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.

Curses, Skunked Again!

Did you ever have one of those days that started out terrible and you thought that in a million years it could not get any worse but it did? Well that is what happened to Doc and I on Tuesday and it was a series of events that I hope to never repeat again.

Picture this, it’s about 5:10am Tuesday and Doc let me out the back door to use the bathroom before breakfast like she always does. I meandered out on the porch like usual. It’s still dark, so Doc put the flood lights on in the yard. She turns the lights on for two reasons, one is so any critters in the yard get a warning that I am coming out and two, so she can see me. Neither of us saw anything after she turned the lights on but just as I was ready to go down the steps, I heard something over to the left of the porch by the rose bushes and I jumped off to investigate. My first bad idea.

It was a skunk and apparently I startled it so much that it could barely get any spray out because it just wanted to get away from me. I ran away when I smelled it and when Doc saw me, I was smacking my jaw open and closed and running around the yard. Alarmed she thought I was sick to my stomach and opened the back door to see if I was ok. She smelled a slight odor of skunk but smelled after smelling me all over she let me in the house. I guess she didn’t think I had been sprayed as it was not very strong and she just thought the odor had waffled into the house and not hit me directly. I then ate my breakfast and she put me in the car and off we went to work. The second bad idea of the day.

The windows were down in the car so she didn’t smell a thing. When we got to work she asked her first patient if I smelled like skunk and the patient replied no. Now I think the patient was just trying to be nice and not hurt our feelings because before long people were asking why the place smelled like a skunk. It was so embarrassing that Doc and I did the walk of shame out of the office and to the car and drove home. She finished out the rest of her work day doing tele health. By 9am even Doc could smell me and since I did not want to be alone even though I smelled to high heaven, I slept right next to Doc the rest of the work day while Doc explained to her patients why they could not be seen in person. Even with the windows open and the fans on, the house stunk. Finally after Doc was done with work she took me outside and gave me a bath using her old skunk removal mixture of hydrogen peroxide, dishwashing soap and baking soda. I hated the bath, but boy does that potion work. Happy day! No more smell.

After the bath, Doc decided to go over to the rose bushes to see where the skunk had been and boy what a surprise she got. The first thing she noticed was a piece of a honey comb laying on the ground next to a big hole in the mulch bed. As she got closer she saw hundreds of bees down in a big hole. That little stinky Pepe Le Pew had found itself a nest full of tasty bees for a delicious end of night snack. And that’s when Doc put two and two together. She now realized that not only was I sprayed but I had been stung by bees. Well the nest was quite large and since it was uncovered and right by the porch Doc decided it needed relocated. The last bad Idea.

So what hair brain idea did Doc come up with for the bee’s relocation? She decided to get a shovel to move the hive. Now by this point in the story you are probably questioning Doc’s intelligence and you have a right to, given what she did. I probably don’t have to tell you what happened next. Yup, you got it, the bees were not happy about being evicted. After all, they were still grieving the demise of the other bees in their colony that the skunk had eaten earlier that morning. So they did what any group would do when evicted without notice, they rose up and Doc got stung, not once, but about 10 times. Then for good measure they chased her around the yard and some even followed her back in the house. I tried to protect her as best I could by jumping up and catching them in my mouth before they could sting her. Luckily I was not hurt this time.

Doc is left with some pain and swelling on her body and a stinky house. A tough lesson learned for someone that usually make good choices. Today, I am letting Doc go it alone to face our co-workers that had to smell skunk all day. Doc did get some de-skunker at the pet store to take to work, so hopefully that will get rid of the smell. But for today, I will hide out at home. I can’t bare to see the stares and listen to the whispers about the odor we brought to work, it’s just too embarrassing.

Bee hive