Sounds of Solitude for the Soul

By Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT - Dire Wolf Project CEO, Jan. 12, 2024
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Miss Cindy Sue

I walked through the sliding glass doors of the main entrance to the hospital and instantly my body relaxed.

I don’t usually feel soothed in a place where sick people pay other people to give them more pain in order to make their lives better.

But walking up to the counter, I felt a particular peace run through me.

A yearning to sleep deeply on a fluffy cloud with the sun’s warmth for a blanket.

The parking attendant who directed us to the welcome desk wasn’t special in any way, so the feeling of quiet safety I felt hadn’t come from her.

The sterile lobby with the friendly wait staff who gave me my visitor’s pass weren’t particularly unique, so it couldn’t have been their welcoming attitude that washed over me like a gentle summer breeze.

I walked down the corridor to the main lobby, accompanying my friend to her infusion appointment.

The beautiful paintings adorning both sides of the hallway certainly had an air of detachment from the busy world of the surrounding city, but that, also, wasn’t what caused my silent stirring.

As I grew closer to the main lobby, the peaceful feeling inside me grew.

I looked around, but my eyes saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Another step and my senses burst with angelic images and an all encompassing love just ahead, but out of reach.

My entire being wanted to walk into that love and have it surround me like a warm embrace.

Another step and I knew what it was that had gripped me.

My ears burst with delight as the most delightful melodies of a grand piano rang out all around me, touching my soul.

I did not know from whence the music came.

At first, I thought it was being piped in through speakers in the hallway.

But the soothing tones grew more intense as we walked on.

The flowing rhythms resonated all around, filling the entrance hallway beckoning us forward.

When I rounded the corner into the main lobby, the celestial tones of that shiny black box of strings almost overwhelmed me with emotion.

I felt intense feelings well up inside, and I had to catch my breath.

Then, I saw him….

Sitting so carefully, hunched over the beautiful instrument with his gray hair tussled in a tufted nest of curls.

His wrinkled hands pressed the keys with such finesse and grace.

Watching his slumped frame, bent and weathered from the years, was like witnessing a gentle breeze pirouette through a field of dandelions – each movement delicate and deliberate, yet capable of stirring the air with an ethereal grace that leaves an indelible imprint on the soul.

Each trill and scale up and down the keyboard left me breathless and hopeless for more.

I instantly felt the old pianist’s yearning to share something special with the visitors so oblivious to his presence.

There was no tip jar.

He did not look up.

And no one else seemed to notice him or his seraphic notes.

He just played on minute after minute filling the entire lobby with the sweet sounds of heaven.

My friend beckoned me to wait for her there while she went to her treatment.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to wait in a chair in the corner of the lobby away from the bustle of people walking here and there and take in all of that glorious beauty so generously given without reward.

As I watched him hunched over the piano, I noticed a sign I hadn’t seen earlier.

It read, “Sounds of Solitude for the Soul.”

Never had I ever read a more fitting sign to describe what I felt in that moment.

He played for another thirty minutes.

I listened to every note, expressive run, and exciting trill.

I was putty in the master potter’s hands.

And when he pressed the last key so gently and reverently, he lingered there just for a moment longer.

Then, he rose in silence.

Closed the cover to the keys.

Placed the black drape over the piano.

Picked up his worn, brown, leather bag on the seat behind him.

And slowly shuffled down the hallway, his head hung low from the hunch on his back.

It wasn’t long afterwards that my friend emerged from her appointment, looking tired and a bit weary from the medicine that now flowed through her veins.

We walked back to the main entrance together, as she talked to me about her experience receiving the treatment.

Then, as we approached the sliding glass doors to the exit, there he was.

Standing as still as a moonlit pond, cradling its reflections in the tranquil embrace of the night.

His head bent, looking with humble tranquility at the ground.

This man who could have filled a theater should anyone have taken notice of his talents stood alone without fanfare or flourish.

I just had to speak with him to let him know how his music had touched me.

I broke the silence, “You played so beautifully. I loved every moment listening to you.”

Without hesitation, as if he was waiting for me all along, his head turned toward me and a broad smile revealed a row of crooked, yellow teeth.

He told me that he comes here every Thursday to play, simply to give the patients a sense of calm reassurance that everything will be okay in the end no matter what happens.

He revealed that he used to come twice a week before covid, but he had to cut back his time afterwards.

He told me that as a child, he asked God for a gift, an anointing, so that he could honor the creator throughout his life.

Shortly thereafter, he met his first piano, and without any lessons, he found he could play.

Surprisingly, he never learned to read music. Everything he plays come directly from God to his soul and out his fingers. He doesn’t even know what he will play until his fingers play it.

His voice was soft and gentle as he shared about his mission to give his Godly talents to those in need.

He spoke with an obvious sweetness.

But the most compelling thing about him were his eyes.

They were not in the least bit old or weathered, like the rest of his body.

Instead, they were alive and vibrant, with a deep passion and clarity, revealing a whole other side to his heart.

He didn’t look at me, they looked into me, as if he wasn’t seeing my body, but my entire being.

He told me his name was Robert, but his friends know him as Bobby.

I loved him instantly.

I hope I get to see him again sometime.

Beyond a doubt, having the experience of meeting Bobby at Sacred Heart hospital was something I will never forget.

I share with you this incredible encounter with a stranger who touched me because it reminds me so thoroughly of our dogs.

There is an extraordinary something about the American Dirus dog that goes beyond what many can see.

It takes a special person who will stay still for a moment to listen and recognize the true beauty of their passionate soul.

A soul that longs to be acknowledged for the love and devotion they want to give to humanity.

Sit in a chair in the corner of the room and just watch and listen to your sweet DireWolf Dog.

I bet you will be able to experience the angelic spirit your dog wants to give to you.

It’s all in the silent movements your dog makes when you are oblivious to them.

But you can see the vibrance and passion if you look into those beautiful eyes… the windows to the soul.

‘Tis the season for puppies coming up shortly.

If you want a puppy from the Dire Wolf Project to grace your life with those special sounds of solitude for your soul, you must be on the waiting list.

In order to do that, you must become approved and place your $600 non-refundable deposit to save your place in line.

Here’s the link to get started:

Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.