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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When dogs are stressed, how about a bit of patience and empathy?

Anyone with a heart would feel the need to help a dog in distress. When I see a dog struggling, I want to help, or at least try to help. It is an intuitive feeling I have. When my dog panted in the backseat of our car, I knew it was her way of managing her stress. She did not like being in the "flying bed" at all. Since I knew she could tolerate the pressure, I ensured she had the biggest payoff when we arrived at our destination. If we were going to the beach, we would stay and play for at least an hour or more. If she had to go for her vet check-up, we went for a long walk before we had to drive home. I empathized with her.

Whenever I am in the doggy loft at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, and I see a dog in distress, I want to help. Over the years volunteering there, I have learned that sometimes new dogs will take longer to relax in their new environment. Since these are all old dogs, I may meet a dog struggling with untreated dental pain. Sometimes a dog is simply missing their old familiar life and person. I can understand and empathize with those feelings myself.

Having an abundance of compassion for any animal in distress is a good thing. I wouldn't change that, and I am grateful that at Muttville, they offer ways to alleviate all of the dogs' stress.

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Pet Food Express Partners with 100+ Animal Rescues to Host First-Ever Statewide Virtual Pet Fair & Local Adoption Events

Throughout September!! Pet Food Express is hosting its Virtual Pet Fair, California’s largest, pet adoption event and the pet industry’s first-ever virtual fair of its size with over 7,000 animals available for adoption!

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Self care and calming older dogs

In my experience, a dog can be a natural bridge between two people. I cannot count the times my big adopted dog did her part, making sure I knew my neighbors and local shopkeepers. Sometimes it was her extra-large size that prompted a conversation with a stranger. Sometimes her unexpected presence in a room allowed me to escape a knot of people. She didn't know I needed saving or how she was helping me, but my lowered anxiety was tangible.

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Mind if I join you for a bit?

A dog's natural ability to diffuse a room is powerful and effective because I have also experienced it in the doggy loft at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. I have watched an agitated person walk into a room, spy an old dog doing anything from being cute while they nap to being cute as they trot across the floor, and see their limbs and expression visible relax. I imagine their blood pressure is lowering as their face transforms into soft eyes and maybe a smile.

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Lean on Me…

This week at the doggy loft, I got the chance to spend some quality time with Dusty, a large, warm, heavy, comforting blanket of a dog. He is the type of dog who will gladly get as tight against you as possible. And he will stay there despite more distractions than most dogs could resist.

I love dogs whose presence is undeniable but quiet. The sound of their breathing is meditative.

Do you ever have a dream where you can feel a dog is next to you, your hands are clasping their body or head. I have. When I wake up, I will usually have a small pillow or wad of blankets tucked against me in a way that my dreams interpreted into a dog. Rather than being sad that it wasn't a live dog in my arms, I'm encouraged that my dreams can feel this real.

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What is old is new again: My 'new normal' still includes dogs 🐶

Guess who returned to the doggy loft for the first time in sixteen months? She has opposable thumbs and is the biggest dog lover you will find.

From March 11, 2020, until July 14, 2021, I could not volunteer at the Muttville Senior Dog Rescue on Rescue Row here in San Francisco. Thanks to a pandemic, my city and state shut down for weeks and shuttered schools and businesses for months. I missed 64 Wednesday mornings waking up sleepy old dogs. Sixteen months of being denied a steady diet of soft doggy snuggles. How many laundry loads of dirty dog beds, aprons, and towels did I skip? I can't believe I missed mopping up after these sugar faces so much.

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Who else can say they honestly like the familiar smell of old dogs?

When entering the open loft first thing in the morning, with its closed windows to keep the more than a dozen old dogs safe overnight, imagine the wall of smell that hits you first. A combination of warm soiled bedding mixed with various late-night pee offers your nose a scent only faithful dog people appreciate. I didn't realize until after being denied my morning shift for months that I missed that familiar stink. That I took comfort in the potent smell because it meant there were warm sleepy dogs behind those doors.

