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Monday, April 25, 2016

A week not to be weak

It’s been more than two weeks since I’ve been able to get to One Of A Kind Pets to go on a walk with a dog.   I’ve missed it.   In the same sense, I’ve been a bit busy to put it politely.   As I went through work today, I pondered taking the night off again and staying home to catch up on little things around the house.   I’m really glad I didn’t as it gave me some perspective that I think that I’ve been missing over the past few weeks.
One of the four seconds that he was sitting still
This guy is Bentley...AKA, Marshmallow.  I’m not sure how much he weighs, but I’m pretty sure that he can pull his weight….and mine….and yours.   This guy has more energy than 8 dogs combined.   He’s got a huge smile, jumps like he’s got springs for legs, and runs like his butt is on fire.   He is amazing!   If you think that you need an energy drink, go for a walk with Bentley.   His energy really is contagious is the best kind of way.   
I’m glad that I decided to walk a dog this evening as earlier in the day, I was pondering not going.   I’ve been a bit stressed with a number of things that are currently on my plate and I was worried that an animal shelter would only add to that.   If you ask anyone that’s been to an animal shelter, they know that it can be a very stressful place.   Lots of barking, confusion, and some fear are mixed with a lot of love and caring.   It turns out, it was a bit of a stress reliever for me and it seemed to be the same amount of stress relief for Bentley.   
After arriving, I was trying to figure out what dog I should be walking.   I walked into the room all of the way at the back eventually which is where I found Bentley.   If anyone needed a walk… was this guy.   He has probably put more miles on pacing in his cage today than most people have on their favorite pair of shoes.   He was like a spring.   He was winding up and had enough kinetic energy stored to power a small city for a number of hours.   
I heard the words “He’s a handful”.  
“Good.   So am I” are the words that went through my head.
Slobbering foot warmer
We headed for the park and for the first few minutes, I felt like I had an electrified jumping bean at the other end of the leash.   This guy was all over the place!   When we would stop for a few seconds, he would go from “run” mode to “jump” mode.   Eventually, it became playtime and he would paw and jump at my ankles trying to get me to play like another dog.   Sooooo…...I figure it was time we learned some doggie walking manners.   A firm “NO” combined with a yank on the leash and he melted into the world's best slobbering foot warmer.   A ball of energy that will listen once they know you mean business……...sounds like Irving!

It wasn’t until one of the other dog walkers said something that I had even thought about what I had been taught this evening.   I was told, “Glad you’re here.   You’re the perfect match to walk that dog.  He needed someone that could keep up and help wear him out.”   That’s when it really hit me.   

Someone needs your help.   You specifically.   You have skills that someone needs.   Go find them.   Go help them.   Both of your worlds will be better for it.

Tonight, I made a new friend and learned something about myself.   I learned that I can help in general.   I also learned that some of the things that make me who I am, can make me a perfect fit to help a specific someone.  Don't take my word for it. Please go learn this one for yourself.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A greater understanding

With today being the last mission for the Akron Snow Angels for the winter, I feel the need to summarize not only today, but also what my overall involvement has taught me.   With that, I’ve split the blog up a bit to cover these separate points.    

Working with the homeless has totally changed my opinion of people in general.   What I realize more and more is how differently people handle things.   That totally hit me today as I handed a requested item to a gentleman.   
On our previous mission, a shorter, slight of build man that I had seen a number of times before came up and put in a request for a pair of pants.   We didn’t have any in his size, so we said that we would do our best to try to get him some.   We mentioned that we’d be back on the 9th, and he mentioned that the 8th was his birthday.   I put it in my notes that would be posted on the shopping list, but then went about my business for the rest of the day.     
I arrived today to find that along with the requested pants for this gentleman, the person that did the shopping also was thoughtful enough to get a card and some candy to add in for his birthday!   Since I recognized the guy from talking to him briefly before, I was on the lookout for him.  After all, I was excited to get him the items and wish him a happy belated birthday.      
I saw him milling around the group and hopped out of the truck and ran over to go hand him his birthday items.   I’m normally not much one for birthdays, but I felt that it was a big way to connect, get a smile, and hopefully help someone have a great day.   I handed him the bag and goodies with a big “Happy Birthday David!”.   He said “Thank you”, and went back to looking at the ground 8 feet in front of him and walking around.   It was as close to a “non-reaction” as you can get.   It perplexed me.  His birthday was a much bigger deal for me than it was for him.  
I went along for a while longer doing other things and working with other people, but I kept thinking about it.   Why didn’t he have the normal “surprise birthday stuff” reaction?   What was going on?   He got chocolate!   How can you not want chocolate on your birthday?   Then I realized it…that could be why he is homeless.   He doesn’t fit in with what society considers normal.   He just may not know how to react to things like that.   He may not have that emotion.   Because he doesn’t react the same way that we do, does that means he deserves to be homeless?   Those are some unanswered questions.   They are also questions that I’m not sure that I’d be asking myself a few months ago, but I’m glad that I have the ability to now.   
Working with this group has taught me that everyone does or handles things differently.   What should be the most important thing to me, is how I handle those situations.   I am taking much more time before I form an opinion on things.   I’m doing more research.  I’m considering more options.   In this, I’m growing.….huge.

