Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v04n24)
Howling at the Moon by Susan Smith
posted: Nov. 30, 2007
How was your Thanksgiving? I spent a traditional, loving day with family. When the day was done we went to Community Hospital, East to visit patients we did not know. Many of you who have been reading my column know that we have a mixed-breed dog named Patty. On Thursday nights Patty is a pet therapy dog at Community. Thanksgiving falls on Thursday so it made for a special therapy night. I love tagging along with her because it truly is her thing and is fun to watch. My husband, Dennis, is her other half who follows her and does her talking. The two have been doing this for close to two years. Patty leads the way. She knows just which way to go and the automatic doors open for her.
Indianapolis Obedience Training Club started pet therapy at Community around twenty years ago. It is one of the first hospitals in the country to embrace the idea. Mary Ann Olvey, from IOTC, started it and still heads their program. She comes nearly every week and leads the pack with her beautiful black Standard Poodle, Holly. Holly knows she is Top Dog. She is such a sophisticate. She wears a pink rhinestone studded collar and has pink bows to match. She is a real stunner!
Mary Ann and Holly waited for us to arrive in the lobby. It is always quiet because it is the end of the day, between 6:00 and 8:00 PM. Pretty soon other dogs joined us. There was Sugar, a beautiful mix of wolf and German Shepherd; China Doll, a red Chow; Emma and her sister, both Standard Poodles; Ginger, a mix mostly of Lhasa Apso, and three other cuties whose names I did not learn. Among the people bringing the dogs were teens working on school credit for community service, and senior citizens. There were nine dogs total and their owners, which was quite a group working the halls and rooms together. It is an official looking group because the people are hospital volunteers wearing their hospital-issued, light blue volunteer shirts. Each dog and person also wears a picture ID name tag. The elevators are huge so we all got on board and went up together. We worked three floors. As soon as the elevator doors opened the nurses came out to visit with the dogs. Pet therapy is for them as well. Their days are long and stressful and the dogs make their day. They look forward to Thursdays and know the dogs' names by heart. They call out from behind their desks for Holly. I learned that Patty is also a staff favorite. Since I was a tag-along I was given a job to assist Anne. Anne owns Ginger and Ginger likes to cuddle with people in their arms in the bed. She weighs twenty-three pounds and is all white with a pink nose. Anne has a bad arm and could not lift Ginger so that became my job. Both are seniors. Anne is eighty and Ginger is sixteen. They have only been therapy volunteers for a few months but they are already veterans. They are both excellent. Ginger would lay in the bed all night if allowed. Anne explained to them how she was a stray found begging at White Castle fourteen years ago. It was wonderful to see the joy she brought to the patients and their visitors. Many children were there visiting their family and they got a kick out of seeing dogs come into the rooms. Being in a hospital can be so boring. We were told how the dogs break up the monotony. One man, with a brain injury, has been there for weeks. He has come to know Patty and looks forward to her visit. Another visitor was playing cards at a table with a patient. Holly slipped under the table and got a back rub. She would not readily leave to visit others. She knew a good thing. Alas, she was called back to duty. When all was done we quietly slipped out of the hospital, some of the dogs wearing their Colts bandanas, to finish out the night with another Thanksgiving tradition - watching football. The dogs were winners and so were the Colts. Pets make you smile.
Susan Smith is a life-long area resident and is the owner of City Dogs Grocery located at 52nd and College. Send your pet related questions/comments to susan@BroadRippleGazette.com