By Guest Blogger Lisa O'Neill of Angels of Assisi
From the ages of 7 to 18, I spent every summer with my grandparents in Philadelphia. My grandmother would plan educational trips for me- museums, the art institute, and day trips to Valley Forge. I would go to lunch with the ladies, learned about what fork to use when (start from the outside in!) and other etiquette rules that I suppose have me a more well rounded person. My grandmother was a true lady who literally showed me the world- she certainly had her work cut out trying to form me into a respectable adult, and I probably taught her something about patience and perseverance along the way.
Meanwhile, my grandfather, a podiatrist, worked. He had an office at home, an office in the city, and he made house calls to seven different nursing homes. Besides an occasional Phillies game, Dr. Mason did not have any hobbies except for work. He left early in the morning for his office in the city, stopped at a nursing home or two on the way home, and then had appointments in the home office after dinner.
When I was about 8, he started letting me help in the home office- sweeping toenails, cutting gauze, cleaning the sink and chair in between patients. Sounds crazy, but I was in heaven. Choosing between a ladies lunch and a day in the office working was a no brainer for me- bring on the toenails, and lots of 'em.
Over the next few years, I graduated to the city office and nursing home house calls as well. Duties included the never-ending toenail cleanup, instrument sterilization, bandaging, and Medicare forms. We fell into a comfortable routine; he would do the necessary medical work, and then go on to the next patient leaving me to clean up. As we both got older, I was the bag carrier (that big black doctor's bag started getting heavy for a 73 year old man) and official driver. Letting me drive allowed him to take a nap in the back seat, and he trusted me enough to do so.
My grandpa taught me a lot of things- how to drive in the city, how to fill out a medical form, the meaning of a good work ethic. But what I really learned from him was how to treat people, especially older people. We treated a wide variety of patients. Some were from very affluent homes filled with Lladro and art collections, diamond rings sparkling on gnarled fingers, and 24 hour nursing care.
On the other end of the spectrum, we also went to the inner city public aid nursing homes. I remember walking in and finding our patient sitting naked in a child's highchair, soiled and stripped of all decency. The stench in these places was terrible- especially with no air conditioning in the summer.
The thing about my grandpa was that he treated all these folks the same- with an everlasting smile and genuine happiness to be treating them. An awesome whistler, he would play 'Name That Tune" with his patients during an uncomfortable procedure. He would gossip with the ladies and tease the hired nursing help. When we found the naked lady in the high chair, he pulled her out, put a gown on her and settled her in bed, all the while telling her about the highlights of the baseball game from last night. I'm not sure if she cared about the game or not, but it distracted her from the embarrassment of what was happening. When he finished the story, she was covered and comfortable- both mentally and physically.
I guess it is due to these experiences that I am really comfortable and enjoy being around older people. I like them. And I as I get further and further into the animal rescue world, this has translated into a deep fondness for older animals as well. The gray muzzles, cataract covered eyes, and creaky joints are all part of the old souls that have put up with us humans through the good and bad.
At Angels of Assisi, we are lucky to have sponsors and donations to help cover the cost of caring for some of these senior pets in our adoption center. Older animals can and do get adopted into loving homes.
Snowball was over 10 when he went to his new family. Since he is in a home environment his inner kitten has emerged and he is not the grouchy old guy we knew when he was caged.
Rosie was rescued when her family lost their home. One of our volunteers had just lost her senior dog and saw Rosie a few days later. As a tribute to her dog, the volunteer took Rosie in as a foster, and has since adopted her.