Just when Doc and I though we would skate through winter with mild temperatures in the Midwest, Mother Nature remined us that she is in charge. Life is like that sometimes, it’s easy to be lulled into thinking that things will turn out the way we want, but the reality is we can only control ourselves and how we choose to respond to life’s events. For example, even as the meteorologists were predicting the storm, we talked smack about how many times they have been wrong in the past. Another way to avoid thinking about what may happen. Then there was the recent death of Betty White. Even though she was about to turn 100 years old, everyone hoped she would live forever, but she exited this earth just 16 days before her birthday, a big loss for those who admired her humor and her work with animals. So what does a winter storm and Betty White have to do with each other, well I will tell you.
As many of you are aware, there was a Betty White challenge to give to the animal shelters in her honor on her birthday. Doc and I thought that donating to to our local shelter would be a worthy cause. The only problem was that the snow storm was to start the night before Betty’s birthday and we didn’t know if the snow would keep us from getting to the shelter the next day. Ever the problem solver, Doc rose early even though we didn’t have to work because it was a holiday. It was still snowing at 7am, but the good news was that the snow plow had already been down our street one time. After breakfast, Doc went out to shovel the driveway. I gave support from the inside cheering her on through the window where I could keep my precious keaster warm.
When Doc had finally gotten the driveway shoveled, we waited until the news said the roads had been cleared and then loaded up the car with some old blankets, treats and I even donated some of my dog toys so the puppies at the shelter would have something to play with. Luckily we made it to the shelter without incident and they were so grateful to receive our donations and all the donations that had come in Betty’s name that day. On the way home I asked Doc, ” Since Miss Betty was such a big dog lover do you think she got to cross over the Rainbow Bridge just like all dogs do when they die?” Doc hesitated for a minute and said, ” Oh Grover I hope so, I can’t think of anyplace that would feel more like heaven to her than that, having all those dogs come to greet her.” ” Just think how many animals she helped because people cherished her and wanted to honor her by helping” ‘ It really is amazing Grover, while you are on this earth you can choose to do good and inspire others or you can just focus on yourself, its up to you what path you choose.”
We got home safely and decided to call it a day. After getting under a warm blanket by the fire, Doc read me a quote by Martin Luther King Jr, another person that chose to inspire and that we also honored on Monday. “ Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
To fight off the winter blahs around here we try to stay busy and stick to a schedule. I guess it’s Doc’s way of powering through the cold, dark winter and the pandemic at the same time. Her motto is, stay focused, stay busy, and get your daily exercise outside even if the air is so cold that it hurts your face. So far this plan has worked and today I thought I will would fill you in on one of the exciting things we have been focusing on in case you need an ideas to ward off your own winter blahs.
Humans have a strange ritual of accumulating a lot of stuff and then complain about how much stuff they have. I find this odd as everything I own could probably fit in a small garbage bag. Anyway, Doc is now on a kick to get rid of the things she no longer needs or wants. So every day after work she chooses a closet or drawer to clean out and I thought it would be kind of boring to watch until I started seeing the things she was pulling out of the drawers and closets. It was kind of like a treasure hunt and I think even she was surprised by what she found.
Yesterday, after looking at and throwing out your standard accumulation of old cards, paperwork and receipts that were in a drawer she was tackling, she was tickled to find two twenty dollar bills she quickly stuffed in her pocket. That was the find of the day until she found a manila envelope at the bottom of the drawer that had been buried under some old paper work that she had forgotten about. As she slowly opened the folder, I saw the expression on her face change and I moved in closer to see what she was looking at. Inside was an 8×10″ picture of a dog that I had never seen before. ” Who is that dog? ” I asked Doc. ” That was my dog Blake. ” she said with a hint of sadness in her voice. ” He was my dog before you came to live with me Grover. He got sick with cancer very suddenly, was in pain and I had to have him put to sleep so he would not suffer anymore. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. He was a sweet dog and I was sad for a very long time. After about six months I knew it was time for me to move on and I decided to adopt you and I am so very glad that I did. You bring joy to me and everyone you meet. ” I didn’t know what to say so I leaned over and gently licked her hand and stayed next to her while she kept on cleaning out the drawer.