As I look back to some of the volunteers that I’ve worked along side with in the group, there’s a common thread.   There’s something that stands out.   This group was started by one woman that spent some time at a soup kitchen and thought, “we need to help the homeless more.”   Ever feel like one person can’t make a difference?   She 100% proves you wrong.   I am astonished and amazed with what she has accomplished in what really is a very short amount of time.   There is a drive and a skillset there that I envy.   This reaffirms to me that effort yields results and that compassion is still alive and well.   
It’s often said that no one has more influence than the people you have around you.   The fact that I can call the founder of the Akron Snow Angels, and the co-founders of Elves & More of Northeast Ohio, my friends seems a bit surreal to me.   These people are amazing.   They all have demanding jobs, are involved with their families, lead active social lives...and “Oh by the way”, have helped thousands of people.   They only get paid in smiles and stories, yet still have the drive to overcome obstacles and help those that need it.   These people make me feel like a little kid that just met his idol.   I suggest that you find a friend who is a hero and/or an icon.   I’m lucky enough to have 3 friends that fit both of those words.     

Working with the Akron Snow Angels has changed my mindset on so many things.   It’s been a change that has caused me to look at the core of how I do things, how I think about things, and how I react to things.   When I started thinking about the changes and why I’ve seen them, it all comes down to people.   Both the homeless that we work to help and the volunteers that help make it happen have been the two groups responsible for these changes.   On both sides of the equation, it’s the people that have made the difference for me.   

  1. One thought can change the world, even if it’s just the world for one person.
  2. Opinions do not matter.  Actions and reactions do.   Make them positive.   Make them count.   
  3. Connect with people.   Learn people.   We all have more to learn than we think.

Monday, April 4, 2016

New Teacher, New Lesson

Today I got the chance to hang out with a new pooch named Brynn.   After just a few minutes, I reached the conclusion that you’d be hard pressed to find a sweeter dog anywhere.   It took her a little while, but she eventually was able to teach me something this evening.   Ironically enough, it took so long not because of the teacher was bad, but the student was a little slow on things.   
It started out as a normal dog walk.  I show up and look someone that appears as if they’d be willing to teach me something.   Once I find that pup, we head out for a walk.   Shortly after I walked in, I saw Brynn.   She had a “pick me!” look to her, so on the leash went and off to the park we went.   
Things started out a bit rough for us as she ran into my left leg about 8 times before we were even out of the parking.   I was trying to figure out if the dog was trying to trip me or what was going on.   Finally, I get the bright idea that maybe she wanted to walk on the other side, so I switched her over to my right side.   Problem solved.   At this point I’m thinking, “Maybe I am starting to figure this stuff out.”   That should have been my first clue that I was going to get it all wrong.   
We headed to the park that we walk and made a solid lap without too much of an issue.   I notice that as more dogs came the park, the less interested Brynn was in walking.   I kept trying to get her keep walking, but she wasn’t interested.   A few minutes later, I noticed that  she was shaking a bit.   I’m not sure if it was from the cold or if she was afraid of something, but she wasn’t interested in much of a walk anymore.   I wasn’t really sure what to think at this point.   She didn’t really want to move in any direction but south, towards the shelter.   All that kept going through my head was “she should want to walk, no?”.    Realizing that she just didn’t want to walk much anymore, we headed back.      
As she got into her cage, she gave me a look that said something to me.   I’m not really sure what it was, but I knew that Brynn wasn’t ready to call it a day yet.   I asked one of the shelter workers “Is there a place where we can just hang out?   Like a room or something?”   There was a grassy patch just across the parking lot that would do fine I guess, but we didn’t make it that far.   We ended up hanging out on the back step.   Having treats.   Having hugs.   Having attention.   She loved it.   A lapse in petting would yield a paw across your arm to let me  know “Hey man, you’re not done behind the ears there….”
I started to understand this.  A walk is a nice time.   It’s great exercise, and it’s good bonding for some people.   Brynn needed more than that.   She needed someone to make a big deal over her.   She needed that love.   She needed that attention that I’m pretty sure has been lacking.   She needed to be the focus.   When she became that focus, we both seemed to feel better.   It made sense.   I couldn’t figure out what the problem was for Brynn and I at first.   As soon as I focused on her and the attention that she needed instead of just walking, she lit up.   

When we went back into the shelter, Brynn went into her cage with ease.   She was ready to call it a day.   She got what she really needed at that point.   The attention that lets her know that someone cares for her.   She just needed to feel loved.   
I left feeling a bit torn.   I failed to listen at first so I squandered a fair bit of time trying to put a square peg in a round hole.   On the flip side, we had a really fun time together just hanging out.   

Don’t assume you know what the solution is because you may not truly know what the problem is…….