Tilda and the Young Lady That Wouldn’t Speak!

Sissy being Sissy!

Update on Sissy: Sissy has been with us for 12 days now and she is adapting wonderfully. Many are asking about her background, so here is a quick run down on what I know. Sissy is 5 years old and her home was in Houston, Texas with an elderly lady and obviously it was a very loving and good home. The lady passed on and her family did not want Sissy so they took her to a shelter in the area. Unfortunately, it was a kill shelter so Sissy’s doom was predetermined. However, the different dog organizations around the country leave their contact data at these kill shelters. The Colorado Dalmatian Rescue people were contacted about the plight of dear Sissy as she was thought to be part Dalmatian and part Border Collie mix. I think their mixed breed heritage guess was perfect as Sissy acts and looks exactly like a cross between these two marvelous dog breeds. One of the good Fostering ladies of Colorado Dalmatian Rescue drove to Houston to retrieve Sissy.

While Sissy was being vet checked, photographed and getting ready to go on the CDR website for adoption, she moved around though a couple Fostering homes here in Colorado, whoever had room for her at the moment. I saw Sissy on the website and she looked a bit overweight, but I asked about her anyway. They said she was overweight but they had her on a diet and she was 20 pounds lighter now. So I contacted the Foster Mom caring for Sissy and we made a date to visit with Sissy. We spent a couple hours with Sissy and she went home with us for permanent adoption and all that has been completed. Sissy has blended right into our household and is very appreciative of the fact that she only has two senior citizens to take care of which is not a task for her at all. She has more than enough love for the both of us and is already becoming permanently attached to me as an extra limb. Sissy is a real good “buddy” dog and loves going everywhere with me. We have traveled over 800 miles already with her in the back seat resting in Tilda’s bed. She simply loves it and a great riding companion. She doesn’t quite yet know what to make of all this fuss, but we are off to a great start with her trusting me a great deal. Sissy is very smart, just in this short time she has already learned the commands Sit, Down, Over and Stay.

Sissy’s welcome smile called a “Smarl”

She is very suspicious of most anything yet, but that is to be expected. In time, she will learn that we always come back home no matter if it is driving 50 miles away or just walking around the block.

Sissy has this adorable Dalmatian smile when she is happy. In Dalmatian language I am told it is called a “Smarl”. It looks like a wrinkled up nose snarl expression showing her full set of teeth, but it is her happy smile and she does this while dancing with her front feet in a sitting position. It is absolutely darling and if she is away from me more than a couple minutes, she always sits up and greets me with that beautiful dancing Smarl.

 Tilda and the Young Lady That Wouldn’t Speak!

This story happened long ago and early in Tilda’s work as a therapy dog. The experience was one of the first events that caught my attention as to Tilda having some talents in regard to connecting with people. This event not only startled me a bit, but also those people standing nearby who witnessed the happening. It took place in a rehabilitation area that housed patients with what appeared to be mental struggles.  The area was behind locked doors and to enter it required someone to let you in and someone to be with you and the dog at all times.  Most times it was a challenging atmosphere, but many of these patients love dogs also and it was a spark in their day. The RN’s and Doctors would sometimes observe a dog visit with the patient to witness the patient responses in order to assist them with making certain changes according to what they saw in the patient/dog exchange.

Happy, Happy Tilda

What is most educational to understand about this type of facility is that dogs judge people by a whole different standard than us humans do sometimes. It has nothing to do with how intelligent we are, how beautiful we are, how poor or how wealthy we are. It has everything to do with a sense of feelings and impressions based on some simple facts that “everyone needs someone”. A good therapy dog recognizes this need and when conditions are right, the dog will pick up on that need and try to resolve it if possible. This is why good therapy dogs can play such a major role in many different situations. It can be a healing role such as lowering the blood pressure. It can be a role of physical encouragement such as young handicapped children learning to walk with a dog. It can be educational development such as a child learning to read by reading to a dog and the dog listening. Dogs can also play an important roll in mental therapeutic events such as small children being encouraged to achieve certain things with the dog that they ordinarily would not attempt (I have witnessed this at a special school in Denver and it is wonderful). In Tilda’s case regarding this story, it was a life changing event for a patient…..one that tied hope, emotional beauty, trust and goodness together in a solid relationship between a dog and a lady. The story starts like this:

We visited this facility every week, announcing our arrival through the intercom outside the door. Upon introducing ourselves, a nurse came to the door and escorted us into the facility. The nurse would make the announcement on the floor that Tilda dog was in the front lobby and available for play time or a loving visit. Soon the halls filled with people as they came out of their rooms and lined up to spend time with Tilda dog. One by one, Tilda would greet them, sometimes she would lay down and roll over so they could easily rub her side, several people at one time. The patients loved to feed Tilda small treats and of course Tilda thought that was great. There was always lots of cheer and plenty of questions to go along with the visits.

