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Do Our Four-Legged Family Members Bring Out the Best in Us?


I get off the elevator and reach for the hand-sanitizing dispenser. I can’t get enough of that white foamy, germ killing stuff. My hand keeps hitting the dispensing button almost like a nervous twitch.

To say I am uncomfortable would be an understatement.

I Don’t Want to Be Here

I follow my parents' direction as we pass by the medical equipment showing everyone on the floor’s heart rate.

My dad leads us down the wrong hallway and gets angry with himself as if he is the hospital tour guide and should know better.

A few minutes later, we arrive at the right room.

There she is.

My grandma, the only surviving grandparent I have left.

She looks frail, tired but is happy to have visitors.

Her thin legs are being squeezed by compression tights to reduce swelling. Even though they are helping, these tights are a huge fashion faux pas.

The Grandma Exam

We make eye contact and I see the joy that comes over her knowing that I am there.

She begins to pepper me with questions about my business, social life, living situation, money and of course dating prospects.

Then she wonders if I could sneak one of the dogs in to visit her.

A chat about Bella, DiDi and Toby (my dogs) brings an immediate smile to her face even though the nurse is poking, prodding and yet again asking her to repeat her name.

Cold Noses Make Life Warm 

The sun is beginning to set over the gray hospital buildings.

I peek at my cell phone to see what time it is. Although it is a Sunday, I feel the urge to check my email or jump on Facebook AKA hide from the situation in front of me.

I decide not to.

Despite what my grandma has said in the past, about wanting to join my grandfather in heaven, she is scared. Her hands fidget and she tells the nurse that she never wants to be back here.

All she wants is for the nausea and shortness of breath to go away. Also, she wants to see those furry poodle faces at her bedside.

Like my grandfather was, my grandma is a magnet for animals. In their 60 plus years of marriage, their house became home to horses, birds and many dogs.  It didn’t matter whether the dog was a stray or from a breeder, all kinds were welcome.

With grandma stable and wanting to take a nap we leave the hospital.

Risky Business

The next day it is determined by doctors, my grandma, my father and his siblings that she will undergo a procedure to help her condition vastly improve.  

Although she is 89 years old, the chances for success outweigh the risks. However, there are still risks and the reality of the situation bears down.

Bring All of The Family

The evening before the procedure, I call my grandma in the hospital. In the 90 seconds that our conversation lasted, she tells me how nervous she is. The idea of her life slipping away is terrifying her.

Then she tells me to visit and bring Toby (the smallest of my dogs at 25 pounds) with me to visit. She reasons that he is not too big so maybe the hospital won’t mind.

When I suggest that the hospital could say no, she cuts me off and says, “Do some research.”

Before we hang up she pleads with me to visit. I promise to do just that.

Nothing is more important than the loved one (four legged and two legged) in front of your face. Nothing!

I have already inquired about bringing Toby to visit grandma in the hospital.

Tomorrow, I hope to bring him to grandma’s bedside and remind her that she has a lot more living to do with all of her family members.

By Margot Ahlquist, creator of Paws to Talk. Dogs don’t overcomplicate life so why should we? Join the pack of hundreds living happier lives at




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