Friday, June 1, 2012

Canine TLC--excerpt and info

Canine TLC by Deirdre O'Dare 

Blurb: Wounded warrior Gary Sanchez gets a new lease on life from a visiting therapy dog while in the Veteran’s Administration hospital to recover. He knows at once what he wants to do when he gets out and back on his feet. With the help of Angie, a very special rescue dog, he follows this dream--smack into a young doctor with a major canine phobia and a hard-ass attitude.

Mirmar has struggled and suffered to get his MD and build a life in his adopted homeland. Childhood trauma has left him with a deep fear of dogs. When he sees one in his hospital, he’s ready to kick some serious butt. However, the man on the end of the leash is another matter entirely. What is it about the handsome Latino that draws him like a magnet?

Can these two bridge their differences and find a way to fill the aching empty spot in their lives with each other? Only Angie knows for sure.

Excerpt: Visiting the children's wing at the University Medical Center took a little more persuasion. Apparently, the doctors and management were not as convinced of the merits of pet therapy as was the Veteran's Administration, but after he made several calls, Gary finally received the necessary approval.

He drove the thirty miles up to Albuquerque from his home in Vallecito and found a parking spot in one of the large lots. He had to walk some distance to enter the wing he would visit, but the daily walks he'd been taking with Angie had done wonders to strengthen his wounded leg. He barely limped now, unless he sat in a cramped position too long or got really cold and tired.

Once inside, he headed for the nurses' station to check in as he'd been instructed to do. The charge nurse smiled at Angie and greeted him pleasantly enough. She'd obviously been briefed that he was coming in.

"We have one section closed off where we have communicable diseases and another small ward for the youngsters with compromised immunity, but you're welcome to go anywhere else in this wing. I assume your dog is well trained and behaves herself."

"Angie has her Canine Good Citizen and Certified Therapy Dog credentials," Gary assured her. "She's good with kids and extremely patient and gentle. I wouldn't bring her if she wasn't."

He turned away to start down the corridor. A tall, dark, slender man emerged from a doorway and skidded to a halt. He wore scrubs, a stethoscope and a very dark frown as his gaze lit on Angie.

"What is the meaning of this? Animals have no place in a hospital. We have desperately ill children in here. You can't bring that dog into this area!"

Gary reined in his temper. He took the letter from the hospital director that authorized his visit from his shirt pocket and unfolded it. "We have permission," he said, struggling to keep his voice calm and even.

Angie drew back, pressing tightly against his leg, feeling the hostility the other man radiated. She did not growl, but Gary saw the fur along the back of her neck had lifted and ruffled. This was a test she had not had to pass before.

He held out the document. The other man snatched it from his hand and then drew back a step or two before he read it.

"I'm not sure this is authentic." The man's black eyes flashed wrathful fire. "You wait right here. I'm going to call someone before I'll permit you to go one step farther. In fact, you'd better come back to the nurses' station with me. I can't put any trust in this until I hear it from Dr. Borden himself."

Gary read the tag pinned on the man's shirt. Dr. Hamardi, it said. He was young and probably new, a bit too full of himself and his status. Gary bit down on his temper. This was unexpected and far from the welcome he'd hoped to receive.

"You'll find everything is in order, Dr. Hamardi. I wouldn't try to barge in here without authorization. Hell, I did too many years in the army not to know how to proceed per protocol. Get off your high horse. The benefits of therapy dogs to morale, especially for wounded soldiers, seniors and sick kids are well documented. My dog is trained and healthy; she won't endanger a child in this place, I guarantee."

The doctor sniffed and stalked off in the direction Gary had just come. Rather than create more of an issue, he turned with Angie and followed the indignant medic back to the nurses' station. Of course, Dr. Borden would verify his approval, but this was a damn nuisance. Who did this smart ass young sawbones think he was, anyway?

"It's okay, Angie girl. We'll get this sorted out in a minute and you can go visit some kids. I know that's going to be fun." He kept his tone gentle and reassuring, not wanting Angie to be any more upset than she had been. She was so loving and friendly that hostility confused her.

* * * *

Mirman could not believe his eyes when he saw the husky man coming down the hall toward him--with a dog. How in God's name had the man gotten into the hospital, much less past the nurses' station and into this area of all places? He knew visiting in this wing was restricted to immediate family. In fact, no one under the age of twelve, except patients, was admitted without special dispensation from the highest authority in the facility. As for animals...that was so unheard of he didn't even think the rules addressed it.

