Catching the wave

A few days ago I traveled to the Big Island to witness my granddaughter graduate from high school. It’s such an honor to share this rite of passage from schoolgirl to poised, confident young woman.  While Sam couldn’t be with us, his absence gave me pause to reflect on this life tradition.
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The Waveriders are the school mascot.  A fitting moniker given the location and when you think about it, a very apropos analogy for life beyond high school.  We all have ups and downs, the trick is to keep riding the wave of life, always hoping to catch the next big one.

in Hawaii, graduation is more than just a celebration of a young person’s transition from school to “the real world.”  It had an almost carnival feel to it.  Mere words seem inadequate to describe the feeling.  People are laid back and casual, some come in T-shirts and shorts, most wear Flip flops.  It’s really about celebrating the human family because indeed it takes a village…parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, school officials, community.  They all play a vital part in transitioning our beautiful children into thoughtful adults who honor them by contributing back-doing the same thing for future grads.  This is especially true in Hawaii. Ohana here means no one gets left behind.

This process is much like hospice therapy. When I return to the mainland, I’ll have an even better sense of that. Witnessing the profound stories of patients, their friends and family celebrating the life of remarkable people. Their final journey to the next life with friends and family near their side, wishing them a joyful journey into the next realm, whatever it might be. While we may be saddened by their leaving us, it kind of reminded me of those high school graduates. They’ll be leaving their families soon, off to college or to begin starting of their own families. Just like hospice patients, they will still need us by their side to reach the next chapter riding the next wave of greatness through our actions or our legacies.  Go forth Hailey!  Catch a big one.  I’ll be here watching you soar till it’s my turn to have you watch me catch my last one on earth. <3

Head Games

Once in a while you have to give a dog medication. Sam hates it but so do most dogs. No one likes the procedure: hold head, avoid scratching or biting, pop a pill in the back of the throat, try not to let the dog wriggle free & run away before spitting it out (and most likely not to be found for hours), stroke said wriggling creature’s throat long enough to swallow. It rarely works. If someone doesn’t get hurt, the dog distrusts you. So we silly humanoids try to disguise it. Dogs will generally eat anything so you’d think they’d gladly take a little pill wrapped in cheese any day. I thought I was being so clever taking a little shredded Cheddar and forming it into a nice little ball wrapped innocently around a little tiny pill, administering it as prescribed and viola! wellness. But Sam has figured that out. I’m not saying he’s stubborn, well, yes, I guess I am saying he can be stubborn but invariably he’d eat the Cheddar (I mean, what dog doesn’t like Cheddar?) and then spit out the pill but he’s kind of sneaky about it. He’ll act very contrite as if saying “see, I’m such a good boy, aren’t I? See I took all my medicine.” while actually crossing his paws behind his back, lying through his teeth! Then ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ later mysteriously appears under the dining table or behind the water bowl. That’s when I know I’ve been had. Outsmarted by a dog with the intellect of a radish. The shame of it all.

Then it came to me–a solution that was much cheaper than $10 a pound Cheddar that needed to be grated (and frankly, I may not always have Cheddar on hand if and when meds need to be doled out) or an expensive Madison Avenue version of the same thing.

So brilliant, so simple, inexpensive and it totally works. A homemade peanut butter pill pocket.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, combine the milk, peanut butter and flour.
  • Mix until completely combined.
  • After it comes together well, I found it best to knead it with my hands to complete the process.
  • Divide the dough into 12 small balls.
  • I found it easiest to use the tip of a meat thermometer to make the hole and wriggle that around to enlarge the opening.
  • Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
  • They will keep until the expiration date of your milk.
Outsmarting the smart-alec dog

I almost feel bad tricking him.  But I just want to be a good dog mommy and get him back to doing what he does best, making patients smile and outsmarting me.   Like I said, almost.

#TBT

It’s #TBT.  Will photos from yesterday qualify?  This was the scene at the “Ranch” yesterday morning. Guess news of my ‘Lupine salad’ has gone viral.  Oh yeah, BTW I’m 3 miles from DOWNTOWN DENVER.  Wonder how these babies got here??  Man, I gotta paint that fence!

Deer in the 'Hood
Deer in the ‘Hood

 

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Happy Mother’s Day

A big shout out to all mom’s today (including those with fur babies).  We <3 you, Mom and hope you have a fabulous Mother’s Day!

Hugs,

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Monika and Sam

Flashback Friday

I completely missed #TBT, so I’m now going with Flashback Friday. Yeah I know, buy at a calendar or set an alarm.  Till then…here’s Sam right after I got him. He’s always been a cute fur-baby. 🐾

Sam when I got him

Doctors vs. Nurses

Is it just me or are most doctors too busy or too important to be friendly toward volunteers? Nurses and staff often times come running down the hallway just to say hi and catch a snuggle from Sam.  I have yet to see a doctor make eye contact let alone say hello or smile with the single exception of one doctor who also owns a Standard Poodle. And she thinks Sam is a bit on the chubby side because you can’t see bones sticking out (but that’s a post for another day rant). What IS it about professionals? I mean I know doctors are busy saving lives, being heroes and all, but would it hurt a brother to crack a smile? I may just be a volunteer but sheesh, really?

