Snake!

Photo by Angela Kirk

Nothing too exciting had happened since last week, until my fiend Norman came over to hang out yesterday afternoon. Since it was a nice spring day, Doc said we should all go outside and enjoy the weather. Norman and I went over to the fence to continue working on the hole we have been digging while Doc worked in the flower bed. All of us were happily communing with nature when Doc called over to us and said ” Come over here and look at this snake!”

Now I don’t have any personal experience with snakes, but my observation of most humans is that they run the other way. That was not the case with Doc, she gingerly moved back the leaves so she could get closer and take a picture.  ” Look how pretty it is, she said, it’s just a small Garter snake, they are quite timid and won’t bother you if you leave them alone”.  Norman and I looked at each other with concern and then I asked her,  “Then why are most people afraid of snakes? ” “Well there are many reasons, Doc responded. Some psychologists say the fear is hard-wired into the brain, but I think there are other reasons as well.” Like what?” Norman and I asked. ” You two ever hear that term snake in the grass or the tales of snakes being connected to Satan? And there is also the fact that many snakes are venomous.  They bite their prey, it dies and they eat it.” she said in a very matter of fact way. Norman and I looked at each other in horror as we slowly moved away from the slithery reptile.

After that explanation Norman and I asked to go back inside the house away from the snake that was still sunning itself like it was at the beach. Doc followed in right behind us still yakking about those darn snakes. ” You know, snakes are an important part of the environment, without them we would be completely overrun by rodents and pests. They help to keep nature in balance.

When Doc had finally finished her diatribe , I looked over at Norman and quietly said to him ” Why can’t they balance nature in someone else’s yard?”

 

Photo by Angela Kirk” No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you feel rich.”

— Louis Sabin

The Haves and the Have Nots

When Doc returned from a short weekend trip to New Orleans she looked rested, but I could sense something was amiss. I had been happy to hold down the fort while she was away. After we were alone in the house and I was cuddled up beside her with my head in her lap she told me what was bothering her and asked me to tell this story to all of you.

Doc had not been back to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina hit in August of 2005 and she told me after 14 years she was shocked at how the city had changed. She saw parts of the city that had not been rebuilt since the hurricane because the people who had fled their homes and businesses came back to devastation. They could not afford to rebuild and left. This occurred because people in certain parts of the city were not required to buy flood insurance as they were told they were not in a flood zone. No flood insurance no money to rebuild. There were also instances when some home owners returned to find that someone came in while they were gone, paid the back taxes on the property when the property owner was unable to. Because the place they worked had also been destroyed they had no income and as a result, they lost ownership of their home.

Mass casualties occurred as a result of Katrina. This can still be seen represented in spray paint with an X on the front of those structures that show the number of how many people died, how many pets were found dead and how many were still alive inside the house.

Although there is homelessness everywhere in the United States, Doc noticed it had increased in New Orleans since her last visit. People living openly on the streets in most areas of town, sleeping on the side walks, their only possessions being what they were wearing, searching through the trash for anything the tourists had casually thrown away. She wondered if these were some of the people who had lost their homes and were never able to come back from all the devastation and lost hope. ” Grover, she said, it felt overwhelming to see all of the suffering and not know how to help.”  One of the residents she talked to told her it helps when tourists come and spend money as the economy grow stronger, helps the businesses and the people who work in those businesses. The city is rebounding, and continues to improve, the citizens are determined to move forward, but the scars still exist.

For Doc and I it is a reminder of how fragile life can be and how Mother Nature can destroy anything in her path, altering the course of your life in an instant. It’s easy to get caught up in our daily lives and not realize others are still struggling from the devastation of a single life changing event.

 

 

Photo by Angela Kirk“Animals are such agreeable friends. They ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”

— George Elliot

Scary Creatures in the Neighborhood

Photo by Angela Kirk

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” Well I would bet you money that he wouldn’t have said that if he had to encounter all the strange objects in my neighborhood.  It can be a very scary place for both man or beast sometimes.

Now I admit that I don’t like change. If it ain’t broke why fix it? Just because something is new, you don’t need to run out and get it. As I dog I am happy doing the same thing day in and day out. I like the structure and the security of knowing what, when, where and how things are going to happen. As humans, you are constantly coming up with something new that you buy for no other darn reason than you think it will improve your life. But I digress.

The daily walk started out like any other. It was a beautiful spring day and I was having fun sniffing around and greeting the neighbors that were out working in their yards. At first it was the humming sound that got my attention, then the movement. I stopped right in my tracks and started growling and barking at the strange thing moving around on the front lawn. Doc hadn’t seen it yet and asked me what I was growling at. I pulled her cautiously toward the beast as it continued to move in circles like it was lost. I finally got the nerve to go up and sniff it to see if it smelled like anything I was familiar with. By this point I had gotten a few of the neighbor’s attention and they walked over to see what was going on. ” Oh, said neighbor #1, Grover, that’s a robotic lawn mower. It cuts the grass by itself, but don’t try to mess with it, it has a built-in alarm”. Who would want to mess with that I thought to myself, that thing is scary. If it can cut the lawn it could chop me up and spit me out. I tugged a little on the leash so Doc would know I wanted to leave. After we got a safe distance down the street I asked Doc if she was going to get one of those strange robot mowing beasts. ” Don’t worry about that Grover, those robots cost well over $2,200. That calmed me down, knowing how cheap Doc is.

