46: Breaking the Silence

46: Breaking the Silence

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Breaking the Silence

Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.


We visited the special care facility on the first Wednesday night of every month. My six-year-old retired racing Greyhound, Itssy, had passed a behavior test that allowed her to visit the residents as a therapy dog. We usually visited with a group of two or three other dogs and their owners. We would travel through the building, making stops at the common areas throughout the facility, where residents would gather if they wanted to visit with the dogs. Most were wheelchair bound and eagerly anticipated the dogs.

There were some residents who did not enjoy being around other people or activity. The care workers would try to convince some residents who they believed would benefit from contact with the dogs to join us. On this particular night, they had convinced a ninety-year-old lady to join us. They mentioned that she had not spoken for a long time and they were surprised she agreed to leave her room. They pushed her wheelchair into the common area where we had gathered. The residents’ chairs were in a semicircle and the dogs and owners moved from chair to chair visiting.

“Say hello!” I said to encourage Itssy to move closer to the ladies and gentlemen in the room. She moved her long snout into laps and allowed shaky hands to stroke her head and move down her sleek brindle-colored back. When she reached the quiet lady, Itssy did not require any encouragement to move closer. Even though she had been on her feet for close to an hour, she seemed to immediately perk up with excitement. She moved her head close to the lady and placed her head in her lap. The woman’s eyes seemed to become more aware and Itssy looked into her tired face. Her watery blue eyes looked into Itssy’s brown ones and they seemed to say something to each. The lady’s hand trembled as it moved along Itssy’s head, playing with the points of her ears lying flat against the sides of her head. And then the lady spoke.

“What a good dog,” she murmured softly.

The care worker standing by the woman’s chair looked at me, then back to the woman and Itssy in astonishment.

“Do you know,” she said, “that she has not spoken a word in at least a year?”

It was difficult to take my eyes off the pair and their special moment. The woman continued to pet Itssy’s head gently and speak softly to her, telling her what a good dog she was and how pretty she was. She spoke of her own dog from long ago.

“She was my dearest friend,” she said as she looked off into space, a smile on her face.

The woman seemed to be taken away to a special place. All of the care workers gathered around her chair. They were so happy she had agreed to come out of her room, and wondered how this dog had inspired such an engaged reaction from a resident who had been withdrawn for so long. I smiled as I watched Itssy and her new friend, and listened to the amazed people around me. I was pleased that Itssy had made such an impact, but I was not surprised she had. I knew my dog and how special she was. She had a way of bringing joy to everyone she crossed paths with. It was all in a night’s work for one amazing dog.

~Kimberley Campbell

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