Wednesday, November 25, 2015

In Loving Memory of Willard

In Loving Memory of Willard

Dear Willard,

We are so blessed to call you friend and to have known you for the short time we did. Though our time together was short in the world's eyes -- it felt more like dog years :), and we were thankful for every moment. Priceless memories. I remember our first visit to your room. Our friend, Dory,  who worked on your floor, asked if we would visit you. "Willard rarely leaves his room, he doesn't get many visitors, and he really likes dogs," she said.  "Of  course," we said.

We were just going to visit one time.  After all, retirement communities, memory-care floors, were not really MY comfort zone. Walking into your room for the first time is forever etched in my memory....I can still feel my uneasiness, and still see Chester climbing right up into your bed! I was mortified (he was NOT invited), you were thrilled, and Chester was a happy camper as he settled right in. You two knew far more than I did.  And that was that. Our one time visit turned to once a month, twice a month, once-a-week. Thursdays with Willard.

During our visits  you and Chester snuggled and spooned. I sat quietly in the chair. No words necessary. Just quiet. Full of meaning and love. There were a few jaw-dropping-surprise moments sprinkled in; when your memory returned for a bit, when you showed us the picture of your dog, Katey (from 1952). When we talked about the lightning storm from the night before.  When we went for a stroll in the garden -- your first time outside in many years. You would only go because you could walk Chester and hold his leash.

During our visits  you and Chester snuggled and spooned. I sat quietly in the chair. No words necessary. Just quiet. Full of meaning and love. There were a few jaw-dropping-surprise moments sprinkled in; when your memory returned for a bit, when you showed us the picture of your dog, Katey (from 1952). When we talked about the lightning storm from the night before.  When we went for a stroll in the garden -- your first time outside in many years. You would only go because you could walk Chester and hold his leash.

Mostly, though, ....I remember sitting in the chair by your bedside enjoying you and Chester together. I remember the pictures in your room ~~ the watercolor painting of the little Baptist Church, the  worn Bible on the shelf, the black and white photo of your Pennsylvania farm, the certificate of honor that hung over your bed from World War II. Bronze Star. Algerian Conflict.   While you and Chester had your time, I would watch you two,  and scan the room -- putting the pieces together of 'you', the man we had grown to love.

A few years ago, when our family moved, and  journeyed from Pennsylvania to California, saying g'bye to you was oh-so-hard. I knew it was our earthly good-bye.  (sigh)   After moving, Chester and I   mailed postcards and pictures to your bedside regularly. The last card arrived in your mailbox just 2 weeks ago, for your 97th birthday.  From sea to shining sea, you were never forgotten, always remembered with love in our hearts.

Our lives are all the richer because of knowing you. Thank you for welcoming us into your heart, and Chester onto your soft and cozy red blanket.
The Hawaiians say it best "A hui hou" dear friend, until we meet again....
We love you,   Chester and Diane

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Reading with Jean-Luc

Libray helpers give Jean-Luc some lovin' prior to his
reading duties at Nottingham Elementary Scho.

by Cynthia Barnes
August 2014

   Embarking on a read-to-the-dog program with our Standard Poodle, I was filled with major anxieties.  Jean-Luc, an only dog in a quiet household of two retirees, is overjoyed (read that “excessively excited”) when meeting other people and dogs.  His enthusiastic entrances to the school library were dramatic; I often felt the unvoiced sympathy or perhaps disdain of the other dog handlers.  But he did always settle down after a few minutes and a whole new world opened for both of us.

     I’d not been around young children much for a very long time and had forgotten how innocent and sweet are second, third, and fourth-graders.  The reading program at Nottingham Elementary in Oxford, PA, was designed and is directed by librarian Kristina Johns with major help from assistant librarian Cindy Pugh.  It is set up so that we work with the same six children for an entire school year.  Those who’ve read to us over these five years have captured my heart.

