Pet Therapy: Bringing Love and Leaving Smiles

In many ways, my human mommy/blogging assistant and I are a team. We do our best teamwork when we’re bringing love and leaving smiles for the Visiting Pet Program. We started the process of becoming a pet therapy team about two years ago. Because most of our work would be done in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, our initial evaluation simulated what we would experience during our visits: a raucous round of bingo, walkers and wheelchairs navigating hallways, slightly-less-than-gentle petting, unexpected loud noises. My manners were perfect, I handled each step of the evaluation beautifully, and we moved on to our probationary visits. During three months of probationary visits, we were paired with human buddies (senior members of the Visiting Pet Program) who watched as we met with the residents at several different nursing homes. And then in December 2015, my human mommy and I became a full-fledged pet therapy team for the Visiting Pet Program.

Mommy and I do our regular monthly visits at a place called Colonial Oaks Living Center. We spend about an hour going from room to room to see our friends. They love telling us about all the dogs they’ve had through the years. I love being petted and told how pretty and sweet I am. It can be kind of exhausting, so sometimes I lie down and take a quick nap. No one seems to mind. In fact, I think my little naps are somehow comforting to my friends.

We also do special visits. Mommy and I have been to a summer camp at the Lighthouse for the Blind. I was a big hit there. All the campers said I was super soft. A couple of months ago we visited Camp Tiger, a free camp for children who are physically and/or mentally challenged organized by the LSU Health Sciences Center and staffed by medical school students. Last fall, we attended the blessing of the animals at Christ Church Cathedral.

Tallulah and my human daddy joined us at that visit . . . unofficially, of course. The humans thought Tallulah could use a little blessing. Turns out an exorcism might have been more appropriate at that point in her life. My little sister has calmed down a lot since then, and one day I think she’ll make an excellent therapy dog . . . but not yet.

Back to the real team. Our favorite visits are the ones that we do with university students before they take big tests. We’ve helped students at Loyola University relax before finals and calmed the nerves of physical therapy students in the LSU School of Allied Health Professions. Most of our university visits have been with the students at Tulane University School of Medicine.

They have two really important tests each year. There’s a lot of pressure, and they can get pretty stressed out. You should have seen this group when they walked into the room where we were meeting: eyes focused on the ground, shoulders hunched, fists clenched. Within five minutes we were all on the ground. They were petting and hugging me, laughing, sharing photos of their dogs back home, and snapping selfies with yours truly. It felt good to bring a little love their way, and I definitely left some super big smiles. Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you have a great time. And I hope you remember to bring love and leave smiles. Cheers!

 


Finally, Tallulah Does PetSmart

After two years, two months, and 10 days on this Earth, my little sister finally made her first visit to PetSmart last weekend. I know. Even my humans were surprised (and, frankly, appalled with themselves) when they realized that poor little Tallulah Bee had never set foot in a PetSmart store. By the time I was Tallulah’s age, I’d been to PetSmart hundreds of times. It’s where I attended obedience classes–beginner, intermediate, advanced, and post-graduate studies–and where I had my hair done before we moved to New Orleans. Tallulah went to obedience school at Camp Bow Wow and now we get our hair done at the groomer down the street. So this little adventure was a super big deal. Clearly, Tallulah had no idea what was about to happen when she walked through those magic doors.

It didn’t take her long to realize that PetSmart is quite possibly the happiest place on Earth when you’re a dog. Tallulah was a little blur as she raced up and down every single aisle.

She slowed a bit when she reached the toy aisle and stuck her nose in every single bin . . .

. . . literally every . . . single . . . bin.

And then Tallulah came to a screeching halt when she rounded a corner and found herself (almost) face-to-face with the hamsters, gerbils, and other furry creatures in the small animal cages.

She was especially enamored with the guinea pigs. She begged and begged our humans to get one for her–after all, they were on sale–but the humans wisely refused. (NOTE: No guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, or other small furry, feathered, finned, or scaled animals were injured in the course of Tallulah’s first PetSmart visit. My humans kept her at a safe distance and maintained a tight grip!)

