Family Ties

Family ties…but not the ones from that popular TV series, but instead real life family ties. The past 10 days have been filled with them. First my 21-year-old granddaughter and her boyfriend visited (yeah, I know, hard to believe I”m that old to have a 21-year-old granddaughter but I digress). I have a special bond with Hailey, having taken care of her when she was an infant every weekend for her first year. When I went to Hawaii last spring to celebrate her brother’s graduation, I was fortunate to meet her boyfriend, a quiet, adorably nice young man. Kyle is a local Hawaiian and as kind of a human as anyone could wish for their progeny to find. Polite, sincere with a beautiful and respectful life ethic, it was great for me to have them stay with me. Turns out after all they did while visiting her friends from high school, staying with me was a vacation they needed…i.e. rest. I think the go-go mentality of young road warriors had caught up with them after days of constantly being on the move visiting places and sharing the beauty of Hailey’s home state with her boyfriend who had never been to Colorado before. This thoughtful sweet girl took him to South Dakota to visit with her other grandmother for a few days as well. When I think of how this beautiful young woman has matured into a loving human, I am filled with joy and yes, a helluva lot of pride, too.

As Hailey and Kyle were preparing to return to their island paradise, Hailey’s dad arrived, their co-visits only overlapping by a day. Ostensibly to attend his 30th year high school reunion (I know, here’s that age thing again…WTH…how did that happen?), we managed to schedule some family time as well. For our family who relishes these get-togethers more than anything, it usually involves a fair amount of good food and some liquid refreshments. And this was no exception. Kevin’s best friend since junior high helps out his cousin’s craft brewery here in the metro area. The brewery, located in Del Norte, Colorado near where we lived more than 35 years ago, Three Barrel Brewery specializes in small batch “artisanal inspired brews produced from San Luis Valley grown, single origin malt, hops, Haefelis’s honey (from a local honey farm) and fresh mountain water.” Seth provided us with a healthy supply of some of their more popular brews which provided us the opportunity for some experimental suds quaffing. Had never tried ‘sour beers’ before and think the consensus amongst our collective palate is we’ll probably stick to slightly more conventional options. Perhaps I’m too old to be hip enough to enjoy the sour beers that the brewery is well-known for, but no worry on my part. Give me a robust IPA or ale and color me a happy gal. I’ve known Seth and his family for more than 30 years and he’s practically a family member. It’s always good seeing this man who now also has a family though substantially younger than my son’s. Seth is a generous, smart and funny guy, who is Hailey’s godfather so we go back a long way, in more than just time.

My brother Tim and his wife, Natalie, opened up their beautiful new home to the family clan multiple times. Natalie’s nieces were visiting while Hailey and Kyle were here; our two families sharing food, beer, and loads of laughter completely warmed my heart and soul. After our recent pet therapy visits getting together was definitely most welcome and the perfect Rx to soothe and comfort my spirit.

Having my son visit, even for a short time, meant the world to me. Not only did I get to have some much-needed time with my son  (a mother’s dream) but the quiet mornings over coffee and breakfast catching up on the details of his life, of how his new job was going and the final details on the remodeling of the ohana back in Kona allowed me to see exactly the kind of incredible role model and human he is, as a son, a father and a loving human with incredible talents Even just thinking about it, I can’t help but smile.

At first meeting, Elsa was slightly wary of the new people arriving but quickly warmed up to Kevin, Hailey and Kyle. Sam became particularly attached to Kevin’s hip, following him around the house. And though both dogs waited outside guest bed rooms sniffing at the crack each morning waiting for their new BFF’s to rise, Sam in particular reconnected with his old friend from when he stayed with us for an extended time before moving to Hawaii in order to wait out the quarantine period with his own dogs.

Now that everyone has left, Sam wanders around looking for Kevin in particular, hoping he is still here. And much like me, he’s missing this wonderful man who provided such joy while he was here. It’s a lot quieter around the Ranch today and as we adjust back to the old ‘normal,’ I smile thinking of this wonderfully loving family, the cherished visits with everyone shared over lively conversations, tasty meals and libations. This is what I’m talking about…these kinds of family ties and as I look forward to the next one, be it here at the “Ranch” or on an island paradise, my heart is filled with love allowing me to face the dragons of this crazy world anew. It’s good to be fully stocked again by the best fuel around-my family.

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

A Pet Therapist’s Creed

 

Stop and Paws for Nurse Sam

We recently came across this poem and I think it sums up our pet therapy work nicely. What do you think?

