“Beam Me Up, Scotty”

By now I am sure you all know that 90 year old William Shatner aka Capt. T. Kirk from Star Trek was shot into outer space last week and once again Jeff Bezos didn’t ask me to come along. I am so unhappy about this slight that I may ask Doc to stop ordering anything from Amazon again. After all, what could be better publicity than a therapy dog named Grover T. Kirk going to space with Captain T. Kirk? I can see the headlines already, but here I sit in the backyard waiting for my big break. And to add insult to injury I just found out that in 1963 the French, sent a cat 130 miles into outer space and it returned via parachute. It was even awarded a medal of honor. Now how did a cat get to go before me? That really stuck in my craw.

Doc intervened as soon as she saw the mood I was in, knowing what was wrong. “Why are you sulking on such a beautiful fall day Grover? I am going to tell you what I tell everyone else that waits around in life for someone else to fulfill their dreams, figure out a way to do it yourself.” she said in a stern voice. ” What do you mean?” I asked with surprise. Do you expect me to build my own rocket ship in our back yard?” “No Grover, but there has to be another way to either achieve that goal or one similar. Now, get up on your paws, move forward and try to figure out what you really want. Make a plan a go for it.”

I hate it when Doc expects me to be responsible for my own happiness. One of the down sides of living with a therapist. It did get me to start thinking however. Could I apply at NASA to their space program? Did I really even want to go into space or did I just like the idea of it? I tried to picture my self walking on to the space ship, being strapped in and the g-forces blowing my ears straight back when we took off. Then, being weightless and not being able to get my dog bones because they would be floating all around the cabin. Would I really like being that far away from Doc and all the comforts from home? The more I thought about it, I had to admit that I would probably wouldn’t like the actual experience at all. Now what was I going to do after all the fuss I made?

Oh well, life is like that sometimes. The fantasy that floats around in your head is often different than the reality of the real experience. But I did decide on a new plan that would bring me pleasure. After the sun set, I asked Doc to come outside to lay on the back patio and gaze at the night sky with me. It just so happened that it was a full moon last night. It was so clear that the stars sparkled like diamonds against the blackness of the night and we could see some of the constellations. In the quiet of the moment, I confessed to Doc that I finally figured out that I can be just as content staying on earth with her, looking at the universe from the safety of our own back yard. “Let other hardy explorers go to space and dream of new horizons. I said to her. I am finally content to do my exploring from earth”.

Taking Care of Business Can be Exhausting Sometimes

Trying to be a responsible therapy dog and keep things in order around here can sometimes be exhausting. For the last week I have had to address a new critter in our back yard, take care of Doc and work. I won’t lie, I am feeling stressed.

The first thing that happened was after Doc and I got home from work on Wednesday. I noticed that her energy was faltering. By Friday morning, it was apparent to me that she was sick, but Doc stayed in denial and pushed herself through the rest of the day. Luckily we were working from home, but in the afternoon I told Doc she needed to practice what she preached to others and see a doctor. Surprise, surprise, she must have been feeling bad, because she listened and made an appointment for Saturday morning. Luckily it was nothing serious. She actually came home and got in bed to rest like the doctor ordered and I was happy to stay right beside her. I know it comforts her, and Doc taught me we should take care of those we love.

On Sunday afternoon, she was starting to feel better and since it was a beautiful and warm October day, we decided to hang out on the back porch and relax. I had found a nice spot in the shade where I could watch the kids next door playing soccer, when I suddenly heard the faint sound of rustling leaves under the pine trees. I didn’t think too much of it until this little fury critter came shooting across the lawn like a cannon ball and almost ran me over. The nerve! Startled, I got up as fast as I could and flew over to the flower bed to investigate, but it had already gone down a hole in the ground that went under a large statue of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals. I guess the little thing thought it needed a miracle to stay safe. I looked up at Doc who was chuckling at me. ” We’ve got ourselves a chipmunk, and it’s way too fast for you to catch Grover. ” she said with a wink. Well, I have to admit, that kind of ticked me off, so I decided to set up a stakeout right on top of the hole. No chipmunk was going to outsmart me in my own yard. So I sat and I sat until it started to turn dusk and Doc called me in for supper. And don’t you know it, just as I was going up the stairs to the back porch that little sucker poked it’s head out of the whole to see if the coast was clear and then ran back across the yard. “Curses, foiled again!” I mumbled under my breath. Too tired to give it any more energy, I relented and came inside.

