Working with LuLu
March 11, 2017 began a journey of what seemed to be a lifelong dream for me, becoming part of a Therapy Dog Team. That day I adopted a sweet and tender one week old golden retriever puppy which I named LuLu. She came from very fine canine parents, Dexter and Ms. Stella Rose. Picture taking quickly began because everything she did was so cute it just had to be remembered. For 6 straight weekends, we were allowed to visit LuLu to love and bond with her until she was ready to finally come home. How happy I was to keep her in my arms and not have to give her back!
A local nursing home allowed me to start training LuLu at their facility when she was just 4 months old. For me it was important to have her get used to wheelchairs and walkers as soon as she could. Was she a natural! From the very beginning she loved the attention she got from patients and staff alike, quickly learning the word beautiful and knowing it was her they were talking about as she proudly lifted her head and looked around as to say; “Yes, aren’t I beautiful!”
I have lost track of how many patients were sad or lonely at the beginning of our visit, not wanting to move or get up from their bed, but we always left them with a smile on their face after. Week after week I’d see the same people now getting themselves ready because LuLu was stopping by on a particular day to visit them. I would often hear people down the hall saying “LuLu is here!” That was enough to get them out of bed. How that warmed my heart. They would share stories with us about their childhood pet or how they missed their dog they no longer had. They would share stories that they probably wouldn’t tell a human but they would tell it to a dog.
LuLu LOVES peanut butter. I mean what dog doesn’t? I was so embarrassed when I went into a lady’s room and she was eating a cracker with peanut butter on it and in a blink of an eye LuLu stole that cracker from her and ate it! I was mortified. But immediately the kind and forgiving lady laughed and laughed and was so happy to have shared her peanut butter cracker with Ms. LuLu. She even asked her if she wanted another one. No worries, LuLu knows her ‘leave it’ command now very well!
I fondly remember one lady in particular. I will call her ‘Mae’. Mae was in her 80’s and was blind. She was a sweet and kind human being who loved animals all her life. She had a passion for all critters and even started her own animal shelter years ago, so our visits were very special to her. Even though she could not see LuLu, she truly enjoyed petting her soft fur. She would talk to her with such love and kindness. Telling us stories about how much she enjoyed riding the horses she had in the past.
One day, I walked into her room and she was sitting in her wheelchair crying. Her 60 yr old daughter was there. Once we introduced each other I asked Mae why she was crying. With tears running down her cheek she said she was apologizing to her daughter for all the mistakes she had made while bringing her up. I could tell LuLu brought her comfort during that difficult talk. The following week came around and Mae had taken a turn for the worse. I could clearly see she didn’t have much longer to live. Her face was pale and sunken in just as somebody looks like when they are going to die. I felt such pain and pity for her. I wanted to see if Mae was still conscious so I called out her name. “Mae”. I saw a slight reaction in her head so I got closer and called again, Mae”. She tried to move her head a little so I could tell that she could hear me. I told her it was Rosa and that I had LuLu with me. I told her I was going to grab her hand and help her pet LuLu. Her little hand was stiff and curled but I grabbed it and started to gently stroke LuLu with it. I could tell she tried to say something but couldn’t. But she knew that we were there! That sweet LuLu was there and she was petting her one last time! I reminded her of all of those beautiful talks we had about her horses and all the animals she had when she was growing up. With a heavy heart I said goodbye. Mae passed away the next day.
This experience broke my heart, for you see, we get to love and appreciate the people that we visit. That is what makes this type of volunteer work so rewarding. Not only are you helping someone in their time of need, you help them to forget, even if it is just for a few minutes, all the sadness or pain they are going through. But we are also helping ourselves.
I have learned so much from other people. It has allowed me to see that there will always be someone else that has it worse than me. Having the privilege to be part of a Therapy Dog Team has truly changed my life and it has made me a better person. And all because of a dog named LuLu. For that I will forever be grateful!