     Some of them started out timid or even leery of such a big dog.  A few were so empathique, I imagine them growing up to be dog trainers.  A couple were so curious about teeth or toenails or behavior I think of them as future biologists or veterinarians.  All, in the end, became captivated by the relationship.  One of our readers was initially so frightened, I wondered if his parents had signed permission papers in order to help him with his reading or with his terror of dogs.  Later that school year, I overheard him assuring some classmates that Jean-Luc would not bite.  “How do you know?” they demanded.  “Because I read to him!” he declared with authority.  Another little boy, quieting Jean-Luc after an enthusiastic hello, wondered if they made pills for dogs like the pills he takes to calm down.

     Then there was play time.  The program is set up so that each student reads to his or her dog for 20 minutes, and then has 10 minutes to play with the dog.  The other dogs in the program would retrieve balls for their students.  That was a problem for us.  Jean-Luc does the RETRIEVING okay, but has never been stellar at the GIVING part.  So here’s what we figured out to do instead.  I give our readers seven tidbit treats each and help them learn treatable commands: SIT, STAY, COME, LIE DOWN, LEAVE IT, SHAKE, etc.  Most of them even progress to loose-leash walking.  Watching the delight of the children when Jean-Luc obeys them is, well, delightful.  For some, this is the first time they’ve ever felt empowered; someone is actually listening to them.  An amusing sidebar here is that Jean-Luc does not understand SET or LAY DOWN, so a few of our readers have learned a bit of grammar as well. 
     And the books.  Oh, there are so many new ones since I was last aware!  One, in particular, made such a profound impression that I ordered a copy to have around the house.  (Okay, I actually gave it to my husband for his birthday.)  Dogs’ Night, by Meredith Hooper is an enchanting story on many levels.  It takes place in an art museum where, one night every year, the dogs in the paintings may exit their paintings and run around the museum all night.  On one particular night, they are delayed due to an evening party at the museum.  In a hasty scramble to return to their paintings, some of them end up in the wrong paintings.  During a class trip, a little girl notices the mix-up and then the fun begins!  Well-known paintings from the London National Gallery are featured in the book.  Children reading this book are quietly introduced to art as something interesting and pleasurable.  Cool!

     I’m not sure how much longer Jean-Luc will be able to continue.  He’s becoming more and more grumpy about the slippery, shiny floors.  And riding in cars has never been a thing he likes.  I’ll miss this engagement when we finally have to retire.  Whatever benefit it has been to others, I can only surmise.  What I do know is that for me it has brought unexpected, immense pleasure.      

Friday, February 28, 2014

Thank You, Joe

I joined KPETS (Keystone Pet Enhanced Therapy Services) to help make a difference in people’s lives and to bring joy to them through my dogs, Chloe and Echo.  What I was not prepared for was how I would become so profoundly affected by some of those people and how losing them would have such an impact on not only my life, but that of my dogs’ lives as well.

 Chloe, Echo and I have been visiting Manor Care Health Services in Elizabethtown for the past several years.  We always enjoy our visits with many individuals, but there are a few people who we hold very dear in our hearts and one of those so dear to us, Joe Brown, recently passed away.

We remember the very first time we met Joe.  His eyes lit up at the sight of Chloe and his smile reached ear to ear. He told us a story about his first dog and how dogs have always been a huge part of his life.  Chloe and I continued to visit with Joe on a regular basis and it was about a year later when Joe met my second dog, Echo. Echo loves to entertain and Joe enjoyed her antics and rewarded her with treats.  Chloe is the quiet one and Joe would always give her a treat as well, telling her she deserved a treat just for being so sweet.  He was very much a dog lover and it reflected in the way he treated my girls with his gentle touch and caring words.  Of course, they were not just “my” girls; they were Joe’s girls too.

The girls knew exactly where Joe’s room was and as soon as we would turn the corner to his hallway, they pulled relentlessly until they were by his side.  Echo would immediately give a bark in greeting and Chloe would nudge Joe’s hand with her nose.  Over the years we enjoyed sitting with Joe as he petted the girls and told us his stories from his childhood and about the war that he fought in with the U.S. Coast Guard.  Some of his stories made me laugh out loud and others brought tears to my eyes.  Joe said we were the bright spot in his week every time we came to visit, but the truth is Joe was a bright spot in our lives and found a place deep in our hearts. 

