When Life Becomes a Pain in the Neck

It has been said that aging is not for wimps and now that I am a senior dog I am gaining first hand experience about what that really means.

It all started with a ear infection. For those of you that don’t know, floppy-eared dogs get a lot of them. So when Doc suspected I had one, she took me to the veterinarian, got me diagnosed and treated. Twice a day Doc gave me medicated ear drops, and once a day she washed out my ears with an anti-bacterial wash. I tolerated it, but didn’t like it as it caused me to shake my head a lot trying to get that stuff out of my ear canal. It just felt uncomfortable.

About week after my treatment started, I woke up one morning and I had a hard time moving my neck it was so painful. I hurt so much I didn’t even want to eat, and let me tell you Doc was worried and so was I. Back to the doctors office we went on Monday morning where I got to see one of my favorite vets, Dr. Balazs. She has known me since I was a puppy and I knew that she would figure out what was going on and help me.

As we waited in the exam room, I could tell Doc was anxious even through she tried not to show it. She knows as we get older that anything can happen. so I laid right up against her so she wouldn’t be so afraid. Soon Dr. Balazs came in the room and just like I expected, it didn’t take her very long at all to figure out what was wrong. After thorough examination she said that I had strained my neck from shaking it so much. She said she could feel the tightness in my muscles in my neck and by the way I was holding my head. After some more consultation a plan of treatment was discussed. It was a relief to know that with medication and rest I would be ok, and the good news was that my ear infection was gone. The doctor also gave me permission to go back to work in the morning as long as I took it easy.

Now that I am back to work, you know that I have been getting lots of sympathy and I have been eating that up. Today I am going to go see Heather, one of my favorite nurse practitioners for a visit in our other building and tell her my sad story about all that I have been through. She keeps special treats for me in the drawer of her desk and I know she will show me great sympathy and feed me. I am not ashamed to say that I have sat outside of her door and whined even though I knew she was with a patient because I wanted her to give me some of those tasty treats. She is so nice that if she misses me when I stop by that she will bring the treats to me later when she has time. What a great co-worker to have.

Yes, it can be difficult dealing with the aches and pains of aging, but when you have so many people like I do that care for me and love me I am left feeling nothing but grateful.

” Age is not how old you are, but how many years of fun you’ve had.” – Matt Maldre.

Count Down to Turkey Time

Doc could hardly believe it when she looked at the calendar and saw that Thanksgiving was next week already. I think of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is my favorite. What’s not love? It’s the one day of the year the humans stuff themselves without guilt and when they are done I get all the leftovers. I start drooling just thinking about it. Of course the focus of the day is to count our blessings and that is the most important thing to remember, unless you know a secret about a past Thanksgiving and that is what I will tell you about today.

Doc says the holidays always bring back memories for her of all the family gatherings from childhood to present and that is what makes the day special for her. As she was going down memory lane with me, she reminded me of a story she told me about before I was born about the biggest Thanksgiving mishap that she ever had and to this day her family doesn’t let her forget about it.

Many years ago, Doc got up at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving morning, while her family was still asleep upstairs. She had to get the big 20 pound turkey ready and put it in the oven so it could cook all day. After she buttered and seasoned the bird, she picked it up to put in the roaster and that bird slipped out of her hands, landed on the floor and slid a good ten feet before it came to a halt against the stove. She was mortified and let out a few choice words you would never say in church. Trying to decide what she would do as the turkey had picked up some dirt and a few dog hairs, she didn’t miss a beat. She got a paper towel, cleaned off the bird the best she could and put that sucker in the oven thinking the germs would all be killed in the cooking process. She told herself she would never say a word about what happened and since there were no witnesses, she was in the clear.

Later that day, the family arrived, sat down to dinner and ate that turkey while Doc kept the secret to herself,. The family praised her for a great meal and no one suspected a thing. It wasn’t until the next Thanksgiving that Doc confessed to what had happened. Although everyone was a little shocked, no one was so bothered that they left the table and to this day they talk about that and have a good laugh.

Besides the glorious food, listening to the family talk about all the memories is one one my favorite parts of Thanksgiving. I hope all of you have some good memories to share and many things to be thankful for this year.