Later that evening, after thinking about everything Doc had told me about Blake, I just had to ask her. ” Will I die one day too? ” Doc looked at me and replied, ” Yes Grover, one day you will die too, we all have our time. But I don’t want you to worry, I will be by your side when it is your time and I will never forget you. You will always live in my heart just like Blake and all the other animals that I have been blessed to have in my life.” Every one of you has brought something special into my life, just as you have. So for now, we will enjoy our time together. I am so glad I found this picture. Now lets put Blake’s picture up where we can see it everyday.”
Doc ended up placing the picture of Blake up on a shelf where we can see it. I think both of us are glad Doc found that picture today because it is comforting to feel like Blake is watching over us. You just never know what treasures you may find.
Things have certainly quieted down around here since the holidays are over, so it has given me plenty of time to think and reflect. Since Doc and I have been back to work, I can’t help but notice that the same issues has been coming up with some of her patients, and it has to do with forgiveness.
Forgiveness can be a tricky thing sometimes, because it not only means letting go of old grudges, hurt and anger but it can also mean forgiving ourselves. From this dogs perspective, it seems like humans have more problems forgiving themselves than forgiving others. Even after someone has felt remorse, taken responsibility and apologized, many people still don’t feel like they deserve to be forgiven and here in lies the problem. They are stuck in the past because they don’t know how to differentiate one’s self from one’s wrongdoing. Doc and I have a pact. If we do something that hurts the other and we talk things through, we move on, but some people find that difficult.
So what is the best way to let go of guilt and shame? Start by forgiving yourself by practicing self-compassion and acceptance and then work on letting go of labeling yourself as a bad person. We all make mistakes, say things without thinking, do things we later regret. This will take some practice as you have to learn how to talk to yourself in a loving, positive way rather than beating yourself up over your mistakes. It can also be hard if the person you are trying to make amends to is not willing to forgive you. Remember, you can’t control how others will react, you can only offer your sincere apology.
As for those of you that have a hard time forgiving others, don’t get stuck in thinking that if you forgive someone you are letting them off the hook. You can still move on by setting new boundaries with that person.
Whether it is for ourselves or others, forgiveness sets us free. Grudges and guilt can be heavy burdens to carry through life. So lets start the new year by letting go of the past, learning from our mistakes and moving on.
” To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner is you.” Lewis B. Smedes
The new year is quickly approaching and I have tried to let Doc know that I am adamantly opposed to any New Years resolutions, but did she listen to my wishes? No, she certainly did not. For someone that preaches about respecting other people’s boundaries, she ran right over mine. She is trying to sell this new resolution to me as something that will improve and lengthen my life, but wait until you hear what she has cooked up for me.
I should have known something was up when I saw her reading the new book that her nephew Scott gave her for Christmas, titled; “The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help Your Canine Companion Live, Younger, Healthier and Longer.” She has been consuming that book for the last few days and highlighting some of the pages and then talking out loud to me about what she is learning. I have to admit, some of it is interesting. She says this is all science based research and you know she loves that nerdy stuff, but I digress. So now she had decided to apply or should I say conduct an experiment with me, her favorite canine subject in accordance with the research in the book.
Since it is Dec 29, she told me we needed to outline the strategy for change starting today. ” Ok Grover, today we are going to focus on the importance of optimal movement. Although we walk everyday and you do zoomies in the yard, according to the research it is not enough, so today I am going to teach you how to walk on the treadmill. Doesn’t that sound like fun?’ she asked with enthusiasm. I turned my head so she wouldn’t see me rolling my eyes at her. The treadmill? I have no intention of walking on a treadmill looking like a hamster running around in a wheel. What is she thinking?
Doc kept talking and to be honest I kind of zoned out when she was going over nutrition, genetics and environmental stressors. I know, I know, it is for my own good, but don’t all of us hate change and that’s why we stay stuck in the same old behaviors? Even Doc knows that none of us change until we are uncomfortable and I am not anywhere near uncomfortable.
After it was clear that Doc was not going to let up about this, I agreed to go stand on the treadmill hoping that would appease her and she would leave me to nap, but she had more in mind. To my horror I saw her reach up to start the machine, so I did what any smart dog would do, I used passive resistance by lying down and refusing to get up knowing Doc can’t lift my 84 pound frame. Befuddled, she tried everything from pleading to bribery by holding a dog treat on a string in front of my face, but I just sat there, not moving a muscle. Exasperated, she finally gave up and went in another room.
