Tuesday, 7 January 2014

A Dog Remembered

At Christmas I received a short email from a boy I nursed over 12 years ago .He was around twelve or thirteen then so would be in his early 20s now and the email was a brief hello and acknowledgement of times gone by. It ended with the words " have you still got that little red dog?"
The boy's name was Mudin.
The boy, now man,  in question was originally from  Iraq . He had been accidentally shot by a British serviceman and had been paralysed from the waist down, and so had been brought over to this country for rehabilitation, a daunting prospect for any child to undergo.
As I recall, Mudin, was a robust and cheerful little boy. His named nurse was a pragmatic and non nonsense Irish girl who made sure he had boundaries and structure and warmth to his day, and within a few weeks he had joined the long line of young men and women in their daily rehab timetables at the gym and occupational therapy in his own tiny wheelchair and with the start of a Yorkshire accent beginning to show.
Back then, we had only one dog and his name was Finlay. Finlay was a Welsh terrier who was spoilt to high heaven. He was also friendly, good natured and could be incredibly gentle, so he was an ideal dog to be employed as a hospital visitor.
I used Fin once as a way of reaching the hidden emotions of a young farmer, who had suffered serious back injuries in a farming accident. The boy was terribly depressed and was missing family and his own working dogs so much so that he stopped interacting with staff, so I brought Fin in for some " cuddle therapy" the dog seemed to sense that he had to be gentle with the farmer, who was on strict bed rest to maintain spinal alignment, and so he just lay quietly in the crook of the patient's arm with a cold nose pushed against the boys face.
Finlay, just before his death in 2007

It didn't solve the trauma of the farmer's accident., but it did, I am sure, sooth him.
In a similar vein, Finlay used to visit Mudin on occasion, and the fun of the visit came from the fact that his lead would be tied to the front of Mudin's wheelchair in the vague hope that dog would drag boy's chair around the park or the unit like the horses did to Ben Hur's chariot .
To us, it was all part of rehab
Now risk assessments would not allow the " practice"
But back then, we took chances .....and back then I was incharge of the ward too....so things like that were to be encouraged

Finlay died of a brain tumour in 2007
It was his sweetness that provided the spring board for the canine hoards to follow



75 comments:

  1. What a lovely story. I am thinking of trying to see if my pup can be accepted as a " PAT" (Pets as Therapy) dog when he is older, calmer and more sensible. I would de delighted if he could bring joy to people other than myself!

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    1. Good idea
      Though Finlay did grab hold of one patient's tracheostomy tube once ( albeit it very gently)

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  2. Aaaww ~ beautiful post today John.

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  3. It's a nice story. I don't know if it happens there, but volunteers take their dogs into old people's nursing homes and the residents love the interaction, especially those with dementia who see it as a new experience every time.

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  4. A lovely post, which says as much about the compassion and humanity of nurses as about the effect of the company of animals.
    For more than twenty years I took my succession of standard poodles to work. Patients loved them.
    Then new owners took over the practice and banned dogs for reasons of health and safety and the possibility of not complying with NHS regulations. That brought about the first flicker of realisation that it was time I should retire.

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  5. A very special dog then John. A short life sadly, but a long legacy.....
    x

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    1. Yes Wanda... He was only five when he died

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  6. Risk assessments, health and safety ... the day they took over from common-sense the world went mad!!

    I bet your gorgeous little dog did more good than any risk he might have posed. How many folk I wonder are desperate for a little canine companionship and love in the sterile world that is the hospital atmosphere now.

    A lovely tale to start this blustery wet Welsh day with.

    You didn't warn me about the weather in Wales did you, I'm here under false pretences ..... every time we viewed this house the sun was out :-(

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    1. It's bloody rough here too sue.......I live in my Welles all winter
      I think I have blogged this story before but it's worth repeating

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  7. Lovely post that has made me come over all emotional x

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  8. When I worked in the OT department of a large Psychiatric Hospital in the 1970/80s I was always taking animals onto "my" ward. The staff were brilliant about it and the women who lived there (who all had some sort of learning disability) looked forward to "Farm Day" when I also took in vegetables and fruit. Unfortunately it came to a halt the day one of the uberlatens was legged up by 6 baby ducks, who were spraying the carpet as they passed

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    1. Yours must have been a more progressive psychiatric hospital than the one I worked in in the 1980s...mind you one rehab ward did have a cat as I recall... It used up all 9 of its lives

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  9. That's a lovely story. My friend's Welsh Terrier, Henri, died a couple of days ago. He was an old fella but it still breaks your heart.

