Saturday, December 24, 2011

Divine Grocery Store Appointments

I was coming home from a Chester appointment yesterday and swung into a grocery store to pick up a few needed items.  Since Chester was still in his vest, I decided to take him in with me ~~ after all, who wants to sit alone in the dark, in the car, in the cold? (I thought it was my idea to take him in....not really)

We zipped through the store picking up a few things and rounded the corner where the Christmas items lined the aisle.  There stood a woman appearing to have a serious conversation on her phone. Her eyes lit up with longing when she noticed Chester. 

Would you like to pet him?

Since she could not manage to wrap both arms around Chester and hold her phone at the same time ~~ Chester won, and the call  ended.

She got down on her knees, held Chester's head in both hands, over and over she said, Did my Roxy send you to me?  Did my Roxy send you to me?  Tears leaked out her eyes and mascara smeared.

She looked up to me.  I lost my Roxy in October, not a day goes by that I don't miss her.  You have no idea all that I am going through right now.  Roxy sent you, I just know it.  The words tumbled out and Chester anointed her already tear-drenched cheeks with a kazillion kisses, then burried his face in her lap.

I got down on the floor.  And there the three of us sat, in the Christmas aisle.  A man came by. Chester went to say hi, then returned and gave more kisses to the woman.

I noticed he didn't give the man kisses, she said.

I smiled.  I noticed that too.

God sent me a miracle. She looked at me...and Chester.

I think he did.  He loves you so much, he sent you a dog. I laughed.  Actually, he loves you so much that he sent you His Son!  And a dog :-).

Her face became a little brighter. Yes, He did, He sent me a miracle.

I looked directly into her eyes. God wants you to know He loves you, and He hasn't forgotten you. He cares about you more than you can imagine, He knew what you needed today, and sent you Chester as a reminder, a reminder of what a treasure you are to Him.

We stood. I wrapped both arms around her, Chester leaned into our sides.  I held her tightly. She rested her head on my shoulder and did not let go for a very long time.

When it was time to go, we hugged one more time, Chester gave one more smooch and she gave him one more lasting squeeze.

I don't usually shop here, she mentioned.

You know what, neither do I.

Just the Right Time....

It usually takes me between 15-20-30+ minutes to get to Willard's place; depending upon red lights, green lights, construction delays, traffic ~~ you know how it goes.  And usually, I am not thinking the delays are Divine, if you catch my drift.  Today when I arrived at Willard's assisted living community, I don't know if I arrived late or on time.  All I know is that I arrived at just the right time.  As Chester and I got out of the car, a woman was just leaving the building. She greeted us and gushed over Chester and he of course soaked it up.  She mentioned she had just spent quite a bit of time with a woman on the first floor who LOVED dogs.  She asked where I was visiting and I told her the second floor, but but would try to see her as well.  She told me the woman's name and room #. I prayed I would remember :-) if I was supposed to visit.

After Chester snuggled with Willard on floor two, the Lord indeed jogged my memory (miracles happen everyday!).  The receptionist beeped us through the secure doorway into the memory loss unit.  Chester and I trotted through the lovely living room area and down the hallway. We knocked on Gladys' door and asked if she would like to have a visit from a doggie.

Oh Yes!

Precious Gladys, dressed in a bright red Christmas sweater and black pants (of course black pants that will show every golden hair !) sat in a soft rocking chair thumbing through a magazine. Her soft gray curls framed her face,  bright with smiles and crinkled with love lines. As soon as Chester came near she gently set her magazine aside and opened her arms wide.

Come see me! 

Oh my goodness, my heart welled up as I watched these two.  She knew just how to kneed his ears and stroke his back and whisper doggie-words to him.

On her counter were framed family pictures and a small watercolor of a golden retriever. I asked her if this was her dog.

I used to have a dog.  I love dogs.  My dog's name was......was........ I can't remember.

That's OK, sometimes I can't remember names. I smiled. Chester sure loves being with you.  I can tell you love dogs.  His tail thumped against her bed and he buried his nose into her once spotless black pants.

Though Gladys' memory was fading there was a look in her eyes that brought tears to mine.  It was a familiar look.  The way she knew just how to love-on Chester, and the twinkle of affection in her eyes as she did so. This look, this tenderness, this expression..... well, it reminded me of me.  How I feel about Goldens, the love God put in my heart for them, how I can't imagine my life without one by my side.

Though Gladys could not remember the name, or why the framed watercolor adorned her counter top, I knew there was a Golden Pup in her heart, and it was a blessing for me to share my golden pup with her.

We'll be back.

Thank you, Lord, for moments like these.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Quiet Game

The Quiet Game. 
Chester and Melissa played a new game during therapy time this past week. Denisha and Peg came up with this great game.

Here's the game.
Melissa stands on her own, balancing.
Chester sits quietly, NO barking allowed.
Who can last the longest.

This is a no brainer.

Melissa will win.  We all know it.  She can outlast Chester any day.

You see, when Chester thinks Melissa is going to throw the ball, he gets really excited.  Really.  So excited he wiggles and barks.  Melissa sort of makes him wait a long time.  She smiles.  She gives him the hand signal for sit.  And waits til he sits.  HE BARKS.  He sits. She giggles.  HE BARKS. (everyone in the building knows it's Chester day). Peg says, "Throw the ball!"  Melissa smiles.  HE BARKS.  She throws the ball.

This goes on repeatedly....

And so of course, we know Melissa will win this game.

Melissa stands.
Chester sits.
They stare at each other.
Denisha says, "ready ....begin"

Chester makes not a peep.
For a really long time he makes not a peep.
We can't believe it.
After a very long time, Melissa cracks up, loses her balance and Chester wins Round 1.

Second round.
Ready - set - go.
Denisha hands Melissa the ball.
"That's not fair!" Peg says "Chester will lose for sure on this one."
Melissa pretends that she will throw the ball, but of course she doesn't. 
Chester looks at the ball, then at Melissa.
Not a peep.
He smiles.
Melissa smiles....  And can't hold in the laughter. She falls into her therapist's arms giggling.
Chester wins Round 2.

