Friday, November 9, 2012

Chris's Dream Come True ~~ Tara !

 I just had to write an update....I had to tell you some great news.

If you will check back to the blog archives you will see some posts regarding Chris and Victoria.  Well, the great news for Chris is, his long wait for a service dog has turned into a dream-come-true.  Tara, a sweet Black Labrador,  is now his service dog, and they are training together as a team. Thank you UDS Service Dog Trainers.  You are amazing.

Chester and I couldn't be more thrilled! WOOF WOOF & we send a  kazillion wags of congratulations to Chris and Tara (and Chris's sweet wife Victoria too).

What a wonderful fairy-tail ending & beginning to our prayers for Chris. 
God bless you both!  
And Happy Tails to You!

PS For those of you who don't know, Chester and I are traveling cross-country  with our family,  and he is on extend-o vacation ~~ thus the huge gap in Tails of a Therapy Dog posts.  Chester is enjoying chasing squirrels, long walks, doggie paddle swims in gorgeous lakes and rivers, chasing balls and sticks, going on bike-ride-runs, and cruising in the motor home. 

The other day, he seemed to be forgetting his therapy-dog-manners, I said to him quite sternly "Chester, are you EVER going to be a therapy dog again, HELLO?!"  He looked at me so dejected, totally heartbroken that I would say such a thing....I knew he knew exactly what I was saying............and his eyes said "Ummm, I'm on vacation Mom. I promise I'll get back to work."

I told him I was sorry I hurt his feelings....and he promised me that he would do better with his doggie manners. Once a therapy dog, always a therapy dog ;-).

To check out our travel tails, go to incrediblejourneytails.blogspot.com

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Good Byes Aren't Easy


Good Byes Aren't Easy........that is for sure.

As we leave PA, to journey to California, one of THE hardest things is saying "bye"
to my KPETS friends.

To Willard, our dear dear friend.



To Melissa and her mom.



To our UDS students.

To Karen, "Mrs. KPETS...mommy to her goldens", my dear friend...



Each and all of you have filled our hearts to over-flowing. We love you.




Dear Willard....

Adult Enrichment Class ~~ How you have enriched our lives!!!


Melissa, you have changed our lives forever.

This good-bye hug....made tears flow down all our cheeks.
We were honored to have our prints put on the Schreiber Hall of Fame

Melissa's....her handprint has grown since she first placed it there....about 9 yrs ago.
You are engraved on our hearts forever.  FOREVER!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Walkin' and Rollin' in the Garden




Saturday Morning dawned cloudy and cool-er (yippee)  ~ after a scorchingly-hot-humid-not-fun-to-be-outside week, it  was a Pawsitively Perfect day for a stroll in the Willow Valley Gardens with Willard.   Willard loves plants and flowers. In fact, after returning from WWII, he earned his degree in Agriculture, and grew lush gardens on his New Jersey farm.  Dori and I wanted to bless our dear friend and give him an extra special day ~~~ we couldn't think of a better way than walkin' & rollin' outside in God's good earth with his dear buddy Chester.

Willard had not been outside in a very long time. As in a year or more. When you haven't been outside in a very long while, it can feel like quite a HUGE and fearful journey into the unknown.  Four-legged-buddies can help with that. Take a peek and see how it went.

Let's play ball !



Ready.....

GO!

Treats for bringin' the ball back!


                                    


      The day couldn't have been more lovely!  Really.  A Golden Moment for sure.... Priceless. 

       PS. Did you notice who is happy to hold the leash, and who is smiling big on the other end?
                    ....I'm thinkin' these two did ok, way ok.    

                                                                                            






Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Good Byes :-( .....

I don't do good-byes well at all. I'm terrible at them.  AUGH. 

Today Chester and I visited with our precious Adult Enrichment Students at United Disability Services ~ we have known many of these students for two years. I had no idea how much these amazing men and women would climb into my heart.  Nor, how much Chester and I would climb into theirs.  Two years doesn't seem like a long time, but our love for each other grew big in that short time span.     That is God :-)  How His love surprises us,  touches us, and changes us.

Today was the day I told my friends that Chester and I (and my family too) are moving to California in September. Though we have one more visit together in August...I knew I needed to tell them.  Today.  I was not looking forward to this moment, not one lil bit. After we had lots of Chester visit time ~~ I told them about our move, I told them how much Chester and I loved them, treasured them.    .....  .....  .....    And then it was like someone let all the air out of the room, and  I saw on their faces that  they clearly understood what I was saying.  I watched tears well up, and expressions sadden  ~~ and then the tears started to leak down my cheeks, like they are leaking out now.

While I was in the midst of fumbling with my words, eyes dripping, and lump-in-throat-growing ~~  my sweet friend Stephanie (name changed) reached up to me from her wheel chair, and began to repeat kind words. She was patiently repeating because I was having trouble understanding.  I think I had tears in my ears.   I asked a staff member to help me interpret the gentle words this young woman with the long brown curls, kind eyes, and dimpled smile was trying SO hard to communicate to my ears 'n heart.

She said to me --- "Would you like a tissue?  And a hug?"

Oh my, Yes.  I need both. 

 (And I needed BOTH even more after I understood what she said!)

With tissue in hand, and strengthened by a warm hug, Chester and I went to each student.  We heard everything from "I am so happy for you!" to~ "Please don't go..."  to~  "This is so hard" to~ "God bless you for giving yourself to us"  to~  the heart-words that long embraces and tears communicate.  Ohmy, it was so hard, and tender.  Chester's tail even drooped.  I wanted to make it all better for them.  But I couldn't. There's a lot to be said for  hugging and crying together, and laying a furry head on a friend's lap. It is healing.