Clickity, clickity, clickity, clum…

down the long corridors here I come.

Through the halls and past the rooms,

by the buckets and the brooms.

Sniffing the way for someone in need,

just reach out your hand this I plead.

Then as a dog, I will know it’s okay,

for me to share my love with you today.

I’ll wag my tail and perk my ears,

and you can use my fur to dry your tears.

I’ll lick your face till you smile,

I’ll even sit with you for just a while.

So don’t let your head hang so low,

I pass no judgment, this I know.

I just want to love on you right here and now.

and be the VERY BEST DOG FRIEND I know

how.🐾

By: Nicole M. Carollo

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

Heavy Thoughts

Last week we had some very intense visits at West Pines as well as our regular rotation at hospital and hospice. It’s taken a few days to try to sort through the feelings those visits left and I’m not sure they can be adequately conveyed even after much reflection.

Whenever we visit hospice I already know each patient is on the last journey of their lives. Yes, it’s sad when anyone passes even those that are elderly and have led a long and hopefully fruitful life. There have been a few young patients that touch my heart. How could this happen? A young person, who life hadn’t filled all its promise, cut short. And yet, intellectually I know it happens; it’s all part of life. I know intellectually it’s not fair. It’s not comforting to see such inequity, but know the important part is not how long of a life, but how amazing it was, right?

Indeed, I was not at all prepared for Thursday’s visits. When I checked with the nurses down the first corridor, they said to be sure to visit with the lady in 220 as she was sitting in her recliner. As soon as I knocked on the partially opened door, a woman’s voice trilled for us to come in. Once inside, an extremely over-sized, round-faced woman greeted us with “ooh, a doggie!” as my “Good morning” greeting barely left my lips. This woman with her pale face and rosy checks reached out to run her fingers through Sam’s hair. It took us a couple of moments to arrange to get into the corner, moving her bed tray and IV pole out of the way.

Whenever I visit hospice, I contemplate about the lives of the patients we see. What were they like, did they grow up on a farm or were they native to the city? Most of the older patients tend to have grown up in rural settings and when conscious, regale me with stories of hard work and strong morals, most often with stories sprinkled with tales of tails…dogs, cats, farm animals…I enjoy them all. With the woman we were visiting, it was hard to tell what kind of life she’d led…it seemed she was well in the advanced stages of confusion and dementia in addition to her medical condition. Still we are always delighted when a patient is awake as most are not and I know Sam’s visits brighten their hearts. With patients suffering from dementia, I let Sam take over and allow them ramble on to him and smile a lot, not saying much. What else can you do when comprehension is fleeting? After a few minutes we could tell she was tiring, and thus bid our farewell and moved on to the next corridor.

To get an understanding of what the layout of hospice looks like, think of a building built like a wagon wheel with the spokes being the corridors. The center area houses the main nurses stations and each ‘spoke’ has a small private room with comfortable seating, a mini-nurse’s station near the pharmaceutical cabinet, a restroom and shower area, a small sitting area at the end of each hallway with chairs and end tables that families can use to regroup, make phone calls, etc. with access to a private outside garden. Whenever we move to a new hallway, I access what we might encounter. Often there are groups of visitors mingling about and a nurse or two filling out charts, preparing medications, etc. This particular hallway had a small little boy at the end of the hallway, crawling around on the chairs. He was alone so I figured his family was in one of the rooms nearby. Surprisingly, there were 4 nurses gathered at the mini-station, an unusually large group, chatting and entering data. When I asked them for details about the floor, two of them said they were fairly full, but we should definitely visit with Meike who loved nature and had just asked to be moved outside to the garden. “Of course,” I said. “We’re happy to visit with her.” Then one of them said, “I’ll bet Adler would love to meet Sam!” ‘Adler’ turned out to be the young boy at the end of the hall. She called him over. The shy little boy let his small fingers twirl through Sam’s ears. The nurse asked Adler if he liked Sam and he shuffled from one foot to the other and demurred, “Sure.” His mind seemed elsewhere, but then again I may have been projecting. He talked for a few moments and I learned he was 9 years old. ‘Meike’ was his mom. Gulp. I wasn’t prepared for that detail. After he walked back to the end of the corridor, we made our way out to the garden to visit with his mom. It was a lovely day, despite being cloudy with a hint of welcome rain. After many days of warm temps, the cooler day with its slight breeze felt good. Meike’s back faced us as we quietly moved toward her.