We all look at each other. 
It's like he knows. Peg says.

I had no idea he was so competetive :-)  I respond.

Round 3 went really similar to round 1 and 2. 
Only, this time we all tried a little harder to get that hound to bark.
Not a peep.
Then we all went down in laughter. 
All except Chester, he just sat quietly.

After the game was over, just for fun, we decided to play fetch again.
You know...just to see if he would bark.
Melissa stood and held the ball.
Yup, you guessed it, he barked.

How'd he know???????????

Christmastime with Chester

Chester obviously loves Christmas.  Packages.  Bags tucked with goodies just for him.   We went to visit Melissa and Mom-Peg, and Denisha-No-dog-kiss-Therapist at Schreiber last week.  Melissa and Peg had Chester's Christmas present.  A bag STUFFED with goodies ~all his favorites....Pupperoni's (not the low fat kind like his mom buys), his very own peanut-butter jar, brand spankin' new tennis balls, a stuffed squeaky hedge-hog AND a grey flat non-stuffed squeaky rodent of some sort that we affectionately named roadkill.  ALL THIS was tucked in one cute Christmas Bag.  Can you tell they love him and spoil him like crazy? 

Well, when Chester-boy trotted in the room with his Santa-Elf hat on, they held up the bag and and shouted something about Chester and Christmas present at which time he promptly lunged and jumped (NOT proper therapy dog etiquette for sure) onto the therapy bed & stuck his nose right inside the bag. He went absolutely  bonkers and started kissing Melissa with a kazillion thank you slobbers.  Melissa and Peg opened the pupperonis and gave him a pre-therapy treat  After all, 'tis the season :-) . This could be where the problem started.   Anyways, after treats, he and Melissa got right to work.    ...pretty much....

Chester was workin pretty dog-gone hard, then, uh,  he got distracted looking at his present.  Had a hard time focusing.  So, for a brief moment when Chester took one eye off his present, Peg hid it.

A few minutes later, Chester stopped mid-exercise, eeerch, and sniffed.  He looked on the bed for his Christmas Bag.  It was missing. MISSING.  

He left Melissa.  Left Melissa?  Yes, LEFT MELISSA and went sniffing around the room.  Every nook and cranny.  

I am serious.

We were all in disbelief.  He never ever leaves Melissa.  Never.

We could not figure out what he was doing.  Then Peg said, "THE PRESENT.  He's looking for his bag."

No way.  YES WAY.

After sniffing every corner, poking his head into other rooms, he at last discovered his bag in the bicycle room.  We knew this because his fluffy butt and tail were wagging in circles poking out of the open doorway. 

We all of course were jaw-dropped in laughter.

I stayed next to Mellisa, while Peg went to retrieve Chester & his present.  She promised to give it back to him after his hour of therapy work with Melissa. He made her PROMISE.  She promised...

He managed to focus pretty well for the rest of therapy, and even won the quiet game.  (another post).

At the end of the hour, we headed out the door of Physical Therapy towards the hallway, Chester walking by Melissa's side.  Well, I should say he began walking AFTER Peg grabbed his Christmas bag and walked in front of him. He then pranced with Mellisa, ears perked and tail waggin' high.  I am serious....he wouldn't take more than a few steps UNTIL Peg was in front of he could keep one eye on his bag of goodies and the other on Melissa.  He was not trusting the Mom who hid his Christmas bag in the bicycle room, not one little bit.

We said our good-byes at Melissa's van.  Chester gave smooches and thank you wags to Melissa and Peg.  I assured them that Chester LOVED his gifts, which of course went without saying. I reminded them that he would probably be sleeping with Hedgey and Roadkill.   This indeed turned out to be true AND he greeted Keith and I the following morning with both creatures proudly hanging from his mouth. Obviously they have the scent of his favorite people.  Not that they smell like roadkill.... :-) just the scent of best friends furr-ever.

Chester snoozin with Hedgey. 
OH and PS.....
I received a treasured present too. You won't believe it.  It's a calendar called YOGA PUPPIES.  For reals.  (Obviously someone stole Melissa & Chester's idea and made a calendar)  It is priceless and I smile big time every time I look at it. 

Chester could do this....easy :-)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Memories! Memories! Memories!

Remember, I told you about Willard, this gentle man who has climbed into our hearts? Our last visit with Willard was on Friday,  we took him a small stuffed golden retriever as a gift. We have visited Willard about 4-5 times over the past few months. Each time we visit, Chester climbs up into bed with Willard, and nestles in.  Both love it. 

 After our last visit, Dori, my neighbor who works on the floor where Willard lives, wrote me this email. I just had to share it with you!

Hi Diane, I just had to tell you about my visit with Willard today. I went into his room before lunch to say hi to him and chat a little bit...he is always sitting up in bed right before meal times! Anyway...he was very excited to see me and started pointing right away to his dresser. I saw the bookmark of Chester on the dresser and thought he was pointing to that, so I brought it over to him. He shook his head and kept pointing to the dresser. Well...sitting right next to the bookmark of Chester was an old B&W photograph of a large dog in the snow that looks dated from the 50s. He told me that was his dog! He then pointed with his finger to a large  building in the photograph behind the dog. He told me that was his greenhouse! Did I tell you he used to be an avid gardener and had a greenhouse!

I asked him where he got the picture and he pointed to a box on a stand next to his dresser. This box has mementos. He must have been going through his photos looking for that picture so he could put it next to the picture of Chester! Your visits have opened up other memories for him! What a wonderful thing! Wanna hear something else neat. Willard then pointed to the top of the TV set that is in his room. When he pointed he laughed...know why? Because on the top of the TV set looking over at him is the Chester stuffed toy on one side and a mini frog on the other! Did I tell you he also loves frogs! In fact...frogs, gardening, birds and of course dogs...are his favorite things! Thought you'd love to hear the story! Dori

Memories! Memories! Memories! the best gift ever *~*

Chester's 1st Shower

A few pictures might pop into your mind when you read the title....
but here's the picture. 

