True Confessions of a Guilty Pooch

Did I feel any remorse for what I had done? To be honest no, not at first. I had no feeling about it at all, that is until I got caught. I had done what I did because that is what dog’s do. We live in the moment and don’t really worry about consequences. If it suites our needs or brings us happiness we go for it. I suppose that makes me sound rather self-centered, but dogs don’t really get diagnosed with such things. We are just dogs acting in the way our animal instinct drives us, and what I did the other day is a perfect example.

Doc has a wooden picket fence that goes around our back yard. It is about twelve years old, so some of the pickets have gotten weathered over time and Doc has been replacing them as needed. Well she missed one that was rotting and that is where this story begins. I was playing over by the fence and I must have leaned against it, when snap, the bottom of one of the pickets broke off. It was just about that time that my doggie friend Frankie, came outside. As he ambled over to the fence and noticed that I had broken it, we looked at each other like we both had the same plan. I guess great minds think alike, so we started digging furiously. There was dirt flying everywhere. We knew the gap at the bottom of the fence would be big enough for little Frankie to slip under if we just dug a little deeper into the earth. It didn’t take long at all and Frankie was able to wiggle his way under and into my yard. We must have played a good fifteen minutes before Doc noticed from inside the house. As she came outside she looked confused, not understanding how Frankie had gotten in the yard, when she looked over and saw the damaged fence and the hole in the ground. She did not look happy.

Frankie got sent home and I had to go back in the house while Doc surveyed the damage. I didn’t really feel guilty until Doc came in and told me that she would have to replace the picket and fill the hole. More work added to a long list of things needing done she said with exasperation in her voice. I felt a little guilty but knew the fence wasn’t my fault so I let that go. But digging a hole and letting my friend in the yard without permission, well that was another story. I went over and hid behind the couch laying nose to tail trying to get my 82 pound body as small as possible hoping Doc would not see me. While she went outside to fix the fence and fill the hole, a wave of remorse came over me. I tried to shake it off, but it didn’t work. Soon I fell asleep.

The next day I was still feeling guilty and decided to make amends. I found Doc in the kitchen getting breakfast and asked if we could have a heart to heart. ” Sure” she said. So I sat down in front of her and told her I was feeling guilty about causing her more more work and wanted to know how I could make it up to her. ” Think before you act the next time”. she said. “Dogs and people get themselves in trouble by not thinking things all the way through before they make a decision.” I forgive you Grover, now you forgive yourself as well. It’s time to move forward.”

No amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of worry can change the future.” Umar Ibn Al-Khattabb

Should you Consider Spending the Day in Bed?

Doc actually read me an article on the internet the other day that said humans need to stop pushing themselves so hard and think about spending the day in bed. I was suspicious at first thinking this must be written by a company trying to sell more mattresses, but it ended up being legit. The article said humans need to stop exposing themselves to all the anxiety provoking news on television and social media, slow down, shut everything off and stay in bed. Doc and I being open to trying new things decided we would give it a shot and see if it worked to reduce our stress. Lets just say things didn’t work out exactly like we had hoped.

It all sounded so luxurious, just laying around in bed all day like a couple of rich movie stars. The problem was that rich people have staff to do things for them and keep all their balls up in the air. On the other hand, working stiffs like ourselves our responsible for getting our own stuff done, so we decided the best course of action would be to get our chores completed ahead of time. That meant packing all our chores into one day. So exhausting! As we were working so hard to get everything accomplished for our day of rest, I thought to myself that maybe that this was just a big set up. After all the work we were doing, we would need a day in bed to crash, so what’s the point? Yet we persevered and went to bed reveling in the thought that the next day we would do nothing.

One of the luxuries of having a day with nothing to do is that you can sleep in. There was just one problem with that, I go to the bathroom outside and can’t open the door myself. So I had to wake Doc up fairly early to let me out. After that we went back to bed. About an hour of relaxing my stomach started growling and since I don’t have opposable thumbs, I had to wake Doc again to get my breakfast. Then it was time to go outside again to sniff around the yard to see what creatures of the night had left their scent. Doc was wide awake by then, so she got up, got dressed and made her own breakfast. Then she did the dishes because there is no maid to help her. Later in the day I needed my walk, some treats. Well you get the idea, I am high maintenance.

We really tried hard to lay down and relax after all the activity but it was a nice day and too good to waste being inside. After all there was yard work to do and it was just nice to be outside in the warmth after the winter we endured.

