This is Why we Do This
A story from Pet Partners JoAnn & Molly:
Molly and I had been visiting at the Meadows Assisted Living in Spring Green for several months when a new resident joined the group in the activity room for our visit. Mrs. K. was sitting in the far corner, and assuming she was there for the dog visit, I headed her way to introduce her to Molly. In a panic-stricken voice she shrieked at me, “Stay away! Stay away! I’m afraid of dogs! Don’t come over here!” So, I stayed far away.
Each week for the next three, I stopped to visit with her and brought Molly a few steps closer each time. Molly would sit quietly next to me and not advance any closer while we chatted. Mrs. K never took her eyes off Molly as she and I visited — she was still very afraid of her. She told me she was 83 and had never petted a dog in her life! And although she had never been bitten, she had always been morbidly afraid of dogs.
About the fourth visit, when I stopped to talk with her, Molly was within reach of Mrs. K. I asked her if she would like to just touch the top of her head and feel how soft her hair was. She tentatively reached out but then pulled her hand back several times. Finally she touched Molly’s head like it was burning coals for all of one second. When I said, “Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” she smiled a little and agreed. Each week she got braver and was soon petting her with no reservations. Before long, she was the first one to the activity room waiting to pet Molly; and she began making trips to the activity room for the sole purpose of spending time with Molly.
She wanted me to take her picture with Molly to show her family (“What do you think my family will say when I tell them I petted a dog?”) She proudly displayed the photo of her & Molly outside the door to her room. While petting Molly, she would laugh and tell me she didn’t know how to “talk” to a dog, so I told her to sing instead. Her favorite song to sing to Molly was “You Are My Sunshine.”
Soon Mrs. K. became the self-appointed “Molly Ambassador” of the Meadows, telling all the new residents her story — how she petted Molly, the first dog that she ever touched in her life, and if she could do it, so could they! Mrs. K, who has very limited sight, even wrote the following tongue-twister (the project in activities that day was alliteration).
Mistress Maiden Mollie met many Meadows members on Mondays.
Many Meadows members Maiden Mollie met on Mondays.
If Mistress Maiden Mollie met many Meadows members on Mondays,
Where are the many Meadow members that Mistress Maiden Mollie met on Mondays?
At the Volunteer Tea a few years ago, she told all the residents, volunteers, staff, and guests the story of how she overcame 83 years of being fearful of dogs and now gladly pets Molly and looks very much forward to her visits. When I told her about our Dogs On Call Newsletter, she wanted me to tell her story here to help others who may need to overcome a similar fear of dogs. Mrs. K. passed away quite suddenly and unexpectedly a few months ago and sadly, because I had procrastinated so long in writing her story, she never got to see this article. I’d like to think that somehow Mrs. K. knows that I finally got around to telling her story and just how very proud of her I was.