Victoria, Chris, and their buddy Chester
(I told you they were cute!)

Last week Chester was invited to his very first Shower, an Engagement Shower for Chris and Victoria!! How cool is that?  He was so proud (and a wee bit nervous) to be invited as one of the very honored guests.  If you don't know much about this cute couple, take a peek back to 2/22 and 6/27.  The story of our friendship began just about a year ago.  It is a God-friendship to say the very least.  He orchestrated  our meeting one Sunday morning in February, and none of our lives will ever be the same because of it.

As I said, it was Chester's very first Shower.  He was the ONLY 4 legged furry one invited. He did pretty dog-on well for being the only pup in a home crowded with people and gifts and food at nose-height. He only whooshed one almost-empty glass onto the floor with his tail. And,  the gorgeously decorated Christmas tree in the corner ....well his furry behind sent just two lovely ornaments sailing through the air. They weren't the breakable kind, and that was good news for sure.

Chris and Victoria were delighted to tell the story of their meeting Chester, and how Chester opened Chris's eyes & heart to how a "dog", just the right dog, could help him tremendously.   Because of our meeting, Chris pursued applying for a service dog, and  is now on a waiting list for his very own assistance pup with United Disability Services of PA. WOOF WOOF!  The wait can be as long as two years, or shorter if the right match is available and ready sooner.  We are praying sooner!

Wedding bells will ring for this cute couple in February. They've chosen to modify their honeymoon quite a bit, using what has been saved, towards their service-dog, rather than their after-wedding-get-away. The price of a service-dog is great, and priceless to them.  Thus the sacrifice.

Chester is invited to the wedding and he is getting his bow tie ready ~ and we are going to try to steer clear of the punch table and wedding cake.

PS ~~ If this story touches you, and you'd like to donate to Chris's service dog fund, YOU MAY!  If you'd like, check out the UDS website  Click on green tab UDS SERVICES, then Service Dogs.  Be sure to watch the video clip :-).  (have tissue handy!)

Chester will deliver your gift to Chris in person with wags and woofs.
Just send it to:
                      Chris's Service Pup
                      c/o Diane Rima
                      1969 Sterling Place
                      Lancaster, PA 17601
Chester snoozin' after his first Shower  ~  such a party animal :-)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Willard and the Bronze Star

I haven't been able to get Willard off my mind.  I keep thinking about, reliving, picturing, yesterday's visit with this heroic gentleman. Willard, our new friend, lives on the 2nd floor in a local retirement community, the floor where precious men and women battle & live with the disease called Alzheimers.  

Willard and Chester seem to have a special connection. I think it has to do with God, and His kindness. Though these two met only a few short months ago, there is a bond between them that I cannot explain. And when we visit, Willard's memory kicks into gear.  

On our first visit to see Willard, Chester jumped onto his bed, uninvited I might add, and gave continuous kisses and snuggles. It was love at first sight, slobber, and tail wag.

Amazingly, with each return visit there is recognition, memory, and connection. I cannot explain it. All I know is that something special happens when Chester prances into his friend's room.

Which brings me to yesterday, Friday.  My friend, Dori, who is a therapist to these dear ones, took us to Willard's room once again.  In her loving and enthusiastic voice she announced, "Willard, guess who's here?  It's Chester!"

Willard, who was curled up & snoozing in his bed, opened his eyes.  Dori gently turned on the lamp by his bed and touched his shoulder.  He frantically began searching for something lost under the sheets and blankets.   His teeth :-).  Dori helped him find his lost treasure, he put them in and relaxed, stretching out his hand to find his furry companion.

His eyes shone, and happy sounds came, as he patted Chester's soft head.  I sat on the chair next to his bed, Dori stood at the foot.  We both watched, staying quiet as these friends greeted one another. 

After a time, Willard took his hand off of Chester and patted the bed.

"Would you like Chester to lay next to you?" I asked.

He patted again, and turned over on his side, making a place for his friend.

I motioned for Chester to climb up.  It took awhile to find just the right spot, but Chester nestled in.

Willard's aged hand rested atop Chester's paws, stroking them continually.  Gently. Chester watched his companion, sometimes resting his head on Willard's side.  Content to just be there.

Dori pointed to the wall. "We honored Willard on Veteran's Day in our church service here," she told me quietly.  

I looked to the wall, focusing on  a large, framed, certificate of honor.  I saw his name.  Willard.  A Veteran.  A Hero.  Awarded the Bronze Star*.   1952. 

This war hero, over 6ft in stature, lay curled next to Chester. I thought of his life, his sacrifice, his love for country, his heroism.  I had no words, as I watched these two, very content just to be together, enjoying the warmth and company of one another.  So sweet, so tender. I felt I was standing on Holy Ground.

I don't know how long we stayed, 10, 15, 20, minutes.  I have no idea. I was just thankful to be there. And I prayed... Dear Lord, please bless this dear man.

Before leaving, I gave Willard a picture of Chester.  His eyes sparkled a bit. The nurse set Chester's photo in a treasured place, right next to the worn Bible on the shelf.

We waved our good-byes. We will see you next week, Thanksgiving Day~~an appropriate day to visit such a dear dear man, a beloved hero and friend.

*Bronze Star:  The fourth highest award for bravery, heroism or meritorious service in the U.S. Armed Forces.   Willard, we love and honor you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's Been A Long Time....

Melissa gave Chester his squirrel, obviously he LOVES squirrel.
(Almost as much as he loves Melissa)
It's been a long time since a TAIL has been told. We've been traveling a bit, and missed a few weeks of Pet Therapy.  Chester has missed his people and they have missed him.  Me too. 

Yesterday was Melissa day. WOOF WOOF and woot woot.  Chester could hardly wait to get down that hallway, around the corner, and into his girl's physical therapy room.  Smiles and wags abounded.  When Chester gets excited he sort of  forgets the rules~ he gives kisses before he is invited, gives hugs on laps without being asked, and moans this pathetic sound,  that is like "ah-woooo-arrrr-wooo".  Pure love, what can I say.

