A couple of years ago, ElderDog was honoured to support Valerie with the care of her senior dog, Sandy. When it became apparent that Valerie’s illness was terminal, she made arrangements with ElderDog for the long-term care of beloved Sandy. Although Valerie was too sick to care for Sandy prior to entering hospital, she longed for his presence. Enter Rosie, who not only welcomed 15-year old Sandy into her home, but regularly took Sandy to visit Valerie both at home and in hospital until Valerie’s final days. Until last week, Sandy enjoyed a beautiful life with Rosie and her other senior Elder Dog, Ry–two ageing Cocker Spaniels living life to the fullest. Sandy passed away just days in advance of his 17th birthday.

According to Rosie, Sandy adapted miraculously well to his new environment and whole new way of life. He became an independent dog–in spite of being partially blind–enjoying free access to an enclosed outdoor space through a dog/cat door, picnics at the beach, and sedate walks. He co-existed very amiably with his new furry family and, especially, his companion, Ry. As the story goes, when Sandy was much younger, he used to sing along to Country and Western Music–a practice he continued even without music! Several times each day he would spontaneously lift his whole body and break into song. And ,just before he slipped away into sedation, he managed to perform his swan song.

In January, 2019 Rosie wrote this touching story after what would be her and Sandy’s last hospital visit with Valerie before she passed away. In Rosie’s words:

We have just returned from possibly our last visit at the hospital with Valerie, Sandy’s beloved owner, It is only a matter of days now, but with her little boy curled up beside her on the bed, Valerie could feel his kisses and body rolling and snuggling up against hers. Their reunion was a happy one of loving recognition for them both and the words I heard Valerie speak most clearly, in relation to Sandy were “love, love, love”.

Several weeks ago when we went to visit Valerie, we left the room at one point in order for her to receive care. As we entered the hallway, a family in the opposite room beckoned us in. Their mother was dying; she was unconscious and these were her final hours. She had always been a dog-lover and the family wanted her to feel some sense of his presence. I asked if they would like Sandy up on the bed with her, to which there was an immediate “yes”. And somehow, when I did that, relief lightened the veil of intensity in the room.

As soon as I put Sandy on the bed, he curled up in front of his patient, as if knowing innately that this was exactly what was needed for everyone. He just lay there with such gentle quiet and acceptance. The woman’s sisters sat on either side of her and one of them placed her hand on Sandy’s soft fur, talking to her all the while about the beauty of this dog and how she had always loved them. The emotion in the room was palpable; there were tears and endless words of gratitude for the gift this 16-year old Cocker Spaniel was giving unconditionally to everyone. He brought love, tenderness, levity, generosity and absolute trust to a room of sorrow.

It just goes to show …… it’s never too late to be a therapy dog. Sandy is a gift that just keeps on giving. How fortunate I am that now he curls up beside me.

Sandy has now been reunited with Valerie and is sorely missed by Rosie and Ry.