Winter’s just another game

Why do humans sweat the small stuff?

I was having a winter melt down this week when my frost bitten garage door wouldn’t budge, and I needed to get to work.

It really wasn’t a big deal, but for a couple of minutes it sure seemed like it.

Once I calmed down some, I realized I didn’t have to call in ‘sick.’ I just needed to phone in ‘stuck’ for a while with a big old piece of frozen wood.

Perhaps our dogs are smarter.

Like my handsome man Rex here who amused himself grooming his spiked mohawk while I donned my dirty dog haired covered jacket for a trip to the vet this morning.

Winter hasn’t exactly been a cake walk for him either.

Rex has slipped on the ice more than I have.

And my tenacious terrier Tuck decided to pierce Rex’s left ear one dark and stormy night over a fallen people cracker.

Even though a tiny earring would look pretty cool with Rex’s renegade mohawk, the vet and I nixed the idea as his ears are paper thin.

Anyway boys will be boys, and these boys will be forever more dining alone in their crates.

After passing his annual medical exam with flying colors of dog treats and high fives, Rex and I left for a little nerf ball/football in a nearby park.

As I opened my trunk to grab his toy, I saw it was empty.

It seemed I’d dropped the ball the weekend before when we were in a different dog park.

I felt bad for my tiny quarterback as we continued back home.

But it seems Rex is more resilient than me.

He bounded right out of his car seat and jumped on down. Then he started nudging our favorite decaying pumpkin by the back door towards the yard with his nose.

We’ve been using that orange frozen door stop on our most blustery days to keep the back screen door silent.

Though one day we did try to use it for snow bowling with mixed results.

I started wondering was Rex thinking of maybe trying a game of soccer?

Even though it is Super Bowl weekend I do know football on TV does make him sleepy.

Or maybe it’s all the commercials.

Anyway, I kicked the pumpkin back towards him for a while after his little nose would nudge it over to me.

And then I think I caught Rex smile.

Oh, what a game we had!

And what a sport is he.

And to think…we didn’t even sweat.

January Joy?

January and I have never been the best of friends.

Or winter either, as it turns out.

I was grumpy when I read the other day that my home state of Minnesota has just won first prize for having the most miserable winters.

But it wasn’t exactly a surprise and I didn’t need the reminder as I was about to start my third miserable commute of the week, and it was only Wednesday.

Once I arrived at the local skating rink called a freeway, I knew I needed to de-stress some.

I started by turning off Trump’s press conference on the radio in favor of classical music for a while.

Well, actually any music I could find.

I figured if I wanted to hear anger and frustration I could simply listen to the cranky drivers honking around me.

Still feeling restless an hour later, I thought I’d best compose a January mantra to chant during the rest of my prolonged commute:

“I’m thankful each night for those two frozen pumpkins glued next to my old storm door. These orange stoppers keep that door from blowing in the wind, allowing the dogs and me to snore away in heavenly peace.”

“I’m thankful for those dogs. They make for wonderful foot warmers at home and my pack takes their task seriously.”

“And I’m very thankful for my new calendar. It shows the month of January’s almost half over.”

I’m calling that progress.

That’s more than I can say for the roads, however.

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.

Hearts and hounds

“Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy.” – Buddha

I was asked to take a small piece of paper from a basket as I walked into the studio room for an exercise class last Sunday.

“It’s an affirmation,” I was told by the smiling instructor. “Take one if you’d like.”

I did, and slowly unfolded it.

“Seek joy,” it read.

A good one I thought for a bitter cold week.

Especially since I wasn’t feeling sweet at all.

The Valentine’s Day holiday can do that to a girl, especially when you’re buying your own chocolates.

My rational side knows it’s just another Hallmark holiday, so I was happy to re-focus on a quest for joy.

Still, I mailed a few Valentines to friends and family.

And I addressed a box of playful kitten and puppy Valentines for some young kids I work with for their annual party.

I found myself smiling as I wrote them out.

And I smiled even more as I received some in return.

Such incredible handmade cards they were, full of carefully constructed red hearts and painstakingly written “I love you”s.

My own heart skipped a beat.

I was so impressed by their generous spirit and good work. I wanted to do the same.

But how?

Then running an errand later at the local animal shelter, I had an idea.

I dug deep into the bottom of my purse for an extra Valentine. I had tossed a few in, just in case I came across someone who needed a day brightener.

And I had just met a candidate.

He was a 5 year old hound dog with soulful eyes.

A new tripod, he’d recently had surgery to remove one of his back legs.

