Baby Boom

Photo by Angela Kirk

Apparently the little critters that wander around on our property think that Doc and I are running a maternity ward in our back yard.

It all started a few weeks ago when Doc noticed a pair of cardinals flying back and forth between the large pine tree and the lilac bush by our back patio. Suspicious, as soon as the female cardinal flew out of the bush, Doc went to investigate. She carefully peered inside and well hidden under the leaves, was a nest with three little speckled eggs. Now I don’t want to say I told you so, but I had been trying to alert Doc that there was some type of construction going on in the bush over a week ago and she just hadn’t paid any attention to me. Since that revelation, we have been careful to give the mother space so she can nest without interruption. We also don’t want the male cardinal that stays close by to attack us.

Everything remained peaceful for a few days until one evening at dusk, Doc opened the back door to let me out and my friend Bunny was in the back yard digging furiously in the ground. ” Uh Oh!” Doc said out loud. ” What’s wrong? ” I asked. ” You’ll see. Go to the bathroom and then tomorrow morning when it is light we will investigate and see if my suspicions are correct.” Early the next day Doc went over to where Bunny had been digging the night before and bent down to the ground. She pulled back some grass and there was a large hole deep into the earth. She stuck her hand in the hole before I could yell “Don’t do that!” She was lucky nothing jumped out and bit her. ” It’s a bunny nest!” Doc said with excitement. ” She is obviously in the family way and about ready to give birth. Grover, you will have to keep an eye on the babies and keep them safe like you did a few years ago.” ” Ok I responded, I will keep that hawk away from all the nests and keep all of the babies safe the best that I can.”

Now if that wasn’t enough to keep us busy, early this morning I heard Doc yell ” Well look at that!” as she peered out the window. I ran over to see what she was looking at and I’ll be darn if there weren’t two racoons running across the back yard with three little baby racoons in tow. ” We need to call in reinforcements, we can’t take care of all these critters by ourselves.” I said. “What do you have in mind”, she asked. “We need a midwife and a nanny ASAP.” I responded. “Grover, it will be ok, nature knows what it is doing. I think it’s wonderful that they chose our yard to have their babies. They must feel safe here.” I nodded in agreement. ” I know I do.”

A Week of Hello’s, Good bye’s and Renewal

    Photo by Angela Kirk

The past week has been a whirlwind of activity and although we are tired, Doc and I have had fun almost every step of the way.

After family left on Memorial Day and went back up north, it was only a few days before more company arrived. We were busy getting everything ready, planning activities and making calls necessary for everyone to get together, along with finding a way to get our normal work day in and complete our daily chores. I won’t lie, it was exhausting. After work on Wednesday, we went straight to the airport to pick up a friend named Marilyn that came all the way from Florida and after getting her settled in we were so tired we conked out early in bed.

The next day Doc and her friend left me at home to go to a retirement party for a very special police Sargent named Larry that has done special duty for over thirty years where we work. I have loved him since I was a puppy and although I understand that all good things must come to an end, it will be hard not seeing him at work where he kept all of us safe for many years. Doc let me put my paw print on the retirement card we gave him as I was not allowed in the restaurant. Can you believe that?

The next evening Doc thought it would be a good idea to get me out and about in preparation for me to physically come back into our work place after being at home for over a year. We went to the downtown of our suburb and it was busy. There were street musicians out playing, bicycles going by me, some unruly dogs barking at me and of course strangers asking to pet me. Doc said I passed with flying colors, but boy was I tired when we got home. I haven’t seen that many people all together in one place in over a year. I really had to focus and I think that’s what wore my doggy brain out.

The next day Doc told me I had an appointment with Dr. Ritchie at the vets office for a physical in order  to get my recertification as a therapy dog. What she neglected to tell me is that I would be getting some shots and other immunizations, not a nice surprise. The first shot was ok, I didn’t even whimper, but then they sprayed some stuff up my nose and I did not like that at all. I gave them the stink eye so they would know I was not pleased.  In the end they told me I was such a good boy that I could have as many treats and hugs as I wanted.

So here we are on Wednesday and all the guests are gone from the house, all the socialization is over and Doc and I are back to our daily schedule.  There is something to be said for predictability, but we also feel thankful for good friends and being able to celebrate all the happy times with them safely again.

The Great Escape

Photo by Angela Kirk

There are times an opportunity arrives and you don’t have time to think about choices, you either go for it or you don’t. That is just what happened to me over Memorial Day weekend and you guessed it, I went for it!

It was a quiet Saturday morning and the visiting relatives were in the house with me while they were finishing their coffee. Doc was outside talking to the next door neighbor about tomato plants and decided to offer him some of her oregano that was growing in the back of the house. Bored, I was watching out the window when I saw Doc and the neighbor come through the back gate leaving it wide open while they walked across the back yard. Then to my delight, Doc’s niece got up and opened the back sliding door to go out and see what was going on. Doc started yelling, “Don’t let Grover out, the gate is open!” That was my chance, I bolted out the door, leapt off the back porch and headed right through the open gate. Freedom!

