For the Love of a Dog

By on 9 July, 2014 in Lynne Burford, Pets with 2 Comments

photo(1)I recently helped find a home for a dog whose owner was forced to move to a nursing home.

I did not know this man; I did not know the dog either, but a home health nurse called me when she found the dog had simply been put outside to fend for itself. Maybe a lab or a retriever would be okay with this (short-term), but this dog was a slightly crippled, middle aged, 4 pound Chihuahua. Because these little dogs are dear to my heart, I took him in.

Jack had multiple places on his skin where fleas had eaten his fur off. His nails were torn. His back legs were atrophied. Turns out, he had spent the last several years in bed with his 90-year-old owner, after at some point being hit by a car. He was never taken to a vet, I am sure for financial reasons, and he simply recovered as much as was possible next to his person, who by this time was wheelchair-bound.

Owner and little dog, once constant companions and each other’s everything, now separated.

So Jack came to live with me and mine. He saw a vet, whose care was donated by another dog lover. He began to use those tiny legs, at first wobbly and non-compliant. He would get going in one direction with his front legs, but the back legs would take a detour. Still, he was beginning to thrive. He gobbled up his food, tussled with his mates, and slept in a clean bed. Still, in his eyes I saw sadness. I knew what he missed.

A few months after he came to me, a friend who is a nurse in south Alabama saw his photos and called to ask if she could adopt Jack. I had ordered a specially made cart for him so that his back end could be supported and his mobility improved. Sheree, his new owner, anxiously waited for her new little family member to make his way to her home. But I knew I had one thing to do before I could let him go.

People who know me know I am not a good nurse. I don’t deal with sickness well. But I had to take Jack to that nursing home before I let him go. I had to let his owner know he was safe, loved, fed, and wanted. It took a lot of prayer and mental exercise on my part, but I knew I had to make this happen. So I called the nursing home, whose social services director could not have been kinder. Bolstered by the knowledge this was “The Right Thing,” I headed towards the door.

Well, you would have thought I was carrying ET himself, with all the attention this little dog got on the nursing home porch! The residents were thrilled to see a dog! Many hands petted and stroked and many voices recalled that special dog once loved. It was hard to swim though the sea of love to get to Mr. Yancey’s room. I got to the nurses’ station and told them who I was looking for. And just like that classic scene in To Kill A Mockingbird, one nurse pointed at a frail, tiny man in a wheelchair.

“There’s Mr. Yancey.”

I knelt down in front of him, and he looked up at me, that little old man, and smiled.

“Hey, Jack” he said.

He stretched out his arm. Only one worked, but it was around that little dog, who was by that time licking that familiar face and wagging his little tail at warp speed. Joy filled that hall. Friends rolled over to see. More licking, more wagging, more stroking the little dog with the smiling face. Pure, sweet joy.

We stayed half an hour. I sat in the middle of that hall on the floor and wept: for those who left their pets and have no idea what happened to them, for those remembering a dog they loved, and for those who feel forgotten, whose pets were part of the fabric of their lives and who no longer have the comfort that a dog gives. I will never forget the look on that man’s face when he saw his dog again.

If you have a dog and want to share it with a nursing home resident, Dogs On Call will evaluate and train you as a team to do just that. Frances McGowin is the contact for this wonderful organization, which brings dogs not only to nursing homes, but into the lives of others needing canine companionship as well. If you know of someone in a nursing home who might benefit from holding, petting or spending a minute reminiscing about the dogs in their life, visit them. Every nursing home probably has their own rules about animals. This particular nursing home welcomes pet visits as long as the dog is small and leashed. Pets can lower blood pressure, calm nerves, reduce stress. Share yours. Someone – a shut in, a nursing home resident, a lonely or elderly friend – needs a visit, and making that happen is a huge, sweet gift.

Lynne Burford is a lifelong animal advocate who has been rescuing since she was a little girl. From birds and snakes to raccoons and foxes, she has rehabilitated and released back into the wild many orphaned and injured creatures. For the last ten years her focus has been on fostering and volunteering with rescues to place dogs into permanent and loving homes. Aside from various sizes of foster dogs, she owns a small pack of chihuahuas and a very tolerant greyhound named Anya.

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Regina Witt says:

    What a beautiful article by Lynne Burford.

  2. Your story makes me sooo proud to sponsor this site!

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