One of the many things I have grown to love about those with so-called-special-needs (HONESTLY, I question who really has the special needs -- I think perhaps the world has it all upsidedown 'n backwards.  Special needs can easily translate into special-gifts. ) is the way many are able to express their emotions and their heart.  So authentic. So real. So simple.

Two years ago.  When I walked through the door into this special classroom, I had no idea I would love these students so very much. Each one of them.  With each visit, these men and women climbed deeper into my heart, and gave me far more than Chester and I gave to them. I will miss Tuesdays at Adult Enrichment.

Adult Enrichment. A fitting name. 

Thank you, Lord, for these dear dear friends, how they have opened their hearts and loved Chester and me, for how they have taught me &  how they have shown me YOU.  Oh how they have ENRICHED my life.



Sigh.  I need a tissue.  And a hug.


PS August 14th, we get to see our friends again. SO  HAPPY about that.  For sure. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Talent Show

"You've got a friend in me..... You've got a friend in me...."
Chester does a lot of firsts with Melissa. And yesterday was his FIRST TALENT SHOW.  Schreiber Pediatric was hosting their annual summer camp for kids, and Thursday was talent show day. 

I have to say .... and I am not biased in the least ..... Melissa and Chester were the stars of the show.  Paws down.   I mean, really, they were.

The gymnasium was PACKED with kids and adults.  The noise and activity were off the charts when we strolled in. Chester was attacked by countless arms, hands, fingers, wanting to touch him. When we found Melissa --- he literally climbed up into the safety of her lap, slimed her face with kisses and said, "My Melissa My Melissa My Melissa....HELP!"  That was the beginning.

Chester and I waited in the hallway and out on the grass (having last minute potty breaks before the big show) talking with Melissa's very cool little brother, Robert, about his favorite subject.....trains.

When Melissa's name was called we hurried in to take our place next to Melissa.

Peg wheeled Melissa in.  
Peg is SuperMom ---she is SuperMom.
I think she should wear a red cape with SM on it.

Peg cued the music.
 "You've got a friend in me.... You've got a friend in me...."

Chester took his spot, sitting  next to Melissa's wheel chair.

She patted her lap, "Up Chester!"

He bounced UP, paws on her lap, kisses on her face.

The crowd CHEERED.

"SIT Chester!"  She gave the hand signal for sit.  

He sat.

Melissa gave him a treat from her treat pouch :-). 

MORE CHEERS

"DOWN Chester!" Melissa pointed to the ground with authority!

Down he went, like a champ.

THE CROWD ROARED.
 
Next SuperMom brought out the GIANT BLUE RUBBER PEANUT that Melissa uses for her floor exercises.  SM helped Melissa into her position. Melissa now looked like a very CUTE  human bridge,
 for Chester to go under and over.

I commanded --- "UNDER!" 
Chester looked at me.....  He went around.  :-) 
ha ha, funny boy.

Try again.  I handed Robert a treat.  He knelt on one side of Melissa holding the tempting yummy treat.  I was on the other side with silly Chester.

"Chester UNDER!"  He army crawled under. 

The CROWD WENT WILD.

Next.... "OVER CHESTER!"

Over he bounded ~~ he soared and smiled at the crowd.  This was ridiculously FUN.

He had so much FUN he did it twice.
(Melissa was relieved he did not flatten her like a pancake -- see cub scout post)

More APPLAUSE.

Next talent....Melissa sat in her wheel chair and threw the ball for Chester.  And he retrieved.  You may not think this is a HUGE talent for a Golden Retriever ( I mean it's in the name, & the genes, for heaven's sake).  However,  Melissa is the one that taught Chester to retrieve. She did.  The only person he consistently retrieves for (as in brings the ball BACK) is Melissa.

My favorite part comes next. 

 The GRAND FINALE.
 (drum roll please)
Melissa stands up from her wheel chair.
 
LOOK MA, NO HANDS! NO SUPPORT!
 (SM is behind Melissa, just in case laughter erupts and we all lose our balance --- it happens :-) )
 Melissa balances by herself, no crutches, no walker,
 and  throws the ball for Chester. 

WOW.   AMAZING.  DAZZLING.

clap clap clap clap clap

Chester trots back to Melissa's side,
she treats him from her treat pouch that is strapped around her waste.
"Good Boy!" she says to him.

 Smiles are HUGE.

We all stand in front of the crowd.  Robert...SuperMom...Melissa...Chester....Me

TaDa!
Melissa and Chester take a bow together.
(I think Robert did too  ...  Little brothers like to do things like that :-)
Three Times they take a bow.

APPLAUSE

While the crowd is still roaring Chester and Melissa exit the room side by side...

"You've got a friend in me....You've got a friend in me..."


Best Talent Show ever.....

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lightening Storms and Fireworks!


I almost forgot this "tail". 

A number of weeks ago as I was driving home from a Chester appointment ....I said to myself,   I need to write this down, so I don't forget. 

I forgot to write it down...and I forgot.  Don't you just hate that.  (God has such a sense of humor --- I mean, there I was visiting our dear friends who struggle terribly with Alzheimer's and Dementia and then I FORGET what I wanted to remember.  Oye.  )

I remembered.  Just now ... I remembered what I forgot.  Just now, when the thunder boomed and the lightening lit up the night sky.  I remembered. 

We were visiting Willard.  Chester was laying on the bed atop the familiar red blanket, snuggled close to his friend.  Willard stroked Chester's paws.  His head.  The golden feathery fur on his neck.  I sat in the bedside chair silently watching and enjoying the moments.  Just a typical quiet visit.