After some time passed, I followed her into the other room. I then asked her a question that I have heard her ask her own patients many times; ” Doc. what were you expecting?” It was like watching a switch go off in her brain and she got a big smile on her face. ” Oh Grover, you are the smartest therapy dog. You are right, I had created expectations about how you would change, but forgot to ask the one person that it mattered to the most, you. I promise it won’t happen again. It will be my New Year’s resolution to always respect that.” ” That’s ok Doc, I responded, I knew you had good intentions and speaking of resolutions lets focus on what we can put on your list.” “Very funny Grover” she said as she looked at me over her glasses.
It’s a few days until Christmas and Doc is scurrying around like a mouse looking for the last wedge of cheese. She has lists posted all over the house to help keep her focused, but quite frankly I think it makes her more anxious to see the long lists of things that still need to get done. As for me, I am chilling on my dog bed by the fire place, resting up for my yearly visit from Santa. After all, one of us needs to remain calm and it sure ain’t gonna be Doc.
While waiting for Doc to get done with her chores I decided to take a nap and I must have slept for hours because when I woke up not only did I think someone had been quietly calling my name, but it was also dark outside. I got up and wandered around the house looking for Doc and after not finding her anywhere, I decided that she must have run to the store, so I hopped up on the couch to wait. Suddenly I saw a large shadow move across the wall toward me. Frightened, I let out my most ferocious low growl to ward off the intruder when I was interrupted by a familiar voice calling my name. ” It’s me Grover” he exclaimed with some concern in his voice. As I turned toward the shadowy figure, I was surprised who appeared. It was my friend Santa arriving a few days early this year.
” Santa !” I exclaimed with joy, “What are you doing here so early?” As he sat down on the sofa next to me to rest his weary bones he responded. ” I just needed a break from supervising the elves and when I looked in my magic snow globe that lets me watch over you I saw that Doc had stepped out and I knew we could have some special time together. So, what’s on your mind my friend?” he asked softly. “I have been noticing how extra hard you have been working through out the year taking care of everyone and wanted to see if you are ok.”
After I moved over and put my head in his lap he gently patted me on the head and I poured my heart out to him. ” Well Santa, where should I start. I do feel very grateful. Doc provides me with everything I need but that’s not what is on my mind. As you know, its been a tough time for everyone over the past year because of COVID and just when things started to look better, it feels like they may be turning for the worse again. Even if you have everything you need, people are struggling emotionally because the world feels like it has been turned upside down. Although I try to comfort everyone I meet, I don’t know if I am doing enough and frankly Santa that is what weighs on my mind. I just don’t know what to do.”
Santa and I sat there quietly together for the longest time before he spoke. ” Grover, did it occur to you that maybe your biggest purpose right now is for you to take care of Doc?” It was like a lightbulb went off in my head. Why of course, it didn’t occur to me that if I felt this way, then Doc must feel that way too. ” It is so obvious Santa, why didn’t I see that?” “Because Doc has taken care of you since you were a puppy and you see her as a surrogate parent, but sometimes she needs you just as much as you need her.” Santa said with a sparkle in his eye. ” You are doing everything a good therapy dog needs to do. You are such a good dog Grover, don’t ever doubt that. And now that you know who you need to focus on, I really need to get back to the North Pole. I can’t leave the elves alone for too long or they loose focus and start playing with all the toys,” he said with a jolly laugh. Slowly, he got up from the couch, went over to our fire place, lay his finger aside his nose, gave a nod and poof, up the chimney he rose. I ran to the window just in time to see Santa in his sleigh being pulled through the night by none other than Rudolf. What a sight!
Before long, I heard Doc coming in the back door. I ran down the hall to greet her and said with excitement, ” Doc you will never guess who came to see me while you were gone! Santa Clause!” ” Oh Grover, you probably fell asleep and were dreaming again, now come on in here and eat your supper.” ” And that’s not all, I said, he told me I need to take care of you.” ” That’s sweet Grover, thank you. Now after we finish supper lets wrap some presents, after all Christmas is almost here.”
Doc and I wish all of you a joyous and peaceful holiday.
