When Chou Chou was born, my mom lived here, at the Einstein Residence Center. Chou came from Canada to live with me, a special gift from my mom. So the pup visited here often. My mom loved to watch her grow.
And grow she did!
When we visited my mom, we also greeted the other residents, her friends. They watched her grow, too.
This is where Chou Chou first encountered people with walkers and wheelchairs and canes. Long before she passed her therapy dog certification, she was learning.
My mother lived here for seven years; she died two years ago. After I emptied her apartment, I did not go back to the residence center. It would have been too painful.
But several weeks ago, I went back for the memorial service of the office manager, Jean, a woman who had been really good to my mom and me. I didn't know how I would feel about being at Einstein again, so I took Chou Chou the therapy dog for my own comfort. Chou Chou was very well-behaved ("I am always well-behaved!")
It felt good to see all my mom's old friends and the staff members I knew so well.
After the memorial was concluded, we were surrounded by people in the lobby who wanted to pet Chou, so we stayed a while. Chou Chou the therapy dog was greeting and comforting people. These were people who remembered her (and me and my mom), and new people who moved in recently and didn't know us. ("I am a loveable puppy!")
Out in the parking lot, we were stopped again. Jean's family and others came over to talk, to pet Chou Chou. And even in the car, as we were pulling away, someone flagged me down to ask about the dog.
It came to me that maybe the residents of the Einstein Center could benefit from regular monthly visits by the therapy dog teams. I would volunteer to be the team leader. Was I ready to visit here on a regular basis without feeling sad? I didn't know. But I wanted to try. It was a way of giving back to Einstein. All the people there -- staff and residents alike -- had given so much to my mom over her many years there.
I pitched the idea to the activities director and she was excited! I pitched it to the directors of my animal-assisted therapy organization, and they agreed to try it, too. I completed paperwork, added it to our monthly calendar, and waited to see if there was any interest from other dog teams.
A few people said yes, they would visit with me and Chou Chou. So we had our new shift.
Now I could only hope I was doing the right thing for myself, emotionally. It doesn't take much to send me into tears, missing my mom. This idea might be healing... or not. I would try it and see.
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