REACHING OUT – GOING THE EXTRA MILE

I have mentioned in several articles what an inspiration my service dog has been to me.  One of my favorite stories is Sita and the tissue.

     I worked in a private practice for several years with people who were truly hurting.  I counseled both children and adults who had been both physically and sexually abused and their stories shattered me.  I always brought along my faithful service dog.  This gorgeous yellow lab with her soulful eyes, sweet face and wonderful disposition was a favorite with both clients and staff.

     She was highly trained in the prison program before I received this beauty.  She is extraordinarily well behaved.  However, the people who trained her reminded me there is extra sixth sense these dogs have who are so carefully selected.  Only 1 out of 100 dogs make the grade of a service dog.  They explained I should always honor that. If she disobeyed an order for example, there may be a reason. One time I gave her a command to get into my car and she sniffed the car next to me.  I grabbed her leash and pulled her behind my car.  The car she had been sniffing peeled out of the spot and would have hit both of us.  She heard the motor running and I didn’t.  She saved us both from getting hurt that day.  I never doubted her sixth sense after that. I also found out this canine was watching me more than I knew.

     One day a woman who had many awful things happen to her was sobbing in my office.  I sat in the couch across from her where she was sitting in a chair.  Sita was under my desk and I thought she was sleeping.

     I was focused on comforting my client and neither one of us saw Sita quietly get up, go to my desk, pull a tissue out of the box situated there and bring it to my client with her mouth.

     We both gasped.  Sita had never been trained to do this, but watched me reach for the tissue a number of times.  Not only was my service dog alerting me to sounds because I am deaf, but now she was helping me comfort people.  Tears filled my eyes as my client laughed and said Sita made her feel better.

     Sita taught me an important lesson that day.  A special canine or human is someone who does the extra.  And with cancer this is extremely important.  I watch the oncology nurses give patients they know well a hug before chemo.  My oncologist always asks me about my personal life, not just medical.  The people at the desk often call me by name.  The atmosphere at the entire cancer center is a caring and healing one.

     And we as cancer survivors need to go that extra mile too.  In between feeling bad  while we are undergoing chemo, a phone call or card can mean so much to someone.  A gift card for a caregiver can make all the difference in the world.  I watched one cancer survivor taking her time reassuring people in the waiting room that they are getting good care.  She did it with me when she said that she had been a survivor for 10 years with stage 4 breast cancer.  I started to do this with other people   and watched their faces light up. That wonderful woman influenced me so very much.  Just listening to other people makes them feel better.  Yes, there are lots of things we can do.

Dr. Seuss stated “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”Many more people can be like my canine companion who picked up the tissue and did the extra.This was way beyond what she was trained for.What she did not know, but I do, is that it meant the world to someone that day.