Opal, a Jersey Shore dog, had a near-death experience when she got caught in a rip current while just wading in shallow water at the beach in Spring Lake with her human Mama. This is a lesson for us all about the danger of rips. Jodi (from Freehold) has now written a story from her precious dog' perspective to share with hospices, nursing homes, and all of you:

"Hi, its me Opal,

This is a picture of me on the beach in New Jersey. Me and my mommy are very early risers so we get to the beach before sunrise. We used to go all the time this early in the morning. It was very relaxing and not a lot of people were there yet because it was so early. Mostly just surfers. I like to sit and watch the water. My mommy tells everyone it looks like I am meditating. But, we don’t go that early anymore. I will tell you the story why we don’t go that early anymore. You will never believe what happened to me in September 2019!

I love going in the water at the beach and riding the waves. My mommy always brings my favorite toy the “thrower” and she flings tennis balls into the water and I go and get them. OMG it is sooooo much fun! She always makes me wear my life jacket and I don’t mind at all. I even know not to go in the water if I don’t have it on. I will have to send you a picture of me with it on. I look pretty cute :)

Anyway, we were playing in knee deep water and my mommy flung the tennis ball in the water and I went to get it as I always do and all of a sudden a rip tide got me and took me soooo far away from my mommy. I kept going further and further away and it was really rough back there. The waves were pounding over me and I was going under the water and then I would pop back up because I had my life jacket on. I could hear my mommy screaming. I never heard her that hysterical before. She was screaming and screaming and I was going further and further away. I was behind the big black jetty of rocks and I could not get back to my mommy.

Since it was so early in the morning mostly only surfers were on the beach or in the water. My mommy screamed so loud that three surfers that were in the water started their way towards my mommy to see what was going on. She was screaming my baby, my baby please save my dog she is my baby. The surfers frantically started to come over to me to try to get me back to my mommy, but they were having so much trouble getting to me. They were being smacked into the black jetty rocks. Now those three surfers could not get me so they started calling for their other surfer friends. Now there were 6 surfers trying to get me. There was a surfer coming on to the beach and my mommy told me that she begged him to help the other surfers. I could hear my mommy screaming and crying. I kept getting hit by big waves and going under the water.

Finally, the 6 surfers were able to get a hold of my life jacket handle. I had taken swimming lessons a few years ago so I knew how to paddle water and I remembered that if someone tries to lift me by my life jacket handle to stay calm and let them. One of the surfers put me over his head and walked me out of the water. OMG you had to see my mommy. I never saw her like that before. The surfer gave me to my mommy and we ran to her car. She was so scared that I swallowed too much water and wanted to get me to the hospital right away. My mommy was driving so fast and trying to call the hospital at the same time to tell them we were coming. She even put her emergency signals on and was beeping at people to get out of her way. I never had a car ride like that before! My mommy could hardly talk to the hospital people. She kept crying. She finally called my daddy and he was trying to calm her down.

Opal, photo by Jodi Stein

We got to the hospital my mommy told me in 30 minutes. Normally, I remember it takes a much longer time than that to get there. My mommy could hardly walk when we got out of the car but she got me inside. The doctor came out right away and took all my vital signs and said that they would bring me back as soon as they could that I did not seem like it was a dire emergency. Then, all of a sudden my mommy said she didn’t feel good and was having trouble breathing and then she fell on the ground! I was kissing my mommy and all the girls ran over to her and they called the ambulance. Then my daddy got there and started laughing because my mommy had the ambulance men taking care of her but I was the one rushed to the hospital and I was wagging my tail and kissing mommy. My mommy was ok. They said it was from stress. Then the doctors looked at me and said that I had water in my lungs and that I had to take medicine for it but that I would be ok. They were more worried about my mommy e doctor told my mommy that my life jacket saved my life. My mommy said I could never go in the water again.

