Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Kent was one of the two children (Ann is the other) who was there and help present Sadie with her "Hero Award" at the Friends of Animal Care and Control Award Fall 2005 Fund Raising Banquet.
[Help them out Here:]http://azfaccs.org.mywebsitebuild.com/events/hero.php
FACCs has created the Hero Awards to recognize and honor the impact local animals have had on human lives through truly heroic efforts of service or personal survival. Each year we recognize animals for their heroic impact on Maricopa County residents. The winners are selected from hundreds of dogs, cats, horses, and birds nominated by pet owners or people in the community for their heroic efforts of service or stories of personal survival. Each was judged for their heroic efforts in acting to save or protect the life of a person, for performing services within the community, or having to overcome their own devastating circumstances to survive.
What does it take to be a hero? Acts of loyalty, community service and the ability to survive against all odds and thrive are behaviors that our animal heroes exemplify. All of the nominees were special and it was difficult to pick just seven to be honored.
The other winner in the Service to Community category was almost ready to become a full-fledged guide dog, when Sadie suddenly came up lame one day. She recovered from that only to face a bigger challenge, a rare disorder that no German shepherd had ever survived (until Sadie). With the help of her pet parent, she battled her way back to the land of the living and now helps human children to do the same. Her work as a therapy dog has earned her the nickname "Sadie the Wonder Dog."
"These animals have shown remarkable courage and compassion," said Ann Damiano, chair of the Hero Awards. "We hope that these stories, and this event, help to highlight the positive impact that animals have on our lives."
Monday, August 10, 2009
He was in the process of dying when we asked the charge nurse to please check with his mom to see if we could visit. Ann, the Child Life Specialist, thought that the parents really could use a "Sadie visit." She knew that this family loved dogs and knew the work that Sadie has done through the years to help families at this time.
I always have to call PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) before we enter the floor. No one ever knows what each will bring to that unit. Many times we can come in, but there have been days that we couldn’t because of procedures that were being done, the status of the kid’s cases, etc.
Even once we enter the unit, we still need to check with the nurses because of the volatile nature of the their health status. The charge nurse wasn’t sure if we should go in.
She knew that I wasn’t going to leave until she asked the family but she was trying to prepare me for a "no visit, thank you from them." She came back from the room with a "wow, they said yes" look on her face.
It would be the first time that we went into a room when a child was "actively dying," and I didn’t know how Sadie would react.
I gently knocked and slowly opened the door and peeked in. The mom and her sister were the only ones in the room. The mom was sitting and slowly rocking herself with her hand on her little son’s back. Her sister was standing and watching.
I introduced us and told them that we provide comfort to the families and the children and wanted to know if it was all right for us to come to visit with them. The sadness in the room was palatable and I wasn’t sure how Sadie was going to react.
She went over and sniffed the crib and the baby and understood, so she turned to back to the crib and faced the door as if she was guarding it. That seemed to make the mom and aunt relax just a bit, as if Sadie was holding death at bay.
Since I had shut the door behind me, I knew that I could drop her leach and go and give both the mom and the aunt a hug, so I did. I asked if I could say a little prayer over her baby and she said yes. I then went and got Sadie and she went over to the aunt for a moment but I could tell that she wanted to go to the mom.
She got between the crib and the chair and put herself in a position where the mom could hug her. I watched in amazement as she made herself available for a hug. I never taught her that. She didn’t learn that for being a Guide Dog, but that’s Sadie, the Wonder Dog.
I wasn’t sure what the mom was going to do. But at that point she reached over and hugged Sadie. She cried right into her shoulder like Jose did. I had a flashback to that moment. While the mom was crying, her sister came over to comfort her. Sadie sensed that the two sisters needed some along time, so I walked me to the door. We said our goodbyes and they thanked Sadie for the hugs and for watching the door.
The baby died later that afternoon.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
"When I grow up, I want to be able to train a therapy dog. Will you help me," he asked?
"You betcha'" I said.
His arms and legs don’t move very well because of the Muscular Dystrophy but I know that he absolutely fell in love with Sadie the minute he laid eyes on her. He can’t pet her like the other kids, but he sure loves when Sadie licks him.
