big hug! "You did a good job tonight, Baby Dog", I tell him. Sometimes it does not take a lot of words or effort. Just being there, listening, sharing and letting someone else share. Giving some of your time can make such a difference. That is why I love volunteering with Olliver.
So, smile! And make a memory today.