My Give Fearlessly Story: Are dogs magic? How do they know when you need them?

It has been a tough week made more difficult because I missed my weekly volunteer session with the senior dogs of Muttville. 

"You can always tell about somebody by the way they put their hands on an animal."

~ Betty White

I stopped at my neighborhood Chinese restaurant to see my friend behind the counter and get some vegetables and fish with black bean sauce. To my delight, a man who was already at the counter getting food had a black retriever on a leash standing behind him. I waved my fingers lightly at the dog. She gave me a slight wag of her long tail in reply. Mentally I wished the man to keep chatting and ordering more food, so I had enough time to approach his dog slowly. She gave me encouraging signs to keep up my sidling. 

How do dogs know you need them?

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Quickly dropping to my knees, I crouched next to her. She pushed as close to me as she could on her leash. She had a thin piece around her muzzle to keep her from picking up garbage from the sidewalk. She couldn't kiss me because of it, but I still put my head down and let her sniff my hair. She agreed I was worthy of her efforts to get closer and allow me to snuggle her body. I did.

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Senior dogs give love even when you don't ask

Last weekend, my husband and I were walking in Napa before breakfast. As we passed by the fairgrounds, I slowed down to watch a man slowly walking by the entrance with his pair of Shelties. They were beautiful dogs and in the distance their fluffy bodies reminded me of my beloved Cleo. I smiled at them and seeing our interest, the man made his way in our direction. Nudging my husband, I whispered to slow down. Hopeful that he was friendly and wanted to engage with us, I was thrilled when the stranger steered his dogs directly towards us.

He told us how he noticed our interested faces across the parking lot. I half-listened to him and immediately spoke directly to the dogs. They were soft and silky, playfully sniffing us and leaning in for some pets. They swirled around our legs, very happy and comfortable with our affection. The man told us the dogs were seven and nine years old but from their energy level you'd never have guessed. 

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How beautiful are Shelties?     Photo credit: Jenny2513

That pair of senior dogs knew what they were doing. These Shelties were giving us some much needed love, even though they didn't have to. You know, it's not the first time I have noticed that older dogs seem to know stuff that we don't, like when to offer affection to passersby. It happened the week prior as I walked to the store in my neighborhood.

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Paying it Forward: 5 Ways To Ease Your Grief After Your Dog Passes Away

It wasn't easy to see my old dog pass on ahead, but I am determined to focus on the good that came from our time together. She inspired hundreds of good deeds over our nine years together. We raised money for local senior dogs during her #Cleo8 homecoming day celebration. She inspired a major pet company to donate an inventory scanner to a pet food bank. Throughout her life with us, Cleo's very presence walking down the street inspired smiles from children and adults alike.

Taking a page from Cleo's playbook, I wanted to share five ways that we tried to give fearlessly following her passing. Helping other dogs and dog lovers feels like something Cleo would want us to do. She came from a rural county shelter and knew hardship before us. As a part of our family Cleo knew love, good food, a healthy environment and a warm bed. Why not pay it forward?

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Our final gift: Why we chose in-home euthanasia for our dog

We were lucky. Though we still had to say goodbye to our beloved dog, being able to let her go while in a quiet home setting gave us as much peace as it probably did her. We had a great veterinarian but driving in the car, and any amount of time at the vet stressed our dog out, from day one. When she was younger, driving in the car 20 minutes meant she'd get the chance to spend an hour or two at the beach, one of her favorite places. We felt that type of stress was a fair trade, and I think she did too. Everyone, including our dogs, deserve the chance to die with dignity and in peace. 


Sometimes tragedy strikes and a peaceful ending isn't an option, but if you had the chance to give your dog the opportunity to pass on, from their own home, would you take it?

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Spotlight on Senior Dogs: Older dogs are worth every moment!