Tilda hanging out on the stairs

One week, a special lady caught my attention while she was visiting with Tilda. She was a lady, maybe in her early 20’s, that was very serious and the love in her eye when she looked at Tilda was unmistakable as I had seen that expression before in people that loved dogs very much. The interesting thing about this lady’s visit was that Tilda was very attentive and sitting squarely in front of the lady who was down on her knees and facing Tilda directly, almost head to head. Most people will talk to Tilda, but this lady just stared into Tilda’s eyes. Tilda would raise her left leg and offer a paw and the lady would kiss the top of Tilda’s foot and then massage it tenderly while looking into Tilda’s eyes. Of course Tilda picked up on that quickly and soon the lady was quietly hugging Tilda and Tilda stayed sitting and was loving back. It almost looked like a personal encounter and I felt a bit like an intruder watching it all. However, I noticed something unusual about this visit.  Not only was the lady especially loving to Tilda, she never spoke, not one word, not even a whisper. I no more than finished running those thoughts through my head and the nurse standing next to me watching the whole thing whispered in my ear that this young lady has not spoke a word, nothing, in a very long time. I nodded my head affirmatively and then some of the exchange between Tilda and this lady started to make sense to me.

Several weeks went by and each visit to this facility yielded the same result. Lots of fun and games between Tilda and all the patients except for this one lady. Tilda’s visit with this lady was always subdued and very direct, quiet and persevering. One time the doctor was even called to observe as the nurse thought maybe this lady was actually trying to make contact with Tilda which would be a major event for this lady. On that day, I asked the nurse if the lady has spoken to anyone about anything yet……..she shook her head “no”. It was wonderful to watch Tilda work with this young lady. Those two obviously had something going and only those two knew what it was.

Tilda chilling her toes at the doggy swim party!

Then on one crisp morning we rang the buzzer again to this area and announced ourselves for a new visit day. The nurse once again came to get us and escorted us to the lobby. She then announced our arrival over the public address system in the area. She said “Tilda dog is here if you want to see her”. Immediately there was a loud and very excited scream from the rear of the facility so the nurse and I leaned our heads around the corner to see what was going on down at the end of the hall. What we both saw I will never forget as long as I live. It was this same young lady running as fast as she could down the hall yelling “Tilda, oh Tilda, I love you Tilda…….Tilda, I love you Tilda!” The lady was coming at high speed and I became concerned for Tilda’s safety but it looked to me like the lady wasn’t out to do any harm. Just at that moment, I felt Tilda’s leash tighten and as I looked at her she was on her back feet, reared up like a horse with the front feet pawing towards the lady fast approaching her. Tilda had the biggest smile on her face and was pulling so hard trying to get to this lady while still standing up on her hind legs when the lady came in with that baseball-like “sliding into home plate” maneuver. As Tilda and the lady softly collided into each other, Tilda was making all sorts of loving grunting sounds and the lady just could not stop talking and screaming Tilda’s name and saying how she missed her and loved her. By that time both Tilda and the lady were down on the floor on their sides and the lady was kissing Tilda all over while Tilda was licking the lady’s hands and arms everywhere she could while kicking her legs with joy. What a Blessed event that was to behold.

Ready for work. Time is a wasting, dad!

The nurse had tears running down her cheeks as I did, but she had the perception to get on her cell phone and call the doctor over. He was there within seconds and witnessed dog and lady rolling around on the floor with the lady talking and cheering to Tilda. After a couple minutes the reunion settled a bit and while the young lady was hugging Tilda the doctor started talking to the lady and she answered him saying things like “I love Tilda very much, she is a good girl and she has really helped me, she understands.  Thank you my dear sweet Tilda”. After a while I could see that the doctor wanted to work with the patient so we said our goodbye’s and as we left, the nurse said to us “I hope you know what you two have done for this person”. I just turned around and told her with my voice breaking up “Tilda did this, I had nothing to do with it…….I am just her lucky escort”. The nurse was wetting her own tissues also as the emotions of the moment caught us all by surprise.

As the locking door closed behind us on our way out, I stopped, took a deep breath, looked down into Tilda’s eyes and there was total happiness…….happiness of the kind that makes one realize that all the gruesome details of life don’t really matter. It is the lovingly meaningful things that count and Tilda just taught me that once again. I wiped my tears, put a smile on my face and took a step forward and Tilda was once again in sync and ready to roll. As we walked down the hall alone I looked down at Tilda as she was looking up at me and then told her “thank you, Tilda, you did really good back there” while I patted her on her right side as I always did after one of those events. She looked up at me with that darling expression as if to say “yeah, wasn’t that simply just too cool? It really felt good to me too. Come on, dad, let’s go find another one”.

Until Next Time……………..

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