Shalom Sakel’s Mr. Oscar
Story submitted by owner, Toni Leah Bush
I am the proud mother of two mastiffs that work with me in a long term care facility for ventilator-dependent patients. Oscar has shown affinity to work with patients that have come to us with devastating head injuries. Many of these individuals are in a vegetative state.
10 months ago, we received a young man who had been the victim of a violent mugging that left him neurologically devastated. It was so sad and his parents were going through the stages of mourning. It was hard to be objective and make it out of that room without tears.
When I work, I bring Oscar one day and Ali the next, so they take turns. The second day this young man was in the facility, Oscar came to work. His routine is always the same. He goes through the door to the unit and begins checking each room and each patient. Everyone refers to them as “mastiff rounds”. This time, when he came to this young man, he stopped. He put his foot on the side rail and looked to me to lower it. I lowered the rail and Oscar put his face next to this young man’s face. Although Oscar checked on his other patients throughout the shift, he kept returning to the bedside to lay his head next to Ron’s (not his real name). He had not done this before, but I didn’t question what the dogs do with the patients, since they seem to know intuitively what each patient needs. This routine continued each time Oscar came to work for about 3 months.
Then one day I was caring for Ron’s airway and Oscar was positioned nose to nose with Ron. I saw a slight movement out of the corner of my eye and to my surprise, Ron was smiling! I almost fainted, but I kept what I thought I saw to myself. I did not want to raise hopes until I was sure it wasn’t just a reflex. Oscar continued his care and a month later, as Ron was sitting in a geriatric chair, he moved his right hand. This time other people were there to see it. The next morning Oscar and I sat down with Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, the physician and the facility director to plan a rehab program. Over a long period of time, Oscar brought this young man back. The first words spoken were, “Osc love me.”
Ron learned to walk with assistance, using aids began to feed himself, and as long as Oscar was there to cheer him on, he slowly learned to perform activities of daily living. To make a long story short, he walked out to the car today and went home with his parents. He still has many challenges, but I have no doubt he will make it. Oh, yes, he is going home to a mastiff puppy named Oscar. So tonight, when you have a conversation with God, mention Ron, and ask God to watch over him.
It was difficult to say goodbye, but I know little Oscar will take good care of him. I just thought you all might enjoy another account of the way our babies serve humankind.