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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The Move

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Change is not always an easy thing for humans, much less our four-legged companions.  As Jellybean and I prepare to embark on a new phase in our lives, a new home, I have been contemplating how to ensure that my little four-legged friend transitions successfully.  Of course I have considered some of the obvious;  routine, safety, and familiarity.  I know there may be some things I have not considered.  Therefore, I googled “How to prepare for a move with your dog” and found there were over 2 million sites I could check out.  Obviously, I am not the only one who is a bit nervous about the impact that a move may have on a furry friend.

The research explains how to pack for your dog, making sure not to wash beds and blankets, as the familiarity of their former home will be an important factor in adjusting to the new home.  They suggest recreating familiar spaces and routines to keep the environment as stress free as possible.  Prior to  moving in, it is important to explore the new home with safety in mind.  Once there, introduce areas of the home a bit at a time and be sure to keep the same rules they followed at the old homestead.  There are many things to think about as I prepare us for this move.  I am happy to say that most of what I have researched has already been on my mental “how to keep my puppy happy and well-adjusted” list.

The thing that concerns me most is how Jellybean will adjust to having just me in her daily life, as it used to be.  You see, we have spent the most incredible year and a half with my sister and brother-in-law.  Not only do I think about how difficult it will be for me to go back to living as a widow, with Jellybean as my outlet for conversation and unconditional love, I also think of how difficult it will be for me to fill Jellybean’s very large bucket of neediness.  Likewise for my sister and brother-in-law, as she has become a cherished part of their lives.  Daily conversations generally consist of things like;  “Did you see Jellybean chase her tail this morning?”  “Jellybean fell asleep with her head on my lap this afternoon.”  “Jellybean spent all morning hiding her treat, then, I sat with her and we watched squirrels playing in the yard.”  “I sang the crunchies and chicken song to Jellybean today and she ate everything in her bowl.”  “What is Jellybean’s schedule today?”  Jellybean!  Jellybean!  Jellybean!  The three of us cannot seem to have a conversation without including the antics of Jellybean.  Although it will be a transition for all of us, we are not moving to another state.  Quite the contrary, we are moving 30 minutes east.  We have already talked about daily schedules and how Jellybean can spend the day with her aunt and uncle when I have to work.  We have even gone as far as to talk about sleepovers.  Crazy, isn’t it?  But then, how wonderful it is to have a family that cares so much.  Jellybean and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

 

Naughty Little Puppy

Who needs a 130 sheet cross-cut shredder when you have a spunky little puppy that can take care of all your shredding needs?  This white and black model shreds paper of all types; copy paper, newspaper, wrapping paper, tissue paper, tissues (both clean and otherwise), magazines, cardboard, and yes, even the paper label around plastic water bottles.  Leave a tissue behind on the couch?  Leave the newspaper on the chair while you refill your tea?  Walk away from your Ladies Home Journal magazine?  Forget to put your water bottle in the recycling bin?  Never fear, Jellybean the shredder is here!  Moving faster than the community shred truck, Jellybean hones in on the treasure of the moment. Using her front paws to keep the object secure, Jellybean, begins pulling and tearing at her prize.  Pull, tear, spit!  Pull, tear, spit! Pull, tear, spit!  She continues until the object has been obliterated and strewn all over the floor.  Satisfied that her work has been completed to the best of her ability, Jellybean stands proudly amid the mess.

Not only is this rambunctious puppy a shredder, she is also a taker.  She takes things that do not belong to her; shoes, socks, gloves to name a few items.  Her tendency to stake claim on my personal items developed very early in life.  It amused me so much that it actually became the inspiration for my first children’s picture book, titled – are you ready?  Naughty Little Puppy.  It’s not a very original title, but quite a true representation of Jellybean, my precocious, yet lovable, albeit naughty little fur ball.  The repetitive text and short, structured sentences, make it the perfect book for the 3-5 year old crowd.  I should mention that my illustrator, Shana Morrow, did an incredible job of capturing Jellybean’s personality through her artistic rendering of Jellybean.  You can see me for a signed copy or purchase a copy at Amazon.com .

Unconditional Love

When Charles M. Schulz said “Happiness is a warm puppy,” he was talking directly to me.  I look back in wonder at how much joy this rambunctious and precocious little puppy has brought into my life.  Upon waking in the morning, Jellybean stretches and peers out from under a mound of tousled black and white fur.  Then, giving a good shake, she pounces on me and covers my face with licks and puppy kisses.  Tail wagging, she runs circles around the pillows to show she is excited to begin her day.  As we head downstairs an invisible tether connects us and ensures Jellybean is never more than a step behind her Momma.   A morning walk, breakfast of kibble and chicken, her daily grooming ritual, always concluding with a colorful bow, and Jellybean is off and running.  Her days are filled with walks about the neighborhood, bones, toys, and rendezvous with puppy friends, visitations to fulfill her therapy dog obligations, naps, and a plethora of tricks, which are often rewarded with tasty treats.  As if on cue, at 8:30 PM, Jellybean is ready to settle down and snuggle on the couch.  The unconditional love emanating from those big dark eyes during these quiet times never fails to warm my soul and remind me how grateful I am she came into my life.