I must have looked defeated because Doc said to me, ” Let it go Grover, it’s ok. Sometimes life can be filled with challenges that can leave us feeling tired and frustrated. This has been a stressful week for both of us, but especially you, because you have been trying to take care of everyone, including me and now It’s time for you to take some time for yourself. ” she said softly. She was right as usual, and so I gave in to the weariness that was taking over. I curled up on my blanket next to Doc’s chest, took a deep breath and focused on the beat of her heart until I fell fast asleep.

Therapy Dog Goes Out On Tour

Doc said she was shocked by the call, but I wasn’t. I knew it was only a matter of time that one of the major rock bands of all time, The Rolling Stones would need my therapy dog services. After all, life on tour can be stressful.

On Monday morning we packed our bags to make the three hour drive to Pittsburg. It was the next stop on their tour and the closest to where we live. As we got closer to the city even Doc got excited because they had been nice enough to give us tickets to their show that night. It wasn’t long after we checked into the hotel that we traveled over to the stadium where they were playing and met them in some huge trailers out back that doubled as their dressing rooms. They had just finished sound checks and were relaxing so our timing was perfect.

After introductions, Doc excused herself so that they could have some privacy. Now you may wonder why people that are famous and rich need a therapy dog? Let me tell you a secret, neither wealth nor money can protect you from problems or life’s tragedies and these blokes are no different. They told me they were still grieving the recent death of their band mate and friend Charlie. Nothing levels the playing field in life like grief. I sat quietly and leaned into whomever needed me the most and just listened. I think the biggest gift you can give another is to just sit with someone and be present. After spending about an hour with them they said they were feeling much better after being able to open up and talk things over. I offered to go on the rest of their tour with them, but Doc nixed that in a hurry and reminded me that I already have a responsibility to my patients at home. So we said our farewell’s and waited for the concert to start.

It was almost 9pm, way past Doc and my bed time when they hit the stage. The announcer woke me up when he said “Ladies and gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.” The crowd went wild, I sat up so I could see better and watch them run out on to the stage. I have to hand it to that Mr. Mick Jagger, he is certainly spy for his age. He kept running down this long stage for no apparent reason other than the fans liked it. I don’t run that much or that far unless I am chasing a tennis ball. Oh well, to each his own, it was still fun to watch and everybody enjoyed themselves.

Its always good when you can escape from your daily grind sometime and music can certainly help to heal a lot. When I think about it The Rolling Stones and I are both in the same kind of work because we help people to feel better.

The next morning we got in the car for the ride home and I told Doc that although I had a lot of fun and was glad I could help, I was looking forward to getting home. I guess everyone has a direction in life they are suppose to follow if they listen to that inner voice calling them. Doc and I were led to each other and the work we do and all of you have a unique path as well. No matter how old you are or what rode blocks you have had to encounter, I hope you follow that voice. I know I am.

Learning to be Grateful

Every Wednesday morning, Doc and I meet with a few patients for group therapy. Doc is the brains of the operation and I am there to provide comfort and comic relief. In other words, Doc and I know our roles and work well together for the good of those that we serve. We often go over different topics related to managing stress and this week I told Doc that with all the angry noise in our world, that maybe a good topic for this week would be about gratitude. She agreed.

Part of being a good group therapist is understanding yourself first, so I took some time to ponder the topic. I had to get honest with myself. Was I really grateful for what I have, or am I always looking for something more? It led me to the realization that I have a Milk Bone obsession. I also had to admit that I really never enjoy the one in my mouth because I am always scheming about how I can get Doc to give me another one. Even as a puppy, it didn’t take me long to figure out that if I went outside to use the bathroom, Doc would give me a Milk Bone as a reward. Now don’t tell Doc, but sometimes I act like I have to go out even when I don’t just to get a treat. Because I know Doc is watching me, I will even go so far as to pretend like I am doing my business. Now does that sound like grateful behavior? I think not.

