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Grief Therapy Dogs

Updated on February 14, 2013
Kal- a young Golden Retriever takes on the pain of human grief, by choice.
Kal- a young Golden Retriever takes on the pain of human grief, by choice. | Source
A long walk on the beach helps to quell the heartbreak and increase the bond between human and K9 companion.
A long walk on the beach helps to quell the heartbreak and increase the bond between human and K9 companion. | Source

The Inherited Loyalty of the K9

a painless joyous place...

I am going to start this article by saying, if you do nothing else today, you must at least watch the video that is offered within this article. It, as is this hub, is dedicated to my cousin-in-law Jake. Nothing will inspire you more than the few minutes it takes to watch the video. Thanks -K9-

A far too recent August took the love of my life to reside in a painless joyous place we humans refer to as heaven. The sadness, overwhelming and desperate, leeched from my heart all of the will I may have once had. Nothing was clear, unblemished or tasteful as it had once been. My dear friend's Sue and Chrissy who remained by my side to see me through this time, had a female Golden Retriever who was a month away from whelping. Even as it was soon after cancer took my love, they knew I needed something to nurture. What they may not have known, was that that something would nurture me in return.

July 30Th, I get the call:

"Gracie is having her babies, and she's on my new white designer bedspread!" Sue had been resting while Gracie, her sweet and whelping Golden was snuggled up to her side quietly enduring the waves of birth.

"There is blood everywhere!" Sue continues, "she already has three puppies!"

Knowing Sue had never helped a momma dog 'birth no babies' I responded, "I am on my way Susie."

...cleaning and bathing and cleaning, and cleaning and cleaning...for 9 healthy active Golden Retriever ...

I made the short drive to Sue's beautiful home and entered to see my darling friend gathering the white stained bedding. Cleaning quietly in an attempt not to disturb Gracie. What a gal! So strong and yet so very sweet this 5' 11" German descended retired Sergeant with the Sheriff department. Her eyes wide and concerned about her beloved Golden, as the pride twinkled in her 'dog-mom' eyes, never had I seen such a bond, love, and respect for the k9 species. Gracie was just about the only one I knew (other than Chrissy) who could melt Sue's heart with a simple glance. The connection was clear.

Gracie continued to push out 9 healthy pups, in a prearranged and cushioned, as well as supplied with everything but a spa, kiddie-pool set-up just for the event. Sue and I waited while Gracie endured the wonder of motherhood at its very beginning.

Birthing Puppies

Pup after healthy pup 'popped' out. As one little guy struggled to make his way into this world I had to offer him a tiny tug to free him from Gracie. She whipped around and vigorously cleaned and stimulated his little body to consciousness. I held in my hand, the very thing that would help to heal my very broken heart. 'Gracie's Prince Kalevra of the golden realm' had arrived to save me. Susie had it already in her plan that I would receive one of these wormy cuties. And if you ever met Susie, you knew she was not one to take no for an answer.

Kalevra - pronounced ka-lêv-ra. It is a Hebrew word meaning bad-dog (which he is not).

Weeks passed as Sue endured the duty of cleaning and bathing and cleaning, and cleaning and cleaning...for 9 healthy active Golden Retriever youth and a very tired mama dog. Until the day came, the 8 week mark, the moment of adoption and delivery of my new companion! I was beside myself with anticipation. I had in the past many k9 friends and been dedicated to canine behavior (and education), but right now, this place in my life, it may well have saved this old girl from moving on to that painless joyous place mentioned earlier.

It recently became clear to me that Kalevra has chosen to be a grief therapy dog.


All Images are protected by copyright 2010 K9keystrokes

SHopping is FUN and EASY with Knine Korner!
SHopping is FUN and EASY with Knine Korner! | Source

These wolf t-shirt designs are the perfect way to show your love for all things K9! Durable material, unique and powerful artwork of the wolf ancestors every canine on earth was created from. Click on any of the choices to see more designs!