There is kind of a happy ending to this diatribe. After a few hours of Doc cleaning up the flower beds and me supervising, we were a good kind of tired. So Doc came in, took a shower and we finally both laid down on the bed. The rest of the afternoon was spent watching some good old movies and one even had a dog as the star. We lazed around until the sun went down and then it was time to sleep.

Maybe we just aren’t the kind of people that can unplug all the way but we did learn that we need some balance in our day. Nothing in this world is just black and white, so I encourage all of you to find what brings you peace and then set aside time to do it. After all, balance is the ultimate goal.

April Showers, the IRS and Mower Issues

After complaining about the dark and the cold for months, now Doc has switched to complaining about new issues that spring has brought forth. She is not the only one, so I guess this is just a thing that humans do and I have to bare my cross by acting interested and concerned, when to be honest I would rather just take a nap.

For what ever reason, humans have to fill out long forms every year for the IRS, to declare how much money they make and this makes them very grouchy. Then the government checks those forms and either gives you some of your money back or asks you for more. When I asked Doc why we give them the money we worked hard for she said because if you don’t give it to them they will cause you big trouble. When I asked what they did with the money, she said that some of that is even a mystery to her. She guessed some of it goes to programs to repair roads, help with schools and good things like that and then some of the taxes go toward and I kid you not, for NASA to study How Religious Groups Would Respond to Aliens, and to the National Science Foundation to find out If Dinosaurs Could Sing. (They couldn’t.) I asked Doc if they could send me some money and I would let them study me. She just gave me “the look.” when I asked that question.

Next on the list of grievances was how the April showers were making the grass grow too fast. She went out in our back yard yesterday to look closely at the grass and then shook her head and said, ” All this stupid rain is making the grass grow too fast. I am going to have to start mowing in about another week.” She acted so perturbed about the whole thing that I knew not to confess that I had been helping the grass grow by watering it as well.

Trying to be prepared for the inevitable, she went straight to the garage to check the lawn mower that had been shoved way in the back behind some outdoor lawn furniture. After pulling it out she checked to make sure there was gas and pulled the handle. Not a sound. After a few more tries she gave up. It was dead. Luckily, Doc knows how to fix stuff, so we went over to one of the big hardware stores and I got to go too. That place is almost as interesting as the pet store and lots of people stop and pet me when we go up and down the aisles so I like that. After Doc got a new filter, spark plug and some oil, we headed back home. It wasn’t long before she got everything done and even sharpened the blades and after just two pulls it started right up. She was relieved and so was I because it put her in a better mood for the rest of the day.

Now its Tuesday and all I have on my list for today after work is a mani-pedi over at the vets office. After all since spring is here I will be showing my paws more and I want them to look nice. Since I am a famous therapy dog I need to stay camera ready for my fans. That’s the least I can do.

Happy Spring!

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Have you ever spent time at an airport, shopping center or other event just watching people? It’s fascinating. Doc and I try to figure out where they are going, what the relationships are with the people they are with and other wild tales we concoct in our heads. This is all done with minimal information of course. Did you know scientists have estimated that we form impressions of others within the first 30 seconds we meet someone? So think about how those initial impressions impact the way we treat others. Then take it a step further and think about how we were treated growing up and later as adults, and how we have absorbed those stories others created about us. Then, ask yourself if the story you believe about yourself is true and how it may be limiting you from living up to your full potential.

” I’m the black sheep of the family.” the patient said out loud in our weekly group counseling session. I knew exactly what Doc was going to reply when he said that and she did not disappoint me. ” What makes you the black sheep? ” she asked him quietly. ” Well because of everything I have done since I was little, that’s what my family calls me even to this day.” Doc looked him right in the eye and asked ” Did you ever think that your family might be wrong? That’s just a label they gave you. Is that really who you are deep down inside, a black sheep? ” The poor man looked so shocked, as I don’t ever think he had even considered that his family may be wrong. He had owned this label into his adult life to the point that at times it had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. ” Labels belong on cans, not on people. Doc said. Now tell me more about who you really are.”

I am not sure why humans feel the need to assign labels, they even do it to different dog breeds. It’s as if some are uncomfortable just allowing others to develop and be themselves. Because in reality, we are all unique with our own set of special talents.

Doc understood that about me from the beginning. She had a vision that as a therapy dog, I would help children that were struggling with reading by sitting quietly while they practiced reading a book to me. The only problem was that I thought it was a game and I would steal the book so the kids would chase me. That certainly didn’t work out like she had envisioned, so instead of trying to force me to do what she wanted, she worked to find out what I was best at. That turned out to be working with adults in recovery and with cancer patients and I am very happy doing that.