And then Willard spoke to me ever so clearly.

"Did you hear the thunder last night?"

My jaw dropped open.   "Yes!  I did!  It was so loud."

"The lightening, it was like FIREWORKS!" he said.

"Oh my, yes.   Like Fireworks."  I smiled.

.........

 A miracle conversation....
Lighting up the whole room.

 Like Fireworks.

Don't you just love fireworks!





Mrs. UP (Mrs. Grumpness)

Mrs. Grumpness, Mrs. UP,(sounds like an oxymoron), is one of the familar faces we see each week at Willow Valley.   I call her Mrs. UP because she totally looks like the identical twin to the grumpy-round-faced-slumped-grumbling-aging-man in the movie UP (great movie bytheway)

For the past year or so, every time we visit Willow Valley and walk towards Mrs. UP, she says, "No, NO, NO, grumble, &%*#&%#*" .  I hardly get the words out to ask if she would like to pet the dog ~~ when she shakes her head and says the above stuff.  It's OK, we understand,  --- Chester keeps waggin' and I keep walking, moving on towards others in the room who can hardly wait to touch their 4-legged friend.  Though Mrs. UP resists our love and wags, we love her still. :-)


Last visit, we walked towards  Mrs. UP.

"Would you like to pet Chester?"  We kept walking.

"I'd like to pet THE DOG."

urch.    

SERIOUSLY?

We pawsitively froze in our tracks.

Mrs. UP gently touched Chester's head. His ears.  "You are such a nice dog."

 Chester raised his eyebrows, looking up at me.  I looked down at him.  

He grinned.  I grinned.

We pawsed.  Lingered.

Don't you just love it?



.......seriously.....






Chetty to the Rescue

Chester and I lingered in one of the common living areas at Willow Valley, visiting familiar residents. Often, in this room, we see a dear married couple, Sue and Russ (names changed) who sit side by side in their wheel chairs  ... holding hands.  So sweet.   Though we are on the alzheimer's floor and memories are  fuzzy ~ there is a tenderness & connection between Russ and Sue that words can't explain. 

Over the past year and a half, Russ has come to love Chester visits.  Russ is a dog person, and whenever Chester would come into the room, he would exclaim "Chetty! Awe....Chetty's here.."  with a kazillion exclamation points. 

For the past few weeks we've missed seeing Russ, he has not been in his usual spot at 2:00 in the afternoon, watching TV with his bride.  I asked Dori (my therapist friend) about Russ, she told me he has been failing quickly and often stays in his room for longer periods. :-(

As Dori and I stood visiting about Russ, Chester stopped focusing on the residents and glared out into the hallway.  "What is it ?"  I asked him.  He glanced at me, and again stared out into the empty hallway.  Call me crazy, but he looked just like Lassie when she was trying to tell Ma or Pa that Timmy was stuck in the well.  (If you were not blessed to grow up with b&w TV, you will be completely clueless about what I just said!)  Anyways...

I followed Chester's lead into the hallway where we faced two open doors. 

I moved toward the door on the left.  "Do want to go in here?" Nope.

I moved towards the door on the right. "This room?"  Chester began to walk through the doorway.  We paused so Dori could go in first and make sure the resident was ok & ready for a 4-legged visitor.  I had no idea whose room this was.  Not a clue.

When we got the thumbs-up, Chester & I walked in together.  On the other side of the curtain, laying in the bed near the window was......   Russ?  Yes, Russ.  Our friend, Russ.  Hearing us, he turned his head, gently smiled,  and reached out his hand towards Chester,  "Chetty, you came to see me....."

Russ was having an especially hard day and it was more than clear that this dear man was "stuck in the well" ~~~  in need of some TLC,  Chetty Therapy, and some assistance  from his Aides who were unaware of his current need.   He was lonely. Confused.   Sad.  Missing his Sue.

 Chetty and I stayed by Russ's bedside while Dori retrieved the help that was needed. 

After Russ was safely "out of the well" --- Chetty pranced down the hallway to his next assignment...
And....Dori and I picked our jaws up off the floor and pondered.....




                                                                        
                                                                                     


Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Willard!

Happy Birthday Willard!

Willard turned 94 years old on June 1st.  Chester and I were deeee-lighted to celebrate this day with our dear friend. We were his only visitors.... sigh....  How glad we were to be there :-)




Chester brought a 5x7 photo of himself as a gift for his buddy. A handsome beach picture! Willard smiled big, so big in fact that his top teeth began to fall out :-) .  (You just have to keep a sense of humor during these moments ~ It didn't bother Willard in the least, he just gently gave them a push back in place! I just love this man!) 

Willard held  the framed photo gently, a treasure, examining it closely.  Then,  he made those happy sounds that make me smile deep in my heart. I placed the photo on the window ledge where Willard could easily see it.

After presents, we did what we usually do. I sat on the chair at Willard's bedside. Chester climbed onto the bed with his friend. And the two snuggled.  Chester's breathing became steady and his eyes heavy.  He fell asleep enjoying gentle ear massages, neck rubs, and paw pats from the birthday boy.

After quite some time Willard reached out and touched MY arm. "Thank you for the picture," he said.  I was so startled....stunned might be a better word ~~ that he spoke so clearly and made the connection that the picture was our gift to him on his birthday. Another Alzheimer's miracle moment...... tears spilled over my cheeks.

"You are so very welcome." I replied.  "We love you, Willard."

Happy Birthday dear friend.







