A Dinner with Dog Lovers

Recently I had dinner with a few people who have been part of the People Animal Connection for years. To say we are all dog lovers is an understatement. I’d go so far as to say that we all enjoy O.D.D., obsessive dog disorder, a condition that I wrote about in my post, OMG I have O.D.D. (3/08/16). We reminisced, shared dog stories and photos. Not one of us shared a photo of a human…family member or otherwise. I didn’t even bring up the grandchildren

ELBEE I’m sure she mentioned me. My ears were burning. I wonder why I wasn’t invited.

As I looked at everyone around the table, it was breathtaking to think about what their dogs had accomplished and how Charley had interacted with each of them. They had worked so many events together. Roger’s Golden Retriever Logan was even the neutral dog at Charley’s last testing. A few of the dogs are gone now, but their legacy is timeless.

We were at the restaurant to visit with Jack Barron, who was in town from Oregon. Jack was a mentor to each of us. If I’m a 10 on the O.D.D. scale, Jack is off the chart.  He lives and breathes dog therapy which is what makes him such an incredible guiding force. I owe him a debt of gratitude for bringing me into that world.

I first met Jack over twelve years ago when I attended the Pet Partners workshop that would change my life. At the end of that day, I knew that dog therapy was what I wanted to do and that Charley was the right dog. From testing, through the learning and certification process and finally to working in the hospital, Jack was there every step of the way. Thanks to his teaching, his support and his cheerleading, Charley and I became a successful team.

Jack and Charley, one of his star pupils!

As for Elbee, if not for Jack, he might not have become a working dog. I had a severe virus when Elbee was a puppy and was out of commission for months, including his crucial socialization period. As a result, hard as it is to believe, Elbee became shy around people. If not for Jack’s constant encouragement, I might have given up. His trust in me as a handler kept me going.

ELBEE Imagine, I might never have become the fabulous diva that I am today. That would have been a loss for the world.

Jack also brought Gus into my life.  A few years ago, he contacted me to see if I’d be interested in a Teddy Bear Doodle that someone had to give up. Gina Grossman, an amazing trainer, had helped to select the dog and could vouch for his remarkable temperament. The rest is history.

To this day, I can sometimes hear Jack’s voice in my head as the Doods and I are working. I will never forget what he said as Charley was about to do his first bed visit with a woman waiting for a heart transplant. I nervously asked Jack, “You want Charley to jump on her bed?” He looked at me and calmly replied, “Ellen, our dogs don’t jump. They step.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Double Dose of Doodle

A few weeks ago I posted about my long time friend Roberta who is waging the most determined fight against brain cancer. Roberta is so tough that if anyone can scare cancer, she’s the one.

She has the rare gift of acknowledging reality, working with it and creating the best possible scenario. In this case she has developed a whole arsenal of medical and emotional support. That includes, as I shared in the other post, the neighborhood dogs who visit when she’s working out in her garage and the Doods. The first time I went to visit I brought Gus. Last week it was the dynamic duo, Gus and Elbee.

As soon as we drove up to her house, the front door flew open and she came out to greet us, hair and makeup done. And you know I consider that a big plus.

ELBEE It’s no secret. I do too.

She was in a great mood, positive, upbeat and welcoming. There was laughter. There was a lovely lunch.

There was also a bit of dog chaos. The minute the Doods pranced though the door they became the center of attention. Roberta was running around with them, applauding all of their tricks, sneaking them treats every time I turned my back. Then as they finally tired out, she sprawled on the floor with both of them for some unconditional dog love and support.

As she was resting with Gus and Elbee, gently petting them, we began talking quietly about how much the time with the dogs means to her. That’s when she urged me to do this follow up because she wanted people to truly understand the impact that dogs, and particularly therapy dogs, can have on someone who is fighting for his or her life.

I asked Roberta if she would send me an email expressing how the dogs are affecting her. I thought it would mean so much more coming directly from someone who is experiencing dog therapy rather than from my observations. It’s difficult to do this with hospital patients because of confidentiality issues.

She wrote some extremely touching things about me that modesty prevents me from sharing. Oh who am I kidding. Showoff that I am, I’ll tell you one. She said the dogs were “unique and amazing” because they take after me.

ELBEE I was so proud that Pack Leader was staying out of it but I guess she couldn’t help herself.

