The Happiest Dog in the World

So often with advocacy blogs we end up sounding like we are harping on a topic, which can be a turn off to others.

So I thought I’d change the subject and talk about The Happiest Dog in the World.

Thanks to Scarrie24 of Photobucket

Her name is McKinley and she’s named after the largest mountain in North America.  Why?  Because her heart is big as that grand peak that rises straight up 18,000 feet out of the surrounding plain.  Unlike Denali (the Athabascan name for it that means “Great One”), McKinley’s heart is not made of granite, but of joy and love – all 7 pounds of her.

Yup, that’s right, she’s a mix of mini-Doxie and Jack Russell and the mini really went small on her.  She’s both lovely to look at and light as a feather to hold.  Besides that, when the creator of dogs made her extra helpings of love and joy were added to make her extra-special.

Several months ago, ‘Kinley was designated a “mental health” companion dog.  She’s got a vest and everything.  But she’s really missed her calling.  She’s the dog that lets me know there is someone at the door. She’s started acting as my hearing ear dog – she’s got it that she needs me to watch her.  She trained herself in no time flat.  At night she checks on everyone in the house to make sure we’re all safe.  She also breaks up fights when the cats get into it with each other. “No unhappiness in this house!”  But when it storms out, she is a scared little dog – the only time she isn’t happy.

Other dogs might like to play tug of war and growl and play fight.  McKinley isn’t interested.  She wants to cuddle up and give you love.   Now and then she’ll pick up her stuffed dog and give it a shake, but then it is “pals forever” and she lays down with it.  When she’s not being a cuddle bug she loves to go for a walk.  And let me tell you, you’ve never SEEN a happy dog until you’ve walked with ‘Kinley.  Sometimes I let her walk ahead and even her little butt is happy!  Every step is a tail wag and every step has a little skip to it.

I’ve met lots of happy dogs.  I’ve met dogs who smile.  I’ve met lots of really great dogs.  But in all my life, I’ve never met a dog with as much sheer joy in life as ‘Kinley.

Her former “Dad” didn’t like her – at all.  He tried. She drove him nuts. When Mom and Dad got a divorce she ended up with Dad for a long time.  It was sad, because she ended up rejected.  Then one day we were able to have her certified as a mental health companion dog and now she and her Mom will always be able to be together.

Maybe the reason she is so happy is that she lives with 5 people – 6 sometimes – who love her to pieces.  She greets everyone with great joy when we come in the door and she lets us know she’s going to miss us while we’re gone.  If you’re sad, she’s there to make your day brighter.  If you’re hurt, she’s there to soothe your pain (she used to lay her head gently on my broken shoulder) or your broken heart.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why her former Dad didn’t like her – even a little bit.  She’s brimming over with love and joy.  Maybe he likes the opposite?  That would be sad.  But he does have another dog he loves, so I guess it just wasn’t a good fit.  Although, ‘Kinley loves him even if he doesn’t like her.  Dogs are better about that than people are.

She’s right beside me now.  Sleeping on a blanket I told her she could use.  Resting after a nice brushing and a canned food and tuna treat (burp!).

When, someday, I move away and don’t see her as much, I will miss her so much.  She’s my grand-dog and while the grandkids will grow up and go on to their own lives, ‘Kinley will always be a little love bug full of great joy and able to bring happiness to others.

She’d make a great “hearing ear” dog for the Deaf, but she’d miss her Mom and new Dad and the kids too much.  Too bad we can’t clone her “I’m the happiest dog in the world” personality.

She did a magnificent job

My eldest granddaughter was devastated when her Grandfather abandoned the family.  She was poleaxed (as was I) when he died so unexpectedly.  My beautiful, gentle, loving, compassionate granddaughter was never given the opportunity to tell her grandfather goodbye.  He died half a world away and she was denied so much as holding his hand or kissing his cheek.  It is the sort of loss which is irrecoverable.

What does one do with that sort of grief and pain?  When my mother died I went into the fields around the farm and screamed into the sky.  It was the day I gave up on “God” because “God” gave up on me.  We’ve never been on good terms since, and deity has been demoted to Higher Power.  Instead, I’ve the Tao, the Buddha, Celtic heritage spirituality, and the Higher Power of the 12 steps.

Life and times have changed. There are no fields to go to and scream out one’s agony.  Instead, we have the Internet.  She tweeted her farewell and blessings on the Grandfather she loved and lost, not once, but twice. Why does love have to come at so great a cost?