When I finally confessed my sin to Doc after having this revelation she just looked at me and said,” Part of being grateful is learning to savor things in the moment Grover. How can you be fully grateful when you are going through all that drama just to get the one thing you want and then you don’t even enjoy it? ” she said thoughtfully. ” Good point.” I said, So what do you suggest?” ” Lets both start by slowing down, we both move too fast from one thing to another. Starting today, lets make a real effort to stop, notice, enjoy and prolong the positive experiences we are blessed with. There are opportunities every day to be thankful, even when we are going through challenging life events. It’s easy for us to get stuck in the trap of thinking that our happiness lies around the corner when in fact you can find happiness in everyday events.”

Doc was right, we both needed to regroup and refocus so we could pass this on to the people in our group. Doc has always taught me to try and lead by example so I will end with this affirmation “I am thankful for learning new life lessons with Doc by my side.”

Happy Fall, a Time of Change!

We sure didn’t need a calendar to know that today is the first day of fall. Nature has been giving us hints for weeks that it was coming and some of the hints were not very subtle.

The first sign of fall began with all the frantic squirrel activity. They started by remodeling their nests and and now they are hording and burying nuts for winter. I get tired just watching them. There is a plethora of nuts for them choose from on our street that include Walnuts, Acorns and even our state nut the Buckeye. Did you know that squirrels can hide about 9,000 nuts and even remember where they buried them? Yup, I was surprised when Doc told me that but I Googled it and she was right. That’s impressive considering I can’t even keep track of the few toys and bones that I own.

Speaking of squirrels, Doc and I were taking our evening walk and you will never guess what happened. We were strolling down the sidewalk minding our own business when some young squirrel that must have been woozy from eating too many nuts ran right up to us. Doc about freaked out thinking the poor thing was going to run up her leg and she let out a holler so loud that the neighbors came out of their houses to see what all the commotion was about. Luckily I came to the rescue. Just as the squirrel was headed towards Doc foot, I was able to bend down and gently grab it by the tale, move it to the side and then let it go unharmed. The poor thing was so scared I had to chuckle. It took no time to scamper up the nearest tree to get as far away from us as possible.

Now that the days are getting shorter and it cools down faster at night, Doc and I like to stretch out on the back porch and commune with nature. Usually Doc lounges out on the long couch reading a book and I spend time watching the boys next door play soccer in the yard. When the boys go inside for supper, I sometimes get bored and find things to amuse myself. The only problem is that Doc has rules about this. Sometimes I get busy digging a hole because frankly, it’s fun and I like to eat dirt, but as soon as her super sonic ears hear me digging, she gets up, looks at me and tells me “No!” in that stern voice of hers. Frankly, that ticks me off and I let her know it by having a little hissy fit. I bark and growl to show my displeasure. She just stares at me in disbelief until I wear myself out and then she has me come up and lay by her side where she can keep an eye on me. I know it sounds silly, but soon it will be too cold to be outside at the end of the day and I am going to miss our evening ritual.

There is always both a sense of anticipation about the new season and a feeling of melancholy letting go of the old one. I know it’s a cliche, but it really does feel like the days slip away so quickly. So I guess this dog will try to keep focused on enjoying the moment and all the seasons that Doc and I have left to experience together.

Lessons from the Barn

Often you never fully appreciate how much you have missed something until you are able to experience it again. Since COVID started there have been many regular events in our lives that were disrupted. If you are like Doc and I you ended up putting those things in the back of your mind and just tried to focus on each day. For a few years Doc had taken her patients to the horse farm for Equine Assisted Therapy almost weekly and then one day all of that stopped because of the virus. It has been over a year since we had been to the horse farm, but on Sunday we reunited with our favorite horses and oh what a joyful reunion it was!

It’s funny how the further we got away from the city you could feel the stress melting away. Soon, all you could see were fields filled with corn and cows grazing peacefully. Barns and farm houses dotted the landscape between vast acres making me want to burst out into a loud rendition of “Old McDonald Had A Farm” but I contained myself. Finally we arrived at our destination and when we turned up the long gravel driveway, I was so excited to see everyone that I almost jumped out the car window before Doc came to a stop.

Greeted with smiling faces and some yummy ice cream after our drive was icing on the proverbial cake. I slurped mine down and after a short chat, we headed straight back to the barn. As we opened the barn door, the familiar smells of hay and horse lingered in the air. Looking down the row of stalls, the first horses we saw were Doc’s favorite mother and daughter, Heidi and Joy. Even I had forgotten how gigantic these two magnificent Percheron draft horses are. Weighing in at over 2,000 pounds or more I was really careful to make sure my paws didn’t get stepped on. Heidi was the first to offer her head over the stall for a scratch on the nose and soon daughter Joy followed. We then ventured to the end of the barn toward the big indoor arena where our friends Beauty, Taco and the two miniature horses Waffles and Oatmeal were peering over the fence, waiting to see us. Doc divided her time talking to the owners and brushing the horses. I spent my time communicating with my horse buddies in the non verbal way that animals talk and boy was there a lot to catch up on.