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    1. Finlay broke my heArt more than any broken love affair

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  10. Nice that Mudin remembers, and writes to you. I'm certain that dogs, and cats, can help ease depression; mine certainly do!

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    1. They certainly keep me going Cro

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  11. There is a resident dog in my MIL's nursing home. He visits daily walking through each wing, stopping at each wheelie-walker or chair for a pat from each resident. Travels from floor to floor by lift hitching a ride with whoever is in the lift and getting off at each stop to circle the rooms before his circuit is done. You can feel the spirits of the residents lift when he walks into the room.

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    1. They open so many doors..dogs.....
      It's because they genera rally are dim and friendly

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  12. therapy animals bring a spot o joy into a chaotic/traumatic situation. great post, john! :)

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  13. Lovely story! Lovely dog!

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  14. animals can and do bring such joy to all our hearts.

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  15. What a lovely way to remember your Findlay...there is a little dog who is a frequent guest at Mom's facility...he has the run of the place and needs to visit everyone...bringing joy from room to room...

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  16. You're right about risk assessments now...and that's a lesson...Mudin obviously benefited enormously...

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  17. Great story, John. I was wondering . . . . . did you have all these various animals when you and Chris first got together or have they sort of crept into the fold gradually (so's he wouldn't notice, so to speak?)
    Good old Finlay has a lot to answer for, judging by the present count . . .

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    1. Rambler
      When we met I was a career nurse..... I worked longer hours than chris does now!. I did have an old pair of cats called Betty and joan???who looked after themselves.........
      Then one birthday, chris bought me Finlay and although it sounds dramatic. My life changed completely.......
      We eventually moved to wales.... And the rest of the animals started to arrive!

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    2. Thank you for replying, John, :)
      I'm relieved that Chris can never blame you for all the entourage, 'cos he started it!!! Your life changed completely when Finlay came along; now every animal that comes along has their life gloriously changed by you.
      You're a hero - and you should wear that onesie with pride.

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    3. I never thought of chris was to blame
      Lol
      I will remind him of that the next time he complains that there is a chicken on the draining board xx

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  18. I had missed what had happened to your boy, Finlay. Sorry for that. His memory still lives on, as the Christmas letter attests. Seems he touched many a heart besides yours.

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    1. He died before you were following me ,,, so don't worry... He died in April 2007.... Now that WAS a sad post

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  19. When there is no one else to cuddle and make you feel loved ....the animals do. They are not judgmental and only want to love and be loved and cared for. I much prefer them to humans most times! Here at a local nursing home they have a rather large old dog that visits room to room and all the residents are happy to have him. Love comes in many different packages. I saw on the weather channel this am of almost 30 foot waves hitting your shores. We are supposed to warm up to 35 degrees here today ...it is 4 degrees at this moment.

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    1. Yes linda it's still rough today
      I saw affable despot jason today, he was sticking his head out of his house window then popped back in quickly saying that he would see me next may

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  20. Well-deserved tribute to Finlay.

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  21. How wonderful that the boy you and Fin helped years ago, still holds a special place in his heart for you both.

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  22. Lovely story John. Elvis one of our Pugs is a PAT dog and it's lovely to see the effect he has on elderly people.
    Jo xx

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  23. what a wonderful story!

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  24. What a heartwarming story. And a great tribute to Fin. xxx

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  25. What a sweet pup he was.

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  26. Therapy animals should be mandatory everywhere.
    And yes, I just got all choked up. Ya' bastard XO

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    1. My work here is done xx

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  27. Dogs are allowed in nursing homes here to help with the patients..They are such a comfort for these lonely people who have no one to love them.. Dogs just know when they are needed to love people that hurt.
    Great tribute to Fin..what a wonderful dog~!
    Have a tiggeriffic day~! ta ta for now from freezing cold Iowa:)

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  28. Aww, poor, lovely Fin. Nice story, John. And how wonderful is it that a patient you treated 12 years ago thinks enough of you to drop you a line? That is just an awesome feather in your cap.

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    1. A few old patients/ friends keep in touch
      I think it's a common phenomenon with spinal injury nurses

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  29. And how is Mudin today? Is he still in Britain? I wonder how his Yorkshire accent is!

