Happy Thanksgiving

Gratefulness. This year, we here at the ‘ranch’ have so many things for which to be grateful. Not the least of which is the fact that my mom survived a gastric aneurysm last month and was placed in hospice care but is now home recovering. If you’re ever going to fail at something, flunking out of hospice needs to be right at the top of the list. We are beyond grateful that once again, this remarkable woman, the matriarch and core of our family will be at the dinner table smiling at all us knuckleheads. We love you, Mom and are sooo very happy and grateful you’re gonna be here this Thanksgiving!

Our family is also blessed to welcome home my niece’s husband and Master Sergeant from a National Guard tour in Egypt. He safely arrived on Monday of this week after being delayed by the recent bombing of a Russian airliner. Welcome home, Elias and thank you so very much for your service to our country.

Lastly, I am fortunate to welcome the arrival (just 10 days ago from California), the love of my life to living at the ‘ranch.’ Wayne and I are settling into a lovely rhythm of being a family and Sam couldn’t be happier either. Frankly though, I think Sam likes him more than he does me. 🙂

image So as you sit around that turkey, ham, prime rib or whatever with all the yummy  ‘fixins’ and watch football, I hope you also take time out to take stock for all that you have to be grateful for this year. These days, in this crazy mixed up world, it’s easy to become angry, sad, even bitter at some of the current events, but trust me, there is so very much of the positive out there as well. I encourage you to take a moment to focus on those things that matter most and at the top of my list is family.

All of us at the ‘ranch’ want to wish you and yours the happiest of Thanksgivings. May you all be as blessed and fortunate as we are in our family.

Live, love, bark! <3

An open leter to Blogville

Dear Blogville Friends:

Last month we went dark. Several of you have sent sweet private messages asking if everything was ok. Without getting into the details just yet, life as we knew it changed in a blink of an eye and while infinitely improved, still has a way to go. I just wanted to tell you how much your thoughtful messages, thoughts and warm wishes have comforted me-you guys are really incredible! The love and caring that came through buoyed us through some very cloudy days and nights.

Sit Stay Heal

We’ll be back as soon as we can though probably not nearly as frequently as we’d like-we’re going to have to work to get back into a regular schedule. I just wanted to say how grateful I am to be apart of your community and to thank each and everyone of you for your love and support. The resident Muppet, Sam sends puppy kisses and tail wags. He’s missed you all and can’t wait to share the good, the bad and the oh-my-gosh he’s done it again adventures with you.

Be well my special friends and know we wouldn’t be here without you. <3

Your friends at the Ranch,
Monika & Sam

Live, love, bark! <3

Thankful Thursday


It’s been beyond a wild and crazy work week with zero time to blog which I do not like. That said, it occurred the best way to deal with the stress would be through gratitude. I’m grateful for so many things especially lately 🙂 and as I was going through my photos for some inspiration, this graphic kind of jumped out at me. It said it all and more (I constantly read between the lines all the time). Here’s hoping your week has been one that reminds you of what’s important and not the noise the rest of the world is screaming at you. Be thankful and love the source of your gratitude. Awareness is hard when things are crashing all around you, but when you take a second to stop the merry-go-round, some of the best life offers is staring right you in the face (or through the screen). Embrace it, revel at it, love it and be thankful, I know I am thankful beyond words.

Live, love, bark! <3

Gratitude and Colorado sunrises

Sunrise - Sloan's Lake
Sunrise – Sloan’s Lake

If you saw my earlier post this week, you know I’m on a quest to ditch the negative toxic stuff. I’ve done a lot of thinking about life in general lately and have been trying to get back some balance and focus more on the positive stuff that makes me happy and for which I’m grateful rather than letting all the ugly negative stuff influence my life. Here are a few more things:

  • Early morning sunrises. Admittedly, I’m a morning person anyway (yes, I know not everyone is so I feel for ya especially since you’re missing out on some of the best times of the day IMHO). That said, who wouldn’t be when Mother Nature can deliver spectacular views like the one above from nearby Sloan’s Lake with its lovely park and (obviously) cool lake? Is that a killer view of sunrise looking eastward toward downtown, or what?  In the summer, Sloan’s Lake hosts a big Dragon Boat Festival which is an equally fabulous yet totally different view.
  • Nutella lattes. Before my friend Anna moved to Japan last year, one of the things we used to do was prowl for the best coffee houses and she found a super sweet place that makes a fabulous Nutella latte. Get out! Trust me, order this drink when you get the chance. It is to die for! Talk about liquid comfort. Yum-may. Almost better than craft beer…almost. 🙂
  • Aside from finding that awesome coffee shop with her and our shared love of ‘Sweden’ (aka IKEA), I continue to cherish her friendship even from afar. She’s funny, accomplished and extremely talented and I can always count on her to brighten my day with her generous spirit of friendship. She has two of the most adorable brindled Boxer dogs who always provide us with mounds and mounds of comic relief with their antics (visit her terrific blog DesignPunk and check out her design adventures in Japan as well as photos of the dogs). I’m in total awe of her super techno savvy-ness, her fearless ability to design amazing spaces, DIY’ing stuff I’m way too afraid to tackle, all the while successfully moving overseas and adapting so well in a completely different culture. Anna, you’re my hero!
  • Daily walk/runs with my favorite pup, Sam. Those twice-a-day jaunts are a total dog-send (especially in the early morning) and they do more for my psyche than nearly anything else. Not only do I get out and burn calories with my bestie, it makes a total difference in my mental state. Truthfully, I do it as much for me as I do for him but we both benefit from a good workout.  Now to just get him to focus on the “we’re moving” part–not the we’ve paused to sniff part.
  • Beautiful clear blue skies of Colorado.  It just doesn’t get more picturesque than those National Geographic-like blue skies and with our 300+ days of sunshine a year in the Mile High City, I get loads of essential Vitamin D too. Win-win.
  • Although the Polar Vortex arrived with a serious vengeance this week (it was a record setting minus 14 yesterday morning–yikes!), this has been one of the most exquisite and mild Autumns I can remember.  While we don’t have those gorgeous East Coast reds and oranges in trees, the golds here were extra spectacular this year. The light was simply aglow.
  • Finding some cash in a pair of trousers recently was a nice and unexpected surprise. I think my Nutella-latte Jonesing will be fully satisfied this weekend. Note to self – check all the pockets periodically. You  never know what you’ll find.
  • Wildlife in my neighborhood. It’s still hard to believe that I’m a mere 3 miles away from the center of downtown Denver when I see the likes of raccoons, foxes, bats, coyotes and earlier this summer a pair of deer in the yard! I’ve seen a horned owl and a mating pair of Falcons on early morning walks with Sam…not what you’d generally expect to see in city critters but they sure do make me smile. I’m filled with gratitude when I can see Nature like that especially in an urban environment.

So those are just a few of the things that cause me to smile and make me ‘paws’ and savor that good stuff. It really is remarkable that when you actually do focus on the positive, you’ll actually see and experience it. Go figure, who’d have thought it could be that simple?!

Wishing you barking loads of cool things to smile about this weekend! What’s on your weekend agenda that will make you smile and give thanks? 🐾

Gratitude – Part 1

I votedNow that the U.S. mid-term election is over, it occurred to me that I am just exhausted. No, I mean really exhausted, in fact I think I have a super bad case of voter fatigue–that crappy feeling you felt every time you wanted to enjoy an episode of…oh, say for instance…The Walking Dead and instead of the normal (albeit) annoying commercials, you were bombarded with minute after agonizing minute of vicious lies, half-truths and political chicanery about the candidates. You groaned, swore expletives, begged for mercy and your eyes finally glazed over after the first 50 times you saw the same ad that evening. You started getting headaches or drank to numb the pain of listening to all forms of evilness or, as in my case, became exceeding nasty and judgmental. No excuses mind you, but yeah, I was influenced by the media and the relentless hammering of candidates and I’m not proud of it.