Fear can be exhausting, so when we got back to the house I fell sound asleep. I soon started dreaming about that stupid robot coming down the street, getting into the house and chasing me around. I soon slayed it in my dream by grabbing the battery out with my teeth until it died in its tracks. I was feeling quite proud of myself when I work up. Noticing Doc had been sitting beside me I looked over to her and said, ” Change can be both scary or exciting sometimes.” “That’s true it can be, she responded, that’s why it’s always important to decide if you’re avoiding change because of fear or whether the change is a quick fix to try and make you feel better.” Well I pondered, those are words to live by.

 

Photo by Angela Kirk ” To escape fear you have to go through it, not around it.”

— Richie Norton

Just Relax

Photo by Angela Kirk

Sunday started out as one of those cold and drizzly spring mornings.  It was the kind of day that all I wanted to do was to curl up on the couch under a warm soft blanket with Doc and drift in and out of dreamland. The house was blissfully quiet except for the sound of two robins singing just outside the window. I should have been in heaven, but that gnawing feeling in my brain that I should be doing something rather than lying around started growing more intense. What was happening? I am usually the poster child for chill. Could Doc and her obsession with chores be rubbing off on me?

I looked over at Doc who was quietly sipping coffee and reading the Sunday paper like she didn’t have a care in the world.  Sensing my unease she said ” What’s wrong Grover, you seem a little out of sorts this morning?” ” Shouldn’t we be doing something?” I asked. “Like what?” she inquired. “Woman, we have chores to get done today. For starters you need to take me for a walk, then you need to paint the porch furniture and I have to finish that hole I am digging under the fence. Time to get busy, chop, chop!”  ” Grover, for Pete’s sake, calm down and please stop trying to boss me around.” Doc said as she gave me a gentle pat on the head. ” It’s Sunday morning and our time to relax. Taking time for ourselves is just as important as chores and let me tell you why. People that relax benefit by having decreased heart rate, lowered blood pressure, decreased anxiety and depression, relaxed muscles, reduced pain and it also increases feelings of self-worth. Caring about yourself means taking the time to slow down and enjoy the moment. All that other stuff can wait until later, the world won’t end if we don’t get all our chores done today.”

Who was this new Zen person I was living with? She was changing her view on life and I have to say she was right. Following her lead I went over to the window where I could watch the squirrels in the back yard running around patching their squirrel condos with leaves and stopping to dine an occasional nut. After a while I got so tired I fell right to sleep, the ultimate way to relax.

Photo by Angela Kirk ” Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.”

— Mark Black

Choosing a Different Path

Often in life we find ourselves standing at a fork in the road trying to decide whether to go right, left or stay just where we are. Change can be scary, but it might be more frightening to stay stuck doing the same old thing, especially if it’s hurting us. Sometimes what scares us the most is that we do have a choice. What if we make the wrong decision? We all face making a change at different times in our lives, even me.

When Doc brought up the topic of making life choices in group this week, every one was all ears. It’s a topic everyone can relate to. For the most part everyone said they hate change.  Doc challenged them to tell her the times in their lives that their choices led to positive things happening. like accepting a promotion or a better job, facing and working through their problems, or going back to school. So how did they decide to move forward and take the risk? Many of them were stumped by how they came to their decisions so we talked about some ways to help when faced with a choice.

First of all its good to weigh the pros and cons of a situation. Write them down so you can see them in front of you and then you can make a logical decision. If you’re still not sure, talk to someone that supports you and will give you some good advice.  I often ask Doc when I need some advice and even Doc has people that she talks to. Sometimes she even talks to me because I am an excellent listener.  It’s good to weigh other’s opinions but ultimately do what’s best for you.

Never underestimate your gut instinct. Remember that time you second guessed yourself? You were sorry weren’t you? There is a quote by an unknown author that says ” When faced with two choices, simply toss a coin because in that brief moment when that coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you were hoping for.”

Doc often says that our fears can keep us from moving forward if we let them. The funny thing is that most of the time it’s never as bad as we imagine. What if the Wright brother’s had made the choice to stay on the ground instead of trying to fly? We’d all still be driving or taking boats everywhere.

Every change in life comes with a choice, it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth the risk. Once you’ve made the choice, never look back. Trust in yourself and know that you made the best choice you could at the time. You will learn from your experience no matter what happens and isn’t life all about the experiences?

Photo by Angela Kirk ” Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.”

— John C. Maxwell