It just goes to show you that everyone has a unique path they should follow, but that will only happen if we let go of the stories that limit our potential and stay open to what our heart leads us to do.

I Love You Just the Way you Are

” When you love a person, we except him or her exactly as is; the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the facade and of course the only way we can do it, is by accepting ourselves that way.” Mister Rogers

Everybody probably has that one friend that you love, but they can get out of hand sometimes and work your last nerve. For me that is my furry friend next door named Frankie. He’s a bit hyper to say the least. If patience is a virtue, I need to keep working on that with him. For example, the other day Doc was nice enough to take him on a walk with us as his owners were out of town and the lady taking care of him could not handle his energy. Boy did that turn out to be a wild adventure.

For a little guy he is strong and for whatever reason he does not like to be on the leash. First he pulled to the right and then to the left. When he wasn’t trying to pull us down the street he was inappropriately trying to sniff my privates, trees and any human or dog that passed by. Who does that? After about two minutes of him trying to control the walk both Doc and I had had enough and we started setting some boundaries. I tried to set the example, but Frankie follows to the beat of his own drum. As a result, Doc shortened the leash so he could only go so far and I gently put my paw on top of his head when he got out of line. And you know what? He started acting like he had some sense and stayed right next to Doc the entire walk. We looked like a professional dog walking team coming down the street. By the time we got home poor little Frankie was all tuckered out. I guess it was exhausting for him trying to behave.

The next morning Frankie came over to play and was back to his old wild self again. I guess a good nights sleep helped him to recuperate. When I told Doc he was acting like a wild Tasmanian devil in our yard and that I didn’t want to play with him until he could straighten up, you know what she said? ” Guess who use to act like that Grover” she said looking me straight in the eye. ” What? I responded. I haven’t always been perfect? ” I was astounded as she told me about my younger out of control self. ” Just like I was patient with you, you need to set an example and be patient with Frankie. That is what a good friend does.” she said with conviction.

So of course she was right. I don’t want to be a fair weather friend and I do love the little guy, so I promised Doc I would remain patient. Maybe Doc could send me to school with the Dali Llama. He seems pretty chill from all that meditation and could probably give me a few pointers. Until then I will love my little friend just the way he is, hoping he will grow out of this wild stage soon as this old dog can’t hang like I use to.

I Don’t Want to Spring Forward

What human had the big idea that we should change the clock twice a year? And why does an entire nation go along with it like you are captive to the rule? I’ll tell you one thing, messing with all of our circadian rhythms would never be a thing a dog would come up with. It just makes no sense., especially when I have to rise an hour early to use the bathroom in some snow that fell overnight. The humans are grouchy, and I am too. Loosing an hour of sleep is never a good idea. They say this was originally done to help the farmers, but have you ever seen a cow or a goat wearing a watch? The only thing that I can figure is that this stupid rule has to be part of some bigger conspiracy and this dog is going to get to the bottom of it.

The only thing that appeased me was that I did get my breakfast an hour early and that woke me up enough to think about who could be behind this plot to mess with people’s sleep schedule. The first thing I did was call one of Doc’s relatives that is heavily into conspiracy theories, hoping he would help me find some answers. Walter, ( not his real name) answered the phone on the first ring but was too nervous to answer my questions in person. ” The phone could be bugged, he said in a low whisper, meet me in the park.” So about an hour later I arrived at the park and was surprised to learn from Walter that interstellar Lizard people are running the government and have secret societies that control everything, even the time change. Why they would want to control the time change he could not explain, but is was an interesting conversation none the less and I did get some exercise.

Back to the drawing board, I decided to do my own research and came up with a more probable reason than Lizard people. This time I called one of the history professors Doc and I know. Even though his explanation was not as interesting as Walter’s, it sure made more sense than the extraterrestrial theory. The professor said that the first real use of Daylight savings time came about during WWI and then was used again during WWII thinking it would help save fuel for the war effort. It did not. After the wars were over we went back to standard time. It wasn’t until 1966 that it was reintroduced as the Uniform Time Act. As of today, no one I know likes it, including the farmers and so we are back to the original question. Why do you allow yourselves to remain captive to a rule nobody likes. Rise up people!

Reminding myself that Doc has always told me that you can only control your own behavior I have decided that I will no longer follow this asinine rule that no one seems to agree with. And if Doc keeps offering me my dinner an hour early now that we have sprung forward, I will protest and not eat it early. Wait who am I kidding? Have you ever know me to pass up a meal?

