Two Goldens and a girl
One evening last autumn, with temperatures falling and darkness settling on the landscape, we loaded Elvis and Dolly into our SUV for a drive to the hospital. With the wind whistling smartly through the trees, the red, brown, and yellow leaves were swirling around our feet as we entered for our rounds.
My husband Doug, an internist, had retired from this hospital after thirty-three years, and struggled to keep busy. What to do? During his years there, he had often watched therapy dogs work magic with his patients. We could do that, he thought. We could train our Goldens, Elvis and Dolly, to become therapy dogs. They would be his ticket back to the hospital. Classes were a kick, and soon, after certification, we began just that. Doug felt like he was home.
Our babies, Elvis and Dolly are beautiful Golden Retrievers -– and poster dogs for their breed. Goldens are known for their love of everybody, and of course, their patience — even being petted all day long. What a great vocation — really, could it get any better?
First, we visited with a young girl about ten who had fallen out of a tree. Luck wasn’t with her that day and she broke her pelvis, forcing her to be bed-ridden while healing. We hung out with her for fifteen magical minutes of her giggling and cooing silly nothings into Elvis and Dolly’s ears. They reciprocated with doggie kisses. The result when we left — she was happy, and well slobbered on.
Entering the next room, it seemed like the patient’s entire extended family was there murmuring quietly amongst themselves. Lying in the bed was a teenage girl, so pale and still we thought she had just died. Maybe fifteen people were there, so we turned to duck out quickly, but the mom spotted us, and rushed into the hall after us.
“Oh, wait, please wait,” she called out, the words tumbling out of her mouth. “My name’s Judy, and my daughter just loves Goldens. We have Honey, a three-year-old Golden at home. Would you bring them in to see her, please, oh please? They’re beautiful. My Lacey’s been in a coma for thirty-two days from a rollover accident. Sadly, her boyfriend didn’t make it. We’ve been here constantly praying and talking to her, but the doctors still don’t know.”
The sea of people parted for the four of us to get to Lacey’s bedside. Judy scooted to her inert daughter’s side. “Lacey,” she said, “There are two special guests who have come to see you, two beautifulGolden Retrievers.” No reaction. It looked hopeless and my chest ached for this family. Judy asked, “Could the dogs possibly get up on the bed with her so I can put her hands on them?” First, we asked Elvis to jump, which he did, lickety split, then Dolly went round to the other side. Instantly Lacey was surrounded by my large Goldens. Mom said, “Lacey, Elvis and Dolly are here to see you. Beautiful Goldens, just like Honey at home. I know you’d like to pet them so I’m going to put your hand on Elvis so you can feel how soft his fur is, ok, sweetie? Elvis is blonde like Honey, but Dolly is darker red.” While Dolly was busy licking Lacey’s hand, Judy moved her other hand to Elvis’s ears. “Don’t you love the softness, Lacey?” mom asked. It was deathly quiet in the room; the only sound was the sound of the dogs’ gentle licking, and the mom’s soft pleadings with her inert daughter. It was like she had already died and all had come to mourn her.
Suddenly and unbelievably, tears began leaking out of Lacey’s eyes, then streaming down onto her nightgown. She could actually hear her mother and understand her. Joy erupted instantaneously! Everybody was hugging the dogs, each other, us, and cheering these beautiful angels on in their work. Judy kept rubbing Elvis’s ears with Lacey’s hand and her tears kept coming.
We were dumfounded. Someone quickly rang the bell for a nurse. We always have had a great reverence for the dog/human bond, but here in this room, at this moment in time, was more confirmation than even we could have expected. Lacey truly was aware, even though she couldn’t move, yet. Lacey was still there, and some day, their prayers were going to be answered. She was going to beat the odds and recover! Elvis and Dolly had proven that to all of us at this moment. Faith and hope enveloped the room as we left them to celebrate their happiness. With tears in our eyes and even more faith in the ability of Elvis and Dolly to perform miracles, we scooted out of the room.