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May 22, 2009

I have one tremendous victory to report and two setbacks.

Our Visit to the Nursing Home
As you may recall, my mom scared the heck out of us about a month ago and nearly died twice in one night from an awful heart condition. Well, I’m happy to report that she’s finally home (as of Weds) and recovering well. After the ER, then the ICU, then the intermediate care unit, they moved her to the rehabilitation wing of a nursing home to build up her strength before going home.

We pretty much knew last week that she’d be going home this week, so I took my only/final opportunity to take Lilly to visit. During a family conference when my mom was first admitted, I asked permission to bring Lilly, even though she’s not a certified therapy dog, and the head honcho said it was fine. I guess a lot of family dogs come visit.

I had Lilly wear her Gentle Leader, since it can help in potentially scary situations, and she did great … WAY better than expected.

She walked down two long halls, past all kinds of people doing all kinds of things. She seemed perfectly happy to share my mom’s brunch and hang out in her private room.

She did bark at the woman who knocked roughly on the door then barged in to get my mom’s meal tray. I suspect the staff member is afraid of dogs because she backed up really fast when Lilly barked (just a couple times). To ease the woman’s worry, I asked Lilly (who was off leash at that point) to SIT-STAY, while I handed off the tray. Lilly happily complied.

Lilly also seemed cautious about my mom’s cane, so we tapped it around, had Lilly POKE it with her nose, and gave her lots of treats.

All three of us walked back down the two hallways, where Lilly POKED (hand targeted) a few people in wheelchairs who wanted to meet her. She even showed off a couple of tricks here and there. Everyone in the dining room was watching, and Lilly was fine with that.

So, we sat outside in the sun for a while. Lilly had a little trouble with the automatic, sliding doors (mostly because of the noise). She was on leash, of course, so I kept her close and fed her each time it opened. She had a harder time with people coming out because she heard the noise first then saw people. It was easier for her to see them walk up and trigger it from outside when they were going in.

Either way, we fed her treats each time she saw a person, noticed a noise or whatever, and she settled right in.

She decided my lap sounded good at one point, and I’m guessing it was anxiety based, but I allowed it because she was doing so well, otherwise.

When we walked my mom back to her room, there were about 10 people in wheelchairs lined up just inside the door. Lilly walked past all of them no problem. I had her climb up onto my legs so that my mom didn’t have to bend down as far to say goodbye. Lilly gave her gentle kisses on the cheek. (Due to blood thinners, my mom bruises like a peach.)

Lilly did seem worried about the beeping alarms and machines in some rooms, but she did not shut down or go into a panic because I fed her each time she heard a noise.

When we were leaving, we came upon a family walking along with their dad/grandpa who was using a walker. As we approached, I asked Lilly to SWITCH (change heel sides), and she quickly moved to my right and kept going as the family passed on our left.

Because of Lilly’s fears, I doubt we could ever get certified for actual hospital or nursing home visits, but it’s nice to know that she’s capable of an occasional visit to someone she knows and loves.


One Park, Two Park, Three Park, Dog Snark
During one of our outings last weekend in town, Lilly and I stopped to chat with a woman reading on a park bench. She noticed us working along the busy trail and asked (as so many people do) if I was a “dog trainer.”

Lilly seemed happy to meet this new person, so I asked her to HOP UP onto the bench and sit next to this woman and be petted. I remained standing, half blocking the nearby path and giving Lilly food when people, dogs, or bikes whizzed past us.

Clearly, I need eyes in the back of my head, though, because a couple with a young-but-big golden retriever approached from behind. Lilly suddenly flew off the bench to snark at this pup. In one motion, one noise — dive + snark.

I had a good hold of her leash, so she did not get far, but it caught me by surprise. It’s been ages and ages since she’s reacted in a seemingly benign situation. Other than breed, which in the past has seemed like less than Lilly’s favorite, I cannot peg the thing that caused her to react.

She hopped back up on the bench and was fine in mere seconds.

Return of Oh, the Places She’ll Hide

I haven’t posted a photo of Lilly truly hiding since August of 2007, but sadly one night this week, she completely flipped out and spent most of the evening cowering in the master bathroom in the dark. It’s so sad to see her revert to this mode.

I’m trying really hard not to worry, but Lilly had a major behavioral shift and uptick in fear after her last vaccine reaction a few years ago. It bothers me that this snark and this hiding episode come so close to her vaccine issue last week.

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. Lilly sounds like she did really well at the nursing home. I wish I was better about training my dog, spending the time like you do. Generally, I don’t feel like I truly know what I’m doing but classes are so expensive. Even with some setbacks, it sound like you are still making some impressive progress.

  2. The nursing home visit sounds like a huge success. That’s a scary setting with all sorts of odd things like wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and unfamiliar noises. I’m so impressed that Lilly took it all in stride, probably largely due to all of your hard work over the years.

    I hope that the setbacks are temporary. After seeing one of my dogs do a full shut-down like you’ve described in the past, I discovered exactly how sad and even terrifying it is for the human. I imagine that the fearful hiding makes you feel the same way. My fingers are crossed that the hiding and snarking pass quickly.

    As a side note, I haven’t yet received a reply from my friend the rattlesnake vaccine inventor. I asked your question about independent studies of allergic reactions.

  3. Such a cute picture of your mom…she looks like she’s doing well. Glad to hear it!

    Lilly looks adorable on her bed. Sounds as though she had a really good visit. I can’t imagine that she wouldn’t be a good therapy dog in time.

    I know you’ll be working with her continually…good on ya!

  4. Oh, wow, that picture in the nursing home really is awesome. That should serve as proof of how far you’ve come. Glad to her your mom is doing well, too.

    Sorry about the snark/hiding though. Any idea what set her off in the house? Hopefully these will be isolated incidents and you won’t see these things for a long time again.

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