It kind of reminds me of my day job at a large law firm. Our lawyers are really busy advocating for their clients.  They need to be because time is money in a large firm.  They do however tend to look right through the staff like they had X-Ray vision. If a fellow colleague walks by though, they sashay up and start chewing the fat like they’re long lost BFF’s. Granted, I didn’t go to law or medical school but is the common courtesy of a simple smile too much to ask?

Still this weekend when we are visiting patients around hospital and  hospice, Sam and I will still happily walk around smiling & saying hello to everyone we see-patients, aloof doctors, adoring nurses and all the other staff. We <3 them all…even the ones that look right past us. Lawyers on the other hand…well, I mean it’s not like they’re saving lives now, are they? 😄

Alzheimer’s Disease No Match for Man’s Best Friend

Alzheimer's Disease No Match for Man's Best Friend.

I couldn’t agree more!

How we got started

Waterlogue-Volunteer SamI had wanted to get involved with pet therapy for a long time but worried that Sam just wouldn’t have the necessary ‘chops’ to do it. He was after all…well let’s just say…a little excitable and unfocused. Don’t get me wrong, he really is a sweetheart but he just can’t stay focused for any amount of time. It’s always, “ooh, a stroller…no wait, a butterfly!…ah, a nice shiny object…and on and on in the span of a couple nano seconds. What’s an upright supposed to do? Go find a trainer, that’s what you do.

And boy did I find a great one. We enrolled in a basic obedience class and I confess, when I read the syllabus (oh yeah, there was even a syllabus) I figured this guy had to be good.  He was patient, kind and extremely knowledgeable and had an amazing record with really challenging dogs. He too thought Sam would be terrific with pet therapy saying ‘you can always train a dog to do something but you just can’t buy that kind of sweetness.’ I had a few doubts because nothing so far had made much of a difference in this wild child/pogo stick of a dog even though he was years past puppy-hood. Oh sure, he was adorably sweet, but just couldn’t seem to help himself whenever he saw anyone he recognized and that was everyone.  He’d pull and pull and do everything possible to get to them, no matter who they were. We diligently went to all the classes, practiced every day and then test day arrived. I was nervous as hell, since the session before had been such a disaster. I had even thrown my hands up and shouted, “Habla Español because you sure as &#@% don’t seem to understand English, dude!”  And while that cracked up the trainer, it did nothing to alleviate my fears that I had a retarded, un-trainable dog.  But I’m here to tell you miracles do happen and not just to hockey teams. Not only did he pass, my little rock start actually excelled over all the other dogs. Color me proud. With a new sense of confidence, I enrolled in the AKC Canine Good Citizen class figuring Sam could use as much training as possible and it might look good on the resume if we were accepted into a pet therapy program. He did everything quite well until week 4 when we were told in order to ‘graduate,’ the dog would have to perform a trick, any trick, it didn’t matter. Egad, are you kidding me?! This dog doesn’t get fetching balls for crying out loud. He just looks at you and has this “hmm, why did you throw that over there” look on his face and usually just lays down. Oh crap, I began to think I was totally screwed. I mean, he won’t even shake paws.  But then something clicked in my mind and I knew I’d have to work with what I had. Sam will lay his head in your lap or on your knee and just be sweet and adorable with his tail wagging furiously while looking up at you with those sweet amber eyes.  If I could just figure out a way to teach him to associate that behavior with the command ‘snuggle” well maybe, just maybe, we might pass. After two weeks of gobs of practice, lo and behold he was doing it! Actually.doing.it. Who was this dog and what happened to that dim-witted goof-ball I knew and loved? We passed with flying colors and lots of aw’s from the class, received the Canine Good Citizen designation and then began the process of finding a program where he could make sick people feel just a little better for a few minutes.

Fortunately there’s a hospital near the ‘ranch’ and we went through the process of applying to their program (and it’s quite a process at that) and after a few months we joined the team of just over 50 dogs. While initially it was not my intention to do hospice care, Sam (yeah that goofy/ADD Sam) was a complete rock star at hospice! Who’d have thought? The patients and staff just love him. He is extremely patient and allows anyone to pet him. He’s super calm with both young and old and he can’t seem to get enough of them. Funny thing too, he knows exactly when we’re going to the hospital. As soon as I pull down his official bandana, he starts pogo-sticking around the house. Woo-hoo! And he’s super excited as soon as we arrive in the parking lot but has that “I’m ready to go to work” strut once he gets out of the car. Who’d have thought this attention-deficit fur baby could be so great at putting smiles on people’s faces?

Have you had success with a dog trainer? Was it worth it for you?  Hey, if Sam can do it…well any dog can do it.
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