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What is old is new again

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Helen Woodward Animal Center Orphan Pets Celebrate with Special PAWmicon Weekend July 23-25

Helen Woodward Animal Center is getting ready to celebrate the Center’s panel participation in Comic-Con International’s Comic-Con@Home with a full weekend of heroic adoptions and PAWmicon fun at the Center July 23 – 25!

Rancho Santa Fe, CA (July 6, 2021) – For the last eight years, Helen Woodward Animal Center orphan pets have celebrated the spectacular feats of superhero adopters by paying homage to Comic-Con International with a Pop Culture-themed Dog Cosplay event entitled PAWmicon. Now, for the first time ever, Comic-Con International is including the rescue facility in its virtual July programming with a Center-hosted panel entitled Animals in Graphic Novels and Games. The virtual panel discussion, set to premiere on July 25 at 11 a.m., features Chris Ryall and Keith Arem and is hosted by Robert Rice from Omniscape. To celebrate the premiere, Helen Woodward Animal Center is throwing a PAWmicon-themed Weekend including pop-culture-named orphan pets, giveaways, photo opportunities and the highly anticipated PAWSplay Costume Competition. 

Helen Woodward Animal Center initiated PAWmicon in 2012 based on an observed parallel between orphan pets and Comic-Con attendees. While comic book enthusiasts wait all year for Comic-Con International, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite action-adventure stars, orphan dogs and cats at Helen Woodward Animal Center will wait a lifetime to meet their superheroes – individuals with one sole mission…to rescue an orphan pet. Planned as a cute adoption gimmick, the promotion drew the attention of fans and animal-lovers across the city, eventually blossoming into an annual event that has grown in pup-ularity and gained global attention with each passing year.

2019’s event surpassed all expectations set in its new location at the Comic-Con Museum. Although still in prep for its official opening, the Comic-Con Museum hosted the event in collaboration with Helen Woodward Animal Center with hundreds of attendees and 100% of its proceeds going to the Center’s pets and programs.

In 2020, PAWmicon planning was well underway when the pandemic hit. Too beloved an event to cancel, the experience went on-line, in partnership with the Comic-Con Museum, featuring a virtual schedule of on-line family-friendly events including panel discussions and interviews; access to an on-line PAWmicon vendor village; on-line book readings for kids with Center critters; access to augmented and web virtual reality experiences; on-line trivia rounds; an on-line PAWSplay Photo Contest and more.

PAWmicon 2021

This year, Comic-Con International is staying COVID-safe, once again, delaying any on-site components until later in the year. However, a July, on-line virtual experience, entitled Comic-Con @ Home, will be available for fanatics of the annual festivities, including a line-up of discussion panels featuring celebrity guests. Helen Woodward Animal Center was delighted to be accepted into the line-up with a panel focused on Animals in Graphic Novels and Games which includes Chris Ryall, Partner of Syzygy Publishing and former President & Publisher/ Chief Creative Officer at IDW Publishing. Also featured is writer/director/producer Keith Arem, CEO and president of Los Angeles-based PCB Productions. The panel is a fascinating look at the unique and special qualities that animals bring to the world of superheroes. It premieres on Sunday, July 25 at 11 a.m.

To celebrate the release of this special virtual discussion panel, Helen Woodward Animal Center is dedicating the weekend of July 23 – July 25 to PAWmicon. Pop-culture-named orphan pets, Comic-themed giveaways and adorable photo backdrops for life-saving adopters will be available all weekend long.

On Saturday, July 24 at 9:30am, the fun really ramps up as the PAWSplay Costume Competition returns in-person, to the Center’s education pavilion. Those who wish to participate can sign up here: https://my.animalcenter.org/event/pawmicon-2021/e346864. The entry fee is $10 per pup and all proceeds support the pets and programs at Helen Woodward Animal Center. Cosplayers will serve as judges and be available for photo opportunities after the contest. A Comic-themed Kid’s Craft will be available for younger attendees and a Coffee Cart and Shaved Ice will also be on site for sweets and treats.

Limited-edition PAWmicon t-shirts will also be available online soon: https://www.bonfire.com/store/helen-woodward-animal-center/. Proceeds support Helen Woodward Animal Center pets and programs.