What was once a keen eye for noticing the details of life, now had evolved into plain old bitchiness about everything and nothing escaped my jaundiced eye. I was watching everything from a same negative predisposition as the election and the resulting abyss wrapped its ugly tentacles around my heart. It pulled me in a downward negative spiral—a condition that is never optimal at anytime.

Over the weekend I realized that the bitch within saturated 95% of my waking hours and I realized that I had to get rid of ‘that’ person. She was waay too toxic. The amount of energy it took to have her occupy my soul had taken its toll and she. definitely. had. to. go!!! It takes so much energy to negate all those negative feelings/observations to even get back to any kind of homeostasis, let alone be awash with positive thoughts and feelings. No wonder my energy level was nil. I’d been terse and abrupt with those who mattered the most. I’ve been battling some serious demons here people and it’s just wasn’t working and I didn’t like the person who I’d become. 😒

I came to this crossroad of awareness when I went to the Apple store at the mall for a class. The mall had been transformed into a full-blown Christmas at the North Pole set done in the theme of the move Frozen even BEFORE Halloween. Gah!…does anyone have a way to remove that dreadfully overplayed song from your brain? Are you kidding me, I kept lamenting. Isn’t it only the first part of November? You’d have thought it was the night before Christmas by the look of things. People were already stressed and wigged out, fighting over the precious few parking slots there were, fuming at the lack of helpful staff and suffering from the unrealistic pressure we put on ourselves for finding that perfect gift for everyone on our list. Add overtired, sugared up children still buzzing from Halloween candy waiting in line to have that perfect photo-op with Santa (or Sven as the case may be), and you’ve got a toxic recipe that is more dangerous and contagious than Ebola. l sure as hell don’t need to experience any more of those negative feelings after enduring this past election.

With that confession out in the open and apologies to everyone, I’ve decided to devote the rest of the month focusing on…gratitude. As Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, I thought this is the perfect opportunity to focus on things that actually underscore happiness rather than highlight the ills of the world. It’ll make me a far more pleasant person to be around rather than that fussy, cranky and downright nasty person I keep seeing in the mirror.

So here are a few things for which I am grateful for or which make me smile to my core and make me actually want to experience the positive more. I intend to add to this list all month-long but for starters:

  • Sam…naturally. Who wouldn’t be grateful sharing life’s daily adventures with the goofiest/sweetest hound ever? I can always count on this pawsome dude to make me smile and realize just how great life really is.  I am so grateful for his companionship and happy demeanor and want to truly experience life through his optimistic eyes. He’s definitely a keeper and I so want to be the person he thinks I am (gulp).
  • My family. Don’t get me wrong, we have our fair share of ‘quirky’ characters, but I absolutely a-d-o-r-e each and every one of them, idiosyncrasies aside. 😃 We are an amazingly devoted clan and I’d be hard pressed to find better examples of humanity outside my genetic wading pool. THEY ARE THE BEST!
  • My health. Last year I suffered a bad accident that could have been worse. I’m so grateful that my daughter was still in Colorado then to taxi me to all the doctor and diagnostic appointments. While I’m not quite 100%, I’m so much better than I was a year ago and as I continue on the path to recovery, I realize even more how lucky I was that my injuries weren’t worse. Invariably you take your health for granted especially when it’s always been good in the past. That accident made me realize that I need to focus on recovering my vitality, strength and health through diligent work, physically, mentally and emotionally. Just like citizenship, good health isn’t a birthright—you have to work at it to keep it strong and fundamental.
  • This blog.  What a fabulous journey these past 7 months have been! It’s given me an avenue to share my thoughts and to recount the many ways my life has been positively touched by pet therapy. To all the teammates, their dogs, the patients, staff and hospital visitors, as well as you, dear readers, my deepest and profound thanks. It’s impossible to convey my gratitude in mere words for your kindness and the life lessons you’ve shared but please know I am eternally grateful. Your comments make my heart sing and this community has completely touched me.

My goal is to improve my attitude and see life through a positive thread rather than through a snarky observation. I hope you’ll continue to visit my ‘little acre of the Internet’ and share your thoughts about what makes you smile and what you feel grateful for in this life.

With peace and love of the season, I look forward to hearing from you soon. <3

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!