Posted by: bree1972 | March 31, 2011

‘Pawsitive’ Visits and One Shining Moment 4/1/2011

I haven’t written in a while about my visits with Bear and our Delta Pet Partners group, and I’ve been wanting to share some of our stories. 

Two weeks ago Bear and I visited the Albany Advocacy Resource Center (ARC), a non-profit organization that promotes the general welfare of people with disabilities and fosters developmental programs in their behalf.  This particular ARC center is a adult independent living program that offers instruction in daily living and self-help  skills, exercise, functional education skills, and safety guidelines for every-day life.  It was the first time Bear and I had visited the center, and we were excited to meet a whole group of new friends.  Marty, our group’s “commander-in-chief”, told me ahead of time that everyone at the center loves to be photographed, and photo releases were available if I wanted to publish a few pictures on this blog.  I was delighted to have the freedom to do that!

It just so happened that all three dogs who visited that day were blonde – Judy and Belle (a girly-girl, small Golden Retriever Bear thinks is his sister), Marty and Happy Jack (an almost white Labrador Retriever Bear thinks is his brother), and the Bearster.  It also happened that once my camera came out EVERYONE wanted a photo made with ALL THREE blondes.  So that’s what we did!

Rhonda and the blonde babes. Rhonda loves, loves, loves dogs. She and Bear had a mutual admiration society thing going on during our visit. But she was careful to show no favoritism - she loved them all, and gave each of them their 10 minutes of undivided attention.


Amy - hanging out on the couch with Happy Jack, with Bear and Belle worshipping at her feet.


Emily, giving Bear an awesome ear rub, while Belle and Happy Jack wait their turn. Emily was definitely a dogaholic - knowing all about training procedures and what the dogs liked and didn't like.

On Monday of this week, we visited Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.  Our routine there is for us all to first go to the Oncology waiting room where we visit with friends and family members of patients receiving radiation or chemotherapy. 

Bear - standing beside the car and waiting for me to get all our gear together. Badges for Bear and I (would you believe Bear has a badge with his photo on it that I can actually swipe through the "reader" and gain entrance to the "employees only" areas of the hospital! Of course, I have one too - but I just think it's a hoot to use Bear's card to open doors), water bottle for Bear, camera for me, and baby brush for Bear in case someone wants to "doll" him up.


The Oncology Waiting Room. On this particular day, the waiting room was practically empty - on other days it has been overflowing. We stay a certain amount of time in each area, so people come and go as we visit. On Monday Bear and I visited with Cheryl and Buster, Judy and Belle, and Linda and Buddy


Buster is a Giant Airedale and is the largest dog in our group. Cheryl has three other dogs, two of which are registered as therapy dogs. She's working on getting the other two registered so they can work also.

From Oncology, we moved on to the Behavorial Health wing, then to two floors that specialize in Geriatrics.  We had a really large group in Behavorial Health on Monday, and they all interacted with the dogs beautifully.  It always makes me smile to watch the faces light up when we walk in with these four-legged wonders.  I’ve learned that even when a person may appear shy or unresponsive, they will usually want to at least touch the dogs once.  Bear’s “trick” of velcroing his head into a person’s lap has elicited more “Awwwww’s!”  and “Look, ya’ll! He likes me!” than you would believe.  He makes every person feel like they are the most special person in the room.  He’s a natural at this – I’m so glad we’re part of this group.

Bear and I visited one of the Geriatric floors with Linda and cute little Buddy, a terrier/poodle mix.  The hospital provides a clean sheet in each patient’s room, in case one of the smaller dogs is invited onto the bed.  Buddy did get invited to jump up and lay next to one patient on Monday, and that lady’s smile and eyes just lit up her face.  She was a real dog lover, and she was missing her own dog at home.

One more story – from a visit we made today (Thursday) at one of the area assisted living homes.  Bear and I and Linda and Buddy were visiting in the Alzheimer’s wing, and I noticed a lady I hadn’t seen before.  An aide was helping her to a chair, and as I watched her walk my eyes traveled up to her face.  She was a beautiful woman – tall and slender, with skin that showed no mark of time at all.  She was dressed in a lovely pantsuit, and she held herself regally.  The only giveaway to the reason she was there were her eyes.  Looking into them was like gazing into two lovely, but bottomless, pools of water.  There was no recognition of her surroundings or of us.  I glanced at the aide, silently asking permission to approach with Bear.  She gave me a slight smille that seemed to say, “You can try it.” 

The woman was sitting straight up in her chair, looking down.  I slowly walked Bear up to her, but she didn’t acknowledge us at all, never lifting her head.  I gave Bear a little more lead, and he siddled up to the chair – almost in slow motion – placing his big head directly on her hands as they lay folded in her lap.  The woman jerked slightly, and you could see something change in her eyes.  She slowly moved one hand out from under Bear’s head and gently placed it between his ears.  Bear didn’t move a muscle.  Slowly, the hand began to move back and forth, rubbing Bear’s head from behind the tip of his black nose, over his muzzle, up the slope of his head between his eyes, and back between his ears . . . one stroke, then another.   The aide’s eyes were wide. 

“Did you used to have a dog, Mrs . . . .?” she asked.

The woman slowly nodded her head.

I asked, “Was it a big dog like this one?”

