Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Love Comes in all Sizes

Today I was having lunch in a Mexican restaurant and noticed outside the window a few snow flakes were falling. Winter will not let go.

So back to our Florida friends! You've met Truffle, and meet his friend Baci.

Isn't this a great picture? Baci is about 4 pounds and Truffle is about 65. That's quite a weight difference!

Truffle's owner found Baci for her son and his wife to enjoy. It's the wife's first dog. She wasn't sure she wanted a big dog, but liked the poodle personality. And that's when Baci came in to their lives. Baci is Italian for "kiss."

Dogs come in hundreds of breeds - some bred for hunting, others protecting, others just for companionship. Everyone has different tastes, and we are so fortunate to find dogs of all types that suit us. Even when they don't suit us, we usually find a place for them in our hearts, no matter how weird they act or look.

People are all different as well. Goodness knows you don't have to look far to wonder "what does he/she see in his her/him?" There's no accounting for taste.

But God loves us all. No matter how weird we act or look.

And Thank God for that!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spreading the Warmth

Cruelly, it has turned cold up north (again). Let's see what's happening down in Florida, on a warm beach, shall we?

Ah, doesn't that look wonderful? Truffle (Standard Poodle) and Shiloh (Collie) are enjoying the views and warm breezes.

Yet here in Ohio, we're shivering. When my dogs went out this morning, I could see their breath. Sigh.

How do we stay encouraged when our lives seem difficult? For me, when I went through difficult times, I honestly couldn't figure out why the world did not stop. It seemed like it should have, but every day life chugged along. Some people even seemed to be enjoying their worlds. . Harumph...

But the sun is always out somewhere, even if we don't see it. Our hard times don't last forever. We can endure, even if our hearts break along the way. The Son is always within reach, just one prayer away.

If there is frost on the ground outside your home today, and maybe some coldness in your heart, hang in there. New Life is within your grasp.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Grass IS Greener!

To me, the grass should be green by St. Patrick's Day. Ever since I noticed that it was so once, I expect it always to be that way. However, it isn't always true, though this year it was darn close. Today when I looked out the window after (yet another) soaking rain, the grass was noticeably greener.

Often I find myself thinking, "if only I was/had x/y/z, my life would really be perfect." In other words, the grass is greener. However, I've talked to enough people to know it's a lie. The grass is never greener. While I believe God instilled in us a longing for life to be perfect, it simply doesn't exist in another person, a certain job, or attaining the ideal weight. But I don't think we're given the notion of what "perfection" is in order for our lives to be frustrating. I believe it really exists - just not in this life. I believe we'll enjoy perfection forever with Jesus.

Every year, even if we don't go to church, God tells us the Resurrection story through nature. After a brutal winter, it doesn't seem like anything buried in the ground could ever come back to life. But in certain climates, Spring shows this is true every year. We long for new life, a perfect life, a grass-is-greener life. God shows us the opportunity made flesh through faith in Jesus.

(tulips sprouting, with Tilly's leg nearby)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Giving a Paw Up

Last week, you learned about Tilly's efforts with Foster. Here's a similar story about our good St. Bernard friends, Sandy and Brandy.

Sandy, who is one week older than Foster, is showing signs of aging. A cattle dog at 11 isn't nearly as old as a St. Bernard at 11, but Sandy is doing amazingly well for a giant breed.

Brandy is a couple years younger than Sandy, and when she joined the household, Sandy protected and tended Brandy, the pup. Now, the roles have reversed and Brandy mothers Sandy by barking at the back door when Sandy needs help getting up or wants to come in for bedtime.

However, still being the kid, Brandy DOES want a treat for her reward!

Do you know someone who is growing older and need an extra hand? What can you do to help that person? Sometimes, it can be as simple as helping someone in the parking lot with their groceries. Even if they might look like they have it "under control," help being offered shows concern, which is appreciated.

Who can you give a "paw up" to today?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nathan Alan Willoughby in His New Home - Fiction

When Edie packed up all of her earthly belongings and her beloved cat, Nathan Alan Willoughby, she had no idea it would take months to settle into her new home and build a new life.

