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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Trying new things

Monday evening was another walk at One Of A Kind pets.   Today was a day where I was pretty sure that I was going to show up to walk someone new, and I was right.  It felt like a good “big dog” day so that’s the room that I headed to with a pocket full of treats.   I walked in and started going on down the line.   There were a few dogs that just didn’t seem all that interested in walking with me.   Then I got to the run where Sable was staying.   This guy was at his door with a look that said “pick me, pick me, pick me”.   I hooked up the leash, and off we went.   
There was a new walker in the group so Sable and I showed them the way to the park.  Drake was the other dog's name and he was full of all sorts of tricks.   Drake was a complete ham and would do just about anything to earn a treat.   Sitting, shaking a paw, jumping, the list went on and on.   Sable on the other hand wasn’t into tricks.   He didn’t pull on the leash.   He knew when it was time to go and when it was time to stop.   Really, he was just happy to be out and about for a bit.   
After a while, Sable and I were on our own and having a good time just walking in random directions.   His nose was the leader of the whole parade as it searched out the next great discovery.   As we walked, I started to really study the guy that’s on the other end of the leash.   I’m no good with dog breeds and I’ve never really felt that it’s mattered much.   He’s furry.  He’s nice.   He had a bit of a “hitch in his get-along” towards the end of the walk.   He loved the walk, but I think that he liked laying in the grass and getting scratches more.   
Rudy taught me many different lessons.   One of which was how to be attentive.   I’m glad he did as it really let me see what Sable wanted to do while we were out.   Sable wanted attention.   He wanted to be outside with someone.   He wanted to hang out.   He wanted a buddy.   He wanted to stop to relax, enjoy some good company, and just watch the rest of the world.
I’m very used to the very active style of life that Irving and I have.   Last week, we covered 27 miles in 4 days together with a combination of hiking, walking and running.   Sable is just as intense, but in totally the opposite direction.   He was excited, but for a slow walk, some time in the grass, and a good belly rub.   As I watched him, I don’t remember seeing one time where his tail wasn’t wagging.   Walking, lying down, just hanging out, whatever the occasion, he had this smile and a happy tail.   I really enjoyed hanging out with that big, loveable ball of fur.  
Sable showed me that it’s not always about what you’re doing, but who you’re doing it with.   We have different interests, but I think that’s why we made such a great team.   We are open to learning from each other.   Sable opened my eyes a lot on this, and I’m thankful for that.  

Be open to those around you.   Their differences may give you a new perspective.   

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Questions and answers

Whenever I go out with the Akron Snow Angels, there are a ton of positive things that come out of every mission.  You can’t help but feel good when you hand someone a few needed items.   You get varied reactions, but a high level of gratitude.   I’ve discovered that the gratitude isn’t necessarily because you gave them something tangible.   In many cases, it’s because you’ve given them one less thing to worry about.   In other cases, you’ve given someone the slightest bit of comfort in a very uncomfortable world.   It’s a powerful and wonderful feeling.   I suggest that you try it.   

A cart full of caring
Unfortunately, Saturday’s lesson came via a few pieces of news from within the community that were a bit disturbing.   As I write this, I’m not sure what percentage of angry, upset, and sad I’m feeling, but all of those emotions are currently stirring around at a rapid pace   
As we left for the day's mission, it was mentioned that there had been a fire and a few tents were lost to it.   This is tough to hear, but at that point, there is a certain amount of anonymity that allows a person to feel distant enough to stomach the news fairly easily.   As the day went on, there became two more bits of information that were discovered later that are much more difficult to digest.   
The first piece of news that we heard was that there is speculation that the tents being burned was an act of arson.   Other than someone intentionally setting the fire, there wasn’t another known source of ignition nearby.   Hearing that it was intentionally set, this is where my brain starts acting like a curious 4 year old’s and asking the “why” question over and over again.   Why would someone do this?   Why?   Just why?   Why could this have possibly seemed like a good idea to someone?   Personally, it’s the questions that I can’t find the answer to that I find are the most difficult to deal with.   “Why” happens to be one of them in this case.
News always carries more weight when it hits close.   Later in the day, we found out that the two people that lost their tents in the fire are well liked in the Akron Snow Angels group.   Friendly, chatty, and even a bit witty.   Each has a distinct personality of their own.   They are tough, but approachable.   Unique, but unassuming.   If you start a conversation with them, you’re going to end up with a good laugh.  If you get something for them, they both show their extreme gratitude in their own, unique way.   One with a handshake that could crush a rock and the most sincere thank you that you’ll find anywhere.   The other says “thanks” with a shy smile and a slight turn of his head.   You can tell he’s truly grateful, but he isn’t always quite sure how to handle it.   How is it that these two guys lost everything?   
It’s always tough to figure out what really happened.   I’m not a professional detective and much of what I have heard about the events leading up to this is speculation.   “Why” isn’t the right question for me to be asking.   It is tough to steer away from that as wanting to answer the big “why” question is a huge part of what makes us human.   It’s how we figure things out.   It is what we use to discover things.   It was later on when I realized that the more productive question that I need to be asking starts with “how”.    How can I help?