The poor fellow still looked a bit sluggish from the operation, but had a special sparkle in his eye.

I walked over to the adoption desk, to inquire about his chances for finding a family. I knew the hound’s early days were tough ones.

“Well he actually has a prospect, and is on hold,” I was told.

Grinning, I thought about the average $147.00 spent this year by those celebrating Valentine’s Day on flowers that fade and cards that are tossed out with the trash.

But this sweet hound dog could fill someone’s heart with love for many years to come.

I quickly penned a puppy Valentine on behalf of Rex, a year old chi mix I adopted in December at the same shelter.

And then I handed the shelter associate three bills to help defray some of the hound’s adoption costs and hopefully seal the deal.

While waiting for my receipt, I saw a little shih tzu named Joy shimmying thru the busy reception area with a volunteer to meet up with his new mom.

On the speaker I then heard the words, “Joy is going home. Joy is going home!” Smiles spread quickly on all who heard.

Taking my receipt I walked out the front door to my car with my heart now full, led by sweet Joy all the way down the sidewalk.

And I whispered softly another quote I adore.

“In times of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag.”
-W.H. Auden

If I had one, I know mine would have been wagging like crazy.

Working through change

A 1:00 a.m. ear shattering shriek jolted me awake. It was coming from the kitchen where chi doxie Grandma Greta had been sleeping in her crate next to her corgi sister Maddie.

I brought Greta outside where she hopped around like a bunny for 30 seconds, ignoring ‘her business’, then demanding to return to the warmth of my tiny kitchen.

She’s been waking in the middle of the night ever since I moved at the end of September.

Maddie’s had issues as well. The normally quiet girl’s been grumbling overnight if she wakes and doesn’t see me.

Even my old terrier Tuck has been furious at being fenced off from the living room in his new home.

The sellers of my house installed white carpeting, perfect for attracting muddy paw prints and wet leaves.

Frustrated with my pack, I complained to the crew this morning over kibble.

“Hey guys, I’ve done well with the change, why can’t you? You’ve fallen in love with your great back yard, so I don’t understand the problem.”

But then I stopped my lecturing.

I thought about how I almost drove back to my old house last night after work.

And how I still have a stack of unpacked boxes I’ve been ignoring.

Yup, change is no dog treat.

Looking over at Grandma Greta, I suddenly remembered her old blue blanket went missing in the move.

She used to pull it over her head with those tiny paws to tune out the world as she slept.

I’ll pick up a new cozy one at the thrift store.

Looking next at Maddie, I remembered my sweet matron was used to sleeping at the foot of my old oversized mattress that I’d just tossed in the move.

She probably misses having me nearby. I’ll pick up an extra dog bed for the bedroom.

I then glanced over at Tuck. He was eyeing his favorite leather couch, just beyond the locked gate in the living room.

“Tuck, carpets, like dogs can always be washed clean. Right?”

He looked back at me.

And I detected a grin.

Taking it as a sign, I’m confident we’re going to be just fine after all.

Moving Lesson: 2

So I’ve learned something else about packing for a move to a new house.

Never ever refer to your possessions as “treasures.”

Because here’s what happens.

You’ll stop ‘moving’, for one.

And two, you’ll soon be picking up every little gem, holding it up to the light just to see how it shines.

I learned that many years ago helping Grandma Esther go through her old agates and Life magazines in that musty magical storage shed.

Every last gem in there was a treasure for sure.

As for me, I don’t have a storage shed.

But I do have a basement.

And my nephew’s even deemed it magical.

If you enter my yellowing submarine, you’ll find yourself lost below ground for hours.

In fact today I snorkeled down there, finding new treasure trove which caused me to float off course.

This morning’s special diamond was an old family picture of Big Dog (a.k.a brother Scott) and Little Dog (a.k.a Buffy). They were a very bonded pair.

I’d never seen the birthday shot of the two ‘dogs’ before.

Likely it swam my direction in a box, as we did last minute clean up on Mom’s and Dad’s house before it sold.

I noticed Little Dog looks old and very gray in the picture.

The shot was likely taken shortly before she passed.

Yet Little Dog had a great and long run, far exceeding our expectations.

In contrast, Big Dog looks young and vibrant in the picture.

Though he passed shortly after the photo was taken as well.

Still Big Dog’s run was also good, even if his distance fell unexpectedly short.

I’m very happy I made my detour today, finally coming up for air up with my picture in hand.

It really is quite a treasure.

And I already have a special spot in mind in my new home, right on top of the fireplace mantle.

I know the light there will continue to shine on this bonded dog pack for many years to come.