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.

The Power of Empathy and a Little Ingenuity

Photo by Angela Kirk

Did you know that there is a helicopter named Ingenuity flying around on Mars right now? And did you also know that a piece of the Wright Brothers 1903 Wright Flyer I is on that helicopter to honor them ?  All of this boggles my mind. It makes me realize that I need to up my game if this dog wants to accomplish anything major in life and go down in history like Lassie or Scooby-Doo. I realize there no time like the present so I got to work coming up with a plan.

I fussed about this all through the day and then while lying on the back porch with Doc last evening, I was talking out loud to myself. I kept racking my brain trying to figure out what wonderful invention I could come up with that could change the world or at least Ohio.  My head started hurting from thinking so hard. Doc listened to me quietly mumble and then she suddenly interjected. ” Grover, what are you fussing about?” ” I have been inspired by how Orville and Wilbur Wright figured out how to fly a plane and because of that we are now flying helicopters on Mars. I want to do something fabulous like that!” I pouted. ” Oh for heavens sake Grover, you already are doing something fabulous. ” she said sweetly. ‘ I am?” I asked with surprise.”

Doc then went on to tell me that being a therapy dog, helping to comfort people when they are feeling sick, cheering them up when they are having a bad day or laying quietly with my head in the lap of  someone that is crying is just as important as going to Mars. ‘It is?” I responded. Doc went on to explain that when I help someone to heal from their pain that it not only helps them, but has a ripple affect on everyone that person comes in contact with. The kindness and unconditional  love that you give is your very special gift to the world. It takes both empathy and ingenuity to be aware of how others are feelings and then come up with just the right way to help them.” she said with a smile.

As I lay there quietly taking in everything that Doc had said to me I realized what she was saying was true. We all have our special gifts and we don’t need to fly to Mars to make an impact on the world.

 

 

Plop, Glug and Fizzle

Photo by Angela Kirk

Pushing away the clutter in your brain so that you can focus on what you need to do to solve a problem can be challenging . Doc told me that you have to stop, refocus, think of what choices you have available and then try to come up with a solution.  It’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact, Doc was challenged to follow her own counsel when she made a human error last weekend that caused her a big headache and $$$.

It was a typical Saturday that started with a leisurely breakfast of eggs and bacon and then it was time to start cleaning the house. I was busily putting my toys away in a basket when I heard the first shriek coming from Doc’s bathroom.  I flew down the hall to see what was going on just in time to see Doc stick her hand in the toilet trying to retrieve her cell phone. The phone started making weird noises while flashing strange messages across the screen. Even SIRI yelled out for help in a gurgled voice as she became water logged in toilet bowl cleaner.  Horrified, Doc quickly removed the phone, dried it off and attempted some CPR to revive the poor thing, but it was deader than roadkill. As I looked Doc squarely in the eye I could see she was panicked. You humans seem to carry all your information in that little thing and are greatly attached to it. If you ask me that’s just not healthy.

So off we went to the phone store. I stayed calm while she was on the verge of a melt down. A sales technician approached and talked to both of us in a strange language that included information about retrieving things off of the iCloud and then he admonished Doc for not having enough gigabytes in her current wireless contract like she had committed a crime. Doc just sat there with a glazed look over her face nodding while looking like she was being tortured. After picking out a new phone, there was a two minute instruction on how to operate the thing and she was given an email address to transfer all her information from the iCloud to her new phone. I guess the iCloud is a very powerful force in the universe.

As soon as we got home, Doc got to work trying to retrieve her data. I sat beside her to keep her calm while silently chanting to the iCloud hoping it would release its strange power over Doc. You know how its hard to concentrate when you are stressed? Well the stress was compounded by the fact that Doc was having trouble remembering her password.” Rut Ro, I said softly this ain’t good”. After about an hour of trying every password and e-mail combination she could think of, the iCloud would just not relent so that is when I suggested we call in the big guns for help.

Nephew Scott, IT expert answered his phone while in the middle of a frisbee golf game. He made arrangements to come over the next day to help and Doc finally relaxed after hearing that.  On Sunday he arrived like a super hero. He went right to work using some mumbo jumbo magic that apparently the almighty iCloud understood and suddenly the information was released and sent down to earth and onto Doc’s new phone like mana from heaven. Alleluia!!

