Yea, It’s Turkey Time!

It would be a gross understatement to say that I am excited about Thanksgiving. There is not a word in the entire English or Urban dictionary that describes the pure joy and anticipation I am feeling about my favorite holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing all the family and thank goodness we can be together again this year, but what I really love is the glorious food!

I knew Thanksgiving must be getting close when about two weeks ago Doc came in the back door with a 20 pound turkey. That sucker was huge and still frozen, so she needed two hands to hoist it in the freezer. I asked her if she needed help and she gave me a strange look and told me to back away from the turkey like I was going to drag it outside, let in thaw in the sun and eat the whole thing myself. Bless her heart, she was so excited that she got that turkey for eighty four cents a pound that she bragged to everyone. Well as you know, Doc does like a good deal. Since last Friday that turkey has since been transferred to the refrigerator to thaw out. I check on it everyday to make sure it’s still there and today Doc will put it in the oven for about five hours and hopefully tonight when she carves it, she will slip me a piece to make sure it tastes good enough to serve tot he relatives. I just hope Doc doesn’t drop the turkey on the floor like she did a few years back when it was so buttered up it slipped out of her arms. If that happens you all know I will eat it anyway, after all, I do eat bunny poop like it’s a gourmet treat.

I don’t want you to think that all I care about is the food, because Doc and I have already been talking about what we are thankful for. Doc told me that there are scientific studies that prove that being grateful improves physical and mental health, enhances empathy, improves self-esteem, reduces aggression, helps you to sleep better at night and opens the door to positive relationships. So I am starting my gratitude list and when the relatives come over to eat tomorrow we can talk about the things we are most grateful for. Spending a day with people I love and eating good food will be at the top of my list.

Doc and I wish every one of you a Thanksgiving filled with many blessings!

Alligator Anxiety

Although I have lived with Doc for over nine years, it is often hard to predict what she is going to do next. So I was certainly surprised and rather concerned when she told me she was going to leave me for a few days to search for alligators in the Everglades of Florida. I am just a dog and even I didn’t think that sounded like a very good idea, but she assured me it would be fine and that she would call and send pictures. Believe me, I was not feeling reassured and all that I could think of was the lyrics to a song I heard long ago called Poke Salad Annie, with the line, ” Gators got your granny, chomp, chomp.”

The morning she dropped me off to stay at the veterinarian’s office, she kissed me good by on the top of the head and got in the car and drove away like she didn’t have a care in the world. Was this the last time I would ever see Doc? How could she act so cavalier when I was obviously in distress? The nice vet tech that was caring for me sensed my anxiety and told me it would be ok, that Doc would be back safe and sound before I knew it, but I still fretted.

It seemed like ages before I heard from Doc and after many sleepless nights due to a combination of worry and a howling beagle named Fred in the kennel across from me, I finally got word that Doc had sent a message and a video. The video actually showed Doc on an air boat in the Everglades and it was not reassuring . There, right next to the boat, was a huge beast of an alligator that the boat Captain called Cee Cee. The Captain started making baby gator noises to lure the alligator closer to the boat. Then he announced how alligators are carnivorous! Carnivorous, what the heck? What is Doc thinking being so close to an alligator that it could make an afternoon snack out of her? Sometimes I just don’t get humans.

A few more days passed after receiving the video and I had decided to move on with my life without Doc if I needed to. Then, late one night, I was busily following one of the techs around in the back of the office while she did her chores when they called back to say that Doc was here to pick me up. I had made up my mind to act angry if I ever saw her again because of the drama and worry she put me through. When they took me outside to her car, at first I acted like I was more interested in sniffing a leaf on the ground than seeing her, but as soon as I looked up and saw her face my tail waged uncontrollably and I hopped into the car beside her. I told her how worried I had been while she was gone. “Grover, she responded, you have to trust that I would not do anything to put myself in danger. Sometimes I just need to get away and try a new adventure. That’s what makes life interesting.” ” I understand, I responded. But next time you feel the need for a new adventure couldn’t you pick something a little tamer like visiting the largest ball of string in Missouri?” Doc just sighed and rubbed me under the chin as we headed for home.

Staying Open to Love

It was quite a surprise when Doc and her friend set me up on a blind date. The first I knew of it was when the doorbell rang and this tiny little one year old ball of energy named Tilly came bounding through the front door. There was no doubt that she was cute and I admit I was smitten, but it didn’t take long for me to reevaluate the situation.

