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Eleven Days

Eleven days was all he had when the prison gate slammed shut behind him.
Joy to finally have our boy turned into man with us again.
We loved him, spent time with him after so much time gone.
We prayed that the depression, anxiety could be held at bay.
In the early morning hours of 9/11 he met his lover and this time she was not so forgiving – she took his life.

Eleven days, just eleven days.

Therapy Dog

When I  retired, it was important to me to do something to help others. I have a yellow Labrador Retriever that I was training at the time and he seemed to have the perfect temperament to be a therapy dog. We worked hard, got him certified and began his career.

Our actual therapy training took
place in a nursing home but I realized that it was not the best environment for Tug’s talents. The opportunity arose for Tug to work in a school setting with kids and I  thought that would be perfect.  It was.

I was a little nervous on the first day because l wasn’t sure what to expect. I shouldn’t have been, Tug just took over and knew exactly what to do. He seemed to know which kids needed him the most and he gravitated to those kids. He amazed me with his intuition.

In one school Tug’s job is more relationship oriented and he knows who needs what. If rough housing is involved, he’s game. He always loves to chase a ball. If a kid just wants to sit quietly and pet him, that’s great too. It is very rewarding to see kids smile that don’t smile often.

In another school the kids are younger and they read to Tug. When the teacher brings a new group in to meet Tug, I  have noticed that he greets each child individually.

I could never have taught Tug these things, he just knows. He is definitely making a difference in these young lives, and also in the lives of the adults that watch him in action. I am so glad that I am part of a team that can help in this way.

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Tug Goes to School

I think a lot of you know that I have a therapy  dog. We started  out visiting nursing  homes but it was hard on both of us, particularly  when a couple  of people we had spent a lot of time with died. Many times after we returned home Tug would need to decompress and one time he even refused to get out of the car when we arrived at the center.

As luck would have it, one day I was in a meeting with some people at United  Methodist Family Services  (UMFS) and I mentioned  Tug and they got very excited because they wanted to have a therapy dog in their school for their residential  students. These kids have been through a lot and animals have a way of connecting with them and helping them that nothing else can.

We began working  with the kids at UMFS late last spring and Tug was amazing. On the very first day we walked into the first classroom and Tug walked over to a girl and he lay down next to her and rested his head on her foot. She  was so excited and said, “He chose  me!  He chose me.” Her teacher told me that she had been afraid of dogs. Tug seemed to know just what to do in relation to these kids. If they wanted to read to him he would lie down  quietly.  If they wanted to play he was all for that as well. The teachers and the kids decide the routine for the time with Tug.  We also work with a class of Autistic  kids and in that class the kids mostly love on Tug.  Unfortunately  I can’t  take pictures  there due to HIPPA regulations.

We went for an interview to be part of the PAWS to read program at an elementary  school in  the city of Hopewell about 30 minutes from us. Tug  was very well recieved.

The day before we were supposed to start back to both schools after  summer break I took Tug to the groomer for a bath and red bumps began popping out on his head. I took him to the vet and he thought Tug was having an allergic reaction to something  but at that point he couldn’t be sure what. He took samples for slides and prescribed antibiotics  and antihistamines along

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with pain killers. Tugs head only got worse throughout  the week and on Wednesday  the vet amped up the antibiotics  and antihistamines  and on Friday  the lab results were back and they showed Tug was stung by either hornets or yellow jackets. He received  intravenous  steroids and after that he began to get better.

Tug stayed out of school for two weeks to avoid scaring people because his head was such a mess and also  to avoid secondary infection. When he returned  he received  lots of love and sympathy from both teachers and kids.

The kids at the elementary school are adorable. They are in second and third grade and their reading skills differ. Some of these kids have come from difficult situations  as well.  One darling little boy was found in a trash can in Africa  by a missionary. I can’t  even imagine. The missionary brought him home and adopted him. He is a happy little kid and he and Tug  love each other. These pictures are from our visit to  the elementary school.

I  have finally figured  out what I want to do when I grow  up. Don’t  you think it’s about  time?

My Tree

Early (for me) this morning I took the puppies out to the back yard to run around and play.  It was a beautiful morning after the rain last night, cool and fresh with a slight breeze.  I haven’t spend much time in the back yard this summer, the “no see-ums” have been really bad and not conducive to spending much time in my meditation spot so the outside furniture has not even been cleaned off and set up.  I looked around for a place to sit and then I saw it, a low sturdy branch on a maple tree that we planted when we moved into this house in 1981. 

I don’t know why I never noticed that branch before, I guess I didn’t need to.  Anyway, for the first time since I was a little girl, I decided to climb the tree.  I needed something to get me started and behind our shed I found some plastic chairs stacked up.  That will be perfect I thought, and it was.  I took the chair over and got onto the low branch which was about as high as a horse. 

Our back yard has a perfect canopy of trees so there is no clear view, but through the leaves I could see puffs of clouds and the beautiful blue sky.  No camera, so no pictures.  I just leaned back against the trunk of the tree and felt more peaceful than I have felt in a very long time.  I let thought slip away for awhile, then I thanked God for my place in the world.  I think I will visit my tree more often,

 

The Big Year

I like the idea of “rewind Wednesday”, although this post was written before rewind was even an option. About a year ago I found a couple of papers that I had written for my senior high school English and creative writing classes over 50 years ago. Back then I did a lot more writing and I even wrote “real” letters and mailed them with envelopes and stamps. I still have some letters that were sent to me and they are some of my most treasured possessions. I decided to share this paper because it is about apprehension over endings and new beginnings….. This is unedited, exactly the way I wrote it.

