The Importance of Taking Time Off

Photo by Angela Kirk

After the Ohio State Fair closed down and the work week was completed, Doc and I decided to take some much needed vacation time. After all, life should never be just about work.

The first week we just kind of slept in and laid around like a couple of billionaires that didn’t have to do a thing for themselves but that started getting old, so one morning Doc woke up and announced that she was going to take a trip up to Lake Erie to one of the islands. Well, I thought that was a great until she told me that I would have to stay home. I can’t lie, I was a little miffed about that because I like going up to the lake but I did feel better after I found out that I would have nephew Cole as my babysitter.

The day before she left, Cole came over to go over the very important instructions on how to take care of me. Being a famous Facebook and Blogging pooch I have specific needs as you all know and I don’t like any deviation from my schedule. I knew Cole would do a good job. I have know him since he was only ten years old and now he is a huge nineteen year old man that plays football for the local college. Since I heard him tell Doc that football practice had started, I was hoping he would take me to practice and I could chase the football around but it being so hot and humid out, that idea got nixed very quickly.

Early the next morning Doc woke me up as she needed to leave the house and catch a luxury bus that would take her to the lake. It wasn’t too much longer before Cole arrived and took such good care of me while Doc was gone that I hardly even missed her. Then late one night while I was sound asleep in the middle of Doc’s bed I heard the door open from the garage. ” On no,!” I thought to myself, is it a “burglar?” I carefully peered around the corner and there was Doc looking at me and smiling. ” I brought you something Grover”, she said and there in a bag was a tasty dog treat just to prove she had not forgotten me. As we caught up on what we had done while we were apart we both agreed that the time away and pursing our own adventures was important for our mental health.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, doing the same thing day after day so it’s good to shake things up every once in awhile and try something new. So it was a shock on Monday morning when that alarm went off a 4:45am and Doc said ” Time to get up Grover and get ready for work, the bills aren’t going to pay themselves.” I rolled over, yawned and asked Doc ” Just five more minutes?” but to no avail, our vacation time was over.

Things That Make You Say “Moo”

Working at the Ohio State Fair last Friday was great! I met lots of nice people that gave me pats, hugs and told Doc what a good boy I am. Going to any state fair exposes you to new and interesting things that I never see in the suburbs where I live with Doc. But isn’t life suppose to be about having new experiences? Well, I packed in quite a few in just two hours of work, including meeting a new and strange looking friend named Clarissa.

Since we work across the street from the main entrance of the fair it was easy enough just to walk over to the building we were working in that day. It was already 11am by the time we were done seeing some patients and there was already a line of families waiting to go through the gates. When it was our turn we had to go through security. Luckily neither Doc nor I set off any alarms and we proceeded through without incident.

The first strange thing we passed were a bunch of squawking chickens and roosters crowing at the top of their lungs. I have to say they sure don’t smell very good and glad I don’t live next to any of them at our house. Some of them do have some magnificent looking feathers, so they have that going for them, along with supplying the eggs I like to eat on Saturday mornings. Next we walked by Mrs. Houdini’s place where she lives in a travel trailer and has a big stage she performs on. We never did see her. She must sleep late. I am sure it’s exhausting trying to free herself from the big chains they lock her in under water. I would need a lot of rest too if I had to do that for a living every day.

After walking past the fair rides on the midway and some of those food stands that have all the great smelling fried food, we finally made it to our destination. Not long after getting to our booth, people started coming over to see me. Now I don’t want to brag, but I was a big hit, especially with the children. One little girl came over and talked to Doc while she hugged me and told us all about her prize pig that she was showing in the afternoon. She was only about 8 years old and was so excited about her pig and being at the fair that she gave both Doc and I a laugh. We wished her good luck as she left with her parents.

In the time I was there I met people of all ages and from every walk of life. As always, me being there gave Doc the chance to talk to everyone about addiction and mental illness in a relaxed environment. I am always happy to help spread the message.