Tilly had barely gotten in the front door before she started trying to boss me around. For a tiny thing she sure was feisty. As you know, it is general etiquette that when dogs meet each other, they smell each others private parts to get information. When I approached her, she let me know that she was not allowing that. In fact she backed up, barked and growled at me. Doc said without any surprise in her voice ” What did you expect, you just met?” As Doc has taught me to respect boundaries I backed away. Frankly I was a little frightened of her attitude.

After she informed me that she was in charge, she had the nerve to roam around the house until she came upon the basket of dog toys that belong to me. She took it upon herself to start playing with my stuff without even asking permission. Next she jumped up on the furniture and when I would go over to try and reengage with her, she would jump from sofa to chair to ottoman, like some kind of show dog that performs in Las Vegas. I have never seen anything like it. Even Doc whispered to me, “That dog needs to learn some manners.” The last straw was when she found my favorite bone that I have had for years and started chewing on it. What nerve! Doc knew I had had enough and that this match was probably not going to work this day, so she diplomatically shuffled her out the door.

“Whew, that was something”, I exclaimed after she left. ” I am worn out.” As I lay beside Doc panting from all the activity, I asked her why on earth that she and her friend thought that Tilly and I would be a good match. “She’s too young for me Doc, she’s only one and I’m nine. “Well, she said, you never know, I just wanted you to have fun and meet a new friend. Grover, its always important to stay open to meeting new dogs and having new adventures, that’s what makes life interesting” she said.

After some time went by and I gave it more thought I decided to tell Doc I would like to play with Tilly again. Tilly sure made my day more interesting, and who knows, after more time she and I might find our grove and ride off into the sunset together. You just never know. I kind of like a female that takes charge.

Things That Go Bump In the Night

Although Halloween is just a few days away, this is not the only time of year that I get spooked. There are plenty of odd occurrences in my world that make me sleep with one eye open at night, but nothing is more frightful than when Doc tells me a true story about things that go bump in the night right before I go to sleep.

Before I was born, Doc lived in a house built in 1907. Because the house was so old, it creaked and rattled all on its own, and if that wasn’t scary enough, some of the neighbors, friends and even family thought the house might be haunted. It didn’t take too long after Doc moved in for the “hauntings” to commence. Apparently what ever it was, wanted Doc to notice because there would be loud banging and a general ruckus a few times per month, especially at night. In addition to the noises, there were some people that swore that they saw a ghostly presence standing in a long frock coat, gazing out the window on the stairway landing on more than one occasion. Doc never saw this apparition and frankly thought the people had over active imaginations, but the ghost did not care what Doc believed and continued its noisy hauntings.

One day, Doc happened to jokingly mention to her new neighbors next door what was happening in the house, and guess what? The two girls that lived there with their parents told her a story that made my fluffy dog hairs stand on end. From the time the girls were little they would sometimes wake at night to see a ghostly presence that wore a dark long frock coat standing at the end of their beds just watching over them. Although this seemed strange, they were never really frightened, as he had been visiting them since they were little. Of course, when they tried to tell their parents they brushed it off as childhood fantasy. When the girls got older, they decided to go to the library and do some research and you will never guess what they found out. Apparently their house was built in the late 1800’s and the man that owned that home eventually built the house next door that Doc lived in for his daughter’s family. So, this ghost was just traveling back and forth to watch over who lived in the houses he built.

Although Doc was skeptical, she did contemplate what the girls told her and one night it all came to a head. Doc was sound asleep when she was awakened by the sound of a big bang coming from the dirt root cellar. Irate that her sleep had been interrupted she angrily stomped down the stares to find the entire front of the furnace on the ground. ” “That’s enough!” she yelled out to the ghost. ” I am not scared of you, I am not leaving this house and if you are not going to help pay the mortgage than you can’t live here. Now go toward the light to the other side where you belong.”

Who knows, maybe the spirit was waiting for someone to give him permission to leave and retire from watching over everyone, but after that night the house was as quiet as could be. It stayed that way until Doc put the house up for sale and left. Who knows, maybe the spirit has returned to watch over the new owners. I am certainly glad he didn’t follow Doc to the new house or maybe he has and he is just being quieter. Happy Halloween!

“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.