This story has three chapters, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Paul and I had been married about 10 years, petless. I had a corporate job, worked from home when I wasn’t traveling, and was managing the new work-from-home program throughout the country. It seemed like a good time to get a dog, so we began to consider it. We agreed on many things, such as the size (not too big) and that neither of us would bring a dog home until after we both agreed to a particular dog. What we imagined to be our future house rules included that he would be well-trained and would never be allowed on any furniture, especially our bed.
We didn’t like the idea of getting him from a pet shop, thus supporting puppy mills, so we looked elsewhere. One day, responding to a newspaper ad from a local family, I went to see a new litter of miniature snoodles, Schaunzer-poodles. I fell in love and wanted to bring a particular one home, but I remembered our agreement, so drove home to tell Paul about the puppy I wanted. His initial reaction was that he didn’t want any kind of terrier and it sounded like one to him. My response was, “don’t make me choose between you!” I couldn’t believe how strongly I felt for this little creature, not yet ours.
So, Paul and I returned together, and he got a chance to fall in love, too. When the puppies were born, the owners tagged each one with a name beginning with S. Ours was tagged Snickerdoodle. It took about a week of arguments before we could agree on his permanent name and this little 6-pound blondie became Saffron.
I’ve forgotten when we threw out the rules we’d made, but it wasn’t long until Saffron was invited to sit on any furniture he wanted. Maybe it was a couple of months before he was in our bed, too.
I loved the puppy classes and Saffron was so smart! By the time he was 20 pounds and two years old, I was taking him to training for pet therapy. We passed the test with flying colors. I could throw any food on the floor in front of him and tell him, “Wait!” and he wouldn’t touch it until I told him it was ok. Normally high energy and jumping all over the place, he learned to be quiet and still when we walked through a hospital or a nursing home.
After passing the test, we earned the right to purchase the red bandana that Saffron would wear when ‘working.’ We began to visit a local nursing home. I initially declined when we were invited to visit the Alzheimer’s unit. We visited the same nursing home once a week and I continued to say no to that request. Then, one day, a nurse told me that, although the people we were visiting appreciated our visit, people in the Alzheimer’s unit would appreciate it much, much more. So, one day, I said, “Yes.”
During our first visit to the Alzheimer’s unit, we entered and a patient started to talk to Saffron, laughing and telling him jokes. She paid no attention to me, only Saffron. We visited with her a while, then stopped to make the rounds and let others pet him. A week later, we returned for a similar visit. A nurse took me aside to say that the laughing woman was sullen and quiet during the week, talking and laughing only when Saffron was there. Somehow, Saffron reached a part of her that no one else could.
He traveled with us, whether by car or plane. His first flight was nonstop, in a soft-sided pet case stored under our seat, to San Francisco. That trip was successful, so we didn’t hesitate to fly him with us when we visited my son, Jack, in North Carolina. He also joined us when we traveled to France, via Germany, for a canal boat trip. When we landed in Germany, I identified him as a Schnauzer; in France, he was a poodle, of course. The French love dogs! He was allowed to go almost everywhere there, including all restaurants; however, he was not welcome in butcher shops and cathedrals.
Saffron’s pet therapy career lasted for about 10 years before the last chapter of his story, which is too sad to tell. His life added a enormous pleasure to our lives that is still a joy to remember.
Copyright © 2021