Friday, January 28, 2011

Pool Party

Well, the weather outside was frightful, but the pool was so delightful ~ Chester was invited to a KPETS pool party today!  Woof! Woof !

Six golden retrievers, one yellow lab, and a furry little hold-in-your-arms black and white fluff-ball gathered together on a snowy January day, for a birthday swim party (2 dogs were celebrating) at the Mennonite Home, a retirement community for Seniors.  

The indoor pool deck was crowded chair to chair and walker to walker with smiling Seniors who  came to watch the canine swim.  The dogs put on quite a show, jumping, splashing, retrieving toys, doing the dog-paddle around the pool, and just generally having FUN.    Chester was a scaredy-dog at jumping in from the side.  A couple of the other goldens would do these flying leaps, landing with award winning style & splashes.  Chester had the want to, but would end up leaning way over the edge, pawing the water, then sliding in like an otter, ~~ which brought him a round of applause for trying :-).   The cutest sight, was the little black and white pup, perched on top of a big-blue floaty in the middle of the pool.  The retrievers swam circles around her  ~ and at times tried to climb aboard and sink her ship.  She was a good sport with the big hounds, and kind enough to share her floaty with the birthday girls~~A sweetie-pie for sure!

The Birthday Pool Party was a splashing success, and a good time was had by all.  Thank you to all the Seniors for letting us invade your pool this afternoon ~~ and for singing the sweetest rendition of Happy Birthday I have ever heard!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Top of the Stairs

It was the little boy at the top of the stairs who caught my attention and stole my heart.  I'm not sure if it was his dark curls, or his big brown eyes, or his train pajamas, or the way he huddled on the very top step, or maybe all of the above.  I was told this little one was very afraid of dogs, and from the look in his eyes and the way he clung to that top step, it appeared that wasn't all he was afraid of.

Chester, Keith (my husband), and I were visiting the DVS, Domestic Violence Shelter, to love-on, and play with the children on this stormy evening. While the children played, their very courageous moms, who are finding their way out of, and breaking the cycle of domestic violence,  meet in a home next door,  for counsel, encouragement,  and hope for a better tomorrow.  The children are cared for by loving volunteers, who cook them dinner, and give lots of TLC, in a very tight-security environment.  There were 3 KPETS teams joining the children this particular night, and there was A LOT of activity to say the least!  Plan A, was to be outside in the high-fenced yard, however it was raining cats and dogs, so we were doing Plan B, inside. 

While the other pups entertained children in the livingroom with tricks and snuggle time, Chester and I walked the hallway trail, from the base of the stairs to diningroom to kitchen and back again.  The boys lined up to hold Chester's leash and walk the loop, giving him gentle commands like sit, stay, wait, come, down, and then, heal. Chester got a kazillion treats, and the boys liked being in charge :-).  Those big brown eyes at the top of the stairs watched as we made countless laps. Keith sat towards the bottom step,  engaging this sweet boy in kindergarten conversation, hoping fear would lessen and trust would grow.  With each lap, I noticed the train PJ's were inching their way down the stairs, until at last the boy was sitting one step above Keith. 

At this point I paused,  peeking through the railings I asked,  "Would you like to give Chester a treat?" The curls shook, "No."  Chester and I walked another lap with another boy, and then I asked again. This time I got a "Yes", and little fingers reached through the rails, quickly taking the treat and tossing it far away. Chester eagerly retrieved.  Now, on each lap, Chester stopped, sat in front of his little buddy and waited for a treat.  Chester was not giving up. 

It was almost time for us to leave, and I just thought ....I'd at least ask....  "Would you like to come with me, and walk Chester?"  And then it happened, this precious little boy in mismatched train pajamas and scruffy tennis shoes, came down the last few steps and stood next to me.  I smiled, and put one leash in his brown, chubby, little hand, while I held Chester's main leash.  I whispered, "Say, Chester, heal."  He whispered, "Chester, heal."  Chester slowly eased forward, keeping step.  As the 3 of us walked, smushed side by side, in the narrow hallway, I noticed the faintest glimmer of a smile, and found his other little hand in mine. It was one of those moments I wanted to freeze-frame and never forget.  My eyes started to leak. We walked back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, and stayed a little longer.

This boy, so afraid when we first stepped through the doorway, had opened his heart a wee lil' bit to let love in .  God used a lovable, persistent, treat-lovin' golden retriever to help crack open the door of this little one's heart. Before we were escorted out the front door of this safe house,  we waited in the hallway. I was still gently holding this sweet boy's hand in mine, noticing, as his other hand came to easily rest on Chester's back.  I continued to take in the moment, so thankful for shelters such as these, providing love, hope, and fresh beginnings for moms and their children ~~ and an especially brave little guy in choo-choo jammies who once sat perched at the top of the stairs.  

