to read my story. My dog is Forrest Gump. Both Forrest and I would like to join your club.
Thanks so much
Wednesday December 01, 2010
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. -- A pug, Forrest, shows nursing home residents that life really is like a box of chocolates.
Forrest Gump recently hopped into Syverson Lutheran Home, sharing kisses and inspiration with residents.
It was the first time the fawn-colored pug, owned by Karen Park, Syverson's activity director, had visited the home since losing one of his hind legs earlier this summer.
"Residents who had recent losses, such as an amputation or a stroke, especially related to him as we talked about how Forrest adjusted to his loss and ... how they too will adjust to their losses and limitations," Park said.
In one elderly gentleman who had suffered a stroke, she saw both hope and acceptance after he met Forrest.
"That was neat," said Park, who knows firsthand the unconditional love and acceptance animals give. In addition to Forrest, she has a 3-pound Yorkie mix named Ben and two birds.
Park adopted Forrest four years ago from the Eau Claire County Humane Association, where the 3-month-old pug had been surrendered by his former owner. Park fell in love with the puppy after driving him back to the shelter following a visit to Syverson, and he became part of her family after another person interested in the little dog pulled out.
"He was so little and cute," Park recalled. "I knew I just had to have him."
But she struggled with trying to find the right name for him, until she and friend Debbie Hong visited the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant in New Orleans, where they were helping with the cleanup in 2006, a year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city.
"I thought that maybe I should name my puppy Bubba Gump," Park said. "But then (I) thought that being named Bubba, he would be predestined to be a heavy pug, so (I) decided on Forrest Gump. Forrest for short."
Park could have lost Forrest on June 17. When leaving a friend's home, Forrest ran into the road and was hit by a car. Park, who didn't see the accident, believes her pug, who loves laser lights, was drawn to the vehicle's tail lights.
The driver of the vehicle that struck Forrest didn't stop, but Park was able to find Forrest because of his cries. She scooped him up and rushed him to Westgate Animal Hospital, where his left rear leg was amputated several days later.
"It was so tragic," said Park, who credited Dr. Duane Vollendorf, a veterinarian at Westgate, and the staff with helping her and Forrest through it all. "I watched him struggle and fall when he first has his leg amputated. Then he ... learned to balance again. He then learned to walk ... and, eventually, run and climb stairs."
Through it all, Forrest looked at her with all the love and trust he always had, but his struggles made her think about how we all struggle with losses in our lives.
"I thought about how Forrest had learned to make that little adjustment with his loss and how that is how we need to handle our own losses - by making the needed adjustment, so we, too, can have wonderful complete lives that may be different than before, but none the less wonderful," she said.
A saying that runs through the "Forrest Gump" movie, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get," seems to fit in Forrest the dog's case. Life dealt him a hard blow that left his future uncertain, but he fought back to make the best of it.
Park - with Forrest's help - has brought hope to the home, and she has seen people respond.
"He has definitely made a positive impact on the residents (at Syverson Lutheran Home) ..." Park said.
Colette Couillard, lead activity assistant at Syverson, a skilled nursing center that also provides short-term rehabilitative care, has no doubt Forrest has left his mark on residents there. After his accident, she gave one of the residents a card for Forrest and asked her to circulate it. When the card was returned, it was completely filled with get-well sentiments for the pug.
"I thought it was neat," said Couillard, a dog owner. "They didn't have to feel bad for that little dog, but they did."
And many residents asked about Forrest when Park returned to work.
Today, "Forrest can do almost everything he could do before - except he can't jump off furniture, and he tires more easily when taking walks," Park said. "But he has learned that all he has to do is look up at me with his little trusting and adoring eyes, and he knows that I am there to pick him up and carry him ... Isn't that what life is about?"