That's what happened when Chester saw his Melissa and Peg (superMom) and Denisha (therapist who does NOT like slobbery Chester smooches).  No manners.... just love oozing out all over.

During Melissa's physical therapy we had a blast.  Melissa had incredible throws and balance, while Chester retrieved countless tennis balls with limitless expressions and personality, barking continually because he was so excited to play ball with his girl (the entire building knew Chester was on site.)

A few times, the poor guy got distracted during retrieving, like when he passed a pile of toys--- he just could not help himself, the smells were too yummy, and the toys too inviting....and he dropped the fly-ball,  sauntered 'n sniffed. Melissa laughed so hard she fell into her therapist's arms....and once again laughter filled the room. Eventually Chester returned.  Peg put her thankful arms around her daughter's best friend,  bear-hugging and snuggling the goofy pup.  Moms need pet-therapy too.

Melissa tried this new exercise position.  It's hard to explain.  Let's just say she did an incredible job making a bridge for Chester to jump over or go under.  Melissa chose OVER.  I had visions of flattened cubscouts dancing in my head. But, if Melissa wanted over, over it would be!  I commanded Chester O-VER.  Not a problem.  He sailed over Melissa's amazing bridge position, with room to spare, (which made me wonder a bit about that squished cub scout...and what Chester may have been thinking?...hmmm).

And then....this is very cool.  Melissa walked down the hallway, the entire hallway, with no crutches to support her, only the railing & Chester's leash.   There are two places on the hallway where Melissa has to pass by open doorways, nothing to hold on to.  No railing, no crutch, nothing.  Just air.....and Chester.

Denisha (non-dog-kissing-PT) said Melissa made her best steps ever.  We all cheered, but Chester stayed steady by his buddy. Denisha went on to say she felt Melissa's huge success was because her focus was on walking her golden friend not on herself, or the fear & anxiety that come with nothing to hold on to.    I mean really, how cool is that?

I'm so thankful.  I love these days.  These moments. Melissa. Peg.  Goofy-God-gifted-Goldens. Even no-dog-smooch-Denisha. :-)
Makes me cry happy tears.  Good therapy for us all.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

One Flattened Cub Scout

Chester was invited to his first Cub Scout Meeting this week.  How thrilling is that?!  It ranks right up there with squirrels and Pup-er-onis on Chester's top ten list.  Boys and pups, a match made in heaven for sure.

In the Cub Scout Pledge these young boys salute the flag with honor, promising to obey and help others.  Those words describe these amazing Scouts, as well as Chester.  That's why Chester was invited.  woof woof & woot woot

During the meeting, I had the joy of telling Chester Tails  to Scouts and parents. I shared about where we go,  what we do, the fun we have, and the hope and encouragement we get to bring to others.  And then, Chester and I did a few demonstrations of how we HELP others   ..... which brings me to the title of this post. eh-hem.

During demonstration time ~

One Scout pretended to have a hurt leg, (let me tell you, this boy should have earned an academy award for his owie-leg performance) and desperately needed crutches to get around. Ohmy.   Chester stayed right by this young man's side with every painful step.  That went well.

Next, Chester and I demonstrated reading time. I was going to pretend to read to Chester while he lay QUIET and STILL, focused and listening. And so I sat on the floor, asking Chester to lay by my side. He nestled in next to me, then proceeded to roll onto his back,  moving back and forth and back and forth while SMILING, and wiggle wiggle wiggle, with his legs spread WIDE showing everyone everything, and making funny doggy noises.  So much for quiet reading time.

Next he demonstrated sit-ups and doggie kisses.  That went pretty smoothly.  Slobbery but smooth.

Then it was time for over and under.  A very brave Cub Scout volunteered to make a bridge, you know kneeling on all fours so Chester could crawl under, then jump over.

Under went great.  Chester army-crawled right under this little guy.  Yeah!

Over, not so great.

I commanded Chester, OVER!  Rather than leap over his Cub-Scout-Friend in a single bound, umm, he sort of used him as a spring board for 70 lbs. of flying leap, flattening the poor little guy spread eagle on the floor. Of course the entire room erupted in laughter and applause (of course ALL the parents were there too ~~ including the parents of the boy who was smushed into the carpet).

I mentioned to the hard-to-get-back-in-control group that typically this is not how it's done during therapy.... 

Because it is important for Chester to end on a positive note, NOT thinking he gets applause and laughter and reward for flattening Cub Scouts, I asked this courageous boy if he would mind letting Chester try the over-command one more time.   He gave me this you've got to be kidding look, but kindly agreed to my request (I think that is the HELP OTHERS part of the pledge). 

And so, the Brave Scout returned to the all-fours position and braced for impact, closing his eyes.  I gave Chester plenty of room to get a running start and commanded him OVER! 

The room was silent.

And OVER Chester flew, ears flapping, tail high,  not touching even a hair on the little guy's head. (Thank God!)

The Scout rose up to cheers and applause.  So did Chester. Cub Scouts were injured in this Canine Demonstration.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chester the Beer Bouncer

So tonight Chester and I went to the Chamber of Commerce Mixer.  We were mixing a bit, meeting people.  There was this nice woman sitting on a couch and she obviously wanted to meet the Chester-bud. We went to meet and greet.  Chester was so excited to say hello, he wagged his fluffy tail extra-big and swooshed her beer right off the coffee table (oopsie-daisy).  She was nice about the whole thing, and Chester and I did our best to clean up the spill.  The bummer for her was "they" only allowed one drink per person at this Chamber Event.  The good news was some kind soul did find a way to bring her another full glass.   (Sounds a little bit like the my dog ate my homework line that I have heard at least a few times ;-) ...)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Alzheimer's Floor & Miracles

My across-the-street neighbor works with Alzheimer patients at a local retirement community.  She invited Chester and me to come visit  on PET DAY.   I thought, hmm, I will fit right in.  I have a Pet, and my memory is fuzzy.

