A Turkey, A Dog, and A Bear…Oh My!

One minute we are sitting with our team of therapy dogs and handlers talking with children at a local YMCA for a Healthy Kids event and the next minute in my peripheral vision I see something that makes my heart start to pound.  I begin a little self-talk.  “Please don’t come over here! Please don’t come over here!  Oh please don’t come over here!”  Jellybean stands at attention, sensing something is about to happen.  I can feel her body tense and I hear a low growl.  “It’s okay Jellybean.  She won’t hurt you,” said the cowardly one.  She looked at me with such trust, then turned and looked at the big, yellow-beaked creature coming straight toward us.  I take a deep breath and tell myself, “I can do this.  I can do this.”

We are sitting in the stands at York College for the girls’ basketball game.  The game is in full swing; both teams running up and down the court, buzzers going off, whistles blowing, fans cheering, Jellybean and the other therapy dogs sitting behind the home team sound asleep.  Seriously, they sleep during the game, oblivious to the hubbub around them.  Suddenly the buzzer sounding half time goes off and the dogs jump up and quickly spring into action as the fans climb into the stands to pet their favorite four-legged pals.  Jellybean is soaking up the attention from a young fan when I give her leash a little tug.  I take a deep breath and mutter to myself, “Oh, no, not again!”   I sense movement at the corner of the bleacher.  There it is; the green hairy leg, complete with a green and white striped sock and a gigantic orange sneaker.  My eyes are big as I watch and silently plead for it to go the other way.  But to no avail, as it gallivants around the corner of the bleacher heading straight for us.  I start to sweat and my heart beats double time.  Jellybean must sense my fear, because she lets out a bark so loud and ferocious that it scared the other dogs into a barking frenzy like York College basketball has never known.

It’s Bark in the Park Day at the York Revolution baseball game.  Jellybean and I are seated behind third base.  In case you wondered, yes, she has her own seat and yes, she is wearing her favorite pink baseball cap and Revs t-shirt.  I actually brought her little pink bed along and tucked it deep into the stadium seat so it would stay down all by itself.  We are enjoying the game and sharing a basket of tasty chicken tenders, when fans around us start chanting “Down Town!  Down Town!  Down Town!”  I quickly stuff the tenders in my bag and go on high alert.  I look at the big screen in the outfield to see if I can determine where my nemesis is located.  Oh no, it is right behind the players in our section, just a few rows in front of us.  Just as I spot the furry mascot, it turns around and our eyes lock.  I can’t breathe.  Then, its’ gaze shifts to my precious little puppy and it is on the move.  My first thought is, “Oh please, somebody hit a homerun.  Somebody do something to distract this overzealous, overgrown blue bird before it gets to my baby!”  Jellybean on the other hand seems intrigued as it plops in the empty seat beside her, rubbing its’ over-sized belly with one hand and stroking her back with the other.  Me, on the other hand, I am frozen in my seat.  I am watching what is happening right beside me, but I seriously can’t move.

Well, if you haven’t guessed it by now, I suffer from Masklophobia.  This is an actual phobia that is characterized by a fear of people in masks and costumes, and costumed characters, such as the likes of Hilda the Turkey Hill Mascot, Screamer, the York College mascot, and even Down Town, the big-bellied baseball-loving bird for the York Revolution.  For me, I think it is the not knowing who is behind the costume that scares me the most. This is something that has plagued me as far back as I can remember and obviously is still an issue.  Case in point, just a few years ago I attended a conference in California.  Apparently we were a hop, skip and a jump away from Downtown Disney.  I refused to leave the hotel for the entire week for fear I would run into Mickey Mouse and his menagerie of friends.

My trip to Vegas with friends will drive the point home.  We were on the third floor of the M&M store thoroughly engrossed in the colorful candy displays, when out of the back room struts the biggest yellow M&M I have ever seen.  It was waving its’ pudgy white hands and stomping its’ chunky white sneakers as it danced across the floor toward us.  I turned to my friend and frantically announced, “I’m out of here!”  I hopped on the escalator and rode down to the first floor where I waited by the front door until the rest of the group arrived, apparently not at all phased by the phenomena of a walking piece of candy.

What can I say, I’m a mess!  I must admit, however, I am trying to work on it.  Being involved with the therapy dog group, Jellybean and I often participate in community related events such as this past Saturday where interaction with characters such as Hilda – the Turkey Hill Turkey, Smokey the Bear, and McGruff the Crime Dog are part of the entertainment for the event. I certainly don’t want my spunky little puppy to feed off my fear, so…for the sake of my sweet Jellybean I need to muster the courage to look those mascots right in the eye – or eyes, whatever might be the case, celebrate their uniqueness and try to find the joy that others seem to see in them.  Wait a minute, did that giant Hershey Kiss just move?

