Bob the Basset Hound first came to the long-term facility where I work approximately 3 years ago. He was very calm, attentive, and loving. His master thought it would be nice for an affectionate dog such as Bob to give comfort to some of our residents. She could not predict how many people would eventually love Bob and be touched by him - including some residents who never professed an attraction to animals.
The residents looked forward to Bob's weekly visits. Some would feed him a biscuit, others would stroke him behind the ears, and some would just enjoy being near him.
When Bob was in the large community room, residents who tended to remain alone and detached would join with others in sharing his presence. For his part, Bob could only enjoy all this attention and crave even more. Even when Bob would fall asleep on a sunlit part of the floor, the residents would blissfully sit near and, perhaps, contemplate a wordless kind of love.
Eventually, Bob became sick and visited less frequently, and then came no more. Residents asked where he was and inquired about his health. They wanted to say goodbye.
Bob was brought in one late September day, a big heavy hound with droopy ears and a mournful expression on his face, as all Bassets have. He could scarcely move and had to be carried by two people.
The residents gathered around him and each spoke personally to him, some getting down to stroke his tummy and whisper in his ears. Finally, he was brought away.
As humans, we are always looking back as we depart, trying to understand and appreciate all that is left behind. But I think Bob only looked forward as he left us - anticipating his walks, his biscuits, the love and attention from all he knew, and the comfort of sleep.