The Power of Empathy and a Little Ingenuity

Photo by Angela Kirk

Did you know that there is a helicopter named Ingenuity flying around on Mars right now? And did you also know that a piece of the Wright Brothers 1903 Wright Flyer I is on that helicopter to honor them ?  All of this boggles my mind. It makes me realize that I need to up my game if this dog wants to accomplish anything major in life and go down in history like Lassie or Scooby-Doo. I realize there no time like the present so I got to work coming up with a plan.

I fussed about this all through the day and then while lying on the back porch with Doc last evening, I was talking out loud to myself. I kept racking my brain trying to figure out what wonderful invention I could come up with that could change the world or at least Ohio.  My head started hurting from thinking so hard. Doc listened to me quietly mumble and then she suddenly interjected. ” Grover, what are you fussing about?” ” I have been inspired by how Orville and Wilbur Wright figured out how to fly a plane and because of that we are now flying helicopters on Mars. I want to do something fabulous like that!” I pouted. ” Oh for heavens sake Grover, you already are doing something fabulous. ” she said sweetly. ‘ I am?” I asked with surprise.”

Doc then went on to tell me that being a therapy dog, helping to comfort people when they are feeling sick, cheering them up when they are having a bad day or laying quietly with my head in the lap of  someone that is crying is just as important as going to Mars. ‘It is?” I responded. Doc went on to explain that when I help someone to heal from their pain that it not only helps them, but has a ripple affect on everyone that person comes in contact with. The kindness and unconditional  love that you give is your very special gift to the world. It takes both empathy and ingenuity to be aware of how others are feelings and then come up with just the right way to help them.” she said with a smile.

As I lay there quietly taking in everything that Doc had said to me I realized what she was saying was true. We all have our special gifts and we don’t need to fly to Mars to make an impact on the world.

 

 

Plop, Glug and Fizzle

Photo by Angela Kirk

Pushing away the clutter in your brain so that you can focus on what you need to do to solve a problem can be challenging . Doc told me that you have to stop, refocus, think of what choices you have available and then try to come up with a solution.  It’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact, Doc was challenged to follow her own counsel when she made a human error last weekend that caused her a big headache and $$$.

It was a typical Saturday that started with a leisurely breakfast of eggs and bacon and then it was time to start cleaning the house. I was busily putting my toys away in a basket when I heard the first shriek coming from Doc’s bathroom.  I flew down the hall to see what was going on just in time to see Doc stick her hand in the toilet trying to retrieve her cell phone. The phone started making weird noises while flashing strange messages across the screen. Even SIRI yelled out for help in a gurgled voice as she became water logged in toilet bowl cleaner.  Horrified, Doc quickly removed the phone, dried it off and attempted some CPR to revive the poor thing, but it was deader than roadkill. As I looked Doc squarely in the eye I could see she was panicked. You humans seem to carry all your information in that little thing and are greatly attached to it. If you ask me that’s just not healthy.

So off we went to the phone store. I stayed calm while she was on the verge of a melt down. A sales technician approached and talked to both of us in a strange language that included information about retrieving things off of the iCloud and then he admonished Doc for not having enough gigabytes in her current wireless contract like she had committed a crime. Doc just sat there with a glazed look over her face nodding while looking like she was being tortured. After picking out a new phone, there was a two minute instruction on how to operate the thing and she was given an email address to transfer all her information from the iCloud to her new phone. I guess the iCloud is a very powerful force in the universe.

As soon as we got home, Doc got to work trying to retrieve her data. I sat beside her to keep her calm while silently chanting to the iCloud hoping it would release its strange power over Doc. You know how its hard to concentrate when you are stressed? Well the stress was compounded by the fact that Doc was having trouble remembering her password.” Rut Ro, I said softly this ain’t good”. After about an hour of trying every password and e-mail combination she could think of, the iCloud would just not relent so that is when I suggested we call in the big guns for help.

Nephew Scott, IT expert answered his phone while in the middle of a frisbee golf game. He made arrangements to come over the next day to help and Doc finally relaxed after hearing that.  On Sunday he arrived like a super hero. He went right to work using some mumbo jumbo magic that apparently the almighty iCloud understood and suddenly the information was released and sent down to earth and onto Doc’s new phone like mana from heaven. Alleluia!!

