The staff was wonderful and said yes without any hesitation. I was very excited to do this, and decided to take Ember, our eight year old Labrador.
I had taken Abby, our thirteen year old Labrador, to visit my father while he was in respite care, but she was too busy sniffing around to really be an asset to lift my father’s spirits. Abby’s hearing is diminishing, but her nose is that of a young dog.
My father has always enjoyed dogs; I grew up with a Cocker Spaniel named Freddy, followed by a black lab named Ben. His mother adored dogs and totally passed the gene onto me!
My father loves to garden and I have strong memories of him gardening in Toronto and at Stone Place Farm, our family property, with a dog usually nearby.
Last week I decided to surprise him by showing up for a visit with Ember. I was certain she would behave herself being such a laid back middle-aged Labrador. She loves to be patted and talked to and adores being in close proximity to people. On my drive down I contemplated how it would go. Ember had never been in an underground garage or in an elevator. She grew up in cottage country at a Labrador breeder. She was very well taken care of there, but certainly was not a “city dog.” She had to learn how to do stairs, walk on leash and fetch a ball at almost eight years of age when we adopted her. She had never seen any dog breeds other than Labradors. There were lots of fun firsts over last summer.
I wondered how Ember would be seeing the cat on Dad’s residence floor. I did not know if she had been exposed to one. Pinky is quite a confident feline that “owns the place.”
Ember walked into the elevator no problem and up we went to the third floor. My Mother was there visiting Dad and I could see that his back was to the door while sitting in his wheel chair. Mum told him that he had a special visitor and Dad was delighted to see Ember. My father is six-foot three and his long left arm reached out to stroke Ember’s head. In true Ember fashion she sat by his side and “drank” in all the attention he was giving her. Mum said her goodbyes and Dad and I chatted briefly.
He suggested showing her to the other residents on his floor. I gave him Ember’s leash to hold and held my breath wondering how she would react with Dad seated in a wheel chair. But she was a pro and walked slowly in front of his wheelchair or by his side. He in turn sat up straight, prouder than a peacock as we headed down the hall.
Most residents gave a wave or a smile as we went slowly by. When people talked to us Ember would step a few feet into their rooms and receive some pats or a kind word. I carried dog treats and asked if people wanted to give her some and they did.
One woman in her eighties wheeled over in her wheelchair from inside her room out into her doorway, and we had a nice chat. She told us about her daughter’s dog and a family dog they had had for years. She made me promise that Ember would return for another visit.
When we had done two laps of the floor we returned to Dad’s room. I suggested that he have a rest on his bed as he would often have a cat nap around this time of the day. Once he was settled I asked if he would enjoy Ember up on his bed for more one on one. He was thrilled and so was my golden girl laying close by his side.
My father has been unable to express emotion clearly on his face due to his Parkinson’s but for a few minutes I saw joy on his face which melted my heart.
After a quick nap Dad was eager to go walking with his walker. This is no longer an easy task, especially at day’s end, but I felt he was up to it. So off we went again, at times Dad holding Ember’s leash.
During this walk Pinky showed up, first peaking at us from behind a door, then from under a chair and finally perched on top of the Nurse’s Station counter. Ember was very curious and intrigued by Pinky’s movements.
Dinner time came before I knew it and Ember and I escorted Dad to his dinner table in the Dining Room. Ember got a movie star greeting from all the residents which was fun.
As I headed home I promised to bring her back to lift some spirits another day. Ember has been a blessing to us in so many ways. I have heard from many dog owners that have a rescue dog or take in an older dog that these dogs are genuinely grateful for their new forever homes and give back tenfold.
I highly encourage individuals or families to consider these types of dogs; your life and others will be enriched for the better.
Have you ever taken your dog to visit an elderly person?
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