LilysLegacy.orgLook at this sweet old face. Sunny is an adoptable dog at Lily's Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary in Northern California. This is a rescue and sanctuary that we've been following for a couple years now. [Loving Old Dogs] Like San Francisco's Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, they help older dogs find new homes or have the chance to live out their days in a loving home environment rather than be discarded and forgotten in a shelter.

I believe both organizations are important to support because how we treat our aging population, this includes our companion animals, reflects back on us as a society.

I've been writing about the many valuable life lessons that my old dog has been teaching me over the years, and when I see that people continue to discard a dog just when they've matured into the best part, I'm grateful these two nonprofits exist. 

Imagine sitting with your favorite grandparent, enjoying their steady support and love when you needed them. Now look at Sunny and imagine the love and quiet joy an older dog can bring to a family. 

If our dog Cleo taught us anything, she showed us that old dogs are worth every moment of love and ounce of heartache...

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#MUTTScomics Remembers Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers is right! From day 1, to day 3,225, our sweet dog has shown us how grateful she is that we brought her home from the San Francisco SPCA.

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Meet Tennessee Therapy Dog Team Shiloh and Sandy

The Grouchy Puppy motto is, “Give Fearlessly Influence Positively” inspired by people like Sandy and dogs like Shiloh. Together they spent six years as a therapy dog team in Tennessee visiting nursing homes and a children’s grief camp. They positively influenced hundreds of lives over the years by fearlessly giving their time and presence. The following is a first person essay about their experiences [...]

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15 Beautiful Dignified Images of 9/11 Search and Rescue Dogs

There is something about a grey or white muzzle that grabs my heart. I see an older dog who has lived a full life and they have an aura of calm, because they know they are surrounded by love and loyalty for their companionship and service.

This is a portrait of Bretagne, living the quiet life of a retired search dog. It's been over ten years since he was one of almost a hundred search and rescue teams on the ground trying to find those missing at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Only fifteen canine members are still with us, living with their handlers at home. See their incredibly moving portraits in a book by photographer Charlotte Dumas. Get a tissue if you fall for noble and gentle furry features like I do [...]

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Nominated therapy dog works every day helping distressed kids

If you have ever whispered a secret to your dog raise your hand. Who was having a bad day when their pet out-of-the-blue came over to cuddle? The bond between humans and our pets is special. This real connection can have a positive influence on both human and animal.

To witness the human-animal bond demonstrated between a therapy dog and a distressed child is amazing. Dogs have a way of getting to the heart of the matter real quick. Feeling out of sorts? In my house it doesn't surprise me anymore when my dog senses my down mood, then gets so close to me I'm compelled to turn my attention to her, and away from my discomfort. 

Trained to encourage kids, a dog gives fearlessly

After sitting in a shelter a long time, imagine a sickly discarded dog finding not only his forever family but his perfect job -- in the process earning a 2014 Hero Dog Award nomination. Read Charles and Bentley's inspiring adoption story, and how this therapy dog team has found its calling helping our youth. 

Adopting RX

Charles Parkins lived in Florida when he and his daughter met RX. Charles was interested in adopting a dog who he could train as a therapy dog to work with him in the West Palm Beach, Florida Juvenile Detention Center.

Charles writes, "My daughter and I went to Big Dog Ranch Rescue and while looking at the 400+ dogs available for adoption we entered the “big dog barn” and were greeted by row after row of excited barking dogs. As we looked at all the dogs we found “RX” sitting in his kennel looking at us, not barking. We learned that RX had been there for awhile. He was found in the parking lot of a national pharmacy chain in a dumpster. He was heartworm positive." 


They adopted RX and renamed him Bentley in honor of his new life. As Bentley went through months of heartworm treatment, Charles recovered from a hip replacement. While they both slowly recuperated together they grew very close. Charles also began working on Bentley's training. 

"Life has a funny way of changing direction..." 

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Golden Retriever is natural "hen mother"

11-year-old golden retriever Champ is a natural at nesting. A box of baby chicks were left on their doorstep and while her mom searches for homes for the brood, Champ is showing everyone why senior dogs rule.