Our first visit after losing Joe was a very difficult one for Chloe, Echo and I.  As we turned the corner of his hallway the same routine began.  It was hard to walk past Joe’s room and to have both Chloe and Echo look at me with confusion when we did not enter.  They did not understand why we were not going to visit their friend Joe and it broke my heart.  A few days following that visit, I took the girls to visit Joe’s grave.  I truly believe they understood that their friend Joe was no longer with us because they sniffed his grave and both sat by the freshly placed earth in total silence, both looking to the sky as if to say “goodbye” to their dear friend.

Thank you, Joe, for showing us so much love and for being a part of our lives. We miss you and will never forget you. 

Sherry Waple, Chloe & Echo 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

KPETS Teams do double duty as disaster dogs! by Trish Hess

I have talked with other KPETS members over the years about our “disaster dogs”. 

Liberty passed her certification exam as a live human sent dog last weekend (Oct, 2013)  in Ohio, and is now fully deploy-able as a FEMA dog (Urban Search and Rescue).

We mourned the passing of Apollo, as any pet owner would grieve. However, his loss was a loss to the community as well. Apollo was a Urban Search and Rescue Dog - trained to find survivors in a disaster setting. He was active with the local fire department, Lancaster County Task Force 36 and PA-TF1 (FEMA). 

Liberty was on trained to carry on this work, but her first love was visiting people. With Liberty, and USAR, it seemed we had a failure to launch on our hands. When Apollo passed away, she got motivated. 

The certification process requires periodic testing - every three years, they recertify. The first test is the FSA (fundamental skills test). It requires the five minute down, directionals, and  the emergency stop. The dog works off lead and must mingle in a figure eight around other dogs and handlers. NO aggression is tolerated, and sometimes the dogs are piled up on a pallet or a bench and must stay there calmly with the other dogs.

The emergency stop involves calling the dog from a distance and then yelling STOP, and the dog must stop right there.

The long down, involves ten minute stay. They cannot move more than 1 body length.

Directionals involve an imaginary baseball diamond. The directionals start at home plate and the dogs are directed to 1st, 2nd, 3rd and the pitchers mound.

This is of Abby at a large multi-county disaster drill.
The SART was practicing decontamination
with the Hope AARCR dogs. It was a radiation Accident drill.
The most difficult part of the test is the rubble pile. Dogs start learning to use their nose with barrel work. Several large barrels are lined up. There is a human in one barrel and when they sniff out the person, the lid pops open and a toy comes out and the dogs play. This translates to finding a scent in a pile of rubble.

No food is allowed in testing. In fact in training a bag of fast food is left nearby and the dogs must leave it alone.

Many people may remember the building that collapsed on a Good Will store last June. Liberty’s sister Phoenix was the dog who alerted on the live person. She barked for two hours until all the building materials were cleared away and the person was rescued.

Liberty’s test involved finding five live victims on two different rubble piles within 20 minutes. Air currents can make this process more difficult. She does not track scent, she catches the scent in the air current and follows it.

Abby taking a break!
This work is not for everyone. It can be wet, dirty and gross. Generally, no heat or comfort. At Hurricane Katrina the Pa TF1 K9 teams slept on tires in a tire store. At super storm Sandy, they slept on a  concrete floor. Utilities are generally off. No heat, water, or electricity. Sanitary facilities can involve a bucket, toilet seat and plastic bag.

Yuck this is not for me. I did want Abby to get involved in disaster work. Abby is a Hope AACR dog. In the past there was a Hope AACR team in this area who promoted this as an organization for mental health professionals. This is not true. Our past president is an engineer. Our current Regional Director is a dog trainer. Good people  with experienced therapy dogs are candidates for Hope AACR. Hope AACR dogs are certified working dogs, with the rights and responsibilities  of certified working dogs. They may be tax deductible. They may fly in the cabin when traveling to an event. The certification process involves an assessment, and then a workshop. The assessment is similar to the KPETS' evaluation with lights, sounds and chaos that might be found at a disaster scene. The workshop is three days of education involving the disaster scene, transportation drills and role playing at a disaster.