My mommy would still take me to the beach but would not let in the water. I would listen to her but I did give her a sad face-- and I know my mommy never wants me to look sad. So, now we go around 7:00 a.m. and my daddy comes too! I am allowed in the water ONLY if I have an orange rope tied to my life jacket that my mommy holds on to. I knew that sad face would work! I have to admit it is embarrassing to have to wear a life jacket with a big orange rope attached to my mommy but it’s the only way my mommy will allow me in the water. All the other dogs and their mommies look at me with a strange face and wonder why I have all this gear on, but my mommy explains it to them.

So, this is the reason we do not go so early anymore when no one is at the beach. My mommy would not let me in the water for soooooo long after this happened. She kept telling me that she could never live through that again! My mommy was able to find the surfers to give them all a reward. She had put an article in the local newspapers and one of her friends had it broadcasted on a local radio station. Lou and Liz in the morning. Liz would talk about me every day on the radio to try and find the surfers that rescued me so that my mommy could thank them and give them a reward. Because of what Liz did for my mommy, she found all of the surfers!! I hope I get to meet them again so I can kiss them. We walk the beach every weekend looking for them.

Everyone knows me now. Everywhere I go around town people point at me and ask me if my name is Opal!!"

If you'd like to read the original story I wrote about Opal after this near-tragedy, CLICK HERE.

Jodi & her dog Opal have contributed over 100 letters to Rheva Wren, a Bereavement/Volunteer Coordinator at Heart of Hospice, who shares them with those who are isolated due to Covid-19 restrictions in the community, hospice, and nursing homes.

If you would like to write notes to those who are lonely and isolated because of their health and/or age, you would be doing such a good deed. What started out as half a dozen local people has really taken off because of amazing humans with kind hearts. The volunteers writing are from all over the US, with a young man from Oman and a young women from China. The care center staff appreciates their efforts, as do the residents and their families. Rheva says, "Every time I get letters, which is almost daily, it gives me faith and hope in humanity during a time when it seems to be sadly lacking. I am so honored to be able to share this little breath of kindness and sunshine with lonesome folks."

Here's what else Reva has told me:

"I have been delivering letters from community members, cards from children, pictures from preschoolers, a fairy garden from a sweet friend, and homemade dolls; all for those who are self isolating in care or retirement facilities. Our goal is to ensure that we brighten as many days as possible with your correspondence. Currently we've  delivered over 1600 cards, letters, pictures and crafts. 

I will send all purpose cards, so cost is not a barrier, but you may also feel free to use your own cards/stationary. A simple message about your day, description of the flowers you see out your window, or a hopeful word are all that is needed. People have been addressing their cards to *A friend I haven't met yet* or *Dear Community Member*.  Some people sign their name, some just sign *a community friend*, again, it's up to you. Please include your mailing address and I will send a packet of cards and an envelope to return them in.  If using your own stationary please make sure contact info for you is in the packet you send to the address in my signature. If you are sending single cards or letters, please note *HAPPY MAIL* on the envelope. When they arrive, I will take them to the activity coordinator at care, foster, or retirement facility. They have their own policy prior to distribution, so please don't worry about disinfecting.
 
If you are interested in developing a closer relationship to a recipient I will ask the activity director to get your cards to someone who wants to correspond and you may include your name and address. Due to the fragile health of those receiving your letters, I cannot promise you they will be able to answer, but I do know that the correspondence brings joy and connection. 
 
I am happy to provide documentation of your communications to count towards volunteer hours. However, I don't know what specific requirement you might have, pen pals satisfies some requirements, not others. Please double check with your advisor or supervisor to make sure it counts towards your time. Keep track of the time you spend on cards and I will send a certificate to you when I receive your completed cards. You may share my contact info with your supervisor/advisor if it's helpful. 
 
Thank you so much for your interest in reaching out to those affected by the current isolation. Please feel free to call if you have questions."
 
If you would like to get involved, here is the contact info:
Rheva Wren

Bereavement/Volunteer Coordinator

Heart of Hospice

541.386.1942 |Fax 541.386.1728  

407 Port Way Avenue, Suite 201, Hood River, OR 97031

rheva.wren@inspiringhospice.com

www.heartofhospice.org

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