Happy Birthday to an Angel

Wash Park Sam
Handsome boy at Wash Park

On this date in 2005,  a reddish-blonde knucklehead entered the world. Officially christened “Brians Yosemite Sam” with the American Kennel Club, he was simply known as “Sam” to his owners. For you newer readers, Sam was the inspiration behind this blog.

For years, Sam was a proverbial pogo stick. Bouncing straight up and down to express excitement with life, he bounced straight into my heart. Sam was the most unfocused dog I’d ever met, long after his puppy years. Most dogs grow out of that puppy exuberance, but Sam didn’t seem to recognize it was the natural progression of acting more dignified as he aged and was actually normal. When I brought him home, he quickly burrowed deep into my soul and made his second best friend my Old English Sheepdog, Puck. For his entire life, he adored her and even after she passed, he  would always do double takes whenever we encountered one, thinking it was his long lost pal.

In 2015, Sam graciously and lovingly welcomed a very feral Ninja. He seemed to realize Elsa needed extra gentle loving and slowly earned her trust. Though never great pals like he was with Puck, he patiently and selflessly taught her how to be a dog instead of a shut down puppy-mill survivor.

Despite his buoyant personality or maybe because of it, it was hard not to just love on this goofball.  I just needed to find out what his job in life should be, beyond being an absolute treasure of a companion.

It was clear early on that Sam had a special knack for bringing joy and smiles to all he met. He was the neighborhood concierge, greeting every two and four legged inhabitant walking past the yard with an infectiously charming personality. Everyone loved him and he made them all feel special. It seemed only natural to share his gift with others and thus began the process of training for pet therapy work. For weeks I was convinced he would fail since he just couldn’t seem to stay focused on even simple tasks. Sam’s mantra in life was “oooh, a kitten…look a butterfly…ahh…shiny object!!” More than once I nearly abandoned the notion of getting through classes. When the time came for the test, not only did he perform flawlessly, he outshined all his classmates. I was stunned but ever so grateful to be able to share his gift of love with others.

We began visiting patients and in no time, Sam became a beloved rock star at hospital but especially with mental health patients. He would calmly allow them to hug him (which most dogs would not appreciate) and patiently waited while they petted him. His crush on all nurses was legendary and he often had eight or more surrounding him, oohing and ahhing over those soulful brown eyes, soft fur and Swiffer-like tail that was constantly in hyper-motion whenever people were around him.

Sam brought such joy and happiness to everyone at pet therapy but especially to me. While I have Norman to carry on in Sam’s pawprints at hospital and the Ninja to remind me that “still waters run deep,” Sam will always hold an extra special place in my heart.

Sam birthdayOn his Sweet Sixteenth birthday, I send my very best birthday wishes to my heart dog. Happy birthday, Knucklehead. I miss you every. single. day. You’ll always be in my heart and soul. Love and miss ya, buddy!

Angel Sam

Live, love, bark! 🐾

A Year In the Life of Norman ~ January 23, 2021

While I typically do not post on Saturday’s, I couldn’t let this particular Saturday pass without acknowledging an important anniversary. It was one year ago today that I drove to Colorado Springs to pick up a moose, er, I mean, my buddy “Stormin’ Norman” at a restaurant parking lot. I had been introduced to him a few days earlier at his foster dad’s home and admit I wasn’t quite sure just what I was getting. Oh sure, he seemed absolutely lovely and he was great around Elsa but I knew he would need some time to find his inner self after being uprooted from his long-time family and fur-sister and placed into the world of rescue where getting used to new people, new routines, etc. would be what would occupy him for the next several months. As I drove home from the initial meet and greet a few days earlier, I kept wondering what would an addition of this size be like around the Ranch? I couldn’t help but wonder how he would handle the 70 mile drive home, let alone integrate into a new pack with vastly different players and energy from what he was used to experiencing? I didn’t know if he’d balk at getting into my car and knew for certain I couldn’t lift this hunk but he easily climbed into my car and we never looked back. He was the perfect gentleman in the back seat and the perfect road companion, then and now.

Norman
Day One-the ride home

To say much has happened over the past year is a bit of an understatement. Norman and I have become use to one another’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, he’s been a model Big Brother to a less than hospitable at times Ninja sister, he survived a life threatening event (bloat), and became an intern therapy dog. Norman is one of the most affable, laid back dogs and his core personality has unfolded over the past year to reveal one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known.

