We’ve been to the New Hampshire Veterans Home numerous times, but one visit stands out. We entered the large community room with numerous residents present. Some in wheelchairs, moveable reclining chairs or with their walkers and scooters. Some were agile, very alert, verbal and cognizant, others were merely physically present but came to life when Stella was with them. We met one man in particular, according to the staff, who was often a nonparticipant/spectator, who didn’t interact with others.
He was non-verbal and paralyzed on one side. We moved around so that he could partake in petting and loving Stella. She stayed with him for several moments as he continuously pet her. The staff was amazed with how responsive he was to her presence. As we started to move onto the next resident he reached out to me and caught my hand, squeezed it, looked me directly in the eyes and thanked us through his gaze. I blinked back the tears, gazed back at him and said “ No…its our pleasure. Thank you, thank you for your service. It’s the least we can do.”
It was not necessary for this man to be able to speak to let us know the importance of such a visit in his present life. The importance of the human-animal bond became most prevalent to me that day. These residents who gave us so much, often have so very little to look forward to at this point in their lives. This man’s appreciation through his heartwarming gaze is deeply rooted in my heart forever.
I may not get thanked by everyone, but I know now the impact is there somewhere in their silent world.
Story provided by Jean Meloney