I'll get to the bottom of this quickly. Someone was not doing their job. I'll see they're called on the carpet for such neglect.

He stepped in front of the stranger and accosted him, keeping well back in case the dog were to take exception to someone approaching its master. He still remembered the dogs his father had kept in the compound, huge, slavering beasts that guarded the area and terrified a small boy, a boy who needed no warning to steer clear of them. The night he and Mama slipped out to escape, he'd been terrified they'd encounter one or more of the dogs or someone would set the pack after them. Of course, this one was much smaller and did not appear vicious, but it still had no place here.

With only a cursory glance at the paper the other man offered, he barely registered the signature at the bottom. It appeared to be that of the chief surgeon, Dr. Ian Borden, but it could have been forged. He'd heard they had electronic facsimile signatures now so the document was probably spurious.

There's no telling what kind of germs and filth a dog might carry. The very idea! He strode off toward the nurses' station, not waiting to see if the other man followed as he'd ordered. If I have to, I'll call security. This is intolerable.

At the nurses' station, Mirman used the house phone to call Dr. Borden's office. The chief's receptionist told Mirman the doctor was with a patient. Mirman fumed. He knew the older man would be miffed if interrupted, but he had to cover his own ass in this case. "He didn't possibly give authorization for someone to bring in a so-called therapy dog, did he?"

He could not help putting a sneering twist on the term therapy dog. As far as he was concerned, that was a complete oxymoron. Therapy involved treatments and equipment and trained technicians working under a doctor's direction. What role a dog could possibly have in it completely escaped him.

The young woman's chirpy tone grated more than usual when she replied, "Yes, he did. I typed the letter myself about a week ago. It's the latest thing, Dr. Hamardi. Dr. Borden was quite enthused about it, actually."

Mirman sniffed as he hung up the phone, a few seldom-used foul words running through his mind. He turned back to the stranger, knowing he'd have to eat a bit of crow, but determined to put a good face on it.

"All right," he admitted. He knew his tone betrayed part of his dismay, but he could not override his superior's order. "I'm told your letter is authentic. You may visit the ambulatory ward where our accident cases are housed, the ones who're well into recovery. I cannot allow the possibility of contagion in the other sections without special precautions."

He had to admit the other man responded in a more polite way than he expected. There was no triumph or smirk, no rolled eyes or any indication of smug victory.

"Thank you. Angie really enjoys kids, and I think they'll enjoy her. It's hard to get back up and going after you've been crippled, hurt badly. I know--I've been there myself."

Something in the other man's tone broke through the outer shell of Mirman's protective barriers. Although there was no trace of whine or poor-me in the man's voice, the shadow of pain and struggle etched his face with a realism Mirman could not help but acknowledge.

"Accident victim?"

The other man shook his head. "Well, I guess you could call it that, but I'd say it was on purpose. Tangled with a roadside bomb in Afghanistan and almost lost my left leg. It's getting better, but my dreams of picking up the athletic goals I'd worked for in school, maybe even getting to the Olympics were blown to bits. I expect some of these kids are feeling as discouraged as I was before I met a wonderful lady and her special dog. Those visits gave me a new lease on life. Now I want to pay it forward. By the way, I'm Gary Sanchez and this is Angie."

He shifted the leash to his left hand and extended his right. Mirman could not refuse to shake without being rude. Reminding himself to go wash soon, he accepted Gary's hand. "I'm Mirman Hamardi, Doctor Hamardi."

Gary's eyes probed his for a moment, a keen and assessing look. "You're from the Middle East, aren't you? Muslim? I heard they consider dogs to be unclean."

"I was born in Darbhur, but I left there as a child and grew up here in America. And no, I am not Muslim."

"Okay. I was in the army, and I did one tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. I don't hold any bad feelings for the common people. It's not their fault, but that of the extremists and some of the leaders and politicians, the imams and stuff... Well, I don't know all the answers so I really shouldn't even discuss it. Do you want to escort me and maybe observe?"

Mirman thought for a few seconds and then nodded. "I'd like to accompany you and monitor things for a few minutes. This is a new concept to me--this canine therapy. But never let it be said I'm not willing to learn. A doctor needs to stay up on all the new developments."

The two men walked down the corridor together, Angie staying on Gary's left, while Mirman walked to his right. When they reached the door to the ward, he waved Gary in ahead of him. He paused just inside to watch, still not convinced there was any merit to this cockamamie idea, but having no valid reason to refuse. He was not sure what he was going to see.

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