We go through our days with our usual routines, sharing a laugh, having minor aggravations, rushing around, being late, being early, accomplishing everything we planned, accomplishing none of what we planned and then you receive news that turns your whole world upside-down. Someone you love is sick. Not “I have the flu” sick, but BIG sick, hospital sick, life changing sick.
This year I’ve had to deal with this more than once, and every time it’s shocking. I have literally had buzzing in my ears and been unable to understand the words coming at me. I have been shocked into silence, losing my ability to form sentences. I’ve learned to repeat to myself “remain calm, don’t jump to conclusions, wait for the facts”. It’s so hard standing on the sidelines, waiting for information. The feelings of helplessness are overwhelming and the sense of needing to do something itches to the surface. I try to focus on the things I can do, rather than the things I can’t and I definitely don’t Google! Waiting for information is difficult, but each patient is unique and it’s best for me to rely on the doctors for information or my imagination can start to go wild.
Recently I received this sort of news about one of my oldest and dearest friends. Her situation is unique in that she can not have any visitors so I am relying on other people to relay updates and information on her condition. So far, it’s been really rocky and the feelings of helplessness are almost unbearable. I find my mind wandering. I feel like a have a photo slide carousel in my head because I keep getting random memory flashes that flip from one experience to another with no warning. Her image suddenly pops up and then disappears just as quickly. Sometimes these memories bring a smile, sometimes a tear but I enjoy being reminded of so many different times that we have shared.
A couple of weeks before I received this news, we were having a lot of stress in our house. This stress revolved 100% around the World Series. I was shouting, groaning, clapping, covering my eyes and occasionally jumping around. Maisie was beside herself trying to keep up with my emotions. She paced, curled up on my feet, put her head on my knees and tried to climb into my lap. I’ve always known that she is sensitive to human emotions, more than any other dog I’ve had in my life, but her response to me during the World Series was confirmation that she has very special skills.
In an attempt to channel my feelings of helplessness into something positive, Maisie and I have started advanced obedience classes with the goal being that she becomes a certified therapy dog with Therapy Dogs International (TDI). The first step is to get her Canine Good Citizen certification and then move up to TDI certification. It will take several sessions and several tests to successfully get her there but I am very optimistic. My hope is that we can use her skills to help people in need. Therapy dogs are used in hospitals and nursing homes. They help with mental and physical therapy. Schools, Colleges and Universities utilize therapy dogs to help relieve stress, and reading and learning centers have had great success with read-to-dog programs. I don’t know which type of program we will be matched with, but I’m excited to explore different options.
Each different medical situation has led me to this point of feeling like I’m at a crossroad, trying to figure out my next direction. Since I’m not a doctor or healer, doing what I can to bring positive energy to people who need it is what is motivating me. I have more free time now that my kids are both in college and it seems appropriate for me to find new ways to help in my community. I’m excited to explore this path after this year of emotional ups and downs and I hope we can make a difference for others. After all, when the going gets tough, the tough get going!