Seriously, Roberta did say that she feels so great when she knows the Doods are coming over. She can hardly wait until they arrive. She absolutely loves to roll around on the floor with my “incredible animals,” and yes, “give them dog biscuits, the best variety,” when I’m not looking.  She also wrote, ” It is a thrill to have them in my house, pet them and gain peace of mind. How bad can the world be when dogs and their leaders exist to help others.” Amen Roberta. I am proud to call you my friend.

 

 

Confessions of a Therapy Dogaholic

This week I decided to rework the post that started it all, Confessions of a Happy Dogaholic. Only a few people saw it because I was nervous about showing it to anyone. Now that I’ve overshared all over the place, I thought why not this too.

ELBEE Personally I think it was just a slow news day.

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with the dogs. I talk about them incessantly which I’m sure is why so many people encouraged me to write about them in the first place. They were probably hoping I’d shut up and stop talking about them.

ELBEE Good luck with that. Wait, it’s about us. Keep talking.

There were even one or two people who hinted that I might want to join some sort of 12-step program. That was never going to happen. We all know that I enjoy my dog addiction. It’s not causing liver damage and I really can’t get with the whole anonymous concept. Hey, remember, in the 80’s and 90’s I was a competitive bodybuilder. Does that scream anonymous on any level?

ELBEE Where does she find these things?? I threatened to boycott this blog and even offered not to bark for a year if she’d stop. I give up.

GUS I shouldn’t admit it but I’m kind of starting to like them. I think all the therapy has really helped me cope.

 

Hey, old habits die hard. I often wondered what had triggered my love of dogs but didn’t have an “aha” moment until one day when I was looking at some of my baby pictures. Two things jumped out at me. First, I was a really unattractive baby. Second, there was some sort of adorable dog in almost every photo.

In retrospect, I think they were an attempt to distract from my looks. I also have a suspicion that they were rented or borrowed since they seemed to vary from month to month. My mother was so sweet and kind, I’m sure she was trying to help me out. At least with the cute dog/ugly baby thing going on, people had something to work with. They could say, “aw how darling” and still pass a lie detector test.

Today I am grateful to all of those anonymous dogs and to the ones who actually were our pets like Killer, the sweetest Cocker Spaniel in the world. From the time I was a little girl, they turned me into an animal lover. I am even more grateful to the late Charley and to Elbee and Gus.

ELBEE Excuse me. A great name like Killer and I get stuck with Elbee.

I’ve written that there are pivotal moments in life. Being a passenger in a near-fatal car accident was one of mine. Another was the very first time that I walked into UCLA Medical Center with Charley by my side. So thank you to the Doods, even you Elbee, for turning me into a therapy dogaholic.

 

 

 

 

 

The Daughters, the Doods and the Biceps

As some of you know, the daughters and the Doods have had a few jealousy issues. I hate to say it, but with what my kids went through in my really, really long bodybuilding phase, they should be thrilled at my obsession with the dogs instead of my biceps. Here are some of the top reasons:

1.  I no longer walk around flexing.   

 ELBEE Who is she kidding? She flexes for total strangers and almost anyone who walks in the house.

2. Instead of living in spandex, I have practical outfits for walking the dogs.

20160209_171423-1_resizedTHE DOODS We don’t like to be critical and may not be fashion plates but we know a schmata when we see one. Just because pants have pockets doesn’t make them cute.

3. Instead of a fake questionable shade of tan, I now wear ten layers of sunblock when I hike with the dogs.

THE DOODS We’ll take the credit for that. At her age, she should be using industrial strength sunblock.

4. I used to drag the daughters to countless bodybuilding competitions, even to the point when they were old enough to yell, “Mom, flex your abs” from the audience. Now I take my grandchildren to dog class with me.

5. Recently I was a little envious when I heard about a 68 year old woman who is the world’s oldest martial arts champion. For the record, they do have senior bodybuilding competitions. The daughters should be happy that I’m too busy with the Doods to train.

The DOODS Oh sure, blame it on us like that’s the only reason.

6. The daughters are no longer being bench pressed by future felons.

ELBEE I was eavesdropping again so I’ll explain. When the daughters were little she would bring them to a hard core muscle gym and sit them with their dolls and books while she trained. One of the bodybuilders who used to play games with them is now in jail for double murder. Really?

Ok, not my best parenting decision but he seemed very nice at the time.

7.  Do I have to say anything about this photo. Yes, it’s me and my partner Ray. No, it’s not photo shopped and yes, my husband and the daughters and Ray’s future wife Tammy were all in the audience using fake names.

