This week, we found ourselves visiting at the nursing home again. My husband was able to go with us this time, so Bunny and Flattery were in attendance, and this time was one when I found myself really happy that we had both of them with us. That’s not to say that I’m not always happy to take them, but sometimes they do things that remind me in special ways about why I’m happy to have them both with me.
Most of the time, when we visit nursing homes, our focus is on the elderly residents there. Greyhounds are particularly good at visiting because they are generally well mannered (at least, away from home they are), gently and calm. I’m not saying that there aren’t exceptions, but that’s pretty typical for the breed. They have a soft approach and their impeccable manners serve them well in a nursing home situation. While a lot of dogs get excited easily and will jump, wiggle or lick people, Greyhounds rarely do. They will give a gentle tail wag or sniff, but that’s about it. For people who are often not so stable on their feet, it’s a good mix. I can’t lie, I’m always proud of the girls when we go to visit nursing homes because they use their charm school skills to bring smiles to the people we’re there to visit.
Sometimes, however, it’s not the residents who most need a visit from the dogs. Often I think the nursing staff there gets as much or more from our dogs’ presence as the residents do. It’s nice to see them smile at the change in routine and most of them are very sweet with the patients, drawing their attention to the dogs and asking them questions about dogs to get them talking and smiling. In a world where people are often in a hurry or overworked, it’s nice to see them take time to slow down and help the residents enjoy the dogs.
This week, to my surprise, I think our visit made more of a difference to a family member of one of the residents than it did to anyone else. It’s not unusual to see family members enjoy petting the dogs or talking to them. What surprised me this time was that the woman we met, a daughter of one of the nursing home residents, sat down in the middle of the floor to pet Flattery. I had the impression from the way she looked that either her parent is new in the nursing home or is not doing well. Her face was tense, her shoulders were drawn and I got the feeling that she was on the verge of tears.
For all the mischief that Flattery gets into, her reaction to the woman is a good example of why I adore her. Flattery is a social butterfly by nature and she operates under the theory that everyone she meets is going to be as happy to meet her as she is to meet them. When the woman first knelt down to pet her, Flattery went in for the kill. She moved right over close to the woman. Soon, the woman was sitting on the floor and Flattery stood leaning against her, her little head tucked around the woman’s neck as the woman wrapped her arms around Flattery’s neck. She stood like that for a long while, letting other residents and nursing home workers walk around her. She never batted an eyelash over the woman’s behavior. She simply listened to the woman with her heart and gave her a little tail wag when the woman finally released her.
The woman said that she’d always wanted a Greyhound and that she would have at least one in her lifetime. Something tells me that Flattery might have hurried the process along a little. I feel a bit like we were meant to be there at that time for that woman, for whatever the reason might be. When the woman left, she still looked tense, but she was smiling and I think Flattery helped her forget her cares for a little while.
Sometimes, I wish we could bottle those moments and share them with the world when there’s a need. We humans can sometimes give those moments to each other, but too often, our own hangups and reservations come into play. I certainly wouldn’t hug a stranger, but my dog doesn’t worry about things the way I would. She just knows when someone needs a little love in the world and how to share it.