You can only get the best answer if you’re asking the right questions.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Good Golly Miss Molly

It’s amazing what a good ole’ shave and shower can do for most everyone, and Molly is no exception.   This girl got a haircut and a bath and she’s ready to set the world on fire.   She’s this little ball of energy that’s just wanting to see everything she can.   Right now, most what she sees is only 4” in front of her nose as it’s glued to the ground when we walk....but there’s still a ton of ground to cover even like that!   There are all sorts of new and wonderful (to her) smells to take in.   Molly is a blast to walk with and so much fun to watch.   It’s amazing to see someone learn right before your eyes.   It’s watching a mind develop and grow.   
In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote this last week when I walked Molly.   I had another obligation this Monday, so I wasn’t able to be at One Of A Kind.   Don’t click somewhere else though…...I still learned something and it’s a lesson that I’ve always tried to live by, but needed a refresher course on.
During our walk, we went all over the place.  Left, right, down the middle, across the grass, over the hill, and around in circles.   We went where her nose took us.   I wanted to get to know a bit more about Molly on a “one on one” basis rather than just by following her around so we stopped for a while.   It turns out, not even Molly can resist my famous “ear rubs”.   

Molly and I started out walking with another walker and a dog named Annie.   Annie is a super sweet and very pretty dog.  Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that she is scared of the entire outside world.   It is something that makes me really sad.  All that Annie and Molly have probably really known is life in a small cage.   For Annie, it’s a safe place.   It’s where she can hide.   It’s secure.   It’s familiar.   When I watched both dogs, there is a sharp contrast between how they have handled their new situations.   Annie will need someone to help her out of her shell.  Molly has busted out and isn’t looking back.     It is this difference that really hammered home the lesson for today.
Molly is a great girl.   Full of life, energy, and curiosity.   I’m not sure how old she is, but I know she’s not a puppy.   She’s older, and surprisingly curious.   She does OK in her cage…but she loves being out in the world.   There’s no fear or trepidation.   There’s a ton of excitement.   She wants to learn.   She’s excited to take it all in.   She’s ready to see what this world has to offer her.   

Stay curious.   Keep an open mind.   Look for adventure outside of the normal.   That’s how you will continue to learn.   

