Monday, November 29, 2010

Meeting Another More Than Half Way

This is Shayla (hi Shayla!). Shayla is a very cute Shiba-Inu. This Japanese-based breed is known to be stubborn, brave, and charming. They can be a bit stand-offish with other people and dogs.

This was Shayla's first visit to my kennel. On the advice of the owner, I let her find her own way the first couple of days, not being too friendly or forceful with her. Also a very smart breed, she figured out the routine of the kennel quickly. It helped that she liked the home made dog treats I offered. After just a couple days, she let me know that she preferred the very first pen when she went outside. Shayla warmed up to me, wagging her tail when she saw me, and even being curious with the other dogs. Here she meets Tilly.

Often we encounter difficult people and we need to figure out the best way to approach them. Through complicated personality and experience, each person brings their baggage to the table. Sometimes one has to back off before one can move forward - give the other person space to get comfortable.

The Lord is never far away from us, and He longs to draw near. Sometimes we do not feel so generous toward God and we resist Him. However, He is always there, waiting for us to reach toward him so we can enjoy our relationship with him and others.

What holds you back from trusting others? Have you been able to reach out to others who are difficult? Aren't Shiba-Inus cute?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby Proves His Worth

Nathan Alan Willoughby noticed something was different with Edie. Since coming to live with her after she adopted him from the Westwood Rescue Home for Good Cats, she greeted him cheerfully when she returned to him after work.

But lately, she was sad. Sometimes, Edie would tear up and blow her nose a lot. When this happened, Nathan Alan Willoughby sat very close to her.

One night, Edie didn't come home until much later than normal. When she did, her tone of voice was different, and she was slurring her speech. This frightened the large cat. Erratic behavior reminded him of the scary people he saw digging in the dumpster when he was dining on leftover pizza.

Edie picked up the cat and swung him in her arms, "Yerrrssuch a goood kittykittykitty..." she said. She spun him in every tightening circles. Nathan Alan Willoughby, despite his iron clad stomach from dumpster food, was not prepared for the whirling behavior. When Edie stopped and snuggled him under her chin, he made a peculiar noise, "mow-wow-wow-wow....mow-wow-wowowww." Then he threw up. Unfortunately, this triggered sympathetic behavior in Edie. She dropped the cat and sprinted to the bathroom.

Nathan Alan Willoughby stood as still as he could, his body still weaving from the unwanted merry go round. Then, he heard Edie sobbing. He headed towards her just as she came out of the bathroom. She had a towel in her hand, blotting her eyes as well as her mouth. She slumped to the floor and let the tears flow.

"How could he? How could he flirt with me - eat lunch with me every day - and he's married?" She buried her head in the towel. The large cat was still wary, but he walked up to her anyway. He gently put one paw on her leg and squeezed his claws ever so much.

Startled, Edie squawked, "Ouch!" temporarily stopping her crying. Nathan Alan Willoughby gazed into her eyes, his purr filling the apartment. She set the towel down and gently picked him up. She breathed in his fur, listening to his comforting humming noise. At the end of his purr, he made a small squeak. Edie smiled and looked at him, "Oh, Cat, you are still here, still faithful."

She stood back up, picking the towel up and walking into the kitchen. "Perhaps I don't need to think of him anymore than he thought of me." She poured cat food in Nathan Alan Willoughby's bowel. He stood staring at her, still purring.

Edie leaned down, "You, Big Guy, really know how to show a girl she's special."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Viva La Difference!

Here's Brandy, chilling out at her home. (Hi Brandy!)

And here's Sandy, caught without her make-up when the papparazi breezed by. (Hi Sandy!)

Brandy and Sandy are owned by two really fun people. These two St. Bernards are frequent guests here at the kennel and do well when they are here. They know what to expect and settle in comfortably.

The only problem I have is that before Sandy will go out in the mornings, I have to give her a belly rub. For most dogs, this involves maybe leaning down and scratching the dog's belly with three or four fingers. With Sandy, who weighs 165 lbs., it is nearly a total body work out.

Brandy has her quirks too. She greets me every morning not with a bark, but with a "woowoowoo!"

Same breed, same home, but two different personalities. One thing that keeps working in the kennel interesting is learning a dog's own unique personality. While some breeds exhibit extremely similar character traits, they still are all different.

People are even more complex. Sometimes I'm not as happy about trying to figure them out, however. It takes a lot more work and a lot more patience. Plus, I'm not getting paid to understand them. It's voluntary.

