After a long morning of cheering runners on at the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon, we went home, napped, cleaned Topher and Tanker up, took showers, and headed back out for our second event of the day. We went to work at Snowden at Fredericksburg. We have shadowed in this facility, and now it was our turn to work and be monitored by another Delta Society volunteer.
Snowden at Fredericksburg is a safe, private forty-bed behavioral health center. Located on the medical campus of Mary Washington Hospital, Snowden is a department of Mary Washington Hospital and a part of the MediCorp Health System located in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Not many therapy dog teams volunteer in Snowden. It may be the stigma surrounding the types of patients there or the unpredictable environment. I feel bad that there are not more volunteers because it is a wonderful place to go. The staff loves the therapy dogs. More importantly, the patients seem to benefit immensely from pet therapy. We have met some amazing people in that facility.
We started out in the children/adolescent unit. The kids were wonderful and Topher and Tanker love children. Several kids crowded around Tanker and Topher when we first entered the room. Both Tanker and Topher layed down on the ground and let the children crawl over them and pet them. They petted under their collars and vests because those were areas "they cannot scratch themselves." One little girl felt Topher's ears and pointed out the difference in how they felt from the rest of his body. The same girl picked up Topher's feet and looked at his paws. One very smart little boy picked out the different colors of Topher's coat. He loved dogs and was currently reading a book about a border collie that looked just like Tanker. He told me all kinds of facts about dogs. He was "impressed that Topher was so well trained. He does not show any signs of stress." He then told me about stress signs in dogs. Another little girl was thrilled to hear that Topher and Tanker were rescue dogs. She then went on to tell me how so many people hurt animals and they end up in the pound. One little girl did not talk at all. She looked at Topher and Tanker from afar. I could tell she wanted to pet them, but was very hesitant. I looked at her, winked, smiled and told her she could come down on the floor and pet Topher anytime she wanted. She smiled back. Within a thirty minute period, she inched closer and closer until she was finally on the floor with Topher. She sat by his face and rubbed around his eyes and mouth. She seemed very compassionate. Topher closed his eyes and let her rub all over him. No words were said, but there was a conversation going on between the two of them. They spoke a language only the two of them could understand. I don't know what was said, but I do know that Topher made a difference in the life of that little girl.
Several children liked Tanker for his tail and long hair. I overheard one girl tell Wes that she liked Tanker because his tail curled. Like Topher, Tanker just layed there and let the children play with his coat, his ears, his tail, and feet. Wes told a couple little boys about the military. I overheard him tell the children about Tanker's epilepsy and how he had to take medicine everyday. All the children learned about Topher and Tanker's training and all the homework they had to do. They seemed to really enjoy that.
Next, we moved onto the men's unit. We did not get quite the reaction out of the men that we did from the kids, but they enjoyed the dogs nonetheless. We learned about dogs they had at home, dogs they had as children, and the difference that their own dogs made in their lives. There was a visitor there and she enjoyed the dogs as well. Topher and Tanker passed out their cards and then we made our way to the women's unit.
Women are more emotional and they were all over Topher and Tanker from the moment we walked in the unit until we left. There was a lady in a walker that came up to pet Topher and he did not mind at all. Several of the women there had dogs of their own that they missed while being hospitalized. One lady came up and started messing with Topher's feet. He was tired at that point and was not too sure about her, but he let her mess with him anyway. He showed a couple of small stress signs in that room. I don't know how much of it was that he was really tired or the amount of action in the room with people all over him. I rubbed his ears to reassure him it was okay.
Give yourself to others and it will be given back to you tenfold. That's how we felt as we left Snowden. Our hearts were filled with so much love. We left there feeling like we had really made a difference in people's lives. We may have been physically tired from the long day, but our souls were gleaming with joy.
"Now I am giving you a new commandment. Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." John 13:34-35
About The Foster Zoo
- Lindsay, Wes, and The Zoo Crew
- We have decided to blog our adventures again. So much has changed since we last blogged. Bella and Shiloh both went to their forever homes and they are in wonderful families. June Bug got adopted. We quit fostering dogs after those adoptions because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. We quit doing therapy dog work because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. Tanker passed away June 9th, 2013. We adopted a senior border collie named Shania Tankerbelle in his memory. We still have our two cats, Sweet Pea and Little Bit. Wes has started rescuing pitiful bettas from Wal-Mart and we currently have seven. We have a camper. We camp. We have focused on giving our animals the best lives possible. We are The Foster Zoo Crew and we like to have fun.