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!🐾

Thankful Thursday ~ January 16, 2020

As you might expect, yesterday was a very emotional and overwhelming day. So emotional in fact, I was unable respond to all of the touching comments and well wishes you left about Sam’s last day as a pet therapy dog. To say I was a basketcase as I read each of your sweet notes is more than an understatement. Please know I am ever so grateful for your support and kindness as we begin to write a new chapter in life as we learn how to cope with a new reality in the days ahead.

To say that Sam left it all on the field yesterday is an understatement. Not only did he see more patients at West Pines than we have ever visited with before, he was sweetly patient and attentive as loads of people showered him with loving praise. As usual, he had to sniff out all the go-cups of coffee (don’t know what it is about coffee-he wouldn’t drink it but loves sniffing at their cups), and performed his ‘licking his chops on command’ trick for everyone. It’s the only trick he has ever performed (it’s his belief that performance art is beneath him) and managed to visit with each and every person we encountered. Naturally he spent a  extra moments with several people, all who clearly needed the love of a sweet dog sent to put a smile on their face and in their heart. And yes, there were some tears shed by more than one patient at this wonderful dog’s ability to read what people need.

As I tear up just writing this post, I can honestly say I’ve never been more proud of this silly Knucklehead. The staff was touched by him and more than a few tears fell at the thought it was Sam’s last visit. Because we’ve met so many wonderful, caring folks in the nearly seven years of visiting the hospital, I decided we’d also swing by the main hospital to bid our favorites a fond farewell. Once people realized it was our last visit, we were surrounded by folks (many who were new to us) to praise Sam’s efforts. This silly, sweet ‘Dogtor’ has chalked up 219 visits over the years, reaching out to hundreds if not thousands of people extolling the virtues of pet therapists everywhere. I didn’t check to see how many hours he’s logged, but I can guarantee it’s been loads.

As a final act of doing what this boy does best, we went to say goodbye to our friends in the hospital lab. When we arrived, there was quite the commotion going on in the waiting room. A baby was wailing his head off much to his mother’s chagrin. She was unsuccessful at  comforting the little tyke but once he saw Sam he blinked through tears, babbled something I couldn’t decipher as Sam stopped dead in his tracks. There was one more person to comfort before saying goodbye. He walked up to the little guy who patted his back with chubby little hands. Then the little boy kissed Sam on his fluffy back and head. Repeatedly. Sam stood here relishing the attention and stuck his nose in the little boy’s face, as if to say, “there, there, little man…it’ll all be good. With tears dried up, the little boy began to smile and continued to simultaneously pat and kiss him as he tottered around Sam on wobbly legs. I nearly lost it at this point especially when people commented on how sweet the whole scene was.

Certainly that small chance encounter was emblematic of what we’ve experienced over the years but this one was an extra sweet experience and one that will remain in my heart for a long, long time.

We finished our goodbyes to those who had been ever so gracious and kind over the years with vows of staying in touch. As I sat in the car ready to head home, I had to spend several minutes composing myself. Once again, the hospital gave us more than we left. I am truly blessed to have experienced such camaraderie over the years to both me and to Dogtor Sam. What a community of people, those we visit and those who visit us, here as well in person. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of you following us, leaving such special comments over the years and supporting our efforts to make this world a bit better than we found it. Mere words of thanks don’t seem sufficient for all you’ve given us but please know I feel profoundly blessed and grateful for each and every one of you.

Sam

Live, love, bark! 🐾

The Dogtor Makes His Rounds ~ January 15, 2020

It’s West Pines Wednesday but today is different from all the ones we’ve done over the past several years. Today is Sam’s last day at a therapy dog. This day brings loads of mixed emotions as we always look forward to our time at Lutheran Medical Center and especially West Pines. Sam has repeatedly shown me how much of a difference he makes to all he meets and no doubt today will be the same which leaves me with a full heart of gratitude and pride. Still, it’s also a sad day knowing it is the last day he’ll be doing exactly what he does best. We will miss seeing the many friends we’ve made over the past seven years and the nurses who have showered this boy with loving affection and he in turn, returning the love with his soulful sweet spirit.