Life is so fleeting.  So fragile.  We often make such hideous blunders without meaning to.  We often harm innocents – both adults and children.  It is the children who suffer most, their spirits crushed, consumed by feelings they were to blame for the debacles created by the adults in their lives.  It is why abuse and neglect is generational – we get it from our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents.  Hopefully, there are other family members to pick up the mantle of love and responsibility and help the innocents recover from profound loss.

“Fly High, Grandpa, Fly High.”

We are all flawed human beings – even my perfectly imperfect eldest granddaughter.  All I could do was tell her that her Grandfather loved her as much as he was able.  As an adopted child who never bonded with his adoptive parents or elder sibling, his ability to accept or express love was severely damaged.  So he showed his love  in the only way many men of his generation could – by buying things.  He already knew how kind and intelligent she was so he loved to hear the stories of her walking down the aisle at a restaurant, waving to everyone as if she were Miss America.  In his heart, he always knew she actually WAS Miss America.

Our eldest grandchild was his first chance to learn how to love a child.  He was amazed at how tiny she was, how perfect those little fingers and toes, how soft her white-blond curls.  He was terrified he’d damage her by touching her.  She was his chance to learn how to love – how to really reach beyond himself and his own terror of relationships – to reach inside his patched and tattered soul – and give something more than he’d ever given before.  He talked her through colic by distracting her.  He became a furby after hers broke, making Furby noises.

And our eldest granddaughter? As always, she did a magnificent job.


There is disaster in the air.  Miscommunications. Anger. Blame. Recriminations.  It is so incredibly difficult when we find ourselves in the middle of a firestorm of emotions and conclusions when relationships fall into disrepair.

Whether it is friends who part with acrimony or parents who find themselves fighting over children and property in a failed marriage, it results in truly being unable to see the other person in an rational manner.

Sometimes I find myself attempting to bridge a chasm of communication between various warring parties and find both feet on fire. Tact and discretion is strained.

Having “been there” and “done that” a few years ago I understand how emotions can run rampant when friends find relationships have reached a rupturing point and when long-term families sunder.  What begins in such hope, joy, and promise is laid waste by time, miscommunication, and an inability to forgive and move forward.

There is finger pointing, harsh words are exchanged, mistrust developed, and for the married folks, lawyers and legal point/counter-point. Sometimes parents lose track of what is really important (the children) during attempts to achieve a particular goal – custody, a house, who gets the dog, and so on and so forth.  Former friends may divvy up friends in common, forcing them to take sides (never a good thing).

Sometimes there are true crisis points and when the warring parties are unable or unwilling to look beyond their own pain, their own mistrust, then even greater harm happens.  All situations pass in time. All pain lessens in the long run.

It is difficult to forgive in the middle of a firestorm. It is not impossible, though, but difficult as the firestorm itself whips up emotions time and time again.  Just as things calm down another raging bout of inferno sweeps through triggered by some life event.

Sometimes, only through reaching forgiveness and acceptance can we survive emotionally.  Sometimes only forgiveness allows us to see how we are harming others – and ultimately, ourselves.  Failing to forgive is like drinking poison and then expecting it to kill the person we’re refusing to forgive.  It ain’t easy, merely necessary lest we die on our own sword of anger.

Usually, forgiveness comes pretty easily to me. The worst case for me was three years of agony attempting to let go of what I could not change and accept that I have no control over another person, since the only person I have any control over is myself. It was probably the worst period in my life, bar none.

If, today, you find yourself at a juncture at which you can rage or at which you can step back and
consider forgiveness as a tool to helping yourself, I hope you travel the path less chosen.  The one of forgiveness.

Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time—just like it does for you and me.  ~ Sara Paddison

The Sand Castle

A story of love…

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived with her Mommy and her Grandma and Grandpa. One day she gained a Daddy of the heart and a Nana and a Poppa of the heart.  She was very happy.

She loved her Grandma’s little sand castles made of glittering sand. Especially the big black one with the curving road up to the front door and all the rooms. One day, the little girl – a little princess in oh, so many ways – told her Grandma that she wanted to live in the sand castle for ever and ever.

There was room there for everyone, she explained. Mommy and Daddy. Grandma and Grandpa.  Nana and Poppa.  Room for her and even rooms for a little brother or sister – or one of both.  All this little princess knew is that you can never have too many people who love you and you’re happier and safer if all the people you love care about each other and are together forever. It makes life so much better, you know. The little girl – a princess, in so many ways – was also a very, very wise child.  Quite often children are much wiser than we give them credit for.

