Beliefnet
When a sheltie (Shetland sheepdog) chooses a human companion, he orshe will stick with the person through thick and thin. Some sheltiessee no reason to acknowledge the presence of anyone other than theirchosen person, except to warn them to keep away. So I was shocked whenone day my sheltie, Casey, joyfully ran over to an elderly couple hedid not know. He danced about them and cuddled up for their attention,ignoring me as I called for him to come back. After that incident, I began carefully watching Casey's behavior aroundother people. Casey didn't care for strangers who were in theirtwenties, thirties, or forties, and he even ran away from children. Butlet someone with gray hair walk by, and Casey ran to greet him or herenthusiastically. Since this was not typical sheltie behavior, I beganto think that maybe Casey was intended to accomplish something greaterwith his life. And maybe I could help him.

I contacted my church's nursing home and found out that they welcomedanyone, including dogs, to visit the residents. I felt confident thatCasey could brighten the day for many of the people at this facility,but I was uncertain how I could handle taking him there. Most of theresidents of this nursing home were Alzheimer's patients. How couldCasey and I communicate with them? I had been observing Casey become somuch more than his sheltie temperament dictated. I hoped that I, too,could step outside my comfort level and try to bring a little joy topeople in the nursing home who needed it. So I arranged for Casey andme to make our first visit to the elderly.

The minute Casey stepped into the nursing home, people greeted us withsmiles and laughter. Casey happily did his tricks for them.He stayed at the end of the hall until I called him, then camebarreling around past people in wheelchairs. Having this furry bulletbolt by made them laugh. He sat, laid down, rolled over, crawled,weaved through my legs as I walked, and caught his tennis ball. AfterCasey finished entertaining the patients, he wagged his tail, cuddledup, and listened to his elders, especially when they called him "prettydog." Casey accepted every hand that reached out to him with a friendlylick and a wag of his tail.

"He hasn'tsaid a word since he got here--until now!"
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  • The next thing I knew, people who couldn't tell where they were or evenwho they were began to glow with a light in their eyes and reminisceabout the dogs they had loved. When a nurse saw that one old gent hadstarted talking to Casey, she pulled me aside and whispered, "He hasn'tsaid a word since he got here--until now!"

    Someone else asked me to take Casey to a woman who was unable to movefrom her bed or even speak. As the woman petted Casey's head and hummedat him, I observed indications of a sharp and active mind behind herbright eyes. She happily responded to my questions with a smile and anod or an elegant wave of her hand.

    I left the nursing home that day feeling very grateful to Casey for thelesson he had taught me. I had been afraid to step outside theboundaries I had placed around myself and worried about how I wouldcommunicate with these people. But I learned that no one ever forgetsthe language of love. Casey and I continued visiting nursing homes foranother two years until Casey retired from this form of service.

    Casey and I would like to challenge you to step outside yourboundaries. We think that you1ll find the experience to be awesome!

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