Boys and their toys

I’d told my dog Rex that I was concerned he wasn’t quite ready for therapy work due to those puppy like tendencies he still hasn’t outgrown.

Chewing being number one on the list.

Yet his vet and the volunteer coordinator at the care facility where he’s sorely needed weren’t concerned in the least.

So I splurged and bought my handsome man a fancy new plaid tie to wear while working for $6.00.

That’s more than I spent on my whole summer wardrobe.

Anyway I then reviewed with Rex the need to look presentable and to act responsibly in his important volunteer position.

Next I awarded him with his new piece of neckwear, sliding it slowly over his little head.

Rex immediately opened wide and sucked that whole silk tie into his mouth, with those tiny teeth in full glory noshing away.

That is until I slid it out.

And quickly gave it instead to brother Tuck the terrier commenting, “Hey Rex, this is no candy coated chew toy!!”

Rex is very lucky and seemed relieved that I’ll still be allowing him to make visits.

And if he does a really nice job maybe someday (or more likely some year) I might just try a bow tie instead.

Community at large

I purposely parked on a pretty tree lined street this morning so I could walk smelling the freshly mowed grass in the shade.

Crossing the creek, I saw my final destination in the distance.

It was both a church and a community volunteer fair.

The church had invited a local bluegrass band called Monroe Crossing to be part of their morning service and to help celebrate volunteerism at the fair.

I’m in a Facebook creative arts group with a friend named Candy, a talented photographer and blogger, from Vermont.

Candy had just met the band last month when she was singing with her choir at another church in Hoosick Falls, NY.

It’s a community of particularly nice folks who once helped me out when I got lost rushing to an airport in Albany.

Candy told me I just had to hear them play in my town and to say hello to the female singer Lisa on her behalf.

I know this church venue in my community well, having attended their church camp as a teen and some of their services over the years.

It’s a large city place of worship, yet with a small town feel. In spite of its size, I recognized the name of one of the two members who had passed this last week.

He’d been very active in the community and through his work had become a good friend of my late father’s.

Back outside after the service, I recognized and spoke to another smiling woman who worked with my daughter at the same church camp 35 years later. She was looking for volunteers.

And at a nearby table I met the community volunteer coordinator at a local care facility where I’d considered placing my husband in his final days.

I saw her sign asking for pet visitors. When I mentioned my chi mix Rex back at home her eyes lit up.

Then she smiled.

One of the residents had been particularly devastated when her chis had to be re-homed after she’d moved in recently.

“Rex is up to the challenge,” I told her.

A woman listening at the next table wondered if Rex could make visits to her adult day care program also. I remembered her name as she shared it with me. I had spoken with her several years ago about my husband.

Though Rex isn’t fully trained yet as a therapy dog, he can start with both groups right away.

Looks like Rex’s community is growing as fast as the corn since moving up here from the south in December.

On my way back to the tent where the blue grass band was now playing, I stopped to pick the group up some mini donuts at the stand behind me. I’d heard a band member mention that sweet scent of the warm sugar blowing by in the breeze.

But first I stopped to greet a small five year old just as sweet in sun glasses who was calling my name. He attends the school where I work several towns away.

Once I introduced the donuts and myself to the band Monroe Crossing, we spoke of our mutual friend Candy, and the friendly community of Hoosick Falls.

And then the band members insisted we all take a picture together.

And we did.

After, I whistled their songs crossing back over the creek to my car.

And then I smiled thinking how fortunate we are to have so many communities in our lives, big and small.

And also, how blessed.

When your job is joy

My dog Rex woke up this morning with spiked hair and a little bleary eyed.

“What’s up with that that?” I asked him.

Rex uttered a subdued growl in response.

I turned on the local news for him while I put on the coffee.

Rex clearly was needing a shot of caffeine himself.

“Remember Rex, we’ve got some training to do later tonight,” I told him as I walked into the kitchen.

This time I detected a yawn.

I ‘m anxious to get my handsome man fully trained to be a therapy dog, but wasn’t feeling ‘the love’ from Rex for the idea at 5:00 a.m.

But when I returned with my coffee mug and a small saucer for him, I found Rex energized watching a special story involving a special dog.

I sat down to join him.

Afterwards, I told him, “Regarding your training, you’ve been doing well. I think you’re almost ready to start your visits.

“But there’s one more thing, the spiked hair’s gotta go.”

Rex slowly raised his head and looked up at me.

And I know this time, I clearly detected a smile.

To Have and to Hold

I was walking my pup Rex the other day, or maybe I should say Rex was walking me.

Since we were working on leash training, Rex and I made a quick visit to a neighborhood of ethnic restaurants and shops. I thought it might be helpful to familiarize my boy with traffic lights and crosswalks.

A pleasant, silver haired woman on the sidewalk commented to me, “Oh, I wish I could have a dog like that, but I can’t in the place where I’m living.”

The expression on her face saddened, but just briefly.

She soon started to smile once Rex began to dance excitedly in figure eights around my ankles.

Note, the dance was not at all part of my robust training plan.

I thought about her comment afterwards feeling a little guilty about the joy Rex and my other two dogs bring me.

I receive an abundance of riches with each lick of the hand and warm welcome given as I walk through my door nightly after work.

And my canine crew’s helped anchor my family and I during the rocky storms of health issues the last few years.

The sweet lady on the sidewalk reminded me of another woman who’d roomed with my mother in a memory care unit after a stroke.

So tiny and frail, I’d often find the resident in a fetal position on her bed. She’d always be clutching the same well worn stuffed animal.

It was a balding little gray dog.

I wished it could have been real.

Yet I was thinking today maybe it was in a way.

That stuffed dog could have been a surrogate for one special pup loved long ago.

And one that also used to lick her delicate hand.

When or if there comes a time in life when I’m no longer able to have a dog, I hope memories of the dogs I once loved will do the same.

I believe they will.

And if my health allows, I’ll continue working as a therapy dog volunteer.

Even if I have to beg to borrow a Bassett Hound for each visit.