Thursday, February 24, 2011

Therapy Dog

I've been racking my brain for something to brighten up my mom's spirits, which have sunk to all new lows lately.   Then it hit me:  Blackjack.   Not only does he love mom like crazy, but, after a rocky start to their relationship, she adores him, too.  

In the beginning, she was concerned.

Us:  Grandma!  Grandma!  Guess what?  We're getting a puppy!
Mom (clearly disapproving):  A puppy?  Really?
Us:  Yeah! And he's super cute and we love him!!!
Mom:  Hmm.
Us:  Wait 'til you meet him!  He's a Bernese Mountain Dog, and he's 11 weeks old and he's got the hugest paws and he's going to be over 100 pounds when he grows up!
Mom:   Did you say 100 pounds?  Sharon, what on earth...?
Us:  But he's only about 22 pounds right now.  He's got a TON of energy.  We're bringing him home in a few days.  Yay!!!
Mom:  I'm going to be at my apartment.   Don't call me, I'll call you.


Then she was terrified.

The door to the house opens.  The puppy bounds up, tripping adorably all over himself on the hardwood floors, tongue hanging out, smiling for all he's worth at the unexpected pleasure of meeting someone new.  Mom immediately grabs the wall and holds on for dear life.

Me:  Mom!  He's not going to bite you!
Mom:  I'm an old lady.  If I fall and break my hip, I'm done for.  Nice doggie.  Go away now.

Relations improved slowly.

Blackjack comes running to the car when I bring Mom over to visit.  She smiles at his ridiculous enthusiasm over seeing her again.   But she still holds onto the door handle, white knuckled, until I take him inside.

Blackjack perfects the art of looking meaningfully at Mom when she's making breakfast for the kids.  She pretends not to see him as he takes up all the space on the rug so she literally has to step over him to get to the sink.  Somehow, he winds up with a pile of scrambled eggs in his bowl.

Blackjack lays his head down on his front paws and puts on the big weepy eyes.  Mom relents and stops scolding him for eating the cat's food that she just put into the dish.  I'm about to throw him outside when she intervenes, saying something about him being a growing boy and not being able to help it.

I come into the kitchen and find Mom having a long, detailed discussion with Blackjack about the appalling behavior of a guest star on The View.  He listens attentively, hoping she will be disturbed enough to drop a roast chicken.


Leaning over Mom's bed yesterday, I asked her if she'd like me to bring him to see her*.    Her answer came in a barely audible whisper.

Mom:  No.  No Blackjack.
Me:  Are you sure?
Mom:  I'm sure. There are certain people in my life that I love too much to see anymore.  He's one of them.

[She pauses, closes her eyes, and continues]
I just don't want him to see me like this.  

As has happened so many times before with my mother, I am at a loss for words on that one.

Luckily, there was someone else at my house who had no such scruples about letting the dog make her feel better.


*Besides being a great dog generally, he's a certified therapy animal.  His 115 lbs. of goofiness has been to hospitals and nursing homes all over town, with remarkable healing effect.

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