Grandma agreed that would be wonderful. And each time they looked at the sand castle the little girl pointed out where her room would be.  Where Grandma and Grandpa would be.  Where Nana and Poppa would be.  And she dreamed of love everlasting.  Such a precious thing to have – love and acceptance and safety and warmth and joy.

Grandma always remembered that day. Every time she looks at the black sandcastle that glitters in the light, she wonders if…  If Grandpa might still be in one wing, happily watching little children after the tutor let them go for the day. Or if the Nana and Poppa and Grandma and Grandpa might have been able to make the castle such a happy and loving place that the King and Queen and both the Princesses and the little Prince would be happy forever.

It used to be that little Princesses and Princes had extended family to take the pressure off the King and Queen who were busy running the Kingdom. There are never too many people to love you. Grandma cannot help but wonder if dividing all the kingdoms into little pieces means the future Kings and Queens just don’t get all that they need and the Kings and Queens have to work too hard.

It is easy to say that things happen and we should all just buck up and accept that life is hard, at best, and kids must learn to cope.  But my sandcastle says otherwise.

When dreams die, when the sand castles fall apart, it is a sad thing. For children. For parents. For grandparents. Perhaps it is time to dream, again, of sand castles in modern form and love and respect and joy and acceptance. And hope there is, somewhere, a wizard of great power who can make it so.  Or maybe, next time, it can be a lighthouse – something that exists in this world.

Magical Mystery Tour

Imagine.  Sit somewhere comfy, close your eyes, lean your head back, breathe a cleansing breath and for just a few minutes, let your mind explore what it would be like to be 95, half blind, half-deaf, experiencing early-stage dementia, medicated to the gills because you’ve got Sundowner’s syndrome, and you’re trying to make sense of a world in which nothing makes sense.

Imagine trying to make sense of traffic that is only partially seen, but has vivid hues (tree service truck, dump truck, Zoots van, etc.) and you figure with all that size and color it must be a parade! Actually, that’s very good processing based on an injured brain handling blurry images.

Imagine seeing so poorly that you’ve got to guess where your food is and not having the ability to learn the skill-set the blind use, so you’re trying to spoon pudding from your glass of water and trying to drink your pudding.

Consider the indignity of being unable to drive a car, but having your long-term memory be so clear you can give the driver directions as to where to go – and still having the tact to not say, “And while you’re at it, you can go to hell too.”

Think of the thrill of discovery – you really do have your glasses – in your pocket. And no, you didn’t put them there while shaving, which you actually didn’t do today, but because the doctor asked you to take them off while putting eye drops in..

At times you’re so clear on so many things, mostly things of the distant past, so why can’t you remember where you live? Where is your car?  Where the did cane and wheelchair come from? You helped build structural monuments that exist around you, but you live in a “Memory Ward” with locked doors.

Was this what the song meant after all? “The magical mystery is waiting to take you away, waiting to take you away, hoping to take you away, dying to take you away…”

Hug an elderly vet today. Hug an elderly parent today. Hug a grandmother or grandfather today.  Hug a Mom or Dad today. The other operative song is “All you need is love…” Isn’t that the truth.

My Grandmother and now me

When I was a little kid I remember Grandma in the kitchen, wearing a house dress with a big apron wrapped around her, flour in her hair and on her hands. She was stout and walked in what we’d probably consider orthopedic shoes these days. She was also the mistress of the house and you’d better get out of her way.

My mother had very little time to grandparent and she was not the lady in the kitchen with flour on her hands. She ran a business and in all 10 minutes of her spare time every day she indulged in reading magazines about the old west.

My grandchildren’s grandmother goes to the gym because she’s not working like a dog in the kitchen or in a business creating products. Unlike my grandmother or mother, I see a hair stylist and she (gasp!) dyes my wild and curly hair. Unlike them, I am now divorced and sometimes consider the fact my grandmother was a widow (twice) to have been a blessing. I’m a highly educated grandma, but not as well fixed as my mother or her mother due to the vagaries of life.

Being a Boomer means living with a great deal of uncertainty and that includes just how to be the best parent of adult children and best grandparent to some of the best looking, most talented, and best hearted children in the world. Not that I’m biased or anything like that.

Reflections on love and the lack of it, life and the importance of continuing breathing, diet and exercise and how that factors into the first two reflections are forthcoming.