When the Going Gets Tough…

It’s not a great sign when you’re at Burbank Airport and hear an announcement saying that all flights are cancelled. The good news was that it was only flights to Las Vegas. I say that selfishly because I needed to get to northern California where my two year old grandson was having surgery.

Ryder was born with Hirschsprung’s disease, a complicated illness that in simple terms causes intestinal dysfunction. He has had more than his share of procedures and operations, including the most recent one. The hospital can be a scary place for a toddler, but Danielle, the youngest daughter and the one who tolerates the Doods, and her husband Jay, the cat person, have been amazing. They have provided unwavering support for Ryder. The way that they have handled everything speaks to the resilience of the human spirit. There are moments of exhaustion, frustration and anger at the situation, but they always bounce back. They offer uncompromising love and compassion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ryder has been having a tough time. Recovery can be slow. Still, thanks to the constant loving presence of Danielle and Jay, he has had moments of contentment and joy. Even in the hospital, he can just be a little boy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another bright note, aside from my flight not being cancelled, was that I got to hang out with Bella, my adorable four year old granddaughter. No, I am not biased. Watching  her brother has been tough on her too. It was nice to see her smile and hear her laugh. On the down side, she loves Minnie Mouse cartoons. I have to admit the stories have been updated, but Minnie still has the most annoying voice. Not to mention Daisy Duck.

 

 

 

 

 

Working in the hospital with the dogs, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with so many parents of sick children. In a way it gives me even more insight into what my kids are going through. Of course it’s tougher when it’s your own family. Also, knowing what the dogs can do, I would have given anything to have Gus or another therapy dog walk in and put a smile on Ryder’s face, even for a fleeting moment.

When I got home last night, Elbee and Gus gave me their usual over the top greeting with some guilt mixed in because I had abandoned them for a few days. Once they settled down, it was as if they sensed my emotional state and became my personal therapy dogs. Sitting with them cuddled next to me, I totally got it. I felt the worry and the tension fade away.

 

The Barbecue, the Bird Nest and the Bench

My last few posts have been more personal and emotional. This one not so  much. It’s also only marginally dog related.

ELBEE I hate when I hear that.

Sometimes the daughters hand me material that is just too good not to use. I admit that I started it by sending them a photo but they were quick to chime in via text message.

We had an old broken down barbecue that should have been put out of its misery years ago. The husband doesn’t like to part with anything and said he was still using it. When I opened it, trying to convince him to say goodbye, I found a bird nest inside.

The daughter who might hike if there were Starbucks on the trails, thought it was disgusting. She didn’t like the one I found a month ago and brought home to show my granddaughter either. I think she used the word, “vermin.” And let me assure you that no birds were harmed in the taking of the nests. They were long gone.

I had no idea how the nest had gotten inside the barbecue. One daughter suggested that Elbee might have had something to do it. Another thought that maybe he ate the birds.

ELBEE As if! Although I admit these photos look incriminating, I was just curious and I don’t eat bird. I’ve even considered becoming vegan.

 

 

 

GUS For the record, I had nothing to do with it. I’m too short.

Then the oldest suggested that since we were cleaning out, it might be time to get rid of the ashes from Charley, Larry and Cody, three of our wonderful dogs who we keep in urns by the fireplace. Being practical and having a sick sense of humor, she actually said, “Why not wait for a Santa Ana wind and scatter them off the balcony.” Wonder where she gets that sense of humor.

I told her that if I was ever going to do it, the mountains would be the most fitting place, which led to the conversation about my bench. For years, I’ve been telling all three daughters that I want my own bench up in the mountains. I just have to find the right place. It doesn’t even have to be memorial. They can work on it while I’m still here.

After I sent these bench photos they asked, “Why can’t you just use one of those?” When I explained they were already taken, two of them wanted to know if I really expected them to schlep up into the mountains to visit my bench.

ELBEE What is this? “The Price is Right” for benches?

 

Today I saw a faux leather sofa up on a hill. It screamed pizza and nachos rather than nature and spirituality but it gave me an idea. Why not have the daughters put an exercise bench up in the mountains.

ELBEE I knew it! It’s the new year and this is a thinly veiled excuse to share one of those photos. You know the ones I mean. I’ve tried to get her to stop but Pack Leader will never get over her glory days.

THE CONFUSED DOODS What is that??

Happy New Year from Me and the Doods

In many ways 2017 was a difficult year. I hope that recapping the work accomplished by the Doods and their fellow therapy dogs will help us all focus on the positives in the world.

From meeting Lakers Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr. as we all brought Halloween to the patients at Mattel Children’s Hospital to helping Santa at Providence Tarzana’s adopt a family day, the Doods and I were fortunate to take part in so many amazing events. Still, I will only write about one as I look back on the year because I want to focus on the quieter, less seen moments. They are the true heart of what our dogs so unselfishly accomplish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The UCLA student athlete event in March was bittersweet because it turned out to be Charley’s last “job.” He interacted with everyone with his usual grace and sweetness, little Gus by his side. At one point, I had the privilege of walking through the campus hall of fame. As entranced as I was with room after room of gleaming athletic awards and trophies, I was most taken with the portrait of the legendary John Wooden. In retrospect, there is a beauty in knowing that my legendary therapy dog spent his last evening in such a special place.

 

 

 

 

 

As I recall meaningful moments, I see the face of the man at the adult health center who was smiling for the first time in a year. I also see the beaming face of the young man whose hands are severely crippled but who loves to have me put treats between his fingers for Gus.

I see anxious parents sitting in the small waiting room outside of the UCLA neuropsych units. Recently, as we were leaving, the mother of a very disturbed young girl told me how much her daughter adores the dogs and how much she talks about them. With a wistful smile she simply said, “thank you for visiting.”

Neither the staff who were watching or I will ever forget Elbee’s interaction with a young patient who had been out of control and screaming, and according to the therapists, “a danger to self and others.” Within a matter of minutes the child went from petting Elbee and applauding his tricks to dropping down on the floor to teach him how to take a bow.

This year there were countless times outside of the hospital when the Doods suddenly brightened someone’s day. We were walking past a market when a teenage boy, who was working outside picking up carts, saw the dogs and got a huge grin on his face. Petting them, he asked if it was okay to give them a hug. When I assured him that it was fine, he wrapped his arms around them and said, “My heart feels warmer.”

My son-in-law Jay, who is wonderful despite being a self-admitted cat person, perhaps put it best. He said that when I’m out with the dogs, “random acts of positivity seem to circle around us.”

Wishing everyone a year of peace,  love and positivity!