So what did I learn from all this? That Doc is human and gets stressed like the rest of us and that the iCloud is controlling human information and can only be intimidated by people with IT super powers. Oh yeah, and don’t drop your phone in the toilet. The End

Spring, Sprang, Sprung

Photo by Angela Kirk

“Yippy Skippy!” I yelled out loud as I rolled side to side in the grass. I was taking in the warmth and sweetness of the first days of spring, happy the harshness and gloom of winter was over. I must have yelled too loud as I looked over and saw that I had startled Doc as she sat on the porch step basking in the rays of the afternoon sun. She didn’t seem annoyed at the interruption, in fact she smiled sweetly and came over to join me in the grass.” Grover, do you think we have a greater appreciation for spring this year because of  what we have been through with the pandemic?” she asked asked thoughtfully.  We sat quietly for the longest time as we mulled this over.

Everything seems so much brighter and sweeter to me this spring because of what we have been through I thought to myself. For the first time I am starting to feel some hope that better days are ahead. Since Doc and some of her family and friends have been vaccinated she is cautiously being in contact with more people and I am just as happy to see them as she is. It’s like we had to create our own world and live in a bubble for a year to stay safe. Trying to achieve balance of having some pieces of normalcy with caution attached by making sure to always wash our hands and paws, wear a mask and stay six feet away has been contrary to what we all needed and desired as living beings but it’s how we remained well. In the back of my mind there was always my concern that Doc might get sick with COVID and then what would we do? And now here we are moving forward with cautious optimism.

When I looked over at Doc it was like we had been thinking the same thing. ” Spring is about rebirth and I am ready to move ahead.” Doc said. ” ” I agree, I retorted. Just don’t act like Girls Gone Wild now that you have your vaccine,” I told her with a smirk on my face. “Don’t worry,” she said with a laugh, neither of us can get too wild, we both have to work every day. As we lay there in the grass for a while longer I couldn’t help to be thankful for the lessons we have learned and the good health we have maintained.

” Spring is painted in daffodil yellows, robin egg blues, new grass green and the brightness of hope for a better life,” Toni Sorenson

 

Life Lessons From a Turtle

Photo by Angela Kirk

It’s important to take a break from your regular routine and that is just what Doc and I did last week. For one week we went our separate ways and I have to confess that it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Since vacation means to vacate, I went to spend time at my veterinarian’s office cheering up the staff and the sick animals. I love all the staff and after a year of not working, it was nice to give back to others again. Doc on the other hand left town and it sounds like all she did was eat, lay around and sleep for a week. That’s not my idea of a fun time but to each his own and we should do what restores us.

When Doc and I got back home again she told me that she was talking a walk the first morning of her vacation and came across a Tortoise moseying across the road. She said that she stopped and watched the slow precision and focus he had on his journey toward the water he was moving toward. ” I came to admire how he went about his task with such calm energy like he didn’t have one care in the world”, she said with wonder. “I guess that’s the problem I replied, we end up having ideas in our head about what we should be doing rather than what is best for our mental well being.” It occurred to both of us as we were discussing this that If we really listen to our inner voice and honor what we need, we would lead happier and healthier lives. Who knew you could learn so much from watching a turtle?

Big Stick Diplomacy

Photo by Angela Kirk

It took over a week for all the snow to melt here in the Midwest but when it did I found many treasures that had been buried for weeks. Two tennis balls that I though I misplaced, a frisbee and a very big stick I had become quite fond of were just part of what had been beneath all that ice and snow.

Doc forever vigilant concerning what I consume came right outside when she saw me chewing on the big branch, looked at me and shook her head. ” If you get sick from eating that bark, don’t you wake me up at night with an upset stomach.” she said with authority, Thinking quickly I retorted, ” I’ll have you know that just like President Teddy Roosevelt I too speak softly and carry a big stick.” ” Oh really, she exclaimed, do tell.”  I slowly began to formulate my words carefully because I knew I was in deep and needed to sound like I knew what I was talking about.

” Well I know the president was talking about the importance of  thinking about things before they happen and having a decisive plan before there is a military crisis, but I have a different spin on it.  You know Doc, more often than not you humans walk into situations without thinking things all the way through or procrastinate until you are in a pickle and are then forced to act in the midst of chaos. Then you all act shocked by what happened and call it bad luck when in fact it was your choices that got you into the problem in the first place. ” I said with conviction.  The stick my dear Doc represents the good boundaries we need to set with ourselves and others in order to avoid a crisis.”  I sat in the yard proud of what I had come up with when she replied, ” Nice try Grover you made a good point,  now put down that stick and come inside, for supper as she pointed to the door with a smile.”

As I walked past her into the house I made a mental note to myself to never try to outsmart Doc again.