At its core, this unique event has one life-saving mission: To inspire individuals to perform a superhero action of their own and adopt an orphan pet. Upon adoption, these furry sidekicks will quickly reveal their own superhero abilities to save us right back.

For more information about PAWmicon, visit www.animalcenter.org or https://myz.animalcenter.org/event/pawmicon-2021/e346864.

For more information about the Comic-Con Museum, visit www.Comic-Con.org/Museum.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Helen Woodward Animal Center PR Director Jessica Gercke: JessicaG@animalcenter.org, cell (619) 977-0999 Helen Woodward Animal Center Communications Manager Fernanda Lopez: FernandaL@animalcenter.org, cell (925) 755-6369

***

About Helen Woodward Animal Center

Helen Woodward Animal Center is a private, non-profit organization where “people help animals and animals help people.” Founded in 1972 in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., the Center provides services for more than 90,000 people and more than 10,000 animals annually through adoptions, educational and therapeutic programs both onsite and throughout the community. Helen Woodward Animal Center is also the creator of the International Home 4 the Holidays pet adoption drive, the International Remember Me Thursday® campaign and The Business of Saving Lives Workshops, teaching the business of saving lives to animal welfare leaders from around the world. For more information, go to: www.animalcenter.org.

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Until Aug 1st Pet Food Express’ FILL THE FOOD BANK CAMPAIGN seeks to help raise 100k lbs of dog food

PET FOOD EXPRESS’ FILL THE FOOD BANK CAMPAIGN TO HELP STRUGGLING CALIFORNIANS FEED THEIR DOGS

Campaign will collect monetary donations to gift 100k pounds of nutritious, FirstMate dog food to pet food banks, relieving financial burden of necessary care for 100s of families

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OAKLAND, CA (July 6, 2021) -- Pet Food Express kicks off its annual Fill the Food Bank campaign to help hundreds of struggling California families to continue to care for their beloved dog(s) with free, nutritious food and avoid surrendering their pet to a shelter.

From July 5 - August 1, Pet Food Express will collect monetary donations in its 64 California stores and online at www.petfood.express/fillthefoodbank to directly benefit local, pet-centric food banks, shelters, and rescues.

100% of the funds donated will be used to purchase and distribute 5-pound bags of nutrient-rich, FirstMate dog food. Pet Food Express has set a 100,000 pound goal for 2021 and will match the first 10,000 pounds of donated dog food.

“The food donated through our Fill the Food Bank campaign will help many California families burdened by COVID with financial hardships,” said Megan Kniepkamp, Community Outreach Manager at Pet Food Express. “As pet parents ourselves and passionate pet advocates, we understand the bond between a pet and its family. And during these trying times, it’s important that pet families remain intact for the well-being of all.”

Visit the Fill the Food Bank page at www.petfood.express/fillthefoodbank to donate; to locate the closest participating food bank, shelter, or rescue; and to share the campaign with friends and family.

A $10 donation gifts a 5-pound bag of FirstMate dog food to a pet family in need. All 20 program partners are low-threshold or open-admission organizations who are interested solely in the welfare of California’s pet population.

“Food banks are essential,” Kniepkamp continued. “They reduce the risk of a returned pet to an already over-taxed rescue and shelter system by offsetting the cost of necessary pet care. We want struggling pet owners to know that there is free help available to keep their pets fed, cared for, and with them at their home.”

The 2020 Fill the Food Bank campaign turned $210,000 in financial donations from customers into more than 90,000 pounds of high-quality pet food to benefit 17 partner organizations including food banks, rescues, and shelters throughout the state.

Pet Food Express is proud to support California’s animal rescue network through its Community Outreach programs such as its Kitten Season efforts. Learn more at https://www.petfood.express/community-outreach/, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Instagram and on Twitter for the latest updates on the Fill the Food Bank campaign.