In Memory of Janet

Our Friend Janet

My heart is kind of achy this week......Chester and I attended a memorial service for Janet, a woman we visited regularly on the Alzheimer's floor. She LOVED dogs and had a sweet connection with Chester. The staff on her floor were OVERJOYED when  we came, as Janet's disease made her way-difficult to get along with and not fun to be with (if you catch my drift)....that is, except when Chester pranced through her doorway. When Chester was on site, Janet became a different person, probably her real self  ~~~~ full of spunk, but so tender, kind, and thoughtful.

The first time we visited Janet, she told the staff that she would indeed like a visit from THE DOG. We walked in her room, moved near her bedside, and accidentally, I gave Chester the wrong command.  The way I patted the bed told him to JUMP ON, rather than PAWS UP.  (Oopsie Daisy)  Chester looked at me, grinned,  and gently jumped up on Janet's bed.  I knew that he knew that I knew he was totally taking advantage of my mistake.  It delighted them both to no-end. And that was the beginning. I did command Chester off the bed, as Janet told me, with a sparkle in her eye, "that dogs were not allowed on the bed at her home!"  But, I could tell she appreciated the fact that he broke the rules :-) .

Whenever we visited, Chester would come along side Janet's bed on the right hand side, put his big ole front paws up on her bedspread and inch-in as close as he could.  She would talk to him in such a sweet voice, stroke his big ole paws and soft ears,  feed him treats, and ask me the same questions each time we came....and tell me about her dogs. Her Boxers.  And whenever we left, she would thank us over and over for visiting.

On our last visit,  Janet was on oxygen and had pneumonia. I knew, I think we all knew, it was the last time we would see each other on earth.  I took her hand, and told her I loved her and so enjoyed our visits.  She told me she hated being sick.  In less than a week she had passed from earth to heaven.

I wanted to attend Janet's service.  To meet her children and grandchildren and tell them how much we loved their Mom and Grandma.  And... well I wanted to know Janet. The real Janet.  As a few shared about her life, .....well....She was just as I had imagined her. :-) Full of life and love and spunk. She was a woman who spoke her mind clearly, with a  feisty twinkle in her eye.  She was a no-nonsense school teacher who was loved deeply by her students. And she loved dogs. Her Boxers.  

Our lives are all the richer because of our Thursdays with Janet.
You will be greatly missed.
But I wouldn't wish you back, not for anything.
A Hui Ho ~ Until we meet again.
With Hugs and Tail Wags.  

LEAVE IT! probably saved his life.....

A Teachable Moment for all KPETS Teams
& Doggie Owners

Today on one of our regular KPETS visits, Chester's quick response and obedience probably saved his life. When we walked into the room, my buddy sniffed under a table and I noticed a blue capsule/pill. I commanded him "Leave It" and he did so immediately. I then notified the staff who removed the medicine from the area.  I was so thankful my eyes were on Chester, and he obeyed without hesitation.  A great reminder for us all to make sure our pups are confident in this command, and to stay alert on our visits. I really never thought this would happen ~~ and it did.   I'm thankful for the training KPETS gives ~~ so valuable for the safety of our pets as we serve others.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

De-Stressing During Finals Week

When I read the request for Pet Therapy Teams needed to help de-stress students during FINALS week at a local University  ~~ well OF COURSE I answered the call. How fun is this?! One very Creative Counselor at Millersville University decided to implement a program to help encourage and de-stress students during a very stressful week of finals. KPETS Teams were invited to come throughout this week, and Chester & I gladly signed up for a two hour time slot. (Where were golden retrievers during my finals weeks? HELLO?)

When we arrived on the busy campus, we found the student union, & Chester immediately trotted in and assessed the situation. Tension.  We met our host from the counseling department and then... well, we just hung out. No program.  No agenda.  We were just THERE.  The students came in and out, some were walking through, others sitting on chairs, a few on the floor ~~ studying, talking. When they noticed Chester, or his KPETS Collie-friend, Romeo --- well these students visibly DE-STRESSED  in front of our eyes.  Smiles emerged. Shoulders softened. Easy conversation flowed.  These pups worked the crowd...and knew just who to go to and what to do. Chester and Romeo wandered around, hung out with new friends, climbed up on laps, checked out computer screens, layed on the floor, got tummy rubs, gave a few kisses, performed a few tricks, received countless ear massages, and heard warm-hearted TAILS from students about their own pups on the home front, who were greatly missed :-(  ...... sigh.

Who woulda' thought  ~ Pet Therapy during finals week?  What a pawsitively great idea! All week long different KPETS teams came in and out.......and as word spread throughout campus, more and more students came, to forget about studying and pressure and finals ~~ they came to sit on the floor, and relax...with a dog.

Life is good.


Ain't it good to know... that you've got a friend...


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Middle School Dance!!!



   
              Chester, waiting outside Melissa's school for his FIRST dance!
 
Friday night, Chester attended his very first DANCE.  He was invited by his best buddy, Melissa. Her class was hosting a Middle School Dance Fundraiser for his Big Dog friends, the UDS Dogs, assistance pups in training.  Melissa asked Chester to be her companion.  He was paws-itively ecstatic and thrilled.


Doggies and Students....getting pre-dance-hosting instructions!

The dance was a great success.  Lots of kids, dogs, and FUN.   Chester had a blast with his cute date. He greeted people. He danced. He got his picture taken a kazillion times. He hung out at the snack table. He went EVERYWHERE with Melissa, proud to prance by her side.
 