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Given a chance, dogs will love and trust you

One of the reasons I love dogs is their capacity to give, especially to us humans.  My adopted rescue dog still shows me how happy she is that we found each other at the SPCA. From the start we worked to build up Cleo's confidence in us, that we were a permanent family.

It took lots of practice of leaving Cleo in the living room with the words "wait here, I'll be right back" and closing the front door, for a few minutes at a time, before we could open that door and see a happy face. At first Cleo barked, howled, and cried on the other side of the door, or tried to block us from leaving in the first place. It was heartbreaking.

After many practice sessions we eventually got her to wait for us with only a mild case of stress panting. I learned that my dog is not interested in hanging out by herself. I also learned that though she was already three years old when we adopted her, rather than being wary and standoffish, she was eager to trust and bond with us immediately. Eight years together, she is still quick to forgive whenever I make her wait on her own.

We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals - Immanuel Kant

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Watching my old dog now curled up contentedly nearby, this story of Gideon the pit bull affected me deeply. How people can neglect and abandon a dog is beyond me. The fact that Gideon was microchipped and his people's contact information was current, yet when contacted they still chose to discard him like an unwanted toy is nauseating. Fortunately for you, I only share stories that inspire, educate or entertain - and this Huffington Post story touches the part of me that remains optimistic about the future of mankind. You'll be glad you read it.

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Angel's Depot new partnership with Helen Woodward Animal Center AniMeals Program will benefit low income seniors

Having been significantly involved with Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) in San Francisco for three years, I have seen first hand the power of the human-animal bond at work between low income seniors, the disabled, and their companion animals. It breaks my heart to imagine anyone having to choose to feed themselves or their beloved furry (and often only) family member. 

Today, thanks to an anonymous donor, a new partnership begins between the Helen Woodward Animal Center's AniMeals Program and The Angel's Depot, a San Diego county nonprofit serving the nutritional needs of seniors.

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How dogs are like gardens, and why that's a good thing

Having an adopted dog and a garden for the first time has taught me a lot about myself. There has been a learning curve to their care, and I couldn't be more grateful that both show a fair amount of patience and forgiveness. Until today, I hadn't noticed the similarities between dogs and gardens.

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Volunteering can help cure the holiday and winter blues

Pets Are Wonderful Support PAWS does more good for low income seniors and the disabled than many nonprofits, in part from community support and the hundreds of amazing volunteers. People who believe in the power of the human-animal bond are the reason this privately funded nonprofit has been around for 25 years.

PAWS volunteers believe in the value of keeping people and their pets together. That an animal companion can alleviate depression. That the unconditional love an animal gives is deserved to be experienced by everyone. 

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After donuts and coffee, Jennifer Ronda and I team up for morning deliveries in the Inner-Richmond district, San Francisco

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5 Beautiful Gift Ideas for the Holidays and Beyond

For me, the holidays are a time of giving, shared moments with friends and family, and taking time to reflect on the year. In addition to buying from local companies, I care about buying from companies that give back to their community. I'm also drawn to organizations that offer a special gift in exchange for a donation this time of year. Why not wear what matters to you for all to see? Caring about elderly dogs never goes out of style, which is why Muttville shirts made our list this year. Smelling nice is something every dog battles with. Having your home smell like the beach or at least a light soap scent is possible with candles we found by a Southern California company that supports organizations dedicated to ending the homeless pet population, and raising awareness about spay and neuter.

Closer to home, when you give to San Francisco's own PAWS, Pets Are Wonderful Support they offer a limited supply of beautiful note cards for a modest donation. Across the border, a Canadian company that sources and makes all of their pet products also supports Search and Rescue Dogs of Ontario. Finally, one of the most beautiful gift ideas that tops our list is a photo book.

Here are five beautiful gift ideas ...

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