NEKAYAH AND ROBERT
Nekayah makes several visits a week to those in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. Many of her visits are routine. People anticipate her arrival. Some residents know her schedule and wait near the entryway. Nekayah knows she is working and does not get excited, so I have no concern for her jumping or accidentally hurting a patient. When Nekayah approaches a sitting patient, whether the person is in a wheelchair or regular chair, she sits and gently scoots forward then lays her head in the persons lap. We really work together as a team in that she is allowed to process what is needed and looks to me to make sure all is well. As we have worked together we have come to fully trust each other.
This last week we visited a man who is unable to be in a regular bed. “Robert” who is about 45 years old, has to sleep on a floor mattress as he will climb over rails and hurt himself. He is unable to speak, very seldom interacts and does not participate in therapy. He just lays and eats. I have visited this facility for nearly a year and “Robert” has never responded to my visit. But this day was different, and neither the staff nor I know why. We asked “Robert” if he would like to see Nekayah. “Robert” did not respond. I sat on the floor near “Robert” and rubbed his shoulder. I would like to think that helped calm “Robert” and Nekayah picked up on “Robert’s” calmness. She moved over by me and without sniffing or exploring this figure she laid her body near “Robert”. “Robert” seemed to process this thing lying next to him. He reached out to explore Nekayah who is lying there without moving, even when he examined her head. “Robert” now more relaxed, smiled as though he felt positive about Nekayah being near. Very gently Nekayah reached to lick “Robert’s” cheek. She licked one time as if she was seeking permission to have contact. The staff person and I just waited to see what would happen next as “Robert” normally rejected contact. “Robert” laid there and looked directly into Nekayah’s face. It seemed they communicated in their own way. “Robert” moved his head ever so slightly toward Nekayah who responded by snuggling her head in his neck. In a jerking, uncoordinated movement “Robert” stroked her head and Nekayah continued licking “Robert’s” cheek. Nekayah understood that his “slaps” were really pets and responded affectionately. Nekayah knows only friendly hands. What happened next shocked the staff person. “Robert” made a thumbs-up gesture to the staff person then fell back into his unresponsive state. The staff person then made the comment that that was a very significant response and may reveal an in to whatever is locked inside of “Robert.”
I often wonder, does Nekayah or other therapy dogs know what they do? I can tell Nekayah senses a fulfillment in her therapy work. But does she have any idea the positive affect she has on a person? She gets a lot of treats, but she doesn’t seem to do what she does just for treats. I can’t even pride myself in her good training. She just does what she does, makes a difference, and goes on to whatever we do next. She is a true catalyst, changing her surroundings, but remaining the same herself.
Linda and I believe God has allowed us to have one of those one-in-a-million dogs. Nekayah is not only a proficient wonderful hearing-impaired service dog, but her reputation is growing as a gifted animal able to bring vestiges of healing to those who are emotionally impaired. She is truly a therapy dog.