Hope AACR teams do not self deploy. Requests go to Regional Director and teams deploy. The teams do not go during the disaster, but later during the recovery. Last year Hope teams went with the Salvation Army after Super-storm Sandy and comforted people during the FEMA paperwork process, and while Salvation Army distributed hot drinks and warm blankets.

Hope AACR teams are trained in crisis response. These visits may be unpredictable as compared to therapy visits. However, when we visit our KPETS clients, think about it -  most of these people may be in crisis.
  • elderly person, moves out of home into a room or shared room in a facility.
  • people in ER or hospital with sick loved one
  • Hospice patients
  • person in rehab after a stroke or accident

My job in healthcare does not allow me to take off and go to a disaster. Abby and I are members for Lancaster CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management). When first responders are exposed to a traumatic event, counselors and peers are sent to do a debriefing and defusing of the event. This is a counseling event. The dogs are present either before or after the counseling to help relax and calm the first responders involved. Again, Hope AACR teams do not do any mental health work. The dogs are comfort dogs. It always amazes me at CISM training. These big burly firemen or police officers come up and snuggle and pet my little poodle.

We are also members of our fire department support group. If this group is sent to a lengthy fire call, Abby and I will go as well.

These other organizations are in addition to our KPETS work. We still love our local visits. In fact, for Hope AACR 12 therapy visits per year is required.

If any Kpets teams are interested in either organization, here is some additional information.

Live Human Scent dog: Handler must train with PaTF1 K9 team for six months before starting a dog. Typically dogs are started at eight weeks of age, and must be 18 months old to take the FSA (1st test). Contact Amos if interested in this. PaTF1 needs volunteer victims. The dogs get used to the same victims, and need variety. The team often trains at HACC.

Hope is  contact for membership information. There will be two workshops next year. Indiana and Texas. There are only two teams left in the Mid-Atlantic area. Abby and one other dog, who is a senior dog (age 12+). I have made contact with CISM and CERT, but I cannot handle the requests for help alone.

Thank you!
Trish Hess

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Maxwell retires after 7 years of service

KPETS will miss retired Maxwell, as will the children he visited. See Carol Johnston's email below in reference to his retirement dud to health issues. 

I am just writing to let you know that I am formally retiring Maxwell from being a KPETS therapy dog. We have enjoyed every moment of being part of KPETS and I cherished the opportunity to share the gift of Max with others.     He is such a special little dog with a great big heart who will tilt his head and lift his ear to listen to whomever is talking or reading a "dog" story to him even though we have heard nearly every dog book ever written!   Max and I will miss library time at the Manheim Twp. Public Library.  

I truly feel that KPETS has helped to shape him into this little gift from God by meeting the many people he did throughout the last seven years of our service.     I found KPETS through a random online search when I was told that Max was NOT flyball sport material because he had too much of a mind of his own and that he would rather visit with everyone than be told how to chase a little yellow ball!   The creation of KPETS has touched so many people in so many different ways and I thank you for allowing us to be a part of it.

