An Unexpected Visitor from the North Pole

When I got up this morning, the last person I expected to run into at work was Santa Clause. But there he was sitting by our big Christmas tree. Apparently he and the elves had transformed the entire room into a workshop with homemade cookies, stockings to decorate and ornaments to make for all the people coming to our Christmas party today. If I would have known that he was coming to check on me, I wouldn’t have acted so naughty this year.

Luckily, Santa is forgiving and he thanked me for taking care of so many people, especially Doc. He said in spite of her being kind of bossy that she remained on the nice list along with me. That gave me a chuckle. It’s always good to catch up with the jolly old elf and he sure brought a lot of smiles to all the patients, their families and staff today.

My New Friend from Spain

The night before Thanksgiving I knew that Doc’s oldest niece Suzanne was arriving for a holiday visit, what I didn’t know was that she was bringing someone that came all the way from Spain. So when the doorbell rang, and I saw another person standing behind Suzanne, I became quite curious. So, after greeting Suzanne, I went over and was introduced to Irene.

Doc knew all about Irene’s visit, but had neglected to tell me. I soon found out that Irene is a foreign exchange student and is living with Suzanne for her senior year of high school to experience what it is like to live in the United States. Since this was her first Thanksgiving, Doc made sure Irene was comfortable, showed her an article about Sarah Josepha Hale being the person that prompted Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday and then showed her my most favorite part of the holiday, preparing the turkey to roast.

Both Irene and I watched intently as Doc pulled the 21.5 pound turkey out of the fridge. When Doc put her hand in the rear end of the turkey, Irene wanted to know what she was doing, and Doc showed her as she pulled out the giblets and the neck. Irene made a face when Doc told her that, but I licked my lips knowing that is a tasty part of the turkey as well. Then she slathered on the melted butter mixed with herbs and spices, covered it in foil, and put it in the oven for 4 1/2 hours.

While the turkey was roasting, Irene and I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and the National Dog Show. I still thinks it’s unfair that mutts like me aren’t allowed to compete. Probably because those pure breeds are afraid of the competition.

Later in the day, the family started arriving , bringing more good things to eat. We then sat down at the table, Doc said a prayer about being thankful. I have to hand it to Irene, she tried a little bit of everything and later told Doc she liked it all, especially the pumpkin pie as she had never had that kind of pie before. Luckily there were was enough left over so she could have a few slices during her stay and even took some for the road trip home.

I have to hand it to Irene. I don’t think I would be brave enough to go live in a foreign country without Doc. Her desire to learn and experience something new by going way out of her comfort zone says what kind of person she is. Traveling outside your country of origin also helps you to see that people are really not that different from each other.

I was sorry to see Irene go home as she was fun to be around. Doc invited her back for Christmas, I sure hope she returns. Maybe I could bribe her by promising her that Doc will make her another pumpkin pie.

Guarding Dinner From Predators

Something about the days getting shorter triggers Doc to start cooking comfort food. All day I had to be tortured with the aroma of a mushroom chicken recipe that was cooking in the crock pot all day along with the homemade noodles boiling on the stove. Someone needed to guard the food so no one would get into it before supper, so I bravely volunteered for the job. That was before I knew a turkey would be involved.

Yup, Doc went grocery shopping while the food was cooking and she walked in the door with a huge 22 pound frozen turkey. I could tell by the way she was carrying it, that it was heavy. All I kept thinking was, if she drops that thing on her foot she will break it and I wasn’t trained to call 911. Luckily she hoisted that bird into the freezer and bragged about how cheap it was per pound. I guess when you are a human adult, the low price of turkey gives you a thrill.

Anyhow, after awhile I became so tired guarding all the food from predators, I fell asleep and started dreaming about Thanksgiving and all the tasty morsels I would snatch when baby Abe drops his food on the floor. It was one of the best dreams a dog could have. Soon I heard Doc’s voice and it woke me out of my blissful slumber. She was rude enough to ask me to move so she could finish preparing supper. That’s the thanks I get for guarding the food al day. Can you believe that?

Beware, There Are Vampires Among Us

Have you ever run into someone that always has some sort of dramatic event happening in their lives? The kind of person that picks apart a situation, finds all the flaws and only looks at the negative? Doc calls those people Vampires because they suck all the emotional energy out of you when you are around them. Beware, as they are lurking about all times of the year, not just at Halloween.

