Happy New Year from Me and the Doods

In many ways 2017 was a difficult year. I hope that recapping the work accomplished by the Doods and their fellow therapy dogs will help us all focus on the positives in the world.

From meeting Lakers Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr. as we all brought Halloween to the patients at Mattel Children’s Hospital to helping Santa at Providence Tarzana’s adopt a family day, the Doods and I were fortunate to take part in so many amazing events.┬áStill, I will only write about one as I look back on the year because I want to focus on the quieter, less seen moments. They are the true heart of what our dogs so unselfishly accomplish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The UCLA student athlete event in March was bittersweet because it turned out to be Charley’s last “job.” He interacted with everyone with his usual grace and sweetness, little Gus by his side. At one point, I had the privilege of walking through the campus hall of fame. As entranced as I was with room after room of gleaming athletic awards and trophies, I was most taken with the portrait of the legendary John Wooden. In retrospect, there is a beauty in knowing that my legendary therapy dog spent his last evening in such a special place.

 

 

 

 

 

As I recall meaningful moments, I see the face of the man at the adult health center who was smiling for the first time in a year. I also see the beaming face of the young man whose hands are severely crippled but who loves to have me put treats between his fingers for Gus.

I see anxious parents sitting in the small waiting room outside of the UCLA neuropsych units. Recently, as we were leaving, the mother of a very disturbed young girl told me how much her daughter adores the dogs and how much she talks about them. With a wistful smile she simply said, “thank you for visiting.”

Neither the staff who were watching or I will ever forget Elbee’s interaction with a young patient who had been out of control and screaming, and according to the therapists, “a danger to self and others.” Within a matter of minutes the child went from petting Elbee and applauding his tricks to dropping down on the floor to teach him how to take a bow.

This year there were countless times outside of the hospital when the Doods suddenly brightened someone’s day. We were walking past a market when a teenage boy, who was working outside picking up carts, saw the dogs and got a huge grin on his face. Petting them, he asked if it was okay to give them a hug. When I assured him that it was fine, he wrapped his arms around them and said, “My heart feels warmer.”

My son-in-law Jay, who is wonderful despite being a self-admitted cat person, perhaps put it best. He said that when I’m out with the dogs, “random acts of positivity seem to circle around us.”

Wishing everyone a year of peace,  love and positivity!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Love this Day

Holiday spirit came to Providence Tarzana Medical Center this week. As part of the “Adopt a Family” program the staff helped less fortunate people fill their wish/need lists. There were piles of beautifully wrapped presents. I saw nothing but smiles on everyone’s faces. I think we all felt as if we were celebrating the true meaning of Christmas and Chanukah.

Representatives from Reseda High School and One Generation were on hand to collect the gifts for distribution. Also on hand were the fabulous Doods and Annie a darling Poodle, another hospital therapy dog. There was no singing involved which is probably why they let me participate.

ELBEE For the record, she has never called me “darling.”

 

 

There was also a very special guest joining in the festivities. It was none other than Santa Claus. After the gifts were loaded up to be delivered to deserving families in the community, Santa headed to the sixth floor to hand out presents to the young patients in pediatrics.

At first the kids squealed in delight to see Santa and were so excited about the toys. Then suddenly they noticed the dogs coming down the hall and it was all over for Santa.

ELBEE No one steals the show from this diva, not even Santa

I happen to know this particular Santa personally. In the “off “season he’s a wonderful firefighter named Mitch. He was laughing and said that he couldn’t believe he was taking a back seat to the dogs. I told him, “That’s just great. The therapy dogs will give Santa issues and send him for therapy.” Can you imagine my Jewish guilt?

Even Santa Mitch, who actually has a therapy dog of his own, realized that the dogs were working their Christmas magic. Their was such joy as they walked into the rooms. Kids were hopping out of their beds to cuddle with them. As much as they loved seeing Santa and receiving their presents, it was petting the dogs that brought the biggest grins.

One little boy just touched my heart. He had been very busy building Legos in his bed but was quietly happy when the dogs came in to see him. A few minutes later he walked out into the hall and received a gift from Santa but quickly came back to the dogs. Hugging Gus, he looked around as if trying to take it all in. Then, with the sweetest expression on his face he said, “I love this day.”