Tricks Are Better Than Treats

On Monday we celebrated one of my favorite holidays, Halloween’s Trick or Treat. I love seeing all the children in costumes, helping Doc hand out candy and seeing both adults and children having a good time. What I didn’t expect was for Doc to try and play an innocent trick on some poor unsuspecting children.

The weather was beautiful as we sat on the front porch passing out candy. Hordes of children ran up and down the street through the autumn leaves in anticipation of what goodies they would score. Doc has learned over the years to stock up, so that she never runs out of treats. We saw children dressed in every character imaginable and even a gorilla made a visit that was having problems navigating his new large gorilla feet as he walked between the houses. I bet he never wears that costume again. I tried to sneak some treats, but Doc caught me with a Tootsie Roll Pop in my mouth and put the nix on that quickly.

It was about half way through the night when we saw four very energetic and small boys dressed like Ninjas going house to house at a rapid pace. Right before they landed on our door step, Doc and I both noticed that when they were across the street at our neighbors house that they tried to dump much of the unguarded candy from the bowel on the porch into their bags until they got caught and then they ran toward our house.

As they bounded on to the front porch Doc asked them with authority in her voice, ” What do you want, a trick or a treat.? ” These poor unsuspecting lads did not know what web they were being drawn into and answered in unison ” A Trick!” So now that the bait was set, Doc said to them, ” I know I don’t look like one, but I am actually a witch with special powers and I have the ability to turn one of you into a frog. Now, which one of you wants to be a frog? I watched with amusement as their eyes got bigger than saucers and was surprised when all of them pointed to the same boy in the group. ” Him!” they yelled. For a moment, the poor boy looked like he was going to faint, but then Doc let out a laugh, filled their bags with candy and told them to be on their way and to behave themselves for the rest of the night. Those poor boys couldn’t get off our porch fast enough. I bet they couldn’t wait to tell their parents that they met a real witch in the neighborhood on Halloween. What fun! That is what Halloween is all about.

The time passed so quickly and at 8pm we got the last knock on the door from some young ladies and so Doc gave then most of the candy that was left over. They sure seemed happy. As for me I was worn out and jumped into Doc bed only to dream of witches and ghosts and monsters that creep through the night.

Ghosts, Warlocks and Witches Oh My!

Yesterday when Doc and I were taking our daily walk, we came upon some some interesting new people that have moved into the neighborhood. I don’t want to seem judgmental, but they were a little odd in an interesting and scary kind of way. I was certainly surprised that they had set up a type of camp in the front yard of one of our neighbors houses and were standing over a big pot of something that they were cooking. I am not a lawyer, but they have to be violating some type of city code and I was surprised no one on the street seemed upset by this, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and do an investigation under the dark of night.

Later that evening, when Doc was sound asleep, I slipped out the back door and snuck up the street being careful to stay in the shadows so that no one would see me and tell Doc I was running around outside alone. As I got closer to the house I could see that off in the distance that there was a fire under the pot and the three women were bending over the cauldron, furiously stirring whatever they were cooking. As I hid behind the tree so they could not see me I could hear them doing some kind of chant in a language I did not understand. Obviously they were not from around here originally, but I decided to move forward and befriend them as Doc has always taught me to be kind and welcoming.

As I came out from behind the tree and let out a friendly bark to let them know I was there, they jumped up and shrieked like I was a monster approaching them. I started wagging my tail and they seamed to calm down a bit and they turned and smiled. The first thing I noticed was that all three had missing and blackened teeth. Not to be rude, but they could use a good dentist.

It was quite eerie when they suddenly started talking to me and when I responded they could understand me, because no one up until this moment, could understand me besides Doc. They told me they were visiting from out of town and had flown in the other day just for Halloween. When they came near me they started looking me over and asking me how much I weighed and remarked how meaty and tender I seemed. When they looked at each other with knowing glances, I started to shiver because I was worried they were thinking about adding me to their pot of stew. Just as they leaned down to grab me I made a fast getaway and was running down the street for the house when I saw Doc frantically running toward me in her robe and slippers. As I was panting heavily, all I could say was ”Help me Doc, those three women up the street tried to grab me and cook me!” ” Grover, where have you been, I have been looking all over for you?” ” I was just trying to be friends with those strange ladies up the street.. I think they are witches!” I said with fear still in my voice. ” Grover, don’t try to make up tall tails to get out of being in trouble. you know you aren’t allowed to be out alone at night. Those witches aren’t real, they’re fake Halloween decorations. What an imagination you have. Now get in the house.”