So how can you tell if you have a vampire in your life? Wouldn’t it be nice if they were easy to identify because they had long bloody fangs just like in the movies? Well since that’s not the case, this therapy dog will clue you in since I have known a few in my lifetime. First of all, they don’t think any of their problems are their fault. They don’t take responsibility for any of the choices they have made that got them in the pickle they are now in, they are the victim of others. Second, they often diminish your problems and focus on their own using your good nature to make everything about them. Third, they may criticize and “guilt trip” you knowing that shame is a great weapon against those that are compassionate and caring. Finally, they will use your good nature against you, trying to monopolize your time and expecting you to listen to their endless problems, but they are never there when you need them.

So what can you do to get rid of these vampires without driving a stake thorough their heart? If setting boundaries, guarding your emotions or adjusting your expectations doesn’t work, you just may need to cut them out of your life entirely or at least minimize the time you are around them. That may seem cruel or dramatic, but after all you are protecting yourself, and that’s what good mental health is all about.

Mayor Doc

A few weeks ago Doc received an odd envelope at work with the title ” The Honorable.” Well that piqued both of our interests and when she opened the package there was a letter that said she was the mayor of some smaller town outside of Columbus. Sent from the Commissioner from the county board, he was asking her to review some material from the housing task force to give ideas about more affordable housing around the city. Looking over her shoulder at the letter I wondered if she had secretly run for mayor when I wasn’t looking?

Doc just burst out laughing after she read it, as she knew exactly why this had happened. She has the same name as the mayor of the small town and someone at the commissioners office had made a mistake. That did get me to thinking that if she is mayor, I should be appointed her deputy with the official title Deputy Dog. Thinking of the power I could have and make sure there were treats stations through out the city for my fellow canines made me feel like I could be a big shot in the dog community, but I digress.

Our fellow co-workers had a lot of fun thinking of all the possibilities of Doc being mayor including changes that could be made and events that we could host. Some of the staff are still calling her Mayor Doc. In the end we are content doing our regular job and happy where we are, but it’s always fun to dream about a whole other life.

The Dream Team Gathers to Say Farwell

Last Wednesday, past and present staff, patient’s and family of our co-worker Diane, gathered to have a celebration of life for her. Doc had me available to help comfort those that needed a friendly dog to reach out to. It is healing when everyone can gather and support each other in their grief.

Although it was a sad day saying good by, I was comforted to see so many of my past co-workers. Getting pats and hugs from each one reminded me of how working together to help others, can bond a group for life. Both Doc and I are so thankful to be part of a team of so many professionals that have dedicated their lives to show up every day to serve the needs of others. Some have retired or moved on to other jobs, but whenever we see each other, it feels like coming home. I looked at all their faces and remembered the years I have spent with each and everyone of them, sharing our lives and bonded by our experiences. Doc says she is a better person for having known all of them and they have all touched our lives in different ways. I miss the ones that have left, especially Carolyn, that use to make me popcorn every day. It doesn’t feel the same at work without them.

Although transitions are a part of life, personally, I don’t care much for change. Doc says I need to work on my resiliency, because change is inevitable. I suppose she’s right. People grow, move on, and even pass away. I have to think that Diane would be happy to see us all together again in her memory.

The Pain of Saying Good By

Loss is never easy , but Doc often tells the patient’s that it’s very important for them to honor their feelings and express them in a safe place. Trying to act like everything is ok when it isn’t, never works in the long run. The body keeps count of every emotion that we choose to stuff inside and it can rear it’s ugly head when we least expect it. This week was our turn to practice what we preach and express our profound grief over the sudden loss of one of our coworkers Diane, that also happened to be a counselor. It felt like the loss of limb not only for the staff but for her patients that had trusted and opened up their lives to her. And so we all begin the healing together.

As a therapy dog, I absorb all the emotions of those I am around and the pain feels profound to me. I have never had to help comfort patients from a loss that I am also going through myself, along with my co-workers. Over the last week, sometimes I have to take a break and go to my safe place in my dog bed behind the big chair in Doc’s office. I escape by going to sleep for awhile. Then I think about how I have known Diane since I was a puppy and how she would sneak me treats when I escaped down to her office and then give me a pat on the head. Doc notices how it affects me, but she is trying to make sure she is ok so she can help the patients trying to come to terms with this profound shift in their lives. None of this is easy.

Sudden loss has a way of sneaking up behind you and slamming you in the head when you least expect it. It’s exhausting, but also can be a teacher because grief really never ends, it just changes form and we learn to hold space in our heart for the person that we care for.

Diane was a gentle soul, who made a profound impact on the hundred’s of patient’s that she helped over the years, her family, co-workers and friends. That is her legacy and she will will be dearly missed.