Much like the dogs, though, making the effort is worth the pay off of getting acquainted with someone. And while maybe I won't see that person often, understanding and patience goes a long way to furthering kindness and peace, even if it's for a moment. Yes, it's easier to keep people at arm's length and just "get through" an encounter. I'm learning that slowing down and really looking at a person can be a gift.

When are you most tempted to brush people off? When they disagree with you? Have a bumper sticker you hate? Have you chosen to believe the best in a person, despite all evidence to the opposite?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Being Thankful, for (most) Everything

Last Spring when I learned Foster was going blind, the veterinarian told me that my other dog would help Foster and that he would become dependent on her. I looked at Foster and said, "Well, Buddy, looks like your sunk."

I didn't tell the vet that Tilly, my other dog, is a pinhead. And I say that in the nicest way possible. Sure, when I adopted her from the shelter (two years ago this week), she was listed as a dog. However, I strongly suspect she is part squirrel and part timber wolf. See? That's Tilly scaling the seven foot woodpile in the lean-to. I think she's looking for mice. All I know is she's not helping me haul wood to the house.

Last night, I had a dream that Tilly ran off and I couldn't find her. I was distraught. In real life, she's run off a couple of times, mainly to the woods, and I felt like I didn't really care. But that's not true. A year ago, she ran away on the college campus (chasing deer!!) and it was over an hour before I found her (or she found me). It was cold and I got worried.

Perhaps I like her after all.

Recently, Foster's eyesight is worsening and Tilly has become attentive to him. While he doesn't seem to like her much more than I do (or act like it), he's paying closer attention to what she's doing. Fortunately, he has not picked up her recent habit of sprinting through the forsythia row and looping by the barn first thing in the morning. Somehow, she seems to think she should "secure the perimeters". I guess I'm okay with that too, even if she looks like a sprinting freak.

Maybe Foster and I need to have Tilly around, and not just for comic relief or a reason to be cranky. While I still am working on her not greeting visitors with two paws to the chest and a french kiss (some guests seem to like this), there is some charm and sweetness about her. It's taken a long time to appreciate this, and not just hang my head in my hands, moaning at the nut of a dog I have in my life.

Sometimes you just have to be thankful for the nuts. And that's not code.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Living in the Moment

This is Maggie (hi Maggie!). Maggie belongs to a very kindly woman. Maggie has a great life, the center of attention in her home.

Maggie has been to the kennel numerous times. While she probably wouldn't list it on her Top Ten Things to Do (although maybe she doesn't even do ten different things), she seems pleasant enough when she's here. She doesn't play with the other dogs at the kennel, but she doesn't shirk in the back of her run, afraid of the world. She looks around with wonder, processing this new environment.

I really like things not to change and I really like to stay home. However, that's pretty dull. Getting the opportunity to go out and do something different, even meeting strangers and being completely outside my comfort zone, makes my brain squish around in a good way. Bottom line, we need to experience change and feel off-kilter every now and then. It's healthy and makes our brains work (I know this because Rachel read a book about healthy brains - thanks Rachel!).

When's the last time you did something challenging, even if you felt nervous approaching the situation? How did it go? What new thing would you like to try? I've been thinking about bungee jumping of late. However, I don't think that's on my Top Ten. However, I'd love to hear from someone who DID bungee jump!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby Becomes a Beggar - Fiction

Since adopting Nathan Alan Willoughby from the Westwood Rescue Home for Good Cats, Edie enjoyed his easy going manner. Though he was a cat of great size and substance, he ate his daily allotment of cat food without complaint.

One morning as Edie finished her bowl of cereal, she set it down to answer her phone. Nathan Alan Willoughby, who had been sitting companionably next to her, sniffed the milk in the bowl. He saw that it was good. He tasted it. Game over.

Edie thought it was cute and it was soon a part of their daily routine. Yet in only ten short days, the give and take of breakfast gave way to a cat's demand of his owner. Now when Edie ate her cereal, Nathan Alan Willoughby stared her down for the duration of her eating.

Breakfast became a bit of a nightmare as the cat now meowed as soon as she poured the milk. When Edie sat at the table, Nathan Alan Willoughby jumped on top of it, meowing his turn come sooner.

When he put his paw in her cereal bowl and pulled it toward him, Edie realized the extent of her problem. No longer did she have a content cat but a roaring animal on her hands. "I've created a monster," she said.

Nathan Alan Willoughby was miserable as well. Before he was content to listen to Edie crunching on her morning granola while he sat cuddled next to her. Now, he was a slave to his taste for milk, forgetting about Edie in the process.

Edie put her foot down and decided her cat needed to go "cold turkey" without milk. It meant some sacrifices on her part, like standing up to eat her breakfast quickly instead of sitting like a civilized person.

