Going to the retinal doctor’s* office has always been emotionally taxing. Upon walking in the door, I am embraced by the overwhelming pall of depression, fear and despair, broken by the occasional glimmer of hope or relief by someone who has just received a ‘good’ report. Patients, usually with someone there to support them, sit with their heads down, looking at the floor, or with their nose to their Kindle. Even Rainie tends to become subdued by the general demeanor of the office.
But things quickly change once people become aware that there is a dog in the room. As we walk in, the medical assistants will often call out, “Hello Rainie! How’s my girl!” Upon hearing this, heads raise and smiles begin to form. As I take a seat, the questions begin: “What kind of dog is she?”, “What does she do for you?”, and, invariably, “May I pet her?” – which I allow.
I can feel the collective dread melt as the ‘dog stories’ and memories are shared; and some of these stories are recalled from ‘long-ago’ since I am usually the youngest in the room. As the often-fragile arms reach out, Rainie will approach and ‘greet’ those who are willing, sometimes resting her head in their laps. The fears associated with vision-loss are replaced by brightness.
Even the doctor says that the office really needs a dog.
*Retinologists are physicians who specialize in treating disorders of the back of the eye – the retina. Most of their patients are being seen for diseases such as macular edema, retinopathy, glaucoma, detached retina, or other severe vision issues. I have been being checked for diabetic eye changes (diabetic retinopathy is one of the major side effects of long-term diabetes) since I the mid 1970s. The emotions in each office I’ve ever been to have been the same.