Scan 17 get-attachment.aspxCHARLEY Although I am almost bark less, which is rare for me, I have a few questions.  Is that who I think it is? Why is she doing it? And can it happen again?

 

OMG I’m going back to being anonymous. What was she thinking? I’m on team daughter for this one.

 

20160526_153149_resizedGUS I give up. I’m more confused than ever. I’m afraid   to even look at the picture.

The Doods Weigh in on the Daughters

 

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I look more serious in my glasses

CHARLEY I just had to vent. Some of you know that I do yoga and meditate, but the daughters are ruining my zen outlook. I was eavesdropping again when I heard that Nicole and Danielle wanted to sue Pack Leader for libel or slander but weren’t even sure which one. That gave me a chuckle.

According to what they shared on Facebook, they don’t like being used as “fodder for her blog.” Personally, I love when she writes about me. I’m sorry but I still think it’s a jealousy issue with her kids.

And guess who they wanted to retain as legal counsel…their sister Jennifer the lawyer!  She hates FB and doesn’t even read the posts but said she felt “emotionally distressed,” and told them to start documenting their symptoms. OMG!

Anonymous
Anonymous

ANONYMOUS Charley is wearing his glasses to look smart. I’m wearing sunglasses to remain anonymous. I don’t want those daughters trying to sue me. I can’t afford legal counsel.

Guess who jumped on the bandwagon next…Nicole’s fiancé Christian. He posted this checklist. Instead of getting upset, P.L. thought it was awesome that she had her own category. Nicole was ready to throw in the towel.

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GUS I was adopted into this family. I’m still confused. What’s Facebook? get-attachment.aspxWhat’s a blog? What’s wrong with these people?

 

 

Venting and Bragging

IMAG0071Before I start bragging about the work that the Doods accomplish, I need to vent about something totally unrelated.  Skip this part if you’re not interested in hearing me complain.

I went to lift weights last night since I’m vying to be the strongest grandma on the block. It’s not quite Ms. Venice Beach (yes, I was Ms. Venice Beach) but it’s a goal. Personally, I think my daughters should be thrilled that I’m now obsessed with the dogs and not my biceps. For years I was the carpool/ bodybuilder mom with the fake tan and way too much spandex. In my defense, I apologized to the kids for that decade. But hey, it was the 80’s. Everyone wore spandex. I did compete again in the 90’s but we’ll discuss that some other time.

Back to last night. There was a middle aged man working out. During his exercises he screamed and grunted even more than anyone I’d ever heard at a hard core muscle gym. I didn’t make that much noise when I was in labor! He kept refilling his water bottle from the small cooler, flooding the floor. Then he walked by me and burped. The burp was followed by some sort of hanging stretch where his loose shorts slid down and revealed more of a butt crack than I ever hoped to see. It was the stuff of nightmares. There, I feel better. Now back to the Doods.

Recently the people at UCLA asked if we wanted to do a short piece about why we volunteer with PAC (the People Animal Connection). I jumped all over that. I could write about my dogs and someone might actually read it. I decided to copy David Letterman and go with a top ten list. Interestingly, my late brother Stan, whose dogs seemed to train themselves, had a Lab named Dave. He’d heard that Letterman had a dog named Stan so it seemed like a fair trade.

CHANGE OF MOOD ALERT: Here are the top ten reasons I volunteer with the Doods (not necessarily in order):

  1. For the teenage patient who jumped out of her hospital bed when my dog walked into her room, and yelled, “this is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me”
  2. For the sad young man in the wheelchair who smiled when he saw my dog, prompting his mom to say she’d “seen a miracle”
  3. For another wheelchair bound young man who couldn’t speak but who made a kiss when Elbee licked his hand
  4. For the patient who recovered from a coma and said that the only thing he remembered was the presence of the dogs in his bed
  5. For the boy with severe OCD who couldn’t stop washing his hands but who summoned up the courage to pet Charley
  6. For the woman in tears who asked if she could have a moment with the dog before she went back into her mother’s room
  7. For the woman walking down the street whose husband had passed away 3 years ago, but who wanted to thank me for the dog visits when he was at UCLA
  8. For the anxious family members in the waiting room who light up when they see the dogs
  9. For the woman who had been catatonic for several days but who smiled and petted Charley when he nuzzled her
  10. For all of the people on campus who smile, wave and call out “hi” to Charley and Elbee