It’s not conventional magic. It’s not hocus-pocus, slight-of-hand, smoke-and- mirrors magic. But it’s definitely magic when a dog offers comfort to a person. It’s the unconditional human/animal connection that is healing. Truly healing, and I was fortunate enough to observe this again, today.
I had made plans to meet Rita for lunch and she said she would bring Pippin. I was thrilled. I really enjoy Rita’s company. She’s lovely inside and out, with an exuberance that is great to be around. As a former kindergarten teacher…she retired several years ago…her energy and her positive demeanor is quite inspiring. And then there’s Pippin. Pippin is a fully credentialed animal assisted therapy dog. Pippin is a Bijon, who is ten years old, but could easily pass for two. He’s all snow-white and fluffy. His temperament is that of a gentle little soul, peacefully encountering the world around him. Holding Pippin is like holding a warm, breathing pillow.
I have seen him turn heads, evoking gasps along with multiple oohs and ahhs from most of the people that he encounters. Pippin’s job…and he takes it very seriously…is as a fully credentialed animal assisted therapy dog. He makes the rounds at the different oncology floors at one of the nearby hospitals. During his visits, he encounters patients, their families, and of course their caregivers.
It’s truly amazing to watch the change that occurs when the elevator doors open and Pippin and Rita walk out to begin their visits. The focus of energy turns, ever so briefly, and ever so needed, from hospital medical care to canine assisted therapy time. The shift is palpable. I can remember watching the most serious doctors and nurses on the Children’s Cancer floor look up to see Pippin’s little face and smile. The briefest encounter enables a pause in their action, a brief moment to take a breath…to look at something other than illness. They would simply smile at this little critter and say, “Well hello, Pippin!” This shared encounter would result in a gentle mood shift…bringing an unsolicited yet beneficial mini break to those who work so hard in such a serious setting.
Pippin brings a joyful calm to whatever environment he enters with his elongated pink tongue, which peeks out of his little mouth. He’s as white as a marshmallow. Rita gives him the complete fluff-out hair comb treatment. What I mean by this is that if you were to put your head on top of what you might consider to be the top of his head, your chin would sink a good 4 inches. Well, we do live in the south…Pippin has big hair! Really, the Dolly Parton type of big hair!
Rita and Pippin had actually come directly from home, so he technically wasn’t scheduled to work today. Rita knows that I love Pippin…in my eyes he’s a superstar, and I’m a fan. He was waiting patiently in the car while we had lunch. I walked Rita to her car and of course when she opened the door to the back seat there he was…cute as a button. She picked him up and handed him to me. As usual, he was happy to be transferred from her arms to mine. Holding Pippin is as close as a person can be to holding a cloud with a heartbeat. What can I say? I have a dog that has to heel to my side any time a person happens by me. To Petey, every one is a potential enemy. To Pippin, everyone has the potential to be the most remarkable person in the world. I love my dog dearly, but he never has been (or will be) an animal assisted therapy dog. This was never in Petey’s career path.
The weather was a bit raw and I was enjoying Pippin’s warmth when we heard a voice. Rita’s car was parked next to a little island with a couple of small trees. On the other side was a white sedan. The voice was coming from a woman who had lowered her window.
“Excuse me,” she said a bit tentatively.
“Um, I know. I know this might sound funny, but…can my mom please see your dog? Would that be okay?”
Not a second passed before Rita responded with an enthusiastic, “Well sure!”
Suddenly, we were making our way over to the car. I was still carrying Pippin who was agreeable to anything. Not so much as a shift…he was ready.
Looking out of passenger side was a woman who had oxygen tubes, a cane beside her and was on her way to or from some form of health situation. I looked in the back seat and there was a large rectangular container. I wasn’t sure what it was, although I thought it might also be a part of the medical issue that brought her to visit either the in or out patient medical service facilities nearby.
It’s always hard to determine age when someone is ill, but based on her daughter, I would guess that the mom was in her early to mid sixties. She smiled immediately as I brought Pippin to her window. “He’s so precious,” she said.
She began petting his little head…the afore mentioned crown of fluff. “Oh my”…the top of his head is so much lower than I thought it would be!” We all had a little laugh.
She was instantly smitten. Rita asked if she would like to have Pippin inside of the car for a few minutes. It wasn’t surprising to see her light up. Rita scooped Pippin out of my arms and placed him gently, yet strategically on the woman’s lap. Rita has had years of experience placing Pippin ever so carefully next to, or on the lap of a patient. It’s looks effortless, but it really isn’t. They really are a remarkable team. Pippin easily settled, allowing her to pet him as we talked. Pippin never met a stranger…everyone was his trusted friend.
We made small talk about Pippin, about dogs, about therapy dogs. I told them that Rita had been visiting hospitals with Pippin for 8 years, at which point there was a heartfelt “God bless you” to Rita, from the daughter. We never asked any personal questions of these two women, we were all truly just experiencing this lovely little encounter. We were all just ‘being in the moment’. There were several times where God was asked to bless Rita and Pippin for what they do. I silently joined in the request that they be blessed.
It was so moving and so uplifting. In this spontaneous moment, this remarkable woman and her very special little dog did an unplanned positive mood enhancing intervention. In my humble opinion, Rita and Pippin did a remarkable car visitation today. I know they both made a significant difference in the day that this mother and her daughter were spending. I know that whatever conversation, wherever they might be going to or coming from, that for a moment in time, their lives revolved around this adorable little dog. And, this extraordinary dog was totally, one hundred percent available to them.
I looked at Pippin: “Ya didn’t think that this was gonna be a work day, did ya buddy? Good job!”
And then like two of my childhood heroes, The Lone Ranger and Silver, his remarkable horse, Rita and Pippin rode off into the afternoon sun.
Now that’s Magic.