We have watched Kent grow up over the last four years. He was finishing the last couple of years of grade school and now going into high school. Kids with MD need both loving parents and their wheelchair to move around. He needs a lot of help from his mom to move from the hospital bed to the chair where Sadie could get at him. There were times when I think this was hard for him having us watch, so I always tried to get Sadie to do something else like putting her in a sit or a down so that Kent didn’t think we were staring at him.
I think this is another hard part of being a long term volunteer when you see the same kids coming in and out of the hospital. I would much rather visit with them at a birthday party at their house then see them back in and not feeling well.
I have to tell all of you that Sadie really likes to lick men’s goatees and beards. I think that they tickle her and she loves it. This past year it looked like Kent was trying to grow his first mustache. That was very cool. So, back to me helping him train his dog….
Kent has a little Chihuahua dog that he thinks would be perfect as a therapy dog like Sadie. He can’t do all of the training and wanted to know if I would help. Of course I would.
When you have a relationship with kids that have MD, the topic of life expectancy may or may not come up. Since I was never sure if Kent would ask me about this, I went to the MD website and found out that "most boys with your disease live into their mid-20s, some even longer."
We last caught up with Kent as he was conducting his own fundraising to help himself get a service dog. He made his own Photoshop picture of him at his high school zooming around the track in his wheelchair, in five different wild costumes.
I love that Kent asked me if I would help him train his dog and I love that he wants to help others. I love that he went out and composed his own photo and was taking his own fund raising into his own hands. But I think the thing that I like most of all about Kent is that he said, "Donna, when I grow up... .
I wanted to put my arms around him, give him the biggest hug and tell him how "grown up" I think he already is.
Friday, August 07, 2009
I was warned that he can't talk and that he might hit Sadie. It's one of those stories that just make you want to cry. His parents had locked him into the crib for his whole life (3 years). He spoke his own language, but his grandmother seemed to understand. He only felt comfortable in his locked crib so they had to make a modified one for him while he was in the hospital. Ann warned me and asked if we still wanted to visit him and we, of course, said yes.
Being a "pet therapy" team isn't just about bringing in your dog and letting the kids just pet it. It's really about working with the staff and finding out how you and the dog can help the child with their healing.
So Ann said that they were hoping that Sadie's visit would get him to try to walk, to see if he could speak any Spanish or English (instead of his own language) and if he could try to pet Sadie without hitting her. I told Ann, "yeah, no problem, and would you like us to walk on water at the end of the visit too?"
So, I was a little bit cautious going into his room and tried not to have Sadie pick that up from my body language or energy (sure…).
His grandmother was resting in a hospital chair and Jake was in his so called crib. I knock before I enter the room and my little knock stirred the grandma. She only spoke Spanish and when I told her our names and that we were there for a visit (my Spanish isn't too great but she understood me, whew). So, she got up and opened the crib, took Jake out and sat him on the floor as I put Sadie in a "down" on the floor near him. There were some toys on the floor but he really just wanted to stare at Sadie.
I put myself between the two of them because I wasn’t sure what either one of the them was going to do. Jake seemed to get very excited after starring at Sadie for a couple of minutes. While Jake was starring at Sadie, Sadie was starring at Jake. It really was the most amazing thing. He started to talk with his high pitched squeal language and that made Sadie cock her head back and forth at him. It seemed to me that the two of them were doing their own set of talking to one another.
Once Jake started squealing, his grandmother started to get up out of the chair and that distracted me. Jake was quick. He jumped up with a toy truck in his hand and I thought he was going to try to hit Sadie on the head with it. I turned it time to see that he was just showing her his truck. He held it up to her face and was explaining something to her. I moved so that I could grab it if he should start to bonk her with it. He never did.
He put the truck down and sat next to her. He was somewhat spastic in his movements because of the time that he spent locked in his crib, but he did his best to try to pet her. He got his face very close to her face and when that happens I have to very, very quick. See, Sadie will absolutely give the kid the biggest kiss on the face every single time and sure enough, Jake got one.
He seemed surprised for a second and then let out a huge squeal and started to try to laugh. I’m really not sure if Jake had ever tried to laugh before but it seemed like a laugh to me. I took a quick look at grandma and see had the very biggest grin on her face and a single tear coming out of her left eye. I guess it was okay that Sadie kissed him and the four of us were enjoying the moment.
