The Canine Collection of Poems

Aptly Named

It was a cold late fall afternoon.

It was raining hard and the fallen leaves were plastered to the sidewalk. Travis and I ran up the granite steps into the old brick building and shook the raindrops from our coats, mine vinyl, his glistening black German Shepherd. We were there for our monthly pet therapy visit to the Geriatric Therapy Unit.

We walked into the cheerful community room and there was an appreciative "Ah!" as the group saw us. Travis commands a lot of admiration -- he's a big, black dog with a regal bearing, very intelligent eyes and a gentle nature that belies his size and breeding.

His full name is Travis Charles Lifesaver because he was just that.

He came into my life at a time of divorce and life changes. He was a source of protection and strength, a steadfast and loyal presence during the three consecutive terminal illnesses of close family members. He gave me unconditional love and a reason to care again.

That's why we were here today.

There were eight people in this session, none of whom we'd met before. Normally, we try to interact with all of them who want to meet Travis.

But today, one attractive lady in her early 60's monopolized him. She called him to her as soon as we entered and looked him over closely. He immediately sat and offered to shake hands with her. I tried to apologize for the muddy feet but she said, "Nonsense," as she took his big wet paw in her hands.

"What a handsome dog!" she declared. "You don't see all black German Shepherds very often. He's German bred, isn't he? What's his line? What's his name? How old is he?"

I answered, and she began to tell me about her dog Max, a German Shepherd she and her husband used to show and the ribbons they won.

I kept my eye on the counselor in charge who kept nodding for us to continue with this lady. We talked of the many shepherds they had over the years while she petted Travis and occasionally dropped a kiss on his noble head. She said that her husband had died a few months ago and it was time for her to give herself "a kick in the pants" and get on with her life. She said she missed working with her dog and she needed to get him back in training for an upcoming obedience show.

As usual, the visit was over far too quickly. Travis shook hands with each person and we said our goodbyes, and then the counselor walked us out.

She said, "I don't think you know what just happened in there.

That woman's husband died eight months ago and she has been extremely depressed. She has been coming to this counseling session for quite a while, and today is the first time she ever spoke a word. Travis did incredible work today."

This was confirmed about six months later when I received a hand written note from that lady:

Dearest Carol and Travis,
I have enclosed a picture of me and my dog at the show recently. He didn't get his CDX this time, but he will soon. I thought you would like to know I took your visit to heart that day. I'm living my life again thanks to you two. You were God's gift to me at a time when I thought He had deserted me. Your dog certainly lives up to his name. My dog and I are very grateful to you both. With love,

Maxine and Max

The innate qualities of unconditional love, attunement and understanding that animals draw upon to help people heal always makes me marvel. Travis Charles Lifesaver is truly aptly named.

-- Carol Munroe

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