Today I made sure to ask Doc to walk me down the street so I could to check on my friend Jingle, who happens to be one of Santa’s Elves. I wanted to see if he was feeling better after his head and body got twisted around due to the high winds we had last Saturday. I imagine that kind of thing would leave you with a bad headache and he certainly doesn’t need that with all the toys he still has to make before Christmas. Besides, Doc taught me that checking on your friends is the neighborly thing to do, so off we went.
It was kind of strange how we met. He just showed up one day in the neighbor’s yard just like the Abominable Snow Man did. Jingle hangs out with a unicorn named Fred that he rode down on from the north pole. He’s kind of the silent type, but that’s ok, I don’t talk much either and its always nice to be friends with a good listener. Some of you may think I have ulterior motives befriending an elf given who his boss is, but I assure you I don’t. I just like the guy.
When I got down to the house he has been staying at, I was happy to see Jingle with his head back on straight looking like his old dapper self. He was busy wrapping some presents while Fred kept watch. ” I like to wrap up gifts while the children are in school and the adults are at work. As soon as they come home, I stand here frozen, just like a statue so that no one suspects a thing. Everyone in the neighborhood except for you and Doc just think I am a Christmas yard decoration.
Well, that made me curious, so I asked him why he was stationed in out neighborhood. “Grover, I will tell you if you can keep a secret.” Jingle said quietly. ” Of course I can keep a secret, I’m a therapy dog, I am trained to keep secrets.” I replied emphatically. With that reassurance, Jingle leaned in and said in a whisper, “There are actually thousands of elves stationed all over the world trying to keep an eye on everyone and report back to Santa. People think that the Elves on the Shelves are the real informants, but they are just decoys. The elves you see in people’s yards, they are the real operatives.” Jingle said with a wink.
Doc and I glanced at each other with a look of surprise. ” I sure would have never suspected that!” I exclaimed to both Doc and Jingle. ” But, I do have to ask, are there more kids or adults on the naughty list? ” ” Are you kidding me?” Jingle replied. “Have you not been watching how some of the adults have been acting for the last year? Don’t get me started. There is no contest. Most of the children have been angels given all they have been through. The adults could learn a few things from the kids, especially some awful woman named “Karen” that people keep talking about. But do not despair, if they embrace the season of love and giving there is always hope that they can change and get back on the nice list. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work before everyone gets home.”
As we were walking back to the house, I looked up at Doc and I couldn’t help but ask with a chuckle, ” Being that you are an adult, what list do you think Jingle has put you on?” ” Very funny Grover”, she replied. ” I think you need to worry about your own behavior.” she said with a smile. Now lets go inside and make some cookies for Santa.
The one thing that I have learned in my nine doggy years on earth is that you cannot always predict what will happen next. A text Doc received on Sunday evening reinforced this and led us down a path that felt like a TV episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
As fall is coming to an end, Doc and I decided to take advantage of the warmer temperature’s this last weekend to get the rest of the outside chores done. After a weekend of supervising Doc raking leaves, washing outside windows and cleaning up the flower beds, we were both pooped. We had only been relaxing on the couch for a short while when the text came through on Doc’s phone. I didn’t pay much attention until I saw the look on Doc’s face and then I glanced over to see the picture of a turkey leg with the meat pulled off and lying on the side was a small shiny metal object. Under the picture the text message said, “Look what we just found in the turkey leg you brought over.”
Now I am no expert on weaponry, but I was thinking the same thing as Doc and watched as she typed ” Is that a bullet? Poor Doc, she had been trying to take care of her relatives by bringing them left over Thanksgiving dinner after they could not come over on Thanksgiving day and now this happens. After a few more texts and posting and getting feedback on Facebook, it was decided by the majority that it was a bullet casing. Doc felt terrible and she was also concerned. How on earth did a bullet casing get into a store bought turkey? Should we call the turkey hot line and report it? ” I didn’t see a bullet hole in the turkey when I was preparing to roast it, how did that get in there? ” Doc said out loud.
After watching many episodes of Dateline and other mystery shows, my mind started wandering and I started to wonder if something nefarious was going on. Did I really know Doc at all? Was she trying to do her relatives in? Or was this a plot by vegans to save turkeys by sabotaging the turkey industry? Since I have watched lots of crime shows I decided that this sounded like a job for my very well honed detective skills.
