April 26, 2017
Dear Ms Janet,
I (Ruthie) am writing this letter for Siri and me. Since we cannot come to the dinner would you please read this to the other volunteers so they will know what we do.
Being a therapy dog is a very big responsibility. When we put on our vests, bandanas and name tags we are working dogs. We don’t bark, run, jump or act bossy. Mom says we bring love and smiles to the nursing home residents and staff. They wait for us to come each week.
Mom says our job is hard but someone has to do it. She laughs and tells the residents that our job is to be petted and theirs is to pet us. Sometimes I poke the residents arm with my nose to let them know I am not done being petted. They think it is funny and laugh and continue to pet me.
Some days are very hard; a resident may have to tell me or Siri something sad that they can’t tell anyone else. We never tell anyone what they said. We stand still and let them hug, kiss or cry on us and we smile at them. Sometimes we lean on them, which in “greyhound” means we love them.
Other times are funny. Someone asked Dad how old we were. Dad told them Siri was 6 and I am almost 11. Then another resident asked if I was married. Mom said we weren’t even allowed to date. Everyone including the staff started to laugh.
Some days are confusing especially for me. I have been doing this work since I was two. I went over to visit a nice lady who Mom was talking with. She didn’t pet me or look at me. Mom told me she had a bad illness called Alzheimer’s. I will try again to give her love even if I just stand next to her.
We also do home visits. We had a really fun visit this week. We had an ice cream social. Siri and I had no idea what that was until we got our own little cups of ice cream. It was really really good. Siri gets Spanish lessons from the “helper”. We love going there because the person we visit is always is happy to see us.
When we get home from our visits Siri jumps on the bed first then Mom and I get on it too and take a nap. Sometimes Dad joins us. It is good to take a nap so we can be ready for our next visits.
I hope you enjoyed hearing what we do.
Love and smiles,
Ruthie and Siri
Alice Oeben, COHI Lay Chaplain, Christ the King Lutheran Church, Houston, TX
My first visits with "Virginia" confirmed that dementia had stolen her
ability to have a conversation with anyone. I knew from her son that she
had been active physically and intellectually in both society and church.
The church, especially, had always been the center of her personal and
family life. Hoping that she would be able to listen even if she could not
converse, I took a devotional booklet with me on my next visit. I decided
to read Mary's song of praise, also called the Magnificat, which is found in
Luke 1:46-55. As we sat side by side in her bedroom, I began to read the
beautiful, poetic words. VIrginia was still and quiet as the words became
the center of that moment we shared. "My soul proclaims the greatness of
the Lord...all generations will call me blessed...He has mercy...and has
lifted up the lowly...He has remembered his promise...Glory to the
Father...will be forever. Amen." Suddenly, Virginia clapped her hands
together and exclaimed, "THAT'S BEAUTIFUL!!" God had spoken, and so had
Carol Heddleston, COHI Lay Chaplain, Grace Episcopal, Georgetown, TX (formerly
COHI Lay Chaplain, Pohick Episcopal, Lorton, VA)
He was old.
He was alone and lonely.
He was ill and bedridden.
He was hard of hearing.
He was sometimes grumpy.
He was a child of God.
So we went, once a month, as it was a long drive to the nursing center and we were busy people after all. He was always happy to see us. We would listen to his stories—often repeated, but still interesting. We would offer communion and he was eager to receive and also to read parts of the service. We always left him feeling so uplifted. We marveled at his ability to live so long in his circumstances. One day we went and he was dying. Alone. With only a nurse by his bedside. We were so happy we arrived in time say good-bye. We told him that God was eager to welcome him home. We felt that he could hear us. We blessed him and said good-bye with a kiss. He died the next day.
Testimonial on the COHI Training
Molly Brown, COHI Class of 2017, Good Shepherd Espicopal Church, Dallas
Community of Hope International expands the toolkit I need to serve those whom God has placed in my path. As we often find when called, God ensures if we look for Him, even in our most difficult journeys, we will find our lives enriched and closer to God.
Individuals of varying experiences and skill sets were called to be part of my training. Their combined spiritual gifts were a safe harbor for me to learn and grow. And, as we go out into the world, the continued fellowship and mentorship in COHI recalls God’s promise of to nourish and replenish us through all our journeys. I am grateful to God for shining a light on COHI to lead me to the community I needed to sustain me as I strive to serve God’s people and discern my own God-given gifts and callings.