Sharing the Love

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Jellybean and I recently participated in a therapy visit to a local nursing home.  There were five dogs and two cats along for the visit, in addition to each of their handlers.  It was a unique visit for me, as the nursing home was located in a small town in the southern part of the county where I spent the first twenty three years of my life.  As the residents walked, shuffled, wheeled or were in some cases assisted into the large activity room, now forty years later, I found myself looking deeply into the faces of the residents and searching for some familiarity.  I found it in the face of a gentleman, who sat very quietly off to the side.  He did not speak, nor did he reach out to pet Jellybean, nor any of the other visiting furry friends for that matter.  I tried not to be obvious, but there was something very familiar about him.  His hair line and squared off chin brought forth some very fuzzy images from my childhood, but not enough for me to determine where he fit in my life.  Although he did not actively participate in touching the dogs and cats, there was a twinkle in his eye that let everyone know he was very much enjoying the visit.

The room was buzzing with chatter and laughter as the therapy pets and handlers made their way around the circle.  One gentleman shared the story of how his dog brought him back to life.  He was on the verge of passing and his family brought his dog into the hospital to visit with him.  He told me with tear-filled eyes it took a few hours but all of a sudden he felt himself changing and he worked to bring himself out of his quiet reverie.  As he continued to stroke Jellybean’s fluffy head, he looked up at me and said, “And here I am to tell you my story.”  I need no further proof that the love between pets and their owners knows no bounds.

Jellybean and I then perched ourselves between an elderly resident and her mother, who had come in specifically to see her mother interact with the therapy animals.  Jellybean had the benefit of sitting on my lap, which she loves, and having both women gently stroke her soft fur at the same time.  In other words, she was in doggy heaven!  They began asking questions about Jellybean, so I shared how my precious little puppy became part of my life.  I also shared that because she is quite a little character when not in therapy mode, she inspired my first children’s picture books.  They immediately asked about the books.  Never one to disappoint, I reached into Jellybean’s back pack and produced not one, not two, but the entire Jellybean trilogy.  Before long, the daughter began reading Naughty Little Puppy out loud to her mother.  Those in close proximity leaned in closer so that they were able to hear.  It was the most beautiful thing ever; story time in the nursing home.  They giggled and laughed at Jellybean’s silly antics and talked about the colorful illustrations.  Suddenly I was transported back to my kindergarten classroom in the midst of the best picture walk ever.  Those in close proximity were engaged and focused on the book.  It was actually quite humbling and yet it made me realize that it really is true that as we age, we sometimes revert back to seeing things through a child’s eyes.

It was a wonderful visit.  The morning flew by and soon the resident’s attention was diverted by the enticing aroma of lunch being prepared for them.  With that, the group began gathering back packs, water bowls, and of course dogs and cats and bid adieu until the next time.  I walked Jellybean to the car, dropped off her accoutrements, took her on a potty walk, gave her a drink of cold water, then plopped her in her little car seat.  She was fast asleep before we even made it back to Main Street.  As I drove home, my mind wandered, and I began thinking about the opportunities animal therapy provides.  Although my schedule does not allow us to do as many visits as I would like, I am honored to be involved in a program that makes people happy simply by sharing the love.

 

Beverly Stiffler Smith

Children’s Author

Check out my books here! 

 

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Bang! Kaboom! Sizzle! Skedaddle!

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What do you do when your puppy is terrified of loud noises and here comes the Fourth of July holiday?  This year is a particularly rough one with the holiday falling on Wednesday.  Heaven knows that Jellybean is ready with her patriotic dress and coordinating bow.  Communities and families are making it a week-long celebration with picnics, parties and fireworks shows.  Jellybean and I are approaching week two at our new home and loving it.  Did I mention, however, that we are directly up the hill from a beautiful park that serves the community with programs, concerts, recreational facilities and yes, gigantic firework shows?  Enter a carefree puppy that generally prances through life, ears flapping as she bounds from room to room, silky white tail held high. That is until she hears the loud pop and sizzle of a fire cracker set off in the local neighborhood.  Suddenly this carefree little puppy loses all sense of security.  Her ears droop low.  Her tail drags on the ground; she begins panting and looks at me with those dark, soulful eyes for help.  It is almost like she is saying, “Okay, Momma, you are my protector, do your job!”   The problem is, she will not allow me to do my job.  She is inconsolable and does not want me to pet, hold, or even speak in a reassuring voice to her.  She just wants to get to a safe place where she can hide until the fear no longer controls her.  That is usually under a piece of furniture; the sofa, the overstuffed chair, or a bed.

