Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chester ~ Mr. CampHost

Meet some of Chester's new friends.  Gabe and Ethan. The boys and their parents, camped right nextdoor to us one weekend not too long ago.  Gabe, Ethan, and Chester became fast friends. The boys told their mom and dad that when they move, they want Chester to live next door. (Dad is in the military, and another move is just around the corner)
Boys and dogs go together like  like stars and stripes, like marshmallows and graham crackers, like Chester and tennis balls.  And what F.U.N. to have these these little guys camp next door to us for the weekend.  Chester made two new friends for life ~ these 3 were stuck like glue for the weekend.

Thank you Josh and Ashlee for letting Chester come over to play with your boys.

And...thank you Josh, & family, for your sacrifice & service to our country.  May God Bless you and keep you safe.

Chester's new buddies, Gabe and Ethan

Saying good-bye is so hard...Just need one more hug please.


Adorable twin sisters have become dear to our hearts.  They are 4 years old, cute as little pixies,  with soft brown curls, gentle smiles, and sparkly eyes. Both girls love to dance, delight in read-aloud books, and sooo enjoy animals...especially horses and dogs.

When we can, Chester and I take a beautiful drive up the coast to a little town called Cambria, to assist one of the girls with physical therapy. She has cerebral palsy. Mom is absolutely amazing & creative as she discovers ways to use Chester to help  her daughter with growth and development.

One of the things we love to do, is walk and stroll to a beautiful garden/hotel close to their home. Mom pushes the stroller with her sweet daughter.  I walk with her other sweet girl.  And both girls take turns walking Chester.

Mom is helping her dear child learn to grasp and release.  And what a great way to practice ~~ holding and letting go of Chester's leash. What began as a difficult task, is now becoming more automatic. This is what is so amazing about animal assisted therapy ---  this little girl does not realize how hard she is working. To her,  she is just taking her buddy for an hour-long walk. The results make us all shout "wooHoo!"  This 4 year old's  proud sparkly smile, her tiny hands opening & closing, are the reasons we are so blessed by what we get to do.

Even more than this little one  making amazing progress with her motor skills, there's something
else  that happens on our walks and strolls to the garden --- Sisters, just being sisters.  Together, walking Chester.  Both smiling.  Both taking turns. Both not wanting to release the leash to the other, but sharing regardless.  Just two little girls, walking  a fluffy-silly pup, and being sisters.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Little Boys and Puppy Dog Tails

It was a Sunday, we were at church, standing in the very back of the room,  totally enjoying the music, worshipping, singing, lost in the moment....  Chester was laying at my left side on the wooden floor.

At some point, for whatever reason, I opened my eyes and noticed a little boy (whom we all love), snuggled into Chester's side.  I knelt down and sat on the floor with the two of them.  I continued to worship with one eye open, enjoying these two. Chester's friend delighted in playing with the zippers on his yellow vest, looking in his ears, rubbing his back, exploring his paws and pads and nails, petting the soft white fur on his belly, and from time to time asking me about this and that re: his furry buddy.

His mom came to me, ready to relocate her son ;-) , -- and I assured her these two were ok, and I was fine with her son's curiosity and love for Chester.

When the service ended and Chester was outside playing with the kids, Keith told me that the mom had come to him,  and apologized,  hoping her child had not been disturbing us or Chester.

 Keith's response.... "I really can't think of anything more beautiful than a little boy exploring & totally delighting in one of God's creations. That IS worship.  Your son brought tears to my eyes as I watched......Thank You."

I love what little boys are made of ;-)

Lessons I learn from My Therapy Dog....Starbucks...Church...and Beyond

Today I was meeting with a friend at Starbucks. Sitting in a comfy corner spot, Chester was laying on the cool cement floor ON my friend's feet which is where she wanted him bytheway - and of course he knew that. I am so thankful for this our new homeland. The kind of friend who is real and honest and teary and humorous about life.  The kind of person who frees me to be me in her midst.  A treasure.

Anyways. As we were snuggled in our leather chairs in the corner of Starbucks, she mentioned how her family has missed us these past weeks, & missed seeing us at church as well. Missed me, Keith, and CHESTER.  Especially Chester ;-) .

We talked about that. Regarding Sundays at Church & Chester in the mix. Chester is one of the best greeters ever....especially for people who feel uncomfortable or shy.  People who are in pain and do NOT want to talk about it, or reveal it.   Some people may not approach a person, but they may approach a soft, cuddly, brown-eyed, golden retriever. 

Chester is an ice breaker.  He's a conversation starter.  He's soft fur for nervous hands.  He's a smile bringer. And he is someone you don't need to use words with in order to feel comfortable. Silence is OK.

Another thing about Chester.  When he is with you....he is WITH YOU.  I mean totally and fully present with you. And he knows what you need...whether it's a romp, or a smooch, or a sit still kind of time. He is not thinking about yesterday or tomorrow.  He is not thinking about his to-do list, or what he wants to say, or who he wants to talk to next. He's in the moment fully. And if he is not---well, then we all know it is time to move-along, because we are in the wrong spot OR the moment IS over.

Because God has gifted Chester to do what he does with people...I learn much from my therapy dog. I know he follows my lead and trusts me as his Leader--- often though, it is me who follows him.  Many times, I am not IN the moment. And I need His reminder, which often comes through my furry friend, to pay attention and BE HERE.    Always I am learning.

Time does fly when you're with a good friend and a good cup of coffee........and it was time to go.  On the way out,  there was a man waiting near the counter for his order.  He asked to pet Chester. I stopped.  He knelt down ~~ he and Chester had their moment ~~.  As I watched the love exchanged between these two, I saw the gentle kiss coming. Chester stayed very still, enjoying the tender ear rub, the kind words; and then softly gave him a smooch on the nose. The man said "thank you, I was hoping for that."