The enclosed garden area was quiet and beautifully landscaped with flowers around a large  gazebo with numerous chairs. It’s a peaceful area and a lovely spot for patients or their visitors to commune with nature for a few moments, away from beeping machines and a harsh medical setting. I’m sure it has comforted many during those final visits with loved ones. As I moved toward Meike, I noticed her eyes were closed as if she were contemplating her remaining time and soaking up the nature around her. I watched her for a few moments and my thoughts immediately moved from her to her young son. It was hard to tell her age as her head was buried deep within the covers but I couldn’t let go of the fact this was all wrong, young mother’s weren’t supposed to leave their small children to a world that could easily swallow them whole. Who would protect young Adler? Who would teach him how to ride a bike, throw a ball, how to solve math problems, and more importantly how to kindly treat people? You know, all those life lessons necessary to living in a meaningful way. My imagination got carried away and my troubled energy clearly rubbed off onto Sam. He leaned against my leg waiting for a petting and startling me into returning to the present moment. We stood there for a few more seconds watching Meike breathe and then we quietly left the garden making our way out of the building. I couldn’t even begin to work the last corridor but as we were leaving, a couple of women on their way to the kitchen stopped to ogle over Sam. They sincerely thanked us for coming. I could only half-heartedly smile and let them chat Sam up marveling at his calmness. While not on the verge of tears, my heart was heavy and sad and truthfully, I had no words in me. I kept asking myself why this little boy and his mother had made such an impact on my heart and mind. Clearly we’ve encountered others close to death’s door but none had affected us as much as these two. Energy was the only explanation I could figure. But it ended up being the cosmos’ way of saying, “But wait…there’s more…”

As we left the parking lot for home, I couldn’t surrender my shaken core. When I got home, in a moment of hopeful escape, I went to Facebook. Surely there’d be something to distract my heavy heart. And right there, first post on my wall, was the photo of a dear acquaintance dressed in a hospital gown with an IV pole next to him, ever so thin and pale, nearly bald, and standing next to his partner reciting wedding vows. I hadn’t seen Howard in a few months but knew his treatment for melanoma was taking its toll, yet had no idea of the degree of seriousness. Ugh, my heart heaved…another gentle soul, leaving too soon. Despite months and months of surgeries, chemo, experimental treatment, Howard’s condition had not changed and as he faced the end of the road, he had decided to marry his love and then checked into hospice for the final days. The end was near and I didn’t need his partner’s words to tell me that. I could see it in the expression on Howard’s face. As long as I’ve known him, his wicked, rapier wit and acerbic humor camouflaged the sadness I now saw on his face. He was tired, tired of fighting an enemy who was stealing his very essence and yet I knew it would be this man who would bring together hundreds of friends and acquaintances mourning the loss of a bright, funny man we would all miss very soon. And as I processed this additional cross to bear, my thoughts turned back to little Adler, all alone at the end of a hospice corridor, his mom alone in a quiet garden. I could only hope they had as extensive and supportive network as Howard did. And then I wept with tears flowing down my checks, burning my eyes and being dried by Sam’s kisses.

Maybe it was just a confluence of sadness after intense visits with pet therapy and the news about Howard simply made it all too raw for me. But what this jumble of emotions tells me, that just like my Sam experiences when he works to negate sadness and strife, our hearts become weighted with energy of a surrounding world where bad things happen to good people, and where it’s important to make sure to spend time trying to make a difference in the lives of those whose paths cross ours. I pray we do justice…for the lady in Room 220 and the Adler’s of the world by sharing a few moments with a goofball sweet dog whose tail can’t seem to stop wagging when he ministers to them.

We’ll be taking this week off to spend as much time as possible hugging my son extra tightly as he visits for a few days and to share the deep connection our entire family has when we all get together for these reunions. There probably won’t be posts the rest of this week, but I will do my best to try to keep up with what’s going on with you. What this past week has shown me if anything, is the best way to feel alive and minimize pain is to focus on others and share the beauty of their lives, their stories. For us around the Ranch, this will involve sharing smiles and telling funny stories of past get-togethers. Our family will talk, laugh, and share more than a few beers with memories that have provided us meaning and purpose. I hope little Adler has someone equally as special to hold him and be a true compass as soon as his mom leaves this mortal world.

