What Makes You Happy?

It’s just after 6am and we are already at work setting up for our 9am Stress Management group. I don’t think it ever occurred to Doc that using your brain and body that early in the morning may be causing us stress, but oh well, I am just along for the ride at this hour. She likes to get things done before the other staff and patients start arriving because there are less distractions. what I didn’t know, was today I was going to learn my own very important lesson.

While Doc sets up for group, I sniff around for crumbs left on the floor that the cleaning crew missed the night before. As I glance over the top of the table I notice the hand out for todays group. The cover sheet has a quote by Catherine Pulsifer that says, “Being happy is something each of us determines, it is not something we find outside ourselves, it is within us and our choice.” Now that made me pause and think, until I said out loud to Doc ” I am responsible for my own happiness? ”

Doc stopped dead in her tracks and with a puzzled look on her face said to me, “Who did you think was responsible for your happiness? ” ” I thought you were responsible! ” I said with surprise. ” Oh Grover, she said with concern, have you learned nothing after all these years of being in counseling sessions with me? Yes, I am here to make sure you are taken care of because you are a dog,, but you and only you are responsible for your own happiness.” Then she went on to explain. Often, we get stuck thinking we will be happy when someone comes into our lives and make us happy, or getting a new car, or winning the lottery, you get the idea. Or in your case, getting a giant steak bone. ” That would make me very happy, I responded.” All of those are nice things to have happen, but they are only short term fixes.”

” Well, I said, what can we do different? ” “You can start by no longer comparing yourself to others and look inside to see what really brings you contentment. You can also start looking at decisions you have been putting off making, like ending toxic relationships, or making a job switch to something more fulfilling. Of course if you feel stuck, you can also talk to a counselor that will help you sort things out. ” “Or a therapy dog, I am a good listener too. ” I added. ” In the end, you have to take action to live a more joy-fulfilled life. Sometimes it starts by just counting your blessings.” Doc responded.

Well, that conversation gave me a lot to think about ways to improve my happiness and I decided I would start with a nap. Naps make me very happy.

The Importance Of Serving Others

Even though I work full time with Doc as a therapy dog, Doc says it’s still important to volunteer for worthy causes and that is exactly what we did on Tuesday afternoon. So, after some lunch and a brief nap, we headed over to Dublin, Ohio to the conference center where the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence was having their annual conference.

We were there to talk to the participants who came from all over the state, about how therapy dogs can help people that have been traumatized by sexual violence. Sadly, Doc and I hear these stories from out patients, way too often and so Doc was able to give first hand accounts about how I have helped. She also encouraged those that were interested, how to have their agencies train and get dogs certified for the places they work.

I don’t want to brag, but I was a big hit. There were two other dogs there, but I think I was the most popular, especially with the ladies. I know it’s not nice to gossip, but there was a big St. Bernard there and as soon as I walked in the door, he lunged and barked at me. How rude! He did that a couple times when I walked by, so Doc decided we better sit away from him at a another table. If you ask me, I think he was jealous. Well, you know how it is in life, not everyone is going to like you, so you just move on.

To be able to come to a conference and interact with such nice people that do some very hard work is an honor. There were people that work in the court system helping to advocate for those who are sexually abused, first responders, counselors, social workers, and people that worked on the rape hot lines. I was so happy to try to cheer them up today and bring them some joy for just a little while. a small thankyou for the hard and emotionally taxing work that they do.

The Neighborhood

If you are as blessed as I am, you are lucky enough to live in a place with nice neighbors. Since the weather became warmer, everyone is outside, either sitting on their porches or working in the yard. But of course, watching the children play, is my favorite past time.

Just the other evening after the rain moved out, an impromptu game of volleyball broke out in the yard in back of my house, and I had a birds eye view. It was nice to see the big kids let the little ones play, and other than the net falling down through out the game, all of them were laughing and having a great time. The best part for me, was when the ball rolled over to our fence. Who ever retrieved the ball, would lean over and pat me on the head. I feel protective of the children, as I have known most of them since they were born and I do my best to watch over them.

As Doc and I were watching the volleyball game, Doc remarked that there is truly something magical about summer and children. They are out of school and have the freedom to just be kids. Doc says she likes watching them play just as much as I do, because it always reminds her of her own childhood summers. ” I always felt like summer break would last forever and that I didn’t have a care in the world, I miss that feeling.” she said.

After thinking about what Doc had said, I reminded her that even thought she has adult responsibilities, she can still take some time to sit on the porch, slow down and do nothing just for a little while. That, I think, is the best thing to heal your weary soul after a long hard day of work.

Who’s the Real Boss?

The humans think they are in charge of me at work, but even a casual observer would know that’s not the case. But don’t take my word for it, I will lay out the facts of the case and you make your own decision about who the real boss of this operation is.

As I dog, I like routine, so since Doc and I are one of the first ones at the office, I start the day by going from office to office to make sure there is nothing left in the trash cans from the day before. If there is something left, I feel it is my obligation to eat it. After all, I am a giver and believe my co-workers should be able to start their day with a clean trash can. Much to Doc’s horror, even as a senior dog I do not have a discerning palate and have been known to eat Kleenex and other delicacies like bunny poop I find in the yard.

The next stop is to go visit the receptionist to see what she is munching on for breakfast. Just last week, she made the mistake of turning her back for just a minute. Thinking she was done eating her snack, I grabbed her turkey jerky right off the desk and ate it in one bite. So yummy! Doc was not happy to say the least and offered to buy the poor woman more jerky, but she was not upset at all, in fact, she gave me a pat on the head and told me how cute I am.

By 7:30am, most of the staff is here and once again I go in the offices as they are eating breakfast, sit patiently by their side and stare at them until they relent and give me some of their food. Now you don’t need to have studied Psychology 101 to know that behavior and reward go hand in hand. It’s interesting to see how all of these people trained in mental health have fallen for my manipulations.

After helping myself to the staff’s food, it is time for me to start working. When the first patient arrives, I greet them like I have been trained and then I tap my paw on Doc’s desk drawer when I know she keeps my Milkbones. After all, hard work should be rewarded. Then I push up next to the patient where they can pet my and rub my back through out the counseling session. If they stop petting me I let out a little sad whine to let them know not to stop.

About mid morning, i am worn out from keeping all the humans in line, so I take a nap i my favorite spot in the office behind the chair on my dog bed. even though I am dosing, I keep one ear open to make sure everything is going ok. You see, it’s also my job to make sure everyone is safe.

When the work day is over and we get home from work I still like to keep Doc on schedule for walks, meal and play time. If She is late, I let her know. Doc says I have turned into a cantankerous old dog, but I don’t care what she says because she can get grouchy herself.

The comedian Jerry Seinfeld explained the relationship between dogs and humans beautifully when he said, “Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them is making the poop, and the other is carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?” I rest my case.