Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Gift

It's funny, isn't it, how long it sometimes takes before we realise the obvious. May I tell you about one such discovery that I made the other day?

Chloe, as you know, is a registered Pets As Therapy cat, we visit a local nursing home each week. This discovery relates to the nursing home, and to something I've never heard mentioned when people speak of the therapeutic benefit of animals.

Just think about it for a moment.
What is the sound that you never hear in a nursing home?
You are aware of the ubiquitous background noise of the vacuum cleaner, the squeak of wheel chairs in motion, nurses' quick feet hurrying down the passages, water running in the basins, the occasional voice . . . but you rarely, if ever, hear the sound of laughter.

This is the gift that Chloe, in her innocence and exuberance, brings to the nursing home on every visit.

Each time she enters a resident's room the tired, unfocussed eyes of the occupant light up with sudden interest.
"May Chloe come and visit you?" I ask . . . and the welcoming face grows pink with pleasure.

The chuckles start as she begins her enthusiastic examination of the room and its contents . . . the books on the bookshelf . . . flowers on a table . . . the view from the window. An unexpected pigeon in the garden below can be a cause for general excitement!

Each resident's room, so familiar to the occupant as to have become
invisible, is transformed, through Chloe's eyes, into a veritable Aladdin's cave of unexpected treasures.

Confident in her role as a welcome visitor, Chloe is perfectly happy to let the residents take her by the lead and fondle her.
"When I'm better, may I take her for a walk?" asked a frail, dementia sufferer the other day.
"Of course," I agreed.
What did it matter that the walk would never take place. With Chloe lying happily at her feet, we planned all the details . . . an imaginary walk to the accompaniment of much laughter.

Only an animal could achieve this miracle. Sympathy, kindness and consideration don't evoke laughter. But an animal, unquestioningly accepting the situation for what it is, brings into a sterile atmosphere the heady ingredients of vitality, curiosity . . . and fun.
Which, as I'm sure you'd agree, is a source of stimulus more powerful and effective than any medicine.

Think of us at the nursing home this week. Picture the happy chuckles that will doubtless mark Chloe's enthusiastic progress from room to room.
I couldn't produce this effect . . . Chloe can!