The next thing he did was to grab at Sadie’s leash as a lot of the kids do. (I need to let all of you know that I constantly have a death grip on that leash when the kids get close for that very reason. I don’t need to have Sadie get spooked, stand up and pull the kid across the floor. Of course, that has never happened but the kids do grab the leash.)
Jake stood up and was pulling at her leash. When Jake stood, Sadie stood.
Jake’s eyes got big as saucers because he didn’t realize just how big Sadie is. He tried giving her a hug around the neck but Sadie was nervous with his spastic movements. So, I asked the Grandma if it would be okay if Jake took Sadie for a walk down the hall. I assured her that I really would be the only controlling the leash even though Jake currently wouldn’t let go it.
Ann had come back to the room and told her what we were about to do and she said to try it and she and the grandma would watch from the door.
I looked at Jake and figured I’d try both Spanish and then English and asked him if he walked to walk Sadie. No language was really necessary because as we were walking out of the room, he had her leash and a smile and that’s all that mattered at that point.
So, off we went down the hall with the Jake-Sadie experiment. The pediatric ward (PEDS) is configured in a "t" shape so we were going to walk from one end of the hall to the other and not try to make any turns. So Jake was ahead of me with his hand in the leash but I had it wrapped so that I took all of the tension. We started of walking but that didn’t last too long.
Once Jake discovered his "freedom" from his crib and the room, he thought it would be great fun to run down the hall. Of course, Sadie liked that idea too. So, we started running Jake style. He began to really laugh now that he knew what that sound was.
WE run up and down that hall for over 20 minutes. At several times, all of the nurses at the main nursing station stopped what they were doing to watch Jake and Sadie. People were in shock, were amazed and then the happiest that I had ever seen them. They were poking each other, pointing and then going and getting staff and doctors to watch.
I know that I kept thinking that I am way too old for this but it was absolute joy. Joy for Jake, for Sadie, for his grandmother, Ann, the nurses, and the entire Peds unit and me. It was one of Sadie’s greatest miracles and if I had the stamina, I would have liked to have never stopped.
I wish that I could have captured Jake’s laughter and put it in a bottle. It was the absolute greatest sound that I had ever heard in my entire life. It was the sound of freedom, fun, joy, experimentation, and healing all rolled in to one great laughter.
Jake was didn’t want to stop.
I knew that this was hard on both Sadie and me and we didn’t want to stop either.
His grandmother called to him and he knew it was time so he tried to take us down the other hall with a quick turn. I had to put the brakes on. Man, that was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do during one of our visits. I told Jake that I would let him pet Sadie but we needed to go back to his room. Grandma came and got us and we headed back.
Jake and Sadie sat on the floor again and this time Jake just hugged her and let her turn and kiss him.
When the time was up and Jake had to go back to the crib, I thought my heart was going to stop. We took a Polaroid with Jake and Sadie and gave it to him. Since Jake didn’t know what that was, he preceded to crumple it into a ball. Good thinking Donna! So I handed him his truck and asked if I could trade the leash for the truck. Again, no way!
So, grandma came over, told Jake to let go and then said the best thing that we could do was to turn and quickly walk out the door and she put him back in the crib. She took the leash out of his hand, picked him up and we turned and walked out of the room.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
(Sadie as a tiny little puppy)
His Mom said he was scared of dogs. He was a little bit apprehensive, so I made sure that we stood near the door until he could get used to her size. I always knock and ask if it’s okay if we come in for a visit. She said we could come in, but not to get close to the bed.
Well, when Jamal saw Sadie, his mouth dropped to the floor and I thought that this visit might be over before it started. Jamal wanted to know if Sadie was a police dog, and I told him that she was a therapy dog and was there just to visit with him. All he wanted to know was if she was going to bite him.
I explained that she didn’t know how to bite; all she knew how to do was to lick. I asked if it was okay if I brought her close to the bed and that I would turn her around so that he would have her tail to pet and that I would have her head. He thought that that was cool and said it would be okay to bring her closer.
