An Unexpected Smile


This week the Doods worked their special brand of magic at the adult health center that we visit. As I shared in my September 11th post, it’s a facility where people ranging in age from their 20’s up to their 80’s spend their days. Many are dealing with issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD or depression. Others have severe physical disabilities.

From the moment the chime sounded as we entered the front door, Elbee and Gus were on their game. They seemed more excited than usual in their interactions with the core of regulars and the staff members who were waiting to greet them. Gus even started to do a few tricks on his own.

Once in the main room, we slowly made our way around, stopping to chat with several of the people we’ve come to know over the past few years. Many sit in their usual spots waiting for me to bring the dogs over. Others will let me know with a simple gesture that they’d like a visit. One very sweet girl who has Downs Syndrome absolutely loves Gus and Elbee and will often follow us around.

At one point, we approached a few people seated on a sofa, including a man in his late 50’s whom we’ve seen many times. He’s usually very quiet and although he doesn’t seem uncomfortable around the dogs, he never really interacts with them. On this particular day, however, as Gus started to do his “dance,” the man suddenly smiled. He continued to smile as I let him give them each a treat.

At that moment, Lisa, a clinical consultant, happened to be walking by and stopped in her tracks. She looked at the man and asked in pleasant surprise, “Did I just see you smile?” I could sense how excited she was.

Coincidentally, Lisa is the person who found me and the Doods and invited us to the center. She is also one of the kindest people you would ever hope to meet. It wasn’t until a few minutes later when I was in her office talking to her and one of the nurses, that I found out how momentous this was. The man had severe depression and they hadn’t seen him smile in a year!

I was so moved and thought the morning couldn’t get any more emotional. I was wrong. As I was getting ready to leave, a sad looking young man who had been sitting alone at a table all morning, waved me over. When I asked if he wanted to see the dogs, he said, “No, I just wanted you to know how sorry I was to hear about your big dog Charley.” His words were so simple and sincere, they brought tears to my eyes.

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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!

One thought on “An Unexpected Smile”

  1. Ellen-
    The Doods know how to work the room. Must have been a wonderful day watching them reach the unreachable. So proud of the work you do.

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