However, this wasn't nearly as difficult for Nathan Alan Willoughby. After all, he'd started over with a new life a couple of times now. Once Edie adopted him, his security was in her love and care - where they were living was secondary.

The first couple of weeks in their new home, the cat spent most of his time in Edie's bedroom. Once he adjusted to this smaller space, the rest of the house was opened for his exploration.

It was scary to have so much unknown space to explore. However, Nathan Alan Willoughby also had his own new cat condo, to which he'd often retreat when he felt overwhelmed. Or even just in need of a nap.

Before, Edie's schedule was very predictable and the cat set the routine of his day around her comings and goings. Now, however, she popped in and out of the house at random times, seven days a week. "I'm sorry, Nathan Alan Willoughby, but starting my own business has been very complicated," she said to him one day when she came in very late.

The cat had scolded her by meowing at her non-stop, even after she fed him his dinner (late, again). Routine was a safety net for the cat, more so than a safe home. Edie's coming and going was unsettling for him.

In time, he accepted that the times of Edie's presence were to be enjoyed, and her absences were to be endured. Either way, Edie was in the cat's life, and that was his source of comfort and strength.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What's Wrong with This Picture

(besides bluriness)

Since Foster's dog-bite injury, he hasn't been in too good of a mood. Tilly, to her credit, has tried to cheer him. In this picture, She was doing her best to get Foster to play. However, Foster would not be moved.

Now and then, I notice within myself that being grumpy becomes a habit. There is just no humoring me out of my mood. When this happens, I need to "phone a friend" and do something fun. Often, I don't feel like taking that step, but becoming complacent in misery is no way to live.

Hopefully soon Foster will be on the mend. He has a lot of obstacles right now. But he still lights up when we play outside. And he still gets the paper for me in the mornings (it just takes longer for him to find it). Being cheerful is a choice.

What about you? Do you find yourself enjoying your bad moods? What steps can you take to reach out and change?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Flower Power

Remember when I went to Florida and told you I'd be blogging about the dogs I met down there? Yeah, I know, I didn't do a very good job at that. I've got excuses (not very good ones), but I'm finally featuring a couple of special dogs. (and yes, that's our friend Shiloh watching the show)

That's Daisy and Lily (and their "grandma" Marion), whom I refer to as "flower dogs" because of their names. And, like flowers, they are beauties! Notice how riveted they are to Marion as she offers them treats.

There's something about that focus I wish I could adopt. As I'm transitioning to life back in Ohio, my mind seems unable to calm down and focus on the (many) tasks at hand. It's about worn me out.

Finally, on Saturday, I had to spend some very quiet, easy time in prayer. What I figured out is I, in my own power and wisdom, couldn't focus. After two weeks of trying, I'd failed. I couldn't even put the dishes away. I asked God to "clean up the mess" of my brain.

And it worked. Maybe "it" is not a good way of phrasing it. God honored that prayer by calming me down and helping me break down my lengthy, overwhelming "to do" list, step by step.

Living my life step by step has been the only method that has gotten me through the years with peace and security. For that, I'm truly thankful.

While I can focus on food with few problems, like Daisy and Lily, other parts of life can be challenging. But the treat of going to God is one that is always offered. I just need to rivet my eyes on Him.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What to do Under Attack

Last Monday while Foster, Tilly and I were out for a walk, Foster was attacked by our neighbor's dog. The dog has been stalking us for some time, and this time, he had a chance to "get" at us. Foster got bit on the back leg.

How could he attack such a cute and nice dog?

It was quite an awful scene, me being tangled up in leashes while Foster tried to fight back, Tilly completely freaked out, and a seven year old boy trying to control a dog not interested in listening.

When we (finally) extricated ourselves from the situation, Foster walked away with his usual swagger, without a limp or whimper.

I thought about how I react when I sustain an attack, though thankfully they have only been verbal ones. If Foster had been loose, he would have been fighting all-out. The other dog was bigger, stronger, younger and obviously meaner than Foster. Foster would not have won. Since both are cattle dogs, they don't stop once the fight is on. Left to his own instincts, Foster would have been in very bad shape.

