Posted by: bree1972 | March 29, 2012

Moments Like These 3/30/2012

Changing my mind about the “book talks” tonight and going with another subject (one dear to my heart).  We’ll do books on Monday – I promise!


Note:  Header photograph was taken during a previous Pet Partner visit.

On Monday Bear and I joined Linda & Buddy (a poodle/terrier mix), Cheryl & Missy (an Airedale), and Barbara & Charlye (a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel)  for our bi-weekly visit to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.  After two years of being “the one who holds the leash” in a Pet Partner team, I’ve found it’s the hospital visits I enjoy the most.  Don’t get me wrong – I love visiting the assisted living homes, the nursing homes, and the adult care facilities.  Bear and I have taken part in the Paws for Reading program at a middle school, and last month we visited a Regional Youth Detention Center.  Wherever we go, there is always someone who we feel is touched by our dogs – usually more than one person.  Even very troubled teenagers incarcerated behind barbed wire fencing just can’t stay tough for too long when faced with furry heads, scratchy tongues, and adoring eyes.

Bear hasn’t told me if he prefers one place over another.  He simply jumps in the car (yes!), rides to wherever we’re going, jumps out and sits quietly while I snap on his working harness, and then starts wiggling with joy when he first spots the other team members.

But back to my original thought.  I think I enjoy the hospital so much because we never know what situation we’ll encounter, and some of that is because we cover such a large area while we’re there.  We visit five different departments in two hours, but opportunities to bring a smile to someone’s face abound even as we walk from one department to another, or get on the elevators, or pass through the busy main lobby.  We just never know when one of those “moments” will happen.

On Monday, it happened for Bear and me in the Oncology waiting room and for Barbara & Charlye in Behavioral Health.

It’s hard to predict how many folks will be in Oncology on any given day.  Sometimes that waiting room is teeming with family and friends waiting for loved ones to return from their scheduled cancer treatment, and occasionally there is a patient waiting to be called to the back.

Monday there were six people waiting.  Bear and I approached a couple of folks, but neither of them wanted to visit, and we moved on.  A lady sat by herself in one area, watching the dogs and smiling, waiting for us to get to her.  She was so sweet and clearly couldn’t wait to get her hands on one of the dogs.  Bear “pulled a Bear” and practically climbed into her lap, nestling in as close as possible to her knees and putting his big head snugly on her lap.  She immediately bent down and gave him a kiss between his ears, and I knew we were in the presence of a dog lover.

She asked Bear’s name, and I asked if she was there waiting for someone.  She said yes, her husband was in the back for a scheduled treatment.  I asked how he was doing, and her eyes filled with tears as she shook her head.  She didn’t have to say anything else.  We started talking about dogs, and she shared they lost their 15-year-old Maltese last year, just before her husband’s diagnosis.  I sat down on the table next to her chair, something I don’t make a habit of doing because usually Bear will move to me and away from whom he’s visiting if I do that.  But Bear didn’t move an inch.

The sweet lady held Bear’s head, looked into his eyes, rubbed his ears and talked to him softly for almost 15 minutes.  Occasionally, she’d bend down and hug him tightly, tears falling on his fur.  Bear looked up at me over her shoulder, but never moved.  When she sat back up, he gave all attention back to her – listening to every word.

Her name was called, and she was asked to come to the back where her husband was.  She gave Bear one more squeeze and looked at me as she stood.

“Thank you for being here with Bear,” she said.  “He was just what I needed today.”  I promised she and her husband would be in our prayers, and she nodded, eyes filling once more.  I was hoping we’d still be there when they returned from the back, but time pushed us on to another floor.

We visited two Behavioral Health group sessions and two general medicine floors before our time at the hospital ended.  In one Behavioral Health session, a patient spent 20 minutes talking with Barbara and Charlye about a beloved dog he had put down due to age and illness.  The nurse told Barbara it was the first time the man had spoken in group, and she was encouraged by his interaction with this sweet team.

Phoebe is huge, and the dogs are always tired after the visits.  I sometimes wonder if they understand the healing that takes place when they are hugged and petted.  People cry on their shoulders, whisper in their ears, and smile at their sweetness and sometime silly antics.  For some, it may be their only reason to smile that whole day.

I’ve thought about the lady in the waiting room a lot since that morning, stopping in the middle of what I’m doing to send a brief prayer Heaven-ward.  We all do that after a visit.  We come away, I feel, as blessed as the patients we visit.