ABOUT PET FOOD EXPRESS

Pet Food Express is California's trusted pet expert dedicated to helping pets live longer, healthier lives. Founded in 1986 by Michael Levy and Mark Witriol, Pet Food Express has reimagined pet care by focusing on the very best products. The company sells only what they trust to care for their own pets. From its variety of nutrient-rich foods like raw and fresh prepared foods and its high quality products like pet supplements to the extensive training its animal-loving customer service team gets and its neighborhood stores with pet wash stations and pet community support groups. The company has had continuously strong growth for over three decades by remaining focused on its passion and its purpose - animal advocacy. Pet Food Express has helped find forever homes for more than 23,000 animals through its 64 California stores or as host of the Bay Area Pet Fair, the largest animal adoption event in North America. The company is a committed partner to more than 275 non-profit animal rescue and shelter organizations every year, providing them with much-needed aid through fundraising, product donations, help recruiting and retaining volunteers, and adoption support. Named as a “Top Bay Area Workplace” for the last 9 years, the company's dog-friendly headquarters are located in Oakland, CA and are home to 200 employees. Learn more on the web at www.Pet Food.Express. Like them on Facebook. Follow them on Instagram and on Twitter.

CONTACT: Sarah Andrus | Pet Food Express | Sarah@bloomwellconsulting.com | 415.624.5617

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It’s okay if you don’t have a dog 🐶

Do you find yourself looking with envy at the people in your neighborhood playing with their dogs? Have you spent way too much time obsessing over dog accounts on Instagram and Twitter? Before you give in to the impulse to get a puppy, let's talk about why you might want to stop and reconsider.

Image from grouchypuppy.com

Why do you want a dog?

Be honest. Look around your home, look at your daily schedule, and look at your finances. Do you have space for a dog? Do you have the time to give a dog? Are you able to provide them with the attention they need to be a happy and well-adjusted member of your family? Have you been to a pet store or looked online at the cost of food, toys, bedding, and all the basic stuff a dog needs? How about the cost of veterinary care? Are you prepared for regular check-ups as well as possible emergencies? Do you live in a place where the noise and activity of a dog will fit in, even welcomed?

It's essential to look around and ask yourself these questions before you bring a dog into your home and life. Being honest with yourself will save you both the heartache of unrealistic expectations. The potential stress, upset, and even trauma, of making this leap without being honest with yourself happens.

Don't feel bad if you realize it's not a good idea to have a dog.

Over the past few years, I have discovered is that it's not so bad enjoying the company of dogs that don't belong to me.

I love dogs very much and will always want to have them around, but I am realistic about the difference between enjoying them and being responsible for one. I started engaging more with the dogs I meet in my neighborhood. Now I am willing to wait longer before I adopt another dog. I feel good each time a dog shares some time and playfulness with me. I take home a little fluff, often some slobber, always a dose of oxytocin. How can I complain?

With the pandemic causing many people to get a dog, I have had more conversations with puppy parents. We can all use words of encouragement! Whenever possible, I offer support to both puppy and parent when we cross paths. They are always grateful, and I enjoy seeing their expressions of pride.

As we enter spring, enjoy the sun and outdoors. Wave to your neighbors and say hello to ALL the dogs! Remember that it is okay that you didn't adopt a dog. 

Tell me, have you had this conversation with yourself, or your family? How do you find ways to enjoy dogs?

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Please Don’t Tell Cooper He’s a Dog 🐶 Illustrated Picture Book

In San Francisco, people interested in adopting and fostering the older dogs at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue stayed steady throughout 2020. According to the group Shelter Animals Count, which tracks hundreds of rescue organizations nationwide, there was an increase in recorded pet adoptions across the country of about 15% last year.

It has been a year since our world changed due to a global pandemic. With people working from home, and school closures, some families have decided it was an excellent time to get a dog. I can't tell you how many puppies I encounter on my weekly neighborhood walks! I see them learning how to behave as they explore their new surroundings. I also watch how their new parents navigate having a puppy on their hands in the middle of a busy city.