Dogtor Sam
Dogtor Sam getting ready for last rounds

The time has come for Sam to sit back and relax in his old age. Though in good health, the rigors of being an all-in Dogtor ever willing to leave his heart on the floor is beginning to take its toll. Recovering after a shift takes much longer and while I know in my heart he would soldier on if asked, it became clear to me now is the right time to let him enjoy what time is left this for this 14+ year old boy. He can nap to his heart’s content, dance with his Ninja sister, play neighborhood concierge as he waits for that Social Security check to show up now that he’s retiring.

As you might expect, this will be a tough day for me and may take a while to process emotionally. I don’t plan to give up pet therapy entirely, in fact, I’ve actively begun searching for another pet who can step into Sam’s bandana and provide the same kind of canine care of a special kind to patients, staff and hospital visitors. We hope the process doesn’t take long but as I’m working with a rescue group, those kinds of special dogs don’t come around nearly as often as I’d like. We’ll keep you posted on that process and hope to share a few memorable stories that we haven’t yet shared about some of the more impactful visits Sam has had.

Sam
Mwah 😘

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Goodbye 2019

Today is the last day of 2019 and the last day of this decade. Where did the time go? We here at the ‘Ranch’ will spend a quiet evening of reflection and hope whatever you do, you do it safely. No wheels falling off, okay?

Reindeer

From all of us Knuckleheads, have a safe and Happy New Year. Make 2020 be your best year ever. Remember tomorrow begins with a blank page of a 365 page book. Write a best-seller.

New Year

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings with a Birthday ~ December 16, 2019

Meme

Training works on both kids and dogs. Today is my ‘baby’s’ birthday. This woman is an amazing mom to both two and four-legged kids, has a killer sense of humor with a solid gold heart. Clever and creative, she’s grown up into a remarkable woman who loves Irish Wolfhounds and is…ahem…as I affectionately call her, Leprechaun-sized (aka vertically challenged), with her dog towering over her, as a mom. I don’t think I did too badly. Happy birthday, sweetheart. I hope your day is as bright and special as you are.

Wolfhound
Reoán, the Irish Wolfhound welcoming her mama home

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings ~ October 7, 2019

SamFourteen years ago today, a small apricot-colored curly, bundle of knuckleheaded-ness entered the world. Who knew at the time this silly boy would bring so much joy to everyone whose path crossed his way? Elsa here. Although he wouldn’t arrive at the Ranch until he was two, that photo was one of the earliest images showing his sweetness.

Sam

While he may not be quite the same pogo-stick he was when he joined mom, the boy’s still got game and continues to walk anywhere from 2-4 miles a day. Please join me in wishing him many happy returns. Come back tomorrow to see the blackmail photos highlights from his party. Happy birthday, bro! Mom and I love ya, even if you’re a goofball.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Make a Wish Monday ~ September 16, 2019

Three years ago, a skinny, shut-down black Standard Poodle joined the pack and life hasn’t been the same ever since. Today is Elsa’s 3rd ‘Gotcha’ Day and I couldn’t be happier she found her way into my life. You can read more about her story here.

Elsa

Sure it’s true, I’ve suffered from her munching of multiple pairs of reading glasses, wool socks, and other assorted household items and I’ve learned to cope with the devastating diagnosis of idiopathic epilepsy, but this clever girl has truly blossomed into quite the Princess.

From a shut-down, puppy mill survivor to the spunky, hilarious Ninja of today, Elsa learned to wag her tail when she experienced joy and came to love playing with toys. She’s definitely come a long way from that fateful autumn day three years ago. The birthday girl must have realized today is a special day since she let me sleep in to 4:45 a.m. this morning (from her normal “GOOD MORNING!”  bark requesting the desire to come up on the bed rather than the usual 4:35). With this girl, I’ll happily accept those extra ten minutes and continue to enjoy those daily early morning snores snuggles.

Sam & ElsaHappy Gotcha Day, sweet Elsa. Keep making everyone around you smile and continue to thrive while bringing smiles to those who love you. Even your Knuckleheaded brother sends happy greetings.

Elsa

One of the most inspiring footnotes to Elsa’s story is the fact that she has (knock on wood) remained seizure-free since last November. She continues learning how to be a ‘normal’ dog  and how to enjoy life. There’s still seems to be more room for her to grow and learn so I look forward to more continued progress, both physically and emotionally. High five, Ninja.Elsa

Live, love, bark! 🐾