God Bless,
Carol Johnston and Maxwell

Monday, September 30, 2013

Misty Has Retired

Here is Misty today, relaxing with her daughter, Calli.    
One day in the park we met another Golden owner, and KPETS team, Susan Hamberger and Max.  Susan told us about the organization and soon we were sold on Misty becoming a KPETS dog since she had the perfect temper for the position.  Misty was certified on October 18, 2010  and visited the Lutheran Home in York on Sprenkle Drive, usually accompanied by our good friends, Susan and Max.  Misty always seemed to perk up when her yellow KPETS scarf was put on.  She loved her "job".
In  November of 2012 Misty developed canine vestibular disease, which causes vertigo.  She improved over the course of about 6 weeks, but occasionally had some irregular eye movements.  Then, in May of 2013 we discovered lumps in her neck similar to when human's have swollen glands.  The vet tested and confirmed that Misty had lymphoma, and said she probably developed it at the beginning of the year.  The prognosis was 2 to 3 months if left untreated.  With chemotherapy, Misty's life could possibly be extended 6 to 12 months.  The chemo would we administered a total of 5 times every 3 weeks.  Since Misty was acting pretty healthy for her age, we could not just sit and wait and watch her go downhill.  We would rather that she die of old age than let cancer take her, so she started receiving chemotherapy treatments on May 17.  After the first treatment Misty had only minor side-effects.  However, after each successive treatment, the side-effects were more intense and recovery took longer.  After the fourth treatment on July 26, Misty had to be hospitalized for dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea.  At that point we said "no more" since the side-effects were becoming more life-threatening and Misty's quality of life, which we were trying to preserve, was deteriorating.  She has since overcome the side-effects of chemo and is acting more like herself, but still takes medicine for arthritis which she has had for a few years.  Presently, Misty is spending her retirement by resting and enjoying her food, her treats, the outdoors and many hugs and kisses.   We love her dearly, and are enjoying the time we spend with her each day. 
Thank you, KPETS, for the experience of helping to brighten  lives.  Misty enjoyed giving love as well as getting much love in return. 

Barb and Craig Graver

and of course, Misty

This picture was given to many of Misty's clients at the Lutheran Home
 with "Love, Misty" on it. 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Through Canine Eyes And Angel Heart

