Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A New Chapter Begins...

A visit to the Savannah Humane Society was the last thing I expected to occur on a recent Saturday afternoon but fate, destiny or a higher power had other other plans for me that day. Pulling into the parking lot a chorus of barks inside the complex rang out to greet me while second thoughts entered my mind and for a minute I considered driving far far away. The staff warmly greeted me and asked what type of pet I was seeking; a long-haired female was my preference but unfortunately there were none but they had some long-coated males for me to check out. Individual chain link enclosures contained dogs of every breed, size, color, and sex but my mind was made up as to what I was seeking for the next phase of my life. A Great Pyrenees puppy of five months captured my attention and after spending some time with him I decided to have my mother come see the youngster before I completed the adoption paperwork. While waiting for Mom to arrive I decided that the gorgeous puppy wasn't the right dog for me at this moment so back into the cage he went.

I was prepared to go home alone which really wasn't a bad thing as far as I was concerned then a family strolled by with a cute friendly dog that peaked my interest. The family and red/white dog went to a visitation area outdoors while I watched them through a window and there was no indication if the dog was going to be adopted but as it turns out the answer was no. When my turn came to meet this dog there was an instant bond between us while Mom found him incredibly sweet thus I decided to make this special creature of 6 years a part of my life. One year and 18 days after saying goodbye to Erin I welcomed Cody into my home and heart; it was not an easy decision to move forward without my beloved friend but it was time for me to live again and continue along the path of healing. The past several weeks have been filled with much fun and excitement as there is life again in the house and I'm very content with the decision to bring a fur friend into my life but there's always two sides to a coin which I've discovered.

I've come to love Cody very much as he does me and there's no way that I'd ever give him up but sometimes his presence reiterates the fact that my beloved angel is gone. Watching him fetch balls, beg for treats, or simply sleep makes me very happy and I've worn a near constant smile but it also saddens me to think that Erin made the journey much too soon and it should be her at my side instead of another dog. That said I look forward to a wonderful future with Cody but at the same time I'll always remember my years with Erin as that was the greatest period of my life. The timing to open my heart was right and it feels so good to share my friendship and love with another fur friend; laughter and smiles are a near constant these days and that's how like it.

Family and friends alike adore Cody while welcoming him with open arms as he's such a loving sweet boy and I feel incredibly lucky to have another wonderful dog by my side. 13 years ago Erin and I began a fairy tale relationship and now I sense something very special again; I couldn't ask for anything else at this stage of my life. During our second day together I was laying on the floor near Cody as he stared into my eyes while I asked different questions of him; I got no response til he was asked "Did Erin send you?" then he sprung up with tail wagging a million miles a hour and a huge smile across his face as if he was saying " Yes Yes!! She sent me to guide you." There will always be somber moments in remembrance of my departed angel but I know that Cody will be near to comfort me and that's a great feeling. There will never be another Erin but I've learned that I can love again thanks to Cody!! RIP Erin!!

P.S...I tried to upload pics of Cody but had issues :(

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Children and Teddy Bears

Hundreds of children wander in clutching teddy bears, giraffes, floppy-eared bunnies, and every other type of stuffed animal one can imagine. This is not a stuffed animal convention though it often appears so but the aptly titled Teddy Bear Clinic aka TBC; this annual event helps youngsters overcome their fear of going to the doctor and everything associated with it. Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel man dozens of stations where they warmly greet the children and their stuffed animals who will be receiving the best medical attention available. The young attendees are exposed to many aspects of medical care from vaccinations to x-rays in a gentle manner thus the child will be less afraid when a real doctor visit is needed. Fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, helicopters, horses, food vendors, etc plus a handful of selected therapy dogs are on hand which is how Erin and myself became involved in this wonderful event.

For several years we showed up on a spring morning with the purpose of allowing kids the opportunity to socialize and/or overcome a fear or leeriness regarding dogs. Straight from Mrs Lori's house to the hospital after being bathed and groomed Erin is in her element at events involving children and when the therapy dog vest is slipped over her head she knows it's time to melt some hearts. In the parking lot her long flowing coat is brushed one last time while I plant kisses on her freckled nose and offer words of encouragement then it's showtime. Arriving early allows Erin to garner attention from familiar faces wearing scrubs of every shade; remembered from our time tending to kids on the pediatric ward they greet their ole four-legged friend with kind words and affection. Events involving children were the most personally rewarding for me while Erin's body language told me that she loved them as well and the multitude of youngsters at the TBC always made the day very special.

The children ranging in age from infants in strollers to 10 years old stop at The Coastal Therapy Dog table where they have the opportunity to interact with the dogs of their choosing. The youth of the Savannah area visit Erin where they hug her neck, exchange kisses, gently stroke the flowing soft coat, or sit beside her for a more intimate extended encounter while some repeatedly ask her to "shake" as if she's a circus performer. Stuffed animals with bandages affixed on limbs are thrust in Erin's face in an effort to entice her to play but she's much more interested in socializing or the treats being consumed. Kids munching upon popcorn or pretzels clumsily drop morsels which are quickly vacuumed by the nearest dog while some kids find it amusing to toss treats on the ground where the four-legged garbage disposals are waiting. Erin was always more than happy to oblige and gobbled whatever came her way; while these actions were publicly discouraged I was secretly urging them on as I knew this brought my girl happiness :)

Though most kids were respectful of Erin, unknowingly some were heavy-handed or acted in a reckless manner as they invaded her personal space, shoved fingers into the mouth area, smacked her snout or tugged on an ear as if it were a toy but there's a reason one is a therapy dog and that is tolerance. Erin maintained a smile and took everything in stride while parents offered apologizes to whomever would listen. Education is a function of any therapy dog group and I certainly did that with these naive youngsters as they were shown the correct way to approach and interact with a strange dog to minimize getting bit in the process. They ball up their tiny hand and a fist is held under her snout..."Good. Let her sniff you and get to know you." Only after a bond was established are the children allowed to stroke her back prior to petting the head which Erin shows she approves of via a huge smile and rapidly twitching tail. It was a valuable lesson for uneducated parents as many dogs would snap thus sending their youngster to the emergency room for medical attention while hopefully the kids would remember to approach a dog with respect and gentleness.

Erin received so much attention whenever we left the therapy dog area to walk among the crowd; arms were extended while hands were clapped in an attempt to get her attention. Mingling with the public as they went from booth to booth allowed my fur kid to get the maximum amount of loving in the shortest span of time; it was very endearing to watch Erin with the children as everyone had a smile on their faces. Earlier this year I was invited to the TBC by members of the therapy dog group and while it was great to see familiar faces again it didn't feel quite right without Erin. After a hour of having people whisper "he lost his dog" and casting sympathetic looks in my direction I excused myself. The TBC was special to both of us and I have many fond memories of sweet kids being charmed and educated while we strengthened our bond though helping others. Good days indeed. RIP Erin!!