I Ate the Whole Thing and I’m Not Sorry

What do you do to amuse yourself after you have been placed in time out for what Doc claims is inappropriate behavior? You may wonder what heinous crime I committed to get me in so much trouble, so let me tell you my side of the story.

It was just a regular Tuesday at work and we had a break between patients, so I decided to meander down the hall to visit Sheila, one of my co-workers. She was giving me a back massage when Doc came into the room. Well, Doc and Sheila started talking and Sheila stopped my massage, so I got bored listening to those two talk about work. I decided to look around the office for something to do. Suddenly, I spied a tote bag on the floor next to the desk and thought I should probably investigate to make sure there was nothing dangerous inside that could hurt the staff. As I got closer I noticed a wonderful aroma coming from the bag, so I did what any dog would do, I stuck my head down in it, all in the name of safety of course. But just as I was pulling the contents out of the bag and sinking my teeth into it, the yelling started. Startled, I turned around just as Doc grabbed me and tried to pull the baggy out of my mouth that had the food inside. I have jaws of steel and was not going to give her the bag. If she was hungry she needed to find her own food, I thought to myself. But of course she won and was horrified to find out that I had taken a big bite out of Sheila’s lunch. Doc immediately threw it in the trash where I made the mistake of trying to fish it out again. After all you shouldn’t waste perfectly good food.

Doc was quite upset by my behavior and offered to buy her another lunch. Sheila sure didn’t seem that bothered and was a lot nicer about the whole thing than Doc was. Doc scolded me all the way down the hall. I told Doc that I thought it was Sheila’s fault for leaving food where I would be tempted and reminded her that science says that dogs intellectual ability is the same as a toddler’s, so what did she expect. That really set Doc off and she gave me a lecture about taking responsibility and then sent me to my bed to use my “toddler intellect to think about what I had done.”

It’s now late in the evening after supper as I write this, and Doc has already moved on. That is the good thing about Doc, she doesn’t hold a grudge. As for me, I just can’t promise I won’t try to steal food again. After all, what dog do you know that ever passed up a free snack?

Summer Wrap Up and Back to Work

As summer vacation drew to a close, and we had to return to work, Doc and I tried to fit in every outdoor adventure while we had the time. I thought Doc might be overdoing it with all the things she had us signed up for, but I went along for the ride without complaint, because I have to admit, she does know how to have fun. Then reality set in, and we were back to our daily work schedule the day after Labor Day.

On our first day back and after having a day filled with seeing patients, we had a mandatory meeting with the big bosses. They were presenting some new section of a strategic plan for our agency. Now don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see everyone, including counseling staff we never get to see, but meetings and presentations are boring to this pooch, so I tried to liven things up a bit and that did not turn out well.

First, I went around to greet everyone while I also stayed on the look out for any snacks they may have had. some were nice enough to share. I then spotted my co-worker Homer and became so excited to see him, I tried to get to him, but was trapped on the other side of the table. So I did what any normal big dog would do, I jumped up and put my paws on the table trying to get to him. Boy, when Doc turned and saw that, I got in a little bit of trouble. I swear that woman has yes in the back of her head.

After that she made me come stay by her side while the presentation went on. I no I needed to be quiet, but I just couldn’t take it any more so I started whining. Doc, did try to correct me, but I just couldn’t contain myself and got louder. So, after a while, I got kicked out of the meeting for being disruptive on my first day back. Imagine that. I guess that means I am in the dog house for awhile. Oh well, life goes on.

Adventures at the Slanty Shanty

Leave it to Doc to find a lakeside vacation rental called the Slanty Shanty. Built in the late 1800’s, it was originally a carriage house. Yup, you got it, Doc had us staying in a place that use to house horses.

The horses were gone of course, and the place was now converted for human use, but I swear the place was still being haunted by the spirits of the horses that use to stay there. All I can say is that there were some strange noises in that place at night. Whoa Nelly!

Since we basically only slept there at night, it was ok. We were too busy during the day playing by Lake Erie and spending time with friends. My only beef was that Doc refused to let me jump in the lake. What a spoil sport. Why did she bring me, if I wasn’t allowed to swim? She told me the beach would not allow dogs and it was too dangerous for me to jump over the rocks by the shore line. She was concerned I would float away and end up in Canada without a passport. I complained with loud barking, but to no avail, after all, she is the boss of me.

It’s was nice to get away and not have a schedule to follow. Sleeping in, going for long walks by Lake Erie, eating good fish and meeting new people and dogs is always nice, but it is also nice to come home. We have one more week off of work and then we return after Labor Day. It always makes me kind of sad when the summer is coming to a close, but we do have fall to look forward to. So, enjoy the waning days of summer and all they have to offer, before they slip away.