As all good things must come to an end, before long it was time for us to leave. As we were walking out of the barn, Doc hesitated and I saw her looking up on the wall at an old familiar sign that both of us had forgotten about that said “Barn Rules”. The rules simply say “1. Breath, 2.Mosey, 3.Whisper and 4. Be aware.” Doc looked at me and said quietly, ” Grover, over the last year I had forgotten these simple rules that can apply anywhere she said. It’s the respectful way to be around horses but if you think about it, it’s also the respectful way to be around humans as well. I nodded my head in agreement happy to be reminded of something important that we had forgotten. Driving home both Doc and I felt thankful for our wonderful day and the old lessons we needed to be reminded of again.

Helping to Heal

For every person in the United States that dies from a drug overdose there are family and friends that continue to mourn their loss. Tuesday was International Drug Overdose Awareness Day and Doc and I were honored to be asked to participate in an event that focused not only on the staggering amount of overdoses but to bring comfort to their loved ones.

Last year, overdose deaths in the United States increased 30% as 93,000 people lost their lives. Death by overdose is now the number one cause of death by those under fifty years of age. It is a shocking statistic and each year it gets worse. The pandemic has only compounded the problem. Luckily there are agencies like the one we work for and the other many wonderful agencies that were present today that focus on helping those that feel broken and just need a lift up to get better.

Today I knew that it was very important for me to stay focused as Doc told me I had an important job to do. As people approached me I comforted them in the best way I knew how. When they wrote their deceased loved ones names on flags or pinwheels that were displayed on the lawn, I could feel their grief as the memories flooded back. I also took the time to comfort the many people that are helpers, like the sheriff that told us how many times he has given Narcan to try and save a life, all the counselors, doctors, nurses, prevention specialists and those that work at the coroners office that see the cold reality of this other pandemic we are facing.

As for Doc, she told me about the client’s she has lost to overdose. No matter how many years have gone by there are days like this that bring the loss back to her leaving her feeling sad. This is when I act as Doc’s therapy dog and remind her of all the people our treatment center has helped to heal from the disease of addiction and lead healthy lives again. This is always the blessing of what we do every day and what we stay focused on. One person at a time.

Is It Vanity?

Because I am a big celebrity among therapy dogs, it is important that I remain coifed and camera ready. I owe it to my fans and to the patients and staff I work with. Some may call me vain, but I prefer to think of my grooming rituals as being my most fabulous self. After all, who wants to be around a stinky, unkept dog. That’s just ridiculous. So on Tuesday afternoon, Doc was kind enough to chauffeur me over to my favorite veterinarians office for an overdo mani-pedi.

After we got to the Vet, the first thing they did was weigh me and I am proud to say that even during the pandemic I have remained a slim and trim 82 pounds of fur and muscle. I am not surprised because between doing zoomies around the yard everyday and Doc walking me a few miles, I am burning calories galore. Next, one of the technicians took me in the back where they trim my nails. My favorite part is when they tell me what a handsome and good boy I am and then they give me hugs and kisses. I don’t want to brag but the ladies do love me. When my nails were nicely trimmed they took me back out to the waiting room and Doc drove me home.

Now I could tell Doc was tired because by the time we got home, she went straight into her bedroom. After all, she had worked all day before we even went to the vets office. After she stretched out on the bed and turned on the TV to relax, I jumped up next to her to cuddle and happened to glance down at her bare feet and toenails. Oh my! I thought to myself. “Doc are you really going to work like that tomorrow with your feet and toenails looking all raggedy like that? ” I said with too much shock in my voice. And before I even got the whole sentence out of my mouth I knew that was the wrong thing to say. Boy, did she give me the look before she replied ” Grover, sometimes the wisest thing you can do is say nothing.” I have to admit, she was right. So I quickly made amends and told her I loved her even if her feet and nails looked gnarly. She just laughed, patted me on the head and fell asleep.