Nathan Alan Willoughby again kept his eyes affixed to Edie's spoon-to-mouth ritual. He reached his paw to her leg to remind her he was there. When she ignored him, he dug in with his claws. That got a reaction.

Soon, Nathan Alan Willoughby was sitting in the bathroom with the door closed while Edie went about her business of eating. After a couple of days, she let him out. If he pestered her at all, he was again banished.

Going backwards from temptation would not be easy. It required a great deal of time and patience for Edie to set a good limit on her cat. It required suffering on the Nathan Alan Willoughby's part. Eventually, there was a truce. But after that one taste, there was never the same cozy morning routine again.

But, there was still love.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Resisting Love

Meet Millie, Roxie and Sadie (hi girls!). Yes, it's been several days of multi-dog families at Good Shepherd lately.

Sadie is no stranger to the kennel and really likes me. Millie warmed up to me after a day or so. Roxie...well, Roxie resisted love.

She wanted to trust me, but something kept her from it. At first, she growled as soon as she heard me enter the kennel. When she saw Sadie happily wagging her tail and receiving affection, she became curious. She would circle me, sneaking up behind me to see if I passed the sniff test (dog criteria, not people). With every visit, she got closer and closer. Sadly, though, Roxie never bridged the gap to let me give her some lovin's.

Opening our hearts and allowing hope into our lives are huge hurdles. Often, it must become a conscious decision to try. It amazes me how a person can continue to hope, despite constant disappointments. Yet isn't it the only way to live?

We can live small, not taking any chances like Roxie. We can move cautiously like Millie. Or, we can love with abandon like Sadie.

I worry about being able to recover from a broken heart. Then I remember that each time it's happened, whether a person or circumstance, God has rebuilt me with an even better, more loving heart. Allowing God to work like this, giving me a strength, hope and love that is beyond my own capacity, is a work truly of His limitless, mysterious power.

I don't want to live a safe life. That's boring and it's hardly living. I'd rather take my chances to experience love, which is another amazing way to experience God.

What keeps you from love? What do you do to restore trust in yourself and others?

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Slew of Schnauzers

Meet Chance, Lucky, Yogi, and Shadow (hi guys!). Aren't they cute (albeit blurry)?

These guys are so much fun. While they were all wary upon their first visit to the kennel this past summer, they now act like they are "old pros" when they are here. They've decided I'm okay too. This may have something to do with giving them food and treats (they are all sitting in this picture, waiting for me to put down their food bowls).

Wouldn't it be fun to have a little pack of dogs like this entertaining you at home? I think they must be so much fun.

Having friends in our lives is such a gift. However, it's not always easy to find the right friends with whom we feel perfectly comfortable. It seems like the older we get, the harder it is to find a good friend, let alone a whole pack of them.

Recently, a woman in Bible Study reminded me "you have not because you ask not." While she didn't mean that in a "name it-claim it kind of way," I realized that there were some things I was waiting to see if God would provide, instead of asking if He would. It's not like God needs us to remind Him, but I think prayer has something more to do with us then seeing how He will work out our asking, for His glory, not our benefit.

I've asked God for good and wise friends. I've been richly blessed with them. In fact, it seems like God keeps adding wonderful people into my world. It's wonderful and makes my life lively.

Sort of like a pack of Schnauzers.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby Chases the Sun - Fiction

After numerous unsuccessful attempts to keep Nathan Alan Willoughby entertained while she was at work, Edie gave up. If he wanted to sleep on the couch all day, so be it. He seemed content that way. Leaving the television on for him left him stressed.

As Autumn rushed toward Winter and a shortening of days, Nathan Alan Willoughby noticed something new and fantastic. It was a sun beam that came in mid morning and stuck around til late afternoon. This was a perfect place to bask. There never was such a place in the Westwood Rescue for Good Cats. Of course, cats didn't understand about the beauty of a south-facing window. That doesn't mean they don't appreciate them.

After Edie left for work, Nathan Alan Willoughby finished his breakfast (never enough for a twenty pound cat), batted his catnip mouse around until it was stuck under the couch, and then went to visit his new friend the sunbeam. Black fur kept in the heat, and he rolled onto his back to let the sun warm his belly.

By the time he woke up, the sun beam had moved about a foot. Stretching, Nathan Alan Willoughby got up to see what was new in the cat box, then chase the little ball with the bell in it til it joined the catnip mouse under the couch. Of course this was exhausting so he went back to the sunbeam to rest up.