Let’s take a look back at this lovable joker over the year.

Norman

Norman

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the things that impressed me most is how this sweet boy will allow me to pose him in the silliest of hats, etc.

Jaws

To say he’s larger than life is a real understatement. Weighing in over 85 pounds, this boy is BIG…and v-e-r-y tall. Like all sheepdogs, he has a big, fat large head (the better to munch bones on apparently) and has managed to master being adorably photogenic like a puppy without even trying.

Norman

He has no problem being photographed as a unicorn (super patient with me laughing hysterically trying to capture the photo while not moving the camera) or as a slumbering sofa-surfer.

Norman

It was just ten minutes after he arrived at his new home that he was making himself comfortable on the sofa, despite being assured by his foster dad that “no, he never gets up on the furniture.”Norman

OES

This past year I’ve watched as Norman’s personality blossomed especially during the past few months when my son was staying with me. This mellow giant is just giddy expressing his love for people through significant butt wiggles with a one-sided smile (I’ve never managed to capture that smile in a photo as he’s constantly wiggling and my cell phone just can’t focus without blurring). He’s become a master at sniffing every tree and bush encountered on walks and I’ve learned the hard way that when he puts the brakes on or suddenly stops I’d better be prepared for significant recoil since he’s not easily moved. And I’ve also learned to hang on for dear life when he suddenly takes off after a squirrel and pray I stay upright.

Norman has brought such joy to my grieving heart after Sam’s unexpectedly crossing to the Rainbow Bridge just a month after Norman arrived. Sam must have thought he was leaving me in good paws  when he departed and he was right. Norman seems to know when my heart is particularly heavy and will quietly lay next to me with his head across my lap or legs. It feels like a big furry hug that comforts my aching soul.

Norman

And so on the anniversary of his first Gotcha Day, I wish this handsome pile of fur many happy returns. Turning eight looks pretty darn good on you, Dude. Here’s wishing you a ‘pawsome’ year of great adventures and fun. Love you, buddy!

Norman & Elsa

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Wednesday Wishes ~ December 23, 2020

It’s mid-way during Christmas week and we wanted to send our best doggone wishes for a Happy Christmas. Christmas this year will look and feel different but our wish remain the same. May peace, joy and love of the season fill your heart this Christmas season and remain throughout the coming year. All the Ranch hands wanted to send their very own best ‘howliday’ wishes.

Norman hopes the glow of Christmas lights brighten your day and your heart.

Christmas

Elsa finds this an odd time of year, because it’s the only time of year in which she can sit in front of a dead tree and eat treats out of a sock (but hopefully not the sock). She also has her paws crossed for a respite from any other photo sessions. Sorry old girl, no promises.

Christmas

Angel Sam also sends his best wishes to you from across the Bridge. Miss and love you, Knucklehead.

Sam

The Ranch will be taking a few days off to relax and reflect on the season.

Christmas

From our family to yours, may the spirit of Christmas shine in your heart and light your path. We thank you for being in our world.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ November 27, 2020

Welcome to this week’s edition of Nature Friday where we’re once again joining our friends and co-hosts Rosy, Sunny and her two brothers from LLB in Our Backyard. Hope all our U.S. friends had a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day celebration. Today is often called Black Friday which officially kicks off the Christmas shopping season with insane offers for many items most of us don’t need but just can’t seem to ever resist buying. I never have understood Black Friday or for that matter, participated in it, figuring the few extra shekels spent would be worth not having to deal with rabid shoppers willing to go to the mat for an opportunity to score an inexpensive sweater or limited amount of electronic items I could live without. And that was all before this year’s panDAMNic.

Even though my family opted to shelter in place this year, I still wanted to prepare a nice holiday feast for me and the Ranch hands, which still took some time to gather last minute groceries which kept me from getting out to enjoy much nature this week. ‘Course the nearly 8″ snowfall on Monday also contributed in putting the kibosh on anything beyond mandatory dog walks so this week is more than a tad lean on images.

There’s nothing prettier than seeing fresh snow on trees following a storm with a bright blue Colorado sky as a backdrop and so it was on Wednesday after a bit of a thaw that I was out picking up various provisions for yesterday’s holiday meal. I was in a perfect spot at the stoplight to have the sun highlighting the top of the tree and that gorgeous sky. I’d have lingered longer had the jerk dude behind me not honked for me to hurry up. But it was lovely enough for me to be a bit passive aggressive linger for a brief enough moment and take in the surrounding open space area.