Beverly Stiffler Smith

Children’s Author

Check out my books here! 

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May I Have An Adjective, Please?

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Someone recently asked me to describe Jellybean in one word.  What? Describe her in one word?  I don’t see how I can do that!  Always up for a challenge, however, I thought about it for a while.  Sassy would be a good word to describe her, but so are playful and silly.  Then there’s lovable, spoiled and stubborn.  Okay, okay.  I can’t do it. There is no one word to describe this precious little puppy.  So, let me flip this game around and ask the question “May I have an adjective please?”  Here’s a few that would describe Jellybean quite well:

Rambunctious, affectionate, happy, precocious, amusing, joyful, assuming, bright-eyed, trusting, feisty, demanding, cuddly, stubborn, shy, eager-to-please, spoiled, rowdy, energetic, pouty, bright, faithful, loving, fun, pretty, exhausting, gentle, timid, goofy, pampered, therapy dog, naughty, frisky, loyal, mischievous, unpredictable, diva-like, friendly, cute, protective, smart, family, entertaining, pouty, loved, furry, snuggly, chubby, joyful, daring, sweet, devoted, wonderful, unassuming,  soft, best friend, well-dressed, accommodating, active, needy, merry, hilarious, well-groomed, gleeful, and lucky.

So there you have it, just a few words to describe my sweet little Jellybean.  Our pups are our family.  They have so much personality and are such a big part of our lives.  Now I’ll pass the challenge on to you.  Can you describe your furry little friend in one word or will you too need a plethora of adjectives to get the job done right?

Beverly Stiffler Smith

Children’s Author

Check out my books here! 

Homegrown Love

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Just when you think you know where life is taking you, it can suddenly take an unexpected turn.  Enter my brother; exactly a year and six days younger than me.  He is a mason/block layer by trade.  Forty two years of climbing ladders and scaffolding, carrying bricks and cement blocks and his hips are simply shot.  He can barely walk, and when he does, he must depend on a walker.  One unsuccessful surgery to date has landed him in dire straits.  In other words, no work equals no income.  After forty two years of making a living building, creating, repairing and restoring homes, businesses, old buildings, and the like, he has hit a wall.  It appears that this wall is even tougher to break through than any brick wall he ever built.  The wall has a name:  Disability.  What a nightmare!  The hoops that one has to jump through and the time frame for having one’s name go into the system, is in my opinion unacceptable.  Six months just to get a name into the system, then scheduling of hearings and continued paperwork.  I am being told it could be all but a year until assistance is available.  This is a pretty hard pill to swallow for someone who started working at the age of fifteen and by twenty had settled into his work as a mason, his livelihood for forty two years.

Why am I writing about a topic such as this today when I usually write silly little blogs about my puppy Jellybean you ask?  Actually, this blog has everything to do with Jellybean.  You see, about two months ago my brother called and asked if he could come and stay for a while.  With no income, a depleted bank account and hips that were failing him, it was all but impossible for him to continue to live independently.  Not to mention that his rental was on the second floor.  Watching him labor up and down the steps to his apartment brought tears to my eyes every time I saw him struggle through it.  Although I never planned on a roommate, other than my four-legged one, how can you say no to someone so totally in need?

Now enter Jellybean, my furry, little love bug.  She has been so happy to have him here.  Who ever thought she would be providing her therapy services right here in my home?  She scampers down the steps in the morning and heads down the hall to the guest bedroom to give him his good morning kisses.  I can hear him greet her with “Hi baby!”  “How’s my little girl?”  “I was waiting for you!”  She eats it up all day long.  She comes running when she hears, “Where’s my little Jellybean?”  She jumps up on the couch and covers him with her sloppy kisses.  When I have to leave for the morning or afternoon, she is right by his side.  They snuggle while watching television.  She checks in on him throughout the day.  They have become quite the little duo.  My sister and mother have been helping as well.  On the days he is at either of their houses, he apparently is always asking about her.  “What do you think Jellybean is doing?  I wonder if she spent much time looking out the window.  Do you think she went out and played in the snow?  I’ll bet she is begging for a treat right about now.”  Upon his return to our house, I don’t know which one of them is more excited to see the other.  I pray that the system does not fail my brother in the end, he deserves way better.  But, I am happy that as a family, we are able to help him in his time of need and that Jellybean so readily acknowledges his need for love and companionship.  Watch out brother, here she comes!  Get ready for some of Jellybean’s unabashed love – in the form of sloppy kisses of course!

