The New Therapy Dog on the Blog

My newest teammate
My newest UCLA teammate


In the spirit of the new year, I have yet another confession. I like to write until I make myself laugh. I guess that makes me the arbiter of my own humor which is probably not a good thing. And while I’m over sharing, I admit that I prefer it when the Doods take over the blog. I told the daughters that I felt as if I were channeling them. If you recall, when these same daughters were children, I told them that our dogs talked to me. Good thing a friend told my grandchildren that I was not crazy, just unconventional. Maybe that should be my epitaph. “She was unconventional.”

Back to the main topic of the day…Gus, my newly minted therapy dog and the second youngest dog volunteering at UCLA. Oops I’m bragging again. Coincidentally, Gus passed his Pet Partners evaluation with a perfect score on the same morning that my grandson was born. I am well aware that I should not put these two events in the same sentence, probably not even in the same post, but I got the call as I was stuck in L.A. traffic on the way to testing.

Since I have never completely overcome my childhood as a nerdy, over achiever, any kind of testing is stressful for me. When I had to renew my drivers license, I read the book six times and took notes. Even though Charley and Elbee have tested every two years and I knew exactly what to expect, I was still nervous going in with Gus.

CHARLEY He was lucky she didn’t make him pull an all-nighter like the first time with me.

The evaluation is part obedience and part aptitude, mine and the dogs! To make matters worse, the handler (that would be me) and the dog are scored separately. Theoretically, Gus could outscore me or even worse, pass the test when I failed. These are both secrets I would carry to my grave and would definitely not share with the daughters. In my next post, I will tell you what a field day they had the very first time I was getting ready to test Charley.

Let me just say that Gus breezed through the evaluation. He was 25 pounds of sweetness and confidence and made me look good. It’s amazing how well it reflects on you if your dog is well behaved, kind of like with your children. That reminds me. When one of my daughters was a teenager, she offered me a deal. She could behave at home and make my life peaceful or behave out in the world so that other people would think I was doing a good job of parenting, but there was no way she could do both. I’m not naming names but it was the lawyer.

Thank goodness that's over
Thank goodness that’s over

GUS Do you see that picture? That’s exactly how I felt after the Pet Partner’s evaluation. The test was no problem but calming you-know-who down was exhausting. My big brothers warned me. I should have listened. Thank goodness I don’t have to do it again for two years!


We’re Back!

We're back!
We’re back!

Good news. Me and the Doods are back from holiday hiatus. I confess, I have never been a fan of the whole season. Thanksgiving I can deal with but it’s all downhill from there. It actually gives me anxiety. Well, there used to be one slight  problem with turkey day too, aside from dealing with the giblets, whatever they are. When my girls were little I decided that it was a great time to take the family portrait for the family card. As they got older, that turned out to be one of my worst ideas except that now I enjoy seeing them try to take their own family photos.

One time I was in a store in August, yes August, saw Christmas displays and started hyperventilating. I’m not exactly Scrooge, but this year I found a couple of solutions for dealing with my issues. The first was the Hallmark Channel. I watched so many happy holiday movies that I almost overdosed on Christmas spirit.

The Doods were my other salvation. Unlike some family members (you know who you are),  they enjoyed watching movies with me. We didn’t exactly share a bowl of popcorn but it was very cozy. When things got too hectic, I practiced total avoidance and took them hiking in the mountains. When I felt guilty about my bad attitude, I took them into the hospital to cheer up the patients. As a bonus, Santa was visiting in the hospital too so I got extra holiday points.

Have the Doods found religion?

The most Christmasy thing the Doods and I did was an event at UCLA. About twenty human/canine teams from the People Animal Connection plus a bunch of really talented singers walked all around the hospital caroling. I’m one of those people, like my dear friend Lillian, who loves sing-a-longs but can barely carry a tune so this was perfect. The dogs sounded better than I did. On the other hand, Marilee, the woman who led the caroling, has a beautiful voice. I tried to stand by her and lip synch so people might think it was me.

I brought Charley and Gus this year since the little guy recently passed his national therapy dog certification. (Am I a bad person for fake singing and using every excuse possible to brag about my dogs?) They encourage us to make the dogs look festive and you know how much I love to dress them up.  I bought them each an adorable sweater, and decked them out in tinsel and jingle bells.

I must admit we had one particularly moving moment. When our human/canine choir was in the emergency room, I made eye contact with a patient lying in bed in one of the side admitting rooms. It was an older woman who was singing “Silent Night” along with the rest of us. I lifted Gus up and when she saw him and Charley she got the biggest smile on her face. It was like just the two of us singing together and she couldn’t hear me. It was a Christmas miracle.

If you could only see the whole outfit!
If you could only see the whole outfit!

GUS I have been quiet long enough. There’s only so much even a sweet dog like me can take. Do you really think we wanted to watch all of those movies? Although I did enjoy the one about the Golden Retriever. As my big brothers will tell you, treats and petting can be very persuasive. As for those “adorable” sweaters, Charley’s had a sad looking snowman on the back and mine said “ugly Xmas sweater.” Is that supposed to be funny? Next year I’m sending Elbee in my place!