My First Day as a Canine End of Life Doula
My name is Maple. Mommy said that she named me that because I am sweet like Maple Syrup. I am just about 18 months old and I have to say that I think this world is a pretty great place.
I love meeting all kinds of people. They are very nice to me and sometimes, I could tell that some wanted to spend more time with me than others.
Mom said that this was a special quality that dogs have and that I would make a great pet therapy dog. What does a pet therapy dog do I asked? She said that they provide unconditional love and companionship to others. She also said that science has proven that looking into dogs’ eyes raises a person’s level of oxytocin (the happy hormone) by 300%.
That sure sounded good to me. I know my mom helps people in her work. I hear her talking with patients on the phone all the time and she also goes places to visit them. She said that I could work in the area of care that she does called Hospice/End of Life. I was very excited to be able to work with my mom, but I was a little scared too. She said it could be very hard and also sad at times. She told me that some of the people I would work with would move much slower than people I’m used to and some may not be able to move at all. She also said that the family members would probably be very sad and that I would have to be aware of all of this.
We practiced for weeks. My first day was quickly approaching and I wanted it to go perfect. It was a beautiful summer day, a Friday I think it was, and we were set to work on the Hospice Residence floor right after lunch. When I walked into this enormous building, there were so many new smells. I was so curious. People who were in the lobby immediately came to say hi and I got lots of pets and high-pitched praise. So far so good, I thought. We then met the Head of Volunteers and went into the biggest elevator I have ever been in and went to the top of the building. This would be my floor. Now I was getting a little nervous.
The doors opened and I noticed it was very quiet. Much more quiet than the other floors. The nurse’s station was straight ahead and I immediately saw all these wonderful Hospice workers greeting me with great big smiles. They were so excited to see me, for a minute I thought I was here for them. In a way I now know I was. They are such a caring group of people that work in a very difficult area of healthcare. It was nice to feel that I brought some happiness to their day.
After a tour of the floor, I was off to visit my first patient. I put my little nose in the small opening of his door, as mommy asked if he would like a visit from me. YES! I was so relieved and in I went. He was a wonderful man who told us he had been a fireman for work. Mommy thanked him for his service and this seemed to make him very happy. I do have a bit of a vertical challenge and could barely get above the bedrails. Mommy put a tiny treat in the man’s hand and we were able to wiggle his hand to my wet nose.
My next patient who wanted a visit, was a lovely lady who seemed very tired, but was so happy to see a doggy. She told me that she had a dog that she loved so very much named Billie. Mommy put me on her lap and I was able to have some wonderful time with this lovely woman. I think it made her very happy because her son started taking several photos of the two of us.
My last patient was very happy to have a visit. I was told that he was blind and had very advanced Parkinson’s disease so he could not move his hands to pet me. Mommy made a hug train and held his hands and then pet me with her other hand. I actually think it worked because when she told him that we would come back and visit again, he immediately asked her when we would be coming back.
All in all, I think my first day went very well. It definitely was different than anything I had ever done.
Right after my shift, mommy took me to the puppy park on East End Avenue to run and play with my friends and decompress. This is something she says is very important to do after doing End of Life Doula work. She also said that people who do this work do not do this as a regular practice and it is vital to a healthy work balance with all the emotion that goes with this area of care.
I’m so very glad that I am being given an opportunity to give back some of the love and happiness that I am given. After all, I’m a dog and all we really want in life is to give and receive unconditional love and to get an occasional squeaky toy and biscuit.
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