Hangin With my Bro’s

Every so often you need to take some time away from the daily grind and just hang out with the ones that you can just be yourself with. Now don’t get me wrong, I love being with Doc, but she just doesn’t get me the way my canine buddies do. Knowing that, she arranged a nice surprise for me.

First let me back up a minute and tell you what’s been going on. For the last week and a half, Doc and I have been on vacation. No matter how much you enjoy your job, it’s always good to pause and get away. To tell you the truth, Doc and I have been so worn out by everything that happened over the last year we decided not to plan anything and thought we would would just take things day by day. No schedule and no one to answer to felt like the best way to take care of ourselves and it has been wonderful. Some days we take day trips and sometimes we just rest and hang out at the community swimming pool. With that being said, Doc didn’t forget about me and last Saturday she announced that she had a special surprise. She told me that she had been asked to babysit my friends Norman and Frankie while their humans were gone for the day and she was bringing them over to our house. Yippee!

Luckily it was a gorgeous day and not too hot. Boy did we have fun. When we weren’t running around the yard chasing each other or catching the tennis ball, we spent our down time peeing on stuff and eating any strange thing we found in the yard.. It was heaven except for that little fella Frankie. Let me tell you that puppy is still kind of wild . He’s only a year old and has way too much energy for this old dog, but luckily since I am so much bigger all I have to do is gently put my paw on him and he calms down. There are strict pack rules in the dog world and we like to set boundaries to keep order. Apparently no one gave Frankie that memo. I told Norman that he has my sympathy having to deal with a little brother that is still learning the rules of the pack. Norman said he was appreciative that I could feel his pain. I told him he could come and talk to me anytime because that’s what bro’s are for. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a friend is to listen and keep your opinions to yourself.

Well, as all good things must come to an end, Norman and Frankie’s family came home and they needed to leave. I was all tuckered out and ready to rest any way. It had been a long day. That night as I was dozing off into dream land I remembered to count my blessings and to be thankful for the gift of my friendships. After all, nothing is better than having friends that know all about you and still accept you just the way you are.

Puppy Pandemonium

Boy oh boy, just when things are quiet and peaceful in my life, Doc scares me into thinking that a big change is coming.

It all started last Friday night. On the fourth Friday of each month, our suburb closes down the streets of the downtown area and hosts what would be best described as a big block party. There are typically lots of food trucks, street musicians, vendors selling their wares and this time there was even a person juggling fire sticks right in the main intersection. Dogs are always welcome and Doc takes me along because by now all of you know that I am always ready for a good time. We were sauntering along taking everything in when all of the sudden Doc spots something out of the corner of her eye and then exclaims loudly ” Oh! Would you look at that Grover, so sweet!” she exclaims while practically dragging me by the collar toward whatever it is she is trying to see. When I finally spy what she is cooing about I am surprised to see a whole pen full of cute, wiggly, high energy puppies vying for attention. As soon as Doc reached down into the pen they were all over her. And what made matters worse is that they were all up for adoption from the shelter that was taking care of them. ” Uh oh” I said out loud. This could be big trouble for me.

As I stood by helplessly watching Doc love on those puppies, a wave of anxiety filled my brain. What if she wants to bring one or two them home with us? Those little things have too much energy and I really don’t want to be bothered with a new baby brother or sister that will do nothing but bring havoc into my peaceful existence. Truth be said, I like being an only child. So, because I was jealous, I knew I needed to make my move to preserve my tranquil life. When I thought Doc wasn’t watching, I moved toward the pen and gave those puppies a piece of my mind in the language I knew they would understand. I looked at all of them in the eye and let out my deepest and scariest growl. It worked, they backed away immediately. ” Now who’s the big dog? I said to them proudly. My big ego moment was loudly interrupted when I head Doc’s stern voice.” Grover! What is wrong with you scaring a bunch of homeless puppies? Haven’t I taught you better than that? Now you go back over there and be nice to those little babies.”

Oh no. I was ashamed of my behavior after Doc scolded me. She was right. Those poor little puppies have been through enough and need to come to a good home like ours. I looked up at Doc and said without hesitation ” Lets adopt all five of them. I can help take care of them Doc and I will even share my toys. ” Doc looked back at me with a look of horror. ” Adopt five puppies? What are you thinking Grover, we are not even bringing one home today.” I have to admit, when she said that I breathed a sigh of relief. Then Doc being the forgiving sort, took me across the street and bought me a pup cup at the ice cream store so we could talk everything over.

So, what do I think about everything that happened on Friday night? Most importantly, this old dog learned a good life lesson . All of the drama could have been avoided if I would only have asked more questions instead of jumping to conclusions and acting on my fears. A valuable thing for this dog to remember.

Happy Birthday to Me, I Am Nine and Doing Fine!

