Hey It’s Jet Here.
My fursister and Mom volunteered weekly at Miami Children’s Hospital for 4.5 years. Koko LOVED going. Mom used Koko’s special leash and often added a fancy collar to Koko’s accessories. Even though we all know that sitting in the backseat is safer for K9s, Koko felt like she would have a more meaningful ride to “work” if she sat in the passenger seat! Koko drew many stares and smiles from other drivers as Mom threaded her way through morning rush hour.
Upon entering the parking garage, Mom clipped on Koko’s ID which seemed to flip on Koko’s Happy Hostess mode. Mom educated everyone who saw she and Koko together, explaining that Koko was a therapy dog here to visit the children and their families.
After walking down the LONG hallway to check in at the Volunteer Office, Koko greeted Grace giving her lots of lovies in exchange for a treat to be delivered after working! They took the elevator to 2E and began their visits. Here are a few of the most memorable experiences:
- A little boy, about 4 years old, jibber-jabbered to Koko in his own language as he stood beside her petting her back. The boy’s Mom began to cry. My Mom freaked out inside wondering what she had done wrong. After the boy’s Mom settled down (felt like forever, probably three minutes in reality), Mom asked if she or Koko did something upsetting. The Mom replied that the little boy was autistic and had not uttered a word in over a month before setting eyes on Koko.
- Mom knocked as always announcing Koko’s arrival and asked if she and Koko could enter. The boy’s Mom said ok, explaining that her son, about seven or eight feared dogs. Mom had Koko sit beside her by the door and spoke to the boy, telling funny Koko stories. (let’s say Mischief Monday caliber.) The next week, she and Koko went halfway into the room. The third week, she had Koko sit below the window. The boy and the Mom sat on the pull out chair. Mom explained that most people who fear dogs worry about a dog biting them. Mom always showed the families how Koko had a soft mouth and what that meant. She told the little boy she would hold Koko’s head (giving Koko lots of kisses) and he could pet her tail. He ended up petting all the way up to her mid back. The Mom had tears in her eyes. Several weeks later, they coincidentally met in the hallway. The boy was visiting one of the doctor’s offices for a follow-up. Mom had Koko stay, held her head thinking the boy would pet Koko’s swishing tail. He surprised both his Mom and my Mom by petting Koko all the way up to her neck! What a victory!
- Koko believed all beds were meant for her. She could not fathom why the hospital did not permit her to hop right up and cuddle. At 55 lbs. you can imagine the answer! Mom figured out a solution and placed a chair beside the child’s bed, Koko hopped up, and just like Lucy… The Doctor was IN! Mom always wanted to get Koko a pair of glasses! Anyway, towards the end of their volunteering, the first children from the Haitian earthquake started arriving. Koko transcended the language barrier, sitting in her chair, communicating love and warmth. Working with translators, Mom learned the words for dog, pretty, sweet and girl. After the horrors the children lived through, sometimes stroking Koko, receiving a Koko Kiss or looking into each other’s eyes nose-to-nose, provided a few minutes of relief.
Mom considered volunteering with Koko a privilege, knowing they brought a brief ray of sunshine into a difficult situation. My human grandfather always wondered how Mom could stay so positive seeing sick children every week. She responded, “You see shoulders relax, sleep begin, laughter emit, eyes soften, fear subside, strangers become connected, positive energy flow, etc. and know that Koko and I made a difference for those children and their families as well as the professionals working so hard to help. You leave with a smile and a slurp of water (served from the water fountain in a cup!)
Another great pet therapy day.
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