Medication is not my first choice to deal with Jellybean’s anxiety, and I have avoided it for the first four years of her life.  But let’s face it, there is going to be a genuine, full blown fireworks show right down the street. This is nothing to make light of.  She will be terrified and it is my responsibility to see that she is safe and comfortable during the event.  The timing for Jellybean’s yearly vet appointment provided the perfect opportunity for me to speak to her veterinarian regarding my concern.  The vet agreed that this event was much more intense than a neighbor popping off a few random fireworks.  We walked away from the appointment with a prescription of anxiety medication that should be given about an hour prior to the big light show.

The evening of the concert, to be followed by a gigantic fireworks show arrived.  We had a great day with lots of family and friends helping to celebrate our new home.  As evening approached, Jellybean and I headed downstairs to the family room.  I turned the television a bit louder than usual and the dehumidifier hummed in the background.  I gave the medication as directed, and put Jellybean in her ducky pajamas, so that the tightness of the material could help to sooth her. We made ourselves comfortable on the sofa and began to watch television in the family room.  Fifteen minutes later, Jellybean was sound asleep.  I heard the first boom and held my breath.  Jellybean sat up and looked around.  Then, quick as a wink, she snuggled into the blanket beside me on the couch and fell back to sleep.  The fireworks continued with big kabooms, sizzles, cracks, and bangs.  Jellybean remained as snug as a bug in a rug for the evening.  Whew!  All my anxiety about this night for naught!  Just to be on the safe side, I waited an extra half hour before rousing her to take a potty break and head to bed for the night.  I made sure to let her know what a good girl she had been as I fastened the clasp on her pretty pink harness..  I opened the door and we stepped out onto the brick pavement, and KABOOM!!!  A neighbor, one street over, set off a perfectly legal, albeit very loud firework just as we walked out the door.  I turned to look at Jellybean, as her ears drooped low.  Her tail was tight against her bottom and its silky white hair spread out on the ground.  She began panting and looked at me with those dark, soulful eyes for help.  Slinking close to the ground she turned and headed for the door.  I opened it and she quickly scaled the brick step.  I reached down to undo the clasp on her harness and she was gone in a flash.  Up the stairs and under the bed, the darkness once again providing the safe haven she needed at that moment.  Well, we almost made it through the night before the bang, kaboom, sizzle, skedaddle!  At 3:30 AM I hear her scratching and pawing at the side of my bed.  Finally, hours later, the anxiety had eased and she was ready to snuggle by my side for a good night’s sleep.  The morning arrived quickly and she was raring to go, carefree and rambunctious as always.  That is until the next bang, kaboom, sizzle, and skedaddle!

 

Beverly Stiffler Smith

Children’s Author

Check out my books here! 

 

The Great Canine Badge Caper

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This weekend Jellybean and I had the opportunity to participate in an event for the local Girl Scout chapter.  We were there as part of KPets, the Keystone Pet Enhanced Therapy organization.  This is an organization whose motto is “Touching lives, warming hearts through human and animal interaction.”  At any given event you may see dogs of varying breeds and size, cats, mini horses, rabbits, etc. The five dogs that were in attendance during our 2-hour session were met with enthusiasm as the 200 plus young ladies oohed and ahhed over these four-legged fur babies.  They petted and stroked their fur, shared stories about their own pets, and giggled and smiled at the apparel and accessories chosen for this specific event.  It was refreshing to hear so many of the girls sharing their accomplishments as they spoke about the various badges adorning their sashes.  These young, achievement oriented girls represented their organization well, and are enthusiastic leaders in the making.  On the drive home, I glanced at my tired little puppy and started wondering what sort of badges she would earn in the dog world.  After some serious contemplation, I actually came up with a few:

COMPANIONSHIP BADGE – Jellybean has brought so much light into my world.  She earns this badge for romping into my life and being my rambunctious, fun-loving side kick.

LOYALTY BADGE  – I could not ask for a more loyal four-legged friend.  Jellybean is constantly by my side.  This badge is awarded for her unwavering loyalty.

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE BADGE  – Jellybean asks for nothing in return, yet gives so much!  She earns this badge for her big heart and sloppy kisses.

NAPPER BADGE – She earns this badge for leaving no spot unturned to find the very best place to nap.

COLLECTOR BADGE – Jellybean is a collector of many things; toys, sticks, pinecones, treats.  She earns this badge for proudly prancing down the street with her treasure of choice.

CONCEALER BADGE  – Jellybean is a certified concealer.  She earns this particular badge for spending much time and consideration as to the perfect hiding place for her special treats.

BEST DRESSED BADGE – Jellybean is quite the fashion diva with her vast wardrobe and accessories.  Jellybean earns this badge for accommodating me, her over the top pet parent, when it comes to having just the right outfit for any occasion.

