How’d Ya Do That?!

Recently I was waiting in the lobby of a hospital while one of the daughters was having surgery. A woman with a Golden Retriever approached and quietly asked if I’d like to meet a therapy dog. Since I have never really had a visit from a therapy dog other than the Doods, who we all know are my live in therapists, I was fascinated. It was so interesting to be on the receiving end of the visit.

The interaction was lovely, not a term I use loosely, and one that has probably never been used to describe me. If I’m being honest, the Doods and I are more of a circus act. Although I will never go as far as the handler I saw who dresses like a clown. I’m terrified of clowns. Anyhow, the woman and I chatted as her very sweet dog rested its head in my lap. It made me realize that the style of visit is probably unique to each team.                                                                  

Speaking of style, take a look at this photo. It really has absolutely nothing to do with this post but I had to share. And if you want to know who’s responsible for this look, check out the middle daughter hiding her head.




ELBEE For the record, notice that I’m also hiding my head even though I’m torn. I’m not sure if this is sad or fabulous. I will admit that I’m strangely jealous.

Seriously, some interactions are determined by the personalities of the dog and the handler and others are determined by the situation. The common thread is that the dogs bring about results that can’t be easily explained. The young boy who hasn’t smiled in a week grinning from ear to ear. The man who awakens from a coma and remembers the presence of the dogs in his bed. The aggressive teen who ends up hugging a visiting dog. There is no simple answer.

Maybe it’s the time of year with Yom Kippur as a day of remembrance, but my thoughts turned to my brother Stan, who as I’ve shared in earlier posts, passed away from cancer when he was in his forties. Stan was a tv director who did magic as a hobby. He was so often asked, “How’d ya do that?”(and by the way, he would never tell me) that he used the phrase on a business card. A laminated version of that card has been hanging on a hook in my garage for the twenty years or so that he’s been gone.

As I glanced at it the other day, it dawned on me that what all of our amazing therapy dogs do is actually magic. Sometimes it’s close up magic as they cuddle with a sick child or help a patient forget her pain. Other times it’s stage magic as they entertain a group in the neuropsych units, charm a class of school students or distract an anxious family waiting to hear about a loved one in surgery. We may not put it into words, but as you watch the dogs in action, you have to wonder, “How’d ya do that?”





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Ellen Morrow

In her former life, Ellen Morrow was a carpool mom and award winning bodybuilder. Today she is a nationally certified therapy dog handler who volunteers at UCLA Medical Center and Providence Hospital with her GoldenDoodles. She's also the mother of three grown daughters who all think she's a little crazy or in the words of a friend, "a little unconventional." She is also an avid hiker who has survived a rattlesnake bite!

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