And that's what happens to me too. I can get so caught up in a war of words that I go all out, striking from behind and sneaking in a nip unexpectedly like the neighbor dog did to Foster. Left to my own devices, I can get in a lot of trouble. Most often, I've not left an argument "winning", though the other person probably did not fare any better.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about how weak I can be in the area of self-control. My temper has been short, but I've finally realized I need to ask for God's power for control. And I don't use God's power, I ask God to do the battling for me because I can not. This has resulted in much more pleasant outcomes than my knee-jerk reactions.

If I hadn't pulled Foster in on a short leash that day, the fight and injuries would have been traumatic. I'm thankful that sometimes, God keeps me on a short leash too.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Takin' Care of Business

Many people call to inquire about rates and policies of Good Shepherd Boarding Kennel. I'm happy to answer them, and explain how I care for the dogs. They even are invited to come visit with their dog. It's good to compare kennels and get an idea how each kennel operates and what set-up will work best for your dog.

Very rarely, I encounter a person with whom I do not want to do business. Sure, sometimes a dog can be tough to handle, but usually I figure them out. The same is true of the owners. Some times people are rude, snobby, or late for appointments. Most of the time, this can be handled without incident. Yet now and then, I get someone who simply doesn't care for their dog. Generally, if a person doesn't put money into their dog for simple vet care, then boarding is not an option they will pursue.

Times are tight and having a pet can be a luxury. However, they are still a living being with medical and social needs. I talked to a vet assistant just last week who said owners are cutting back on their pet's "wellness" check-ups. I don't know the details of these situations, and there are always exceptions and explanations for "how things look."

Every day, each of us has to fulfill the obligations we've invited into our lives. It can be a burden. We need to be creative in handling all of our challenges. But don't sacrifice what's convenient for what's right.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Arriving with Eagerness

Foster and Tilly love to go places. They get in the car just as enthusiastically as they exit.

Some dogs go in the car only when they are heading for the vet, groomer, or kennel. Depending on their attitude, they may equate car rides for an unpleasant arrival.

My dogs go lots of places with me, and often it's to go for a walk at some exotic place like...the college campus' Green Monster.

No matter where we go, they are excited to get there.

Somehow, I need to incorporate this attitude because going places often is a chore. The grocery store (yay food) is exciting, but other places aren't nearly as eventful. And attitude can be manufactured by thinking about not what I'm doing, but who I might see. Maybe they are familiar faces and maybe they are strangers. Either way, it's an opportunity to "bump against" other people and learn about them and how they interact. If it's unpleasant, I've learned something. If it's pleasant, it was worthwhile. Chances are good if I arrive with a good attitude, the people I see will respond in kind.

Go have an adventure today - with a good attitude.

(thanks to Jean for this high quality picture!)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Purr So Deep

Sunday night, I arrived back from Florida. After not seeing each other for many weeks, the cats and I had a happy reunion. That night, three out of four cats slept on my bed.

The only cat who slept elsewhere was Carbon...

I think it's because I once rolled over on her when she was little. Can't say I blame her. She still looks surprised.

Frankie, who obviously spent his free time at the food bowl and was even bigger, slept at my feet. This made rolling over difficult. Fortunately, I was so tired I didn't move much.

Olive (who is a very literate cat) slept on the side of the bed. A powerful and very loud thunderstorm kept waking me up. I registered two things: that's a lot of rain and Olive hasn't stopped purring all night.

Then there's Dooley.

Dooley and I adore each other. He's a bit weird around other people and had essentially little to no human contact while I was away. I worried about if he'd be totally feral by the time I returned. Instead, he slept right by me, and would sniff my nose on occasion, then roll on his back right next to me.

That's when I heard it. Dooley was purring, but it wasn't the loud raspy purr of Olive. It was deep and quiet. Even with lightning flashes and thunder claps, I could not only hear his deep purr, I could feel it. It was pure bliss.

It's good to be home.