A couple of dog-gone memorable moments....besides the snack table...
At one point, Chester told Melissa "I have to go."  We took him outside to the grass. We let him run around a bit in a fenced in area. I gave him the command, "Go Now!" She gave him the command, "Go Now!" He rolled in the freshly-mown grass.  He romped. He smiled. He sniffed.  He raced.  He did everything but "go now."  Melissa thought this was hilarious.  I rolled my eyes. A friend of Melissa's who was watching said, "Melissa, I've never seen you laugh like this!"  I thought... hmmm, we do this every week during PT at Schrieber...this IS Melissa and Chester. Always.

Well, after not-going we went back inside for more fun, then, a tour of the school. One of our stops was the Biology Room. I don't know if I'm supposed to tell you this or not... but... I will, our tour guide took the BIG white rat out of the cage ;-) .  He carried the creepy rodent (rats with beady pink eyes and looooong naked tails are not my favorite creature on planet earth)  to show Melissa and me...and Chester, up close.  I was not sure if this was a good idea or not.  Rats look sort of  like squirrels, if you catch my drift.

Well, the rat got a little frisky and started nibbling on our tour guide, who was fumbling to hold on to this critter -- .  I was thinking, hmm, this could be very interesting. Biology room, slippery floor, rat running free, Chester.  I started laughing. Melissa started laughing.  We could not stop.  Chester was salivating.


To make a long story shorter.......and less exciting than it could have been.... our tour guide got control of Mr. Rat and put him back in his cage.  In the meantime, I tried to drive Melissa's chair out of the Biology lab, crowded with classroom furniture.  We were stuck.  I was flunking wheel chair driving 101 ....  Imagine bumper-cars.  Poor Melissa, I kept running her chair, and her cute tennies, into tables and chairs and cabinets. I continually apologized, "oops, sorry Meliss....uh, sorry.... you OK?...uh, didn't mean to do that...is your foot OK?"  To which all I could hear was laughter.  Thankfully. I love Melissa's laughter (and patience with crazy drivers).  And Chester, well he was wedged in there somewhere, praying he could get another chance with white squirrel.

Eventually, and miraculously, we did bump our way out of the Biology Lab....with our sides and faces aching from laughter.

At the end of our evening, I told Melissa, it was the best Middle School Dance I had been to in my entire life.  And that is the truth.  Chester agreed it was a fairy-tail evening.


Oh....and the cherry on top.  Well, when Mom and Dad came to pick up their Melissa, they brought their dog, Rufus, a big-ole chocolate Lab who made Chester look small.  What a hunk of chocolate LOVE.  Though Chester has been waiting to meet the dog he has heard so much about, initially he let it be known he was not especially thrilled to shake paws with this Chocolate Big Boy. Either he was a weee bit jealous or self-conscious about how he looked in his yellow vest, hard to tell???  Regardless, when I took his vest off,  he went from working mode to play mode,  & fully enjoyed romping and wrestling with Melissa's dog, Rufus.  They were buds.

Rufus, Melissa, and Chester


What a dazzling day~~ Bus ride (see previous post) AND Dance....all in the same day.  When we drove into the driveway, Chester was snoozin' and my face still hurt from laughing ~~ dog-gone wonderful!



The Bus Ride

Chester, checkin' for squirrels.
Fridays is our day to visit and share tail wags with our friends on the Alzheimer's floor at a nearby retirement community. This past Friday,  rather than visit inside, we joined a handful of men and women on a bus ride, over the meadow and through the woods.

Oh my.  Never have I had so much fun on a bus!

It was a gorgeous day, bright blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds, the fields  lush and green,  trees laden with lavender, white, pink blossoms.  The perfect day for a ride through Amish Farm Country.

Riding in a small van like bus over hill and dale is an adventure. No matter how slow you go, or how careful you take the turns, it is bounce, bounce, BOUNCY, when you are in the back.

One dear woman, grinned and held on for dear life....her constant comment, with every turn we took, was "eeeee Gods.....eeee Gods!"  It was like background music.

I pointed out cows and horses, Amish clotheslines heavy with clothes whipping in the wind, teams of mules tilling the soil for spring planting, tulips and daffodils.  Our eight bouncing passengers looked at the sights, to the sound of "eeee Gods, eeee Gods" with every hill and bend in the road.

Chester swayed to the turns and bumps. Each time I told him "hang on", he braced for another curve.

Towards the end of our journey, we hit quite a bump....and from front to back, heads bobbed up and down, ...picture ~~ the people on the bus go up and down up and down up and down.  And then I heard, "Whoa, I left my ass in that hole!"   I turned and saw a smiling grey-haired gentle-man.....with a twinkle in his eye, holding on tightly to the seat in front of him.
Ohmy, I started giggling and could not stop.

The bus driver looked in her rear view mirror and said, "That's Frank (name changed).  You just gotta love Frank, he always tells it like it is!"  "Frank, tell Diane and Chester who you are, about your mom and dad!"  She whispered to me that Frank's Mom was Portuguese and his Dad was Norwegian.  I thought, what a grand combo of cultures blended into one sweet-spunky man.

Chester and I turned to face grinning Frank.  "Frank, tell us who you are!"

"FRANK!" Frank replied.  Head bobbing up and down and swaying with the bus ride. 

I smiled, Chester did too. "Good to meet you, Frank!  Tell me about your parents, and your heritage, what do you call yourself!"

Shouting and Beaming, "Oh, I'm Portu-wegian!!! My Mom was Portuguese, and my Dad, he was Norwegian, I'm Portu-wegian!" 

I smiled back at him, "Frank, I've never me a Portu-wegian before!"

Frank's eyebrows rose, and his face lit up with a surprised expression that said,  NO WAY! , then he proudly proclaimed, " Well, .... I'm Portu-wegian!" 

