Last night, as part of the People Animal Connection at UCLA, I had the privilege of bringing the big and little Doods, Charley and Gus, to the candlelight vigil for professor William Klug who was senselessly murdered on Wednesday. I strongly believe in the work of therapy dogs but to see them in action last night gave me an even greater respect for their power of healing.
As we slowly made our way through the huge crowd gathered on campus, one person after another asked if they could pet the dogs. At times there were 6 or 7 people around them, petting them, hugging them. With tears streaming down their faces, men and women of all ages would break into smiles at the interaction.
At one point, Josh, a wonderful young man who works on campus, walked slightly ahead of us asking if anyone needed some dog therapy or love. Not one person said no.
At eleven, Charley is a pro but even for him this was a difficult situation. When he would encounter someone who seemed to have an even greater need, he would do his famous “lean” as if to offer support. Gus just turned two but somehow instinctively knew what to do. He gently licked a few people and actually cuddled with others. Through it all, his tail was wagging and he had a smile on his face.
Every so often Gus and Charley would turn back to me or kiss each other’s faces. It seemed to give them the security to keep going. I honestly think they sensed the importance of what they were doing.
I was so focused on the dogs, their interactions, their well-being that I was able to hold it together as one person after another got up to speak. Some talked about this amazing man who had been lost too soon. Others talked about the difficult issues we now face in everyday life when peace on campus can be so easily shattered. It was only this morning as I sat with my exhausted dogs around me that I started to cry.