I imagine, like all of us, that a year in a dog’s life can bring many changes. For Truffles, that has certainly been the case.
As for being a rescue dog, there are things about her past that I cannot comprehend, all that I know is that when she arrived in my life she was a little worse for wear.
She had a quiet exuberance, despite her age of 12 or so, that made her amenable to all of the repairs she needed. As I learned over time, she came with gifts from that previous difficult existence. She could tolerate the behaviors of all dogs to the extent that on one of our walks at Pt. Robinson a dog came over and chomped on her lip. She could not even muster a response. She just eyed this Terrier as if to say, "really?" The attitudinal pup hunkered away, registering something like an apology with his head hung low.
For some time, Truffles seemed like her body needed to be compressed and would seek out places like the corner of the couch or would nestle herself in the laundry basket at my sweethearts house. Her favorite position was when I would spoon her on the floor for awhile and then roll her on her back, her busted paw flexed, lips and ears drooping towards the floor while her toothless smile broke. She looked like a wombat, always prompting me to stare in her opalescent eyes and return a slobbery kiss while I held her between my knees. Truffles has clearly given more to others than the care she has accepted.
This was quickly apparent when her life became about work, which she was clearly cut out for. In my private practice, the minute I was on my knees to do manual therapy or ultrasound, she would lay across the backs of my legs. If someone dropped an article of clothing, she had to lie on it. She would lapse into snoring and my clients dropped in to her breathing rate. Asking if my patients would like some quiet meditative music, they would typically respond that they preferred the sound of Truffles sleep apnea with the wind chimes in the background.
But her true calling was working in the hospital. Driving around the circles of the parking garage, she would lift her head and wag her tail, knowing what the day ahead of her promised. This usually began with an early arrival, so we could race upstairs and let the night nurses visit with her. They would let go of their computers that have become our existence, for a "Truffles fix".
The day would then proceed with my 45 minute PT visits in the Rehab unit, those lovely people that were challenged by surgery, cancer, strokes or neurologic issues were always encouraged by the sight of a chocolate lab in their room at the side of their beds. Reaching weakened hands down to pet her, her presence brought more to the visit than anything I had to offer.
My dog Molly, that had preceded her in life and in work, was beautiful and approachable, but Truffles seemed to have more of an ability to relate because of her disabilities. As patients watch her push off slowly to get up from the floor, tail wagging and pressing fortitude to keep up, it gives them the courage to meet their challenges head on, as if to say "if she can do it, so can I."
I had one patient who could trade wounded stories side by side with her.
"What’s wrong with her?", she queried as she watched her flump on the floor.
"Well, where do I start…She has spinal stenosis that causes her to have trouble bringing up the rear." The patient said she was in for spinal surgery for nerve damage in her legs, as well. "Truffles also has bladder retention issues that cause her to take doggie Detrol"
" Hmmm, I have that too,"
As well as a bad wrist/paw, limited hearing, vision and jaw problems. It was all a check, check, check.
" It seems that I have found a twin on the Rehab unit," she said. Truffles became her new best friend while she was there in recovery.
I am limited to my schedule on the Rehab unit where she could easily come and go, as the rest of the hospital can be almost too busy for her to keep up. Soon the word got out that there was a dog in the hospital and I started getting many requests to go to rooms where family or nursing thought she was needed. When Truffles would trot down the hall, patients and staff would be delighted and come to greet her. While she couldn’t keep up on those busy floors, she could certainly breeze through for some petting time.
I once had a call to go to a room where a patient was in a coma. For fairly obvious reasons, dogs should not be in patients beds, but in this case the nurses gave us permission for us to wrap Truffles in a sheet with just her brown head popping out and place her next to a young woman who was dying of kidney failure. Her hand reached up and gently stroked Truffles head on her lap while her husband wept, as they had raised many Labs over the years. Her eyes opened and she spoke to her husband for the first time in days.
On another occasion, a woman followed me down the hall asking for a visit. "You have no idea what this would mean to my husband." He was just off the ventilator after being knocked down by a totally paralyzing virus known as Guillion-Barre. They were visiting from another state, and their life passion had been working with rescue dogs. The nursing tech and I lifted Truffles up he could make eye contact with her as her airborne tail flipped side to side. Sometimes that is all it takes with a dog presence, though the act of petting seems to lower our heart rates and bring on an endorphin blow out.
I could write on and on about how much good having her in the hospital does. The entire atmosphere changes, peoples’ faces go from serious to bright within seconds. On the days that I don’t bring her, we all carry on with our multi-dimensional, multi tasking lives, trying to help people heal. But on the days she is there, people stop and tell stories about their dogs and their lives long enough to slow down and shift gears enough to accept that a hospital does not have to be such a frightening place.
Having a dog in the hospital is not without challenges, however, and the wafting aroma of the food cart rolling along seems to bring out the ill-behaved in her.
As did a Danish wrapped in plastic in a low windowsill that she tried to snatch.
One day, she went for a pill that a patient dropped as he was shakily trying to place it on his tongue. Fortunately, it was a vitamin B. They smell bad, must be why she liked it.
And then, there most certainly is that Lab smell thing. There must be an entire universe in their olfactory glands, and you might imagine there are some pretty amazing odors to take in there. Oh, and in the alley next to the parking garage. Not your everyday Vashon raccoon and deer poop smells. We are talking the good stuff here. My treat for her at the end of the day was to not race for a ferry by pulling on her lead, but to let her take in every little molecule of deliciousness her nose could register on her way to the car.
Truffles has had an amazing year since her adoption, I have been so honored to a part of her life.
It is that wonderful time of year again when we prepare for one of our favorite Vashon events, The Fur Ball, when we give thanks and empty our wallets for the wonderful fundraiser that helps us with our homeless furry friends.
With all the volunteers and the typical Vashon creative flair, it is always one of the most fun events on the island, which is saying a lot.
Truffles was not an inexpensive dog for VIPP to take on. She had infected teeth, nails imbedded in her paws, extensive ears and urinary tract infections, plus that lovely anal gland thing that plagues Labs, to name a few.
But it is always worth the effort, and as you can see, in Truffles’ case, perhaps a bit more so.
My heartfelt thanks goes out to VIPP for helping her get back on her paws.
Truffles sends a wag, a sniff and a face lick for all of the help she received this year. I especially want to thank all of the wonderful people at Fair Isle who are her extended family and cheering squad, and the only people who will give her those delicious liver treats in abundance.