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.
You may remember that during the heart of the pandemic, I started keeping a little notebook that I titled Things to Do Post Quarantine. Every time I had an idea of something I wanted to do but couldn’t, I recorded it in the notebook. This way I wouldn’t be missing out, just postponing the experiences. The idea being that once Covid was under control, it would be safe to go out into the world and do them. The link from that post follows. Ways To Deal With a Pandemic
The Covid pandemic is not over, and things are not back to normal. However, we have learned ways to deal with going out in public and have adapted ways to make things safer. I don’t yet go about my business like normal. What is normal anyway? I do go to places that I avoided during the worst of the pandemic and before vaccines were available. I do have a bit of a life again.
This made me wonder. How am I doing at enjoying the activities that I recorded in that little notebook? Am I doing some of the things and catching up with what I put off for another day? I got the notebook out and here is what I found.
I have done some of the things but not others yet. One of the most important to me was to be able to spend time with my nieces again. I have done this. In fact, the very first thing my husband and I did after getting our vaccines was to attend my youngest niece’s fourth birthday party along with her grandparents. We were all vaccinated, but had been under pandemic lockdown for so long that it took a little while for us to remove our masks. The masks disappeared when the food came out and did not go back on that afternoon. When it was time for us to go home, we all hugged each other. All six adults and two children. It was the first time in over a year. It was such a big deal that we were all taking about it. How we had avoided this and it was the first hugs for all of us outside our immediate household in so long. We were all in shock that we had been so brave to hug each other. I wasn’t concerned about getting sick because we all had our shots, but I had trained myself for so long to avoid physical contact that it was a big deal. But it was glorious! That day was the turning point for me in feeling like a normal human being again.
I have been able to see my nieces several times a month since then. I have done babysitting, gone on walks and to playgrounds with them, and spent a couple holidays together. It never gets old. I think I will have great appreciation of spending time with them until the day I die. We did come out the other side of the pandemic, but it has changed me forever.
Another item that I have done from the notebook, is invited a friend over for lunch on the patio. Granted, I have not done enough of this. This is due to the weather rather than any fear of being around people. It has been so rainy the past few weeks that fungus has become a real problem for our plants. This also makes it hard to plan more than a day ahead of time as far as inviting anyone over to hang out on the patio goes. Even the day my friend came over, we had to dry off the patio furniture. But still, the visit was an enjoyable time. To share the company of someone outside the family by choice is now a rare and wonderful thing.
An other item that I checked off my list is spending time at the library! This is something I am back to doing regularly, but that first time after being away for so long was food for the soul. To peruse the books, touch them, read the summaries inside the front flap, choose the ones I want and put them into my bag, was close to a religious experience! The library holds a special place in my heart. It is a place of knowledge, sometimes magic and adventure. It can take you to new lands as well as improve you and the place where you are. My daughter and I share a love of the library. One of our favorite activities has always been a long trip to the library, followed by a stop for ice cream at Katie’s Korner.
The last item in my notebook that I have completed so far is to hug the neighbor kids! We have two really great neighbor kids that live across the street. (Their parents are pretty great too!) We kept our distance as best we could during the pandemic. We met in yards and talked from a distance just to keep in touch, figuratively speaking. Of course, it wasn’t the same. And all the while I was thinking about when it would be safe to hug them again. They are really good huggers! Well, it was finally safe. They probably didn’t think I was ever going to let them go. We even had an opportunity to go watch the oldest play in her softball tournament recently and to have them come over and swim.
There are quite a few things in my notebook still to be done. The important thing is that I have begun. The Covid pandemic was and is a terrible thing. But as with many bad things in life, some good did come out of it for me. I no longer take so many things for granted. I realize that time spent with family and friends is a precious gift. To be fair, it always was. I appreciate it so much more now. I must take steps not to become complacent and return to my old ways. I need to enjoy each encounter for the treasure that it is.
Remember to enjoy the sparkle in your life and appreciate it!