Beverly Stiffler Smith

Children’s Author

Check out my books here! 

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! 

 

“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! 

The Move

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Moving day has finally arrived.  Just how much stuff will my little diva dog, aka “Jellybean”, need to pack you ask?  You may be sorry you asked, as you know Jellybean is not your ordinary four-legged pal.  Well, here goes…….

  • 49 assorted doggie coats, jackets, sweaters, hoodies
  • 4 holiday dresses
  • 2 ball caps
  • 1 knitted winter hat
  • 1 bomber winter hat
  • 1 pair of doggie snow boots
  • 6 pair of doggie pajamas
  • 54 assorted stuffed, squeaky, and chewy toys
  • 11 bones of various sizes
  • 15 balls: tennis, talking, rope, fill with a treat
  • 5 antlers for chewing
  • 3 doggie beds
  • 7 doggie blankets
  • 2 lamb Pillow Pets
  • 14 leashes with matching collars
  • Backpack filled with items needed for KPets’ visits
    • Pink water bottle
    • Water bowl
    • 2 KPets bandanas
    • Folder with shot records and member information
    • KPets certificate
    • ID badge for handler (that would be me)
    • Treats
    • Small towel
    • Poop bags
    • 3 four-foot leashes to use with martingale collar
  • 3 extra-large bath towels
  • 1 dozen colorful washcloths
  • Doggie shampoo
  • Doggie conditioner
  • Metal comb
  • Brush
  • Grooming spray
  • Waterless bath spray
  • Bag of mini rubber bands
  • 2 dozen assorted hair bows/barrettes
  • Doggie toothbrush
  • Doggie toothpaste
  • Allergy eye drops
  • Extra large crate
  • Bag of large crunchy bones
  • 4 jars of miscellaneous treats
  • 1 bag of dental treats
  • 1 bag of dog food
  • 4 dog water/food bowls
  • Minnie Mouse lunch box
  • Snoopy Lunch box
  • Vera Bradley lunch bag (What can I say?  A girl’s got to look good walking into doggy daycare)
  • Doggie car seat w/harness
  • Book collection:
    • Naughty Little Puppy
    • The Perfect Hiding Place
    • Sloppy Kisses
  • A doggie plaque for the front garden
  • A wall plaque:  Jellybean Queen
  • Framed pictures of the little Diva herself

Wow!  That’s a lot of stuff for a puppy that doesn’t even weigh 20 pounds!  Jellybean is living the good life for sure!  It looks like her Mama might be one of those crazy dog ladies.  And that’s okay, because this is one well-loved little puppy that spreads joy and sloppy kisses wherever she goes!  Into the wagon goes Jellybean with her belongings following close behind.  How exciting it will be to see Jellybean adjust to her new home, exploring all the nooks and crannies and finding her new special sunning spot.

Beverly Stiffler Smith

Children’s Author

Check out my books here! 

the move - 2

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.

Tails of Comfort

The last week has been quite an emotional roller coaster for me; as the elderly lady I have cared for since my retirement four years ago passed on to join her loved ones in heaven.  Through the months, weeks, and days leading up to her passing, I have now come to better understand the process of dying.  The hospice nurses were a timely gift and surely they were angels sent straight from heaven to help the family and caregivers understand what was happening with this dear lady.  I am honored and forever grateful that I was the caregiver with her on the day she received visits from the loved ones who had gone before her.  Throughout the day, the look of wonderment and awe on her face touched me beyond words.  With each visit, her eyes opened wide and she gasped as if shocked to see a departed loved one standing before her.  The smile that spread across her face reflected the joy, wonder, and love she had for that individual.  As she smiled, she reached out, her eyes following them across the room, only to be met with another gasp and smile of recognition as yet another loved one appeared before her.  This went on throughout the day.  I took her hand and asked who was visiting with her that could make her smile so.  Each time, she faintly squeezed my hand, smiled and nodded her head to acknowledge I knew friends and family were among us.  In the afternoon, through my tears I was able to share with her that I too had a visitor.  Upon returning from getting a fresh glass of water for her, I found a feather next to her bedside seat.  I knew immediately that this was a gift from my dear husband, letting me know that he was with me on this day, helping me to accept what was happening and to share in her joy of preparing for her next life.  This is an experience that has surely changed me.