After about two hours, I was zonked, so Doc said it was time to take me home, but on the way out we made one more stop. It just so happened that where we were working was next to the cow barn. I smelled her before I saw her. As we approached I saw this very large brown animal and didn’t know if it was some strange looking oversized dog or what it was. As we got closer she came over to the railing and made a quiet mooing sound to acknowledge me and as not to be rude, I responded with a very quiet bark. We just stood there for awhile staring at each other. She acted like she had never seen a dog before so I finally went into a downward dog position to let her know I came in peace. After that she looked more relaxed. Her name was Clarissa and she said she was about 5 years old and lives on a dairy farm near Mechanicsburg, Ohio. She is taking an a vacation with her family at the fair and is also enjoying meeting all the people that stop by to see her and even get a chance to milk her. I found that impressive!

So as you see, animals provide a vital service not only in life but to educate people at the fair that may never have a chance to be around farm animals or even therapy dogs like me. It was so much fun to be there, but when we got home, this puppy was pooped and I slept and slept for the rest of the day dreaming about cows and deep fried bacon on a stick. What an adventure!

Live, From The Ohio State Fair

Doc told me that this morning she received an email that invited me to make a personal appearance at The Ohio State Fair this Friday. Now this isn’t just any rinky dink county fair, this is the big one for the whole state. After getting over the shock, I was curious to find out why I was being asked to appear. Because Doc was busy seeing patients and could not talk to me about it immediately I started coming up with my own ideas.

I had heard that Willie Nelson was performing there and wondered if they needed me to sing a duet with him. He probably found out that I have perfect pitch when I howl along to his songs and thought I would be an asset to his act. Or maybe I will be assisting the ” Daredevil Escapologist, Lady Houdini” in case she gets trapped and needs me to jump in the tank of water where she is chained and drag her out to safety. Boy wouldn’t that get me on the evening news! Or I could be a judge at the pig races. Being friends all these years with Cupcake the pig would probably qualify me as an expert judge. It could be one of many reasons and I was excited to find out.

After work, Doc told me that I had been asked by our employer if I could make an appearance at the booth we will have at the fair. She said our agency will be there to promote awareness about our organization, hand out information about addiction, recovery and mental health and answer questions. Since I am the therapy dog extraordinaire I guess they figured no fair booth would be complete without me. Of course I told Doc I would be happy to oblige on one condition, that I get to try the deep fried cheese or deep fried pickles I keep hearing about. ” Absolutely not!” she said. “Don’t you remember that you just got out of the hospital a month ago because of gastrointestinal issues? I am not going through that with you again. ” Well, I said with a glint in my eye, how about you take me over to the Dairy building and let me lick the cow carved out of butter?” Even Doc had to laugh at the thought of me doing that.

So no solo with Willie, but I will be happy to cheer up some fair goers on Friday and I will let you know what happened. You never know what kind of adventure I might get into at the fair.

Getting Older and Wiser

Grover at 6 Weeks Old

This Friday will be my tenth birthday, an old man in dog years. I hear most older humans say they don’t feel as old in their head as their chronological age says they are and I agree. I still feel like I am five. Except for my recent health issues that I am now fully healed from, I am still as spry as a young puppy, as long as I take the occasional nap.

Over the past few weeks I have heard some whispers about a surprise birthday party during this morning’s group therapy session. I hope it’s true. I love a good party, don’t you? The mile stones in our lives should be celebrated with the people we care about. The favorite part of my birthday besides dog treats and new toys is when Doc and the patients that have known me since I started work as a therapy dog, tell stories about me when I started my training and coming to work as a puppy. I especially like it when Doc reminds me of the day that she picked me up from the Black’s farm and brought me home. Out of all my seven brothers and sisters in the litter, Doc chose me. I often think how lucky I am to hear that I was loved from the very beginning of my life as I am aware that is not true for everyone. It’s always good to count your blessings.

The one piece of advice that I would pass on to you in my advanced age is to keep doing the things you love no matter how old you are. I often hear people use the excuse that they are too old to do this or that. Pashaw! If you want to be happy in life, stay interested, busy, curious, keep moving, set new goals and spend time sharing what you have learned with others. I plan on working as a therapy dog for the rest of my years on earth and of course I have to watch out for Doc. I will tell you a secret, she thinks she watches over me but I actually take care of her, a full time job.