It was a good but simple life. Nathan Alan Willoughby didn't miss Edie so much when he was with the sunbeam. Even when it rained, the cat knew that the sun would return, and along with it, the direct warming of his fur.

Edie noticed a content cat when she returned from a long day of work. She didn't know about her cat's new love, the sun beam. She only saw the difference in her cat, his long blinking stares at her radiated love back to her. She retrieved the catnip mouse and the little ball with the bell inside from under the couch, then feed Nathan Alan Willoughby his dinner. Later, they sat on the couch together, the cat pinning Edie to the cushions as his bulk took up most of the throw over Edie.

Edie was content with this arrangement as well. Sometimes, she'd do some yoga stretches. Mysteriously, Nathan Alan Willoughby seemed to have some of his own. But what can you expect from a cat who basks in the glory of the sun?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Taking Your Medicine

This is Bo (hi Bo!). Bo is a girl. Maybe her name is "Bowe."

This is Bo's medicine.

Guess who has to stick two horse pills down the hundred pound dog's gullet?

Me (not pictured).

I am very brave, aren't I?

Actually, Bo is a champ about taking her medicine. Sure, my hand gets a little slimy but that's because Bo drools when she sees and smells the cheese she gets as her reward for taking her pills.

Wouldn't it be nice if we knew when we did something very difficult we got a nice reward? This is a big problem for me. It seems like since I've been through hard stuff, I should get what I want. I argue with God about this. So far, I haven't won any of the arguments.

Medicine is for our benefit. It doesn't taste good, but it works in our bodies to restore our health. Sometimes (not always), I can see the tough stuff working out to be to my benefit and restored spiritual health. I don't understand how medicine works, but I trust when I ingest it, it will work. It doesn't give me super powers (like being invisible so I can take naps). It does what it's supposed to do.

Same with trying circumstances - we don't get super happy story-book endings. We get what we need (queue Rolling Stones tune). God knows what He's doing. I just need to trust the process.

How do you give your dog medicine? Do your struggles bring you closer to further to God? How long does it take through the process?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hachi - the Movie that Made Me Weep

"Hachi: A Dog's Tale" - a movie with Richard Gere, based on a true story of a dog in Japan. Hachi loves Richard Gere so much that he follows him to the train station every day and waits til Richard Gere comes home from work. Then they walk home from the station, tails wagging. Make that one tail.

Sure Richard Gere is cute, but he's an emotion denying nut job. Based on his looks alone, I may be tempted to lurk (stalk) at the station and follow him home too. A person can get arrested for this behavior. Yet in dogs, we find it adorable and make movies about intense loyalty and devotion (slash obsession).

Spoiler alert: Richard Gere has a heart attack at work and dies (so much for zen). Hachi continues to wait at the station, despite the remaining family member's attempts to keep him at home. Oh, and reason with him (like that would work). This goes on for ten years. It seems maybe they should have at least sent his body home on the train to stop this behavior. But no, everyone finds it charming and are touched by the poor dog waiting for the return of his owner in vain.

And darn it, it worked on me too. Despite my own Mr. Spock cold, logical mind, tears coursed down my cheeks too. Perhaps that's the difference. People can be reasoned with while dogs (and most animals) can not be talked out of loyalty. Despite all logic, cold hard facts, reason, and even death, a dog (and probably cats too, but they are camera shy non-publicity seeking creatures) can maintain their loyalty.

No one is beyond the love of God. He will pursue a person until they've made up their mind to ignore God forever (until death). For those who choose to accept (and hopefully bask) in the deep, inexplicable love of God, they become the focus of a love and loyalty that endures logic, facts, reason and especially death.

In the movie, Hachi was raised to hero status, and example of love and loyalty. Hachi's story is true. Yet we can look to Jesus and see an even better demonstration of love and devotion. One that lasts forever.

What examples of loyalty have you seen in your dog and/or cat? What do you think of Hachi's devotion? What movies make you cry?

By the way, this is Post 100 - how am I doing?

Monday, November 8, 2010

From Which Well Do You Drink?

Julie caught her dog drinking out of the toilet. She was grossed out. She suggested I blog about this canine phenom. There's so many directions I could take this. I'll go with the obvious (at least to me).

Yes, my dogs have drank from the toilet. Usually it's when their own water bowl has run dry and "someone" forgot to replenish (I think it was Dooley).

Why do dogs do this? Most believe it is because the water from the toilet is always fresh (to a dog) and usually cooler than water standing in their bowls. It doesn't matter why to us, we're grossed out regardless. We know about those toilets. We know what they are for, even if dogs do not. If they do, they don't care.

