Introducing Phoebe, M.D.

s5000022.JPGI have a colleague who works with me at my clinic. Her name is Phoebe. She’s pretty small, with soft blond hair and dark eyes. Only about 12 pounds. She is an M.D. –Medical Dog, that is. Sometimes I call her my blond receptionist, but that’s just a joke between us. She knows she’s the only one in the building who is really an M.D. The rest of us are just Licensed practitioners of things like Acupuncture, Naturopathic Medicine, and Psychology.

What makes her an M.D.? Well, the other day my disabled neighbor fell and knocked herself out cold. Phoebe, who was the only one there to help, licked her back to consciousness. Since then we’ve called her a medical dog. When Phoebe was only 9 months old, this same neighbor who is also profoundly deaf was getting out of the shower and didn’t hear that someone was knocking on the front door. Phoebe, who happened to be visiting, took a hold of her bathrobe and led her all the way through the house to the door.

She helps my patients every day. Recently a man sat down in front of me and said “If only everyone in the world was like that dog of yours, and just loved me for who I am.” At which point he burst into tears. Phoebe, M.D., leapt into his lap and started licking away his tears. Which of course made him cry even more, but also made him smile.

Another time a woman came in who had just suffered a profound loss. She burst into tears, and as I held her hand, Phoebe, M.D. climbed up behind her and put her two paws on her back, (doggie reiki) and licked her ear every time it filled up with tears.

Another practitioner who works in the building says Phoebe is a magical dog. She said that all Phoebe has to do is cross a room, or even just bark, and her clients open up.

I think Phoebe is magical. She is magical because she is a dog, choosing to live among humans, and study their ways. Just as amazing as those humans who occasionally choose to live among wolves. Having dogs at work, in clinics, sitting around in cafes, reminds us that it’s okay to cross the invisible boundaries. The boundaries that say we need to stay separate from nature. From wildness. From difference. Having a dog wandering around in a health care setting tells people who are feeling distant that it’s okay to reconnect with the world

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