Claire is the only dog who’s still awake at our house this evening. This is typical of most evenings. Our other dogs are passed out in various places around the house.
Claire is our youngest dog, but still, she’s six years old. She is not a young dog. We wonder if she spent a lot of time in her crate in her previous life. Everything seems new and exciting to her. She acts like she’s afraid she will miss something if she falls asleep.
When bedtime comes, she is eager to go in her crate. This is partially due to the fact that she receives a treat before bed. Once she finishes the treat, she quickly lays down and curls up in a ball with her tail over her nose. That is the last we hear out of her until morning light. We are thankful for this because in general, the girl likes to bark.
This is Claire’s typical look throughout the day. The first photo is her slowed down evening face. She still spends time jumping on and off the couches and chewing bones.
She is so full of life. She brightens our days and makes us smile frequently.
We have seen a plethora of birds around our house lately. Varied species.
We have a little family in this birdhouse in our red maple. The birdhouse was built by my husband and has seen one or two broods of young fledged every year. Usually it is sparrows. This year I think it is house finches.
We ran out of seed for our bird feeder two or three weeks ago. I usually stop feeding in the spring. I figure the birds can easily find their own food by then. This year I was going to continue feeding since we are staying at home isolating, and enjoy watching the birds. But my mail order sources have been out of seed. Everyone else must be thinking the same.
Even so, we are graced with many beautiful birds. The woodpeckers of course. I feel like they are special friends since they are here with us year round.
And we have been seeing the eastern bluebirds many times each day. We see them all over our property. We’re not sure if we have several pairs of bluebirds or one pair that is very active.
There are numerous goldfinches. They often flit by as I look out the kitchen window. I have seen them sitting on the lawn munching on dandelion blooms.
We have a pair of rose breasted grosbeaks that we see once or twice each day. This is the first year I have ever noticed them here.
And today, for the first time, we saw an oriole. I have seen pictures, but they do not do the bird justice. The orange is so brilliant that it is striking.
We see these birds in various areas of our yard, but they especially like to sit on our power line and jump from branch to branch in our trumpet vine. We hear the sounds of chainsaws, and trees being felled in the small valley down the hill from us, and hope that we are not seeing this increase in birds because they are being displaced.
We hope the birds are increasing in number and that the trend will continue. They are jewels of nature and we take joy in their presence.
I took dogs to visit at the nursing home this evening. Can you tell Baxter had a good time?
I usually take Cassius as my tall dog that folks in wheelchairs can reach, but he is incapacitated right now. He was being a wild child playing in the pasture and tore a nail off. I didn’t want to take him with an open wound because of the chance of infection. A few people asked where the big dog who was stripped like a tiger was. He will return when he is healed up. For now he needs to take it easy.
Baxter did his “brother” proud. He did such a good job visiting with all the people. He was well behaved, courteous, and friendly. Baxter has always been a joy. It was wonderful to share the joy with others.
Many of our best days are spent here at home, but not all of them. Today, hubby and I went to the zoo with our dear sister in law and two nieces. It was a stellar day!
The chance to hang out and bond with Niece 1 (The Child of Questions And Amazement) and share the experiences of seeing all the animals was priceless. And Uncle (aka hubby) and Niece 1 even got to ride a camel together!
And what a blessing to share a zoo day with Niece 2 (The Child of Boundless Joy). She is happy to share everything we see and do together. Every new encounter was met with a smile. (She, would refer to herself as Miss I Talk a Lot). That was her catch phrase for the day.
After a hot and satisfying day, we partook of our zoo tradition. We all had ice cream together to cool off and round out the adventure.
Such days as these help to make our lives complete
Photos with residents are cropped to protect their privacy.
Oh, to be able to bring this much joy into someone’s life. Apparently dogs are more powerful than I am. No one smiles like this when I walk in by myself. But that’s ok, I get it. Dogs are all accepting and instantly make nearly everyone feel better.
