A nursing home called me and asked if I would bring Nekayah who is both TDI (Therapy Dog International) and Hearing-Impaired Service Dog certified. It seemed there were two residents especially they wanted her to see. One was a gentleman, paralyzed and blind, with feeling in only his arms and head. I’ll call him, “Jack” and he is only about 50 years old. “Jack” was not responding well to therapy and seemed deeply depressed. The other resident was a lady, depressed and not interacting.

Nekayah went in to see “Jack.” Being able to hear, the nurse told him he had a very special visitor, that the visitor was furry. “Jack” did not respond. I can’t get into Nekayah’s head (don’t we wish we could), but she looked at him as if she was assessing. She put her feet gently on the bed (sensitive to the person’s body) raising herself up and continued to gaze at “Jack.” As if she said, “now I understand” she gently laid her head in the his motionless hand as if she knew that was where his feeling was. She lifted her head and licked his hand and again cradled her head in his hand. She then moved her head to lay it in his shoulder as she usually gives hugs. She snuggled her head in his neck and licked his ear as if she thought, “I know how to get him to respond.” Suddenly “Jack” moved his lips slightly. The nurse quietly said, “look.” Those around “Jack’s” bed stood motionless as “Jack lifted his right hand, to touch Nekayah. He then raised his left hand to bring it across his body touching her now with both hands. Nekayah, sensing his response, began licking “Jack’s” face as his head turned back and forth as if he were reveling in her licks. His mouth moved into a huge smile showing all his teeth. “Jack’s” blinded eyes seemed to sparkle as his mouth smile morphed into a full facial smile. Nekayah seemed to know what was happening and she would move from hugs to licks fluidly. She was now laying somewhat across “Jack’s” chest. I looked up and the nurse and family stood with tears running down the cheeks, remarking, “I just can’t believe it.” as we just let “Jack” and Nekayah enjoy themselves. Nekayah will go back and visit “Jack” and we hope this is a break through for “Jack’s” responding to therapy.

Then I took Nekayah to see one of the sweetest elderly ladies. At first she said she didn’t want to see Nekayah. She just turned her head away. The nurse ( I think she understood operant conditioning) said, “just look at her. The lady, let’s call here “June,” looked at Nekayah. She responded by saying, “what a pretty dog.”

“Would you like to see her?” asked the nurse. “June” held out her hand slowly as if she were asking Nekayah if SHE would like to see her. Nekayah sauntered over to June and laid her head in her lap and lifted her eyes upward without moving her head. “June” carefully touched Nekayah and began stroking her neck. Then, as I usually do, I placed a treat in “June’s” hand (Nekayah only knows “good” hands). “June” understood and opened her hand to Nekayah who promptly took the treat and proceeded to lick “June’s” hand. “June” just came alive. Her whole face broke into a smile as she repeatedly exclaimed, “She touched me! She touched me! Oh, bless you, she touched me.” And looking at me “June said, “I could just kiss you, she touched me.” Both the nurse and I now have tears in our eyes. I told Nekayah to kiss “June” and Nekayah gently raised herself to “June’s” face and gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek, and the whole response of “June’s” was repeated. We also hope this was a break through for “June’s” successful therapy.

Do therapy dogs make a difference? You bet they do!



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