Every day we have many choices to make. Most of us are fortunate to choose what we'll eat (unless you're doing the cabbage soup diet). Nutrition effects our health - salad or junk food - as well as our mood. The choice is ours.

We also choose what to put in our minds. What we hear and see has an effect on us, positively or negatively. If we constantly chose to ingest negativity, it's no different from drinking from the toilet.

Which will you choose?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Living in Denial

See that blanket? That's Cooper. Well, the blanket isn't Cooper but Cooper is under the blanket (we see you Cooper - hello!).

It's not unusual for a Jack Russell Terrier to prefer to burrow in a blanket. Cooper, however, uses it also for pretending he's NOT in a kennel. He's just not a big fan of the place once he arrives.

Don't we all like to deny our circumstances now and then? Particularly as the weather gets colder, staying curled up in a blanket, away from others, is a tempting place to be. But, we can't stay there. Eventually, we need to leave.

And sometimes it takes a little encouragement to face our fears head on. As someone once said, "sometimes you need to kiss the demon on the lips."

Confidence follows facing our individual circumstances. Usually, it involves others, even if it's just that kennel girl opening the door to go out.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Games Dogs Play

Those Goldens are Mary and Luke (hi Mary and Luke!). The black and white blur is Tilly.

Tilly, unlike Foster, likes other dogs and often stands at the end cage waiting for some interesting ones who will engage in her favorite game. Some dogs ignore her, others find her annoying (not unlike myself). But every now and then, as in the case of Mary and Luke, she found not one but two dogs who enjoyed racing the length of the outside pens, turning on a dime, and barking all the way as they race to the other end.

It is a game that has no appeal to me. I'm glad she enjoys it and makes life more fun for the dogs staying in the kennel. I suppose Tilly is sort of like the floor show.

When I was in college, one of my roommates turned her nose up at the suggestion of playing a board game. She'd say, "Board games are for the bored." Obviously, she long forgot our marathon sessions of Pictionary. I hope now she's learned that Apples to Apples is not just an amusement, but a creative exercise of the mind as well as a delightful social exchange. Wow, that sort of sounds like I'm the PR person for Parker Brothers.

Then there is dancing. Once you're out of college, one doesn't have the chance to do much dancing (unless you're part of the Jersey Shore hook-up culture). Sure, there's the living room, but it's not the same. Fortunately, there's zumba.

"Play" is extremely important to people as well as dogs. People tend to work pretty hard (many of us to put food on the table...for our dogs). We don't take enough time to spend with other people and just enjoy them.

I resist community. A couple winters ago, I proudly numbered seven "stay-at-home-days" in a row, involving very little human contact. I still recall those days of solitude with much happiness. However, if I did that often, I'd probably become a bit of a freak (or freakier, no comments on that, please). I have to force myself to be in community with others. When I do, it's always better. Even people who are tough to be around can shape us to become better individuals if we allow ourselves to be transformed.

Or, we can stay in our little gerbil balls, knocking into others' bubbles unaffected, but stuck in the gerbil ball.

Excuse me, I need to go throw the ball for Tilly.

What games does your dog like? Have you played Apples to Apples (Mary Kate and Ashley)? Where do you experience your best community?

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Room with a View

This is Gus (hi Gus!) He's enjoying his view of picturesque Ada.

Gus was adopted as an older dog, and has done a very good job protecting his owner since then. It's hard to know if he realizes she rescued him from an unhappy future. Gus is pretty laid back and asks little of life. He does, however, like to look outside.

When he's here at the kennel, he likes to be able to look outside too. In favorable weather, he stays outside nearly all day. Watching the world go by is a great activity for Gus.

Sometimes we can look at others' lives and believe them to be more interesting than our own. Perhaps they seem like they are more relevant and our own is so insignificant. Just because not everyone spends their every waking moment finding a cure for cancer doesn't mean one's life is unimportant.

Easily, I could look at my own circumstances and think that because my livelihood consists of picking up dog poo it is not worth much. However, allowing dog owners to have some peace of mind while they are away from their dogs is important to them. That's the part I play (there are more, but I'm trying to keep this short).

You play a part too. Even if life hasn't gone in the direction one might hope and it seems our role is ho-hum, it is important. If you're fully convinced otherwise, then make some changes that include sacrificing your time and comfort for another person or cause, even if it isn't glamorous.

"The strongest evidence of love is sacrifice."

Gus' owner could have gone for the cute little puppy. Instead, she went for a cute senior canine citizen. Because Gus' life matters.

How do you give to the point of sacrifice? Would you give even if it wasn't appreciated? What can you give up or do to make life a little better for someone else?