I titled this blog “Tails of Comfort” because of the family dogs that held vigil throughout the process.  Casey, a border collie, was very protective of Mrs. R, even before her life began to fade.  However, throughout her last days, he held vigil at the bottom of her hospital bed, at the very spot where her recliner had provided a clear view of her favorite television shows. Casey kept watch, his head on his front paws, eyes searching for movement, and ears at attention listening for faint sounds coming from underneath the pastel quilt.  Mulligan, on the other hand, only a year old and as spunky and playful as a Golden Retriever puppy can be, searched for every opportunity to occupy the little hassock that had been positioned beside her bed.  In the event a family member or caregiver left her watching post for a moment, Mulligan was quick to claim the spot as his own.  He sat and watched in wonder as this great lady, with a big heart and mischievous personality, now quiet and still, awaited her journey to loved ones that had gone on before her.  Every once in a while he nudged at the quilt, letting her know that he was nearby.

I have always been a bit of a coward when it comes to death and dying, but one thing I know for sure is that I have been profoundly affected by this experience.  It has made me rethink some of the work that my puppy, Jellybean, and I do as members of a therapy dog organization.  I have tended to shy away from elder care, hospital and hospice work.  Perhaps it is time to reconsider, letting go of my own insecurities, and allow my puppy the opportunity to spread joy and love as only a four-legged pup can do.  This would be a wonderful tribute to a wonderful lady who touched my life and others in so many ways.

Sloppy Kisses

My third children’s picture book, Sloppy Kisses, captures Jellybean’s journey to becoming a therapy dog.  Although not an easy one, due to Jellybean’s playful and precocious nature, I believe it was written in the stars for her to become a therapy dog. Is it a coincidence that her birthdate just happens to be the same date as my husband’s passing?  I think not.  I truly believe that Dan played a role in sending her to me to help fill the empty abyss of what used to be a heart so content and overflowing with love.  She brings much joy to me with her unconditional love and playful nature.  My husband was a talented, self-employed hair stylist with a big personality, sparkling blue eyes, and a laugh so big that it echoed through the house from his tiny shop.  He loved people!  He loved his customers, and loved making them feel good as he expertly snipped and cut until each style was perfect.  He also loved playing the role of therapist, counselor, psychologist and the like, as together, he and his customers solved the world’s problems.  However, one day a week was set aside to visit the local elder care homes.  Here, he served as barber for the elderly gentlemen who lived in the facilities.  He called them his “Mr. Potato Heads”, as he removed hearing aids, glasses, and other accoutrements before beginning his duties as barber.  After stimulating conversations with some, and quiet conversations with others, he would put them all back together before sending them on their way.  He always came home with such great stories.  The respect he had for these gentlemen was unwavering.  What better ways to honor my husband, than to have Jellybean, my puppy sent straight from heaven, become a therapy dog and provide that same joy to others!

My very talented illustrator, Shana Morrow, has done a wonderful job of capturing Jellybean’s playfulness and sometimes diva-like behaviors throughout the training process.  The story begins with Jellybean attending a Canine Good Citizen class at our local Petco.  At the onset it is quite clear that Jellybean is not quite on program, unlike the rest of her four-legged classmates.  The illustrations in the story depict Jellybean romping through class while the other pups dutifully follow the directions given by the trainer, who, by the way, assured me time and time again that Jellybean would master the skills needed to earn her good citizen award.  I was not so sure, but we kept at it.  Finally, after taking the class for the third time, Jellybean showed the world that she was indeed a Canine Good Citizen!  We moved forward by connecting with a local organization, KPets, that provides therapy services through interactions with pets.  Jellybean successfully mastered the various requirements to become a registered therapy dog.  Woohoo!!!  At this point, my schedule does not allow us to do as much work as I would like, but we do what we can.  We visit local colleges to provide stress relief before finals.  We support York College of Pennsylvania girls’ basketball team by attending all the home games and sharing the love with the many basketball fans.  As my schedule allows, we also attend events at local parks, department stores and elder care facilities.  We also visit schools and libraries so that children can read to the dogs, cats, mini horses, or whatever menagerie of animals happens to be there on that particular day.

Sloppy Kisses is a simple story, geared for the very young crowd, that demonstrates the power of practice and working hard for what you want to achieve.  Sloppy Kisses is available on Amazon.  Simply follow the link:  http://amzn.to/2B78X0Z