Where’s Eddy?

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Eddy the Irish setter practically holds court on the block where he lives. He’s such a big huggable lug of a bearish dog that he’s known to the neighborhood as Eddy the Teddy.
By his fifth birthday last summer, his magical effect on people had convinced his owner Robyn to enroll him in therapy dog classes, so that he could officially grace hospitals and other institutions with his presence.

Off he went then, for several months, to the wonderful school for this sort-of-thing up in North Seattle. Of course he passed with flying colors, and he had many supporters in the audience at the graduation ceremony. When he received his certificate/diploma on stage, the applause and shouts were the loudest of the day.
Eddy looked proudly out at the crowd as if to say, “Aw shucks.”
Then it was time for cookies.
His first assignment had been lined up for some time. Robyn’s grandfather was living in the Alzheimer’s wing of a local nursing home, and her grandmother was a near-daily visitor there. His dementia was vascular, but the effects were nearly identical to Alzheimer’s, although his physical body was also taking a hit, slowly curling back into a fetal position over the years.
But Grandpa wasn’t really the reason for Eddy’s first therapy mission. As distressing and prolonged as his situation was, he had plenty of family visitors and constant attention. This was not the case for many of his ward mates.
For those who have not been down a similar path, it can be jolting to witness the range of reactions people have when their loved ones lose their minds. For some families, it is too much to bear, and they cannot bring themselves to even visit.
It might seem easy to criticize this, perhaps call it heartless, but Robyn made no such judgments on those people whose lonely family members were all around her each time she visited. Instead, they became surrogate family themselves for that period.
And now, good ol’ Eddy the Teddy could join in!
There was one case in particular Robyn had her/Eddy’s heart set on. Maybe this man was even the catalyst to have done the whole dog therapy thing; his image had been gnawing at her.
His name was Dan, he wasn’t very old, probably in his mid-70s, and he even looked pretty good, like a sporting coach who had been outdoors often. But he had advanced dementia, and spent most of his current life in a wheelchair, rambling incoherently.
Except at dinnertime. He had an exact routine every night, maybe as he always had. He would wait for his wife.
Once the patients were served their trays of food this man would roll his chair over to the visitor entry door and park himself there for the remainder of the evening. His tray remained untouched in his lap, and to anybody who entered he would ask, “Where’s my wife?”
Then he’d explain that he couldn’t eat until she got there.
But she never arrived.
She hadn’t visited in over 14 months, and he hadn’t finished his dinner in a year. Eventually the staff would lead him to his room and bed and he’d tearfully lie down as somebody lifted the tray away.
The next morning it would be as if nothing had happened and he’d go about his day inconsistently, maybe eating breakfast and lunch. But with military precision, at dinnertime, something would click, and the cycle would repeat.
Now one of the basic tenets in dog therapyville is that big dogs do not jump up on frail old people or fragile little people. Robyn had her plan, and she brought Eddy as intended at mealtime, and sure enough Dan was waiting at the door and asked about his wife.
But she forgot to factor in Pork Chop Night.
Not three seconds into the room and Eddy was up on two legs with the other two plowing thru Dan’s delicious spread. To the squeals and screams of the entire dementia ward he polished off that sucker until there wasn’t a canned pea left dangling from his Irish whiskers.  Then, for good measure, he licked Dan a big sloppy one.
Of course Robyn was mortified and started to discipline Eddy as he began to poke around the room for dessert, but then Dan came to life and also began to call him and, needless to say, Eddy chose the happier tone of Dan and trotted back over. The staff, tripping over themselves to clear the room of the commotion, halted when they came upon this sudden tender moment, Dan and Eddy in a big Teddy-Hug.
So everybody just let them be for a while, and for an hour or so the therapy went more as planned. Dan and Eddy became a couple of buddies. And though the ward director was very firm towards the embarrassed Robyn that such a thing could never happen again, she was moved by the lovefest and said Eddy was welcome back. That next visit was planned for the following week and all’s well that ends well right?
Except for the next night and every night until they returned Dan sat by the door at dinnertime, his food untouched. Whenever somebody entered he’d ask,
“Where’s Eddy?”

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