So today I will act surprised when I go into the group room this morning when everyone wishes me a Happy Birthday! Then I still have Friday to look forward to, my actual birthday. I sure hope Doc gets me a pup cup from Dairy Queen. That would make my birthday perfect.

You’ve Kept Me in Stiches

There was never a time in my life that I thought that I would actually look forward to a medical procedure but I am really happy about the one I am having today. This afternoon after work, I will go to veterinarians office to have the stiches removed from my surgery sites. It’s time to move forward from all of my medical problems and enjoy all that summer has to offer.

So, good riddance to the tee shirts I have had to wear 24/7 to keep my sutures clean. I am more than ready to embrace my naked fir coat again. Now I can go on walks in the neighborhood without other dogs giving me the side eye because they wonder what I am wearing and why. The humans that we encounter show empathy after Doc tells them my medical story of whoa, but not the dogs. They are ruff in there remarks and let me tell you some of these fancy coifed Doodles on my street are just plain snobby and make judgements about my appearance because I am not wearing a designer tee shirt. So rude! You just never know what someone is going through.

For example, yesterday we got to work at about 5:45am. Doc opened the door of the building and the alarm started going off. She does not have a code to shut it off, so we hurriedly went in the office and contacted administration before the police showed up. It would just be our luck to get arrested trying to come to work on time. Wouldn’t that make a good story? Anyway the alarm was disarmed quickly but it put us a bit behind on our schedule. I could tell Doc was a little stressed because she was running late. Doc is usually pretty good about redirecting herself, but I could tell she was having to push herself to get to her patients on time. As a result, she started trying to rush me around and I don’t like that one bit, especially when I am trying to use the bathroom. i don’t know about you, but I need some peace and quiet. Now, if someone was observing from the outside it might look like some pushy woman trying to boss her dog around, but that wasn’t the whole story now was it?

All of this makes me reflect on the importance for all of us to find out the facts and not just make assumptions.

When You Are Labeled A Non-Compliant Patient

It is Tuesday evening as I write this and it has been one week since I had my surgery. In less than a week, I have earned the label of being a non-complaint patient by Doc and the veterinarian. For someone that screams about not labeling others Doc sure slapped that one on me quickly, even though I did kind of deserve it.

It all started in the early hours of Saturday morning. Doc was still in her PJ’s and getting ready to sit down to a leisurely breakfast of eggs and bacon. I had already eaten my breakfast but I was sitting next to Doc just in case she dropped something on the floor. Before she started eating, she decided to get up to get a cup of coffee, I moved out of her way as she went into the kitchen. On her way back to the table I saw her look down on the floor and I could tell she was trying to make sense of what she was seeing. Her face turned ashen as she realized that she was seeing bright red drops of blood that had left a trail from the kitchen floor into the family room and on to the back door. She would later describe it as looking like something out of a murder scene. Now Doc is not one to panic, but I could see she was trying hard not to for my sake, when I heard the fear in her voice. ” Grover, come here! ” As she lifted up my head and looked at the surgical site, there was blood oozing out between the stiches. First she grabbed a paper towel but it soaked right through it, next she tried a ABD gauze pad and the blood soaked through that as well, but remembering her first aide training she applied a little pressure and it soon stopped. She placed a large bandage over it and then called the veterinarians office. Since the bleeding had subsided they gave us a 9:30am appointment.

I can’t lie, when we got to the office and Dr. Ritchie came in to examine me I started shaking. I had been through so much medical stuff lately that I was worried they were going to have to stich me up again. Seeing I was upset Dr. Richey got down on the floor along with the nice vet tech and they gave me a pats, talked to me and gave me treats until I calmed down. Dr. Ritchie looked at the surgical site, said it looked fine and that the stiches were still in place. Both Doc and I gave a big sigh of relief and that is when Doc turned on me, telling them I was being non-compliant and that my antics are probably what caused the bleeding. In my defense, I’m a dog for goodness sake and don’t know how I can be expected to sit around like I’m old and decrepit. But that is just what they expect, so I had to sit there and listen to them plot and plan what I would call a very unrealistic and boring recovery plan. When we got back in the car, Doc said to me ” Grover you can either follow what the doctor said or you will have to get stiches again, it’s up to you. You are making me a nervous wreck. You know Grover, the choices you make with your health and recovery don’t just affect you, they also affect everyone that loves you.” she said with firmness. We drove the rest of the way home in silence.