I could not stop laughing.

Frank beamed.  His innocence, smile, and humor, brought joy to my soul.

Chester shook his head and braced for another turn.

Over the meadow and through the woods...
"eee Gods"... laughter is good for the soul.








Thursday, April 12, 2012

High Five, Low Five

I mentioned a few posts ago, that when we visit UDS Adult Education, I often am touched especially by one person, or a moment. And it happened again this week.  On Tuesday it was Lynnie. Lynnie is a petite young woman with pixie cut brown hair. She sits in a wheel chair with a padded tray,  communicates through her eyes and has a bright smile. I've heard the term "dancing eyes" before, but with Lynnie, I SEE dancing eyes.  Her eyes do dance when she is happy and excited.

Her eyes sparkled when I asked her if she would like Chester to  put his big ole paws on her cushiony tray. Chester gently placed his paws up on top, and then kissed her petite frail fingers.  Lynnie's eyes boogied :-).

That wasn't even the best part though. When it was time to leave, Chester was giving high-fives to a few friends gathered around Lynnie's chair. The students were overjoyed connecting with Chester's paw in high-five fashion.

I asked Chester to give Lynnie a  high five, sort of like a wave, knowing she could not reach her frail tiny  hand to Chester's paw. But, rather than go HIGH, Chester went low, gently touching his paw to her leg.

I was amazed.  Amazed.... and thinking surely this was an accident, surely he meant to go HIGH ~ obviously the poor pup was just plain pooped.

Again, I asked Chester to high five Kate and John.  He did, waving his furry paw HIGH.

And just to double check, again, I asked him to high five Lynnie.  Reaching low, he touched his paw gently to her leg. 
Lynnie's eyes were Dance Dance Dancing...

I pray I never stop being amazed.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Quiet Moments with My Therapy Dog

This is my tree....well not actually MY tree, it is our across-the-street-neighbor's tree.  Paul, Esther, Caroline, and "Labby" the yellow lab just happen to share it with us.  Each morning, I pour a cup of steamy hot coffee, and snuggle into my chair, Chester nestles by my side, and I begin my day.  Just quiet moments to BE.  Pray. Read. Ponder. Reflect. Write. Cry. Wrestle. Smile. Rejoice. Thank. Nestle.

I love this tree. The Lord knows how much I enjoy the beauty of His creation and I think He planted this treasure with me in mind :-). Each place we've been blessed to live, He has given me beauty to enjoy.  In Colorado, the majestic Rockies. In California and Hawaii, the sea. And here. My tree. Right outside my window.

I call it my Season Tree.

Springtime. Brilliant with pink blossoms. Especially bright after a long cold winter. Long awaited spring bursts forth in my tree, and in my heart.

Summer.  She is lush and bright, a vibrant green.  Offering cool shade and protection from the heat.

Autumn.  Her leaves turn crimson red, one last hurrah of brilliance before her leaves die and drop to the ground.  A dazzling display, and then...

Winter. Bare branches.  So bare and stark, in fact my first winter here, I wondered if  she would  survive the gray, freezing, bitter-cold days?  Was she even alive?
And then....   then.... came spring.

                        

In this spot with coffee cupped in my hands, therapy dog at my side, Heavenly Papa whispering to my heart~~I am thankful.  Thankful for the seasons. And, thankful that no matter what, no matter what, spring always comes again.                              


The Easter Egg Hunt

"Yes....you get to wear bunny ears today!  Honest, you look cute."
Melissa days at Schreiber rank right up there at the very top of our favorite things to do.  Last Tuesday was no egg-ception, even though Chester did a weee bit of pouting over the bunny ears.

For therapy time today, Chester and Melissa had an Easter Egg Hunt, just the two of them.  Chester brought eggs filled with candy for Melissa ~ Melissa brought eggs filled with PEANUT BUTTER GIRL SCOUT COOKIES for Chester. (heav------en on earth for the boy).   Did I mention Keith ate quite a large number of Chester's stash of peanut butter Girl Scout Cookies this year???  I only mention that to make the point that Chester was especially excited about his treats.





Ready ...  Set .... Go!


 We scattered the eggs.  Melissa bent down to reach for hers & saved the candy for the ride home. Chester, on the other hand,  sniffed out his, cracked the plastic eggs open, and snarfed his cookies on the spot. Best hunt ever.

One more thing ~ we celebrated Melissa's 14th birthday.  Happy Birthday Melissa!

So HAPPY to see YOU!

Today one of our good friends stopped in to say Hi!   Keith and I said, "Mary's here!" and  zipped to the door to welcome her with hugs.  Chester was so HAPPY to see his buddy, Mary, thathe went up on his hind legs,  planted big front paws on Mary's shoulders, gave her doggie kisses from ear to ear, and whaled this pathetic moaning sound, or humming noise, (it's hard to explain...you just have to hear it), while his tail went in whirly-bird circles.

"Hey..." I said in my serious no-nonsense voice, pulling Chester back, "What happened to Mr. Therapy Dog?  Off!"  Reluctantly he obeyed. I gave him THE LOOK. I mean really, this is ridiculous. He looked at me.  He gave me THE LOOK.

Mr. Dog Whisperer, Cesar, woulda pointed his finger and said "tssss."  Our doggie trainer friends, Jill, Laurie, Michelle, Sherrie (why do I have so many dog trainer friends?) would have rolled their eyes at ME and sent me back to beginning puppy school 101.