Monday, January 24, 2011


One of Chester's favorite things to do, when he is not working, is to go romping in the woods.  I love to romp (er,hike) in the woods as well, except when it is friggen' freezin'.  On freezin' mornings my favorite spot to be is by the fire, reading,  having some quiet moments while holding and sipping a hot cup of coffee. Chester, on the other hand, lives for friggen' freezin' .

WALK? he asks.
Chester, it's freezing outside, in a bit.

A bit has gone by...
Romp? he thumps his tail.
In a while.  Not yet.  I promise. I can still see my breath out there!

I move from the chair by the fire to my computer. I check email, facebook, sip more coffee. AWHILE has passed, he nudges my arm, and his look is a little more pathetic.

I you know how cold it is out there??
He you know how many squirrels are calling my name?

He wins. I slip on my boots, grab my coat, my hat, my gloves, my scarf, my keys, and make sure I have my 27 layers of clothing on. Okay, I totally admit I am a wimp when it comes to cold.   BUT, out the door we go. (I am not whining & do not have an attitude)  I open the car door. He waits. He hears me say, Load-Up,  in he hops, satisfied, and very excited.

We drive all of 5 minutes to Uncle Bob's Park, affectionately named after our friend and realtor, BOB, who opened our eyes to this hidden woods just minutes from our backdoor.  Tucked in these quiet woods are miles of winding trails, trickling streams,(well except when they are FROZEN), and a kazillion squirrels for Chester. It's our favorite close-to-home place to romp.

As I crunch through the snow, and the pup romps, I am actually glad to be here. Really. (the coat helps) It feels good to hike, be in the good ole outdoors, get some exercise, and watch Chester delight in running off-leash & free.  He's like a crazy hound dog with his nose to the ground, ears flopping, tail high, always on high-alert for an unsuspecting squirrel.  When he spots those fuzzy-gray rodent-dudes, he is off like lightening to tree the poor creature. If he ever caught one, he would no doubt panic, he is such a scaredy-dog and tender-hearted-mush-ball.

While we are romping along, from time to time, I just love to do this ~~ I call him back to me. I do this for training & practice, to check to see if he is still listening for, and responding to, my voice.  Before calling him, I often wait until he is focused & distracted on something dog-tempting,  sometimes out of site, but never out of earshot. I call,  "Chester! Come!"  He's usually by my side in a nano-second, waiting for the next command, eyes fixed on mine, tailing thumping. I gush all over him, telling him what a good boy he is, patting his head, scrunching his soft ears... And then I say, "Okay" , and he is off.

I must admit, it's total joy for me, to see him stop eeerch in his tracks when he hears me call, then turn & run full speed ahead back to me.   I love that about Chester.  Eager to please, quick to respond to my voice, just because he loves and trusts me, and....he knows I love him.  (And he likes ear scrunches and me gushing all over him)   He's not perfect, don't get me wrong, he totally has his moments when squirrels, or deeelicious smells, cause him to lose his sense of hearing :-), but his heart is to please me. Oh, that I would be so quick to listen and respond with a heart like his, when my Heavenly Papa speaks ~ knowing how completely loved I am & how utterly trustworthy He is.  

As we're on the short drive home I think, oh what we do for our dogs...romping in the bitter winter-cold..

I glance at him in the rear view mirror, and I swear he is smiling, and I kinda wonder if he is thinking... oh what we do for our people, she really needed to get out this morning.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Hard Places...

Going into classrooms that have children with special needs, very special needs, it's hard for me.  I don't feel like I'm very good at this part of what Chester and I do.  My heart gets stuck in my throat, and tears want to leak from my eyes, and I have more questions for my Heavenly Papa than answers.   If it wasn't for Chester .... his wagging tail,  I might peek my head in the door and then keep walking. I am thankful for my faithful buddy, Chester, who doesn't hesitate for a moment, and walks through the door to "his" kids.  I am also tremendously thankful all eyes are on him and not me. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. Chester is amazing, all he sees is more children to love on.  The boy has a gift!

After greeting the teachers, I follow Chester's lead, knowing he will take me to the child who is ready.  He heads to the little girl in the wheel chair, actually a wheel-recliner-chair,  who cannot lift her head to see, or reach her frail hand over the railing to pet him.  I give him the command "up" and pat the side of her recliner, Chester rises up gentle as a lamb ~ resting his big paws on the side of her chair, he kisses her on the cheeks, and she smiles with delight.  He stays for a bit while she lets her fingers settle into his soft fur. She cannot see, she cannot speak, but she knows there  is a big-ole,  very-sweet,  puppy-dog on her lap, who wants to be her friend. 

