Of dogs and heating oil on Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day, y’all!

I’m not going to blather on about Singles Awareness Day, because let’s face it – that’s every day. I’m not here to rant about this holiday that many profess to hate, yet still consumes us. In fact, I feel quite awesome on this most hallowed/Hallmarked of days.

There is hurricane-style blizzard coming, so once I stop yammering and get my butt of this couch, I have a few feet of snow to shovel and Sadie and I have some errands to run…er…walk…in 20 degree weather. The most important being dog food. There is a wonderful little dog store a few blocks from me called Polka Dog Bakery, and as I thought about the people who I want to acknowledge on V-day, I realized that cool treats for their pets would be a nice present.

And then I remembered this article I read last night.

There are people, probably some just a few blocks from that dog store, who have used up their heating oil allotment for the entire winter – and it’s not even February 15. They literally don’t know how they will heat their homes and there is a blizzard coming. So yeah, that changed my thinking a little bit.

I headed over to my budget to see if I could shift some money around to make a donation to try, at least, to help a little. Let’s not get in to whether my little gift really makes any impact, but since I’m not an oil company and I can’t donate oil to these folks, or find them a job, or raise their wages enough so that even then they could afford heating oil, I’m not sure what else I can do.

I’m sure you know where this is going. No pet treats as gifts. Instead, I’ll be donating to my local community service organization, and to the MSPCA here in Boston and the Fayetteville Animal Shelter back in Arkansas, in honor of these pets and their humans:

Kitten Brave, and her human Becky, who sent me the sweetest Valentine card and reset my psyche into a state of gratitude for friendship and love of the real, rather than manufactured, kind.

Pooches Reina, Taylor, Riley and Bonnie and their humans Kyle, Laura, and Megan – their graciousness in watching Sadie when I traveled is one of the things I miss most (other than the mild winters) about living in Arkansas.

Canines LeRoy Brown, Sam, and Grace and their humans Jennifer, Kenton, and Robert Ross and Lisa and Jeff Inness, friends who, well…are just the best kinds of friends, and whom I miss every day.

Big puppy Siena and her humans Daryl and Dave at Taylor House B&B, who watched over us last winter before we moved into our apartment…and after.

Feline Ollie, whom I’ve never met, and his human Suzanne, who is my sports/arts buddy here in Boston.

And the marvelous spaniel Molly and her human Nicole, who have kept us company, showed us all around our new city, and generally been the best friends a girl and her dog could ask for.

If you love this holiday, I hope you whoop it up and have a great time, and don’t let all of us naysayers get you down. If you hate it, well, stay off social media and remember it’s just one day. A big Woof and a hug from us here in Boston to all of you out there.

XOXO, Jodi and Sadie

Jodi and Sadie at the Arboretum

 

 

 

 

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Feelin’ lucky in Boston

So, wow.

It’s been quite an adventure these last weeks.

I’ve landed myself a new job, visited Boston to get a taste of that job, found an apartment, returned to Arkansas, had Cookiefest, threw myself a party that people actually came to, had Thanksgiving, had many a poignant goodbye, packed up half of my life with the help of my parents, sold the other half (also with the help of my parents) and drove over 1500 miles with my mom and dog to get myself to now, tonight, and the tasty memory of Indian food delivery on my tongue.

Most of you know that I’m living in Boston, MA, now, working for a non-profit called From The Top. Until my Jamaica Plain (JP) apartment is ready, I’m staying in a cute little 1 BR apartment at Taylor House, a famous B&B just a few blocks from said apartment. JP, for those who are wondering, is technically part of Boston, but it’s very different from the downtown, and according to those who know, the best place to live if one has a dog. More on that in a moment.

My mom and I completed our epic road trip last night, and then she, road warrior that she is, continued on to NH to visit her sister this morning. This, of course, came after we consumed yummy homemade scones for breakfast; have I mentioned I’m staying at an amazing little B&B? I can’t say enough about this place (pictured above). But anyway…

Today was my first day to find my way from Jamaica Plain to my job. Happily, the busses worked as they were supposed to and I got to work with no problems.

It was also Sadie’s first day on her own in Boston.