Now that was a guilt trip I had not planned to take so early in the morning, but she was right. It’s not just about me. So as hard as it might be to believe, this stubborn dog has been doing what I am suppose to do. I only tried to do “zoomies” around the yard once but Doc stopped me dead in my tracks since she supervises everything I do. I still don’t like the stupid tee shirts I have to wear in this 90 degree heat to keep my stiches covered and clean but I only have to put up with everything for one more week until I get my stiches out next Tuesday. Until then I have decided to give up my non-compliant ways, at least for awhile.

Refusing The Cone of Shame

Can you believe it? I just got over one hospitalization from illness and Doc took me to the veterinarians office yesterday to have a scheduled outpatient surgery. I need a break and I am considering running away from home, but who would take me in if they make me wear a stupid cone around my head to keep me from bothering my stiches? It looks like some apparatus that an alien would use to communicate with the mother ship. But that is beside the point, so I will do my best to relay what I remember until they gave me anesthesia and I was knocked out and report on how I am just short of 24 hours after surgery.

Yesterday I had what is called a lipoma ( a benign fatty tumor) that was quite large removed from my chest, and two smaller ones removed from under my front leg . The one on my chest had grown larger than a tennis ball and was starting to stretch my skin and the doctor decided it was best to remove it to keep me comfortable into my old age. The other one was removed as a precaution as if it got larger it would impede me from walking. Doc told me these are things you just take care of and deal with as you age but I really don’t think of myself as old. They did throw in a teeth cleaning and a pedicure while I was there, all done while I was under anesthesia.

I was the last surgery of the day so I didn’t get out of recovery until about 6:30pm. When I finally woke up, I was still so groggy I didn’t really know where I was, so I fell back to sleep. At 7:30pm they told me Doc was here to pick me up. I was still not very steady on my feet so two nice Vet techs. helped me to the waiting room. I went right over to Doc and stayed by her side while they gave Doc the post surgery instructions. That is when they started taking about “the cone” that would go around my head. I thought I would die. What would my canine buddies in the neighborhood think? Talk about a way to loose street cred. I already looked like I had lost a fight with my chest all shaved and stitched up along with having a bandage wrapped around my leg. Luckily after some discussion it was decided that wearing a tee shirt to keep the incision covered would do, but I had to promise not to bother the stiches. I agreed happily. After going over the medication and activity restrictions, I was lifted into the back of the car and we went home.

After the neighbor helped Doc lift me out of the back of the car I was still having problems getting my sea legs because the drugs were still in my system. I felt like a young puppy tying to lean to walk again. Since I am not allowed to jump up on anything for about 14 days, including the bed, Doc slept on the couch in the family room with me so I wouldn’t feel so alone. Sometimes you just want your human mother close by and this was one of those times.

This morning I am starting to do a little better and I am keeping my eye on Doc as she works from home today. I know after this heals I will be glad those lipomas were removed. It’s easy to put off taking care of medical issues because of the discomfort or fear involved, but Doc says it’s better to address things than put them off until they become an emergency or so bad that nothing can be done. It also helps to have someone that supports you like Doc.

So after some thought today I have decided I don’t need to run away from home as I am getting very good care. Lets just hope all the medical issues are done for awhile because this dog needs a break.

Bothering Baby Bunnies

Now that I am healthy again, I am feeling good enough to engage in my normal activities. In fact, what I see as ‘normal” dog behavior got me in big trouble over the weekend and I am still on time out for what I did. Let me just start by saying that the story I am about to tell you, did not have a tragic ending.

