How Henry helps my dad
As my soon-to-be 89-year-old father continues on a long uphill road to recovery, there’s a dog helping him get there.
Somehow, that makes me — being, until last week, on the other side of the country – feel more comfortable.
More important, I’m guessing it makes him — being a hard core dog lover — feel more that way, too, as well as more motivated, and more at home in a strange place.
I’ve long argued that most every kind of facility where humans are gathered needs at least one dog — be it prison or school, be it office or shop, be it assisted living center, group home or skilled nursing center.
So I was thrilled when I learned my Dad was working with a therapist with a dog, and even more thrilled, when I arrived in Phoenix for a week-long visit, to get a chance to meet them in person and watch them in action.
My dad became ill last year, entering a hospital with stomach problems and suffering a heart attack while there that would lead to an induced coma of several weeks.
Once he came out of it, he had to relearn things like eating and walking, and — having a lot more fight in him than most people — he made great progress during his stay in a skilled nursing facility in Mesa called Mission Palms. His recovery was so quick and so surprising the facility did a write-up on him in its monthly newsletter: “William Woestendiek’s Success Story.”
After several weeks there, he moved on to an assisted living center.
There, unfortunately, he regressed, to the point he was returned to the same skilled nursing facility, where he was fortunate enough to be assigned to a therapist named Cristina, and her dog, Henry Higgins.
Henry, now about a year and half, has been working at Mission Palmsy since he was three months old, and the first thing I noticed about him was how he made everyone’s face light up upon seeing him, both patients and staff, and definitely my father’s.
For starters, they played some fetch, which required my father hoisting himself out of his wheelchair and throwing a tennis ball. My father did the work, but I think the anticipation on Henry’s face — as he sat there looking at him, patiently waiting — provided the encouragement.
After that, a putting green was hauled out and my father tried to sink some putts, as Henry looked on.
Henry is a pointer-setter mix, with long brown hair from his tail to the top of his head, but short hair on his muzzle. Cristina, who chose him from a friend’s litter, said “he was the biggest, ugliest one, just a big huge fur ball.” Out of all the pups, she said, he seemed the most sociable and interested in humans. You can see Henry’s Facebook page here.
I know surgeons and doctors probably deserve most of the thanks, and are the main reason my father is still around. I know too that nurses — and he’s been fortunate to have some exceptional ones — can make all the difference in the world in times like this.
But as for right now, amid all other uncertainties, as my father spends at least a couple more weeks at Mission Palms, I’m probably most grateful that he’s in the capable hands of a caring therapist and an encouraging dog
(Photos: Courtesy of Henry)
Posted by jwoestendiek January 28th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bill woestendiek, dogs, facility, health, henry, henry higgins, illness, medicine, pets, recovery, skilled nursing, therapy, therapy dogs, william woestendiek