Soon we were settled in and I snuggled in bed right next to Doc because I was still scared. You won’t ever see me go out at night alone again, you can be sure of that. I learned my lesson. I don’t care what Doc says, I now know that strange things can happen happen at night, especially near Halloween.

Taking Care of Doc

There are times in life where the roles with the people you love can become reversed, and last Friday was one of those days. I became the caretaker and Doc became the patient and if I had known how non-compliant she can become I would have declined the job from the start.

Early Friday morning, Doc’s niece picked her up to take her for a minor medical out-patient procedure that required that she be placed under anesthesia for awhile. I stayed home and napped until I heard the garage door open at about 11am. In walked Doc still feeling a bit groggy from the medication. She had been given strict instructions before she was discharged to take it easy, not drive or make any major decisions for 24 hours. Her niece, that also happens to be a nurse, told her to follow the discharge instructions, get in bed and stay there until she got back from filling the prescription the doctor wrote for her. I just rolled my eyes knowing Doc was not about to follow all those instructions. But just in case, I decided to lay down right next to her hoping by some miracle I could control her until her niece came back.

After about ten minutes had passed, Doc looked at me and said ” I think I’ll put in a load of laundry, that’s easy enough to do.” Oh Boy I thought to myself, ‘Here she goes.” She seemed content after she started the laundry and was quiet for a while longer, but I could see her brain thinking about all the things that needed done and one by one she checked things off her list until her niece texted her that she was on her way over with the prescription. Doc immediately got back in bed and swore me to secrecy. ” Wasn’t it you who told me that there are some secrets that we should not keep? ” I asked with some sarcasm in my voice. ” This is not the time Grover!” she snapped back at me. I could have sworn I also heard her say something about snitches getting stiches” under her breath but I probably misheard her.

The rest of the day and night were uneventful as her niece was keeping an eye on her. By 8pm Doc was bushed and she fell sound asleep. She stayed pretty quiet on Saturday because frankly I think she wore herself. I thought my caretaking role might be getting easier, until she let me out that evening and she noticed one of the flood lights had burned out. ” Oh No ! I thought to myself, because I knew what was coming next. Luckily it was dark so I knew nothing would happen until the next day.

On Sunday the worst came pass, Doc after having a surgery to help correct vertigo, though it was a great idea to get out a ladder to put up on the side of the house and climb up to change that burnt out light bulb. I had had enough with her non compliance and frankly now she was attempting death defying tricks that could really hurt her. So I did what any good therapy dog would do. When Doc wasn’t looking I noticed that my next door neighbor had his side door open and I could see him watching TV, so I went over to the fence and barked loud enough and long enough that he turned around to see what Doc was doing and came running out of the house to help. He was so nice in how he approached her that she didn’t even fuss at him and allowed him to help her. Crisis averted.

Later I was remembering how Doc always talked about her dad doing things when he was older that he shouldn’t have and how it scared her, and here she is doing the same thing. I guess its true that the apple does not fall far from the tree. As for this dog, I think I should be awarded some hazard pay.

It’s now Wednesday morning, we are at work and things are back to normal, but I still need to have a talk with Doc. I want to remind her that it’s ok to let other people care for her and to ask for help when she needs it. A life lesson many of us can probably work on.

The Case of the Visiting Hedgehog

Doc is rarely surprised by the things that show up inside our house, as most of the time she knows where they came from. That was until the other night when a strange unidentified object showed up for a visit.

It was just after dusk and Doc had taken me outside to use the bathroom before bed. She had just taken off my leash, kicked off her shoes and was walking into the family room when she stopped dead in her tracks and said out loud ” What was that I just stepped on, Grover do you know what this thing is?” As she bent down to pick it up and examine it, I pled the fifth and went on about my business like I didn’t know a thing.