Post script.  Howard passed away Saturday evening. He was 50 years old. The FB page announcing his passing displayed this image which is a good reflection of his outlook. He was all about the best parts of life. Comedy, Improv, Music (oh sooo much music), Film, Friends, Blogs, Animals and endless amounts of kindness, grace and love. He will be sorely missed by so many. In memory of Howard and so many others like him, make someone laugh today. #f*ckcancer

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

Fab Friday ~ August 4, 2017

Thank goodness for Fridays, right? We had some other very intense visits yesterday, one in particularly that I’m still trying to process in my own head. I hope to have sufficient thoughts to share with you in a few days. It may take me a while to find the right words and feelings in order to share. Till then, we hope you have a wagnificent weekend! Don’t do anything we wouldn’t do. That should leave you with plenty of room for fun and smiles.

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

Mission Impawsible

The call came in on Tuesday. Sam here. Our elite covert operations IMF unit needed to carry out a highly sensitive, feel good mission at West Pines, ASAP. The assignment was critical to carry out since one of the regular pet therapy dogs that visit West Pines recently passed away and with it being summertime and many of our volunteers on vacation, the therapy coordinator was desperate for someone to cover West Pines this month. We were just there 12 days ago but I jumped at the chance to visit my friends again. “Mom…they need us. Let’s do it!” Luckily for us our out-of-town company arrives after our mission is over. Whew! While our missions aren’t the typical ‘secret anonymous covert missions’ like the TV series or the ramped up Hollywood blockbusters, we don’t need to unmask criminals or rescue hostages but we knew it was vital to step in and help the whole team out. So the team leader asked if we could do Wednesday’s visits and we agreed.  One thing is vital on one of these last-minute Impawsible Missions: the mission must be carried out and the only high-tech equipment we can use involve treats in mom’s magic pocket. So we agreed to do Wednesday’s shift. That’s what teammates do, right?

But first…I fur-got about the dreaded bath preparation before I could go to West Pines. Eek…what was I thinking when I signed up for this gig?

Ever see anything so pitiful?

The only good thing (if ANYTHING good can be said about baths) to come from this water torture is it’s been so warm, mom didn’t have to use the gawd awful wind machine hair dryer on me. Man, I hate that thing! The clippers are bad enough. And for some reason this time, mom drove me cray-cray struggled with trimming up my feet. I don’t like ANYONE touching my feet anyway so it took her a whole lot longer. I was keeping my paws crossed she’d give up and let me go on the mission, Muppet style. Note to self: moms never give up. *Ugh*

We arrived early so I hung out in the main reception area waiting to spring into action. I can spread my therapy skills over peeps wherever I’m at and luckily the waiting visitors and staff cruising through periodically, obliged while we waited.  have been making loads of friends with the staff and they always offer me treats. Did I mention how much I love the staff? Nom, nom.One fellow who was waiting to check in had owned a couple of Standards years ago spent a lot of time with me. He teared up at the thought his beloved dogs were gone, but was very grateful for my visit.

When Donna, the facilitator was able to fetch us, off we went. It started out a little on the slow side. Not too many of the staff were able to run their fingers through my luxuriously soft furs. Dang…you mean I endured a…a….%#*@ bloody bath and no one was around now to escort me to the patient areas? What the heck is up with that? Eventually we were able to visit the various areas where there were plenty of patients gathered and boy, did I make up for lost time. Men, women. They all came rushing over to me. The first guy was a huge hulking man and I was a bit nervous he might squash me, but he gently sat down beside me and stroked my head and ears. He was super eager to spend as much time as possible and kept telling me how much he loved dogs. Another lady who knew about us poodles decided to get her therapy fix next. When she stopped petting me, I plopped down right next her and was prepared to stay all morning since I liked her energy.

Unfortunately we needed to move on to see the rest of the patients who have a regimented schedule and she bid me a sad farewell. Many others came by too to say hi and tell me stories about their own pets. Visiting with the mental health patients has become quite an adventure. Mom is struck by the number of people who need my therapy skills and how raw their emotions can sometimes be. It’s easy for me to calm them and sooth their tears. I sit patiently and look deeply into their eyes, studying their faces where I see the pain they carry. I hope I can erase some of that discomfort, even if just for a few minutes.

Our next stop was at a group session where they were practicing yoga. They all perked up when they saw me and I showed them I can bust a downward facing dog move with the best of ’em. One girl in particular especially seemed to need my attention so I laid on her yoga mat and we exchanged zen energy. I kept wagging my tail back at her when we had to leave and she smiled broadly from ear to ear. I hope I made her day…she sure made mine.