It is a source of constant amazement to me that there are people who look at dogs and see “just a dog”.  A friend recently sent me a poem by that title, and one line reads:  In some of my saddest moments, in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the dayThat pretty much sums up the work of Pet Partners.  We provide the transportation, and the dogs offer their loving souls to someone who needs to smile, needs to cry, or needs to simply run their fingers through doggy fur and see unconditional love shining back at them through soft eyes.

What a joy to hold the leash and witness “moments like these”.



  1. God bless you and Bear for taking the time to uplift those in need. What a wonderful ministry you two have! When you mentioned books, I remembered to tell you that I started reading the books of the two authors from Michigan that you previously mentioned. You even had a picture of their books with Ted in a bookstore. I thoroughly enjoyed them but got sidetracked for a few months. Now my poor memory can’t recall their names and I want to read some more of their work. Help me please.

    • So glad you enjoyed the books, Debra! The authors are William Kent Krueger and Steve Hamilton.

  2. Oh my………what a lovely story. I think I told you about my “canine cousin” poodle Nicolas, who lives in a medical care facility in Adrian MI – he moved to the home with his aging owners, who sadly died within months of each other. Nicolas went to stay with his human sister, however it was obvious that his calling was at the nursing home. Completely on his own, he decided that he was to be a care giver and to this day lives in the nursing home, comforting and welcoming patients. The little black poodle is a canine angle on earth. They are marvelous creatures, aren’t they? I had the privilege of visiting him there one day and it was really something to see. Blessings to you and your canine pals for all that you do. And thanks for sharing the tale with all of us.

  3. Brenda,

    What a beautiful story. “Just a dog” can mean so much.

    I think I told you when my sister died of cancer a little over three years ago. I was able to be with her and her husband the last fifteen days of her life on this earth. Their dog, Misty, a white poodle mix of some sort brought such comfort to her during that time. I’ll always be so thankful to “that dog.” The odd thing was that when my sister became unconscious the last two days, Misty turned all her attention to my sister’s husband. It was as though she had done all she could for my sister and now it was time to help her huband. I don’t know how they know, but they certainly do.

    By the way, I trust you’re feeling at least a little better now.

    • I’m doing fine, Lowell. Just spent too much time in the sun out on the boat. I know better.

  4. What a beautiful story!!!!!! Thank you, Brenda, and Bear, for allowing yourselves to be used by God in such a marvelous way!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. You are such a wonderful storyteller! Bear’s visits are so emotional to me. I think of all these poor suffering people and how touching it is for them to feel a dog’s love if only for a few minutes. Your story really moves me. God Bless!

  6. Great Story Brenda…and if you have the lady’s name (and her husband’s) please let them know that they are in my prayers.

    • If I see her again, Samille, I will do that.

  7. Oh, dear. It’s difficult to type with tears in your eyes.
    Thank you (and Bear) for doing what you do, for caring, for sharing, and for loving unconditionally. It’s a testament to hope. And we all need that.

  8. I always know it’s going to be a great story when you write about your visits with Bear to the different places you both go, but this one was a real heart tugger. You know how, when your reading something out loud and you start getting so choked up that you can’t read anymore…that’s what happened here…..

  9. Thanks Brenda-you captured that encounter so well…I’m very glad I wore my waterproof eyeliner this morning.

    Echoing my friends in posts above; thank you so very much to you, Bear, and the rest of the Pet Partners for doing what you do.

  10. I love your stories of all the volunteers and their two footed companions. I will never understand how someone can observe their intuition and compassion and not understand they have been touched by the “Big Guy”. Unconditional love at its finest.

  11. Thanks Brenda! My eyes are throughly clean now! lol I love the poem too

    Thanks for sharing… I’m praying as well

  12. You know Brenda, I had to come back to read it again…and I noticed that other then the header picture, there were no other pictures and you know what else…I didn’t mind it one bit! I saw it all through your words. Thanks!

  13. Beautiful, Brenda. These animals are gifts from God.

  14. I’m sure Bear is jumping in the car because he now knows and understands what you are both doing for the ones you visit. Animals do know.

    My granddaughters have 2 dogs, one large, one small. When they are feeling poorly one of the dogs always lays next to them or on top of them to comfort them. It is uncanny, but another one of “natures way of healing and comforting”. I’ve had my heart touched for the day, tears flowing.

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