So what did I learn from all this? That Doc is human and gets stressed like the rest of us and that the iCloud is controlling human information and can only be intimidated by people with IT super powers. Oh yeah, and don’t drop your phone in the toilet. The End

Spring, Sprang, Sprung

Photo by Angela Kirk

“Yippy Skippy!” I yelled out loud as I rolled side to side in the grass. I was taking in the warmth and sweetness of the first days of spring, happy the harshness and gloom of winter was over. I must have yelled too loud as I looked over and saw that I had startled Doc as she sat on the porch step basking in the rays of the afternoon sun. She didn’t seem annoyed at the interruption, in fact she smiled sweetly and came over to join me in the grass.” Grover, do you think we have a greater appreciation for spring this year because of  what we have been through with the pandemic?” she asked asked thoughtfully.  We sat quietly for the longest time as we mulled this over.

Everything seems so much brighter and sweeter to me this spring because of what we have been through I thought to myself. For the first time I am starting to feel some hope that better days are ahead. Since Doc and some of her family and friends have been vaccinated she is cautiously being in contact with more people and I am just as happy to see them as she is. It’s like we had to create our own world and live in a bubble for a year to stay safe. Trying to achieve balance of having some pieces of normalcy with caution attached by making sure to always wash our hands and paws, wear a mask and stay six feet away has been contrary to what we all needed and desired as living beings but it’s how we remained well. In the back of my mind there was always my concern that Doc might get sick with COVID and then what would we do? And now here we are moving forward with cautious optimism.

When I looked over at Doc it was like we had been thinking the same thing. ” Spring is about rebirth and I am ready to move ahead.” Doc said. ” ” I agree, I retorted. Just don’t act like Girls Gone Wild now that you have your vaccine,” I told her with a smirk on my face. “Don’t worry,” she said with a laugh, neither of us can get too wild, we both have to work every day. As we lay there in the grass for a while longer I couldn’t help to be thankful for the lessons we have learned and the good health we have maintained.

” Spring is painted in daffodil yellows, robin egg blues, new grass green and the brightness of hope for a better life,” Toni Sorenson

 

Life Lessons From a Turtle

Photo by Angela Kirk

It’s important to take a break from your regular routine and that is just what Doc and I did last week. For one week we went our separate ways and I have to confess that it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Since vacation means to vacate, I went to spend time at my veterinarian’s office cheering up the staff and the sick animals. I love all the staff and after a year of not working, it was nice to give back to others again. Doc on the other hand left town and it sounds like all she did was eat, lay around and sleep for a week. That’s not my idea of a fun time but to each his own and we should do what restores us.

When Doc and I got back home again she told me that she was talking a walk the first morning of her vacation and came across a Tortoise moseying across the road. She said that she stopped and watched the slow precision and focus he had on his journey toward the water he was moving toward. ” I came to admire how he went about his task with such calm energy like he didn’t have one care in the world”, she said with wonder. “I guess that’s the problem I replied, we end up having ideas in our head about what we should be doing rather than what is best for our mental well being.” It occurred to both of us as we were discussing this that If we really listen to our inner voice and honor what we need, we would lead happier and healthier lives. Who knew you could learn so much from watching a turtle?

Big Stick Diplomacy

Photo by Angela Kirk

It took over a week for all the snow to melt here in the Midwest but when it did I found many treasures that had been buried for weeks. Two tennis balls that I though I misplaced, a frisbee and a very big stick I had become quite fond of were just part of what had been beneath all that ice and snow.

Doc forever vigilant concerning what I consume came right outside when she saw me chewing on the big branch, looked at me and shook her head. ” If you get sick from eating that bark, don’t you wake me up at night with an upset stomach.” she said with authority, Thinking quickly I retorted, ” I’ll have you know that just like President Teddy Roosevelt I too speak softly and carry a big stick.” ” Oh really, she exclaimed, do tell.”  I slowly began to formulate my words carefully because I knew I was in deep and needed to sound like I knew what I was talking about.

” Well I know the president was talking about the importance of  thinking about things before they happen and having a decisive plan before there is a military crisis, but I have a different spin on it.  You know Doc, more often than not you humans walk into situations without thinking things all the way through or procrastinate until you are in a pickle and are then forced to act in the midst of chaos. Then you all act shocked by what happened and call it bad luck when in fact it was your choices that got you into the problem in the first place. ” I said with conviction.  The stick my dear Doc represents the good boundaries we need to set with ourselves and others in order to avoid a crisis.”  I sat in the yard proud of what I had come up with when she replied, ” Nice try Grover you made a good point,  now put down that stick and come inside, for supper as she pointed to the door with a smile.”

As I walked past her into the house I made a mental note to myself to never try to outsmart Doc again.