    (My Rosie was certified as a pet therapy dog for a couple of years. It was nice to see people's faces light up when our pack of 5 elegant greyhounds and one stocky long-haired mutt came round the corner.)

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    1. Yes see my answer below for weaver.......
      He is still living locally, and doing very well indeed....
      I suspect he is trying to get into the uk basketball team for the next olympics

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  30. Beautiful story John. I think all our dogs are therapy. I have never been without one during my adult life and they have all been huge comfort to me. Would love to hear more about how Mudin is doing.

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    1. He lives in this country now..... And is playing for the first team of the Sheffield steelers wheelchair basketball team...

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  31. Lovely Finlay. x

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    1. He was........I miss him to this day.... He was a lovely animal

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  32. 'sniff'.....a bit teary eyed now John....

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  33. Lovely story, John. Pets can be so healing!

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  34. We love all our pets but some of them just grab our souls and latch on. I've been lucky enough to have a few of those.

    I work in a children's hospital and the therapy dogs (and cat!) are wonderful. They are as therapeutic for the employees as the patients! I saw a poodle mix at Christmas with reindeer antlers, a red cape and black booties on. Made everyone smile...

    plufrompdx

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  35. Such a great story! Animals certainly do help soothe patients and they should be used more in hospitals. When my mother had to be in a rehab facility for a year after surgery, the place I picked was one that had animals living there for the patients. They had a rabbit, cats that roamed free and birds. It was just what my mom needed, as she missed our pets terribly during this time.

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  36. This is lovely. I am so very sure that the dogs helped. A man in our community takes a llama to the hospice visiting. Butterscotch helps patients, the family and the staff. And when a friend's mother died, the man brought Butterscotch to her funeral too because she had loved her so much. And she helped again.

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    1. I think this is delightful.... But not in a way that you think
      If I was dying...I would piss myself laughing if a llama waked into the hospice x

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    2. I can't think of a better way to go than laughing.

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  37. Oh, the simple and loving things that can be done to repair people's lives.

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  38. What a delight Finlay was. I remember walking him to the park at the bottom of tour road in Shefield when he was a pup.

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    1. You did indeed richard....thank you for that x

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  39. What a beautiful story John, you always put a little sunshine in my days with your stories.
    Finlay sounded like a 'cracker', Welsh terriers seem to have the best personalities, I'm sure your boy left a lasting impression on all who knew him.
    They use therapy dogs over here in the nursing homes, and rehabs, even cats, would Albert be interested ...lol.
    ~Jo

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    1. Welsh terrier dogs are particularly loyal, affectionate and terribly polite

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  40. I'm so glad that young man wrote to you. He must have warm memories of you and Finlay. I feel weepy today. I have Faulkner on my mind. He was my gateway dog. He was so gentle and sensitive that I kept getting more dogs. I've never had another Faulkner, but I've enjoyed every dog for his own personality.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. A few of my " old patients" keep in touch sporadically
      It's not uncommon for spinal injury nurses. The patients are in hospital for so long.
      I love your " gateway" comment....... Gateways can be open like ours or closed...... It depends on how you cope with the grief eh?

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  41. John,

    Finlay remains an angel for all he touched and helped along the way. Remember every time you pet your pups at home, Finlay had something to do with them coming into your life.

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  42. John I loved reading these stories. Cuddle therapy has a lot going for it.

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  43. Very touching. I find it hard to believe there was ever a time you didn't have a three-ring circus of animals, including dogs!

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  44. A sweet nature is precious indeed. By some miracle I got two sweet natured children. Still awed by my luck.

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  45. My late FIL lived his last years in a nursing home/assisted care facility, and they had two cats who roamed around. One took a liking to FIL and often slept with him at night.

    How wonderful that Mudin wrote and remembered you and Finlay. I hope he makes the Olympics.

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  46. What a very special post. What a very special Finlay. I'm sure he's with Winston, and sorry to say Winston was not as gentle. He was ornery. As ornery as they come. So he and Fin are getting in all kinds of trouble together...but it's all in good fun!

    Cindy Bee

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  47. What a lovely story. I love to see the brightness that our sweet animals can bring to broken souls. Your Finlay sounds adorable. I recently was caring for a very angry, combative Alzheimer client. I began bringing my little Scotty/poodle Toto look alike with me and it changed the whole dynamics of our visit. It was a precious wonder to see.

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