Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hair of the dog

"Hi, Ginny," I said, as I walked into the room, holding a syringe with heparin in it and a couple of pills in a cup.

Ginny looked up, looked alert, but said nothing.

The guy in the bed was relaxed. Ginny stayed with him twenty-four hours a day, helped him walk around the halls (this was back when I was still on the floor), and generally helped with his treatment. She had even stayed in the CCU with him, contrary to hospital policy, overnight after he'd had his cervical laminectomy.

The guy in the bed stayed relaxed, answering questions about how he felt and whether he had had a return of the numbness and tingling in his hands. He took the heparin shot in his belly without complaint, though Ginny looked narrowly at me as I approached him with the needle. I didn't think she'd do anything, but I didn't want to get into a scrum with her: not only was she intelligent, observant, and devoted, she had twenty-two teeth to each jaw and was faster than any human I'd ever met.

Ginny was a chocolate standard Poodle. She lived with her master/soldier/friend as ballast against the worst effects of PTSD.

When he walked the floor, holding the pole on which his IV pump hung, Ginny would scan around the corner before he got there. When anyone came in the room, she would give him warning before we knocked, so he wouldn't panic at the loud, unexpected sound. Ginny had been trained to bring him his phone when it rang, always on the vibrate setting. Ginny did a lot for him that we couldn't do.

Ginny hated hospital food just as much as her human did.

At the same time we had the guy with the cervical lami in, we had a woman on the opposite hall who rescued dogs and trained them to be helper animals. She had a side business making organic pet treats. I brought Ginny a couple of the woman's peanut-butter biscuits, which she gratefully accepted as a break from dry kibble and awful hospital food treats.

Ginny was a celebrity in the hospital. With her yellow Animal Assistance vest on, she looked quite stylish. Her coat was trimmed close, except for the typical Poodle puff on top of the head, and her nails were short. She didn't need a leash, and would ask politely to go outside by coming to the nurses' station, raising up on her hind legs, and staring fixedly at the unit clerk, who would then jump at the chance to take her out.

Sometimes I wonder what happened to her human, my patient. I don't worry as much about him as I do about other people who don't have a Ginny: it's easier when you know somebody is watching after your patient when they head home, even if that somebody has four legs.


JacquiBee said...

Jo, you know how sometimes you just want there to be some one that gets it?... For me there are many times when that is you. Thanks for sharing and making my day better.

messymimi said...

We should all be so blessed as to have a Ginny in our lives.

Pam said...

That is very cool.

An Open Heart said...

Great story. I had the opportunity to see a guide dog graduation and see the companion dogs be given to their humans....it was very moving. I think animals are perfect healers.


bdaiss said...

Poodles are so intelligent, amazing creatures. So much more so than folks give them credit for. (I blame the bad hair-dos. And bad dye jobs.)

Halie said...

So glad you shared this. It's really moving. Dogs are the best!

Penny said...

This just reeks of awesomesauce.

woolywoman said...

Awwwww. I read it aloud to my two poodles.

beaker90 said...

I love standard poodles! When the kids started moving out of the house, my mom started collecting them. She has three now, one for each of us!!