October 12th, 2011

Happy 98th birthday to my Dad!

Today my father turns 98 and thankfully he is in good health though he is still recovering from a broken hip in late July. Here, he is pictured in June at Alex’s third birthday party. He is patting Baker, who is getting lots of practice now as a therapy dog. We visit my father daily, and both Baker and Alex have learned to navigate around wheelchairs and walkers to get to the hand holding a treat!

My father grew up in a small town in Upstate New York. He remembers his childhood dog, Trixie, very fondly and loves to recall how she seemed to know when it was time for him to get home from school, and would be waiting at the window. From the time of my earliest memories we had a family dog, and I believe that the love and companionship of dogs is one of the best gifts my parents have given me, as it will sustain me when they are gone. But, today is a day to celebrate a wonderful father whom I am blessed to have still in my life.

October 8th, 2011

How to write a pet condolence card

Courtesy of IStockphoto.com

Recently, several dogs in our pet therapy group passed away. When a loss occurs, the group is notified by email with the family’s address, should we wish to send a sympathy card. Some of the dogs I knew very well, and I find it easy to personalize the card with a particular memory of the pet, but others I didn’t know as well, and I struggle to come up with the right words. But I know how meaningful it is to receive a condolence card when you lose a pet – it’s a validation of your grief and an expression that the pet’s life mattered. The challenge is what to say that doesn’t sound trite or generic. Read the rest of this entry »

September 24th, 2011

A dog’s lesson: Don’t Postpone Joy

I’m on a committee at the Asheville Humane Society, and whenever I attend a meeting there I can’t help but walk through the aisles of dogs and puppies for adoption. Last week I stopped to admire an adorable tri-colored pup named Razzle, but after giving me a quick glance and wag of his tail, he returned to his peanut butter-stuffed Kong, which he was attacking with gusto.

Razzle is practicing the motto of a friend of mine, Laurey, who has a successful catering business and has actually trademarked the phrase Don’t Postpone Joy (sorry, not sure how to add the trademark symbol here!) and has added it to coffee mugs, aprons, bumper stickers, and other items in her shop. Laurey is a two-time cancer survivor, and is now fighting a recurrence, but she is a living example of this motto.

In addition to operating a busy catering business and popular Asheville eatery where the tagline is “gourmet comfort food,” Laurey’s life is full of adventures. A couple of years ago she biked across the US with a group of women to raise awareness of ovarian cancer. She took up glass blowing as a hobby, and the windows of her shop are filled with colorful glass ornaments for sale. She scatters the less perfect ones around her organic garden to catch the sun. Her latest venture is bee-keeping, and she’s currently writing a book about it. Her close companion through all this, including the cancer treatments, is her beautiful dog Tye, who comforts her during the dark moments and shares the joy of just being together on a sunshine-filled fall day.

I was at the Humane Society again this week, and am happy to report that Razzle has been adopted. May he bring his new family much joy, every day. I will carry the image of him enjoying his Kong in my mind, as a reminder to not wait to embrace what you love, and those you love.

This post is part of the Saturday Pet Bloggers blog hop hosted by Life with Dogs. Please leave a comment and visit some of the other bloggers!

September 22nd, 2011

Celebrating Hero Dogs – Vote for your favorite!

I love the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog awards, which spotlight ordinary dogs doing extraordinary things to help people. This year the competition received 453 nominations, which have been narrowed to 8 finalists, including a therapy dog, a surfing dog who helps disabled children, a military dog, a service dog, a search and rescue dog, and guide dog Roselle, who led her master to safety from the World Trade Center. Certainly all of them are deserving of the award, but the winner will be chosen by online votes. You can vote for your favorite once per day until September 30th. The winner will also receive a grant to their designated charity! Congratulations to the finalists! Their stories are uplifting and inspiring.

September 14th, 2011

Of old dogs and puppies

Alex and Emily

Browsing through my photo archives, I found this photo of Alex and Emily taken shortly after Alex joined our family in August, 2008. He was ten weeks old, and Emily was about 14 – as she was a rescue, I never knew her exact age. I had no idea how she would react to a puppy – in fact, I was a bit scared – but Emily seemed to enjoy Alex’s company and was patient when he thought her long spaniel ears were a tug-toy! I treasure the photos I have of them together, and the fact that all my dogs’ lives have overlapped. When one passes on, they pass the torch.

Be a good boy!

September 13th, 2011

Happy 96th Birthday to my Mom!

A visit from the therapy dogs

Today my mom turns 96. Thankfully she is in good health and good spirits. The past year has had its challenges, as she survived a heart attack just before Christmas, and in late July, my father fell and broke his hip. Mom is pictured in my father’s hospital room, enjoying a visit from two adorable therapy dogs, long-haired doxies Gibby and Chi-Aynn. Dad is now in skilled nursing at their retirement home, working hard at physical therapy, and Mom spends each day with him, sitting quietly in his room, reading and napping or watching TV. Tomorrow, they will have been married 71 years! It is moving to see their devotion to each other, demonstrated in small gestures –  smoothing a blanket, a squeeze of gnarled hands. We hope Dad will be able to come home soon! Meanwhile the dogs and I visit often, and their faces light up at the sight of wagging tails. My parents both love dogs. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

September 8th, 2011

Lessons from a dog, post-9/11

The following reflection is from one of my favorite books, Dog Blessings: Poems, Prose, and Prayers Celebrating Our Relationship with Dogs edited by June Cotner (New World Library, 2008). When I re-read this piece recently, I was struck by how timeless and thoughtful it is, ten years later. It speaks to me of the role of dogs as spirit guides, leading us forward through unspeakable tragedy and loss, while reaffirming hope in the future. Read the rest of this entry »

September 6th, 2011

It’s “Tasty Tuesday”

Baker and the glow-ball

Baker is encouraging everyone to hop on over to his friend Sugar the Golden Retriever’s blog for “Tasty Tuesday” recipes for paw-licious dog treats! Baker is pictured munching on his favorite toy, the glow-ball, and is wearing his cupcake collar from Upcountry. He is also wearing a bit of rain from Tropical Storm Lee which passed through our area yesterday. A good day to stay inside and dream of dog cookies!

