Gogo: A Miniature Dachshund with Wings
My husband and I adopted 10-week-old Gogo after we lost our first dog, Sushi, in a car accident. Gogo was a typical puppy, and had the privilege of visiting a friend of ours who was undergoing cancer treatment in 2004. Upon arriving at the hospital, it generally took us up to 30 minutes to enter our friend’s room, simply because we were approached by staff, visitors, and other patients. Gogo brought a smile to many, just by her mere presence. I quickly discovered the power of pet therapy and the potential Gogo had to assist people in need.
Gogo is a miniature dachshund who has visited the Palliative Care unit of the Elizabeth Bruyère Health Centre in Ottawa for 2 ½ years. We attend weekly, and make ourselves available for bedside visits to patients and their families. Because of her size, Gogo lays in a small dog bed which rests on a table and is brought right up to patients’ beds. Once she comes to know a person over the course of several weeks, she will sit on the bed itself and respectfully rest her head against the patient.
The benefits of Gogo’s visits are many: calming an anxious person, providing a break from solitude, offering a chance for quiet companionship regardless of a patient’s physical or communicative abilities. Gogo has also been seen walking the hallways of the unit, patient in tow; she provides much needed motivation to individuals who need to demonstrate their ability to walk a set distance in order to spend time at home. Staff members on the unit also take a few moments out of their day to greet and chat with Gogo. This provides them with a short respite from the emotional and physical demands of working with individuals who are terminally ill.
The feedback Gogo and I receive as a team is always positive and uplifting. We have been told on more than one occasion that she is better than any medicine that is administered. She has been lauded as a canine who should be nominated for a Governor General’s award. A family member once asserted that Gogo’s ears were not in fact what they appeared to be-they were little angel wings.
Gogo and I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and skills as an OTD team. Gogo has learned to trust strangers and to give of herself without requesting anything in return. I have learned that even though a person may be in their final days, they still have fundamental needs and enjoy even the simplest offerings.
When she is not working, Gogo can be found chasing squirrels at the park, participating in her agility program, eating, and snoozing in the sunshine. She is also an expert in time management, alerting us with her piercing bark that dinnertime has arrived at precisely 6:00 p.m.