To say that pandemonium ensued would be an understatement. My only intention was to go next door to see my doggie friends Frankie and Norman and play in their yard for a change, not cause an uproar. The adults were yelling to the kids “Grab Grover’s collar!” Frankie and Norman were barking and jumping up and down with excitement as they watched from the screened in porch. What a fun game, I thought to myself while I ran and dodged any one that came near me. I didn’t know we were going to play tag. I have long legs so I can run fast, not even the kids could catch me. In the end, three adults and three children could not keep up with me. I knew the game was over when I saw Doc quietly walk toward me out of the corner of my eye. ” Sit Grover” she said as she handed me a treat. ” Good boy, now time to come home.” I relented and walked back home with Doc as I was dog tired and ready to take a nap in my own house.

Later Doc asked me why I had chosen to run through the gate so quickly. ” Well because Doc, you have always taught me that when an opportunity presents itself to try it and see where it will lead you. I just wanted to see if life would be more fun on the other side of our fence.” ” And was it?” she asked. “Yes, for a little while, but coming home is always the best part of any life journey. No matter where I go or what I do, there is no place I would rather be that being home with you.” I said as I fell fast asleep right next to Doc.

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

Photo by Angela Kirk

Sometimes it’s hard to find humor in the world, but we must at least try. Humor is the one trait we have that can help us dissipate dark clouds,  face challenges and overcome obstacles. Laughter can also decrease the stress hormone, an added bonus. I especially love it when Doc does something to make me laugh and that is just what happened on one of our daily outings not to long ago.

We were out for our daily walk and it also happened to be the day when the nice people at Rumke Waste  pick up our trash. We make it a point to always say hello when we pass by as we have gotten to know the workers since being home over the last year. On this particular day as we passed by and greeted them one of the men said ” I like your hair!’ As Doc and I turned around and Doc started to thank the man for the compliment she realized by the look on his face that he was not talking about her hair but mine. For a quick moment they both starred at each other and he quickly said ” I like your hair too mam !” At that point Doc let out a loud laugh and before it was done we were all having a good chuckle, even the driver was laughing.  I would have felt sorry for Doc but it didn’t bother her at all. Later she told me that it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself and not take everything so seriously. ” You’ll have an easier life if you learn that lesson Grover.”

Some days it may feel like nothing is funny, but keep looking. A touch of humor can give us the balance we may need that day to keep us from getting knocked off of our feet. Remember, ” Every time you are able to find some humor in a difficult situation you win.”  fabquote.com

 

In A Funk

Photo by Angela Kirk

Have you ever had one of those days that you’re in a funk and you don’t know why? Now I’m not talking about the “Shake Your Booty” kind of funk, no, I’m talking about the feeling you get when you can’t shake off the blahs. For the past few days I have just been laying around the house not doing a darn thing. The bad thing is that Doc has started to pick on my mood and now she has the blahs as well. Lets put it this way, now is not the time to invite us over and expect us to be the life of the party. I figured if Doc and I put our heads together we could figure out what was going on and find a way to shake this off, but Doc had a different idea.

” What if we just go with it and let ourselves be lazy for a day or two? What’s the harm in that?” she asked.  “Maybe we need a break, after all we have been working so hard lately. We spent three days doing yard work and then we had our other chores to get done. We are probably just worn out and our body is telling us to slow down. You know Grover, we don’t need to analyze everything, sometimes you just need to listen to what your body needs and go with it.” What a revolutionary idea, I thought to myself.  ” You know Doc you are right, I think all of us push ourselves too much sometimes, this is probably just our bodies telling us that we need to slow down and we need to honor that.” I said emphatically.

So for the next two days we gave ourselves permission to rest whenever and where ever we wanted. I choose a nice comfy place in the grass under the tree and Doc dozed off on the back porch.  And guess what? We both were back to normal after a few days off.

“Wisdom is knowing when to have rest, when to have activity and how much of each to have.” 

                                                                                                                                                       –Sri Ravi Shankar

 

Time to Emerge and Celebrate!

Photo by Angela Kirk

Holly Cow! After being mostly home bound for over a year, the celebrations are back! People are emerging post vaccines like the seventeen year cicadas that are rising from the bowls of the earth this spring! But I’m not complaining.  It’s nice to have the problem of trying to fit in all the birthday and graduation parties into our schedule again, but this is not true for everyone, as some of you are feeling anxious.

Just the other day someone told Doc that after being locked down for so long, they feel safer at home. I get it. At the beginning I was a little blue from having to be home and away from work, the humans I loved seeing every day and our routine. Then after awhile, I got use to being home, sleeping when I wanted and feeling safe in our little bubble. It became my new normal routine and now we are faced with switching things up again.