Now, I feel that I’ve been pretty stoic about this whole life change thing. Yes, there’s been the occasional moment of emotion, but on the whole, I’ve kept my chin up, pushed forward and tried to see this all as the marvelous adventure that it really is.

My move was planned down to the last moment, and despite the dubiousness of my parental units, went off without a hitch. But there was one thing I couldn’t control; how my dog would react. See, Sadie hates the car, so it broke my heart a little to think that I would subject her to 3 days of driving. She’s an Arkansas hound; how would she handle heading up to the cold north to be with those snooty Yankee dogs? And what would she do when left alone by herself in a strange new place?

She survived the car, it would seem. The jury is out on North-South canine relations, but as to the last question, get this. When this B&B was recommended to me, I learned that the owners lost their beloved dog this past summer. So I suspected that Sadie might find some new friends here. I made sure to introduce her to the guys (Dave and Daryl) yesterday – Daryl took her picture – and they idly mentioned they might take her for a walk. Today, I emailed that they were welcome to hang with her, and as I arrived home, here’s what happened.

I came down the stairs, fumbling my purse and gloves. I twisted and turned the keys, messing up the unfamiliar locks, and it wasn’t until a few minutes of this that I heard, through the door, the telltale sound of Sadie doing her post-nap shake. This tells me she was sound asleep on the bed; a good sign. Then, I opened the door, and there’s my girl, wagging and jumping about. I glanced quickly at the chair where I’d left the leash; it wasn’t there, which means she’d at least been taken out to pee. As I was sighing in delight at this small relief, I spotted a handwritten note on the bed, laid neatly atop her leash, telling me that Sadie spent the day in the kitchen with the guys AND they took her for a walk around the pond (1.5 miles). They even gave me an accounting of her bodily functions.

Y’all, I sat down on the bed, tried to give Sadie a hug as she wiggled about, and cried a little. I was laughing too, and trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with me, until I realized the tears and laughter were a release of the final valve of tension about this move, the one I’ve carried the longest and with the most trepidation. Yes, this is a new place. Yes, I’m going to have to dig my car out of the snow on more than one occasion. No, I don’t have my peeps around to keep me in game nights and volleyball. No, they don’t have Hammontrees Grilled Cheese here.  I have to make new friends, do a crap-load of paperwork, and figure out the foibles of a new non-profit, but really, none of that matters. What matters is my dog has people looking out for her and I didn’t even have to ask.

It is just the most. awesome. thing. ever.  I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but I’ll take it.

So will Sadie, apparently. After wolfing down her dinner she promptly passed out again. I love the sight of a tired out pooch.

Sadie sleeping on chair

 

Sadie’s first dog therapy visit: “But what is she doing here?”

When I first started to get to know my dog, Sadie, it was clear that she was a pretty special pooch. I’ve never met a dog with such a gentle nature, and it seemed, without fail, that she would meet humans and they would say some variation of “what a sweet dog!” I would bring her to my former office, she would park by the door, and without fail, everyone who saw her at the door would smile.

Back in Feb/March, I made an idle inquiry at our local dog guru’s place about this thing called “Therapy Dog” training. Turned out a group was taking classes in preparation for a test to become certified Therapy Dog/human teams via a group called Therapy Dogs International or TDI (there is also another group called Delta Society – I don’t know the difference as TDI is the only one I’ve worked with). It’s a pretty regulated volunteer organization: lots of paperwork, strict rules (dogs are not allowed off leash unless doing tricks, dogs must wear proper id, visits must be arranged in advance, etc). The regulation, it seems, is the result of unscrupulous folks using therapy dog training to get their dogs into places they shouldn’t be and generally abusing the privilege of being a volunteer.

Anyway, because she’s a rockstar, Sadie passed the TDI test with flying colors…and then, well, my life got interesting with the whole “job transition” thing.  It took me a long time to actually get myself set up for a “visit”.  In fact, tonight was my/our first.

We went to visit some folks at a local social service agency. We interacted mostly with kids, and Sadie was a hit. The little ones flocked to her, and she stood rock solid as many little hands patted her, pulled her tail and twisted her ears.

Everyone had the same variation on the same question: “But what is she doing here? Do you just bring her to places and let people pet her?”

