A TALE OF TAILS – MACBETH
In the middle of a big city, within the province of BC there sits a compound of buildings owned by the Pacific Assistance Dog Society. The compound is painted a hopeful and happy yellow and within it’s walls is where amazing stories begin. Stories of dogs helping and working with people: tales of tails. These tales of tails are full of hope, determination, hard work and love; it is here where the life and story of Macbeth begins.
A beautiful golden retriever mama dog named Faedra, had several litters of equally beautiful puppies, some of whom were named after PADS sponsors, weather and Shakespeare characters. Macbeth was born into the Shakespeare litter and soon showed himself to be as unlike his namesake as doggily possible. He was an extraverted, gentle, empathic and quietly subversive little pup and was placed with a wonderful puppy-raiser family, who lovingly and firmly guided his puppyhood education.
After a year of early schooling, Mac was brought to the PADS yellow advanced training centre and on that day, a PADS volunteer saw several puppies and their raisers struggling through tearful goodbyes as they relinquished the young dogs who had lived, worked, learned and played with these families for their entire first year of life. The volunteer’s heart broke for the dogs and their humans, but at the same time her heart filled with a profound gratitude for the incredible gift all the raisers had given to the world.
The volunteer herself was a graduate student in Psychology and had been a volunteer with PADS for a few years. Because of PADS, the volunteer began to dream of partnering with an assistance dog in clinical work with clients…but PADS had never placed a dog into a non-residential facility for work…and so the months went by with the volunteer playing, feeding and toileting all the dogs who were no longer with their puppy raisers, but who had become young adult dogs in advanced training to become Service, Hearing and Therapy dogs. That volunteer had, however, a favorite. It was the golden Mac, who would lean into her and gaze up at her with his liquid honey eyes.
What nobody realized yet, was that Mac had already made his choice. He bonded with that volunteer and made it clear over the months of advanced training, that he had chosen her as his person. He did well in class and moved forward in the program, but he was a different, happier dog when the volunteer came to the yellow compound. The PADS Trainers noticed, of course (because they notice everything), and began to test Mac in situations that were very chaotic and emotionally charged. He excelled and the trainers realized that he had indeed chosen a life of service… but one that was not focused on working with one handler; rather, he had chosen a life of service as a Therapy Dog (this was the original term and was changed to Accredited Facility Dog recently). A life of service working with that volunteer he loved so dearly.
And so Mac’s tale of a tail becomes much longer and larger than could have ever been predicted. In being paired with a practicing therapist in both hospice and university settings, Mac became the first PADS dog to ever work in a non-residential facility, the first full time therapy dog in a hospice setting anywhere and the first therapy dog in the world to work with a clinician in a university. For 11 years, Mac has touched literally thousands of lives and he is the longest working dog in the history of PADS.
Mac and his handler who chose this life of service with him, have worked together to change lives. They have quietly, behind the closed door of their office, saved lives of those who wished to die. One young man delayed his stepping in front of a train, so that he could see Mac one last time…Mac sat in the ER with that young man and then worked with him for years. Another student, hopeless and homeless allowed herself to trust that Mac would help her; he did. A boy terrified of dogs, learned to lie with his head on Mac and learned that a dog could be a friend. A traumatized child, shaking for days was able to quiet his body by breathing with Mac. He will paw and nudge at clients until they finally give in and let go… countless tears have soaked his thick coat. The numbers are astonishing and tell a story of great commitment and love for this clinical work: 1156 drop in visits, 5380 counselling sessions, 10950 meet and greets in gyms, arenas and events, 528 intensive sessions, 12 critical incident and disaster relief deployments and now hundreds of friends he has never met on social media, where he talks about mental health and wellness. These are the numbers behind the story of Mac, who doesn’t want to retire although he has been given several opportunities to do so.
Mac the golden PADS dog is now 13.5 years old, still happily and healthily working, still changing lives every single day, still loving the life he chose so many years ago. When he must eventually leave this life, hundreds will mourn, his handler will lose her partner and the first dog of her life, his friends and family will miss him for the rest of their lives. But that day has not yet come.
A huge life, a tale of a tail not yet over, that began in a yellow compound of hope.