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Connecting through trust

Another mission with the Akron Snow Angels today and I have come away from it with a slightly different perspective on things.   All of the missions set out with the same ideals, but they all seem to have a different feel to them.   There’s an evolution that’s happening here on a lot of different levels.   It’s a good feeling.  
When you wake up to a day that is 48 degrees and raining, it’s not exactly exciting for most of us.   For those that live without a roof of their own, it is pleasant change from -5 degrees and snowing.   With this, you can see that the focus has started to change.   People are asking about waterproof boots, raincoats, and umbrellas.   Staying dry is now the priority, but that can be a tall order during this time of year in Akron, Ohio.   Why is this exciting?    It’s warmer.  The “will I freeze tonight” is becoming less and less of a question.   That is one less thing for someone to worry about.  
As I was talking with people today at our first stop, I felt a bit torn. It’s a similar feeling that I had with Rudy on the good/bad side of things.   It’s nice to see that people are safe.  It’s nice to chat with the same people and get to know them.   It’s hard to realize that they are still in the same difficult situation.   It’s tough knowing that it’s a daily struggle just to survive for some of these people that I feel connected to.   I leave happy and less concerned than I have been in weeks past, but a bit sad at the same time.
The second stop usually consists of slightly shorter interactions, but quantity increases at least 10-fold.   Even with the rapid fire interactions and the wide cross section of people, I feel that I really am still able to learn about and connect with some of them.   There is a bond, a friendship, and trust that comes when you open yourself up to talk with people.   In a situation where there is constant fear for health, belongings, and mere survival, it’s an amazing thing to see someone relax for a few minutes.   They feel good for a few minutes.   It’s wonderful to be able to deliver that also.
One of the interactions that was memorable today was with a gentleman that we had ordered boots for.   He is a tall, slender man that I remembered from our last mission as soon as I saw him.   He is very nice, but is quiet.   He has a unique breathing pattern that hinders his ability to speak sometimes.   He needed our patience to get the right information to us so we could find his boots.   We didn’t rush him as there was no need.   We let him do his thing.   I could tell that he really appreciated our willingness to work with him and wait for him.   With some patience, I found his boots buried in bags of requested items and handed them to him.   He must have thanked me 15 times and when he left, held out his hand for a fist bump.   To him, it seemed like a lot to reach out to do that.   To me, it was a connection.     
My lesson today was a reinforcement of a previous one.   Trust...Don’t expect it, work with people and make it a point to earn it.   Trust is the key in all relationships and is well worth it.   I feel that I have earned the trust of some people today.   Although these relationships may not be the ones that get me a corner office overlooking the city, they have a value that I can feel and that I treasure.   

If you haven’t had a fist bump from a homeless person make your day…maybe you should.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A different situation

There are situations in life that we know will happen and we do our best to prepare for them.   We try to predict our reactions and then try to steer ourselves down the desired path.   Today was one of those situations but my reaction to it was different than I expected.   I haven’t been able to confirm that he has been adopted, but Rudolph is no longer at the clinic.   That means that there is a chance that he has found his forever family.   Granted, he could still be at the adoption center, but I’m still overjoyed with even the possibility that he has been adopted into a warm, welcoming home.   In preparing for this moment, I expected that I would be a bit sad also.   I do miss my friend.   Amazingly, I didn’t feel sadness.   I am happy, but also confused about the future.   Things are changing.   Rudolph was the only dog that I had walked at One of A Kind.   It’s going to be different.   Who do I walk with?   How will we get along?   What will they teach me?   Will I be able to read them as well?   Kinda scary……..

Enter Molly.   It is my understanding that this little girl was part of a puppy mill and was literally brought to the clinic just a few hours before I arrived.   As soon as I saw her, I figured we’d be a good match as we shared 3 things in common right from the start.   
  1. We were both really excited
  2. We both need a haircut
  3. A bath could also do us both a lot of good
Seems like a good match to me!   

Dogs have very sensitive noses and do a lot with them, so think of her nose as your eyes for a minute.   Imagine that you have been in a drab box for most of your life and suddenly you’re out in the world with an explosion of colors.   Some people would hide their faces in fear.   Not Molly!   This girl had her nose to the ground and up to the sky.   She wanted to take it all in.   She was in awe of everything.   She was loving it!   She was confused, but she was excited.   She knew that although it’s totally different than what she was used to, but she also knew that it was better.   

My question about Molly being able to teach me was answered very quickly.   She picked right up where Rudolph left off.    It’s like he left her notes or something…”Dear Molly.  Please walk my human.   He’s a bit needy sometimes and talks a lot, but he’s good for dispensing treats if you do something cute…...”

Molly has no idea what’s going on.   Her whole world has been flipped upside down.   Everything that she’s known isn’t there.   She has experienced a huge change just as I have, and she’s totally embraced the good in it and the moment of it.   She doesn’t know her future.  None of us do.   She does know that the present is full of change, and it’s awesome.   She has embraced this change.  She’s loving it.   She’s taking the opportunity to enjoy it.   (As exemplified by the huge number of treats she conned me out of)   This is a dog that is excited to live.   She’s excited to learn and excited to do things.   She taught me to look at changes without fear and see what they actually are.   

Thanks Molly…...I’ll bring more treats.   You’ve earned it.

UPDATE: Rudolph was officially adopted. That's gotta make you smile. :)