On Thursday I will be the ripe old age of nine. Except for some more grey hairs on my back and tail I feel just fine and you would never know that I am now considered a dog in my senior years. Doc has arranged a small celebration with a few of my co-workers today and I am sure looking forward to that. I would never pass a up a good party. I sure hope some yummy dog treats are involved.

Getting older doesn’t bother dogs, we live our lives in the moment. Humans however, put great emphasis on aging. It is fascinating watching many of you try to “fight aging” with creams, dyes, injections, lifts, pills, implants and potions. The money you spend would buy enough dog treats and toys for myself and all my friends for the rest of our lives.

The other behavior I find curious is why some of you lie about your age. I will hand it to Doc, she doesn’t lie about that but I think it’s because she wants all the discounts that come once you get to a certain age. In the state of Ohio we have a thing called a Buckeye Card that you get when you turn 55. It gives you discounts at all sorts of places. She whips that thing out and shows it to the cashier like its a darn medal. Don’t tell her I told you but she’s a frugal sort of gal. But I digress. I guess the best advice I could pass on from a dogs perspective is don’t let age define you. Did you see the 82 year old ex NASA trainee Wally Funk go up into space on Tuesday? What if she would have declined the offer saying she was too old to do that. She would have missed the time of her life. I hope Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk call me to go on one of their next flights. I would be the oldest dog to go into outer space. Wouldn’t that be something!

So as long as I am blessed to be on this earth I am going to focus on each day, have as much fun as I can have, continue to work as a therapy dog, go on long walks everyday with Doc and play with my doggie friends next door. People say your life goes by quickly and I agree, so savor every moment and stop worrying about all the sags and bags that come with aging. Instead, wear your age with pride, you earned it.

Getting Over the Hump

Wednesday is known as hump day and I can’t think of a better way to describe our first regular day back at the office as we have certainly had to overcome many humps and bumps to get here. It has been over a year since we ran a face to face support group with our patients and Doc has been so excited that she started planning for the group last week. Its just an example of how things that we use to take for granted are now so much more special since we can be together again. I for one am feeling grateful and excited.

Two years ago, before the pandemic started I bet the things you were grateful for then are probably very different than the things you are grateful for now. I know my list has changed. I think we took many things for granted. The other day Doc said to me, “Who would have thought that you would be so thankful just to be able to safely hug the people you care about again?” I agree. I missed all of my co-workers, patients and and the most precious connections both Doc and I have with friends and family.

Doc often tells me and those that she counsels that there is always a life lesson to be learned. When Doc asked me what I have learned over that last year I said with out hesitation ” If you are human always be well stocked up on toilet paper and if you are a dog have extra boxes of Milk bones in the house.” Doc looked and me and chuckled. ” Well that’s practical, now what else did you learn?” she asked with a serious look. ” That this morning I was happy to hear you yell down the hall ” Come on Grover time to get in the car and go to work!” No lovelier words have ever been spoken to me.

So here we were this morning setting up for our first group like we never missed a beat. Normal has never felt so good and so appreciated.

If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It

“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” Ellen Glasgow

There was a time that I embraced change, but now that I am older I am not a big fan. Why fix things that aren’t broken? I just don’t get it. You can call me an old stick in the mud, but I don’t care. I like things the same.

Here at Doc’s house things run pretty much like clock work. I get the same dog food two times a day, I play with the same toys, sleep in the same bed and play with the same two dogs that live next door. What’s boring for some folks is heaven to me. Yes I know, change is inevitable and some change is good, especially if it means stopping self destructive behaviors. But I am not talking about the kind of change that improves our lives, I am talking about the kind that is not well thought out and is put in place just because someone has the authority to implement it or they are addicted to drama. Change for the sake of change is a risk that can end up in chaos not just for ourselves but also for those around us. I hate that, it’s so stressful. In a world where things can feel uncertain we need the security of a few things remaining the same. Having some predictability in our lives can be calming.

Since I was a young pup, Doc has tried to teach me and model the importance of balance because there are times that unforeseen situations will throw us headlong into circumstances where we either sink or swim. At those times we are forced out of our comfort zones and we must make a decision. What is calming to me during those times is that I still have some predictability at home with Doc. Its always good to know that there is someone or some place to feel safe when the constant flux becomes too much. In other words, we all need a safe harbor.

So before you make a decision or react without thinking things through or you are faced with new challenge, ask yourself this: will the change I am about to make improve my life and help me to grow? If the answer is no then come sit with me for awhile and wallow with me in the comforting sameness of my beautifully predictable life.

Back In The Saddle Again

To think that Doc was actually worried about how I would act once I went back to work on site is kind of insulting. She was so concerned, that she asked to bring me in for a practice run. You’d think that after living and working with me 24/7 for for over eight years she would know me better than that, but apparently not.