Having a mind like a detective, Doc starting gathering clues. She first concluded that I didn’t pick it in when we were outside or it would have been moist from my saliva, but instead was dry as a bone. It was kind of dark so she assumed that I had chewed the cover off of one of my toys and left the center squishy part. That only worried her that I had ingested the rest of it. ” Grover I hope you didn’t swallow that.” she said with concern. She then took the unidentified object and threw it in the trash. ” Oh no, not the trash!” I thought to myself. What Doc didn’t know was that that thing she threw away was very precious to someone we both knew. It’s as if she had read my mind when she suddenly went back in the kitchen and got the thing out of the trash and laid it on the counter to be forgotten about until morning.

The next day Doc decided it looked like some ratty old dog toy so she did what any good dog mom would do, she took a picture of the sorry looking critter and sent out a text message to all the dog owners on the street that said, ” By any chance does this creature belong to anyone’s dog? I found it inside my house and I don’t know how it got here or where it came from.” It wasn’t long before she got a reply. ” Yes that is my dog Frankie’s Hedgehog that he spends hours sucking on every day since he was a puppy. I wonder how that got in your house?”

The next day Doc and I went over to return Frankie’s precious toy and he was overjoyed to get it back. I got tickled listening to the humans try to figure out how it got in our house like it was a case on the TV show Unsolved Mysteries.. Frankie and I both knew the answer to that question but we just looked each other and stayed silent.

Later on in the day, Frankie and I met over by the fence and chuckled over the whole fiasco. You see, a few weeks ago when Frankie and his brother Norman came over to my house to play, he had brought the Hedgehog with him and Doc never noticed. We got busy playing and he dropped it and it went under one of the chairs in the family room that swivel. On the day it reappeared, Doc had moved that chair enough that I was able to retrieve it and I left it on the floor where she stepped on it in the dark. Now, it will always remain a secret between friends. Our humans don’t need to know everything.

The Glorious Days of Fall

Well, it’s that time of the year when mother nature sends us signals that she is preparing for her long winter slumber. There is a nip in the early morning air, the days are getting shorter, the leaves are starting to turn and humans are obsessed with putting pumpkin spice in everything they eat or drink.

Nothing is better than a cool autumn day. Why just yesterday, after Doc was done mowing the lawn, she plopped down next to me in the grass and we lay in the warmth of the sun while gazing at the crystal blue sky above us. It was if neither of us had a care in the world. These are the moments in life you almost wish could go on forever, a snapshot in time to record in your memory.

Fall is one of this dogs favorite seasons. Gone are the heat and humidity that make my paws sweat. The cooler days have put a pep back in my step and that means longer walks with Doc, my favorite thing. How could you not love fall? It’s as if nature has been saving up all it’s beauty for the grand finale of the year.

So savor the days of autumn, get outside and roast a hot dog and some marsh mellows over an open fire. Take in every beautiful minute and don’t forget to share one of those hot dogs with your favorite canine.

Comforting Those Who Grieve

As a therapy dog, I am sometimes asked to comfort those who are mourning and Sunday was one of those days.

A few weeks ago, Doc had received a request for me to come to an event sponsored by The Columbus Public Health Department called the Mourning Walk, to reflect on the young lives lost to gun violence. From January 1, 2021 to September 21, 2022 in Franklin County, which includes Columbus, Ohio and it’s suburbs, we lost 66 youth ages 0-19. Of course I told Doc I would love to help in any way that I could, so we accepted the invitation.

The morning of the event we were jolted out of bed by loud claps of thunder and lightening and were worried the event might be canceled, but by the time we left at 9:30am the sun was shining, so off we went.

When we arrived at the park we were greeted by the person arranging the event. As we glanced down the paved walking path, we noticed 60 tiny pairs of children’s shoes representing those lives that had been lost. A sober reminder about why we were there. We met many nice people from other organizations that were also there to help, along with the people that came to honor those precious lives that had been taken so soon. It is always my intention to offer some comfort is some small way even though I can never take away all of the pain. I have learned that sometimes the best thing you can do when someone is grieving, is to show up, be present and listen.

” There are three needs of the griever: To find the words for the loss, to say the words aloud and to know that the words have been heard.” – Victoria Alexander

The Cat Burglar Strikes Again

It’s been a minute since I updated you on my cousin Garrett that lives in that state up north. I am sorry to report that he has not changed his cat burglar ways. As a result of his continued crime spree, his mom (Doc’s niece), had to end up putting their house up for sale and move to a new town hoping for a fresh start, but that didn’t last long. As everyone knows, compulsive behavior is hard to stop and before long, Garrett started sneaking around in the dark of night looking for anything he could get his paws on.