Breaking News! Yesterday the senate approved the Sunshine Protection Act making daylight savings time permanent. If approved by the house the president can then sign it in to law and will start in 2023. I must not have been the only one to complain.

Letting Go and Finding Peace of Mind

Last week Doc and I took a much needed vacation. She went to the beaches of Florida while I stayed with my favorite veterinarian. Please don’t think I got the raw end of the deal because not only was I thoroughly pampered, but I think it is actually good for us to be apart for awhile. What ended up being interesting about the time off is that both of us came back with a different perspective about our daily lives and as a result decided to make some changes.

Its hard to know that you are in a rut until you get out of it for awhile. While I was eating up the attention and accolades about being the most perfect and polite dog staying at the veterinarians, Doc was finding out that after she got away how exhausted she was. She said she slept, relaxed and didn’t pressure herself to do anything she did not want to . After all vacation means to vacate your current situation. And what did we find out while we were gone? That we both needed to make some changes to support self care. As a therapy team it is important to not only practice what we preach but to model it as well.

We realized we are both way overscheduled and decided it is time to let go of a few things that were weighing us down. Doc started by resigning from some committee she was on. I was glad because that meant I didn’t have to go to the meetings either. It was boring to this dog and I had to be extra quiet during the discussions, so I support her on that decision. Next it was time to evaluate some relationships in our lives that were emotionally exhausting. Doc calls those people vampires, because when you are around them you feel like they suck the life out of you. Doc let go of her vampire by setting some better boundaries and limiting the time spent on the relationship. For myself, it was the dog up the street that I have tried to befriend for years but he always growls at me like he is the superior canine. So rude! Doc said to me ” Grover as cute as you are not everyone is going to like or appreciate how sweet you are, so let that dog go.” She was right, so now I stay on the other side of the street and walk on by.

What is strange about making these changes is that you would have thought that it would have been harder than it was, but you know what, it was just the opposite. We both felt a sense of relief, like a weight had been lifted. I do think wisdom comes with age and since both Doc and I are getting older, you come to a place that you need to decide how much more of your life you want to waste on situations or people that leave you feeling worn out or anxious. We all make some bad choices sometimes, but the good news is that we can also choose to learn from our mistakes and then move forward.

So here’s to letting go of toxic thoughts. people, grudges, or situations and embracing more peace and tranquility.

The Gift

Don’t you just love it when the doorbell rings and someone that is special to you is standing at your front door? Well Sunday afternoon was a double surprise when two of my favorite former co-workers came over for Sunday supper. Doc hadn’t told me they were coming over or I would have combed out my beard and eyebrows so I would have looked more presentable, but they didn’t seem to mind my scruffy appearance. The good thing is that old friends don’t care and I was so happy to see them that I could hardly contain myself. Preoccupied, I didn’t even notice the pretty box with the blue bow until it was handed to Doc. Thinking it was for her I was surprised when I found out it was for little old me.

No one has ever brought me a present that was wrapped up so beautifully. I have to say I was quite touched and also curious to find out what was inside. Doc placed it down on the stool so I could get close to it and sniff it. It took me two seconds to realize there was something very tasty inside and I could hardly stand the wait as Doc helped me to untie the bow and open the box. Inside were the most magnificent treats that I have ever seen. They also tasted as good as they smelled. Being thankful, I went over to my friend, sat right next to her and gave her a lick on the hand so she would know how much I appreciated the gesture.

The next day I was still thinking about how nice it was that my friend took the time to think of me and made the effort to bring me something I would really enjoy. Sometimes we are so preoccupied with rushing through our lives we forget how the simplest of gestures can brighten someone’s day. Doc once read me a quote from writer Richard Bach that says; ” Every gift from a friend is a wish for your happiness.” Here’s hoping that all of you reading this blog today feel appreciated by someone special in your life and more importantly that you appreciate yourselves.

Good Things Can Come In Small Packages

It was a lazy Sunday and I was looking out the front window when I was surprised to see Doc’s niece, Sami arrive. I had not seen her since Christmas and I was so overjoyed that she had come to visit, that I met her at the front door. I was so preoccupied that I didn’t even notice that she was holding a tiny fur object in her arms until Doc let out a sigh of delight. Even then I didn’t understand what she was looking at until she took the fur ball from Sami, sat down, put it in her lap and it started moving. Then I became very curious.