Your senior year is supposed to be the most fun, but I am entering mine with mixed emotions. Right now, I don’t feel any different than I did last year or any of the years previous to that one. When I stop and think about it though, maybe I felt more “important” when I was in the eighth grade. That was my first year at Lee and I remember how big I felt.

Lee was a brand new school then, and I remember how awed I was. I was afraid of a couple of my teachers at first, but I got over that quickly, because after all, I was in high school; I was a “big kid” now. I met many new friends that year that I have kept all through high school.

In a way, I suppose I am rather scared of this year. I keep thinking that when it’s over I will be out of high school. I will be finished with twelve of the happiest years of my life and they will be gone forever. To make it worse, I haven’t really decided what to do next year.

On the other hand though, I have been looking forward to this year for twelve years and that makes it exciting. I want to make the most of it. I want to do everything I can to make this the most wonderful year of my life and one that I will remember forever.

In the Eye of a Horse

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What does a horse see?  Does he only see with his eye or does he see with his mind’s eye as well?   What does he think about when he looks out on the pasture from his stall?  Does he remember times long past?

Like most little girls, I have always loved horses.  I was a city girl, however, so I was never able to spend time with them.  In recent years I became very concerned with the plight of former racehorses and last summer I found a way to become involved with them and help them.

I had a meeting with someone in regard to a program for my therapy dog, Tug, and she told me about an organization, Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, that was a sanctuary for retired racehorses.  The local chapter, James River Horses, is located in Goochland County, VA, on prison grounds.  The location is absolutely beautiful with rolling hills, pastures and meadows, a lake, trees scattered here and there.  You would never know it was a prison facility except for the signs.

The inmates care for the horses and the program gives a second chance to the men as well as to the horses.  The inmates must earn the privilege of caring for the horses and they learn skills that, hopefully, will lead to jobs upon their release.  These men often think of themselves as throw away people and they regain their self esteem through the love of the horses.  They now have something that depends on them and requires their care and concern.

As soon as I heard about this program I knew that I wanted to get involved and sponsor a horse.  As soon as we got to the facility on Barn Day I saw a poster with a picture of “Multiple Choice”, a big bay gelding with a small white star on his forehead.  We bonded right away and I knew he was the one.  Choice was a big moneymaker back in the day and I can not understand how the owners of a horse who makes them money can fail to provide them with a comfortable retirement when their career has ended.

I visit with Choice about once a month and when I go I take a large canvas bag filled with apples and carrots for all the horses and something for the men as well.  Choice always seems glad to see me and when I said something to my husband about his reaction he said, “You can see the smile in his eyes.”  I give him hugs, petting and massages and he hugs me back. I hope I am making a difference for him.  Choice can no longer be ridden due to arthritis from a racing injury so he is a pasture companion.  That is fine with me because I’m afraid my riding days are behind me.

I wonder if Choice remembers and thinks about the excitement and energy of the track?  Does he miss those days?  Did he have someone that loved him and brought him treats?  Most of his past is a mystery to me and he is keeping his secrets.  For now it is enough to know that he is comfortable and happy and he can run and play in the pasture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Therapy Dog

I hated retirement.  I began to forget why I retired in the first place.  It wasn’t that the job was my life, I liked it well enough, but I had lost my focus without it.

I have several dogs and I love them all and I love spending time with them but, Tug, my yellow lab is different.  I took him to several training classes, quite a few in fact.  We went to group classes and individual classes.  Tug is a very fast learner, and I knew that he would make a wonderful therapy dog so I wanted him to have all the socialization and different experiences that he could get.  Finally, everyone who had worked with us said that he was ready to take the Canine Good Citizen test.  I was scared.  What if we failed?  If we did, it would be my fault.  Tug had his second birthday in May, training was completed, but still I put it off. 

Jon started the Open Group for Bedlam Farm and I began reading the posts and looking at the pictures.  Ah Ha!  Inspiration and and a kick in the butt!  A yellow lab, Hunter, passed his CGC at four months of age.  I called my trainer and made an appointment for the CGC test that very week.  Tug passed with flying colors and we started therapy training the following week.

I thought it would be easy to find a facility where we could work with Tug but that was not the case.  The Veterans Hospital had a waiting list of therapy teams, and the local hospitals would be glad for us to come if the dog was already trained but we couldn’t train him at their facilities.  Our wonderful veterinarian directed us to a new nursing/rehab center and it turned out to be perfect and it is five minutes from home.

I quickly found out that this work can be very intense and emotionally draining for both the handler and the dog.  The first few sessions were tough and forty five minutes is usually enough.  Tug and I have made lots of friends there.  I wish I could take pictures but photography is prohibited due to privacy.  Tug has now completed his training and we are just waiting for his vest and badge to arrive.  Meanwhile our trainer has blessed us to be on our own.

This is something I have wanted to do for an awfully long time and now I think that I can look forward to a more rewarding retirement.

 

 

 

 

Night

He comes by night when it is very dark –

but sometimes he does not come at all.

I am asleep.

He climbs into the bed quietly and touches me gently –

he puts his head on my shoulder and I smile.

He begins to purr.