Not many people have seen a Great Horned Owl up close and personal, but Denise Stoner has. She’s even comforted one that lost its mate.
Several years ago Denise walked out the back door to find a large, bulky mass of gold and brown feathers lying lifeless in her yard. It was unlike anything she’d ever seen before, and it did not show any signs of having been killed by another animal.
The big-bodied, feathered mass – about 20 inches long and weighing about 3 pounds – was actually a female Great Horned Owl that had died of unknown causes. For several nights afterward its mate would perch atop a nearby church and screech in agony over its lost mate. These birds are monogamous; and it would appear that they, too, mourn over the loss of a mate.
With the same tender care as Denise gives her patients and beloved god-dogs, she tended to a respectful handling of the remains, even to the extent of including those with Native American beliefs in the process.
The bereaved mate would return nightly and carry on with a piercing screech. On several occasions Denise went out into the dark and talked to him with the love and understanding she would have shown the survivors of one of her hospice patients who’d just died.
That’s Denise. Caring in every sense.
Her background in nursing and massage therapy would paint that picture, of course. But she takes it beyond degrees and certifications. She makes it personal.
The opportunity to teach at the Colorado School of Healing Arts is what brought her to Evergreen in 1991. The New England transplant had begun her nursing career in Boston but moved to Boulder to get her certification at The Boulder School of Massage Therapy in part because of its stellar reputation for the science components.
Anatomy and how systems of the body work always fascinated Denise, so when she started her own business in 1997, it encompassed a broader spectrum of bodywork. She does business as Bodywise Health Options, Incorporated.
Studying movement combined with her own back injury, she developed an interest in teaching individuals with strenuous jobs how to work with their bodies to avoid injury. After all, there were specialists to train athletes and dancers how to move their bodies to avoid injuries, why not to train those who lifted heavy items and operated forklifts?
Ergonomics entered our vocabularies when computers became members of the household, but translating that into the functional area of the workplace has been slower in coming. Denise has identified a niche in her bodywork business that addresses how workers fit and move with their equipment – whatever that may be.
She’s done private duty nursing with hospice patients from time to time and worked at a hospice facility in Denver. Right now part of her routine is being a nurse consultant for the Mountain Community Pathways adult program for the developmentally delayed held at Church of the Hills.
Denise has always found ways to integrate community activities into her work schedule. Short spurts are best for her, signing up to volunteer at single-day events whether it be music festivals, MALT benefits, the rodeo parade or the holiday walk. For years she was a fixture at the 9Health Fair taking blood pressures and pulses. Twice she prepared her vegetarian chili for the Big Chili Cookoff.
For three or four years she was paired up with youngsters at Camp Comfort, a grief camp for children who have lost someone close to them. “It’s such a wonderful experience for those kids – a total gift to the people who attend, including the volunteers,” she says.
For several years she was the venue manager for the Jazz Festival at the Little Bear, making sure the bands, sound man and volunteers had everything they needed. And she’s helped Kiwanis with traffic management for the Triple Bypass. In 1997 she completed the year-long class for Leadership Evergreen.
Playing outside is her favorite pastime though – gardening, landscaping, hiking. She has a regular schedule for dog-sitting her four god-dogs. Since 2009 she’s climbed five fourteeners. “I love hiking out here – it’s one of the best things about where we live – the open space. I love it!”
This spring you can find her holding newborn goats and talking to them as they become accustomed to being socialized the first week after being born. “They’re about the size of a baby,” says Denise, who estimates each one is five to eight pounds. “You need to fold their little legs under – it takes two arms. You talk to them and scratch their ears.”
"Nature is how I experience God,” she says, describing her relationship with the wild.
She’s recently taken on a creative writing class with author Carolyn Campbell, who describes Denise as “meditative, comfortable with herself and her thoughts and likes to go to those places where she can mull over those ideas. She’s spiritual, intuitive – and a good writer!”
Writing memoirs is what has intrigued Denise most. She hopes to capture some of the stories of being a hospice nurse – caring for patients ranging from the homeless to the very wealthy. She finds herself part of the “Silver Tsunami” – that wave of baby boomers reaching old age – and embraces the return of the custom of dying at home surrounded by loved ones.
From animals to humans, living and dying, Denise finds a meaningful way to be involved.
Caring in every sense. That’s Denise.