Smile-ologist Extraordinaire

Some people enter our lives and make a great impact in a short period of time. We want them to live forever because the world is a better place while they are in it. That is how I felt about my good friend Aidan who died suddenly last week at the young age of 15.

The first time I met Aidan I was only a few months old. He was ten at the time and had come to work with his mom and dad. We became fast friends even though our first meeting consisted of me pulling on his shirt, chewing on his hands and covering his face with slobbery puppy kisses. He didn’t seem to mind and I can still hear that infectious laugh whenever he thought I had done something funny. If I played too rough, he would give me a gentle chiding “Grover No!” and then start laughing again. From that day forward, whenever he came to work with his parents he would stop by and visit with Doc and I.

Aidan was one of the happiest kids I ever met. I loved being with him as he was never in a bad mood and always smiling. Aidan’s life motto was printed on the business cards that he readily handed out that said ; “Smile-Ologist Extraordinaire, If you’ve lost yours, I’ll help you find it.” The adults could have learned a thing or two from his example.

What I liked best about my friend, is that he never met a stranger. He would engage with anyone and loved to stay busy. One of the funniest things I ever saw him do was write-up what he called a “pink slip” that said Doc was fired.  You should have seen the look on her face when he handed her that slip. I had to turn my head so she wouldn’t see how hard I was laughing. But, Aidan being the great kid that he was offered her a generous severance package that included a month of vacation. Not bad for being fired.

Doc found out that Aidan had died when a co-worker came into her office with the news. I could tell by the shocked and pained look on her face that something awful had happened. As others found out, a dark sadness enveloped our work place as everyone tried to process how such a sweet young man could be taken so soon. I did my best to comfort everyone as they grieved, just like I knew Aidan would have done if he saw all of us crying. I thought of his wonderful parents Todd and Heidi and when they feel ready to return to work, I will try my best to comfort them too.

Doc tells me that when we lose someone that we love, it feels like there is a big hole in our heart that will never be filled again. Although the journey never gets any easier, Doc says that somehow you learn to move forward and live in a way that will honor your loved-one. I know Aidan would want me to watch over the people he loved and cared about and I promise you buddy, I will do my very best.


Photo by Angela Kirk ” Grief never ends….but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…It is the price of love.

— Author unknown

Post-Holiday Slump

Photo by Angela Kirk

As the humans put away the holiday decorations and complain about the cold, dark and snowy days of winter, they seem to fall into a post-holiday trance. This is the only time of year where it’s acceptable to put on your PJ’s as soon as you get home from work. Just face it. Even though you paid good money for that gym membership and promised yourself that you would exercise every day, you know you’re not going to leave your house after you get home. In fact, the only calories you are going to burn is on the short walk to the couch to turn on the remote where you will binge watch old episodes of Mad Men. It’s kind of pathetic.

At my house the same thing is going on. Doc, who normally stays very busy, appears to has entered into a type of hypnotic hibernation. If she didn’t have to go to work, I think her wardrobe would consist of old sweat pants and that grey New Orleans hoodie with holes and some unknown stains on the front.

Because Doc isn’t being very vigilant, it is left up to me to guard the house from potential predators. So far this winter I have kept Doc safe from the UPS man invading our home, and most importantly, alerted her to a strange object that showed up one day in the neighbors yard. It looked human, as it wore a hat, had stick arms, a carrot nose and a scarf around the neck. When it didn’t move after all my growling and barking, I finally got the courage to go over, lift my leg and pee all over it. I do believe that my pee has special powers because by the next day after the sun came out, that weird things head has fallen onto the ground. Good riddance I say. That thing was creepy.

You would think that Doc would be thankful for me picking up the slack while she wallows in her lethargic state, but I barely get a pat on the head these days. I guess all I can hope for is an early spring. Until then, I guess I curl up on the couch under the blanket next to Doc. After all, there are worse ways to spend a cold winter’s night.

Photo by Angela Kirk ” The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him…”

— Samuel Butler

It’s Always About the Relationship

Photo by Angela Kirk

After returning from the holidays, Doc was going through her mail and was surprised to find a hand-written envelope addressed to her with no return address. Curious, she opened the envelope and was touched to find a letter that started, ” I bet you’ll never guess who this is.” The letter went on to say that the writer had stopped by to say hi, described what she had been doing in her life and ended the letter; ” I think of you often, Happy Holidays!” It was signed at the bottom by a patient Doc said she hadn’t seen in more than 12 years. As I looked at Doc I could see by the softening in her face and the glistening of her eyes how touched she was by this gesture.

Curious, I asked Doc why someone would take the time to visit and write a note to a therapist they had not seen in over 12 years. All Doc said was ” It’s about the relationship Grover.” Doc must have noticed the puzzled look upon my face because she then went on to explain. “There is nothing more important in the world than the connections we establish with each other. For this particular patient, she granted me the privilege of walking beside her through her journey of recovery that included some very painful struggles. When someone pays you the honor of trusting you enough to be vulnerable until they can heal, a bond is formed, but I am humbled that she took the time to remember me after all these years.”

After mulling this over for awhile I asked Doc; ” Is this true for all encounters?” ” Yes, she said, no matter how big or small, whether it is a co-worker or the way you relate to a store clerk, they are all important. Strong work relationships improve morale and work production and healthy bonds with family and friends improve health. Just think how good you feel, when someone stops to pat you on the head and tells you you’re a good dog.”

Then Doc paused for a moment as if deep in thought before she said, ” You know Grover, when I was young I didn’t get the big picture, I was more worried about my own needs. And although it may sound cliché, there are some things in life that only time and experience can teach you. The one thing I now know without any doubt is; that if you want to build bridges in this world you need to know how to form and honor relationships.”

In the stillness of the moment, Doc looked down in her hand where she was holding the letter and carefully placed it back in the envelope. She then rested her hand on my back, leaned down and kissed me on the head and said,” But of course, our bond is the best of all.”




Photo by Angela Kirk ‘ Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.”

— Dean Koontz