Perseverance

Photo by Angela Kirk

With all the noise and chaos going on in the world, you may have missed a monumental event. The NASA land rover Perseverance landed on Mars last Thursday. Doc and I were lucky to catch the event live on TV and it gave both Doc and this canine goosebumps when it finally touched down safely. We cheered and clapped right along with those NASA scientists. Think about it, NASA literally shot a dune buggy into space and landed it on Mars. Wow!

What surprised me was that the first thing that the rover did after it landed was Tweet a message back to earth that let NASA know it was safe, then it tweeted: ” Perseverance will get you anywhere.” ” What a statement!” I said as I turned to Doc and she nodded back to me in agreement. That one word “perseverance” really got me to thinking about how we can move forward in our lives.

When you think about wanting to accomplish a goal you can do one of three things, get stuck dreaming about a goal and not moving forward, start making excuses and giving up, or setting a goal and taking the steps necessary to achieve it and not giving up until you succeed.  People certainly have different motivation levels when it comes to change. Change for many feels so uncomfortable that they would rather stay with the devil they know. Doc takes the “no excuses” stance for herself and me. It can be annoying at times but she’s right. She says just keep moving forward even if you’re anxious or scared because things are usually much scarier in our head than in reality.

The scientists and engineers at NASA worked for about eleven years to build Perseverance. I am almost positive that they made mistakes and missteps along the way, but they kept on going. Its inevitable that in life we will make mistakes as we journey forward but Doc says she has learned more from her errors than her successes. The most important thing is to never give up. Believe in yourself and find others that believe in you. Sometimes perfect strangers or loved ones will show up to cheer you on. It’s always helpful to have good cheerleaders in your life to lift you up when you get discouraged.

The most important thing to remember is not to let anyone discourage your dreams because perseverance will get you anywhere you want to go, even to Mars.

Winter Whallop

Photo by Angela Kirk

When Old Man Winter slaps half the country with a major winter storm , it is a big reminder that humans are really not in control of everything.

The meteorologists started predicting the coming of the storm starting late last week. You could see the excitement in their eyes as they went over their maps and talked about fronts and wind chill factors. I watched with feigned interest not realizing that Doc was quietly making a list to prepare, but now that I look back on everything it is starting to add up. She did go to the store on a day she doesn’t usually go and made sure there were logs for the fire. Then on Sunday night she started charging all the electronic devices before we went to bed.  She has often told me that she learned in Girl Scouts the it’s best to prepare in advance instead of waiting for an emergency to happen.

The storm was suppose to arrive here on Monday but were surprised when we woke up to find only three measly inches of snow. After Doc and I walked down to the park and shoveled out the driveway she decided it was time to get some other chores done. I was not happy to find out that one of the chores was to give me a bath. The only good thing about that was that she took me to my favorite pet store where they have a dog bathing area. I did my best job of acting extra pathetic while she bathed me so that she would feel guilty and it worked. I picked out the most expensive treat to take home. As we walked outside you could tell that a storm front was moving in and it looked ominous.

As the afternoon turned into evening we could hear ice pelts starting to hit the window and roof. We were surprised as they had been predicting up to 8 inches of snow not ice. At bedtime I curled up right next to Doc for comfort as the wind started howling against the house. By morning some more snow had fallen on top of the ice and what a mess that created. Luckily our nice neighbor Aaron came over with his snow blower to clear the driveway and sidewalk. Watching the news we were shocked to see the devastation from the storm to areas of the country that are not prepared for this type of weather. We counted our blessings that we had remained safe and warm.

This morning the sun is shining, but don’t be fooled, it is only 6 degree’s, enough to freeze a dogs behind off and on Thursday  they are predicting another round of snow. Who knows what that will bring, but there is no doubt that Mother Nature gets the last word every time.

The Tale of a Mamas Boy

Photo by Angela Kirk

Since Doc and I have been staying inside most of the time due to the inclement weather she has developed an annoying habit. Instead of paying attention to me, she has been spending the evenings yacking on the phone with friends and it is starting to get on my last nerve.

Just last night we were in the middle of playing with a tennis ball I happened to “borrow” from the next door neighbors yard when her phone rang and she abruptly stopped our game to answer it.  How rude! She even puts the call on speaker phone like I care about anything humans discuss. It’s usually the same boring conversations. They either talk about the weather, what they ate for dinner and then the conversation inevitably turns to discussing things they did way back in the dark ages before I was even born. To be forced to listen to these stories and have Doc’s attention and time taken away from me gets my goat, so I have started plotting a way to get her to focus back on my needs. After all I am her fur child.