A few weeks ago, I received a new children's picture book to review. Given the title character Cooper looked to be a Bernese Mountain Dog and that I see them frequently trotting down the street or playing at the park, I had to say yes. These giant fluffy creatures are popular city dogs!

image from grouchypuppy.com

I asked the author, Michelle Lander Feinberg why she decided now to write this picture book, Please Don’t Tell Cooper He’s a Dog:

I’m a huge animal lover, and wanted to write the book to show how a rescue dog can become such an important member of the family if treated with love and respect. I was inspired to write the story as we used to joke that our old dog, Charlie, never thought he was a dog. (When we got him a dog bed he got so excited as if he thought we were finally getting a dog…) 
 
As someone who believes strongly in the positive influence of the dog human bond, I liked how this book gives little ones a chance to learn about dogs, and how to treat them. 
 
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This book is geared towards children ages 2-8 and their families. If you are looking for activities, the author has heard that some teachers:
 
- have explained the difference between reality and fantasy, and asked the children to think of what Cooper the dog does that would be real vs. fantastic
 
- have the children come up with ideas of how to raise money for animal shelters (bake sales, making masks or jewelry to sell, etc)
 
- have the children draw a picture of Cooper doing something human-like 
 
- have the children talk about the different ways they treat their dogs (or cats) well, how they help them at home.
 
Every family has their own techniques but being proactive is always a good idea when it comes to dogs and kids.
 
Have you adopted a dog or a puppy recently? Did you have a dog when you were little? How did you learn how to be around dogs? I would love to read your stories in the comments.

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Dog adoptions: There is a pot for every lid

One of the joys of living in San Francisco has been discovering Muttville Senior Dog Rescue and its many volunteers and staff members. They are not only dog lovers but all are deeply dedicated towards the wellbeing of older dogs. The moments I have witnessed in the doggy loft are inspiring, always heartwarming.

Recently I read about the successful fostering and adoption of a Muttville mutt, Quigley. The story shared by MW Moses is told below, in his own words. It’s a wonderful example of the Grouchy Puppy motto, Give Fearlessly * Influence Positively. I hope you enjoy it and share your takeaways, or your own experiences dog fostering in the comments below...

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Dogs give you a reason to look up

Dogs enrich our lives. The Grouchy Puppy blog celebrates the unique bond between humans and dogs.

Having a dog in your home and family is itself a gift, but living in a community that welcomes dogs is equally comforting. It has been many years since our dog passed away. I have been unable to volunteer weekly with the sugar faces at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue for a year since the pandemic forced them to shift to remote adoptions. To keep everyone safe, the new oldsters do not stay in the doggy loft but immediately transition them into a foster home.

A saving grace for me has been the many dogs in my San Francisco neighborhood. Since the need to work from home, and the quarantine, I see so many more dogs playing outside or just walking down the street. The occasional encounters with these pups of all ages and sizes have been a tonic.

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Growing up with a dog trainer for a mom, I recognize when I see puppy socialization training when I am out for a walk. Taking my cue from both ends of the leash, I either stop for a visit or take a hard pivot away. I appreciate both experiences. It is nice to see someone recognizing the lifelong value of early socializing their puppy. If I get to be a part of that for a minute, great!!

When you need a reason to look up:

  • Adoptable dogs demonstrate resilience and eternal optimism
  • Dogs have an incredible ability to show forgiveness time and again for our errors in caring for them
  • Older dogs remind us how to let go of the past and embrace the present
  • All dogs show how to savor every expression of love and compassion, no matter how small

That dogs can mirror our expressions, body language, vocals and even share our personality traits, according to many dog owners, is something extraordinary. Who hasn't shared a yawn with their dog? I have had dogs match my stretch with their own. I remember the many mornings I heard my dog making the same morning groans as my husband and me as we woke up.

I don't know what the new year holds, but I know that I will appreciate each time a dog gives me a reason to look up.

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Always a good dog 🐶❤️

Lessons learned from a dog never have to go away even when you don’t have one. During this time of sheltering in place and staying home, my time around dogs is socially distant. This has me reflecting on how dogs are still able to positively influence me from six feet away. I’ve been impressed by their work. I’ve also been thinking back to my big adopted dog from the San Francisco SPCA.

