Monthly Archives: September 2014

And the beat goes on…

Way to go, Sam!

Way to go, Sam!

Over the weekend our pet therapy group with both volunteers and their dogs met for the annual award/potluck get-together.  When we visit patients, we’re work alone so it’s always great fun to see everyone together with their dogs, compare notes & hear about their experiences. There are some very talented dogs in our group and many of them have hundreds of visits, having been involved with the program for many years.

We began this odyssey last Spring so our total number of visits are puny by comparison to the seasoned pros in our program.  Granted I had a bad motor scooter accident two months after starting visits and was completely housebound until mid Autumn so our number of visits was rather low, yet it didn’t stop Sam from practicing on me while I recuperated for over 4 months. Although the injuries weren’t life threatening, they were fairly acute and resulted in surgery a couple of months after the accident to ‘crochet’ my shoulder back together.  Sam had just started the program in April but continued to perform the work he’s so well suited for during my recuperation.  He’d ‘check-in’ with me several times a day by laying his head on my leg and looking up at me with those soulful, amber eyes, tail furiously wagging with a “you need anything kind of look?” Without those daily check-ins, I’m not sure what I would have done to keep my sanity in tact and my spirits buoyed. As it was, all I really could do was watch TV and watch the world go by.  While TV can be somewhat entertaining, it isn’t exactly the best way to pass endless hours. Besides, if I had seen another episode of Cupcake Wars, I just might have lost it. To help pass the time, I began watching who-dun-it foreign films to at least keep my brain engaged with something a bit more stimulating. Turns out it’s a great way to learn other languages.  I can probably arrest anyone in Swedish, French, Italian and German now. 🙂

I only share this info about the accident to pay tribute to a newbie goof-ball therapy dog that despite being laid up for several months and unable to let him tend to others, he still worked, taking care of me.  Recalling those seemingly endless days of recuperation, I am filled with such gratitude knowing he helped me make it through long days and nights and can only hope that’s exactly what he does for those at the hospital.  If he’s even close to doing the same for others as he did for me, then I am beyond thrilled. He truly was a life saver of my spirits while I was incapacitated and in pain. He eagerly took that pain from me periodically through his sweet nature & perfect timing and made me smile several times a day for which I shall always be grateful for this marvelous fur-iend. Under his watchful eye, I was provided with time to not focus on my own health condition, but on his constant love and giving nature–a great recipe for the healing process.  I salute his 24 visits to people far more sick and injured than I was and know he’s made a difference at hospital/hospice and salute all the dogs and their uprights in our program for their work and commitment as well.

Sam and I are looking forward to more visits with patients, visitors, and staff and toward attending next year’s event but more importantly knowing we do make a difference…as the beat goes on in healthcare through pet therapy.

Congratulations to dogs and handlers everywhere for their dedication to programs all over the country.  Trust me, I know firsthand that it makes a big difference.  Well done, guys!

Sports and Social Skills

Manning fan

Manning fan

Anyone who knows me knows I love sports.  But when an introvert like me has to compete against the biggest sports team in town, that can be particularly daunting.  We had shifts over the weekend and as usual, Sam was spot-on.  For me though it’s awkward going into a room and striking up a conversation with strangers. I’ve never been good at small talk, that whole “cocktail party” chit-chat is just not me. If someone starts a conversation I can generally hold my own but I’m terrible at breaking the ice. Thankfully there’s Sam to the rescue and while it becomes repetitious asking about each patient’s pets, it’s always safe material and usually gets the ball rolling.

Most people will happily share stories about their dogs. A woman we saw told me about the multiple dogs she and her husband had on their ranch over the years. She told me about their quirky behaviors (I can definitely relate to quirky) and all their names. I laughed and marveled at those stories about their doing amazing work on the ranch over the years but particularly at some of their names. I mean seriously, “Simone” for a ranch dog? 🙂  But there was such a glow on her face when she spoke about them, and it was noticeable. She smiled vibrantly as if lit from within and you could tell it had a big impact on her overall psyche recalling them.  And it definitely made my day.

On Sunday we had to compete with a football game in addition to my social ineptitude.  The Denver Broncos are about as big as it gets in this town and nothing, and I do mean nothing interferes with this city’s love affair with their team, even at a hospital. The game against the Seattle Seahawks was on in most of the patient rooms as well as in waiting areas.  And this week was a HUGE game–a chance to regain some pride after the Super Bowl shellacking the Broncos took at the hands of Seattle earlier this year. This game was one that people were really excited about and who weren’t especially interested in having anyone interrupt their game (let alone by a socially awkward dog handler).  Oh sure, a couple of them were polite but in a few seconds it was pretty clear that visiting was pointless since they were completely hypnotized by seeing what #18 was doing (for the record #18 is Peyton Manning, a future Hall of Famer who is an absolute God in Bronco nation). Our presence was more than superfluous so the quick departure no doubt was more than appreciated. Hey no criticism here, I totally get that.  I’m a fan too.

