Monday, March 31, 2014

I'm Cool With That

Did you ever look into the soulful eyes of a dog who loves you profoundly, consistently, wigglingly... and realize that this animal could take you out in about 3.5 seconds without working up a pant? Even the most miniature canine could ruin the soft, vulnerable throat of a person caught unawares.

It's a testament to the warmhearted nature of Dog that we feel so at ease slipping off to sleep with a furry toothed missile beside the bed.

This morning I feel grateful for the obliging spirit that comes factory-installed in dogs. It makes me wonder... could I be more accommodating to the people in my life? I'll be watching for that as today unrolls itself.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sometimes Y' Just Know

Jack & Will

There are so many stories to be told about Jack. He's got an extra heaping teaspoon of that magic all dogs have in some amount, so he can't help but leave a wake of anecdotes on his way through. In fact, no one in my family has seen Jack in person for years now, but it's not uncommon for his name to come up in conversation a couple of times on a given day, and yesterday was one of those days.

The best I can do is begin with my favorite story about Jack. The one that starts with a happy ending.

Mark and I were trying to find him a good home, which we imagined could take awhile. For one thing, we weren't about to let this magical dog live with just anyone. And there was another reason too. Jack's early life was spent with people who didn't love him as much as we did, so he had a few unusual fears. And when fright overtook Jack, he would try to bite his way out of it. Not hard, but not playfully, either. So the person who received our gift of Jack would need to be patient enough to help him overcome his fears, and courageous enough to take a few nips without dropping him at the neighborhood dog pound.

We finally found a possible love match for our boy. "Will" lived pretty far away, but I liked the sound of his voice and the kindness in his words. Unconcerned about Jack's indiscretions, he knew that a troubled dog would need a special kind of attention. And in the meantime, the two of them could make a life together playing frisbee and going on bike rides (bike/runs).

So it was all set. Mark, Jack, and I would drive for several hours, Will would drive for several hours, and we'd meet in a nice park to see how we all felt about each other. But I'd screwed up. I'd forgotten to tell Will that one of Jack's greatest fears was a man in a hat. That particular combinaton brought out Jack's snarlingest self.

And wouldn't you know it, we sat on a picnic table watching Will get out of his car--in a hat. It was too late to shout for him to remove it, and besides, I didn't want to freak him out. Maybe "Quick--take off your hat!!" was a common greeting where Will came from, but I kinda doubted it.

Jack stood statue-still, riveted on the approaching stranger. Will, who had given us a friendly wave on his way over, was now smiling at our rigid border collie. I took a firmer grip on the leash, ready to pull out if things went poorly. As Will bent down to pet Jack, bringing his scary, scary hat within inches of our pup's face, the dog melted into a full-body wag. I'm not painting a pretty picture here because it's how I want to remember it--this is just how it was. Half an hour later, as the two of them walked to Will's car, Mark and I sat on that picnic table smiling at their future.

I guess hats don't matter much when you've found the person you were meant to be with.

When I first got up this morning, I looked through photos that Will had sent us over the years. Tiny peeks into Jack's happy life as a forever-family member. So today I'm going to think about a few life-changing moments in my own past--connections that might never have happened if they weren't meant to--and I'm going to appreciate the magic in them.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Shape Shifting


  • Spends lots of her time looking inward, wondering if she’s all right
  • Spends the rest of her time studying us to see if we’re all right 
  • Tries to fix us when we’re not all right 
  • Knows the rules, embraces the rules, worries “I’m still within the rules, right?”


  • Lives to play
  • Can’t keep track of her own body parts (read: injuries--hers and ours)
  • Pushes her face through the snow on the run
  • Sleeps on the dining room table

Add Mark and myself to the pack, and we're talking FOUR wildly distinct personalities in our house--with at least one thing in common. We’re all pretty good at adjusting ourselves to fit into one another.

I’m going to take a little time today to think about my closest friends and their gracious acceptance of the many ways I’m unlike them.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Me for You

A photo of Brody & his beloved Terri
Terri & Brody

There’s a big, beloved black Lab in Minneapolis who goes by the name of Brody (or “B” if you know him well). A lucky dog, he accompanies his person absolutely everywhere—to restaurants, to parties, and to doctor appointments. Amtrak is even gracious enough to pull the train over to give Brody a potty break, and no, I’m not kidding.

In return, as family does for each other, Brody steps in to give his dearest human, Terri, whatever is in his power to give. Sloppy kisses, a warm body on a cold night, or a warning that she’s about to have a seizure. Terri has lots and lots of seizures. And before Brody entered her life, they'd always caught her by surprise, which meant she would fall down. A lot. Even if she was on the stairs. Her life was filled with ambulance rides and bad news. But then Brody found his soul mate and started warning her when it was time to sit down RIGHT NOW! Her trips to the hospital stopped.

One other thing that B does for Terri? When her seizure starts, he snuggles up against her, using the magnet in his collar to trigger the implant in her chest, instantly stopping the seizure. While Terri lies there recovering, Brody can run to get help, bring seizure medicine, or push the emergency button for medical assistance before lying across her body to keep her safe.

There’s at least one more “you’re kidding!” to this story: Brody learned most of his skills from the kind folks at Can Do Canines—but his sloppy kisses and ability to predict seizures are skills he developed all on his own. In fact, humans can’t say for sure how he does that (the prediction part—they understand the kissing part).

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about Brody this morning… which makes me want to ask myself what I can do for my family today.