My ball has an opening for treats!

September 3rd, 2011

CNN “Heroes” Spotlights the Search Dog Foundation

I was thrilled to see this CNN article on the wonderful work of the Search Dog Foundation, which trains shelter and rescue dogs for search and rescue. Also, they make a lifetime commitment to the dog, providing for it even if it doesn’t complete the training, or after its retirement. With the increasing number of natural disasters around the world their lifesaving work is more important than ever, and they are totally supported by grants and donations. As described in the article, founder Wilma Melville’s vision shows that each of us can make a difference. Congratulations, Wilma, on being selected as one of CNN’s Everyday Heroes!

August 23rd, 2011

Off to BlogPaws!

I am headed to BlogPaws, a conference of pet bloggers this weekend. I know it will be fun and inspiring. People who love pets are the nicest people in the world, so what could be better than a convention of them? Maybe our collective energy will disperse the negative cloud that’s been hanging over Washington, DC and bring a new spirit of working together to our elected representatives. One can only hope!

Back next week!

August 11th, 2011

Baker takes the therapy dog test

Learning hand signals

Years ago, I had a dear friend who was hospitalized with terminal cancer. She loved dogs, and her final weeks were brightened by visits from a troupe of golden retriever therapy dogs. Louise’s face lit up with a smile as she described their visits, and often led to reminiscing about her childhood pal, a German Shepherd, whom she was confident she would see again on the other side.  Since then, it’s been a dream of mine to become a pet therapy volunteer. Read the rest of this entry »

August 6th, 2011

Healing Hearts after a Firefighter Tragedy

The Asheville community was deeply saddened last week when an office building fire took the life of Captain Jeff Bowen, a 37-year old firefighter and injured 12 other brave firemen. Adding to the tragedy is this week’s finding that the fire was set by an arsonist. The building contained medical offices, including an oncology practice and other clinics that treat many elderly and frail patients. Fortunately, the occupants were evacuated to safety. Knowing the healing power of pets, staff at the Asheville Humane Society decided to waive adoption fees for city and county firefighters and their families, over the next two months. Read the rest of this entry »

July 24th, 2011

More Life Lessons from Therapy Dogs

Sadly, our therapy dog program lost another of its long time members this past week. On July 19 Smudge, a 13 year old basset hound, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Smudge was adopted at age 4 and began doing therapy work soon thereafter. On Saturday mornings he faithfully visited hospitalized children. Smudge was an accomplished counter-surfer and his owner Pam loves to tell the story of his visit to a little girl who had hidden her waffle in the sheets of her hospital bed. No one knows if she was saving it for later, or just pretending to have eaten it, but when Smudge was placed on her bed for a few moments of cuddling, he began rooting around in the sheets and found the waffle in no time! At age 10, Smudge developed incontinence and was diagnosed with back problems requiring surgery. Although he didn’t regain continence, he was otherwise healthy, so Pam learned how to express his bladder, which she did every 6-7 hours for the past three years, arranging her work and the rest of her life around this schedule. Although she tried using vet techs to help on occasion, Smudge would not let anyone else express him. Read the rest of this entry »

July 4th, 2011

Life Lessons from a Therapy Dog


Haley, a long-time therapy dog with Paws with a Purpose (now known as Paws on a Mission) recently passed away. Haley spread joy and comfort right up until the end, continuing to make therapy dog visits during what would be the last week of her life. The following tribute written by her owner, Ken, contains an important lesson.


Ever since she was a puppy, Haley loved toast and she loved peanut butter. In fact, she would eat ANYTHING with peanut butter on it! Every time the toaster was set on the kitchen counter top, Haley would strategically position herself to be certain to receive the corner piece of toast to which she felt she was entitled. Haley would get one corner and her sister Sam would be tossed another – rarely would the ‘girls’ actually catch the pieces but they’d certainly scramble like mad to clean them off the floor. Even when Haley lost her sense of hearing, she seemed to sense when that toaster came out and she’d be sure to be there, drooling like a starving hound, waiting for that tiny, precious, single corner of toast. Read the rest of this entry »

June 24th, 2011

A Pet Therapy Visit to the Children’s Hospital

Baker and I are training to become registered to do pet therapy at our local hospital.  As we have studied for the test, we have learned there is a lot more to pet therapy than meets the eye! I recently had the opportunity to “shadow” some pet therapy teams as they visited the Children’s Hospital. Of course, Baker is not allowed in the hospital until he has passed the test, which we hope to take soon. For me, this visit was a chance to measure my own emotions when visiting patients. “Our volunteers love visiting the kids, but it’s not all fun and games,” the pet therapy coordinator had warned. Read the rest of this entry »