Then we went to hospice hoping someone there might need us. We made the rounds to the few rooms that were occupied. I don’t recall a time when it was less filled over the past several months. That’s probably a good thing. It means families are together and whole, that fewer folks are suffering through those last days and while it makes a slow day for us in the therapy biz, I’m happy for them. I tried to engage a couple of families visiting loved ones, but they were all about the game and I know from experience you do not want to get between fans and their beloved Broncos even with awesome social skills, let alone someone with limits skills.

But down the last corridor, we stopped by a room where two women were dressed in bright orange Bronco jerseys and who were watching the game at the table next to the patient’s bed when I sheepishly asked if they’d like a visit with pet therapy fully expecting them to say “thanks, but no thanks.” Instead I was pleasantly surprised when they excitedly invited us in and then apologized that the 103 year old patient would likely be unresponsive. 103?!  Whoa, that’s impressive. The daughter said her mom had always been healthy until a couple of months ago when she suffered a stroke. While she had recovered from the stroke they discovered she had broken her femur (never a good injury in a young person let alone someone who’s 103) and she was clearly in a lot of pain. Though unconscious, she cried out a few times when we arrived. Sam immediately went over to check out the situation with her and then bee-lined it straight to her daughter. After the initial ‘sniff and greet,’ he moved next to her friend. She was thrilled with Sam and ‘oohed and awed’ over him. His tail was wagging and then abruptly he went back to the daughter’s side.

These friends looked as though they were having a tailgate party while visiting and I couldn’t help but notice the fabulous looking guacamole, chips and snacks. I felt like a trespasser yet they graciously chatted away sharing family stories and talking about how sweet Sam was and what a terrific service he provided. They commented about how ”mother would have love him because all her life she had loved dogs.” I felt melancholy initially but soon realized they were celebrating her life the way she actually lived it, on her own terms. It filled me with joy and sadness at the same time–joy at a life well lived as well as sadness that it would soon be over. It was apparent by Sam’s behavior that the daughter really needed him and he stuck to her like glue. First he sat at her feet while she spoke and petted him. He hung on her every word.  Then he laid down next to her, the sign that means ‘we’re gonna be here for a while as I let this person process whatever they are going through.’ It was a stunning afternoon with a couple of really neat women who needed Sam in that special way only he can provide. There was little need for me to worry about starting conversations, or to try to fill that awkward silence when you meet someone and don’t know what to say next.  It was a beautiful and chance encounter on a gorgeous Bronco Sunday. I’m honored and humbled to have been able to spend time with those women. Just like the woman over at the hospital, they gave me a great gift and I can only hope and pray that Sam returned the favor by soothing their hearts even if just for a bit.

So until our next hospital visit…go Broncos!

What in the World Does that Mean??!!

Say what?!

Say what?!

I don’t know about you and your fur-iend but I’ve noticed some really weird behaviors, a couple of which Sam does and some that he doesn’t which makes me wonder: what the heck is that all about?  Like why do dogs circle around before laying down? Sam walks around and around and around some more just before flopping down on his bed.  The answer is actually interesting: the dog is trying to create a safe “nest” like their ancestors did eons ago. By walking around in circles wild dogs would flatten down the vegetation and chase out large crawly things.  It also left a visible sign that this spot had been occupied and warned others of their territory.  What that means in my living room though is still up for debate.

Then there’s the kicking the ground after pooping thing.  Thankfully Sam doesn’t do that but several dogs in the ‘hood do because they will kick mulch all over the sidewalk. When pet parents let their dogs do that (and then don’t sweep the mulch back) it really bugs me. I wouldn’t allow Sam to do that and think it’s kind of rude. Besides, it’s MY territory, not theirs.  It kind of ranks up there with those people who let their dog hop over a short fence into my iris bed to do his business. And then not pick it up. Grrrr.  One of these days I’m gonna bust them and remind them in an oh-so-not nice way to (a) please not do that in the flowers and (b) to PICK IT UP!!!  I mean, come on…I already supply the bags in the front yard for dog walkers, the least they can do is use them, right?  But back to the kicking part. Dogs actually have scent glands in their paw pads and that kicking out of the back legs triggers those glands and marks their territory.  It’s something akin to drawing an arrow to the poop, like yelling “I was here (so scram..I’m very big and powerful).”  Sheesh, talk about a power trip.

Then there’s that frantic leg kicking when you’ve reached your pet’s “tickle” spot. I’m scratching Sam’s belly and he’s looking almost perplexed at me (which I’ve previously interpreted as pleasurable so inevitably I scratch even more). Turns out dogs have a scratch reflex which results in a completely involuntary reaction.  Seems as though that scratching (or tickling in my mind) can irritate the nerves under the skin which are connected to the spinal cord.  A message is relayed to the leg muscles to kick in an attempt to be rid of the irritant.  Guess sometimes those tummy rubs are more annoying than enjoyable.  Who knew?