Nature

We hope however you spent Thanksgiving, you had a good day and practiced safe distancing. Our raucous gang put a Zoom call together in the afternoon and while the audio quality was less than perfect, the smile on the faces of my 90 year parents at seeing their kids and many grandkids on screen was well worth it. It wasn’t our usual Thanksgiving gathering but it will be one where those smiles will linger in our hearts with the joyfulness of a noisy bunch celebrating in style in each of our own homes with a profession of our love for each other and good food which is what this holiday is really all about. Not shopping in crowded stores for stuff we don’t need or all too often, can’t afford.

Stay well, sane, and keep smiling as you savor simple moments as we enter the Christmas shopping season. Enjoy your weekend and I hope you’ll get the opportunity to see what beauty you can find in nature. Extra points if you can peeve the clown behind you.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

A Midweek Introduction

Hello friends, I’m a bit late to this party, I could not let an opportunity to share the news of someone who’s been a good friend of the Ranch and introduce you to his new blog despite being tardy. Let me just say this seasoned blogger knows how to serve up a tasty post.

Allow me to dish up the inaugural post from our friend, Frank, he of the former “AFrankAngle fame.” Frank thought he was done blogging but then realized he had another voice where he could showcase his “Beach Walk Reflections” posts on a new blog. His insight and thoughtful prose is definitely worth a check out, so please drop by. Frank also has some of the cleverest followers and everyone will leave you with a good feeling with thoughtful observations at a time when we need it the most. Very best wishes, Frank…may you experience continued success my friend. I know I am looking forward to this new batch of thoughtful posts, lovely images and videos and smart followers. So check it out at and see why the Ranch hands gives this new puppy their 4 out of 4 paws endorsement:  Keep up the good work, Frank! https://beachwalkreflections.wordpress.com

Pawprints

Live, love, bark! 🐾

We’re Back…sort of

Hi there, remember us? You know, that merry band of misfits consisting of two dogs and an upright who thinks she runs things but let’s face it, we all know Norman and Elsa are the real brains around the Ranch. Sorry we’ve been AWOL. A series of life events tripped us up pretty hard and took the wind out of my sails with little to no bandwidth remaining in the tank to do any kind of job at blogging. I began to sink in mental mud rather than focus on much of anything else.

Flowers

Although we were served a large crap sandwich, I realized when I ran into a nearby neighbor couple this morning that life can easily serve a bountiful meal as well. They were loading their newborn baby boy into the car (egad, I hadn’t even been aware they were expecting)!  What a beautiful and reaffirming sight to see their new son peeking out over dad’s shoulder gazing at the world while the two fur beasts and I observed this blessing from a more than social distance. The realization that a new life joined the rest of us in 2020 had an impact on my psyche and that made me realize I absolutely needed to begin to post.

In the ‘more good news’ category, the hospital recently contacted the pet therapy teams to see if we were interested in participating in some form of hybrid form of pet therapy visits. While visiting patients and staff in the hospital would not be possible (and probably won’t for the foreseeable future given the recent uptick in cases in the Mile High City), they worked on creating a new way to bring smiles at least to the staff of the Emergency Department. Norman is scheduled to visit their parking lot venue for greeting doctors and nurses (today is our first day and we’re wiggling with excitement and will report back on just how it goes so wish us luck). Norman is all spiffed up having survived the water torture and is now ready to make his first appearance spreading a little joy later this morning.

Pet Therapy

Please know we’ve missed you all and hope to pick up where we left off with new adventures to share. I’ve continued to visit your blogs and left a few microscopic comments but you’ve all been in my heart. It appears the summer has been good to the fair majority of you and we hope autumn continues in that vein. Until the next time where we update you on how Norman’s inaugural entry into the world of pet therapy goes, remember…

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings ~ March 16, 2020

On this St. Patrick’s Day Eve, the mood around most of the world is not very festive. Even Ireland has cancelled its St. Patrick’s Day parade. People everywhere are struggling with new norms, i.e. social distancing, self-quarantine, lack of paper products and fear is the emotion that is deeply rooted in our psyches. It’s estimated that as many as 30 million children will be staying at home due to school closures. Restaurants are closed, many local government offices are shuttered as well; churches have resorted to technology to provide comfort through technology and everyone seems to be standing in line waiting to pay for food or waiting to get a coronavirus test at pop-up locations.

