The Covid pandemic has changed me in ways I never thought possible. So far, I have remained healthy and disease-free. I have gone to great lengths to make sure this is the case. I am vaccinated, boosted, and hubby and I have spent a lot of time in isolation.
One of the biggest blessings of 2020 was being able to spend time with family again after the vaccines became available. I will never look at spending time with family in the same way. I always enjoyed it and looked forward to those times. Now, these gatherings bring me great joy. It is like a miracle every time one of my nieces’ crawls into my lap or we run around the house doing goofy activities. Hugging brothers, daughters, and other extended family is a treat. I feel like I am the survivor of a Great Depression. It was the Great Depression of solitude.
I know I am not the only person to feel this way. We watched a newsclip this morning showing people reuniting after being separated from loved ones for months and others for more than a year. The ones that reunited where one party was surprised are priceless. Watching so much joy literally brought goosebumps up on my arms.
Early 2020 was the famine of togetherness, the drought of connectedness, the desert of social gatherings, but also taught us the importance of camaraderie and community.
Let us not soon forget this lesson. Time together is what makes our lives whole. Relationships with others help to fulfill us. Even encounters with strangers can be a precious thing. It is our chance to make a difference for someone else. Make it a good one. So, as we get back to a new normal, remember the great gift that the people in our lives are.
If we become annoyed or impatient with that person in front of us in the check-out line don’t take that for granted. We are in a store, in a check-out line, not reduced to using curbside pickup to avoid contact with others. (Although what a blessing curbside pickup was when we needed it. Thank you, workers!)
And we are all adjusting to a new normal. So, remember to be kind. Always.
I received an unexpected Christmas present this week. I was contacted a few days ago by the woman who owned Zekie before I did. And a day later I was contacted by the woman who owned him before that. Now I know what Zekie’s former life was like. And I was sent this picture of him as a puppy. How special is that? We always wondered what he looked like as a pup. He was just as cute as we thought he would be.
Some people say it doesn’t matter what happened to a dog in his earlier life. That dogs live in the moment, and you can deal with their current behavior and move on. I don’t agree with this. If you don’t know what happened to them before, you have no choice but to proceed this way. If you are fortunate enough to know their history, then you know why they do certain behaviors and can better deal with them. Especially in the case of highly intelligent dogs like Zekie. He understands the English language to a frightening degree.
Zekie’s former owner found him, and me, by reading my blog! She recognized pictures of him and put it together from some of the stories, I’m sure. I checked my phone one morning and had a message from her! She was so glad to know what had happened to him and that he was ok. She had been his third home. She had a change in living circumstances and had only a few days to find accommodations for her two dogs. She was able to find a friend to keep her other dog for a bit. I can imagine how challenging it would be to locate someone who would be able to deal with Zeke and his shenanigans even if only for a few days. She did the best she could and found a shelter to take him.
I learned that in Zekie’s first home, he was kept in a crate nearly all the time. I’m sure this accounts for his dislike of the crate and his chewing out of wire and plastic crates here. His second owner took him to get him out of this situation. She was a little older and soon discovered that Zekie was more than she was up to. He got jealous and growled when she gave her other dog attention. She cared about him enough to get him to his third owner, the one who had him before me. This owner was younger, and Zeke did well with her. She took him on lots of hikes and they had lots of fun times.
These last two owners were still in contact and that’s how I heard from the lady who got him out of the crated situation. Zekie has traveled quite a journey in his life that brought him to us. We have had him for four years now which is half his life. He is home to stay.
I am thankful to now know his back story. I am also thankful that he encountered people who cared about him enough to get him to where he is today. After talking to his last owner, I have no doubt that he was deeply loved. Maybe one day he will get to see her again for a visit.
And that is the gift I was blessed with this Christmas. To each of you, my readers, I wish blessings of your own this Christmas that extend throughout the coming year. Merry Christmas.
This face. This boy loves me so much that I can forgive him nearly anything. Zeke is what we in Rescue call “a handful “.
He has chewed his way out of multiple crates. The guaranteed one made of aircraft steel is still holding up. He has chewed up multiple metal bowls. He chased a jogger. He is not a dog for the uninitiated. And so of course I adopted him after a few months of fostering.
This has meant a two year hiatus on our fostering. It was worth it to save his life.
Zekie has shown improvement in his nearly two years with us. His leash reactivity is much better (although not 100%) with walkers and bicyclists. He is still reactive with other dogs when out walking. Oddly enough, he is ok with dogs that come to our home when he is not on leash.
His obedience skills continue to improve. In fact, he is very obedient. You just have to give commands all the time to keep him out of trouble.
Zekie is a loyal dog and one affectionate boy. He follows me everywhere. He waits for me at the door if I go outside. If he is not crated because someone else is home, he sits on the back of the couch looking out the window at the driveway awaiting my return.
This dog does everything in a big way. His excitement for walks is over the top. His desire for treats is intense. His drive for attention is beyond his control. And his ability to love is endless.
This is a tribute to Maizie who we fostered for Northeast Ohio Shetland Sheepdog Rescue. She arrived in 2013 and passed on to the Rainbow Bridge about a year and a half later, while laying on a dog bed in our living room, with me by her side. She now lies buried in our woods with our others who have passed.
The letter below is one I wrote in 2013, right after we discovered she had kidney failure. We are blessed to have known her. She enriched our lives.