Does your dog display any weird traits?  What do you make of it?

There’s no such thing as a Poop Fairy

Credit: Boulder Daily Camera

Photo Credit: Boulder Daily Camera

Originally this post was entitled “The Scoop on Poop” and was going to be a rant about people who don’t pick up after their pet but after seeing this article in the Boulder Daily Camera online edition, I thought this was a better way to describe an aggravating phenomena people face all the time.

While I pretty much abhor dressing up pets, I do support the idea of installing collection waste receptacles for a bio-waste compost system on trail heads particularly since we’re so fond of hiking in Colorado.  If  that means hosting a contest showing our pets dressed ridiculously, then I guess taking one for the team is a small price to pay as a solution to a nasty problem. Pet waste is not a topic we like to think about let alone deal with (ugh, handling the bag and not getting any on your hands…yikes!), but a reality that needs to be dealt with in a practical and innovative way.  The idea of keeping anywhere from 400-500 lbs. of pet waste a week from favorite hiking trails and parks in Boulder (but more importantly from landfills) and turning it into potting soil seems like a pretty cool idea to me.

The City of Boulder is known as a bastion of liberal regulation in Colorado and more often than not, people preface their comments, “only in Boulder,” but stay with me on this idea for a minute.  Removal of pet waste is already required in cities, parks, trails, anyway (though many in my own hipster neighborhood are serious scofflaws at times–I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve picked up a big pile directly in front of the waste bag dispenser I supply in front of my house for those who run out of bags or forgot to being one…grr–but that’s not the point here today lest I veer off into a rant and I really want to stay away from that energy today).

There’s nothing worse than “stepping in it” when you’re out hiking with your fur-iend and you’re miles from anything with which to remove it.  Apart from the ick factor, there are health issues to people, pets and the environment by leaving it along the way.  Using a bio-waste compost program also takes care of methane production that accompanies waste breakdown in landfills.

While it’s only a pilot program, I hope it ends up wildly successful and spreads to Denver and all over.  It could be a very cool and innovative way to deal with an unpleasant but necessary part of the responsibilities of pet ownership.  Sorry that dogs are being dressed up to promote it-seems like everything nowadays needs some sort of hook rather than plain old common sense or consideration. I say “only in Boulder,” but then add a big “Bravo!” to the end of that sentiment.

Does your municipality have a similar program?  What do you think?

Release the Hounds

Release the Hounds!

Release the Hounds!

I WANT that doorbell!  Not because it’s adorable beyond all get-out and really describes answering the door at the ‘Ranch.’  And not because I don’t have more than one ‘hound’ currently, but because I need the ‘hounds of creativity’ to be released.  I’m stuck.  I got nothing…bupkis.  My brain is on overload and while there are a few drafts in the works, it seems no amount of editing or resource checking has made a difference to magically transform them into something fit for public view.  So what does a part-time blogger do when she suffers from writer’s block?  Come on all you creative types, please dish and share your secret!  Puleez?

My first thought was to binge watch Breaking Bad (what can I say, I L-O-V-E that show), The Walking Dead (meh, not in the mood for Zombies right now but just wait till the season premiers though) or GoT (Game of Thrones).  Yeah, not so much.  Westeros will have to continue looting and pillaging without me.

This past weekend I spent a few days visiting my parents and celebrating my Dad’s birthday.  It was the perfect trip–we laughed, played games and cards, talked politics, watched the most amazing sunset, enjoyed cool evenings under a sky full of twinkling stars with tasty drinks and ate-boy did we eat…only the best kind of relaxing stuff and exactly what I needed after experiencing several rather stress-filled weeks at work.  When I drove home on Labor Day, I hoped the relaxed vibe I experienced at my parents’ house would translate into some fantastic inspiration for a couple posts.  Instead, I slipped back into overload running around trying to get laundry, housecleaning, and yard work done before having to hop back onto the hamster wheel at work.  I didn’t even realize it right away until I noticed Sam gave me that “hey, how come all of a sudden you’re not doting on me sigh” that only he can give following our Monday evening walk and just before plopping down on his dog bed while giving me the evil stink eye.  Personally I think he got a little spoiled with my parents, and particularly missed my Mom’s hugs and treats (I mean who wouldn’t, but get used to it dude, we all have to soldier on—it’s called Reality 101!).

But you know as I look back at the terrific time we spent together, it occurred to me that even though I didn’t get the writing boost I had hoped for, my inner need for family time was well met and far more important.  And right now, I’m good with that. ❤️ Thanks again, Mom and Dad.  Love you!

So until the blog spirits revisit me and release the ‘creative’ hounds, I’ll smile and relish the ‘pawsome’ weekend spent with the people who know me the best and who still love and accept me for it.  Then I’m going on line and ordering that doorbell!

Hope Labor Day fueled your soul (or your creative juices).