While she didn’t come home with a guinea pig, Tallulah did return with a few special treasures. Remember last year when we were looking for a toy that Tallulah wouldn’t destroy? (Click here to read about our seemingly hopeless quest.) Well, we’ve finally discovered that she is less likely to “kill” the non-stuffy toys. With the addition of her new Dino the Dinosaur purchase, she is now up to three so far merely gently loved non-stuffy toys. Paws crossed that this success continues. Tallulah also picked up a free small bag of ProPlan salmon-and-rice-flavored food thanks to a pretty incredible PetSmart promotion: pick up a free bag of food and PetSmart gave a pet in need a free meal. Talk about a win-win situation.

Tallulah also did some personal shopping for me while she was at PetSmart. I asked her to pick up some kitty toys and doggy treats to send to some very special friends in Texas. Their kitten, Trixie, is new to the family so she needed some special welcome gifts. And I thought their two dogs, who are now forced to share their home with this new feline, deserved some special treats. Shoutout to JoJo and Tag: I’ve got your backs! Clearly, Tallulah’s long-overdue first PetSmart visit was a roaring success. Wishing you equally exciting and successful adventures this weekend. Cheers!


Fancy Fences

Isn’t it wonderful when humans take something perfectly ordinary and make it amazingly extraordinary? Like when they dip your plain old dog treat in some yummy canned food? Or when they drop ice cubes in your water bowl?

My human mommy/blogging assistant and I walk every morning. I’m a creature of habit, so we usually take the same two or three basic routes. It gets a little boring for Mommy. Not for me, you understand, because the smells are always different, always enlightening, and always fabulous. But Mommy’s sense of smell isn’t quite as advanced as mine. Therefore, we’re always on the lookout for something extraordinary on our ordinary daily walks.

We recently found a couple of fancy fences in our neighborhood. How wonderful that our neighbors have taken the time to transform something so very ordinary into something extraordinary for us to enjoy. So, as we enter the long holiday weekend, I hope you’ll take the time to look for the extraordinary in all the ordinary around you . . . and let me know what you find. Cheers!


Pawing It Forward

Remember when I told you about all the stuff that filled our chariot on the road to BlogPaws 2017? Well, on the way home, we had to find a little additional room for these huge duffle bags overflowing with all kinds of fabulous swag. Everyone attending the BlogPaws conference received a swag bag of goodies specifically selected for dogs, cats, or both. Because both of my humans were officially registered, Tallulah and I came home with two bags . . . filled with dog items, of course.

Those two bags sat on top of the dryer in our laundry room for way too long several weeks, until Mommy finally let us dig in.

Wow, the haul was somewhat overwhelming. We’ve set aside a few things that we think you might like to know about. Look for more on that in the next couple of months . . .

. . . but Mommy and I delivered most of the items to our friends at Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO). ARNO is a nonprofit, grassroots, volunteer organization founded after Hurricane Katrina. ARNO operates a no-kill triage shelter and has found homes for more than 8,300 companion animals. We can’t think of a better place to paw the BlogPaws love forward.

We also delivered a bag of super yummy and healthy food from The Naked Dog. Here’s a little background info from The Naked Dog website:

In 2014, Marco and Bere Giannini started The Naked Dog with the mission of helping pet parents access only the healthiest products for their pets. Within the next three years, The Naked Dog family grew to 11 retail locations in Southern California and built a group of pet parents dedicated to their grain-free, gluten-free in-house pet food and treat brand, Naked. In 2017, The Naked Dog Box was founded to help broaden the reach of this healthy mission, allowing pet parents across the nation to get Naked with its bi-monthly pet food subscription service. Marco, Bere, and the whole Naked Dog family are proud to have kept their Naked Promise: higher quality pet food and fair prices, available to all.

My friend Emma from My GBGV Life wrote an excellent review of The Naked Dog food and subscription service. I hope you’ll click here to read more. As you can see from the picture above, Tallulah was a little unsure about parting with The Naked Dog food, but I explained to her that the dogs at ARNO would really, really appreciate the donation. I think she understood.

BlogPaws is all about sharing the love and improving the lives of animals. I’m so happy that I could paw it forward by delivering treats, toys, and food to the dogs at Animal Rescue New Orleans. Even with my new shades, I see a bright and shiny future for my shelter friends.


Two Blondes and a Beach

All work and no play can make Golden Retrievers a little stir crazy, so I cannot begin to tell you how excited Tallulah and I were the evening that we snuck away from the business of BlogPaws 2017 to feel the sand between our toes and frolic in the surf on Myrtle Beach.

