I just got an e-mail
that a little old lady needs a therapy dog,
so I call the phone number
and speak to the daughter
who herself sounds elderly.
Her voice is all trembly
She is taking care of her 94-year-old mother.
She says she’s tired all the time.
She’s sorry she sounds tired;
she was taking a nap when I called
she was up half the night
her mother had diarrhea
and she had to stay awake
to keep her mother cleaned up.
Her mother is very clean.
Her mother is her life, she says.
She says, the last person who called
had a Rottweiler
but that was way too big a dog.
I said, I have a big dog too,
but although she’s about 90 pounds
she’s a Golden and
gentle as spring rain.
Oh, she says, oh, that’s big.
She has a big heart, I say.
Does she lick? she says,
my mother doesn’t like to be licked.
I say, she kisses,
yes she does,
Oh she won’t like that, she says.
I ask, did your mother
have dogs when she was younger?
She says, not that she knows of
but she did find a picture of her
once, a long time ago with
a tiny little dog.
Maybe seeing a dog
would be good for her,
she didn’t know, it might not
even have been her dog.
I say, my dog isn’t tiny
and she does lick
but she makes people happy,
but some people don’t like dogs.
You should know that not everyone
wants a dog near them.
My mother is my life, she says,
She has some help during the day, she says,
but really it’s up to her.
I say, look here, I have to go away for a week.
Why don’t you take my e-mail?
I don’t have a computer, she says.
I say, okay then, take down my name
and phone number
and think on it while I’m away.
Call me when I get back
We could just give it a try, I say.
I took care of my mother too, I say.
You took care of your mother? she says.
Yes I did, I say.
She is speaking louder now and faster.
I think that this is the lady who needs
the visits from a therapy dog.
The last place she called said a therapy dog was
$150 per hour for two hours, she says
and she tells the guy
that her mother can’t take two hours of anything
but he says that even if it’s 20 minutes
it’s still $150 for two hours.
I say, our organization is all volunteer.
No one has to pay for a therapy dog visit.
I would love to come visit with my dog, I say.
She says she’ll think on it.
Big dogs are a problem
and then there’s the licking,
her mother won’t like that,
she’s a clean woman, she says.
I said that’s okay.
You just think about it
and give me a call.
She says, you really took care of your mother?
Yes, I did, I say.
My mother is my life, she says.
Still, I say, still
you could take a little break,
have a cup of tea,
read a magazine,
if your mother decided she liked
to spend some time with my dog and me.
My mother is very hard of hearing;
you should know that, she says.
At 94, few of us will have good hearing, I say.
I just don’t know, she says.
I’m so tired, I can’t hardly think.
Did you find you got really tired? she says.
Yes, oh yes I did get tired, I say.
I hope this would be good for my mother
but I just don’t know, she says,
the dog is so big.
Big dog, big heart, I say.
She licks, though, she says,
I wish she didn’t lick.
Is there parking around her place? I ask,
Oh yes, she says, that’s not a problem.
She has a house.
She’s lived here fifty years;
been in the same house fifty years.
How wonderful that
she can stay in her own house,
because of your care, I say.
I just wish your dog were small,
she says, and didn’t lick.
Dogs lick, even tiny dogs lick, I say,
it’s one way they get to know a person.
My mother’s a very clean woman,
I’m sure that’s true, I say,
cleanliness is good.
So, you took care of your mother,
Yes, I say, it can make you tired.
You think about it while I’m gone,
I say, I understand if you prefer to wait
for a tiny dog
like the one in the picture.
I’ve never myself known a dog
who didn’t lick, I say.
I’ll call you when you get back,