Saturday, November 19, 2011

Willard and the Bronze Star

I haven't been able to get Willard off my mind.  I keep thinking about, reliving, picturing, yesterday's visit with this heroic gentleman. Willard, our new friend, lives on the 2nd floor in a local retirement community, the floor where precious men and women battle & live with the disease called Alzheimers.  

Willard and Chester seem to have a special connection. I think it has to do with God, and His kindness. Though these two met only a few short months ago, there is a bond between them that I cannot explain. And when we visit, Willard's memory kicks into gear.  

On our first visit to see Willard, Chester jumped onto his bed, uninvited I might add, and gave continuous kisses and snuggles. It was love at first sight, slobber, and tail wag.

Amazingly, with each return visit there is recognition, memory, and connection. I cannot explain it. All I know is that something special happens when Chester prances into his friend's room.

Which brings me to yesterday, Friday.  My friend, Dori, who is a therapist to these dear ones, took us to Willard's room once again.  In her loving and enthusiastic voice she announced, "Willard, guess who's here?  It's Chester!"

Willard, who was curled up & snoozing in his bed, opened his eyes.  Dori gently turned on the lamp by his bed and touched his shoulder.  He frantically began searching for something lost under the sheets and blankets.   His teeth :-).  Dori helped him find his lost treasure, he put them in and relaxed, stretching out his hand to find his furry companion.

His eyes shone, and happy sounds came, as he patted Chester's soft head.  I sat on the chair next to his bed, Dori stood at the foot.  We both watched, staying quiet as these friends greeted one another. 

After a time, Willard took his hand off of Chester and patted the bed.

"Would you like Chester to lay next to you?" I asked.

He patted again, and turned over on his side, making a place for his friend.

I motioned for Chester to climb up.  It took awhile to find just the right spot, but Chester nestled in.

Willard's aged hand rested atop Chester's paws, stroking them continually.  Gently. Chester watched his companion, sometimes resting his head on Willard's side.  Content to just be there.

Dori pointed to the wall. "We honored Willard on Veteran's Day in our church service here," she told me quietly.  

I looked to the wall, focusing on  a large, framed, certificate of honor.  I saw his name.  Willard.  A Veteran.  A Hero.  Awarded the Bronze Star*.   1952. 

This war hero, over 6ft in stature, lay curled next to Chester. I thought of his life, his sacrifice, his love for country, his heroism.  I had no words, as I watched these two, very content just to be together, enjoying the warmth and company of one another.  So sweet, so tender. I felt I was standing on Holy Ground.

I don't know how long we stayed, 10, 15, 20, minutes.  I have no idea. I was just thankful to be there. And I prayed... Dear Lord, please bless this dear man.

Before leaving, I gave Willard a picture of Chester.  His eyes sparkled a bit. The nurse set Chester's photo in a treasured place, right next to the worn Bible on the shelf.

We waved our good-byes. We will see you next week, Thanksgiving Day~~an appropriate day to visit such a dear dear man, a beloved hero and friend.

*Bronze Star:  The fourth highest award for bravery, heroism or meritorious service in the U.S. Armed Forces.   Willard, we love and honor you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's Been A Long Time....

Melissa gave Chester his squirrel, obviously he LOVES squirrel.
(Almost as much as he loves Melissa)
It's been a long time since a TAIL has been told. We've been traveling a bit, and missed a few weeks of Pet Therapy.  Chester has missed his people and they have missed him.  Me too. 

Yesterday was Melissa day. WOOF WOOF and woot woot.  Chester could hardly wait to get down that hallway, around the corner, and into his girl's physical therapy room.  Smiles and wags abounded.  When Chester gets excited he sort of  forgets the rules~ he gives kisses before he is invited, gives hugs on laps without being asked, and moans this pathetic sound,  that is like "ah-woooo-arrrr-wooo".  Pure love, what can I say.

That's what happened when Chester saw his Melissa and Peg (superMom) and Denisha (therapist who does NOT like slobbery Chester smooches).  No manners.... just love oozing out all over.

During Melissa's physical therapy we had a blast.  Melissa had incredible throws and balance, while Chester retrieved countless tennis balls with limitless expressions and personality, barking continually because he was so excited to play ball with his girl (the entire building knew Chester was on site.)

A few times, the poor guy got distracted during retrieving, like when he passed a pile of toys--- he just could not help himself, the smells were too yummy, and the toys too inviting....and he dropped the fly-ball,  sauntered 'n sniffed. Melissa laughed so hard she fell into her therapist's arms....and once again laughter filled the room. Eventually Chester returned.  Peg put her thankful arms around her daughter's best friend,  bear-hugging and snuggling the goofy pup.  Moms need pet-therapy too.

Melissa tried this new exercise position.  It's hard to explain.  Let's just say she did an incredible job making a bridge for Chester to jump over or go under.  Melissa chose OVER.  I had visions of flattened cubscouts dancing in my head. But, if Melissa wanted over, over it would be!  I commanded Chester O-VER.  Not a problem.  He sailed over Melissa's amazing bridge position, with room to spare, (which made me wonder a bit about that squished cub scout...and what Chester may have been thinking?...hmmm).

And then....this is very cool.  Melissa walked down the hallway, the entire hallway, with no crutches to support her, only the railing & Chester's leash.   There are two places on the hallway where Melissa has to pass by open doorways, nothing to hold on to.  No railing, no crutch, nothing.  Just air.....and Chester.

Denisha (non-dog-kissing-PT) said Melissa made her best steps ever.  We all cheered, but Chester stayed steady by his buddy. Denisha went on to say she felt Melissa's huge success was because her focus was on walking her golden friend not on herself, or the fear & anxiety that come with nothing to hold on to.    I mean really, how cool is that?

I'm so thankful.  I love these days.  These moments. Melissa. Peg.  Goofy-God-gifted-Goldens. Even no-dog-smooch-Denisha. :-)
Makes me cry happy tears.  Good therapy for us all.