It was my second time to visit the beach (you can read about my 2014 Florida beach trip and Great Golden Gathering here and here), but it was Tallulah’s first time. My little sister is definitely a beach girl. (It’s not surprising. Her Golden grandmother, Katie, is from Lakewood Golden Retrievers in Melbourne, Florida. My humans and I actually met Katie on our Florida beach visit almost three years ago. At the time, we had absolutely no idea that Tallulah would join our family one day. Life can be funny that way. But I digress.) My human mommy says that if we’d dropped Tallulah’s leash at Myrtle Beach, she would have swum to Cuba. Luckily Daddy kept a tight grip.

If you have four paws and a tail, there are a few of things that you need to know about visiting Myrtle Beach. Animals are not allowed on the beach between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. from May 1 to Labor Day. Dogs must be on a leash at all times and–I know all of my friends know this, but some people need to be reminded–please pick up after your pets. Humans go to the beach to feel the sand between their toes . . . not something else. 😉 And for the humans who will be joining their pets at Myrtle Beach, there is plenty of paid parking at little lots all along the beach. My humans learned the hard way, however, that the meters do not take American Express and they do not accept $20 bills, so Daddy had to run across the street to get change. Trust me . . . it was worth it.

Our beach visit was quick, but we’ll cherish the memory forever and ever. When I close my eyes, I can still feel the sea breeze blowing through my hair and my feet sinking into the soft sand. It was magical. Wishing you a magical weekend that creates moments and memories that last forever. Cheers!


BlogPaws 2017: There and Back

After 825 miles, four state lines, and a night in Atlanta, we finally reached our destination: BlogPaws 2017 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I was so ready for four nights and three days of nonstop learning and networking . . . unlike my little sister, who was one big yawn.

The Bee managed to perk up, however, when we got into our hotel room and she realized that we had another floor-to-ceiling window. That girl loves a floor-to-ceiling window. (Check out my last post to see how much she loved the window at the W Atlanta – Midtown.)

It’s hard for me to describe to you just how wonderful a BlogPaws conference is. There are dinners and lunches with keynote speakers. Yep, that’s my little sister, Tallulah, on the big screen as everyone is arriving for lunch. And by everyone, I mean everyone: humans, dogs (on leashes and in strollers), cats (mostly in strollers), at least one bearded lizard, a ferret, and a therapy rat.

Animals even attended the fancy awards ceremony dinner . . . after walking the red carpet, of course. That’s a photo of my little family.

There were educational sessions all day long, and pets were welcome to attend. I got to assist Dr. Julie Buzby at her session, “All Hands on Dog: Ten Touches that Could Save Your Dog’s Life.” (That’s Dr. Buzby on the left and my human daddy on the right. I’ll be doing a blog post on the ten touches later this week so you humans can keep my dog friends healthy.) I look pretty alert in this photo, but mostly Tallulah and I just slept through the sessions while my humans did a lot of note-taking. We definitely perked up for our visits to the exhibit hall, where more than 50 exhibitors shared information about pet products, pet health, pet food, pet toys, pet training, and pet treats. More importantly–to Tallulah and me, at least–they also handed out samples. We’re pretty sure that heaven will be a lot like that exhibit hall. I’ll share some of my favorite products in the next couple of weeks . . . just as soon as my human mommy finishes unpacking the two huge duffle bags of goodies that we brought back home.

BlogPaws 2017 was a whole lot of activity . . . maybe just a bit too much activity for my little sister.

Alright, I’ll admit it. Between the meals and the educational sessions and the happy hours and the visits to the exhibit hall and meeting new friends, even I needed a little nap or two.

What? A girl can’t sneak away from a conference for a little beach time? It’s been almost three years since the first and only other time that I felt the sand between my toes. But when I set foot on Myrtle Beach, the pure joy came rushing back. It was Tallulah’s first trip to the beach. To say that she’s a beach girl, too, would be perhaps the biggest understatement ever. Tallulah loved, loved, loved the beach. Be assured that I will be sharing more pictures and stories from our beach afternoon in the next few weeks.

And just like that, BlogPaws 2017 was over and we were back in Atlanta and checking into another W Hotel.

Unfortunately for Tallulah, the W Atlanta – Buckhead does not have floor-to-ceiling windows . . .