Honest and true, Chester does know how to do meet and greet  like a champ.  Deep down he knows. And Chester does not do this hug thing with everyone. He doesn't.  BUT, there are a select few of you out there, and you know who you are, well it's like he just can't contain himself.  Don't tell him I said this but maybe....sometimes...you just gotta break the rules :-) .

Reminds me of a song that I love.  Even as I type this, my head starts bobbin' and I'm singin' away..., "Can't hold my love back from you, can't hold my love back from you, I gotta sing, gotta sing, sing my love...."  

I'm with Chester, sometimes when I see certain people, well, I can't help it, I can't hold back.  East Coast Protocol goes out the window, and I just hug away, and sometimes, (hold on) I even kiss people on the cheek.  I do.  I really do.

So, IF you are one of those people that Chester gives giant hugs to....well, just sayin' He can't hold his love back from you... And he'll even hummmmm it in your ear :-)

I'll keep working on the proper training greeting thing with Mr. Therapy Dog, I promise, but there are times.... ya just gotta break the rules and go for it.  Don't you think?  (Don't you dare tell him I wrote this.)


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pawsing to Comfort Those Who Mourn

 This particular story takes place on an ordinary day, in an elementary school gymnasium filled to the brim with children and their teachers.   I remember walking into the auditorium with Chester by my side in his bright yellow vest, and feeling the excitement that rocked the room.  I delighted hearing  the loud whispers, “LOOK, IT’S A DOG!”  I soaked in the view: a sea of children sitting cross-legged on the floor in their classroom groups, circled like wagons,  waiting with wiggles of anticipation to meet the star of the day, Chester!

Chester and I were invited by the Principal to speak at a school assembly about Pet Therapy, and what makes Chester so dog-gone-special that he gets to visit cool places likes schools and hospitals and airports!    While Chester worked the crowd with his smiles, wags, and doggie tricks, I told the students all about my furry friend and tales of pet therapy. The students loved hearing our stories, but no doubt about it, the highlight of our time together was meet and greet with Chester.  And as often happens, an ordinary day became extra-ordinary.

 After the talk , Chester and I quickly made our way to each circle of students. We strolled past every single child who wanted a chance to pet the fluffy Golden Retriever.  My buddy pranced with a silly grin, tail wagging,   ears flopping. He gave out endless love, and received a gazillion pats, ear rubs and back scratches. He was in doggie heaven. So were the children.

 After a very full morning, Chester and I were in our final assembly of the day, with our last group of children.   As we moved around the circle, Chester paused. Then he  stopped.   I gave a little tug on his leash, urging him to move forward.  My buddy was not moving . His big old paws were firmly planted on the shiny gymnasium floor in front of a little girl with long brown hair and downcast eyes.  Her curls partially covered her face, her tiny hand gently rested on Chester’s head.   
 “Looks like Chester doesn’t want to move,”  I said, winking at the little girl. I have learned that if Chester speaks, I should  pay attention. And so I paused. While waiting for these two brown-eyed sweet hearts to have their moment,  I noticed a woman standing near.  Tears filled her eyes.  She looked directly at me, then silently mouthed the words, “Her dog died yesterday. “

 Sigh.

I leaned in closer to this tenderhearted teacher. She pointed toward Chester, then whispered in my ear,   “It’s like he knows.” 

Tears leaked out. “He knows, I don’t know how he knows, but he knows.” I gently squeezed her hand.

 After a bit of time, we continued to move around the circle so the rest of the class could reach out to my  four legged buddy . “Touching Lives and Warming Hearts.”   It is Chester’s specialty.
Because there is always time for one more hug, we strolled around this classroom circle one more time.  As we approached Chester’s friend with the with long brown curls, again he stopped.  This time he gave her a gentle slobbery kiss right on her little cheek.  She smiled.

 I knelt down, “Looks like Chester has found a friend,” I said, “Would you like to give him a hug?”
She nodded, then gently wrapped her slender arms around Chester’s fluffy tummy,  nestling her head into  the soft golden fur of his neck.

With tears, I waited.  





Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kisses Kisses Kisses...and more Kisses

Yesterday we visited with our  friends who are students in the adult ed program with United Disability Services. The second Tuesday of each month Chester and I pop our heads into their classroom and share some time together. Some days, when it is warm and sunny we walk to the park.  Other days we walk and roll :-) around the multipurpose room, or play fetch.  Some days we just hang out in the classroom.  Today ... we just hung out in the classroom.

There are about 15-20 men and women, each having different levels of ability, physically and mentally. Some students speak with words, some with their eyes.  Some students move about in motorized chairs, others use legs.  All have HUGE HEARTS and are kindhearted, warm, and friendly.  All are unselfish, eager to share Chester with one another.  Not a bit of selfishness, not an ounce.  ~~Always thinking of the joy Chester would bring to their friend, just as they have enjoyed the love he brings to them.  These students are amazing and they have climbed deep into our hearts.

Today as we visited, our friends were working on a group writing project, writing letters to soldiers.  
Though on task with their important writing project, Chester and I were greeted with smiles, cheers, and loud, happy welcomes! These students, no matter what they are doing,  have a way of making you feel like you are the most important thing in their world.

As they dictated letters to the teachers, we visited each student. Chester placed his paws on wheel chair tables and gave kisses to hands and cheeks. He climbed onto laps and received treats, giving smooches in return.  He put his paws up on the table and read soldier letters :-). He sat and enjoyed  head rubs and ear snuggles. Chester seems to know what to do with each friend, so I pretty much just let him do what he thinks best.  And while he does his pet therapy I get to visit, give hugs, squeeze hands, and just be with my friends.

