Today we’re celebrating sweet Miss Harper Lee’s 11th birthday. Seven years ago (with a little help from her human mommy/blogging assistant), Harper Lee posted her first ever birthday blog. More birthday blogs followed in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Life got busy, as it sometimes does, and Harper Lee’s blogging assistant failed to share our celebration of Miss Lee’s 10th birthday in 2019. Rest assured, we had a fabulous time . . . including a weekend in the New Orleans French Quarter complete with a stay at the Ritz Carlton, where Miss Lee was quite the sensation.
While most ladies of a certain age might choose to slow down a bit, Harper Lee hit the road to her 11th birthday with a busy Visiting Pet Program (VPP) assisted therapy dog schedule. As a member of the MSY K9 KREWE, she brought smiles to travelers, employees, and flight crews at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
Through VPP’s Reading to Rover program, Harper Lee helped children at a local library learn to love books and reading and Golden Retrievers.
And once a month she shared her love with residents and staff at an area nursing home and patients, families, and staff at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. In June 2019, Harper Lee earned her AKC Therapy Dog and Canine Good Citizen titles and officially became Denham’s Harper Lee THD CGC.
Miss Lee even made an appearance on the Smoothie King Center big screen (lower right) before a New Orleans Pelicans basketball game. It was a busy year for our girl, so on December 31, 2019, she officially retired from therapy dog life. She’s spent the last few months enjoying her Golden years with leisurely neighborhood strolls, long naps on the lovely bed that the airport gave her as a retirement gift, and basically doing what she wants to so when she wants to do it.
With all of the ups, Harper Lee’s road to her 11th birthday also came with a few bumps. She’s battled some skin allergies and, much to her disgust, has had to endure fairly routine baths. On the bright side, she now gets to eat alligator kibble. Miss Lee highly recommends alligator kibble. She’s also had some pretty challenging UTI and bladder issues, but a battery of tests at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine indicates that little Miss Harper Lee is, overall, in fairly tremendous shape.
So today we celebrate the past 11 years of life with Harper Lee and we set out on the road to her 12th birthday celebration. The events around the world over the last few months have reinforced one certainty: Nothing is ever certain. We’ll cherish each and every moment along the way, and we will be forever grateful to all of you for joining.
Miss Harper Lee’s Family
It’s been a minute . . . or two . . . since I’ve seen you. When last we visited, the new year had just begun and I shared those silly resolutions that my human mommy had for me. No worries; that foolishness didn’t last through the first week of 2018. So what in the world have I been doing for the past couple of months?
Baby New Year played a cruel trick on us in early January with an unusually cold blast of Arctic air. Our lows dipped into the 20s for several nights in a row and the highs didn’t get above freezing. I know that doesn’t sound too impressive to my friends in colder climates, but for a couple of southern Golden girls living in New Orleans, Louisiana, it was pretty chilly. We had ice on the sidewalks and broken water pipes throughout the city. On the positive side, Tallulah and I were cordially invited by the humans to join them in their bed. Turns out Golden Retrievers can be super heat generators and quite in demand during severe cold snaps.
Fortunately, that cold snap didn’t last very long and by late January Tallulah and I were out on the town. We joined the humans for a day in the French Quarter in honor of our city’s 300th birthday. Here in New Orleans we love a party, so we’ll be celebrating throughout the year.
By early February, the humans were deep into Mardi Gras madness. We didn’t see them much. It seems like every time Tallulah and I woke up from a nap, they were headed out the door to another parade. And when we did see them, we hardly recognized them. It was just a blur of wigs, sequins, and beads.
As soon as the last piece of king cake was consumed and all the Mardi Gras decorations were safely stored, the humans packed their bags and flew south . . . all the way to Hotel Punta Islita in Costa Rica. They awoke to this magnificent view every day, spent hours on the beach, kayaked to the ocean, learned about macaw rescue and howler monkey habits, and generally fell in love with the country and its people. Mommy said the only thing that could possibly have made their trip better would have been a couple of Golden Retrievers. I’m assuming she meant Tallulah and me.
The humans returned from their getaway just in time to join me at the my Visiting Pet Program annual meeting and picnic. My fellow volunteers and I devote the year to bringing love and leaving smiles at nursing facilities, hospitals, summer camps, universities, and conventions. Tara’s Toast to Volunteers gives us an opportunity to celebrate the people and pets that make the program such a success. This year, we got to ham it up in a photo booth and visit with a pet psychic. She told my humans that I’ve lived many lives, which has helped to make me very wise. I think she nailed it.
So now you know what I’ve been doing. I’ve missed you, and I’m eager to catch up. What have you been doing?
To understand my October Photo Challenge entry for YOUR NIGHT, you have to understand my day. Saturday started with a Visiting Pet Program outing to see my friends at Colonial Oaks Living Center. I stayed true to our VPP motto–Bringing Love and Leaving Smiles–as I went from room to room to see the residents. I also visited with the staff, who needed a little cheering up after a sad week. There was no time for a nap when I got home, because my LSU Tigers had an important football game against the Auburn Tigers . . . or War Eagles . . . they can’t quite decide who they want to be. My Tigers found themselves in a slight scoring deficit early in the game, but I didn’t give up on them and they rallied to capture the win. It took a lot of effort on my part to get that victory for my team. I was tired, but I had one last social engagement for the day. Tallulah and I closed out the night by accompanying our humans on a little Magazine Street stroll to celebrate New Orleans’ Art for Arts’ Sake. We visited with artists, saw lots of costumed humans who were getting a jump-start on Halloween, and stopped into our favorite watering hole where our human mommy enjoyed the air conditioning, our human daddy caught up on college football scores, and Tallulah and I did what we usually do: attracted and reveled in attention. By the time we returned home, I was a bit exhausted. I curled up on my blanket on the couch, which is kind of a special treat for me, and I said goodbye to a busy day and hello to a relaxing night.
Tomorrow’s photo challenge is BEST FRIEND. I’m pretty sure you can guess who that’s going to be. 🙂
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!