Coronavirus

We get that. We here at the Ranch are trying to keep a healthy perspective on this disaster. While closures and shortages are inconvenient and unfamiliar to a society that is used to getting what it wants, when it wants it, we are trying to keep the mood light and spending quality time with the Ranch hands. Humans often use humor during serious times but acknowledge if you have been personally affected by this world-wide pandemic, it may not be that funny. We are not insensitive to that.

Hopefully the amazing online blogger community can make a difference to one another as we live through an unfathomable reality that is rife with uncertainty. Find out what services your community is offering in the form of assistance. Keep yourself grounded and don’t subscribe to or traffic in misinformation. Keep yourself informed. Don’t try to make hand sanitizer out of vodka. Keep as upbeat as you can.

Coronavirus

1. HANDS Wash them often
2. ELBOW Cough into it
3. FACE Don’t touch it
4. FEET Stay more than 3-ft. apart
5. FEEL sick? Stay home

Part of dealing with this health crisis is to stay as positive and well-informed as possible. We all check Dr. Google the moment something is amiss with ourselves or our pets and I encourage you to continue to keep yourself as well-informed as possible. But for the love of all that’s holy, please use a reliable source such as The World Health Organization, local news stations, the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html) or your own country’s health ministry rather than every hoax or myth that’s posted on social media. And if you need to share your concerns, reach out to the blogger community for support to get a fresh perspective on your situation. Having children home and under foot for the next who-knows-how-long may be stressful, but reach out to people to see how they are doing it. When you’re up to your eyeballs in alligators, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes, especially when you are faced with the kind of uncertainty and insecurity facing the world today.

So, how do you feel about this crisis? Has the coronavirus affected you and in what way? Leave a comment, let’s start a conversation. Remember we’re all in this together. And for Pete’s sake, please don’t become a hoarder-you’re just contributing to the problem. Besides, 500 rolls of toilet paper will not, I repeat, not keep you any safer than a 12-pack.

On a separate note, we were thrilled with all of your responses to last week’s “Meet the Breed” post and encourage each and every one of you to tell us about your good dog. Feel free to email photos and breed info to: tailsaroundtheranch@gmail.com. There’s no reason to feel like you need to own a purebred pet either. We’re big fans of Heinz 57 pups and want to hear about your amazing pet. Send your submissions by April 5 to be featured in the April edition. We’ll draw a submission from the received entries. If your entry isn’t chosen for April, we’ll feature you in a subsequent edition. The point is, we want everyone to feel a part of this amazing and inclusive community.

Stay safe, keep smiling and know we’re here for you. Oh and wash your hands. Frequently.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ March 6, 2020

Tomorrow marks the two-week mark since beloved Sam left this mortal world. It’s been a painful time with lots of ups and down for both me and the dogs. Just as it seems like things are getting better, something will trigger a bout of tears and it feels like any progress made has been erased. While I realize this is all normal in the grief process, they are still upsetting.

Sam has come home now and I find myself staring at his remains for long periods of time, recalling past memories. Some are funny, some are more of the ‘I can’t believe you just did that’ and others are ones that make my heart swell with loving pride. It’s easy to go the full spectrum as I stare at the carved box.

Just before Sam came home, on one of our many walks during the mild spring-like weather, I happened to look down. Not sure if it was because it was the first sign of spring that caught my attention or the fact that there was a white feather next to it, but the one thing I was certain of was that it was a sign from Angel Sam reaching out. Tears formed in my eyes but then a smile appeared. The dogs and I stood there quietly for a few moments knowing our favorite Knucklehead had sent us a message. The dogs seemed to pick up the pace with joyous steps once we continued on the walk.

Sam, RIP

While I do not consider myself religious, I do think I’m pretty spiritual. Throughout the world, different cultures subscribe to slightly different explanations on what finding a white feather means. Yet, it seems the explanation is mostly consistent across the board. The symbolism of the white feather is generally thought of a sign of the presence of an angel. When you find one, it is thought that one of your angels just visited you within the physical realm and it’s an opportunity to say a prayer of thanks for their support.