The first month in the new house he was put on restriction and not allowed out of the house. After all, they had to put on a good front for the new neighbors. Finally, after howling and screeching every night for over a month, his human mom and his animal siblings couldn’t get any sleep with all his complaining, so they let him out of the house just to shut him up, hoping he had changed his ways. But you know what they say, a tiger doesn’t change his stripes, so it didn’t take long for him to scout the new neighborhood and bring home some loot that he found. It started innocently enough with just a sock here and there and no one suspected that their seemingly nice new neighbors were harboring a thief that prowled in the night. But over time, people became suspicious knowing they could have not misplaced so many things and the whispers started, as they wondered if there was a thief in their sleepy little town.

After giving this some thought, what I don’t understand about Garrett is why on earth would he want to prowl around at night when he could be sleeping soundly in his humans bed? Not only that, but there are some vicious critters that work the night shift and he would have to stay extra alert not to be attacked by a racoon or god forbid, a coyote. And the stuff he steels and brings home these days is nothing of value. Apparently he has lowered his standards as he has gotten older. His latest haul is nothing more than some dirty socks and deflated balloons. At least in his old neighborhood he brought home some things that were valuable. Maybe he’s loosing his edge, after all he is getting older.

Finally, after Doc’s niece saw that he was not going to stop, she did the right thing and placed a sign out in the front yard like she did at the old house, letting the neighbor’s know where to find their stolen goods. Now if that was me, I would be humiliated , seek help and repent, but not Garrett. He acts like all of this attention makes him some type of gangster celebrity like Doc’s relative Jessie James.

All I know is one thing, as the holidays get closer, I have made it very clear to Doc that I do not want Garrett to come to our house until he has reformed. I know I should be more empathetic given what I do for a living, but I don’t think you should have to pat down your cousin when they leave to make sure he hasn’t tried to “borrow ” any of our stuff. That may be acceptable behavior in Michigan, but that ain’t acceptable behavior in the Buckeye State.

The Tall Tales we Tell

When Doc answered the phone I really didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but my puppy ears perked up when I heard her talking about my two dog buddies that live next door. Apparently their humans were going to go out of town for the day and they asked if Doc could take care of them while they were gone. Of course she said yes, and I knew what that meant, a wild Saturday outside with my best friends Frankie and Norman. A day filled with play and telling wild stories was just what the doctor ordered after the tough week we had.

After much pestering, Doc went next door to get my friends at about 10am. It was kind of rainy, but since we are all water dogs, we didn’t care. The first thing I did, was to show them where I jumped on the skunk that had been feasting on the yellow jackets in our yard. I could tell they were impressed by my bravery. Doc just rolled her eyes when she heard me tell them how I had wrestled that wild skunk to the ground and chased him out of the yard to save Doc from it’s clutches When Frankie asked if I had been scared, I fibbed and told them no. The truth was I had been as surprised as the skunk had been and couldn’t wait to get away from that stinky thing, but you sure don’t want to admit that to your buddies.

After I was done regaling them with my bravery, we spent the rest of the time chasing a ball, wrestling in the yard and then it was time to go in the house for water, dog treats and a nap on the couch next to Doc while she was watching the OSU football game. After a while, Doc told Norman and Frankie that she was going to take them home as their humans would be home soon.

When Doc got back home she asked me: ” Grover, why did you tell Norman and Frankie that you weren’t scared of that skunk when I knew that you were?” “Well. I replied, you can’t admit that to your guy friends, they would think you were a big baby.” I replied with conviction. ” Where on earth did you learn that?” she asked. ” Well everybody knows that Doc, it’s bro code.” I said. Then Doc looked at me with that serious look she gets on her face when she wants to make a point and said, ” Grover, it’s ok to admit it when you are scared and talk about your feelings. That takes courage and I know you are a brave dog in so many ways.”

Of course, Doc was right as usual. It can get exhausting trying to pretend everything is ok when it isn’t. Here’s what I decided after giving it some thought. You just never know, if you are brave enough to open up and talk about your feelings, you might help someone else feel safe enough to talk about theirs as well.