Compassionate Dog Training
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People and Animals Giving to Each Other in Unexpected Ways

Throughout my life I have seen dozens of ways in which animals and people have brought each other hope, love, friendship and blessings. So intertwined we become many times I think we overlook the hundreds of times we touch each other in unique and special ways. I have dozens of stories that reflect this but that would take too long to share so I will just tell one more recent story that will show you what I mean.

About a year and a half ago a forty-something-year-old woman answered an ad I had in the newspaper advertising that I was looking for pet sitters. Cindy S. arrived for her interview on time and we sat and talked for a while. We soon learned that our daughters were in school together. Not long into the interview Cindy told me she had health problems, but "I'm not going to let that stop me." She added, "the doctors say with my heart condition I may have five to ten years left to live. But I don't believe them. Besides," she said without hesitation, "if I only have a short time longer to live I am going to make the most of it." She told me she was healthy right now and could work right away.

Impressed with her honesty and apparent love of animals I checked her references and decided to hire her. I have always had the philosophy that as an employer one of my goals was to find people that would truly love their work. In doing that it was a win-win situation for everyone. Cindy was a good fit for Pet Sitters.

We selected jobs for Cindy that weren't strenuous and she was thrilled with all the pets she visited. The animals she cared for- were happy and healthy in Cindy's hands. But it was just a short couple of months and Cindy got sick. She was hospitalized for uncontrollable seizures. The doctors were having a very difficult time finding medications that worked. The few times I visited her in the hospital she was heavily drugged, unable to get out of bed and had difficulty communicating. She was transferred from the hospital and, not knowing where she went, we lost touch.

Meanwhile Animal Education and Rescue had opened and we were working hard on creating a strong functioning base for running the organization and trying to raise funds. Finally, in January we had the funds to begin Pet Therapy so I gave the go-ahead to begin Pet Therapy at a local nursing home once per month beginning in March.

Therapy night was exciting for new volunteers as well as longtime volunteers who had been patient while we were on hiatus. I brought my Rottweiler, Shrek. I welcomed all the volunteers and their dogs and we began doing our thing-visiting the eager residents. About half way through I approached a door and read the sign on it indicating the person's name. It said, "Cindy S." Shrek pulled me forward into the room and bumped his big, black nose against an arm lying exposed against stark, white sheets. I looked over at the person's face. Sleeping was Cindy S. "Cindy," I whispered, gently shaking her shoulder. She slowly opened her eyes. At first she did not recognize me and I thought, oh, no, the seizures have taken her mind or at least the medications must have. But after a minute or so Cindy looked at me knowingly and said, "You thought I didn't recognize you. Hi Sandy!" "Hey, Cindy. I didn't know what happened to you."

For the next ten minutes volunteers with their dogs trailed in to visit Cindy. After they had finished I came back into her room and asked her what I can do to help her. She answered, "I don't have anyone except my daughter Nikki that visits me. I'd like visitors." I promised her I'd come back.

One week later I came back to visit Cindy, my Shepherd-mix Sophie leading the way. After some searching I found Cindy in her wheelchair by the nurses station. She smiled broadly when she saw us and she reached for Sophie's head, gently stroking her silky fur. She led me to an empty activity room where we shut the door and let Sophie off leash to roam around.

After some small talk Cindy said to me. "When you all left after your last visit I cried for about an hour and a half." I gasped in horror. What could we have done? Recognizing my concern she shook her head and said, "no, no, no, not like that. I was just so happy to have everyone come visit. It meant so much to me."

After Cindy and I hugged goodbye Sophie and I headed towards the exit. At that moment it dawned on me yet once again. The magnitude of what animals can do to help people and vice versa is unlimited. If everyone could just understand the value we have for each other. How blessed we are. Sophie led the way out the door and to the car, her tail waving happily in the air. She jumped in the car and sat down. I looked into her small, brown eyes and said, "Did you have fun?" Her face relaxed, her mouth open in a grin. Obviously, Mom, she would have answered.

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