Incredible Mister Hans, nonfiction

Nurse Hans

Did you know that dogs have been trained to sniff out cancer? Assistance dogs can be trained to alert their owners when they are going to have a migraine, or a seizure. Dogs are even used to warn diabetics when they need insulin. 

Hans would have been great at doing any of those things. He really cared for people, which is an important personality trait in an assistance dog.

I first noticed how much Hans cared when he was a pup. The first time I sneezed, he ran up to me as if I was dying. He made a big fuss of me and carefully sniffed my face to make sure I was okay. He continued to check on people when they sneezed for the rest of his life.  

He woke me one night to take him out to the toilet when he was about three months old. I was tired and I tripped walking down the stairs, twisting my ankle painfully. Even though he was desperate to go outside, Hans carefully sniffed my ankle and then licked my face, not leaving me until I stood up and hobbled to the back door to let him out. 

He was very aware when people were in pain, and any grunt or sound of discomfort would cause him to seek out the person to sniff them thoroughly and offer comfort. 

As he grew older, emotional distress also triggered his nurturing instinct. 

I didn’t realize how much I relied on him to help me control my emotions until he was gone. It was one of the many ways that his death left a huge hole in my life which left me struggling to manage without him. 

I have a lot of fear and anxiety and often feel threatened by things. Hans would always be there, pressing his body against mine and pushing his head under my hand to let me know I didn’t have to be afraid. His size and strength gave me a lot of reassurance. I knew he would protect me if I was ever in real danger. 

Depression meant I’d often be overwhelmed. When I was sad, Hans would press his face against mine and lick my eyes. If I hid my face behind my hands or under a blanket, Hans would push the barrier away until he could get at my face and offer comfort. 

Unfortunately, I often get really angry. Hans helped me manage this so well that I didn’t realize it was a problem until he was gone and I found myself overwhelmed with emotion.  Whenever I’d start to get angry, Hans would whine and do a silly dance, trying to get my attention. Usually I’d look at him, wonder what he was doing, then figure out he was trying to calm me down and that would stop me in my tracks. If I ignored him, he’d stand up so he could look me in the face and force me to look at him. Not only would this work because he’d make me realize I was letting my emotions get the better of me, but I also hated to see him upset. 

However, it wasn’t just me who he looked out for. I encouraged my sister to test his caring nature by covering her face and pretending to cry. After a few seconds he ran over to her, tried to push his nose behind her hands and licked her face. 

He never knew my mother before her final illness, but that didn’t stop him from loving her the moment he met her. He was very influenced by how I reacted to things, so I can’t discount the fact the way I treated my mother tipped him off that she was someone important who had to be looked after. However, he seemed to know that she was unwell and needed to be treated with lots of tender loving care. 

My mother had dementia but necrosis of the muscles around her hips and lower back meant she couldn’t walk and had mobility issues. She needed help doing everything and she was often confused about where she was and who she was with, as if she was caught in a waking dream. 

Unfortunately, being unable to walk didn’t stop my mother from getting restless at night like many people with dementia. Shortly before I helped my family care for her, she had fallen out of bed and injured her wrist. After that rails and protectors were added to the sides of her bed so she couldn’t fall out at night. 

I’d only been in the house a few nights when Hans woke me up desperate to go outside. After the age of four months, Hans never had the need to go outside during the night, so I was very surprised that at almost two years of age he had the urge to go. He whined and scrabbled at the door, trying to turn the round door knob, which was also very unusual for him. If he wanted to get me up he would first sniff my head and then stick his head under the covers and nudge my feet. He knew my feet had to move first if I was going anywhere. 

I’m afraid I was tired and thought he was playing up so I ignored him, hoping that he’d go back to sleep. He grew more frantic trying to open the door, so I thought he must be about to burst and begrudgingly got up. 

He ran straight downstairs, not to the garden door, but to my mother’s room and rushed over to her bed. She was awake, had wriggled down the bed and somehow managed to squeeze herself between the foot of the bed and the end of the metal rail. She was safe, but given more time she would have fallen out and hurt herself.  

I woke my sister, and we got my mother settled comfortably back into bed. When she was safe, I took Hans outside, but he didn’t need to relieve himself at all. He had heard my mother and wanted to go to her rescue. 

Each morning he’d run into my mother’s room, put his paws on the side of the bed and greet her. He did that first thing, as soon as we went downstairs, before going outside or eating his breakfast. He loved my mother and would lie at her feet guarding her when she sat in her chair. I’ve heard that dogs are often afraid of wheelchairs, but Hans loved when my mother was in her wheelchair because it brought her eye level with him. Because of her limited mobility she found it difficult to pet him, but he always got a good pat when she was in her chair. On the few occasions we took her outside to see the garden, Hans walked protectively beside the wheelchair. He was strong enough to pull the wheelchair with someone in it, which I loved. Sometimes I’d sit in the chair, hold onto a tug toy and get Hans to pull me around the room. He loved the game and thought it was great fun. 

I’ve no doubt Hans could have sniffed out diseases and alerted me to them, if I taught him how to read the appropriate words or sign them. Whenever my mother had an infection or internal bleeding, Hans did act differently, but there was no way he could explain it to me. I’d only realize that he’d known before I did when the symptoms became obvious. 

I had full faith in him diagnosing me, and I paid attention when he sniffed any part of my body with great attention. If I had wounds, he liked to monitor them. I don’t know how he did it, but if I had a cut, he was able to stop the bleeding with a couple of licks. Unlike my sister’s dog, who liked to lick nicks and scratches because she loved blood, Hans cared about my injuries because I was injured and he wanted me to heal. He’d inspect any wound with an almost bossy air, not letting me move away until he was satisfied everything was okay. I was amazed at how he could pull a splinter out of my foot using his incisors without hurting me. He had daggers in his mouth, but he was able to use them with surgical precision. 

15 thoughts on “Nurse Hans”

  1. Made me remember one very special dog we had that prevented Grandma Pike from falling down two flights of stairs. He just stood there and barked at her and wouldn’t let her pass until someone came and found something was wrong with her.
    Dogs and humans – sometimes a really great friend comes along, once in a lifetime, sometimes.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Animals are incredible! And Hans is beautiful. I had a German Shepherd like Hans when I was a little girl. Her name was Misty. She was so good with me, and so patient. They are great dogs. Thanks for sharing this beautiful blog.

    Liked by 2 people

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