Change can feel overwhelming sometimes, even if it’s a positive change. So here’s what Doc and I suggest, take it slowly. Remember that balance is the key. Re-emerge gradually back into the world and don’t forget to breath if you feel yourself becoming anxious.  It’s also important to have “me time” to relax. I personally like to lie out in the back yard at dusk when the world is still and commune with the nocturnal critters that roam the earth after dark.  In other words, find something that soothes you and practice it daily.

In the end, always remember that you made it this far and that is something to celebrate. After all, we could be like the poor cicadas that after getting to emerge from the earth after seventeen years their only task is to molt, mate and then expire by June.  Now that is just kind of sad.

 

Honoring Mother’s

Moms come in all shapes, sizes and species and this Sunday we honor them all.  Thank heavens for mothers because lets face it, they really do steer the ship and make sure we don’t do things that could get us killed while we are growing up. I can’t count the times Doc stepped in to intervene when I was about to make possible death defying decisions. When I was younger I sometimes thought she was a nervous dog mother, but now I know she was just watching out for me. So with Mothers Day coming up I was certainly surprised by her response when I asked her what she wanted to do on her special day.

” If I could have the perfect Mother’s Day I would trade places with you Grover” she said.  Surprised I asked her what she meant by that.  “Think about it Grover, you have quite the life. For starters, everyone you meet loves you. Just for one day I would like to be you, lying on the couch, having my belly scratched and someone bringing me treats just because I am cute. Not a care in the world with all my needs taken care of. No bills to pay, no house work,  just living my best life in whatever way I choose. You don’t even have to pick up your own poop, even I do that!” she said emphatically.

I have to say startled didn’t even describe my reaction. ” Well that makes me sound like a lazy bum.” I responded.  ” No, you are living your life the way you are suppose to. I guess there are some days I am just envious and wonder what it would be like to be you for a day” she said. Poor Doc, does she really think my life is so easy that she has been harboring jealousy all along?  So I thought the best thing I could do is to give her exactly what she wants on her special day so she understands my life isn’t as rosy as she thinks.

Excited about what I had come up with, I wrote down a schedule of everything I had planned for her and showed it to her wondering how she would react. ” Ok Doc, at 7am I will let you out in the back yard so you can use the bathroom and then you can come in and have some dog food out of my bowl on the floor. Remember you only get one cup because we have to keep your weight down. Since it’ s Sunday I will take you for a long walk, but no sniffing along the way because we are on a strict time schedule today. At about 11am it’s time for your bath and I will hose you down and shampoo your hair in the driveway for all the neighbors to see. After your bath you can take a nap but you have to stay out on the porch in the sun because you are too wet to come in the house. Later in the day I will toss you a couple Milk Bones for a snack. How does that sound so far?” I asked with enthusiasm.

She was silent before she responded and then she said. “That is not what I expected, I had never really looked at your life from your point of view. I thought that your grass looked greener, but maybe I just need to be grateful and water and nourish the grass I already have.”  ” Well, I said with a smile, if you don’t want to be treated like a dog for the day, what do you want to do?” ” I have a great idea,” she responded. ” Lets just relax on the couch, watch some movies and I will scratch you belly and give you a treat.” ” Now that sounds wonderful!” I replied while we got cozy and relaxed.

 

Growing Older Together

Photo by Angela Kirk

Who would have guessed that an 8am knock on the door would lead to an emergency veterinarian visit in the late afternoon? But that is exactly what happened in a round about way, all because of a broken air conditioner.

The three installers arrived promptly in the early morning to replace Doc’s dying air conditioner.  I liked all of the men right away especially after they told Doc what a handsome dog I was.  As they busily went to work, they were nice enough to let me come down in the basement to watch and that was much more interesting than being with Doc while she worked upstairs. They were quick with the installation and within two and a half hours they were done. In fact, they were done so quickly that they had time to play with me before they went to their next job. Let me tell you, I haven’t had that much fun in a long time. They played ball with me, wrestled and chased me in the yard. By the time they left I was pooped, so I got on to Doc’s bed and took a nap.

It was afternoon when Doc woke me up. When I got out of bed I noticed that I had a pain in my leg but nothing too serious.  I followed Doc out the door to take our usual walk when she suddenly looked down and asked, “Grover are you limping?” In fact she was right, I did have a slight limp, so much to my disappointment we turned around and came home. Thinking all I needed to do was rest my leg, Doc put me back to bed.

At around 5pm she woke me up to give me supper and we were both shocked that I could now hardly bear any weight on my leg at all and it was painful. ” That’s it, Doc said with concern, we are going to the vet”. She helped me into the back of the car and off we went.

