Katie Marsico is a proud mother of 3 human children— Maria, 5, C.J., 3, and Thomas, 18-months. She is also the happy guardian of several furry, finned, and scaled pets.
Marsico has happily written for Tails since its inception in 2000 and is the author of more than 60 children’s books. She works from home, which is located in Elmhurst, Illinois (though she hopes that address will one day be changed to a location in southwest Florida).
A Welcome Presence in the Waiting Room…
Chaos has defined my life even more than usual of late! It’s funny, though, how the oddest and seemingly unlikeliest scenarios remind me of why I treasure viewing the human-animal bond from a mother’s perspective.
Part of the chaos has been my three-year-old’s numerous doctor appointments. C.J. is both epileptic and autistic, and, for a few excruciatingly long weeks, we worried that he may have been struggling with something even more serious. Thankfully, this is not the case, but, as we waited to confirm the finer points of his diagnoses, I found myself sitting yet again in the waiting room of our pediatric neurologist at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL.
I’ve been there several times before, but this time something was different. The office was packed with children confined to wheelchairs, unable to speak, unable to move, and representing what I imagine are many of the medical conditions that strike fear into any parent’s heart. In watching these patients, I turned around and saw my son playing alongside them, and–though I normally fancy myself to be the “tough-as-nails/seen-it-all” survivor type, I felt sick. I am ashamed to admit that I had to turn away, and I actually wondered for a minute whether there was a lady’s room down the hallway that I could retreat to, someplace where I could bite down on my knuckles instead of screaming, reapply mascara, and try to appear braver and a better example of confident, collected motherhood than I felt.
While I contemplated this momentary escape, a boy and his family came into the waiting room. He must have been nearly a teenager and was wheelchair bound. I wouldn’t begin to guess at his exact medical condition, but it seemed fairly debilitating. At his side, though, was a Golden Retriever who was busily and happily working as a service dog. I cannot adequately explain how this animal’s presence changed the room. Children who had previously looked frustrated, frightened, and uncomfortable beamed; parents who were clearly exhausted and anxious let down their guard and broke from their worrying for a brief moment.
My son ran up to the boy with an ear-to-ear grin; I forgot where I was and why I hated being there so much. I only fleetingly spoke to the child’s mother about where and how she had gotten their service dog, and I didn’t want to let C.J. distract the “woof woof” (as he calls all canines) too much, since I realize this animal was doing a job the same way human beings do jobs every day. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but be awestruck by what wonderful and positive changes this Golden brought into so many peoples’ lives.
He undoubtedly aided his guardian, but he obviously gave him a sense of pride, as well. He broke down barriers in a room riddled with despair and tension at every corner. He allowed kids to be kids again–and not mere patients in a neurologist’s office. And, from my personal perspective, he gave me hope that even the saddest, scariest situations don’t have to be as bleak as they seem on the surface– thanks to our four-footed companions and all the love and compassion they embody.