Live, love, bark! ❤︎
Live, love, bark! ❤︎
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! ❤︎
While we’ve had a rash of special pets cross over the Rainbow Bridge over the past several months, it hasn’t been limited to Blogville. A number of fellow pet therapy dogs have left as well. I haven’t shared stories about those losses since we try to soldier on as best we can despite the hole that’s left behind. When Sam and I joined pet therapy over 4 years ago, there were over 50 dogs in the program. Today that number is just over 30.
Recently one of my absolute favorite dogs left us unexpectedly, leaving her owner, Bonnie and the rest of us who knew her, simply devastated. “Fergie” was one of those dogs you just couldn’t get enough of whenever you saw her. With a regal face, expressive features, she was a pawsome ambassador for our program. I was instantly drawn to her at the first get-together for both handlers and dogs. In the midst of dogs everywhere and uprights chit-chatting away, Fergie quietly sat next to Bonnie taking it all in. She was a beautiful soul with a calm presence who represented her breed so nicely especially in the midst of frenetic motion and noise.
Fergie was a wonderful therapy dog and will be sorely missed. Throughout her two years of service to our program, she and Bonnie provided much comfort and joy during their 64 visits. Sam and I were lucky to spend some time with Bonnie and Fergie at the annual fund-raising calendar sale with Fergie performing impressive tricks for people in the hospital lobby. And Sam adored her as much as I did.
Despite wanting to share this post shortly after attending a photography seminar, a hectic life sort of interfered. But I decided it was just too good not to share the experience. “Walk on the Wildside” was held in connection with Earth Day sponsored by a local camera shop at the Denver Zoo. The guest speaker was not only a phenomenal photographer but one who happened to be a Nikon Ambassador.
Ron Magill, director of communications for the Miami Zoo, is a trained zoologist but never took any photography classes. He learned how to photograph through practice, patience and necessity (stock photos were too expensive when he first started out). I signed up for this class
not because I’m planning on a safari trip to Africa, but because I figured any tips could be used in taking photos of Sam and Elsa (who often resemble wild animals).
Boy am I glad I did!! Although I shoot with non-Nikon brand cameras, photographic principles are the same whether you use Nikon or another brand like I do. If you have the time and the inclination, this video is a fair representation of his presentation in Denver with emphasis on his conservation efforts. Ron is high energy and enthusiastic. Be prepared to get caught up with his energy. As a world-renowned conservationist as well as a photographer, Ron walks the walk using his position to draw attention to the importance of saving endangered species throughout the world. Ron stressed the importance of living a life that protects these magnificent creatures so that we can enjoy them now and well into the future. As a naturalist whose primary job is protecting wildlife for generations to come, Ron showed how invaluable photography can be in telling stories that help empower people in to making a difference in protecting our natural world.
Ron showed some of the most inspiring photos in extreme locales; his enthusiasm for photographing nature’s incredible creatures permeated throughout his talk. Even though the presentation ended shortly after noon (and the worst possible time to take photos), I left inspired to see if I could possible capture anything like what he suggested.
While the lighting was atrociously harsh and mostly overexposed, I was able to shoot a few shots that pleased me and as Ron suggested, any photo that you like is a good photo regardless of photographic rules. This presentation inspired me to my very core. It rekindled a burning desire to photograph the odd, the ordinary, and those exceptional sights that I’m blessed to see every day right in front of me. I left with an energized sense of creativity. It reminded me we all are stewards of nature and the need to keep wild animals alive and present for our children. An Earth Day to remember, savor and practice every day, oh yes. And for the record, it has inspired me to visit to the zoo more often, that is, when I’m not living with the zoo at home.
What story will you tell with your photographs?
Live, love, bark! ❤︎
When it comes to celebrating blogiversaries, I have been fairly taciturn to publicly share those dates and have never posted anything about receiving any awards but since being recently notified that our “Ranch” was one of PetNitro’s Best Dog Bloggers to Follow for 2017, as well as realizing over 600 of you amazing readers follow us, it seemed appropriate to acknowledge both milestones and express my gratitude to those responsible. That’d be you guys! Sure I know there are gazillions of you who have scads more followers and been doing this blogging thing a whole lot longer and are far more successful than the likes of us, but I kind of had to think…WOW! Had you asked me after publishing that first post (A new baby arrives) a year ago this week (which came a month after setting up the blog) whether I’d have thought any one other than maybe my kids or a friend or two would have read it, I’d have laughed myself into delirium and needed oxygen. Apart from an eye roll, even contemplating such a silly notion of having a blog read by anyone, let alone something still being read 3 years later, from my vantage point at least, was so far off the radar-screen, it still makes me chuckle even thinking about it.