Often, during our visits,  there is a person who especially pulls on my heartstrings. This time was no exception. This time it was Lou (name changed).  Lou sat patiently waiting for his turn with Chester. At last Chester sat by Lou's side,  then, to my surprise, climbed right up onto his lap, laying across Lou's legs pretending to be a lap-dog. Lou is tall and strong, and welcomed the big hound dog.

Lou tends to be shy, in the background,  and usually Chester sits next to Lou, receiving perfect head scratches & mushy ear rubs, listening to quiet conversation about Lou's love for dogs, especially his tiny dog at home. And, Lou likes to give Chester doggie treats from his gentle hands, which is an obvious DELIGHT to Chester-bud.  

Today was definitely a different encounter between Chester and his buddy, Lou.  After Chester climbed onto Lou's lap, he began to smother Lou with kisses all over his face.  And I mean all over. Lou has a beard, quite a fluffy long beard. Chester licked the beard, and Lou's face,  the beard, the face, the beard, the face. You get the picture.  Honestly, I thought........this was kinda, ummm, gross.  Did I mention that Chester was pretty excited about the beard? I was actually wondering if there might be extra lunch crumbs hidden inside the fluff. (I know YUCK...but just bein' honest :-) )     Lou was laughing, and happy, totally loving the attention and smooches. (I asked him, just to make triple sure).  Truth be told,  I had never seen Lou so animated and happy. And, all of Lou's friends were thrilled with the Chester attention he was receiving.   It was one happy classroom.  So, I let the Chester lovin' and huggin' continue without correcting my wise & sensitive puppy dog.  This was one of "those" moments......

Today was definitely Lou's day! I trust that Chester just knows who needs the lovin'...
 I drank in  this moment as I watched Chester smother Lou with unconditional love and sloppy wet kisses.  

And Lou smiled.  And laughed.   And felt loved.  And lovely.

And it made my heart full and thankful.  


Good boy, Chester. 






Friday, February 17, 2012

Grocery Store Miracle Meeting cont...

I received an email a few days ago.  It was from Pat. Pat, the woman Chester and I met in the grocery store.   The woman who buried her face in Chester's soft fur and let the tears flow.  The woman who Chester smooched with kisses.  The woman we sat with on the floor, in the Christmas section.

Pat sent me an email, telling me that her husband had been in a severe accident, fracturing his skull.  He was home now, recovering.  Would we come for a visit?

Yesterday we knocked on Pat's door.  When the door opened, it was like long lost friends finding each other again. We hugged. Chester went a tad bonkers and smothered Pat with kisses. (I'm way glad she likes kisses)

"Daddy, I have a surprise for you," she said to her husband.  Her voice oozed with excitement as we kinda skipped down the hallway

We walked into the darkened bedroom, walker resting close to the bed, Ralph laying flat on the king sized bed watching TV.

"Oh My!" he exclaimed.

Chester, Ralph, and Pat were in heaven....me too.  There we all were, laying/sitting on the giant bed for an hour. Chester moved between kissing Pat, getting tummy rubs from Ralph, and watching TV (Sean Connery riding horses across the desert).  Chester's favorite TV programs include dogs....horse shows come in second, maybe because they look like big dogs.  Sort of.

Anyways, that's what we did.  Just hung out together.

Ralph said it made his day and he was already feeling better.

I think we all felt the same way.

We prayed together before we left, asking God for His love and healing touch on Ralph, thanking Him for our new friendship and how He our crossed our paths at just the right moment.

I'm so thankful the Lord is so good at fitting the pieces together... and especially thankful He sits on grocery store floors in the middle of the Christmas rush & shares His love.






I Don't Like Good-Byes

I don't like good-byes.  The word sounds so....so.....final.  Maybe that's why I especially appreciate the Hawaiian language so much ~  in Hawaiian good-bye sounds so much softer...aloha, meaning both hello & good-bye & may love and blessings be yours.  I like that.   Well ,today we needed to say aloha to Max and his Mom.

We've been working with Max for a few months in his home.  Max, little blond Max, a bright, amazing preschooler, who is faced with challenges of delayed speech and processing skills. Max and Chester bonded instantly,the two clearly having a connection right from the start. They played together.  They did follow the leader around the kitchen, dining room, living room loop. Max introduced Chester to new toys and cars and trucks. And, they just  enjoyed the boy & puppy-dog bond that comes with sitting on the floor together. Chester helped Max grow in language and social skills .  Max helped Chester begin to overcome his umbrella-phobia.  Yup, the brave therapy dog thinks umbrellas are evil monsters. (Chester is making good progress....thanks to his buddy Max!)

As I said, this was our final session with Max. For a variety of reasons, it was time for Chester and me to pass the therapy-baton on to another amazing  KPETS dog, Sam, (also known as Sam the Ham!). He's  a lovable Golden Retriever and a friend of Chester's :-).  Though we we were certain this was the best decision for all..........alohas & good-byes still are not easy.

When our session was finished, we sang our good-byes,"Good-bye Max, good-bye Max, good-bye Max, it's time for us to go."  Max patted Chester, while Mom and I were dripping tears down our cheeks. Hugs were given all around, encouragement and hope and sadness all mingled together.

And then.... The most amazing thing happened.

Max spoke..... He really did!!!!

Max said, "Buh Buh," to Chester for the very first time.

As I said, I'm not too fond of  "bye"............but I tell you, in that moment it was the sweetest sound to my ears.  Oh my.

And on that note, we walked out the door.  May love and blessings be yours sweet Max.  Have fun with Sammy ~~~ he will be another wonderful doggy to fill your heart and life with Golden Moments!

                                                                       ~ Aloha~