TAIL CHASING BADGE – Jellybean earns this badge for her expertise at spinning at a high rate of speed as she pursues her elusive fluffy white tail.

MOON WALK BADGE  – Jellybean has been awarded this badge for having mastered backing up lickety split from behind the couch when she hears the rattle of a snack bag.

NAUGHTY BADGE – This was Jellybean’s very first badge, earned for running away with things that did not belong to her.  She was very quickly deemed a naughty little puppy.

The Dog That Thought She Was A Cat

Cats are notorious for lounging on the window sill.  They can relax for hours as the bright sun warms their fur.  With their sharp vision, they observe daily life on the other side of the window.  Out there; people walk by, cars zoom past, squirrels frolic in the leaves and scamper up and down trees in search of the day’s bounty.  Let’s not forget the birds that perch on the edge of the tree limbs and tweet out their sweet melodies or the tiny spiders that busily weave webs that stretch across the window pane.  Cats are intrigued by it all and can lose themselves in the daily activities that surround them.  Wait a minute, hold up, back up the bus…..

High above her cushy bed, Jellybean perches on her window seat.  She basks in the sunshine, letting it warm her fur.  Her eyes scanning the world outside the window, Jellybean watches as people walk by, cars zoom past, squirrels frolic in the leaves and scamper up and down trees in search of the day’s bounty.  Let’s not forget the birds that perch on the edge of the tree limbs and tweet out their sweet melodies or the tiny spiders that busily weave webs that stretch across the window pane. Squirrels, people, and spiders, oh my!  But wait, something is wrong with this picture.  Although demonstrating cat-like behaviors, Jellybean by no means is a cat.  For those who are familiar with my blog, you know that Jellybean is a spunky, sweet, precocious little puppy.  She just happens to love spending her quiet time in the window, demonstrating cat-like behaviors.  She watches.  She stretches and arches her back.  She licks her paws and preens her white fur to satisfy the diva in her.  She watches some more.  She sleeps in the sun as the world passes by her window.  I’m not too concerned that she may be having an identity crisis, as the rest of her day is spent doing what dogs do;  chewing on bones, playing with squeaky toys, hiding her treats, and yes, chasing her tail.

Just how did this penchant for becoming a furry piece of window candy come to be?  Actually, I remember it quite well.  It was Thanksgiving Eve, 2014. I was prepping for Thanksgiving dinner for the usual eleven family members. Jellybean was only seven months old, a rambunctious, care free pup running around the house getting her naughty on.  While Thanksgiving dinner itself is not that involved; stuff a turkey, peel potatoes and make some gravy, for my family it is the infamous “second round” that requires the most effort.  After the noon-time meal has been devoured, football games enjoyed, board games played, and respective naps taken throughout the day, we indulge in an array of homemade goodness.  A spread of various salads, cheese & veggie trays, homemade dips, pickled eggs, baked mac & cheese or rich cream of crab soup, turkey sandwiches with all the fixings, pumpkin pie, cake, cookies, rich desserts, oh and don’t forget all the crunchy stuff like chips, pretzels, tortilla chips and salsa. It is a sight to behold and takes hours of prep work.  I love to cook, however, and nothing gives me more pleasure than having my family over for a day of pure homemade goodness!  Only this year, there was a caveat I had not experienced previously; namely my sweet, energetic, naughty little puppy.  She was into everything, which created one interruption after another.  Sequestering her in the kitchen worked for a while until a piece of onion fell to the floor and she made a beeline for it. At that point I needed a plan C.  It was at that moment I noticed snowflakes falling.  The large bay window in my kitchen allowed me the pleasure of enjoying nature during those times I would get my Betty Crocker on.

Hey, wait a minute! I think I have a plan C!  I folded one of Jellybean’s blankets and placed it on the deep window sill, then picked her up and settled her on the blanket.  She was immediately intrigued by the falling snow.  A squirrel ran down the side of the tree and across the yard.  Her eyes followed it until the bushy brown tail was no longer in sight….and the rest is history!  To this day, three years later, the window is Jellybean’s favorite chill spot.  She soaks up the sun and watches the world go by.  She has actually become quite the neighborhood spectacle.  Neighbors slow down as they drive by and peer out their car windows to see if she is in her spot of choice taking stock of the neighborhood.  People out for a walk with their dogs point and chuckle at her.  The mail carrier even takes the time to give Jellybean a wave.  I am so glad I discovered Jellybean’s appreciation for the world around her, even if it appears she has taken her cue from her feline friends.

Perhaps we all could learn a little something from Jellybean and take the time to slow down and appreciate the beauty of our surroundings, one squirrel at a time.