Kal as a puppy-dog playing his favorite pull-toy.
Kal as a puppy-dog playing his favorite pull-toy. | Source
Kal as an adolescent dog, posing nicely on the dogs couch.
Kal as an adolescent dog, posing nicely on the dogs couch. | Source

Healer of Broken Hearts

...her husband who had suddenly passed away from a heart attack.

Now in my home this little bundle of golden joy grew with me day-in and day-out. He was constantly under foot and at my side. I still had a difficult time sleeping in the bedroom so I dozed on the couch night after night. Now, as an Animal Behaviorist, I know it's against the rules to have your dog sleep in/on the bed with you. It's a 'who's the boss' thing. But, when I would wake up and this warm soft thing would be curled up at my belly, his breath reeking of 'puppy' I couldn't resist the grab-and-snuggle reaction. As he grew week following week and month following month, this would be the way we lived. Until one night, I strolled into the bedroom and was able to crawl under the unused covers and sleep where I was supposed to.

"dogs sleep in their own beds, because I am the human and this is 'my' spot."

Sleep was a rare thing in those days, my mind could hardly slow to think, more or less to sleep. But this first night back in my own bed, alone, I did find some rest. Upon waking, this now 40+ pounds of canine was once again snug at my side, as he would be until this very day. For some this would present the problem, "dogs sleep in their own beds, because I am the human and this is my spot." Which as an animal expert I understand, but as a human with a wounded heart, I wouldn't recommend it any other way. Kalevra has been dozing next to me for over two years now, and with the help of his unassuming doggy heart, I have regained a measure of love again and feel okay. No matter how wrong this is from a behavioral standpoint, it feels just right.

He just sat there with her, listening to her...

We have our rumbles now and again, a nudge with my foot to gain leg room, or the yank of the covers that accidently rolls him off the bed and onto the floor. But, all in all he is very obedient and actually the best dog I have ever had. We communicate with eye contact and clicks and hisses and subtle hand gestures. He responds to me with hardly a required word. This connection of heart and soul with my k9 has diverted my attention giving me time to breath and find new human love and companionship, not to mention several really big grins!

Fireside Golden Retreiver sits loyally with his human friend.
Fireside Golden Retreiver sits loyally with his human friend. | Source

My Grief Therapy Dog Chose His Occupation

This amazing dog and I are so very entwined. It recently became clear to me that Kalevra has chosen to be a grief therapy dog. I discovered his 'calling', if you will one week in July. We went on a camping trip with some family and friends. Four of us were sitting around the campfire when one of the women began to talk of her husband who had suddenly passed away from a heart attack. As she was telling us the story of her loss, Kalevra got up from beside my chair and casually walked over to her. What happened next brought a tear to my eye, as well as a smile to my face.

When Kalevra got over to Cheryl, who was speaking of her loss, he backed up to her, wedged his bottom between her knees with his back still facing her, sat down and placed one paw on her knee and his head on her thigh. He just sat there with her, listening to her, connected with her emotions so much that as she told the story and as the sadness welled up, she couldn't resist leaning forward and hugging him tightly while he leaned back into her urging her to just hold him and she would be okay.

It took Cheryl and me, a moment to realize what was happening, she had never known this beast, she had not really even petted him or engaged with him at all on the trip. But, at that moment she felt him embracing her pain and offering his warmth and a shoulder to cry upon. He wanted nothing in return, no expectation of thank you, no desire for a treat, just unconditional love and compassion offered up to this new broken heart. I was moved and proud of him; now fully aware that my Golden Boy was a healer of broken hearts.

All photos protected by copyright 2010 K9keystrokes

I dedicate this video and this hub to my new cousin-in-law, Jake, who recently lost his K9-helper best friend "Rock" to illness.

WHAT YOU THINK REALLY DOES MATTER!

Has a dog ever helped you to feel better emotionally?

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