As I accompany my canine partner to meet and visit with new and known friends at the Dove House, there’s not a time that I haven’t looked up and given thanks for the opportunity to just be there.  After every visit, I give a big hug and warm, heartfelt “thank you” to my pup for just being her.  She is an angel dressed in her fluffy, soft, fur coat no matter what the local weather forecast.  She is there to ‘be’ and ‘be with you’.  
Since every visit is very personal and I’m simply the observer, I will try to share with you my experiences through words, which is a difficult task because I’m trying to translate the tiny miracles I see happen by just ‘being’.  Whenever we visit, as the human guide, I tend to be parochial and functional in my activities.  I greet the staff at the front door and head to the volunteer desk to sign us in and see the patient census.  From canine eyes, my pup is scanning for the 1st person she sees to approach and ‘say hello’ canine style.  She pulls her ears back, squints those baby blues, tucks and swags her fluffy tail and smiles as she’s pet and greeted by the human.  As I’m taking care of the administrative requirements, my pup smells the flower arrangement, looking for humans to interact with and faces toward the patient rooms and nursing station. 
As we proceed down the hall she’ll head for a room and I will let her know we have to ask before we visit.  She happily trots to the nursing station where there is always a gentle soul ready to smile and pet her while they compliment her.  She will look at me at just smile as I brag about her but she’s on the lookout for the staff member coming down the hall with the restock cart.  She looks in that direction, as if she’s says, let’s go, my turn to share my perspective on puppy love!  Off we go to greet the staff member who beams and she has a few moments of joy visiting with the pup.  Depending on the circumstances, sometimes she’ll do tricks for the staff and my pup focuses on them so for that moment in time, the connection is clearly between the two care-givers, pure unconditional love.  From where I’m standing, around 5’3, it’s exhilarating!  We all get a minor energy feel-good boost, those endorphins are 100% all natural, no bi-products or artificial ingredients!
As soon as the staff lets us know what rooms to visit, we approach the door and I will ask if they would like a visit from the pet therapy dog.  As soon as we hear YES, we proceed in and she decides the order, it’s usually very methodical and she visits everyone in the room.  If the human is putting off a ‘no thank you’, my pup will look and proceed to the next human.  She always approaches the patient in the bed and will put her head where they can pet her easily.  Sometimes she’ll concentrate on the family member by the bedside or one clear across the room sitting quietly.  As long as there’s no objection from the human, I let my pup follow her intuition and reach out to the humans as only a canine is capable.  No words, no inhibitions and no judgments.  If the human is not engaging, sometimes she’ll stay close but not interact.  Sometimes she’ll look at wag until the human breaks the silence with a sigh or a gesture or a tear, and then she’ll come close to share the power of touch.  The therapeutic value in a petting behavior seems to have a calming effect on both human and canine.  This is especially intense when seen by patients under sedation or with brain injuries and where puppy patience is priceless! 
Since we encounter family members, my pup is able to elicit stories about family dogs or humorous stories related to the family member and a dog.  We have been privileged to be present as a loved one died and ‘be’ with the family as the deceased family member was being transported to the funeral home.  My pup functioned as a distraction capable of taking the human mentally away from an awkward situation for a moment of non-structured time with an emotional sense of relief. 
One family approached us with some rather mixed emotions and hesitations.  The family included, a mother, father and older teenage daughter.  The mother stated she was afraid of ‘big dogs’ and the daughter exclaimed that my pup was her ‘favorite breed’!  The father stood close to his wife and appeared to enjoy my pup and remarked what dogs he had as a child.  My pup visited the daughter with pep in her step but sat beside the mother and slowly looked up at her and waged her tail as the mother pet her for several minutes remarking how gentle and sweet she is for a ‘big dog’.  Then the father knelled down and hugged my pup for a minute of emotional bonding.  Dispelling those ‘big dog’ misconceptions is part of our duty.  Dogs are like humans, no two are alike; some are good communicators, others lack the skills; and some exhibit socially unacceptable behaviors while others are noble members of society.  Besides, we all experience times that we just don’t reflect our normal disposition and that anomaly is an unpredictable reality.
The children are excited to see the pup and enjoy seeing the tricks she performs.  My pup really enjoys working with children and will listen to them when they ask her to perform tricks.  The grandson of one patient met my pup and he watched her do tricks and laughed.  He enjoyed the time so much that he found her walking down the hall and came to us and told me he wanted to have his ‘new friend’ do some tricks.  Needless to say, she was thrilled to see him seek us out and she responded in kind like his new BCFF (Best Canine Friend Forever)! 
She has enabled countless children and adults to relieve themselves of fear of dogs from just ‘being’ with them for a few minutes.  She has learned to look and smile at the camera and has found her way onto many iphones, sometimes solo, but usually with the new BHFF (Best Human Friend Forever) beside her.  It doesn’t matter how long the interaction lasts, it’s about that connection that happens, which imprints the human heart with the message, ‘YOU are Worthy of Unconditional Love’.  This is not a tangible good or something you can buy, it’s an emotional experience that can happen when you least expect it through means you least expect.  My pup knows no boundaries with her love and respects those disinterested in her presence.  She never displays dissatisfaction or disapproval; she is simply happy and friendly and loves to ‘be’.
Since stress is invisible to the human eye but we can feel the presence all around us, my canine is very sensitive to positive and negative stress.  Sometimes she’ll tell me it’s time to go- now.  I trust her and listen to her when she gives me the ques.  My pup doesn’t come with the human bias that shrouds me.  I may think a person is quiet because they need privacy whereas she may understand through canine, unspoken language, that it’s time to sit and wait.  I may think someone wants us to relax and stay, while she understands  they’re tired and the visit is over with that person and it’s time to go visit someone else.  I marvel and humble myself when I acknowledge that she is a brilliant communicator and never says a word!
Every day presents a new opportunity to meet a new friend and strengthen our established friendships.  Our time is spent being there and saying so much by saying virtually nothing at all.  Regardless of role or station in life, we invite new experiences by visiting everyone in our path and all those kind enough to allow us the privilege to walk on their path, even for a brief moment in time.  

As an educated adult, I can only say, no academic training has equipped me with the ability to understand the wisdom of just ‘being’, wheras this is a natural talent for my pup.  I have been blessed with the opportunity to devote myself to the stewardship of volunteerism and be the designated driver for my pet therapy dog who performs tiny miracles every day.  Touching lives one paw at a time, never speaking a single word, yet leaving profound, everlasting memories in the hearts of those she meets.