The Past Comes Back to Haunt Me

Everyone of us has a past, even dogs. Some memories are good and some we would rather forget. You never know when a past memory will come back to haunt you or how you will react until you are confronted with it. I was put to that very test just recently.

It was the weekend and we were looking forward to some relaxation. As we took our morning walk some of the men in the neighborhood were already firing up their cookers and grills for a block party later in the evening. It was sheer torture for this dog as the wonderful aroma’s waffled through the air knowing I would not get one tasty morsel of what they were grilling. Further down the road, someone had set up a bouncy house in the yard and even though it was early morning some of the children were already trying it out. Their laughter and exuberance was contagious and we stopped for awhile just to watch. They called me over to try it but Doc thought I might get sick to my stomach being tossed all around. After all no one I know wants a dog throwing up in their bouncy house, so we said thanks and kept walking.

Resuming our stroll, I was busy smelling the pee-mail left on the fire hydrant by another dog when Doc broke the silence. ” I wonder what that is at the end of the street that all those people are crowded around?” she asked out loud. Being nosy too, I looked up and as we got closer I could smell something that was very familiar to me but I couldn’t quite place it. As we approached there were about eight people crowed around an animal trailer hitched to the back of a truck. Although it was dark inside the trailer Doc and I could both see some movement. She was not shy about asking, ” What have you got in there a baby calf?” And before they could answer I got another whiff of the beast and remembered that smell immediately from when I was a puppy on the farm. Terrified I backed up behind Doc and tried to pull her along with me. ” No, it’s a goat!” one of the men said. “What’s wrong with your dog?” another one asked.

As some of you may recall I was born on a farm in Ohio that also bred goats. The problem is that some goats do not like puppies and one day when I was only six weeks old, I got away from my mother, slipped under the fence to the pasture and a large mother goat protecting her kids came charging at me. I froze in fear but luckily famer Black saw the trouble I was in and swept me up in his arms just in time. After Doc adopted me I thought I would never have to see another goat again, but I guess I was wrong.

Without a word Doc knelt down and whispered in my ear, ” Grover, you are not a puppy any more, in fact you are bigger than that goat. Do you want to confront your fear or walk away? I will support whatever choice you need to make.” So with Doc by my side I decided right then and there to walk up to that big black goat, after all it was enclosed in the trailer. And you know what, as soon as that goat saw me, he became nervous and the owner of the goat said, ” I think your dog is scaring my goat..” So out of respect, I backed away with my head held high, proud that I had confronted my fear from so long ago.

As Doc and I were walking the rest of the way home I said to her, ” Isn’t it a funny thing to find out that when you confront your fears from the past they aren’t your fears anymore? ” ” I agree, she said and I am proud of you Grover, but don’t you think it’s weird that someone had a goat in our neighborhood? ” We both had to laugh about that.

Oh The Heat ! The Dog Days of Summer Return

Although Doc and I enjoy the summertime, one thing I do not like are the sultry dog days of summer. It’s so hot and humid it makes my paws sweat and leaves my fur so frizzy that it results in a very bad hair day. Oh the horror! But I bet you don’t know where the term dog days comes from, so this smart pooch will give you a brief tutorial all about it.

During this time of year, Sirius, also known as the dog star is not only the brightest star, it is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog. Sirius is so bright that the ancient Romans believed it actually gave off heat, adding to the sun’s warmth so they called this time of year dies caniculares or ” dog days.” In reality the heat this time of year is a result of the Earth’s tilt causing the sun’s rays to hit us at a more direct angle and for longer periods of time resulting in hotter days. The Romans also thought the oppressive heat led to lethargy, fever, bad luck and dogs going mad. Now I don’t know about all that but it does result in me being a miserable hot dog.

The best thing about being a member of the canine clan is that we have had to learn to adapt for centuries. So how is this black haired dog and his owner coping with the heat? Luckily Doc keeps the air conditioner on low and paddle fan on high over the bed so I can nap in comfort and stay cool during the heat of the day.. Late in the afternoon as the sun begins to set, we finally venture out on the back porch with a cool drink. If there’s a breeze, we can sit comfortably and enjoy the symphony of sounds that are performed by the creatures of the night. The one good thing about the dogs days is that it does force us to slow down and that is never a bad thing in this hectic world we live in.

So savor the last of summer while it is with us because in the middle of winter we will long for the dogs days of summer to return.