Best advice ever: Set your dog up for success!

One of the best pieces of advice the SPCA gave us was the notion that to help our new family member and dog flourish, we should try to set her up for success. This perspective struck me as both simple and brilliant, easy to remember, and you can apply it to everything. Each time I engaged with her, whether taking her for a walk or asking her to watch the house while I went out on an errand, I applied this philosophy.

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Good job puppy!

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Thank goodness for dogs who are social butterflies

One of the places nearby is a dog park that is big enough for folks to safely social distance while letting their dogs play off leash. Since the pandemic and number of coronavirus cases still prevent me from getting my dog fix with the sugar faces at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue as a volunteer, I have started stopping by the dog area. I have changed my route when I am going to the store and have added it to my outdoor walks when I need extra steep hills. It is a little hit or miss on how many dogs will be there but I am not picky. I enjoy just watching the scenery and dog play, and if a dog decides they want to come over and say hello, who am I to be rude?

Thank goodness for dogs who are social butterflies

If there is a smart reader of this out there good at math, I bet you could tell me what the odds are that there is a social butterfly in a group of dogs. There always seems to be one. Sure, it usually is a puppy but sometimes it is just a dog who is just not that into other dogs. Often they like other dogs, but they get tired of them pretty quickly compared to others. On this day, I was lucky to meet one of those, in the form of a big Anatolian Shepherd - St. Bernard type name Riley.

image from grouchypuppy.com

 

Being a dog, and the type he was, Riley saw me, but first walked over to check out the other dogs coming through the gate. Then he moved down the line to say hello to me and get some love while his mom laughed and introduced him. After me, he continued over to an area that looked like a piece of tasty trash had traveled over the fence, just in case there was something to eat. That entire session gave me the happiest feeling of continuity and life, and how there is joy still around.

I am so grateful for the social butterfly because I am not. And, if that social butterfly flies over to me in the form of a dog, then all the better. Dogs have delivery methods for their type of affection and interest which never cease to make me laugh, smile or feel my heart lift up a little. They blow through resistance like the wind. 

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So much has changed, but still there is the delightful consistency of dogs

It has been so many months since I have been able to volunteer with the oldsters at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue that I feel slightly desperate in my reactions when I see dogs on the street. The slightest look from a dog gets an immediate waggle of my fingers! Not gonna lie, there have been more than one person on the other end of the leash who looked embarrassed for me. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. What is important here is that dogs are dogs are dogs, and given how uncertain everyday life is right now, I am grateful for this fact.

So much has changed, but still there is the delightful consistency of dogs

Dogs can be so delightfully consistent! I mean, since this pandemic has us social distancing whenever we’re out and wherever we are, I find myself sitting alone on a bench, either at a park or neighborhood street. It doesn’t happen every time but often, a person out walking their dog will slow near me, either because the dog is interested in the tree nearby or the dog wants to say hi to me! It is usually the typical labradorable type dog, a puppy who would also say hi to the tree, the bench and the mailbox, or the sweet little old dog who can pick out a dog lover in a minute.

image from grouchypuppy.com
The chocolate lab social club of Dolores Park in San Francisco

 

I confess that I have taken to placing myself purposefully in the spots where a dog is likely to walk by during an afternoon break. I can’t help it. It’s a gamble to see what each day brings me but such is life, and if it is simply the chance to have a moments engagement with a happy or tired little pup on their way home, it’s worth it. We all need to find our own forms of self-care. Besides gardening, and walking the city hills, a dose of d-o-g helps my peace of mind. Dogs remind me of all the good that is around us. These loving sentient beings remind me to find joy each day. How something as simple as a soft pet or quick stinky kiss can send a jolt of happiness into your immune system.

So for all of you folks out there who aren’t able to volunteer with dogs, or have a dog, don’t be afraid to search out the ones living around you right now. Walk over to your dog park and see what happens. Try a bench. Give yourself permission to sit and rest, and be open to the opportunity of an offer of a fluffy head or maybe just a slow walk by with a knowing wink (yes, I’ve gotten those too!). We’re all in this together.

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