. . . but it does have floor-to-ceiling mirrors, which she enjoyed almost as much. Really, little sisters can be so silly.

After dinner at pet-friendly Seven Lamps restaurant and a restful evening, we reloaded the chariot and started the long drive home to the Big Easy. Our excellent adventure had come to an end, but our wonderful memories will last forever. We saw so many sites, met so many nice people and their pets, learned so many new things, and had so much fun. Thank you, BlogPaws, for making it all possible. My humans are already talking about the next road trip the four of us will take. Stay tuned!


The Road to BlogPaws 2017

Last week my sister and I went over the river, through the woods, across four state lines, and approximately 825 miles on our way to BlogPaws 2017 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. If you don’t know about BlogPaws, here’s a little something from the BlogPaws website to introduce you:

BlogPaws is an inclusive, global community of pet enthusiasts who write about and support pets via social media. We connect brands with pet parents and pet parents with each other, 24/7/365.

The nice people at BlogPaws also present an annual pet-friendly three-day conference offering blogging and social media education and connecting bloggers with brands. So that’s why we loaded the chariot with two portable dog crates, a dog bed, a small cooler, enough dog food to feed two dogs for six days, dog bowls, beach towels, dog toys, dog treats, fancy dog collars for the awards ceremony, a few bottles of wine, two computers, two suitcases filled with human clothes, two dogs, and two humans. Surprisingly no one had to ride in a rocking chair tied to the top of the chariot. (That’s a reference to the old Beverly Hillbillies show. Click here to refresh your memory.)

Our first state-line photo-op was in Mississippi. (You might recall from my trip to Florida a few years ago that my human mommy is obsessed with getting photos at every single state line, despite my human daddy’s reluctance to stop. Once again on this trip, Mommy won . . . most of the time.) Tallulah was looking mighty proud in front of that Mississippi sign because she was born in Mississippi. Daddy’s hand and our poo bag holders made a nice little cameo in this photo. You’ll notice this as a recurring theme along the way.

Our next state-line stop was Alabama. Now I have a little something to say about Alabama and its “welcome” centers. This beautiful “welcome” center was under constructions last time we drove through “sweet home” Alabama, so we visited a temporary center where a very welcoming lady invited me in with my humans and told us all about a beautiful dog-friendly Alabama beach. My how things have changed in the last few years. If you’re in the market for a “NO PETS ALLOWED” sign, forget about it. Alabama has bought every single one and installed them all over their “welcome” center grounds. We did find a small patch of grass on the other side of the semi-truck parking that allowed pets. Tallulah and I made our little stop, posed illegally in front of this sign, and then hit the road.

My feelings about Alabama softened somewhat when I spotted this sign. Monroeville is the hometown of the human Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird and my namesake. Now if Mommy and I had been alone when I saw that sign, we would have made an immediate detour. But Daddy was behind the wheel and he had a schedule to keep, so Mommy barely captured this photo through the window. Maybe next time.

It’s a good thing that Mommy’s through-the-window-photo skills are so outstanding because by the time we reached the Georgia state line there was no stopping Daddy. He said that we were almost to Atlanta (where we would be spending the night) and we’d take pictures there. Daddy won that one.

So the next time our paws touched the ground we were in Atlanta and checking in to the dog-friendly W Atlanta – Midtown, where we were completely and totally spoiled rotten. Tallulah enjoyed the view out of the window . . .

. . . while I enjoyed the comfort of the bed.

Our hotel was just steps from beautiful Piedmont Park, where we went for a lovely walk before meeting Atlanta friends for dinner at Henry’s Midtown Tavern. After much food (for the humans at least), a fair amount of adult beverages (again, just for the humans), and lots and lots of water for everyone, we said goodnight to our good friends and walked back to our hotel to recharge before starting the final leg of our road to BlogPaws 2017.

It seemed as if Tallulah and I had barely gotten into the car the next day when our humans woke us up for the final state-line photo-op in South Carolina. Moment of truth: Tallulah and I slept for most of the trip. Occasionally we woke up, looked out the window, repositioned, and went back to sleep. It’s good to have chauffeurs. It’s also a good thing we got so much rest on the road, because our next stop would be Myrtle Beach and BlogPaws 2017 . . . where the action was nonstop . . . and I cannot wait to tell you all about it . . . after I catch up on my beauty rest.