Over the next few days I tried a variety of stunts to get her attention. On Sunday night when the phone rang I quietly went back to Doc’s bedroom, jumped up on the bed and the first things I did was push all the pillows on the floor. The I used my teeth to strip off the comforter and sheets and pulled them to the floor. One by one I drug everything into the living room and boy that got her attention, but not in a good way. On Monday I went into the kitchen as soon as she started talking and was able to get to tray of biscuits she had cooling on the counter and ate two before she caught me. By last night she was on to me and kept an eye out until she became lost in conversation and I went over to confiscate her favorite throw and drag it across the floor. I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard her tell the caller in a irritated voice, ” I need to go, I have a jealous dog on my hands.”

“What is wrong with you Grover?” she asked sternly. That question stumped me because I didn’t think I was the one with the problem and told her so. ” It’s you! I said, you don’t pay any attention to me when your friends call and I think that’s wrong.” She was silent for a moment and I could tell she was thinking. “Grover, I can’t pay attention to you all the time, I need time for myself to do the things I like to do and you need to respect that. Let’s talk it out and come to a compromise ok?” So after some negotiating I agreed to respect her boundaries of having her own space and she would respect my play and cuddle time with her. I also had to admit to myself and Doc that I’m just a big old hairy mama’s boy.

Cheers to Punxsutawney Phil !

Photo by Angela Kirk

On Ground Hog day I anxiously awaited for that little rodent Punxsutawney Phil to make his prediction about spring and was happy when he saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter. For those of you that hate winter, I can just imagine all the collective groaning and grumbling but all the big dogs and children are rejoicing with an Alleluia! I don’t get it, who doesn’t like a good snow day? So before passing judgement, give me a moment to state my case.

Our latest snow storm arrived late Friday night while Doc and I were sleeping. When I woke up and looked out the back door, the ground was covered. I threw back my head and howled with delight. I could hardly wait for breakfast to be over so we could go outside. Doc got all bundled up and even helped me on with my coat. When we opened the garage door I was excited to see the kids next door and my puppy friends Franklin and Norman sporting new winter coats. They were all running around, throwing snow balls and I even helped supervise the  building of snow man in our front yard.  They used strawberries for the eyes that looked so yummy I tried to eat them but Doc caught me and said it was time to go inside to get warm. We continued to have fun the whole weekend.

By Tuesday afternoon the sun came out and Doc and I decided to trudge down to the park.  As we came closer we could hear both adults and children squealing with laughter as they flew down the big hill on their sleds. When we came around the bend of the trail I heard some children call out my name and abandon their sledding to run down the trail and greet me with big hugs and kisses. It’s fun being a celebrity. We then walked a few miles and felt happy to stretch our legs after working all day.

It’s Tuesday evening as I write this and I hope I have convinced you to get outside and have some fun. Remember when you were a kid and a snow day meant no school and a whole day with your friends?  Doc says those were some of her her fondest memories. As soon as they would announce school was cancelled she would call her buddies and they would spend the day sledding and skating on her Aunt Pat’s pond. If you just can’t bring yourself to be out in the cold then at least appreciate how beautiful and clean the world looks covered in snow.

Today I challenge you to embrace that inner child again. Surprise yourself and take the time to play. It’s so good for the soul and we could all use a break from reality right now.

 

A Moment In Time

Photo by Angela Kirk

 

A cold misty fog hovered close to the ground as we took our early morning walk.  It is quite peaceful in the park at this hour as few venture out on cold, grey mornings leaving us to take in all the critters that inhabit the park.

Both Doc and I were lost in our own thoughts when we rounded the corner where the pubic swimming pool is fenced off.  We approached the fence and longingly looked over at the water slide and the lazy river drained of water with leaves floating in puddles at the base.  You could imagine hearing the children squealing with laughter as they shot down the water slide.” I wish it was summer and we could go swimming, this weather stinks and I’m sick of the pandemic.” Doc said with sadness in her voice. I was also thinking about summer and swimming in the pool, when I surprised myself by responding ” Lets just  do the best we can and enjoy right now!” Doc snapped her head around and said, “You are so right Grover, what a smart pup you are.” Blushing at the compliment, I reminded Doc it was my job to keep her focused in the here and now.

As we resumed our walk and went farther down the path, Doc and I decided to go over by the pond. As we peered over the bridge we were surprised to see a lone crane standing on the ice. He moved a few steps when he saw me but deciding I meant no harm, he remained still. Doc and I stood and watched the crane for quite awhile just enjoying the solitude and the beauty of the moment. It was a great reminder of  what we can miss in this world when we aren’t living in the present.

Photo by Angela Kirk

Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life.” Thich Nhat Hahn