I mean, I had this
stress filled nightmare job with an unreasonable boss whose purpose in life seemed to be to hoist me on a petard every day. Who’d want to do anything else, right? Ha! He could have cared less about what I thought or did so long as his personal life was made easier. But I did somewhat enjoy the client work and my co-workers were the best so that generally got me through most days. But as the years and ignoble personal requests piled up taking their toll on my soul, I realized a creative outlet was imperative for sanity and decided to try blogging as a creative outlet to avoid committing some criminal act. I had no idea what I was doing, had minimal graphic skills (some things just never change) and yet, there was this voice inside that was awakened and needed to be shared. Originally I wanted to create a design blog and then quickly came to realize that wasn’t gonna happen. Sure I had co-owned a hardware store before and could wield a mean paint brush and cut a key in record time, but who was I kidding? I didn’t have the wherewithal to move interior walls and handle plumbing projects from scratch (I’d rather set my hair on fire frankly than deal with ANYTHING plumbing related) let alone do an amazing makeover like the rest of the Martha Stewart/MacGyver types who are able to create something fabulous from paint, pillows, a bit of spit and maybe a rubber band or two.
Then it hit me…the real muse was wagging his tail at me in a hospital room so what better way to harness that inner voice than to share stories about a certain lovable knucklehead rather than trying to redesign some tiny little kitchen or rehab project around the house without dynamite or a Sugar Daddy. We were already doing therapy work and it seemed natural to share our adventures on hospital visits. It was fulfilling and rewarding beyond measure. Was I terrified hitting the ‘publish’ button in the beginning? You betcha…I still am! But life has a funny way of encouraging you to make changes or to see that most of the time you spend working doesn’t have to be constant misery-inducing for someone happy to suck the life out of you.
So after finally having a steaming mug of crap filled to overflowing (aka end-of-the-year cluster), I came to the conclusion life would be infinitely better blogging full-time than to be someone’s whipping-post for their unhappy existence. With that, I left the legal biz a little over a year ago walkING out with my head held high, a smile on my face and never looking back.
Those of you who know me well, know I’m not into tooting my own horn and any level of accomplishment is not dependent on awards or anniversaries but instead comes from smiling when YOU guys take time to comment on our escapades. I am grateful beyond words and know my rewards are about the back and forth dialogue and sharing of your experiences. For that I continue to be grateful. Your warmth and support have been re-affirming and you taught me the “3 E’s of blogging.” Engage, educate and entertain, for which I can’t thank you enough. We invite you to stick around and continue to hear our drivel stories.
This peanut sized space on the Internet where people come together and have a genuine love for their 4-legged-better-parts, sustains and fills me with a joy that is often indescribable. The fact that you are so generous with your kindness and comments is beyond touching and makes my day. Thank heavens I had the good sense to avoid the design genre (far too many design peeps seem to lack any kindness DNA…and besides, who wants to paint rooms the color of puce just to be part of a catty, mean-spirited clique anyway?). Love you guys for your kindhearted encouragement, empathy and smiles! So as I commemorate these two events, I hope we share half as much joy in your life as you do to ours. Sending tail wags and nose nudges to you all.
Live, love, bark! ❤︎
Blogville recently lost a dear fur-iend, Dory from Dory’s Backyard and today we will honor her with a tribute and blog hop. While we didn’t know her all that well, we were always inspired by her Flower Friday posts and her smiling face. Sweet little Dory will be missed by everyone in Blogville. We are sending digital hugs and tail wags to her ‘brothers’ Arty (the Mayor of Blogville), Jakey, Bilbo and to her ‘pawrents.’ Dory may be gone, but she will never be forgotten and is no doubt spreading smiles among way too many of the others who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge from Blogville and will definitely be missed.
In honor of sweet Dory, here are a few of Sam’s favorite flowers from around our garden.
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Live, love, bark! ❤︎