Monday, February 15, 2010
Mr. Sanders lives in a nursing facility with his cat, Boots. In addition to his other health problems, he has dementia and, as a result, has occasional memory lapses. Familiar faces, even family members become unrecognizable to him at times. One day the hospice home health aide was helping Mr. Sanders with his shower during a routine visit. On this day, as they walked back to his room, he became confused. Nothing looked familiar to him. The closer they came to his doorway, the more anxious Mr. Sanders became. He told the hospice aide this room couldn't be his, they had to be in the wrong place. Then, he saw his cat Boots and visibly relaxed. Yes, he told her, this was his room after all, because Boots was there.
This story is deeply touching to me, because I remember visiting patients just like this, patients who often wake up in an unfamiliar, frightening world, surrounded by people they don't recognize. In this instance, Boots was an anchor for Mr. Sanders in the midst of his fear. You see, Boots isn't just a cat, he represents "home" and all the safety and security that home should be. At our deepest level, we all need to know where "home" is. When our pets greet us faithfully at the door, day after day, they also anchor us to all that home should be--a place where we are loved and accepted...a place where we are welcome, even when it seems like we don't belong in the rest of the world.