Chester makes the rounds, visiting first the children in chairs, then he settles down on the floor where a few children are lying down, with their teachers close by.  Chester chooses to nestle close to a teacher, obviously knowing she needs a hug today as well.  As she pets Chester, she tells me about herself and her classroom. While visiting, she  helps one boy throw a tennis ball.  Chester bolts for the ball, all of us forgetting how slick that floor is, he slides, knocking over everything in his path, but comes up with the ball, as if to say "ta-da!!!"  Teachers are laughing, students are startled ~ Chester is just having fun and being himself.   After the retrieving 101 exercise :-),  he spends the rest of his time laying on the mats, letting teachers and children rub his belly.  It's a rough life, but someone has to do  it.

Nothing like yummy icecream after a good days work!
Of course, it's unanimous, everyone wants Chester to visit again. Of course, we will. As we walk out the door, silently I pray, oh Papa, please touch these precious children with Your healing love, their teachers as well, encourage them with Your love & joy.  I hear Him whisper, I am.

Tears leak out as we walk down the hallway... I am humbled, humbled that Papa would pick me to hold Chester's leash, and go to the places, sometimes hard places,  that need a tail wag and a kiss from above.   

Laughter, it's good for the soul

Visiting Schreiber this week....
Chester was in rare form, or I should say typical form this week.  He was silly.  He ran into things while retrieving the ball for his FAVORITE girl at Schreiber Pediatric Rehab.  He lost the ball for a moment, and while desperately searching for it spun in circles looking high and low, under and over, spinning spinning spinning, while slipping on the waxed floor...and we all laughed 'til we had tears in our eyes.  He gave the therapist a giant smooch on the lips, which delighted his FAVORITE girl to no end. His FAVORITE girl loves Chester kisses, but the therapist, not-so-much, which makes it all the more deeeelightful.   And then, he did the most amazing dog-burp I have ever heard, after he lapped up a bowl-full of water, which made me roll my eyes, and laughter erupt throughout the room.

Chester's Favorite girl's mom said to her daughter, "I'm so glad we stopped at the restroom on the way in, or we would have peed our pants by now ~ we always need to stop on Chester Day!"

Chester's favorite Christmas presents from his
favorite Schrieber ball and squirrel,
I know it looks like a monkey, but he calls it squirrel!

I thought about this........sometimes I get so dang worried about Chester doing things perfectly (me doing things perfectly), and in this moment I was reminded....just relax, just be.  What in the world could this dear family need more than laughter and joy.  Yes, Chester's FAVORITE girl needs physical therapy, needs to stretch and grow stronger and learn new skills ---------- but is there anything better than a healthy dose of belly laughter in the process.  I think not.

Chester, you are so silly.  So amazing.  Thanks for continuing to teach me about life and what is really important.

Angels and Heavenly Kisses

Often we take Chester to church ~ tonight while worshipping, Chester looked up, directly towards the ceiling ~ past Keith and I, past the countless faces and outstretched arms,  just staring at nothing we could see with our physical eyes.  He was intent, focused, then he glanced at me as if to say...don't you see it?  I stared as hard as I could, wanting to see what I knew he so clearly saw.    ~~he often sees what I do not see.   After staring intently for quite some time, never moving or wavering, eyes gently fixed, on what I believe was an angelic being, he settled down at our feet and rested.   oh Lord give me ears to hear and eyes to see

Another night, after church, Chester and I stood in the aisle, just allowing people to greet him .  Most often, as we wait, I find that just the right people approach, those who love dogs, need a doggie hug or a tail wag, those who want to ask questions, those who need to tell their own animal "tails".  We wait, we stand, and the people just come.  This particular night,   a quiet woman approached, she was middle-aged, dressed quite plainly, and wore a tight bun in the back of her hair.  She knelt down to pet Chester, and immediately he gave her a huge kiss right on the lips.  I began to pull him back, thinking ohmygosh not the best greeting for this woman.  She hugged him tightly around the neck and broke into delightful laughter, and then looked directly into those big, gentle brown eyes of his and said, "Oh my, I haven't been kissed in....well....I don't know how many years!!! How did you know that is just what I needed tonight!?" 

Again...Chester often sees what I do not see. ~ On this night he saw right into the heart of a  lonely woman, a woman who needed a heavenly kiss, heavenly laughter & love, and he was there to deliver just what was needed at just the right time.    oh Lord, give me ears to hear and eyes to see

I love you Chester :-)