Sunday was such a beautiful, sunny day that Doc decided we should spend most of it outside. Our next door neighbor was outside with his three children weeding the flower bed and Doc decided to lay on her lounge chair to do a little reading and get some sun. It started out to be a very pleasant day. As lunch time approached, we were both getting hungry, so Doc decided to go inside and heat up some soup and make a sandwich. I stayed outside until she called me in for lunch to play with the dogs and children next door for awhile., when suddenly some movement in the grass on the other side of yard caught this dogs attention. As any dog would do, I went over to investigate. Below the moving grass was a hole in the ground and I could see some little brown furry figures moving around. I must have startled them because just as I was about to stick my nose into the hole, the little creatures hopped out. Three baby bunnies were now hopping around in our yard.

Doc must have noticed that there was a commotion going on, because she came out on the back porch to investigate. When she saw those baby bunnies she started looking concerned and started flailing her arms around while she hollered at me to get in the house. I didn’t listen because I just knew she would take my new little friends away from me. I did what any dog would do, I picked up the one baby bunny nearest to me in my mouth and ran to the other end of the yard with it. The other bunnies had already hopped under the fence to freedom. Doc now looking panicked and yelled ” Drop that bunny Grover!” in such a loud, stern voice that the next door neighbor came over to see what was going on. Then they both started yelling at me to “drop it.” When Doc uses that strict voice with me I know I will be in trouble if I do not comply so I dropped the little thing on the grass. It just laid there for a minute probably stunned by all the activity when slowly it got up and started hopping away. Doc grabbed me by the collar, took me in the house and after putting on her garden gloves, she carefully picked up the baby bunny, checked it over and put it back in the nest and covered the hole with grass hoping the mother and its brothers and sisters would return after things had calmed down. All Doc could say to me when she came in the house was ” Grover, what is wrong with you, that thing is just a baby and too big for you to play with.” Not too long after the incident, Doc left and went to dinner with friends while I was left at home alone with my own thoughts.

At a little after 8pm, Doc returned, walked right past me without any acknowledgement and went in the back yard to check on the baby bunny. To her surprise it was gone along with its two siblings. As for me, I was not permitted in the back yard and was taken out in the front yard on a leash. Then we went to bed.

The next morning at about 7am, Doc went out back again to check on the rabbit nest. ” All the bunnies are gone Grover, you can go in the back yard now.” So the first thing I did was go over to the rabbit nest to see for myself. It made me sad that they left before I got to play with all of them. Later in the morning we saw the mother rabbit in the yard and knew the babies must be near by on the other side of the fence. ” Luckily they were old enough to leave the nest Grover.” ” I don’t understand what I did wrong? ” I said to Doc. ” Grover we have to respect nature and that means to leave it alone. I know you did not mean to hurt that baby but it was way to little for you to be carrying around and playing with, that’s why I got so upset, you could have really hurt that baby. So the next time mama bunny trusts us enough to build a nest in our yard we will leave the babies alone, understood?.” I nodded my head in agreement.

This morning before work, I went outside to check on that rabbit nest again hoping that by some chance they came back to visit. But it was still empty. It’s the circle of life Doc talks to me about and this time I learned my place in it, the hard way.

Doggy Rehab, No more Treats

My medical status has improved since being released from the Ohio State University Veterinary hospital last week and now I am rehabilitating at home and at work. They took good care of me, but I never want to go back to the hospital again. Once is enough in this dogs lifetime. Doc is a good caretaker and watches every thing I eat from the time It enters my mouth to the time it exits out the other end, she is alert to any abnormality in my system. Doc would have made a good CIA agent as she doesn’t miss a beat.

While in the hospital, they determined that I probably had a food allergy for the second time in my life and so we have changed my diet again. I guess I am more delicate than I realized and need to be pampered in every way, including my diet. So off to the pet store we went on Sunday to find a low fat dry food that did not have any lamb, chicken or byproducts. I am now eating a food with cod and vegetables with added probiotics. I also get a 1/2 teaspoon of Metamucil in my food for extra fiber like a little old dog. I know it sounds awful, but I actually like it. The bad thing is that Doc has sent out an all points bulletin to the staff where we work with strict orders not to feed me dog biscuits or food of any kind. Can you believe she did that? She also encouraged any staff to tell on me if they see me begging for treats from anyone. I tried to sneak in to one of the counselors office this morning to nab a donut while Doc was busy but he “ratted” me out. How do you like that? She’s getting my own co-workers to tattle on me.

