Never Underestimate the Healing Powers of a Dog
5 lessons to gain power over your life
When I recall my son-in-law telling the story, it reminded me of James Bond, a man of mystery, a rule breaker.
It was 10:00 P.M. Most the patients in the rehabilitation hospital slept aware that nurses would emerged during the scheduled rounds and wake them to ask how they slept. Meanwhile, nurses surveyed the monitors, typed on computers, scanned the lights above each door that signaled needed assistance, and some probably relaxed for a moment while they could.
However, mostly quiet, vacant halls greeted late night visitors. Staff numbers dropped significantly in the evening hours.
At 10:01 P.M. the elevator doors on the second floor opened. A man dressed in sweats and a T-shirt, scanned the hallway. Empty. Since no outpatients scheduled rehab at that hour, the secretary’s desks sat vacant.
10:02 P.M. The man adjusted his hat and lightly tugged on the leash in his hand. Stealthily, he ventured to the left wall and looked around the corner. Again, empty. Proceeding with caution, senses on high alert, together, the man and a dog strolled to the end of the hall knowing chances of success increased if he asked for forgiveness instead of permission.
10:03 P.M. A nurse approached from the corridor on the right. Without a pause, the two, the man and the dog, detoured through the open waiting room. The nurse said, “Good evening.” The man waved and the dog moved unnoticed on padded paws, hidden by a five-foot partition and furniture. They paused for a minute allowing the nurse to retreat out of view.
10:05 P.M. With only a few feet to go they walked out the opposite opening of the waiting room. The dog sniffed the air; his phenomenal senses acknowledged a reward ahead. He shook from nose to toes and then with the excitement of a puppy lumbered the final ten yards.
10:06 P.M Kari slept soundly. However, a movement, expectation, something woke her. Her lips curved and her eyes lit up at the sight of her husband standing beside her. Then a whine, barely audible, came from beside the bed. Her eyes glanced in the direction of the sound and for the first time in a long time, a real smile appeared. His gift rewarded.
Roman climbed in the hospital bed beside Kari and laid down. They cuddled, shared love that only a pet owner can understand.
I asked the next day what they did about the hair; Roman is a shedder. Kari said hair is just love. Dan told me later that they changed the bedding.
Lesson 1: Embrace What Makes You Happy
While Kari lived in this room on the second floor, she felt helpless after the stroke. Her right side laid motionless unless assisted, her disjointed thoughts limited communication, and normal daily functions remained out of reach. She possessed little control over her own actions and believed she had no power over her own destiny.
Breaking the rules became her way of influencing her world.We had to watch Kari closely when she discovered breaking the rules provided her the ability to make decisions — to feel normal.
Lesson 2 : Break Rules to Control Your Destiny
We only interfered if the behavior proved dangerous to her health. Kari never liked being told what to do and that included what to eat. So, the nutritionist, a really nice lady, wasn’t very popular when she produced a long list of Do’s and Don’ts.
“Take little bites. Eat more. Small sips.”
Kari discovered the easiest way to clean her plate was to feed it to someone else or simply deposit it into a nearby receptacle.
Once when I used the bathroom in her room, I heard “Ahhhhhhh,” the sound made after taking a long refreshing drink. My Spidey senses became alerted wondering what she was up to now.
When I walked into the room, Kari tried to look innocent but instead resembled a cat in a chicken coop. At that point in her recovery, only thickened fluids, the consistency of honey, were allowed for fear if any rested in her lungs, pneumonia could result. The lid missing atop the Pepsi bottle provided evidence of tampering. Fortunately, no negative consequences occurred, and Kari felt refreshed and empowered.
Lesson 3: Make Conscious Choices
Another day, when I returned to the room, I found her body sprawled sideways on the second bed, the one her husband slept on. She announced the superior comfort it offered and took a nap.
Once she moved from sitting on the couch by slowly rolling, shifting, rolling, and adjusting. When we attempted to assist, she refused our help and continued squirming until she found comfort in a prostrate position.
No time existed for pity; she focused all energy on defeating “the stroke”, the beast that stole her strength and restricted her freedom. She planned to kick its ass.
Lesson 4: Maintain a Can-Do Attitude
Her husband, Dan, rebelled against authority also. (Probably what attracted the two of them in the beginning.) Being of the older generation, I couldn’t comprehend his reasoning when he returned to the hospital one night with half his head shaved. My lack of sleep, discomfort, and fear kept me from appreciating the empathy he expressed for his wife. I simply rolled my eyes, shook my head and went home to bed. (It was after midnight!)
A day later, when the neurologist shook his head, laughed, and said, “Clever!” I asked his rationale for only shaving half his head. He explained that Kari’s stroke had affected half her brain. By shaving half his head, he supported her in the fight. As she healed, his hair would grow back, and they would rebuild together — an act of solidarity that I learned to respect.
5th Lesson Learned: Fight by Your Rules
Kari laughed and smirked when she caused trouble and disobeyed nurses orders. Her defiance allowed her to fight the monster who inflicted pain and restricted mobility. Kari needed to control her life. If she was to get better — to beat the beast — she demanded the opportunity to fight it, her way.
Read more about Kari’s recovery and strength.
About the author
Stories about life that inspire emotions - mostly humor.
Lessons about writing based on my textbook, Strategies for Teaching Writing.
Poetry and essays about the of art of being human.
I write therefore, I am.