When we got to the office we texted them that we had arrived and what my symptoms were. Bless all the workers at the veterinarians  office, in about 10 minutes the doctor and the vet tech came out to the car and started to examine my leg. They lifted me out of the car and on to the pavement and had me walk  around.  Much to Doc’s relief I did not have a broken leg, but both of us were surprised by the diagnosis. Dr. Ritchie looked at us and said ” Grover has arthritis and all the playing and running around this morning caused a flair up. Now that he is an older dog this may happen from time to time. We will give him some anti-inflammatories and he can go home and rest. No jumping or running around for a few days Grover.”

After we got back in the car I  said to Doc that when Dr. Richie had referred to me as an older dog and I was surprised because I had not thought about myself that way. ” It just kind of sneaks up on you Grover, she responded. But the good thing is we all have choices about self care as we age, so what are you going to choose my sweet puppy?”

This morning when I woke up my leg was feeling a little better and I started thinking about what it means to get older and decided that it’s ok. I am going to choose to take good care of myself, keep moving and of course continue working as a therapy dog. One thing I do know is that as long as I have Doc, we can have fun getting older together.

The Drama Continues

Photo by Angela Kirk

The Red-tailed hawk that comes to our back yard is still causing issues in the neighborhood.  Like an annoying relative that won’t leave after spending hours at your house, he is not getting the message that he has outstayed his welcome. The good news is that I now have some unexpected help in my mission to keep him from eating my little furry friends.

Late Sunday afternoon, Doc and I were in the backyard when we heard a ruckus from above.  We watched in amazement as two crows chased the male hawk from tree to tree and even dove in and pecked at it while it was trying to get away. I have to admit that I was anxious for those crows because they are not as big or as powerful as that hawk but it was very apparent that they were on a mission. The one thing I do know is that crows are smart, so I just had to trust they knew what they were doing.  Before long their tactic worked and the hawk flew away. We thought that the crows were probably protecting a nest and that after that mobbing that the hawk would not be back, but we were wrong.

The next day the hawk reappeared. I noticed him before Doc when I was looking out the window from our home office.  He was sitting in the tree proudly preening his feathers in the morning sun and didn’t notice the crows sneak attack coming from behind. Bam! The crows dove into him beak first and were relentless in their pursuit. I have to hand it to the hawk, he held his ground in that tree for a good hour until he figured it wasn’t worth the trouble any more and flew away.

Later, Doc remarked that she really doesn’t think that humans and animals are all that different when they are feeling threatened. “Grover, your intention in chasing the hawk last week was to protect your animal friends and the crows were trying to protect their babies, much like humans do when they or their loved ones are threatened.  I think humans sometimes forget how alike we all are to other species. The lessons from nature are so clear if we are open to what is unfolding right in front of us.”

I mulled over what Doc had just said and decided that she is much too deep and philosophical for 7am on a week day. All I know is whatever the crows and I did, the hawk has yet to return but I will stay on the look out as I have a strong feeling that he will be back.

Guarding My Flock

Photo by Angela Kirk

By  8:42 am on Tuesday and I was already worn out from trying to keep everybody safe in my yard. Spring has presented itself with new challenges and responsibilities all because of a Red-tailed Hawk or as Doc calls it “that chicken hawk” that sits on the fence waiting to find a tasty meal. The problem is I don’t want him dining on the little woodland creatures from our yard. No sir, I am not going to let him, not on my watch. I have become attached to them and feel it’s my duty to protect them.

When I see him eyeing a little critter, I charge toward him growling and barking with my chest puffed out and he gets scared and flies away. No one is happier than me that he’s intimidated by me because that is a big bird with sharp talon’s. I guess he figures I am too much trouble at 84 pounds to mess with. Now I get it, everyone needs to eat, but he should to be smart enough to strike up a relationship with a human that will feed him. That’s what I’ve done and it’s much easier that hunting for your food every day.

Of all the creatures in the yard I worry about Miss Bunny the most. She comes in the yard to eat at dawn and dusk. In the early morning when Doc lets me out, she is usually there and feels safe enough around me to stay in the yard if I keep my distance. Two years ago she trusted us enough to have 6 little baby bunnies in our yard. I think she is in the family way again because Doc found a hole in the ground that looks like she has prepared a nest. Those baby bunnies are cute but both Doc and I were nervous wrecks trying to keep them safe from the hawk last time and I don’t know if I can stand the pressure of being a step dad again.

Doc knows I have been working hard lately and feeling a little stressed, so she scheduled me a spa day at the Vet’s office this morning. I will get a bath, blow out, massage, mani-pedi and then get some time to play with the nice staff that takes care of me there.  Even therapy dogs need some me time.

So what’s the point of this whole story? Although it’s important to protect and take care of those you love, it is equally important that you take care of yourself. I am always surprised that many of you think it is ok to put yourself last. Like Doc always says, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy to take care of anybody else.