Oh well. I have to say I am doing much better, so whatever she and the doctors decided it’s working and I’m back on the mend. Sometimes in life you need to make changes to support your health. I don’t know anyone that likes giving up the stuff they enjoy, but over time the rewards are better health and that’s always worth the effort.

Hospital Blues

Greetings from the critical care unit of The Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital. Yup, I have been in the hospital since Sunday night and Danielle, the fourth year veterinary student that has been assigned to my case , was nice enough to let me borrow her lap top so I could start writing my blog while I am waiting for Doc to bust me out of this place. Its been quite the ordeal over the last few days and I wanted to let you know what happened.

It all started last Friday when I woke up and my tummy didn’t feel too good. I ate half of my breakfast and Doc took the rest to work with us for me to eat later, which I did. About mid morning, I got that sickening feeling in my stomach and knew breakfast was about to leave my tummy, so Doc quickly took me outside. I felt better for while, but by dinner time I could not even stand the smell of food and refused to eat. You all know that’s not like me at all and I am not ashamed to eat dirt, trash or even bunny poop which is probably the cause of these medical issues.

In the morning I was still on a hunger strike and my symptoms were getting worse, so we made a trip to my veterinarian. They gave me IV fluids, a shot to stop nausea and some other pills and sent me home. Doc watched me like a hawk all day and to tell you the truth I was glad, I was one sick puppy. Sunday morning, I was not doing any better, so off we went to OSU Urgent care where they gave me IV fluids again and more shots. I got concerned when I heard the vet talking to Doc about admitting me to the main hospital for supportive care. Doc opted to take me home, but over the course of a few hours I continued to decline and she took me to the hospital on Sunday night. Doc sure looked worried when we went inside to be admitted and that concerned me too but I knew she had me there because I needed more medical help than she could give me at home. After the doctors assessed me and said they would admit me, Doc kissed me on the forehead and they took me back to the critical care unit. I was scared.

The only thing that diverted my attention was that there were so many different kind of animals at this hospital that I almost forgot about my own discomfort. There were lots of dogs, cats, a sick bunny, an iguana and in the other section of the hospital I heard the veterinarians talking about a baby kangaroo that was being admitted from the Columbus Zoo. I am glad that I didn’t have to be roommates with that baby kangaroo, they kick too hard.

While I was there they drew lots of blood, gave me IV medication, took x rays and tried to figure out what was causing my problems. Doctors came around twice per day with their students to do rounds and talk about my case. I was glad to help future vets learn from my illness. By Monday night I was showing some improvement and eating again, so they called Doc and told her if I continued to improve that they would release me on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday Morning, I heard Dr. Chen, the head vet call Doc and tell her I had improved enough to go home in the afternoon. She was telling Doc all these medical terms that described my condition and how to take care of me. i didn’t care I just wanted to leave. If I hadn’t been so worn out I would have done a happy dance.

At about 2:30pm, they told me Doc was here and Dr. Chen took me in an exam room and there was Doc looking tired and concerned, but glad to see me. I was quiet while they talked, thinking about how wonderful it would be to sleep in my own bed again.

When we finally got home, all I did was sleep right beside Doc. I didn’t want to leave her side and she looked so relieved she didn’t leave my side either, we stuck together like glue. That’s what happens when you go through a medical crisis with someone you care about, its scary. Luckily this one had a happy ending.

Now it’s early Wednesday morning and I am finishing my blog at work. Can you believe Doc made me come to work after just getting out of the hospital? She told me I needed to work to earn money to pay for the hospital bills. Can you believe that? Anyway its nice for things to start feeling normal again and I am on the mend.

Doc and I both want to thank The Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital and all the nice staff that nursed me back to health , all of the staff and clients at CompDrug, friends, family and those that read my blog that supported us through this. It just goes to show you how love and support can get you through the scariest times in your life.