I take Shelby and Nikki to visit at a nursing home twice a month and they are always a hit. Many residents want to visit with them. And any passing workers stop for a few pats, from aides to nurses to dining room employees. Family and friends who come to visit their loved ones like to stop and visit with the pups as well.
Everyone enquirers about Shelby and Nikki. How old are they? (9 and 12 1/2) What breed? (Shetland Sheepdogs) Do they live in the house? (Of course) You must brush them a lot? (Yes, my hobby while I watch tv) And many other questions.
I’ve been visiting nursing and residential facilities with dogs since 2000. Of course not with the same dogs. I am on my third generation of therapy dogs. On every visit I’m repeatedly asked the dogs’ names amongst other information about them. How often have I been asked my name? Once.
Does it bother me? Not one bit! Why would I have kept it up for the past 19 years if it did? (Wow, that’s a long time!) It is a great testament to how much people need dogs. People do talk to me and are glad to see me. They tell me about the dogs they had as kids and when they were adults.
Dogs give acceptance to people, whatever state they are in. They are a connector between people and a bridge to memories and conversation. They facilitate miracles. One of my life goals is to be able to bring as much joy as my dogs!
I have learned over the years that each of my Therapy Dogs has had a different way of working. Each has excelled in his or her own special way.
Jewel was my first certified Therapy Dog. She was one of the moms from a puppy mill case that took in 97 dogs but ended up with 105 after puppies were born. Jewel was a color headed white, full sized collie. I named her Jewel because her beautiful sable spots looked like jewels on her white coat. She was a sweetheart. Her method of providing comfort was to stand quietly while she was petted. Sometimes she would lay down with a person who wasn’t ambulatory. You could feel the gentleness emanate from her.
The photo above is my Trevor. He was an abandonment case that I took in. He came to me as an adult, but weighing only about 20 lbs. At his full weight he was 32 lbs. Trevor was a natural born Therapy Dog. He could do the job without me. He would go to people I didn’t even see, because he sensed that they needed him. He could work a room like I’ve never seen. What a gentle soul he was.
Duncan, above, trained and was certified as a Therapy Dog the same year as Trevor. I was Duncan’s third home by the time he was 4 months old. He was quite the handful and continued to be for many years. Duncan was a good Therapy Dog and brought joy to many. Duncan was different though in that he did the work because I asked him to and it made me happy. Whatever made me happy, made Duncan happy.
That brings us to my currently certified Therapy Dog, Shelby. She is a rescue dog whose original owners purchased her from a flea market. When she was 18 months old, they decided that she was too rambunctious. Hello, is that not the definition of a teenage puppy? Shelby is a tireless worker and has a work ethic that doesn’t quit. She can greet and visit with people for hours. Shelby is a good Therapy Dog because she enjoys working, and working with mom is even better. She is a joyful worker.
There are many ways that a dog can approach therapy work. And more than one way to be a success at it. As long as the method leads to happiness, the goal is achieved!
There are numerous benefits to having well trained dogs. One of these benefits is that you get to go places and do things together. Here are Nikki and Shelby (The Girls) after our walk at Bear Town Lakes Park over the weekend. They are sitting and laying down (on command) for their post-walk photo while my niece played on the tunnels and slide. The Girls also did some socializing with some other children at the park who wanted to pet them.
My older niece got to walk Nikki. If the leash is dropped Nikki will just sit down and wait. My niece did a great job of walking Nikki though and had so much fun that she wanted to go around the lake a second time. So we did.
After we got back to the house and ate lunch, we all played with hats. Shelby and Nikki are trustworthy and able to play with and be petted by my nieces who are 5 and 1 years old. (Never leave dogs unattended with small children, even reliable ones. Accidents happen.)
The dogs and I also stopped at my workplace on our way home. It had been such a wonderful day that I wanted to share the joy. Everyone feels better after a little dog therapy.
If Shelby and Nikki were unruly and disobedient, we would not have been able to have all these fun experiences together. Training your dog/s pays off.