Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Yes . . . yes . . . yes . . . "

Have you a moment to spare?
There's something which I really want to tell you . . . something which, I know, you'll want to share . . . the story of Chloe's first assignment as a Pets As Therapy Cat.

When we'd both recovered from the excitement of receiving our official badges, I discovered amongst the literature a list of possible places to visit. Were there any in our area? I was delighted to find a nursing-home less than half-a-mile away.
Five days later, having established that we would like to make a regular weekly visit, Chloe and I (one of us a little apprehensive, the other more than a little excited - I leave you to
guess which was which!) arrived at the nursing-home and presented ourselves at the Reception Desk.

There was no doubting the warmth of the welcome, a welcome which emanated from the enthusiastic organiser of our visit, quickly spread to the Receptionists and the nurses, and went on to attract a large number of helpers. After everyone had stroked a now highly-excited, wriggling Chloe, it was necessary to sign the appropriate forms and then, in exchange, receive a list of the residents who had voiced an interest in meeting a visiting cat. Finally, thronged by this group of eager escorts, we embarked on our first tour. Confidently leading the way, Chloe galloped happily up the stairs . . . determined that she wasn't going to explore the building on her own, I held firmly to her lead!

We moved quite quickly from room to room. This was only a brief, introductory visit, I couldn't keep my escorts waiting so didn't want to linger.
"Chloe will be back next Thursday . . ." was my constantly repeated message as I dragged her away from yet another new admirer.

But my eagerness to share this story with you stems from one particular encounter. It took place in a room in the dementia ward, near to the end of our visit.
A figure sat slumped in a chair by the window. It was a man of no more than sixty-five, but dementia had robbed him of all but the most basic forms of communication. As we stood in the doorway, the nurse accompanying us called out to him that we were there, and his head slowly turned in our direction. At first his unfocussed gaze failed to notice Chloe. Then, as I stepped forward and placed her beside him on a chair, he realised what she was. His body stiffened, his eyes shone with recognition, and on his previously impassive face dawned an expression of pure delight.
"Yes . . . yes . . . yes . . . " he burst out excitedly, " . . . yes . . . yes . . . yes . . . "
I moved Chloe's chair a little closer.
"Would you like to stroke her?"
"Yes . . . yes . . . yes . . . " but he made no movement.
"It will take a little time," said the nurse.
I prayed that Chloe would remain still on the chair until the man was ready.
"Yes . . . yes . . . yes . . . " he repeated and, as I held my breath, his hand reached out, at first unsteadily and then with growing certainty, until it rested firmly on Chloe's head.
"Yes . . . yes . . . yes . . . " the voice rang with pleasure and satisfaction as he started to stroke the soft fur.
Shortly afterwards it was time to leave.
"No . . . no . . . no!" cried Chloe's new friend in distress.
I assured him that we'd be returning the following week, that Chloe would be back.

We had one more visit to make, to a woman so frail, so feeble that she couldn't even lift her arm from the sheets. Taking Chloe's paw, I used it to gently stroke the wasted hand . . . a shadow of a smile crossed the shrunken face on the pillow.

It is impossible to foresee how beneficial Chloe's encounters will be. All I can say with certainty is that my life was enriched by that visit.
As for Chloe, after sleeping off all the excitement, will she want to return?
I can anticipate her answer to that question . . . an enthusiastic, "Yes . . . yes . . . yes . . . !"