Dorrie, my neighbor, well ~ she is absolutely amazing with these precious men and women.  So engaging, loving, honoring, always saying the person's name with a warm, enthusiastic greeting.  She knows each one.  Knows and loves. What a joy to watch her love on "her" people.

Chester and I began Pet Day with group time.  Everyone was seated in a big circle facing Chester. Dorrie introduced us.  We greeted each person individually, some wanting kisses, some not. Some wanting paw shakes, some not. Some just wanting to rest a hand on his head, or scratch his back.  Ahhh.    Chester performed a few canine tricks ~~ his latest, Ta-Da! Take a bow, please!!  Was a complete hit, and he took a bow like a pro.   Too cute. 

Next, Dorrie took us to some private rooms ~ some patients do not like to venture out.  Two people I will remember most of all.  Janet and Willard.

We walked into Janet's room. Dorrie enthusiastically introduced us, and , Yes!, Janet wanted to meet Chester.  We walked up to the side of  Janet's bed.  She could not reach to touch Chester, so I gave him the command for "up" -- which means paws-up-on-side-of-bed.  Well, err,  I thought I gave him the command for "UP".  Actually, I had given him the command for "jump ON the bed!" (as I said, I fit well on this floor). Chester looked at me as if to say, "Really, ya mean it?"  And before I could say "WAIT, what did I just say???"  He was ON Janet's bed in a single bound. Ohmy.   And Janet was laughing.  So was Dorrie.  I asked Chester to please get down, and then gave him the proper command.  He sort of did this half on, half off, bed position, laying across Janet's lap. Honestly it seemed to work well for the two of them so I let him stay.  Janet talked about her dog, the one she had many years ago.  Her eyes sparkled. We gently engaged in conversation about dogs on beds,  slobbery dog kisses, and I listened to her puppy dog tails from long ago.   And then it was time to go,  "Please come again," were the words I heard as we walked out of Janet's room.

Dorrie looked at me in amazement, going on to say ....  Janet is one of our most difficult patients. Very discouraging, so hard to get along with.  Dorrie was quick to explain, Janet is not rude, but the disease is.  I understood.  Dorrie's eyes filled and  she continued to explain, this day was a miracle for Janet.

And Willard.  Apparently, Willard is much like Janet in how the disease has affected him.  AND, Willard nodded "Yes!" to a visit from Chester.  After entering Willard's room, Chester did not wait for a command, he simply looked at Willard, and JUMPED gently onto Willard's bed, snuggling beside him.  Willard smiled big, with the few teeth that he had, and began to make happy sounds.  His large, wrinkled hand rested on Chester ~~ he pet him over and over and over and over again.   When it was time, Chester slid off the bed, and we wagged our goodbyes to Willard.  As Chester trotted down the hallways,  Dorrie looked at me, "You have no idea what a difference you are making... I've never seen this."

We visited at least 10 rooms.....Chester only snuggled ON two beds, Janet's and Willard's.   The two that needed (and wanted) him most of all.

Chester,  you totally make me smile, ....Ta-Da, Please Take a Bow!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Woof Woof for Sundays!

"OK if I take my squirrel to show the kids?"

"OF COURSE !  :-)"

What a great Sunday.  Full.  Yes!  Good?  Yes!  Traveling a good distance morning and evening to reach our destinations, we cruised over hill and dale, (Chester's ears blowing in the wind), through lush green farm land ripe with endless rows of corn,  passing crowded Amish buggies on their way to and from their Sunday Meetings ~~ to at last arrive at OUR meeting places.

Our meeting place on this Sunday morning was a 200 year old beautiful stone Presbyterian Church (oh the stories it could tell) , filled with delightful people who were celebrating God's creation....pets.  Chester and I shared with a group of adults and children about Our Lord and KPETS, telling God stories, stories that many you have already heard. On this Pet Sunday,  we met new friends, young and old, Chester even  met a few new furry friends, 5 dogs, 1 cat, and a not-so-furry-snake (thankfully, a caged in snake), to be exact.   What a paws-i-tively wonderful morning :-)

In the evening, we traveled the same country roads to a different Church, to share at the opening evening for a Vacation Bible School Event. Another amazing 200 year old stone Church nestled in the southern hills of Pennsylvania. This beautiful steepled-building  had a cemetery attached with multi-century old gravestones..... and today's fresh memorials.  Arriving early, we respectully wandered the edges. There were many that caught my eye and heart, imagining the stories.    A fresh marker .... he bravely served his country in WWII.....married his best friend.....beloved father......and grandpa....and at times laughed uncontrollably.    awe.  I would have liked knowing this man. 

Back to our evening at the church on the hill.  Noah's Ark theme for VBS.  Chester was the featured animal of the evening!  WOOF WOOF.  I shared about God's amazing creation, so thankful God included dogs on the ark!  Shared God/Chester stories....and told why this pup makes such a good good therapy dog.  Why?  Because he LOVES to love, and LOVES to obey.  WHY? Because he knows his master loves him and is worthy of his trust.

After group time we visited each classroom from pre-school to Junior High.  It was a full evening for Chester ~ 2 hours of meeting/greeting/petting/tricks/therapy examples/listening/ball chasing/waiting/paw shaking/being attentive to MY voice constantly/brushing/tail tugs/ear rubs/and belly scratches. 

It was a HOT evening.  HUMID evening.  The Sunday School rooms had no AC. Chester was one hot dog, and I was pretty drippy myself.  BUT---- he was a champ.    From laying on the carpeted floor with pre-schoolers, to winning the hearts of Jr. Highers...  He did everything I asked of him, and more.  With tail waggin'. 

He deserved a T-Bone.

He came home and collapsed.

It's morning.  He's still snoozin'.

What a good boy :-)


Monday, July 25, 2011

Mourning Glory and Tail Wags

Mourning Glory ~ A camp for kids who have experienced deep loss, due to the death of a loved one.