We have been getting up early the entire time we worked from home and stuck to the same schedule, so when the alarm went off at 5am, I was ready to roll. After we arrived at work and put our things away in the office, the first thing Doc had me do was get acclimated to the surroundings again. It was no big deal, same old smells, same old buildings. Then Doc said it was time to go and visit some of the staff and patients. Now I have to admit I was a little nervous, you know that feeling you get in your stomach when you’re a little anxious? As we approached the area where the patients checked in I had all sorts of worries pop into my head. What if no one remembers me? What If another therapy dog took over while I was gone and they like that dog better? Doc noticing I was a little apprehensive assured me that everything was going to be fine. “Who on earth would forget you Grover? she said, now lets get to work.”

As usual Doc was right. All day long I got hugs, belly rubs, and and smiles as people exclaimed ” Oh Grover is back!” In return I gave back puppy kisses and cuddled up next to everyone so it would be easy for them to give me treats and take selfies with me if they so desired. I really did get the celebrity treatment. I kind of felt sorry for Doc but I guess someone has to be the star of the family.

By the time we got home I have to admit I was exhausted. Its hard work taking care of everyone. After a little snack I crawled up on Doc’s bed and fell into a deep sleep for about three hours. Doc told me I was snoring I was so tired. Today we are working from home again and I have to admit I need a day of rest. I’m not the young dog I use to be and need more beauty sleep. Gradually we will work our way back to being full time at the office and just like I learned to adjust to being at home I will bounce right back when we return. I guess life is like that sometimes, unforeseen events happen, things change and we try our best to adapt and move forward.

Baby Boom Part 2

In just one week we have some new additions to our backyard baby boom and I am not sure if I even want a few of them to stay.

Last Thursday Doc checked the eggs in the Cardinal’s nest and all three eggs had hatched. Mom and dad Cardinal have both been busy feeding the hungry new babies. Yesterday when mom left the nest we took a quick peak and all three babies were in there curled up next to each other fast asleep. They are already starting to get some feathers. It will only take about 9-11 days until they grow big enough to fly. Mom and dad literally kick their kids out of the nest and expect them to test their independence in under two weeks. Makes me glad I’m not a bird because I still depend on Doc for most things. I hope I never have to leave the nest.

The other day Doc and I were both surprised by latest baby addition in our yard. Doc and I were in the flower bed when suddenly two baby garter snakes slithered out from under the flowers and down into a hole. I jumped back worried I would get bit. Doc laughed and said, ” Don’t be scared Grover, those little things can’t hurt you.” For a few years now we have had a full size garter snake in the yard and wondered if it was male or female. I guess that mystery is solved. Even though Doc assured me that the snakes are important to our habitat, I am steering clear just the same. I sure didn’t sign up for babysitting newborn snakes.

It won’t be too much longer until all the babies will have grown big enough that they will no longer need my extra protection and I have to admit that leaves me feeling a little sad. I must have looked downtrodden as Doc came over to me, patted me on the head and said in a soothing voice, “Grover it’s only natural when you help to raise and protect a new life that you feel some sadness when they are big enough to leave and be on their own. You should feel proud of the help you provided not only for the babies but for the parents as well.” Every living thing can benefit from from feeling safe and loved.”

What Doc said brought me some comfort, but it’s still going to take more to convince me to love and cuddle up with those baby garter snakes.

Baby Boom

Photo by Angela Kirk

Apparently the little critters that wander around on our property think that Doc and I are running a maternity ward in our back yard.

It all started a few weeks ago when Doc noticed a pair of cardinals flying back and forth between the large pine tree and the lilac bush by our back patio. Suspicious, as soon as the female cardinal flew out of the bush, Doc went to investigate. She carefully peered inside and well hidden under the leaves, was a nest with three little speckled eggs. Now I don’t want to say I told you so, but I had been trying to alert Doc that there was some type of construction going on in the bush over a week ago and she just hadn’t paid any attention to me. Since that revelation, we have been careful to give the mother space so she can nest without interruption. We also don’t want the male cardinal that stays close by to attack us.

Everything remained peaceful for a few days until one evening at dusk, Doc opened the back door to let me out and my friend Bunny was in the back yard digging furiously in the ground. ” Uh Oh!” Doc said out loud. ” What’s wrong? ” I asked. ” You’ll see. Go to the bathroom and then tomorrow morning when it is light we will investigate and see if my suspicions are correct.” Early the next day Doc went over to where Bunny had been digging the night before and bent down to the ground. She pulled back some grass and there was a large hole deep into the earth. She stuck her hand in the hole before I could yell “Don’t do that!” She was lucky nothing jumped out and bit her. ” It’s a bunny nest!” Doc said with excitement. ” She is obviously in the family way and about ready to give birth. Grover, you will have to keep an eye on the babies and keep them safe like you did a few years ago.” ” Ok I responded, I will keep that hawk away from all the nests and keep all of the babies safe the best that I can.”

