Sunday, October 18, 2009

Red Ted, The un-Collie

“In Loving Memory of Care Bear, SCR No. 786, a therapy dog to many seniors, a true gentleman and friend to all.”
On the Collie Wall of Fame

As I looked through the Southland Collie Rescue website, I found my former foster dog memorialized on the Collie Wall of Fame. To me he was Red Ted. But to the 99 residents of the Sunbridge Care Nursing Home, he was Care Bear.

Teddy’s Story

I told the Oceanside shelter staff I would pick up their collie on Sunday afternoon, in order to give him the weekend to get adopted. When I arrived at the shelter at 4 pm, the last possible minute, there was a big sign on the front of his cage “HOLD FOR COLLIE RESCUE.” So of course no one adopted him. Worse, he wasn’t a purebred collie. Anyone else might have left him there, but I couldn’t do that to him after he’d lost an entire weekend of possible new homes. The shelter would have to euthanize him on Monday morning. But they didn’t, because he came home with me.

He looked sort of like a collie, with his beautiful white mane, white legs and plume of a tail. The blaze on his face was weird though. He had had a big spot in the center of his head, right between the ears. He reminded me of an Ibizan Hound. Come to think of it, he was the same color as an Ibizan too. He was a vivid red, like an Irish Setter, not a golden sable like a collie. Could he be the product of a puppy mill breeding gone wrong? I would never know. I named him Teddy, which soon morphed into Red Ted with the Spot on His Head.

Teddy’s favorite place in the world was on the couch and his favorite pastime was chasing rabbits in our back yard. He would dash out the back door and head straight for the hole in the fence where the bunnies tried to escape before the dogs could catch them. After several weeks, Teddy finally caught one, and he was so proud. I came out the back door and was horrified to see Teddy standing almost upright on his hind legs, wiggling from his head down to his tail in ecstasy, with a dead rabbit hanging from his mouth. A game of keep-away ensued, which Teddy won with ease. He ate every bite of that darn rabbit–even the feet, fur, and head. Ugh.

Red Ted gets a home

Sometimes it is hard to see them leave, and this was the case with Red Ted. I always comfort myself that the dog I’ve fostered is going to a place where he will get more love and attention than I can offer in my house full of animals. Teddy became the resident collie at Sunbridge, and like all the collies before him, he was renamed Care Bear. Susan Osborn, a staff member, explains that Ted/Care Bear is the only reason some residents want to get up in the morning.

Susan told me about Teddy’s life at Sunbridge. “He makes the world beautiful for so many people,” she told me, “ including staff, residents and their families.”

Teddy is part of the staff, and can go wherever he wants to in the facility. He wears a special collar that is the same as the one that Alzheimers patients wear. It buzzes an alarm if he goes out an exit door. This ensures his safety even if someone isn’t keeping an eye on him every second. He has his own health chart, just like the residents, where his meals, potty breaks and care are logged in every day. One staff member is responsible for him on each shift.

Ted senses who needs him most and often sleeps in the room of the sickest residents, comforting the families keeping watch over their loved ones. He enjoys watching the birds in the aviary, especially Dufus the cockatiel. There are treats for him in every office and it seems that everyone, even the staff members, thinks Teddy likes them best. He has his own bulletin board and it is updated regularly with photos of him with residents and visitors. When the marketing director takes visitors on a tour, Teddy goes along as an escort. He knows the route by heart.

Volunteers walk Teddy regularly, and some of the patients also get to walk him as part of their physical therapy. A sponsor pays for his care, and he gets a trip to the groomer once a month.

A good-hearted dog, Teddy always wagged his tail for everyone, even the mailman.
Teddy is gone now, and a new Care Bear has surely taken his place. But I fondly remember my foster un-collie, and the how he made so many people happy. There is a photo of Ted/Care Bear posted on the Collie Wall of Fame, where no one will ever forget him. He is shown relaxing on a couch, just like he did so often at my house.

Photos above: Teddy with a stuffed toy on my couch, and posing in the yard.
© 2009 All Rights Reserved Terry Albert

1 comment:

puppynerd said...

How sweet.
It's neat how the facility adapted the protocols it already had for managing residents to the dog.
I don't imagine that sort of thing would be practical in most situations, but here it's a great example of using what you have.