KPETS ~ 4 legged friends who bring tail wags, joy, and comfort.

Yesterday Chester and I, along with 6 other KPETS teams, visited Mourning Glory Camp. It was the first day of camp.  Arrival time was 9:00 a.m. Counselors and campers were all a bit anxious.   And at 9:00 a.m., three furry and smiling golden retrievers in yellow vests, were on site with their owners to help break the ice, calm the nerves, lighten the burden, and bring some joy to hurting hearts.

The arriving campers, who were immediately placed into the care of a counselor,  seemed to randomly rotate between the Goldens ~ Chester, Hunter, and Sammy ~ settling into the spot they felt most comfortable. Sammy, an oldie Goldie,  lay under the shade of a giant Elm, while children sat close, asking questions and stroking his soft fur. Hunter roamed, walked,  layed down, and performed tricks, as kiddos snuggled in close to catch a peek and a hug.  

Chester was in full retrieval mode, which was a huge surprise to me, especially in the extreme heat (100 degrees plus humidity).  On days such as these, if I throw the ball for him in the backyard, he looks at me and says "you've got to be kidding...." and heads back into the AC.  But for his kids, he will retrieve neon green tennis balls until the cows come home. Which he did.  And they gave him a kazillion pupperoni treats as reward.  He was in dog heaven. Tail waggin' and tongue draggin', he had a ball, and so did the 3 kiddos who played with him. One little girl especially stole my heart.  She was missing her two front teeth.  Every time she held the tennis ball high and said "Chester sit!"  it came out "Hector thit!"  And Hector thaat for her with pleasure. Too cute.

After retrieving more times than I could count, and taking a few walks around the Pavilion loop with each of his kids, he was an especially hot-dog. There was a hose attached to one of those pump thingy faucets.  A little boy and his counselor got it working....and they aimed it at Chester. Water sprayed everywhere while Chester chomped and romped in the cool stream, splashing everyone who was near ~~~ giggles and laughter erupted.  Of course his head was drenched, and the boys promptly gave him a classy Mohawk on top of his furry head.  More smiles.

After an hour of fun, our KPETS replacement teams arrived right on time. One hour in the extreme heat is enough for our furry friends. A Springer Spaniel, Standard Poodle, Sheep Dog, and another Golden arrived, ready to love and romp with these precious kiddos for the 2nd hour of camp.

Laughter and giggles are good for the soul ~~ Hector and I were blessed beyond words to be with these oh-so-precious-children at Mourning Glory Camp.  A Glorious Morning indeed.

Chester (also known as Hector) resting after a good day's work.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Protector & Friend

My PhotoIt was a snowy Tuesday afternoon.  Chester and I were visiting some of our  friends at the Presbyterian Church in downtown Lancaster ~~ this is where adult education classes are held for a group of very special adults with different forms of special needs.  Our friend Katey was taking her turn to walk with Chester, enjoying a stroll around the crowded multipurpose room,  Chester proudly keeping pace alongside her wheelchair.  As usual, I walked on one side of Chester, holding one lead, while Katey gently held and balanced her leash on the arm of her automatic chair.   With each loop around the carpeted room, Katey confidently gave Chester gentle commands.  He was more than delighted to obey her, Katey is one of his favorites!  Katey, the very first one to pat the side of her wheelchair and give the "UP!" command, instructing the furry hound to lay across her lap where she can easily reach and pet him; Katey, the one who exclaims with each visit, I love Chester! I want to take him home with me!

On one of the laps I heard a whistle.  Chester perked his ears.  The was room filled with a dozen or so students and caregivers, it was difficult to see who the noise was coming from. As we neared an outside exit door I noticed the man, dressed in winter hat and coat,  who was repeatedly whistling, trying to get Chester's attention. We paused a good distance from the door, Chester sitting quietly nestled between me and Katey. The man continued to watch us, making the Here Boy! type of whistle-tone.  Assuming he was one of the driver's for the passenger vans waiting outside, I asked Chester if he would like to greet the man.  Chester looked at me, and I gave the OK to be released from Katey's side,  asking him to heal as I took my first steps towards the door.
Chester, halted, not following my direction, but positioning himself in front of Katey's chair. My canine buddy stood firm and still, eyes fixed on the stranger. I sensed Chester's tension, and I followed his lead.  We stayed put.

The man turned, leaving the building.
As soon as we heard the click of the closed door,  Chester repositioned next to Katey,  ready to travel once again, relaxed and tail wagging.

My eyes met Katey's. 

"I think he was protecting me," Katey said. 
"I think you are right."

"May I give him a treat?" She asked.                

"I think you may give him a kazillion treats!"     

I handed Katey a few Pup-Peronies from my pouch. Chester, protector and friend, gently rose to Katey's hand and GLADLY received his reward.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chris and Victoria, continued.....

On this particular Monday evening, Chester and I were cruising down the highway headed to training.Unexpectedly somone unzipped heaven and it began POURING. Even with the "wippers" on high, it was hard to see.  Our kids always called them wippers, not wipers. Thus to me, they are wippers.  I almost turned around, but chose to forge ahead. I'm glad I did.

Chester and I, soggy and soaked, stood in the training room waiting for class to begin.  All I could smell was wet dog(s).  I was thinking, this is not fun.  Then I felt thump thump thump,  and the splattering of a soggy tail against my legs ~~ Looking where Chester was looking, I saw the reason, Victoria, Chester's friend was heading towards us.

Victoria, the petite redhead with the sparkly eyes.  Victoria, of Chris and Victoria. Remember Chris who needed a bit of a God and Dog Miracle Moment to pursue getting an assistance dog?  (read Chris and Victoria)   My jaw was like dropped open in disbelief...and my arms opened wide to greet her.  Chester went from sit/stay to wiggly-bouncy-bonkers. After wet hugs all around, ( and Victoria explaining that Chris could not be here, but she decided to come alone just to watch) well, she went on to explain that shortly after our God-appointed meeting months ago, Chris filled out the application  for an Assistance Dog, interviewed, and long story short ~~ Chris is on the waiting list for a canine companion of his very own. HOW COOL IS THAT?  Victoria, EXCITEDLY relayed the whole story... while Chester  listened and smiled (yes smiled), obviously understanding every word.   My jaw was still dropped open....lovely.

