Team of the Month: Spanky and Ed

Category: Team of the Month



Our therapy dogs are members of our families.  We are their dads, moms, grandmothers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles.  We nurture and teach them to provide incredibly important therapy support, most often, for strangers.  We take for granted how they know how to engage, comfort and provide healing to others.

But sometimes things can change in the blink of an eye.  This happened in our family December 23, 2014.  My mother was living in LA at the time.  She was happy, living in her own home.  She drove, shopped, played bridge 3 to 4 times a week, and was competitive in Scrabble, with a vengeance.  On that dark day, it was about 5:30pm.   I just happened to call her.  I knew she sounded “off.”  I asked what was wrong and she said, “I fell.”  She explained how she fell in the grocery store parking lot, hitting her head on the asphalt. The paramedics, EMT’s and ambulance were all there, treating her.  She refused to be taken to the emergency room.  She drove home and took two aspirin for her headache….the worst thing she could do.

We had my neighbor come over to check her condition.  When my sister arrived, she rushed her to the hospital. She had developed a devastating brain bleed that required emergency brain surgery the next day.  She lost the ability to speak, understand speech and became paralyzed on her right side.  She was unable to walk, eat, or do anything for herself.  She began the slow climb back to recover some degree of function, in a redefined life that would be radically different than she had known.

I raced to my mother’s side from Oregon.  I arrived there with Spanky in my arms.  He saw a woman, his grandmother, unresponsive and expressionless.  He had experience seeing strangers faced with serious physical and mental challenges….but not his grandmother.  At first, he was unsure of what to do.  Gradually, he cuddled in her lap and began licking his grandma, affectionately.  I am not sure what she understood at that point of her recovery.  I know that some of that puppy love had to be getting through to her.

She continued to make progress.  Gradually limited speech and mobility returned.  She intentionally would stroke Spanky for long periods of time, finding great comfort in his companionship and soft smooth coat.  It has been more than 7 months now and Spanky has made a tremendous difference in my own mother’s life.  I just never imagined that Spanky would fill his role as therapy dog, in our own family.  He gets kisses of love and appreciation from me, daily for the lifesaver that he is!