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
black German Shepherd. We were there for our monthly pet therapy visit
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
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
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
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.
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
for the muddy feet but she said, "Nonsense," as she took his big wet paw
"What a handsome dog!" she declared. "You don't see all black
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
years while she petted Travis and occasionally dropped a kiss on his
head. She said that her husband had died a few months ago and it was
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
training for an upcoming obedience show.
As usual, the visit was over far too quickly. Travis shook hands
each person and we said our goodbyes, and then the counselor walked us
She said, "I don't think you know what just happened in there.
woman's husband died eight months ago and she has been extremely
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
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