“Yes,” I would answer. “Sometimes it’s just nice to have a dog to pet. They make you feel good.” The humans would look at me for a moment, trying to understand, and then just shrug and say “well, ok.” Then they would pet her with a smile.

For me, as the human handler, it was a neat experience. My job, my only job, was to hang out with my dog and interact with the humans who wanted to pet her and/or talk with me. I didn’t once look at my phone, and I didn’t want to. Sometimes I sat alone, sometimes I was surrounded by kids, but either was ok. We coaxed the shy kiddos to get over their worry and pet Sadie, and we helped the exuberant ones learn to “be gentle.” We talked about past pets, or not having pets. One little boy told me that sometimes pets get away and get hit by cars, so we have to be extra careful. I agreed.

We didn’t save the world or anything epic tonight, but I loved sharing my sweet pooch with other people, people who weren’t expecting her. I was so proud of her, and so glad that she was as awesome at being a therapy dog as I thought she would be.

To Pee or not to Pee…that is apparently the question

Dog parks are dirty…nay, I’d go so far as to say filthy…places.  They are an enclosed parcel of grass that has been urinated, pooped and slobbered upon by hundreds of dogs.   They seem to fall at the bottom of the city park grass mowing schedule, so they are often full of ankle-tickling, chigger-housing grass. They are a germaphobe’s nightmare. Anyone who goes to the dog park and expects to say clean should head back to the rubber cement bottle and take another whiff.

However, there are certain things that should not happen at the dog park. Allow me to give you an example.

Magic hour at the park.  I’m strolling with my headphones in, idly searching for a podcast while marveling at the beautiful blue sky and the setting sun casting a golden green glow onto the trees.  All is right with the world.  Then, in the space of 5 seconds, it all changes.

First, I notice a shadow behind me.  Odd, I think.  That better not be a human, because if it is, that’s creepy.

Then, as I turn to check, I hear faintly through the headphones “RANGER! Ranger, NO!”

As I complete the turn, a warm stream of pee splashes my leg. My gaze falls on Ranger, a cheerful brown and black dog, who scampers happily off into the sun, light on his feet and lighter in the bladder.

A woman runs up to me, horrified shock mixed with what I don’t want to think was laughter on her face.  “Oh my god.  I’m so sorry.” I stare at her, then back at the pee drenching my pant leg, and all I can think of to say is:

“Seriously?”

“I’m so, so sorry.”  And here it comes. That thing dog owners say when their dog misbehaves, that somehow makes being peed on worse.  “He’s never done that before.” Oh really? What are you saying, lady? That I attracted this indignity somehow? That I look like a tree or some other thing that your dog thinks should be casually PEED ON?

“It’s all right,” I mumble, still in shock, feeling that icky warm/cold cloth against my leg.

“It’s really not all right,”  the woman says, and we’re left staring at each other, me in 100% whole-hearted agreement (no it is NOT FRICKIN’ ALL RIGHT!!!), but unable to come up with any kind of response.  I mean, seriously.  What would you do? You’ve been PEED on. At the dog park. By another dog. In public.  I sincerely hope some of you can come up with something I should have said/done, because all I could do was shrug and laugh weakly and make some crack about maybe I shouldn’t stand so still.

Because apparently I resemble a fire hydrant when I do so.

It is damn hot.

Oh, I know, I know.  We’ve had a mild summer here in Arkansas.  I know this.  But today, it is damn hot.

How do I know it’s hot?  Usually, when I say the W-word (walk), my dog goes into spasms of freak out, jumping, barking, racing to the door as if to say “This way, mom!  The door is this way!  I’ll show you!  Come ON!”

Just now, I approached the dog and said the magic words:

“Sadie, what do you think?  Do you want to go for a walk?”

Thump.

One thump of the tail, a slight lift of the head, and then with a sigh, she laid back down as if to say “nah, I think I’ll just stay here.”

It’s a dog’s life, y’all.

PS: This post is brought to you by my brain that wants to write about all kinds of things that aren’t appropriate for this blog.  When in doubt, talk about dogs and the weather.  You won’t get Shakespeare, but you’ll at least get a little “fingers on the keys” therapy.