As we continued out the door, my friend looked at Chester "Always working, aren't you buddy?"

Oh the life of a therapy dog....and the lessons he teaches me.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Chester's HERE!

It's been a whole week since we visited at Garden House. 

Garden House: A loving, safe, and secured home for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

On Wednesday we walked in. I walked. Chester pranced, tail high and flying.

The residents were taking their morning snooze, each in their comfy recliners, laps draped in colorful quilts and afghans.  The living room was hushed and quiet. For now.

"Would anyone like a visit from...." I gently began.

Stella, God bless Stella's dog loving heart, blinked-open her eyes. When she saw us, (clarify--when she saw her buddy) her entire being danced with delight. "Chester's here!" she beamed.    And she opened her arms to her friend, who could hardly wait to give her a big ole sloppy kiss.

I love our "job".  Miracle Moments.

.thank You.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Digging to China

Therapy Dogs need play time too. This would be especially true of my buddy Chester. Heck, we all need play time.

One of Chester's favorite play spots is the doggie beach.  Mine too.

When it comes to the beach, he has  3 favorites:

1. Chasing BIRDS
3. Digging to China and burying his TENNIS BALLS

And so on this day, with the sun BRIGHT and WARM, it was definitely a "chuck-it" tennis ball day. Chester chased and swam and splashed and retrieved until WE were tired of chucking-it.   At last we  told him it was time to go, and he picked up his ball and pranced along behind us.  We thought.

Keith and I got to talking and weren't paying much attention to our furry friend with the tennis ball. At some point we both looked over our shoulders for Chester, and then it sort of turned into one of those slow-motion-scenes in a movie. 

We began to run and yelled,  "Chester, Noooooooooooooo!" just a 'lil bit too late. Face totally covered in sand, he turned his head as if to say "Whaaaat?"

There, about 50 feet back, was Chester.  His head down in a hole, furry-sandy butt up in the air, digging to China, flinging huge amounts of sand between his hind legs.  And right behind his furry butt, was this cute couple in their bathing suits, snuggling on their beach towels.  ohmygoodness

They didn't see it coming because, they were a little too....uh, into their moment.

You get the picture.

When the sand started flingin' and flyin' all over their moment, let's just say their moment was over.

Keith and I totally apologized for our diggen' dog, and offered to help them shake out their towels and other things. (I don't think they liked dogs)

We marched him on leash back to the car, he was holding his tennis ball and prancing. The 3 of us could not stop laughing.   I'm sorry, we couldn't, no matter how hard we tried.

Not sure if ole Chester boy lined up this target on purpose.  Pretty sure....




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Un-Scheduled Pet Therapy Moments

Sometimes Pet Therapy Days are scheduled appointments ~~ sometimes not.  And the “sometimes not” days are often some of the most memorable.  Whether planned or unplanned, one thing is always true,    Chester and I receive a kazillion times more than we give. This is the joy of  Pet Therapy and volunteering with KPETS.

On this particular day, Chester, my 4 yr old Golden Retriever and I, loaded up in the car and began a 40 minute drive to meet one of our scheduled appointments.  About 15 minutes into the drive I got a call, so I pulled over, took the call, and discovered sadly,  our appointment had been cancelled due to illness.  Bummer.

Rather than head home, Chester and I stopped in at nearby coffee house where doggies are always welcome.   It is kind of a funky place,  think 70’s and Hippies.    As fate would have it, just inside the front door, three women sat together having coffee who were absolutely delighted to meet Chester and hear Pet Therapy tails.  As I talked story about the JOYS of Pet Therapy, Chester was in heaven receiving countless head pats, ear rubs, and back massages.  One of the women commented, “Chester just made my day, we all need a bit of pet therapy, don’t we?….”
 Chester and I left the women to their coffee and conversation, and then ventured to the back garden and patio. It is here where the coffee-house-owners grow all of their own herbs and veggies and possibly other green plants.  Anyways,  seated in this patio garden was a group of traveling British Gentlemen who were so very excited to meet Chester.  More pats and backrubs for the boy. One of the men jumped into a lively conversation (you have to read this with a lively British accent and your pinky high in the air), “Oh my, is he a rescue dog?  I see he is in therapy!  I have a dog I’d like to get into therapy. ” And thus began our conversation that Chester is not IN therapy, but GIVES therapy.  I did not laugh out loud, and we had QUITE a lovely conversation.  Spot-on!

Chester, at this point, was thinking Hippie Coffee Houses were pretty dog-gone fun.  After waving g’bye to our British chaps, and heading out the door, one of the women (still having coffee) said, “Have you ever been to The Garden House?  It is a beautiful home for men and women with Alzheimer’s.  It’s just down the street.”    And so, off we trotted, around the corner and down the street.  I mean, why not?

Though unplanned and very spontaneous, we were welcomed at Garden House with open arms. We visited with the men and women in their common living area.  Many were responsive with smiles, puppy pats, and stories of their own dogs.  Things were pretty calm and mellow, until Chester spied four delicious green tennis balls attached to the bottom of a sweet little old lady’s walker.   He pawsed, he sniffed, he licked, he whined, he wagged, and then he BARKED.  Not a wimpy teensy bark, a WHOMPIN  WOOHOO let’s play BARK.  I jumped, and so did everyone else in the room --- I think we all leaked our panties (or depends), and then laughter erupted in the room.  So silly.  So good for the soul. 

From cancellations, to coffee, to quite lovely pet therapy talks, to peeing our pants with laughter, that was our day.  All unplanned (by us), but delightfully planned.   We are so blessed to do what we get to do.  Pet Therapy for all.