It’s also thought that finding a white feather is a sign that a loved one is watching over you from the spirit realm. While that is certainly plausible, it can also be their desire to make contact with you. Either way, when you find a feather, you’ll likely feel a familiar energy, similar to the one we experienced. Finding a white feather is seen as a good omen and reminds us to stay strong, positive, and optimistic.

No matter whatever life throws at you, finding a white feather is viewed as a symbol that can provide a sense of comfort. And in this instance, it was as if Sam were leaning against my leg, wagging his tail and gazing deeply into my eyes like he often did when alive and there was great comfort in that moment.

While news this week has been heartbreaking and disturbing (our thoughts are with the folks of Tennessee and pray the situation surrounding the Corona-virus gets under control), we hope you seek and find comfort this weekend.

Please remember to ‘spring forward’ for Daylight Savings Time which arrives this weekend. We will be envious of those of you who live in Hawaii, parts of Arizona and Indiana who have the good sense not to go through this stupid time change.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Glue and Gratitude

More than a week has passed since my beloved Sam left this mortal world. We’re still in grief mode but are coming to grips with the harsh reality of life without our boy. The click, click, click of his dancing feet on the hardwood floors have been replaced by heavy footed Stormin’ Norman followed closely by the not-so delicate thumping of the Ninja’s paws. Who knew a Ninja would move about so loudly?

Sam was the subtle glue that sealed our pack together. I was never sure he fully comprehended that he was actually a dog and not some special hybrid kind of human with four feet. He taught Elsa how to be a dog and how to learn to trust peeps. Naturally she’s taken his loss particularly hard. Knowing Norman for only a month, the two brothers hadn’t bonded to quite the same level. Yet they all followed Sam’s lead. A doorbell ring demanded the canine security alarm system be activated. Passersby on walks required we stop for ear rubs, body leans, tail wags and a friendly hello. And the sound of crinkle packaging of any food meant cheese! It was the clarion call for sitting at my feet in front of the fridge in anticipation of a tasty treat being dispensed. Sam was my go-to muse for most of my posts. He was the obvious but quiet leader and the glue that kept us all functioning and now our daily happenings have us all walking out of step and out of rhythm. Our compass has disappeared and we are searching for a new evolutionary shift signaling a new ‘normal’ will be the benchmark. We will l get there with some time as new rituals are established.

That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t express my most heartfelt gratitude for all the calls, texts, emails, cards and comments from so many of you while we work through this evolutionary period. You have buoyed our spirits to such an extent and I want you all to know how much this has meant to me. Words however seem so inadequate but please know your loving support has meant so very much. From family members, neighbors, friends and you dear readers, you have all touched our hearts and I am ever so grateful for your kindness and support. You guys stepped in to fill in the gaps as the glue we need.

To my surprise this figurine appeared a couple of days ago without any card or note or attribution. I would love to acknowledge and thank the mystery benefactor so if it was you, please let me know; so that I may  thank you more personally. It’s a lovely piece from Joy of Giving and it truly touched my heart. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

Sam's Angel

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Mourning ~ February 24, 2020

As most of you know, the inspiration and muse behind this blog was a sweet knuckleheaded and loving dog. It is with a broken heart I share that my dear precious boy passed away suddenly on Saturday. One minute he was his goofy self and the next minute he was gone. To say there is a huge empty place in my heart would be an understatement.

Sam was many things but foremost he was always a loving, devoted companion. He was my heart and soul dog. Making me happy along with hundreds of others was at the core of this special dog. He loved life and he loved making others smile and feel better, even if just for a brief moment. He did it with such charming panache and with an ever wagging tail that just never stopped moving. While he recently retired from his hospital visits, he never really stopped being a therapy dog, instead ministering loving affection to all he encountered, every waking moment, including me. He loved delighting patients and staff alike with his one and only trick…licking his chops on command, first on one side, then on the other.

The Ranch is a dimmer place now and we all need time to heal from this devastating loss and thus will be taking time away to grieve and adapt to the new decidedly, empty normal. I know that Sam would want you to pay extra attention to your own special pet in his memory. We never know when their time will be up so please make the most of the time you have, while it’s happening.

Avitar
My sweet buddy

ELMC Sam

“Yosemite Sam”
October 7, 2005 ~ February 22, 2020

Live, love, bark!🐾