Nobody Missed Him More

by Academy of Clinical Excellence on September 10, 2013

Looking up into my eyes, she smiled and slobbered all over my outstretched hand.  “Easy, Lucy,” Sandy said, chuckling.  “She gets so excited when folks come over to visit.”  She was a beautiful dog—a Boxer by breed, six years young.  Her fur was milk chocolate brown and glossy, with a slick sheen from head to toe.  Her bright red tongue dangled out from the side of her mouth as she sat there panting, feeling the effects of the excruciating Baltimore summer heat.

“She’s our baby,” Sandy continued, “but there ain’t no one she follows around like she does Bob.”  Bob smiled as he leaned forward on his La-Z-Boy chair, his dreadlocks dangling down across his face like the branches of a weeping willow.  “Does she sleep in your bed at night?” I asked him. “She sure does,” he replied, “right at the foot of the bed, and we get up together each morning to take a walk.”

“As hard as it was for me while Bob spent that month in the hospital,” Sandy said, shaking her head back and forth slowly, “wasn’t nobody who missed Bob more than that dog right there.”  I nodded and looked toward Lauren, the senior medical resident who accompanied me on this home visit.  In the hour we had been speaking with Bob and his mother, we had learned that, in just a few years, he had gone from a healthy, independent young man in his late twenties, living on his own and working with kids in a group home, to a 30 year old patient with Multiple Sclerosis, Type II Diabetes, and the memories of a nearly fatal bout with Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura that landed him in the ICU for the entirety of January.

“She paced all around this house, whimpering and whining, missing her man,” Sandy recalled.  “Lucy just didn’t know what to do with herself.  But when Bob got back home—well, she was as happy as can be and hasn’t left his side since.”

Bob whistled to Lucy, who got up and trotted over to his chair, her tail wagging with expectation.  “Wanna go outside, girl?” Bob asked and went to the back of the house to unlatch the screen door.  We watched as Bob joyfully strolled with Lucy to every corner of the backyard, a huge grin on his face all the while.  We talked some more with Sandy and then I heard the screen door slide open and saw Lucy jauntily bouncing back towards the living room.  Lucy turned in my direction and lay down on the rug, lifting her front left leg so that I could rub her belly.  She gave me a pleading glance and I succumbed to her wishes for an under-arm massage.  Bob smiled broadly and remarked, “You like dogs, huh?”  “I do,” I said as Lucy groaned happily. 

We chatted for some time until the clock struck 3:30 and Lauren and I said it was time for us to head back to the clinic.  We shook hands with Bob and his mom and gathered our things to go.  I took a look at Lucy and thought how fortunate her presence was, not just for this home visit in providing a means to connect with Bob and his mom on a more intimate level, but also as a source of strength in Bob’ circle of support.  When I look at Lucy, I think of her story as a stroke of luck in maintaining a calming and therapeutic presence in Bob’ life, a life that has been and will continue to be filled with obstacles and illness.  It’s always hard to know which relationships in a patient’s life will make a difference in how they cope with difficult circumstances.  Yet whatever amount of solace Lucy provides to Bob, it was a relief to me as his physician to see that there is something that brings him a sense of purpose and some measure of contentment, if only for a few moments at a time. 

“I’m really looking forward to being your doctor these next few years,” I said to Bob, “and I can’t wait to hear more about Lucy the next time I see you.”  “Me too,” Bob said as we both looked at Lucy, her head resting against Bob’ leg as she sat quietly by his side.

By Anat Chemerinski and Jason Liebowitz

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Zeide September 15, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Heart warming and meaningful. Terrific!

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