She stopped petting Bear, brought the other hand out from under his head, looked up at us and moved her hands slightly apart – indicating that her dog had been very small.  She stroked Bear another minute, then folded her hands and bowed her head again – but for a moment, just a moment – her eyes were shining, and we knew she was remembering a tiny dog she had loved in the past. 

Every hour of training, every mile on the road going back and forth between home and Albany to visit, every grouchy time we’ve had to bodily lift Bear into the Ford, every moment spent bathing and grooming – all of it is worth it for just one shining moment like that one. 

All the members of our group have stories to tell like this one – where their dog has brought a person joy or peace, or has triggered a beloved memory.  But for Bear and me – this was our first.  I’ll never forget it.



  1. ThAnk you Bear and Breand God bless you both

  2. As I sit here with tears streaming down my face, said a little prayer. Thank-you Brenda and Bear and God Bless!

  3. Brenda,

    The whole blog was wonderful, but especially the last story. It brought tears to my eyes. My mother in law hasn’t reached that stage yet, but we know it’s coming. It’s so sad.

    I’m so glad you and Bear can bring just a little recognition and joy to peoples lives. Thank you so much.

  4. What a wonderful story! And what a special privilege to be able to give such love!

  5. Thanks for sharing that, mom!

  6. Everytime you post a blog about your adventures with Bear in one these hospitals or homes, I get teary eyed! This one was no different. Your last story so reminded me of my mother-in-law. She was in a nursing home for that very same reason and I remember when I was visiting with her, her eyes were the same way, it was so very sad. Before they put her in the home and she still remembered some very little things, out of her 7 children, it was me that she remembered the most! I felt very blessed.

  7. What a blessing you and Bear are to those you visit. Like the others I had tears after reading this blog. God Bless you and Bear for this great work you do.

  8. A moment of clarity–what a blessing to all involved. Always love the therapy day stories. It is wonderful to know you are exactly where you were meant to be.

  9. Ditto all of the above. I too, cried. I have seen this last story over and over, including with my dad. He passed last Oct. after 8 years of losing his grip on reality. I’m taking two ladies over to the same care center today to see their loved one. It is terribly sad for all having to watch a loved one go through this journey, and I’m sure all of us wonder “why” this has to be. God love and bless all of you who give your time for such a good cause. Their fleeting moments of joy is a gift to all around them. I know, I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve experienced the joy of when it happens. Babies, dogs/cats are top priority in their memory bank. My father was 25 days short of his 100th birthday.

  10. Thanks so much-I so needed something uplifting. It’s been another very, very rough week at work and this post was just the perfect way to start my day. I’ve always said that Golden Retrievers exist solely to make people happy. They may be good hunting dogs but they’re best at sensing the needs of those around them. How lucky you are to share in all of these wonderful experiences.

  11. Brenda, you and Bear are no doubt a blessing to the people you visit, and a blessing to those of us who are privileged to read your blog. Thank you for sharing.
    In the days and weeks before my Mom passed away, I became convinced that God gives us this time so that we might say goodbye …. so that we might share thoughts that have lingered on our hearts and minds for a long time …. so that we might resolve differences before it’s too late. She slipped away from us slowly over a period of several years; I came to regard those days as a gift, and when the time came to let go, I felt such peace. I shall be forever grateful for that gift.

  12. Thank you for doing what you do best, Brenda. You bring joy with every story you write. Hugs to the hairy Bear for all his ‘hard’ work. Today you reminded me how blessed I am that my, totally irritating 🙂 and totally loved, mother-in-law is coherent and still strong at 94.

  13. crying here….

  14. […] Many of you remember one of my goals for the winter was to try and get Bear and I registered as Delta Pet Partners so we could visit hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living homes, etc.  We’ve been working now for three months, and I wrote about some of our experiences on a blog last week.  If you’d like to read about it, you can go to […]

  15. I hope that lovely lady dreamed of walking with her little dog after your visit. Medicine can treat the body but your visit fed the soul.

    • What a sweet thought, Mary. Thank you.

  16. Hi Brenda – I read both of your blogs all the time but don’t comment very often. 😦 But I LOVE both of them!! Anyway, I saw this video on Facebook recently about a therapy dog named Baxter and I thought that you would like to see it. It is very powerful and sad so make sure you have your tissues ready! 🙂 Looking forward to your new posts this winter.

  17. Bree,
    I’ve been following you on your Mackinaw Island site and could not find an email to write to you. I wanted to tell you how much you are a part of the north for me now. We have a golden named Rosebuds Great Mackinaw Bear, but we call him Mack!
    We’ve owned a cottage on St. Martins Pte. for 19 yrs. in Les Cheneaux, so I loved your telling of your husband’s childhood there. We live just north of Dayton, Ohio in the winter months. Husband Bob and I are retired school teachers.
    But the latest post about your friend with cancer I totally connected with as I lost my sister to cancer 5 yrs. ago on my birthday. My one regret is that she was never able to follow the Lord before she passed. She did, however, leave this earth with the love that had been missing for some time between us and she taught me how dear friendships are when 100 of her “closest” friends attended her Memorial during a Michigan blizzard (our hometown was Hastings, Michigan).
    I would love to correspond with you from time to time…
    You can contact me by leaving a message on my Facebook page and I’ll give you my email address . You know, from the UP to the island and back in the summers and from the north to the south and back in the winter months!
    LOVE all the photos and warm stories you post.
    Marilyn Kraft in Ohio

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