Jamal had lots of questions about Sadie, like how old was she, did she have any brothers or sisters, things like that. She usually gets tired of just standing, so after a few minutes, she just sat down. When she does this, the kids either stop petting her or move close in order to scratch her head. So Jamal asked if it would be okay if Sadie got on the bed with him. I turned and asked his mom if it would be okay and she was shocked that he asked. She asked Jamal if he knew what he was asking and he said yes, so she said it would be okay.
Well, you’d have to see how her getting on the bed affects the kids. They just don’t realize how big she is until she does this. So I told Jamal to get himself in one corner of the bed so that she could jump up. I also explained that she was going to take up most of the room on the bed. So Jamal scooted into one corner and called Sadie up. She jumped up and just stood on the bed and dwarfed him so that no one could see Jamal behind Sadie. I heard this little voice behind Sadie say, "You wanna’ hang with me, dog?"
I put Sadie in a down and laughed so hard to see Sadie and Jamal hanging out together. We got a picture of him hugging her neck. Jamal’s mom just kept saying that she was amazed because he is so afraid of dogs and here he was letting Sadie on the bed and him just petting and loving on her.
Sadie and Jamal hung out for the longest time, and they ended up being great pals.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
She was ready, but her mom sure wasn’t.
It had only been two days removed from having her family dog bite her in the lip and mouth area. The doctors called it the worst dog bite that they had ever seen. There was a note on the door that told me to wait for Ann, the Child Life Specialist. Good thing that she saw us first. Ann told me that Sally was ready to meet Sadie because all of the kids on the floor had been talking up the visit, and many of the kids couldn’t wait for Sadie’s visit. The problem wasn’t Sally’s, it was her mom.
She had seen Sadie’s picture on the door and was afraid of her size and her color. I’ve been amazed that folks were afraid because she was so big and dark. I just always thought of her as my black beauty.
Ann had really worked hard with the mom, but she wouldn’t budge. Yet here we were and she was now facing her greatest fear. I stayed outside the playroom, and the door was shut. One of the kids saw Sadie and started screaming for her to come in and play. The mom came to the window and almost fainted. She said that Sadie was even bigger in person. She said that Sally could NOT be near or pet Sadie.
By this time, all of the kids in the playroom were at the door and pleading for Sadie to come in. Sadie of course was crying to get at the kids. My friend Jan tells me that Sadie thinks that the children are “kid-sickles” because she likes to lick them so much.
Ann asked the mom if it would be all right if Sadie came into the room if she took Sally to the corner and behind the little roped off play area and just watched how Sadie interacted with the other kids. That way she could see how really gently she is with the children. Ann told her that I would come in and put Sadie in a “down” and the kids play with her that way. The mom agreed and we waited until Ann got her and Sally in the corner. Ann came out and told us, and we agreed.
It was hard to put her in a “down” as the kids rushed her as soon as we walked in the door. The hugging and kissing was amazing. Ann finally got all of the kids to calm down and I was finally able to get Sadie to sit and then lie down. Ann was talking with the mom and explaining how things worked with the kids and Sadie and it all of the excitement didn’t realize that Sally was on the floor and petting Sadie at her tail.
The mom got a little scared but didn’t want to rush at Sally or Sadie so she quietly came over and put herself between Sadie’s head and Sally. She was on the floor and next to Sadie but looking back to the corner in order to talk with Ann. When she turned back to talk to me Sadie was ready for her. As the mom turned toward me Sadie turned her head too. She timed it so that she could give the mom the biggest wet lick on the side of her face that she had ever gotten in her life. The mom was stunned. She just stared at me then back at Sadie and then back at me. I looked the mom right in the eye and said, I guess Sadie really likes you.
The room went silent; moments went by like eternity as we waited for the mom to say something. Then all of a sudden one huge tear ran down her face as she managed to stutter, “Sadie is so gentle.”
While all of this was happening, Sally slid over to her mom’s side and she looked up at her mom, and said, “See, Sadie does really like you!” The mom melted and soon all of the kids and the mom were petting, hugging and loving on Sadie.
Ann would often tell parents that perhaps Sadie’s best work was with the children who had been attacked by dogs.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
I can’t possibly imagine what this mother felt when we walked into the room that day, but she was so excited to see us. She had read Sadie’s newspaper article posted to the Pediatrics (Peds) playroom window. She heard the anticipation in the voices of the children who were waiting for Sadie to come visit. I asked if it was all right if we visited her child and she said she had been waiting.
