There is so much that I would like to tell you about Barnabas, the therapy dog at the Ottawa Rehabilitation Centre. As a patient at the Rehab, I would often see posters in the halls advertising Barnabas's next visit. I had a very important question that no one seemed able to answer for me and that was – “What is a therapy dog?”
One Monday afternoon, I decided to go and find out for myself. I went to the recreation office and my wife and I met Paula (Barnabus's handler). She introduced us to Barnabas and while she was explaining the purpose of the animal therapy program, my questions were all answered the minute I saw Barnabas. He came over to me and he looked at me and in his big brown eyes he said “... I understand what you are going through. I know you are confused, hurt and do not know what lies ahead for you. I am here to help you any way I can. You can talk to me and I will listen. I can visit you and put a smile on your face. I can sit next to you and we can become best friends. I can and I will help you how ever you want me to.”
From that moment, a bond was formed. Barnabas had a job to do and he knew how to do it well. I looked forward to seeing Barnabas every Monday. I would come and visit him and most of the time, he would sit next to me lay his head on my leg, let me pat him all the while talking to him. It would break my heart when it was time to leave and return to my room.
When I left the Rehab, I would often schedule my appointments for a Monday so I could drop in and see Barnabas. He became a true friend and he always seemed so happy to see me. I am sure I told Paula more than once I would love to take Barnabas home with me. In a way, I did take him home as he found a permanent home in my heart and he will live forever in my memory. I can honestly say without a doubt that Barnabas provided me with the greatest therapy and his love, caring and devotion to help one and all was a huge assistance in my healing process.
When summer vacation was over, I returned to visit Barnabas. Paula told me Barnabas was sick and he had an operation. The last time I visited him, I could tell he was not feeling well. He looked at me with his big brown eyes and he seemed to say "... forgive me if I do not seem like myself today." His dedication to his job as a therapist was still evident and even though he was in pain, he still provided me the great friendship we shared.
As we celebrate the memory of Barnabas, he shall be missed by every one. His memory will never be abandoned as he touched every one who met him. I was so sad when I found out Barnabas had died. His void will be felt by all. In him memory, I recently got myself a dog. She sits with me for hours and I tell her about Barnabas. She looks at me and seems to say “... I hope I can be a dog, half as good as he was.”