Fast forward 3 weeks. Chester and I joined Chris and Victoria for a wheel chair training day for doggies and handlers. I can't even begin to tell you the joy I felt watching Chris with an assistance dog -- even though this handsome black Labrador wasn't  his dog, even though it was just a practice training time, it was this glorious picture of  what was to come. I deeeelighted in watching these 3 work together, the trainer constantly encouraging and instructing both Chris and the Black Lab how to move and work as a team.

There is this scene that is freeze-framed in my mind and heart.  Chris and his 4 legged black buddy stood waiting at the door to go outside.  This look came over Chris's face that said, How do I do this, get me and the dog out the door?

 "Chris, tell him to open the door." the trainer gently instructed.

Are you kidding?

Chris gave the command.  The lab, gently rose-up to the door handle, and with his mouth, opened the door for Chris.  And out they ventured...into a whole new world.

My jaw is still dropped open... 

Stay tuned........ more God and Dog stories to come.  I know it!

Parking Lot Conversations

After an hour of visiting and playing with a few little boys at the Domestic Violence Shelter, Chester and I were escorted out the heavily secured doors and into the parking lot.  A group of moms stood visiting, pausing on their way to go inside and pick up their children.  As Chester and I passed them, one mom stopped us.

"May I pet your dog?"

"Yes, of course."

"Will he bite?"

"No, Chester won't bite."

"Never met a dog that didn't bite."

"He might lick you, but he won't bite."  I smiled

She relaxed slightly, and reached toward Chester.
"He's a nice dog."   
Hesitantly, she patted him on top of his head. 
" Do you ever hit him?"

"No, I've never hit him.  All he's known is love."  I rubbed his ears.

"Never met a dog that hasn't been beat."
Chester stood still and quiet, a cautious, gentle hand resting atop his head.
 "He's a good dog. Don't you ever hit him."

"I won't. ....I promise"

She turned to walk toward the door, looked back once and said, "Thanks."

"You are very welcome."

One brief conversation, in one tiny parking lot.  My eyes were opened wider.  I am thankful she is here, a place where the hurting and battered and broken can find a voice and a pathway to healing.


 Papa, please, will you bless and protect
this courageous woman and her children.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Just a thought about Squirrel Chasing

Speaking of Chester and Squirrels...
I was having a ruff few days. Kinda felt like I slammed into the side of a car, an unexpected wham on an ordinary day.   So where do I run when I hit the wall? Back towards the squirrel, or to my Master?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Squirrel Chaser

Today was almost a disaster with a capital D.  And though all is well, my heart still has that sick feeling inside, that feeling that comes when you know what could have been. 

Chester and I had just returned from a romp in the woods -- a mini romp due to rain & mud.  I parked the car in our driveway, scanned the horizon for squirrels, dogs, and walkers ~~ doggie temptations. All clear I thought.  I opened the car door, gave him the OK.  To me, OK meant trot into the house.  To Chester, OK meant chase the squirrel that was in Greg's yard across the street.  In a nano-second, he sprang out the door, bolting toward the squirrel I had not seen.  At the same moment a maroon mini van rounded the corner,  on a direct collision course with Chester. 

I saw, I yelled his name just as I heard the thud ~~ feeling helpless & horrified,  and so stupid & responsible for giving the OK to go when it was unsafe for him.   Fortunately, the mini van was traveling slowly, and thankfully Chester did not go under, and thankfully what ever part of him thudded against the car was somehow protected from injury. After THUD, he bolted back to me as quickly as he ran for that squirrel.  (Scared the crap out of him, and me too.)  

After countless hugs, a call and visit to our amazing vet,  & a chiropractic adjustment (yes, you read that correctly!) from our friend and chiropractor, I am very relieved to write that Chester is doing well and napping by my side, occasionally rising up to nudge my wrist for some attention and a scratch behind the ears, as I type ~ being his good old Chester self.

I am hoping that somehow he thinks the minivan was a  Humongous T-Rex Evil Squirrel ---- and he will never chase again.  However, the leash law is now in effect from car to house.  

A huge teachable moment for me....and I am way-glad I can tell you about this squirrel chasing teachable moment, while my faithful 4 legged buddy is resting with his head on my foot....looking up at me with big brown eyes, safe 'n sound.

Thank you for angels watching over us today Dear Lord.  Amen.

Chillen' with Dad, who seems to be snoozing through the Phillies Game

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Two Wheeler Story

Today Chester visited his buddy Andy (name change) for their half hour of occupational therapy.   One of the things Andy had on his chart was to ride the two-wheeler around the indoor hallway loop. 

Andy is learning to ride a bicycle, it's a slow, challenging process, figuring out how to balance on two skinny tires when balancing is already difficult. So far Andy's been able to sit on the seat, putting one foot on a pedal, one foot on the floor. Push, glide, push, glide. Balance.

Today, Rebecca, his therapist chose the blue two-wheeler.  Andy wanted the red tricycle, it was easier, safer.  He got angry, "NO! NO!" He stomped away, turning in circles.

I draped Chester's red leash over the silver handlebar. Chester sat and waited. 

"Look, Chester's waiting for you." Rebecca said, pointing to the patient pup.

Andy continued to look away, shaking his head, "NO, NO!"

As Andy walked further, Rebecca calmly asked, "Would you like me to tell Chester to go home today since you don't want to ride the bike with him?"

"NO." Andy ran back from across the room, climbed up on the bike, resting his hand atop Chester's red leash.  Andy balanced, he pushed and glided, pushed and glided, while Chester trotted and smiled, trotted and smiled, close by his side.

It was a good day ~ on a bicycle built for two :-).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yoga With Chester, a P.S.