I really wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
I turned the corner and saw the smallest little child that I had ever seen. I couldn’t even tell if she was a boy or a girl. As I was turning around the bed, the mom asked if it would be alright if Sadie got on the bed with her child.
As I was beginning to explain that Sadie rarely got on the beds because she couldn’t get her grip on the slippery tile floors, Sadie had already jumped in bed with her. I think that my jaw actually did hit the floor.
We had been visiting the hospital every Wednesday for over a year and a half, and I had never asked her to do that. I couldn’t believe that she did that without a lot of coaxing or a treat, but there she was.
It was also interesting for me to watch how she moved herself. She arranged her body at an angle so that the child had the best way to pet her. I noticed that the child couldn’t sit up or move her hands, so the mom was able to stand next to her, hold her up and then move her hand over Sadie’s body. The child smiled. I cried.
I then noticed that Sadie was lying on top of the child’s legs and right there in front of the mom. I wondered how I could nonchalantly move big ol’ Sadie off of this poor child’s legs. So I sat in the chair next to the bed and slowly put my arms under Sadie while feeling for her legs. I found none. I then realized that this child had no legs. Sadie knew that and had maneuvered herself as close to the child as she could. More crying from me.
Please know that when I say that I cry, I cry on the “inside” while in the presence of the children. I smile, I laugh but oh, “inside” – I cry so hard. I do have to wait until the end of our visit and I’m back in the car and out of the parking lot. I cry all the way home while Sadie quietly sleeps in the back seat.
That mom – what a mom. There were no tears from her. She was anticipating the joy that Sadie’s visit would bring to her baby. The two of them smiled and giggled the whole time we were there and thanked me – thanked ME, when we left.
No. YOU gave me the greatest gift ever – the joy of the present moment. I will never forget you or your smile or your baby.
Monday, August 03, 2009
The connection between Jose and Sadie was amazing. It was to be the longest relationship Sadie ever had with one of the patients, and they started off on a good foot because they shared a disease.
Jose was 14 when we met him and 16 when he died, and those two were fast and loyal friends for two years. He was in and out of the hospital, and we knew that we would see him almost every two months.
He was hard for me to get to know because he’d give me a quick look, a little smile, and then turn to Sadie. He loved to hug her and pet her and talk endlessly to her. I never knew a lot of what was said because it was understood that I needed to relinquish Sadie to him and just go have a seat near the door while the two of them shared their secrets.
The nice thing was that I wasn’t alone. Jose’s Mom understood that this was Jose and Sadie time. So, it turned into mom and my time too.
I learned a lot about Jose from his Mom, and she learned a lot about Sadie from me. I knew that she filled Jose in on Sadie’s details when we were gone.
There were days when he was too sick for a visit, but Sadie would pull me down to his room and wait outside in case he felt a little better. She just didn’t understand that he was too sick so many times I had to bribe her away from the door with a treat. I always felt guilty about that.
This went on for almost two years. Jose and Sadie were a team. His mom hoped that Jose would have the same miracle as Sadie, and we did too. I don’t think I ever prayed so hard for a miracle than I did for Jose. The one we all hoped for never came.
Jose wanted us to be there that day when the doctor had that news for him. We knew something wasn’t right when we saw him at the end of the hall with his mom and the doctor. He was in his wheelchair and didn’t look right. While we were walking towards him, the doctor leaned over and told him. By the time we reached the wheelchair, Jose burst out crying and reached for Sadie.
She got very close to him so that he could sob into her big shoulders. I glanced at mom and her tears started rolling, I grabbed for her and there the four of us were. Crying and crying and crying.
Jose and his mom made sure that the Hospice facility would allow Sadie to visit. They found one rather quickly and we were making the arrangements for our first visit to be that Friday morning. Jose, mom, Sadie and I were looking forward to this next phase.
I got the call that Thursday night.
I had to go tell Sadie. It was my turn to sob uncontrollably into her big shoulders. I think she somehow already knew.
We were asked to give one of the eulogies, and we did. I didn’t know how Sadie would respond to having Jose in the casket, but she never did look. We were the closest when it was our turn and she walked slowly to the front with me, turned around and just laid down when I started to share.
I think she knew.