This submission is by Barbara Adams, whose everyday Hero Dog is Athena, a Golden.
My Dog is My Hero Because…
We were about to go home
after a long morning of volunteering at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles when
a nurse came running up to us.
“Excuse me. Excuse me,” she
asked in a panic. “Do you have a minute? Can you come see my neuro
patient? He’s just waking up.”
I looked down at my
four-legged companion. Even after being pick-up and plopped on a metal rolling
table so an immobile PICU patient could see her, my 74lb golden retriever
therapy dog Athena wagged her tail and pulled me toward the nurse. She was
ready to go.
There were two nurses on
duty that day. None of us knew if 14-year-old Michael would respond to Athena.
Michael couldn’t respond with words but when Athena got on his bed and
started licking his face, Michael laughed out-loud and smiled. The therapy dogs
weren’t supposed to “kiss” patients until they said it was okay, but
Athena must have sensed it was okay because Athena and Michael were to develop
a bond that day that lasted throughout all our visits with Michael.
The dog bed visits were
usually 10-15 minutes but something inside of me said to stay that day. Maybe
I’d developed some of that intuitive sense that Athena often displayed. Athena
and I went back to visit Michael almost every week even when we weren’t technically
on duty. It turned out Michael’s mother had just had a baby and didn’t have
time to visit.
I didn’t know anything
else about Michael but Michael had photos hanging around his bed. We’d talk about his photos and
life with hand gestures and nods while Athena rested her head on his
chest. One day Michael was gone. It was
then that I finally found out Michael’s history. I learned that he was a
troubled teen and that he had been behaviorally challenged before he got sick.
He was failing school and getting into trouble long before being diagnosed with
a brain condition. The physical therapist said he had been violent with
hospital staff and non-responsive in physical therapy but his medical condition
had improved enough. He’d been sent home.
I looked down at Athena
by my side. Michael had never been violent or non-responsive to her. Athena had
been able to go where people couldn’t go. I never got to see Michael again. I
sometimes wonder what his life is like now and I hope he has a dog companion.
years later, I am a pediatric oncology nurse at the same hospital where I
volunteered with Athena. She is actually
the one who inspired me to become a nurse. Athena is my hero because she
demonstrated how to be compassionate, non-judgmental, loving and gentle to sick
children. Athena is now 15 years-old and
can’t jump up on beds with visit kids anymore.
But every day I carry Athena’s spirit with me into my work. She is my hero and role model as to how to be
of service to children with cancer and their families.
Learn more about the Hero Dog Awards.