Trying to figure out what this little creature was took all of my sniffing power. The poor thing was smaller than my bunny friends that come into the back yard. Finally Doc said to me, ” Grover, its a puppy, now be careful, its just a baby.” When Sami told Doc that it now weighed 2 pounds at the age of three months, I was kind of shocked. I weigh 82 pounds. I probably already weighed two pounds at birth. How was it possible that a dog could be this small? I started feeling skeptical and wondered if it was really a dog. Every time I went near this so-called puppy that was named Twyla, it started to shake. I realized I must look like a giant to her so I was extra gentle. Finally Doc sat down on the floor so I could get a closer look. I tried to engage her by going into the play stance so she would know I was friendly, but when I did that she just crawled back between Doc’s legs and hid. ” What’s wrong with this puppy? ” I asked Doc. “She acts like she doesn’t even understand how dogs communicate. This dog seems broken, if you ask me and frankly she is so boring that I don’t want to play with her.” And with that I went over to my dog bed to lay down.

It was when Doc asked me to come with her into the other room that I knew she was not pleased with what I had just said. ” Grover, we will be kind to every creature that comes into this house. What you didn’t know was that Twyla was born with some joint issues in her legs and will have to have surgery when she is fully grown, so she can’t do all the things regular puppies do right now. I think it would be nice if you acted like a big brother to her and helped her to feel more comfortable around dogs. You could act as her teacher.” As usual Doc was right and I felt bad for not being more patient and understanding. I liked the idea of being Twyla’s teacher. I could teach her all the important dog things that she will need to know, like how to manipulate humans into giving you extra treats.

After I went back out into the family room I approached Twyla and ever so gently gave her a lick on her nose. This seemed to make her feel safe enough that when I laid down on the floor, she came over and cuddled next to me and we stayed that way until it was time for Sami and Twyla to leave.

Later, when I was thinking about the visit with Twyla, I told Doc that I was glad that she let me know that she had some medical problems. ” I never would have know by just looking at her. ” I told Doc. ” Sometimes you just don’t know what a human or a dog could be dealing with.” Doc responded. Because Twyla is a toy breed she will never be bigger that about 5 pounds, so I decided that whenever she is around me I will not only be patient, but protect her. After all, she is family and that’s what family should do.

So Glad You Are My Neighbor

Sometimes Doc and I watch old reruns of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood on PBS. It is both comforting and reminds us the importance of being a good neighbor. I once heard him say ” Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered , as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person. ” Doc and I are lucky in that we have very kind neighbors that watch out for us. A perfect example of this was during the recent ice and snow storm that we had last week when the smallest of our neighbors showed up to lend a hand.

For those of you that experienced the storm that stretched over 1,000 miles last week then you know we were pounded with rain that turned to ice and then was followed by 7 inches of snow in our area. This lasted for almost two days. Luckily, we did not loose power and Doc and I were able to work remotely on Thursday and Friday so we were safe and warm, but that still left us with a dilemma. How on earth would we get down the driveway and the the snow covered road to the pet store? I was getting low on dog treats to the point that I was starting to panic. This could become an emergency. Luckily, just when I though I would have to hitch myself to a sled and pull Doc to the store, I heard the sweet sound of the city snow plow coming down the road and soon after the musical hum of the neighbors snow blower in our driveway. Hallelujah! I know Doc was relieved because that snow would have been tough to remove with just the snow shovel.

Now that we knew that the road was clear, Doc started getting ready to go to the store. While waiting for her, I suddenly heard the sound of some children giggling outside in the front of our house, so I did a low bark to alert Doc. “Who’s out there Grover? ” she asked while going toward the front door. When she opened the door there were the three children from next door. With three shovels in hand they were diligently chipping away at the ice and snow on the front walk and the steps, laughing like this was the most fun they could have on their snow day off from school. ” Oh my, ” Doc said with surprise. ” How nice of you to shovel everything, that really helps me out. I guess your hard work calls for some home made chocolate chip cookies.” They all nodded in agreement and told Doc they were happy to help and would love some of her cookies.

Later on, when Doc remarked to the children’s father how nice it was that his kids had shoveled the walk, she was surprised by his reply. ” Well of course they should do that, you are our neighbor.” And there you go, this is a perfect example of how children learn by example and how teaching them the importance of helping others when they are young will leave a lifetime impression.

Later on in the evening after we got home from the store and I was enjoying one of my dog treats by the fire and I thought about Mr. Rogers again. What happened today was just the kind of thing that he thought was important, caring for your neighbor. In fact, Doc says that we should act neighborly to everyone because we are all connected in some way. There are ample opportunities that present themselves everyday where we can lend a hand or say a kind word to someone. Not only will you be helping someone but it will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. After all, kindness is contagious. So pass it on.