Although we’re usually only there for an hour or so, the whole experience wears me out. Being on a IMF mission, while I don’t self-destruct like TV’s Mission Impossible, does tend to wear me out so I’ll be spending the rest of the day like this till tomorrow when this IMF team goes back to hospice and the Senior Behavioral unit. Pfft, Mr. Phelp’s got nothing over me. 💤

Live, love, bark! ❤︎

Manic Monday

Elsa here. Hope you all at least had a good weekend. I was subjected to hideous torture and abuse. No, my mom didn’t punish me for eating another brand new sock, no it was much worse than that. Let me explain.

Mom took me for a ride. Normally that’d be a good thing because I like car rides, but I was all alone. The numskull brother didn’t get in the car with me. What’s up with that? Should have known something was up by taking a head count. So after 87 minutes of driving we arrived at a somewhat familiar parking lot. “Hmm, I think I’ve been here,” I thought. We got out of the car and started to go for a walk around the various stores. It was sprinkling a tiny bit but it felt good; for a change, the sun wasn’t beating down on my overly long black fur coat.

After a nice walk, we walked into the pet store where Rebecca greeted us. Uh-oh. Oh yeah, now I remembered this place. This is the fur-stealing store!!! Rebecca was nice but I was nervous. She’s always patient and gentle with me and lets my mom stay in case I have a seizure so she can work on making the nasty Epi-monster go away quickly. We went into the Chamber of Horrors Secrets and she got me up on the rack grooming table all primed to torture me. This recent photo doesn’t really show how bushy and long my fur coat was. Notice the panic panting tongue? Yeah, I’m stressed. I mean, wouldn’t you be. I’m standing there being a good girl while a fur theft was going on and my mom was helping commit the crime!!!  Mom forgot to take a good pic showing off my luxurious fur coat of the muppet fur, here’s one from the beginning of June before taking me on the ride to hell.

 

This is a few minutes into the theft.

Notice the ‘I’m not the slightest bit amused and almost pleading look I gave my mom. Believe it or not, she ignored me. The nerve! Kept saying some load of crap about ‘how good I was’ and ‘how pretty I was.’ Bah…I was being robbed and tortured right before her eyes and she’s blathering on about pretty? WTH?! So clearly pleading eyes didn’t seem to affect her cold, hollow heart, so then I decided to ignore her. She gets freaked out if I’m not fussing and fawning over her all the time. Then I moved to Plan B – playing hard to get. But alas, all she and Rebecca did was drag me over to the waterboarding area where the torture continued.

I still can’t fathom why she allows all this obscene torture. What kind of mother does that anyway, huh? Haven’t a been a good girl? Ok, so I ate a few socks and chewed up a few pairs of reading glasses along the way. Don’t we all? Normally you’d think uprights weren’t so vindictive, but apparently that’s not the case with my mom. I had to quickly move on to Plan C.

 

Switching strategies, I went into full on ‘poor, pitiful me’ looks. Clearly my charm and ‘je ne sais quoi’ qualities didn’t matter one bit. If waterboarding wasn’t bad enough, there was that terrible hideous machine that sounded like an airplane was taking off. I nearly lost all the remaining furs on my body I was so scared!

My terrified expressions didn’t seem to matter so this girl had to resort to more devious action. I thought I’ll just move to the back side of the torture tub where she can’t reach me with that foul hair dryer. Just like I do at home. Heh, heh.

Alas, foiled again. Guess I forgot about long cords, though given half a chance next time…maybe we can add that to the list of things I’ve munched in the past. Just kidding, mom. Sort of.

After two hours of torture and still not completely dry, Rebecca released me into my mother’s custody where she whisked me back to safety. I remember exiting the grooming shop with a “Best in Show” prance and my head and tail held high, never looking back at the people who ogled over me while mom paid for the torture grooming session. Seriously, you uprights pay real money to torture us?

When I bounced out of the car once we arrived home, I rushed in to share my tale of woe to the useless brother who is supposed to protect me. I distinctly heard him chortle as he rushed past me to greet mom, not even bothering to get the details of my ordeal. Just wait until next month when he goes to hospital. I’ll be first to “nah, nah, nah, nah, nah” him. It will serve him right too…couldn’t happen to a dumber doofus.

Now this is the face of a happy dog! Much like Martin Luther King, I howled, “Free at last, free at last, thank gawd almighty, I’m free at last.” I’m still a tad soggy here but with about 87 pounds less fur according to mom and Rebecca. They said something about making sweaters from all my fur. Pfft…you’d be so lucky.

My only question now is…what time is dinner? How do you cope with extreme ‘pawrental’ torture?

Live, love, bark! ❤︎