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God spelled backward



"Haven't I seen you somewhere before? Yes! Yes! I have!"

Revco's head cocks as if he's trying to think of where his high-profile life may have collided with hers.

"You're on TV! Yes! Oh, I can't remember the name of your show, but yes! That's you!"

Revco probably doesn't understand, but his little tail wags enthusiastically anyway, happy to have the attention of his favorite resident in the dementia ward.

She's one of the happy ones, one who almost convinces you that losing touch with reality isn't so bad. She is still the teacher she was in her youth. When her students don't show up for their lessons, she happily follows the activities coordinator to watch classic movies instead. Maybe they'll show tomorrow; today is a stolen day off.

But not everyone is so lucky. One woman is crying every time we visit. She stops for a brief moment when she sees Revco, but it's only for a moment. When we ask if she'd like to say hello, she can't even answer, she's too busy sobbing. Still, for a brief moment, she was distracted from whatever nightmare she's living in.

Revco hops into the lap of a man I think is sleeping, leaned back in his chair. The tiniest change happens. We're all silent, holding our breath as his hand moves ever so slightly to stroke the soft fur. The little dog's eyes close, and I wonder if he knows he's providing loving contact this man may not have had in years. My awe is broken when I see Rev's little nose wiggle, and before I know it I'm lifting his face out of the man's cold breakfast. He's a sweetheart, but a dog's still a dog.

We move down the hall. Revco enjoys a ride on a rolling walker, hides under the coffee table when a large man with the energy of a child chases him (we distract him by singing "Happy Trails," his favorite song), sits nicely in the lap of a woman who's never participated in therapy-dog visits before because she's always been afraid of the larger dogs.

As our time is ending, we pass by the social room, where Revco is the center of attention.

"Oh, he's so regal!" My dog? The one who always poops somewhere terribly embarrassing on his walks?

"He's gorgeous, majestic." Majestic? Are they looking at the same 12 pounds of hyperactivity I am?

"He's dignified. So beautiful!" They've obviously never seen him dry himself off on the first person he finds after jumping out of the tub.

"Truly magnificent."

Well, that we can agree on. Revco can't leave until he finds his favorite, a thin woman who always buys special dog treats for his monthly visit. Each time she tells us the same story about the door-to-door poodle salesman who made rounds in her neighborhood.

"You didn't have one come by yours? Huh." She always sees us off with the words "Dogs are your best friend next to God."

I know what she means, but I like to think of dogs working next to a deity. It kind of makes sense when you think about it.

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