After observing Doc’s behavior for awhile and considering all the evidence, I ruled her out as a suspect. So I moved on, and just as I had started putting together the evidence and matching it with other likely suspects Doc yelled out ” I know what it is!” She jumped off the couch, ran into the kitchen, opened a drawer and pulled out her meat thermometer and there was the answer in plain sight. Doc remembered that she had stuck the meat thermometer in the turkey to make sure it was done and when she pulled it out the mental tip must have gotten stuck in the turkey. “What a relief!” she said.
After a call to her family members and a good and hearty laugh about the whole thing, we settled back down and watched TV and just like clockwork a rerun of Unsolved Mysteries was coming on. As I was watching the show I couldn’t help but wonder, the smartest criminals know how to cover their tracks and Doc is no dummy. Was it really the tip of a meat thermometer? I decided just to be safe, I would never eat any of Doc’s Thanksgiving turkey again.
Although Thanksgiving was enjoyable, I am exhausted and need to rest up for the next part of the holiday season. I admit I probably ate too much and played too hard with the youngest member of our family that is a toddler, but that’s what keeps this old dog in shape. The only thing I am concerned about moving forward, is the obsession some of the neighbors have with putting life like decorations in the yard that I am sure come to life at night and frankly scare the bejeebers out of me. Isn’t the holiday season suppose to filled with joy and not terror?
For example, just this morning as Doc and I were out enjoying our midmorning walk we came around the corner and I was startled to see a large familiar figure that I thought had moved out of the neighborhood over a year ago. But no, it was back looming over the sidewalk ready to snatch Doc and I up and chew us to pieces with it’s snaggley teeth as soon as we got close enough. To my surprise and concern, Doc did not seemed fazed at all, so I sprung into action hoping I would scare the monster into leaving and then it would never come back again. As soon as we got close enough, I lunged forward while growling in my deepest voice and started barking for good measure. Doc looked at me out of the corner of her eye and said ” Are you scared of that thing Grover? It’s not even real.” ” I don’t care what you say”, I replied with conviction, That thing is creepy, it shows up once a year out of nowhere and I don’t like the way it looks at us. In fact, I think you should ask the neighbors to get rid of it.” After I made that remark, I could tell by the look on Doc’s face that we were going to have a talk when we got home.
I was right, after we got home Doc reassured me that she would never let anything hurt me but that I also needed to know that the neighbors had the right to put that in their yard, so I needed to get use to it. So later on in the afternoon, I found the courage to go back to see the Abominable Snowman figure all by myself. I sniffed it with great care and realized it was not a threat.
So What did I learn? Face your fears, most of the time things are not as scary as you think they are in your head. No matter, I still think that thing looks creepy.
It would be a gross understatement to say that I am excited about Thanksgiving. There is not a word in the entire English or Urban dictionary that describes the pure joy and anticipation I am feeling about my favorite holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing all the family and thank goodness we can be together again this year, but what I really love is the glorious food!
I knew Thanksgiving must be getting close when about two weeks ago Doc came in the back door with a 20 pound turkey. That sucker was huge and still frozen, so she needed two hands to hoist it in the freezer. I asked her if she needed help and she gave me a strange look and told me to back away from the turkey like I was going to drag it outside, let in thaw in the sun and eat the whole thing myself. Bless her heart, she was so excited that she got that turkey for eighty four cents a pound that she bragged to everyone. Well as you know, Doc does like a good deal. Since last Friday that turkey has since been transferred to the refrigerator to thaw out. I check on it everyday to make sure it’s still there and today Doc will put it in the oven for about five hours and hopefully tonight when she carves it, she will slip me a piece to make sure it tastes good enough to serve tot he relatives. I just hope Doc doesn’t drop the turkey on the floor like she did a few years back when it was so buttered up it slipped out of her arms. If that happens you all know I will eat it anyway, after all, I do eat bunny poop like it’s a gourmet treat.
I don’t want you to think that all I care about is the food, because Doc and I have already been talking about what we are thankful for. Doc told me that there are scientific studies that prove that being grateful improves physical and mental health, enhances empathy, improves self-esteem, reduces aggression, helps you to sleep better at night and opens the door to positive relationships. So I am starting my gratitude list and when the relatives come over to eat tomorrow we can talk about the things we are most grateful for. Spending a day with people I love and eating good food will be at the top of my list.
Doc and I wish every one of you a Thanksgiving filled with many blessings!