One morning a few weeks ago, I woke up and felt like I was on death’s doorstep. Later that day, the hospital laboratory results confirmed my suspicion. Upon being admitted and due to my serious condition, I had to endure extremely aggressive treatment. Unfortunately, that treatment consisted of endless blood drawings (sometimes with two nurses drawing blood simultaneously, one from each arm), test upon test, including one procedure that included having a needle injected in my lower spine, and a colonoscopy, the preparation for which is—in my humble opinion—medically approved self-abuse.
The rational part of me knew my life was on the line and that justified the sometimes excruciatingly painful treatment procedures. On the other hand, the emotional part of me was getting worn down by the daily regimen I was being subjected to. I began having doubts that I could keep enduring the discomfort the medical team was inflicting on me. I no longer was certain I’d have the ability to see things through. The thought of leaving the hospital AMA (against medical advice) occasionally popped into my head. I felt I simply wasn’t as tough as I used to be.
About five days into my stay, I was lying in my gloomy hospital bedroom bed looking outside at the gloomy late November weather and keeping myself busy with my gloomy thoughts. That’s when I met Shane.
A lady knocked on my door and asked, “Do you want to have a visit from a therapy dog?” Do I? “Please, by all means. “ Talk about “just what the doctor ordered”. In trotted Shane, a standardbred poodle (photo of his breed shown below). He headed straight for me, stopping at the edge of my bed. I reached over and petted him while he slobbered on my hands. My wife Clara happened to be in the room, and he gave her similar attention.
We chatted with Shane’s owner/trainer. Make no mistake. Therapy dogs are not just friendly pooches that one day had a vest wrapped around them and got to work. They must pass all kinds of rigid obedience tests. For example, they learn not to jump onto a patient or their bed, something countless dogs do by nature.
After spending about fifteen minutes with me, Shane tugged slightly on his leash. His trainer said, “That’s his way of letting me know he’s ready to move on to the next room. He knows he has a lot of patients to see.“
Shane is an ambassador of hope. He may not remember my name, but I bet he remembers my scent. That’s good enough for me.
Years ago, a veterinarian told me that humans ascribe all kinds of behavior and thinking onto animals without having objective proof. I tend to agree with her but all I know is, in the presence of Shane, I immediately forgot about my precarious and uncomfortable medical condition. I left my world and entered his. In his domain, all felt okay, no matter what was going on in mine. It didn’t matter to me if Shane was aware of the magic he was pulling out of a hat or not.
What is it about dogs?
P.S. Up to the day I met Shane, all my lab tests had failed to come up negative for the microbe that had infected me. I could not discharged from the hospital until I provided a sample that did. And it had to remain infection-free for seventy-two hours following its being drawn. I had blood drawn on Thursday, the day after I met Shane. The specimen sat for the mandatory seventy-two hours. On Sunday, the infectious disease doctor gave me the good news I had finally passed the “audition”. No new bacteria had grown in my blood, and I was eligible for discharge.
Do I owe all, any or none of my recovery to a dog? I don’t know. All I know for sure is that Shane brightened my day with his visit, and it’s been all uphill ever since that moment.
P.P.S. Here's a bonus video about another great dog: https://bit.ly/46P4hMe
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).