Lilo and I both started at the Hydro round about the same time. She came in with osteoarthritis in multiple joints and a huge smile on her face.
Lilo was one of those patients who never failed to make my day – and sometimes, even my week. Although she was very sore and stiff she would waddle in carrying her own lead and if Dr Tanya’s dogs had left their toys lying around she was very quick to pick them up. About a year into her treatment I became Lilo’s therapist and I saw her for her sessions, twice a week, at the Hydro. She would start my mornings off with a bang. Always eager to be in the water even though the price was exercise. She would walk in the underwater treadmill and at her second session of the week she would have a swim. Most dogs will do just about anything you ask of them, as long as a tasty food bribe is involved, but Lilo only needed her lead in her mouth (a treat did also help – every now and then).
As is often the case, the patient becomes the teacher, and Lilo was always a teacher for me. No matter how hard it was for her to just stand, she never, ever gave up. My conversations with Faith (Lilo’s devoted human mommy) was my therapy for the week and our friendship bloomed around Lilo’s magical soul.
Lilo became a case study for me when I start on a new qualification and in the process she helped me not only learn, but to trust myself as a therapist. I will always be grateful for the many hours we spent in therapy together. As time progressed Lilo could no longer cope with the physical aspect of our sessions and the exercise was just too much for her to bear. Faith, who would move mountains for Lilo, allowed her to still come twice a week but this time for full body massages. Not many people are as lucky as Lilo was.
I will never forget our last massage. Lilo was struggling and she was tired. She had completed her journey in our world and was ready to move onto her next chapter. She came for her massage in the morning and a final goodbye, by lunchtime she had crossed over the rainbow bridge. I cried throughout that entire session and we passed the tissues between all of us. It was a bitter-sweet moment but one I’ll forever cherish: having that final, precious goodbye.
Lilo, particularly, taught me the lesson of letting go and moving on. Her life showed me that we get to a time in life when we have done all we have needed to do and that there comes a time to let our soul move on. When I first started working as a rehabilitation practitioner I struggled with saying goodbye, but now I see it as gift. The fact that I can be there, holding a paw and a hand, while souls move forward brings me peace.
Thank you beautiful Lilo for helping me grow.