Dear Person Who Abandoned this Senior Dog,
Maizie was found by the pound and when they sent you a letter to come and get her, you did not come. She spent 30 days in the pound kennel waiting for you before the efforts of two rescue groups brought her to our house as a foster dog. Today we discovered that she has kidney failure and will live out the rest of her life with us however long that may be. What lesson am I supposed to learn from this? Perhaps to have compassion for you and not be judgemental? I will work on that.
I know that I have been blessed to know this dog who is sweet, loving, and grateful for every bit of attention. She smiles at us constantly and is one of the happiest dogs I have seen. Occassionally she will try to play and has a small, joyful hop to her step. Our lives have been enriched by knowing this kind dog.
My dreams will be sweeter knowing that I have helped and loved this girl. May you be able to sleep at all.
This is the Key Lime Tart that my daughter made her dad for Father’s Day. She bought actual key limes to squeeze for juice and used heavy cream too. Then put it in a crust made from scratch. It was delicious!
She also got him plants for the gardens. She knows him well.
May all the fathers out there blessed with such wonderful daughters. Happy Father’s Day.
I had forgotten what a beautiful thing it is to have a dog that you communicate with on a personal level. It takes years of working together to achieve such a bond. I haven’t had it since my dog Duncan passed in 2013. I noticed recently that I have reached this point with Shelby.
She watches me and is generally able to anticipate what I want from her. I have had Shelby for about 7 years now. She is 9 years old and has been a certified therapy dog for 5 1/2 of those years. I was without a therapy dog after Duncan’s passing so had to train Shelby with no one for her to learn the ropes from. She learned the basic behaviors quickly and passed the test with no problem. The trusting working bond is not something you can teach though. It is something that is built, something earned. This takes time and experiences.
It dawned on me recently that I now have this with Shelby. She is my go to dog whenever I need assistance on a job, or a reliable partner. Shelby has worked numerous public events with me including some with hundreds of people petting her. She has assisted me at county fair demonstrations. She has taught two (so far) therapy dog training classes with me at the vocational school. She has helped me test potential new therapy dog and handler teams for 5 years.
Shelby and I have put in many trips to visit at nursing facilities. She has earned the title TDIA (Therapy Dogs International Active) and is well on her way to the next title. She will “go visit” on command. She will hold a sit-stay will I put chairs away after a visit. We have done reading to kindergarteners, we have visited with college students to de-stress.
Shelby is a happy worker. She loves to work. In fact if I don’t give her a job, she will find one. Such as barking at extra cars through the window until they go away. Or stopping the cats from too much roughhousing. I can trust Shelby to do a job and do it well. I always watch her when we are working though. Unexpected situations do arise and I am her protector.
This level of relationship is rare. My hope for you is that you are able to experience it. It is a blessing and a gift.
I have a day planner/journal that I use to try to keep a record of at least one kind act that I have performed for someone else each day. The idea being that it helps to keep me mindful. If I know I need to record something then I keep an eye out and look for opportunities. The journal helps me to be a little less self centered and to think about others. Now lest you think that I will have a book of 365 kind acts at the end of the year, I must admit that I miss many days. But truly, it is better to have done something, than nothing.
For today’s kind act, I was going to record that I took a day off from work to watch one of my nieces, who is 16 months old. Above is my face upon returning home so you know that it was a thoroughly enjoyable and fun day.
Upon contemplation, I realized it is a cop out to record this as a kind act that I have done for someone else. We played, we napped, we ate lunch, we went for a walk. Then we played some more. I was blessed with the opportunity for a bonding experience with my youngest niece. This was a kind act for myself!
I even got to take two of the dogs, Shelby and Nikki with me, so I was able to spend my day off with them as well. The only thing that would have made it better would have been spending the day with both of my nieces. But the older of the two is in kindergarten this year. (I did not give her permission for this growing up but I guess I will not hold it against her.) It did result in a special day that was just for me and Younger Niece.
So I will need to find something else to record in my journal of kind acts. Perhaps I will log the fact that I did not curse or yell at people who cut me off in traffic. The little acts are sometimes the hardest!
On Thursday we had our annual trip to Lake Erie with the grandkids. Each year I am amazed that we have such a gem only a little over an hour from our house. We usually go to the beach at Geneva State Park but the beach at Mentor Headlands is a fine one too. This time, it was to Geneva.
It is always a great day. The waves and sand are relaxing. Even the cloudy days there are great because then it’s not crowded. As you can see, our weather this year was perfect.
We spend the whole day there. That is a long time for me to go without a dog fix. Luckily, other people brought dogs. This one was named Cody and built like a Labrador but had slightly longer brindle fur. It’s a good thing he was there with his family because I loved him! He wanted to go in the water but every time a wave came near, he jumped back.
There are impromptu works of art that people leave as monuments to their beach trips. I saw a couple young boys make this one. They set the sand with water and kept exclaiming to their mother “It’s so sturdy!” They were very proud. Future engineers?
My granddaughter Maddie spent some time swimming with her Papaw, while grandson Tyler hung out with Aunt Livvi and me on the beach. Later we switched and Maddie and I strolled down the beach looking for beach glass. I realized I was too late to add to my beach glass collection this year as we passed a woman with a sieve, panning for the glass.
No trip to the beach is complete for us without a trip to the ice cream stand at the end of the day. The stand has a soft serve flavor of the week which this time was banana. The banana and chocolate twist was a hit. My granddaughter and I got the Lake Erie Salt Mine ice cream. Lots of chocolate in various forms with whole cashews. No salt in evidence. (The actual salt mines are under Lake Erie, hence the name.)
After such a perfect day, I can hardly wait until we go back next year!