Commitment. What an old-fashioned word!
I think we all can agree on the definition: a pledge, that’s what it’s supposed to be… a firm undertaking to do something or other.

So, at what point did “if I feel like it, maybe” get added on?

This bit of wondering comes on the heels of a phone call, just now, from the Occupational Therapist at a local nursing home. The person who had committed to visiting the old folks tonight, with her therapy dog, has decided to blow off the old folks and catch a movie with her new boyfriend instead.

Honestly, I’m absolutely floored by this.

Therapy dog visits are scheduled a year in advance, with a reminder email sent out the week before, so it’s not like it comes as a surprise.

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And this person has only committed to one nursing-home visit a month. You’d think you could work a date in around that, wouldn’t you?

Especially on a Thursday.
For one hour.

And it’s not like the boyfriend is about to be shipped off overseas in the morning, either — he’s a civil servant, for pete’s sake, and last time I looked they did have weekends off.

Now, usually we travel in teams of three or four dogs and their handlers. In this case, it’s a small nursing home and only one dog is booked in to appear. So, when the scheduled visitor decided to bail at the last minute, she knew there were no other dogs booked in to go instead.

Meanwhile, the old folks always start gathering in their TV lounge a good hour before the appointed dog visit time, peering out the windows and bugging the attendants to dash out into the parking lot and take a look…

Some of the residents have Alzheimers, or other types of dementia, so the poor attendants tend to be asked the same questions every 38 seconds: “Are they here yet? Are the puppies coming?”

You can see why the Occupational Therapist who phoned me was, well, somewhere in that shaky queasy area where distressed meets royally pissed-off!

Want to try explaining to a room full of eager senior dog-lovers that they will have to miss their once-a-month dose of furry love? Watching Jeopardy is no substitute.

So, I’m about to wind up work early for the day, here, and gear up the therapeutic greyhound, and go step up.

It means the end of my hope to do a little late-day gardening, and a quick sandwich instead of the lovely roast chicken supper that I’d planned, and a hour’s round-trip to town that was not planned at all — but in joining the therapy dog program, I made a commitment.

I can do my gardening later; I can see a movie any time; but for those lonely seniors who are longing for the press of a happy wet doggie nose against their thin old hands, time is not unlimited. Each visit, familiar faces are missing from the circle. Each visit, a formerly sharp mind has lost its way in memories…

The commitment, really, is not to a time and place, but to these people.

No, I don’t resent being called to fill in. Because, all too soon, I’m likely to be one of them.

Instead of walking joyfully in the spring sunshine with my dogs, I’ll have my face pressed up to a nursing home window, watching hopefully for someone to bring a furry friend to visit.

But you’ll forgive me, won’t you, if I’m just mean-spirited enough to hope that someone chokes on her movie-theatre popcorn?

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