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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Jellybean’s New Closet

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You all know by now that Jellybean is one very lucky and spoiled little puppy.  You also know that her mama is a bit over the top when it comes to ensuring that she has everything she “needs.”  I wrote about Jellybean’s closet in a previous blog, in which I introduced you to her many outfits and accoutrements.   I’ve also written about the items this little diva “requires” when we travel, right down to her little doggy pajamas.  Today, I am excited to tell you about Jellybean’s new and improved closet.  This is a closet that will be the envy of every well-dressed pup.

In June, I purchased a beautiful, spacious condo.  We both love it!  I have lots of room for my “stuff” and Jellybean has room to run, chase her tail, hide her treats and all the things that rambunctious little puppies do.  I am so fortunate that the lovely lady who previously owned the condo was particular about her living space and made sure there was ample storage throughout.  Call me one lucky lady in that every closet in the house is custom, each with compartments for hanging clothes and organizing shoes and various accoutrements.

This brings us to the hall closet, heretofore known as Jellybean’s closet.  What a beauty it is!  It is the perfect space for storing and organizing her amazing wardrobe.  There is a compartment for her sweaters, a compartment for winter jackets, one for fleece doggy jackets made with love by her “Grandma” and also a compartment for T-shirts (holiday and event related).  We are not done yet!  There is also a combination compartment for her pajamas, holiday wear, hoodies and raincoats.  The organization doesn’t stop at her wardrobe.  There is storage for her lunch boxes, because every well-dressed puppy carries her own lunch box into doggy daycare, right?  Well….this well-dressed puppy proudly prances in the door to daycare, lunchbox clenched tightly between her pearly white teeth with her tail held high.  She actually has the choice of several.  I leave it up to her.   Treats, dog food, and bowls have a special place.  Grooming necessities, such as brushes, rubber bands, hair bows, washcloths, doggie toothbrush and toothpaste, towels and puppy shampoo are readily available.  Leashes and collars are neatly stored on hangers.  There is even a special spot for the book bag we use when participating in therapy dog visits with our KPets group.

Over the top?  Perhaps, but when I signed on to be Jellybean’s mama, I promised that I would love her and care for her.  If that means I get to spoil her too, I’m all over it.  What’s that you say?  A box from Amazon Prime was just left at the door?  What could it be?  Yippee!!  Her colorful tutu has arrived! Shhhhhh… Jellybean is going to be a clown for Halloween this year.  I can’t wait to see how this year’s costume comes together.  But for now, this rainbow-colored tutu is going….you guessed it….in Jellybean’s closet!

Beverly Stiffler Smith

Children’s Author

Check out my books here! 

“Furever” Grateful

Actress Doris Day once said, “I have found when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”  I agree whole-heartedly with this statement and recently experienced a dose of this unconditional love from my own puppy.  As many of you know, Jellybean and I are a therapy team and when my schedule allows, we participate in events along with our local KPets chapter.  Jellybean is always eager to meet new people and get a few extra belly rubs along the way.

Recently, however, I was in need of some therapy of my own.  My mother, who is 83, and has always been extremely healthy, suffered a heart attack.  The doctors shook their heads in disbelief to discover that at 83 she was on no medication and the last time she was in the hospital was in 1960, when she gave birth to my youngest sister.  I knew when she called and asked me to take her to urgent care because she didn’t feel well, something serious was going on.  Fortunately I live about five minutes away from her and arrived quickly.  Imagine my surprise to find her lying on the bathroom floor, pale and gray.  She was still able to speak and said her chest hurt.  I immediately called 911 and within 5 minutes the medics were at the door.  I rode up front in the ambulance and called my sister on the way.  I was scared and was trying so hard to keep thoughts of my husband’s fatal heart attack 15 years ago at bay.

As I waited to hear something from anybody, I ran into an old friend who sat with me and talked about this and that.  I know now that it was her way of keeping me calm and focused.  I was able to talk to my sister again and called my best friend and asked if she could go to my house and be with my puppy, as I had no way to know how long I would be gone.  In the meantime, a liaison from the hospital took me back to the family room so I could wait away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital to wait for news of my mom.  And then the tears started and the memories came flooding back.  I could see myself standing at the phone in my classroom in total disbelief as my stepson, only a teenager at the time, tried so hard to remain composed and delivered the news that he had walked in from school to his father having a heart attack and that he would meet me at the hospital.  I still am not sure how I got there, but I did.  After tearfully explaining who I was and that my husband had just been brought in, a hospital liaison took me back to a quiet little room to wait.  Sitting in that room, alone, waiting for my stepson to arrive and not knowing what was happening with my husband, the love of my life, was so painful.   Suddenly the door opened and the liaison returned, much more solemnly than the first time I had met her.  She quietly delivered the news that my husband had died on the way to the hospital.  All of this was spinning in my head as I sat and once again in a little room by myself to await any news on my mother.

My sister arrived as quickly as she could.  We cried together a little bit and decided we should let our brother know what was happening, as well as our sister in Las Vegas.  Shortly after those calls had been made a doctor came in to update us.  Our mother was in the Cath Lab.  They had already discovered that she had 100% blockage of the main artery that runs across the front of the heart.  The procedure to insert a stent was in process. The prognosis looked good.  She had arrived quickly enough that there did not appear to be other damage.  The fact that she was in such good general health was in her favor.  The hospital was great, making sure that my sister and I were always in close proximity to her, as she moved from one care unit to another.  As a matter of fact, everything went so well that 5 hours later, around 1:00 AM, they had sent my sister and I home so that our mother could rest in between the routine monitoring and bloodwork that would occur throughout the night.

Still a bit scared and nervous we headed to my house, where my friend, Michele, and my puppy were waiting for us.  Mind you, it is quite unusual for either of them to be up at 1:30 in the morning, but both were wide awake.  Jellybean immediately could sense my nervousness.  She stayed right by my side as the three of us sat at the table drinking hot tea and eating animal crackers, well…. four of us were eating animal crackers.  Throughout the night, Jellybean, who shares my bed, stayed pretty close as I tossed and turned all night long.  The next morning, although happy to see our houseguests, she still wanted to be by me.  Mind you, she is a bit of a mamma’s girl, but she was overly protective of me throughout the day and the next several as well.  I found myself really holding on to Jellybean over the next few days.  She eagerly sat with me and several times reached out with her little paw and laid it on my leg as if to say “Everything is going to be okay.”  She even lapped up a tear or two.  My mother was released a few days later and came to stay with us for a few days.  When it was time for bed, Jellybean snuggled right alongside my mother until it was time for her last potty call.  In the morning she bolted down the steps and headed toward the bedroom.  It was almost as though Jellybean knew she had to be extra gentle with her.  She didn’t pounce like she usually does, but once again snuggled up against her. And so the “silent devotion” continued in the days following.  I am “furever” grateful to have a puppy that willingness shares her heart with me, my family and the children, college students, elderly and community members that benefit from her sloppy kisses as a therapy dog.  I am also grateful to have such a wonderful friend, who didn’t even blink when I asked her to leave her family in my time of need.

Beverly Stiffler Smith

Children’s Author

Check out my books here!