I forgot a VERY important part in Yoga with Chester. oops

So here is the P.S.
Very important P.S.
In fact, it really shouldn't be a P.S. at all.  It should have been in the main part.

(I sometimes worry about my brain)  ;-)

After Chester and Melissa finished YOGA time, Melissa lay exhausted on the red mat.  Chester lay exhausted as well, they were nose to toe, stretched out flat on the mat.  Picture: Chester's big black nose nuzzling Melissa's cute toes.  Peggy, (mom),  and Therapist, were gathering Melissa's shoes and socks to get her ready for part 2 of therapy time.   Chester sniffed Melissa's ten little sockless toes.  He sniffed again.  He gave a little lick, tickling her toes. Melissa giggled. Chester proceeded to wash Melissa's feet in a slobbery sort of way. Peggy saw the foot washing session and literally fell to the floor laughing hysterically. Finally, she managed to say, "I didn't know Chester gave pedicures with pet-therapy Yoga sessions!  Wait, no, that would be a Pup-i-Cure!"  A new wave of hysteria erupted.  

Melissa could not stop the giggles.  Ohmyghosh,  Peggy gave new meaning to ROFL (rolling on floor laughing) complete with tears streaming down her cheeks, Therapist was shaking her head unable to hold back the laughter OR bring any sense of order to this crew, and everyone, I mean everyone in the Physical Therapy room was looking on wondering why WE were having all the fun while they were working so darn hard.  Chester, oblivious to everything except Melissa's tasty Jr High toes, continued to slurp, lick, and very thoroughly wash, I might add,  the feet of his friend ~~~ giving a Deluxe Pup-i-cure for sure. 
Pup-i-Cures are the best. 
Chester has a few openings next week, if you'd like to make an appointment.
Good for the toes and good for the soul. ;-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Moments with Muffin...

I awoke this morning thinking about Muffin**...not a muffin, but Muffin~ our golden girl before Chester.  (We adopted her into our hearts and home when she was 8 yrs old, from a loving family who could no longer keep her.)  Maybe I was thinkin' of her because it was a Friday morning, and Friday was her favorite day of the week ~ the day she came to school with me.  Her tail wagged extra big on Fridays. If my 3rd graders had tails, theirs would have wagged just as big as Muff's!

Anyways, for some reason, I was thinking about Muffin and this one particular Friday... Muff was teamed up with George (name changed) for math buddies. George was having a bad day and he was grumpy, and he took out his grump-ness on Muffin. Meaning, he did not pet her very nicely, and pushed her a bit too hard when her paw touched his math book, (She obviously was trying to point something out to him!). George being "ruff" with our class-pup did not go over too well with me, or the rest of the students. In an even voice I said to George,  "You may choose to be kind to your math buddy, or I will choose a new math buddy for you."  George, through his unchanged behaviour, chose for me to pick a new buddy.  His new buddy was ME, the teacher, and Muffin moved on to other buddies.

Friday was pizza day at school.  Kids sat at their desks savoring yummy, greasy, cheesy, pizza, begging and tempting Muffin with bites, to sit by them. It was a huge honor to have the Muffster sit by your desk, ohmy!  Muff wandered through the isles of nose-high desks sniffing the delightful lunchtime smells that floated through the air.  Then, to our surprise, she settled by George.  GEORGE?

I did  not have teacher of the year thoughts at that moment.  Honestly, I was still a bit miffed with George. And, the class was not happy Muffin chose George for her lunchtime friend either. Watching this scene unfold, I began to hear 3rd grade whisper comments, those comments that teachers aren't supposed to hear, but always do~
...why's she sitting by him?
...he was mean.
...he doesn't deserve....
...sit by me Muffin, not him..

I cleared my throat, gave the teacher look, and the comments ceased. Truth be told, when I gave the look,  I was thinking exactly what they were saying.  My kids shushed, went back to munching pizza and chatting quietly about 3rd grade stuff.  I kept my eyes on George and The Muffster.

She sat by his desk, gently looking at him, then layed her head on his lap. George rested his little hand on her head.  His brown eyes got teary, and then he leaned over, sort of resting his head on hers, and whispered something in her ear.  She sat quietly, he sat quietly.  And then my eyes got full, and my heart got tender. After a bit, George sat up, tore a piece of pizza (the greasiest bite, I think), and gave it to Muff. All was well in the world.

Lunch was over, the pizza was gone, the desks were cleared, and Muffin had once again cleaned out the crusts from the trash can---a Friday ritual.   I sat perched on my stool, Muff lay snoozing under my desk, and the students eagerly awaited read-aloud-time.  I kept the book closed on my lap, and looked out at my dazzling 3rd graders, and gently said,  "I almost missed a God moment today. Anyone have an idea how God used Muffin to teach me about His love?"

Quiet filled the room.  Little heads looked down, tiny fingers traced designs on wooden desks.  And then....
A few hands went up.
"I think when Muffin sat by George for pizza." one brave student said.
They saw it too ~~ and the discussion began to flow.
I love moments like these. 
Moments you could never plan, but God brings.  Teachable moments, I like to call them.  Teachable Moments can be life changing ~ when we have ears to hear and eyes to see.

This Moment with Muffin, and George,  it reminds of a familiar story. A son had royally messed up everything, I mean everything, but decided to return home to Dad, the one he had hurt the most. Before the son could even lift his head or eek out an apology, Dad ran to him, scooping him up into the biggest bear hug ever recorded in history.  He just poured the love on his boy, forever healing the son's broken and shame-filled heart.

By the way,  George had a much better afternoon.  He was kinder.  Softer.  Well, we all were.

Muffin with a few of her favorite kids.
 (George, though one of Muff's favorites,  is not in this pic, in case you were wondering!)
PS  **For those of you interested in name origins.  Well, Muffin comes from the original word Muffin, meaning warm and savory treat.  Apparently when she was a wee pup, she ate a whole batch of them, fresh from the oven.  Thus her name.  Muffin.