My heart is warm and full as I give our little Barney his morning bellyrub, which is how he greets us first thing every morning. No rushing to the toilet, the love has to come first! As I pet his soft wooly coat, I am so grateful that I get to spend another Christmas with him. A part of me is aware that he is a senior dog and that our time together is limited, but this makes each moment we have with him even more precious. So we savour the love and delight we share with him, between human and dog, between souls. Merry Christmas to all, may the love you share with others renew your spirit and remind you why you are here.
Here I am, writing about dog poop again! I am now picking up any number of stray dog poops in my neighbourhood. I call these “community poop,” and I typically have a rule of only picking up one per walk in addition to my Barney’s poop. This is my usual limit, or I start to feel resentful! Since it is Christmas, however, I have been more “generous” in my community service lately! Barney’s poop is quite the event. He walks around while he poops, so we have to keep track of the poop trail to get them all (very tricky when leaves are on the ground, much easier on snow!). Since he wasn’t fully housetrained when we got him, we praised him for pooping outside. Now he turns to “look” at our faces, expecting praise every single time. He is so happy to have his pooping acknowledged! A poodle lover once told me, “If you do something once with a poodle, it becomes law.” She is right. They are very clever and funny dogs!
Two years ago, today, we adopted Barney. We call October 19th his birthday, as we do not know what his real date of birth is. We celebrated together with him. He got a new stuffed squeaky monkey and some natural chews that he loves. He also got to see one of his favourite people, Auntie Fran, who provided care to him over the summer while we were away. His whole body was wiggling and whimpering with happiness when he visited today, pure joy overtaking his whole being! It occurred to me that he has been with us now, longer than his time at the shelter/rescue. I whispered to him that I loved him, and that he was going to stay with us until the end of his life, just in case there was any part of him that still believed we were just a temporary home for him. Barney teaches me to squeeze every bit of joy possible out of each and every day. I am inspired as he navigates daily life without vision, but with great courage, curiosity, and faith that something delightful is just around every corner! I am so grateful for this curly little dog, for all that know him and love him, and for all those that cared for him up until he became ours. With Deep Gratitude.
The first summer that we had Barney, my husband and I took turns travelling with our kids so our dog could stay at home, in his familiar environment, cared for by either one of us. It may seem a little extreme to some, but we felt that due to his blindness, abandonment history and issues with other dogs, boarding was not a possibility at the time without risking the trust and stability that had steadily grown with us over 8 months.
This past summer, we felt Barney was ready, and we were able to take a couple weeks off because we found the most amazing doggie daycare! Fran Olsen is a warm, loving, and beautiful person who truly understands the physical and psychological needs of dogs. Dogs are cared for in her home, treated like royalty, and best of all (for Barney), she takes one dog at a time and she has experience with dogs who have special needs. Because of Barney’s blindness, she offered to meet with us several times before his stay, so he could become more familiar with the physical surroundings of her home. She also gave us a towel with her scent on it so he could get used to her smell while still at our house, and she suggested that I do the same when he was staying with her.
Barney had such a wonderful time there and Fran (“Auntie Fran”) updated us multiple times a day on how he was doing. She was so patient with him (he barked a lot the first night – no surprise!) but after that he slept well. He also played, walked and ate well! We were so impressed at how quickly he adjusted to another home, but then again, this was an exceptional home and an exceptional person! Auntie Fran customized her care to Barney’s specific needs, as she does for every dog in her care. Just amazing.
After our trip in early August, we took a two day trip to a cottage. Dogs weren’t allowed at the lake and Barney would have been disoriented and miserable if left in the cabin. It was clear when we dropped him off with Auntie Fran that he absolutely remembered and loved his time with her. He was making his little whimpering noises and doing what we call “kitty cat” with her ( rubbing his body against her legs), his little pompom tail wagging like crazy, trying to lick her face all over! This greeting is reserved only for those who he truly truly loves. Auntie Fran is now part of our pack!
If you need daycare or boarding and your dog needs some extra special care, please visit Auntie Fran’s website.
I am always looking for potential things that my blind dog could run into, and by far, poop is one of the worst! At first, I am slightly irritated when I see another dog’s poop left behind…and judgment starts to creep in….”careless, irresponsible dog walker” type thoughts…and as I pick up that stray poop and secure it in a doggie bag, a sense of righteousness sets in, a feeling that “I, the responsible dog walker, will do what is right.”
Then that moment passes and my thoughts turn to gratitude…”Well, at least the owner is walking the dog outdoors!” and I am thankful for that dog being given an opportunity to exercise in the fresh air. There is a palpable energetic shift…and then judgment falls away to be replaced by softer more compassionate thoughts. Maybe the walker is a senior and can’t bend over easily to pick up the poo. Maybe the walker is a 10-year-old boy who is anxiously walking his new pet for the first time and he lacks experience. Maybe the owner is going through a really rough patch in life and is so distracted by their suffering that they don’t even notice that the dog is going poop. Maybe today was the one day that the doggie bag holder ran out, and on every other day of the year, the owner does in fact pick up the poop. Maybe the walker is coming back later to get the poop! In any given moment, we are striving to do our best with the knowledge, skills and attention we are able to bring to that moment.
When I stay present with the moment and let my judgments of others and myself subside, compassion bubbles up and softens the experience and the heart.