Now if that wasn’t enough to keep us busy, early this morning I heard Doc yell ” Well look at that!” as she peered out the window. I ran over to see what she was looking at and I’ll be darn if there weren’t two racoons running across the back yard with three little baby racoons in tow. ” We need to call in reinforcements, we can’t take care of all these critters by ourselves.” I said. “What do you have in mind”, she asked. “We need a midwife and a nanny ASAP.” I responded. “Grover, it will be ok, nature knows what it is doing. I think it’s wonderful that they chose our yard to have their babies. They must feel safe here.” I nodded in agreement. ” I know I do.”

A Week of Hello’s, Good bye’s and Renewal

    Photo by Angela Kirk

The past week has been a whirlwind of activity and although we are tired, Doc and I have had fun almost every step of the way.

After family left on Memorial Day and went back up north, it was only a few days before more company arrived. We were busy getting everything ready, planning activities and making calls necessary for everyone to get together, along with finding a way to get our normal work day in and complete our daily chores. I won’t lie, it was exhausting. After work on Wednesday, we went straight to the airport to pick up a friend named Marilyn that came all the way from Florida and after getting her settled in we were so tired we conked out early in bed.

The next day Doc and her friend left me at home to go to a retirement party for a very special police Sargent named Larry that has done special duty for over thirty years where we work. I have loved him since I was a puppy and although I understand that all good things must come to an end, it will be hard not seeing him at work where he kept all of us safe for many years. Doc let me put my paw print on the retirement card we gave him as I was not allowed in the restaurant. Can you believe that?

The next evening Doc thought it would be a good idea to get me out and about in preparation for me to physically come back into our work place after being at home for over a year. We went to the downtown of our suburb and it was busy. There were street musicians out playing, bicycles going by me, some unruly dogs barking at me and of course strangers asking to pet me. Doc said I passed with flying colors, but boy was I tired when we got home. I haven’t seen that many people all together in one place in over a year. I really had to focus and I think that’s what wore my doggy brain out.

The next day Doc told me I had an appointment with Dr. Ritchie at the vets office for a physical in order  to get my recertification as a therapy dog. What she neglected to tell me is that I would be getting some shots and other immunizations, not a nice surprise. The first shot was ok, I didn’t even whimper, but then they sprayed some stuff up my nose and I did not like that at all. I gave them the stink eye so they would know I was not pleased.  In the end they told me I was such a good boy that I could have as many treats and hugs as I wanted.

So here we are on Wednesday and all the guests are gone from the house, all the socialization is over and Doc and I are back to our daily schedule.  There is something to be said for predictability, but we also feel thankful for good friends and being able to celebrate all the happy times with them safely again.

The Great Escape

Photo by Angela Kirk

There are times an opportunity arrives and you don’t have time to think about choices, you either go for it or you don’t. That is just what happened to me over Memorial Day weekend and you guessed it, I went for it!

It was a quiet Saturday morning and the visiting relatives were in the house with me while they were finishing their coffee. Doc was outside talking to the next door neighbor about tomato plants and decided to offer him some of her oregano that was growing in the back of the house. Bored, I was watching out the window when I saw Doc and the neighbor come through the back gate leaving it wide open while they walked across the back yard. Then to my delight, Doc’s niece got up and opened the back sliding door to go out and see what was going on. Doc started yelling, “Don’t let Grover out, the gate is open!” That was my chance, I bolted out the door, leapt off the back porch and headed right through the open gate. Freedom!

To say that pandemonium ensued would be an understatement. My only intention was to go next door to see my doggie friends Frankie and Norman and play in their yard for a change, not cause an uproar. The adults were yelling to the kids “Grab Grover’s collar!” Frankie and Norman were barking and jumping up and down with excitement as they watched from the screened in porch. What a fun game, I thought to myself while I ran and dodged any one that came near me. I didn’t know we were going to play tag. I have long legs so I can run fast, not even the kids could catch me. In the end, three adults and three children could not keep up with me. I knew the game was over when I saw Doc quietly walk toward me out of the corner of my eye. ” Sit Grover” she said as she handed me a treat. ” Good boy, now time to come home.” I relented and walked back home with Doc as I was dog tired and ready to take a nap in my own house.

Later Doc asked me why I had chosen to run through the gate so quickly. ” Well because Doc, you have always taught me that when an opportunity presents itself to try it and see where it will lead you. I just wanted to see if life would be more fun on the other side of our fence.” ” And was it?” she asked. “Yes, for a little while, but coming home is always the best part of any life journey. No matter where I go or what I do, there is no place I would rather be that being home with you.” I said as I fell fast asleep right next to Doc.