In honor of Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to those we love, I would like to share an illustration about Human Animal Interactions. Every day I am in awe of the way dogs inspire us to be better humans. I have no words to fully express all the feelings that dogs inspire, but am fortunate to have created an illustration (with a lot of help) that captures how much we love our dogs – even dogs we may have just met. My hope is that some day we will be able to love as freely and show joy with the same abandon as our dogs do. Until then, I will continue to try and follow my dog’s model of love and friendship. The illustration below is a summary of the my research. The illustrations come from a variety of photographs and is a reminder of all the wonderful ways that dogs enhance our lives.
Thank you to Lili Chin for all the fabulous work she does!
Funding for this illustration was made possible by the Josiah Charles Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live with a blind dog? Charlie was only a puppy when I was told that he needed both of his eyes removed. I worried that I wouldn’t know how to read his facial expressions. Trust me, I was worried for no reason! Charlie is one of the most expressive dogs I’ve ever met.
Charlie was at the North Carolina State University in this photo. He was a participant in a research study. After he completed the study I met some of the research team that reviewed the photos from the project. These members of the team were not present during the testing. They told me that he was so happy which made his smile so big that his eyes were shut! I laughed and said “Yup, that’s my Charlie! He shares unimaginable joy everywhere he goes. But, his smile didn’t shut his eyes. His eyes are sewn shut because he eyes were removed due to complications from blindness…” The professor said he learned that after he reviewed the photos of Charlie, but it wasn’t the his first impression of the dog. I find this interesting because it often happens when Charlie meets new people.
Let me introduce you to puppy Charlie. When I learned he was losing his eyes I thought of the Velveteen Rabbit. In case you don’t the story there is a quote that reminds me of Charlie.
Charlie is very Real and incredibly beautiful. He is resilient and doesn’t easily break. He has taught me much over the years. He sees with his heart and soul. When people meet him they know that he sees them even though he has no eyes. It is a wonderful thing.
It took two different procedures to remove both eyes because there were complications after the first procedure. Charlie was a trooper and in this photo he is on the road to recovery after the surgery. You can tell he was a little wary here as the photo portrays one of Charlie’s more serious moments. This serious pup grew up to be very joyful.
Look at his face – my goodness! He is one of the most expressive dogs I know. Well, he is a beagle and isn’t shy about letting you know what he is feeling! In the photo Charlie is about 10 years old and is sharing his unimaginable joy. I am so thankful for his joy.
One of Charlie’s favorite things to do is the “Snoopy Dance!” Yup – up on his back legs … he stands to dance and he smiles a big goofy smile the entire time … it is a sight to behold when a dog with no eyes is dancing on two feet and laughing at the same time. He knows he will earn some sort of fabulous reward for this trick.
Charlie’s head tilt … everyone adores the head tilt. This is Charlie’s camera pose. If you say “Charlie, 1-2-3” he will stop, sit (or lay down) and tilt his head. You need to take the photo on 2, but keep counting to 3. Thank you Kristy for teaching Charlie this trick! Charlie was my active Pet Partner for 8 years and had a lot of photos taken during that time. The camera pose trick served us well. This is Charlie’s official Pets At Duke photo – thank you Diane Lewis Photography for this and many other amazing photos!
Don’t be fooled – the boy can get down and dirty. Somehow I think he is part duck because he almost never is muddy. However, one day he came inside so full of mud. He seemed so proud of himself for being so muddy, that I had to document his muddiness! Notice the ears – they are flipped back. I think the flipped back ears help him cool off, but they can also be a sign of arousal…
How did I ever think that a dog with no eyes would have a face that didn’t have expressions? Between his eyebrows, mouth, and ears there is a ton of information! (the flipped back ear in this case is arousal)
After a hard day’s work even Charlie gets tired and needs to go to bed! This photo is from his early years. You can tell he is younger because his face has ticking showing so he was between 1 and 2 years old.
One of Charlie’s favorite things – to sit on my lap and help me work. I find this photo fascinating because it is like Charlie is watching himself on the computer… only how can he? The photo demonstrates why people ask me “are you sure he isn’t faking being blind?” I know, the dog has no eyes, nothing connected to his optic nerve and yet people want to know if he is faking it… I’m tempted to ask them “what color is George Washington’s white horse?” Yes, he is blind … he just doesn’t need his eyes to see.
Charlie may be getting older but he doesn’t let that slow him down. He doesn’t let a little thing like the weather slow him down. If there was a thought bubble over his head it might be something like “what, you think a little snow is going to stop me? I’m blind. I might older, but I can still get around… I like snow. Let me play. Stop taking my picture already!” You need a Jersey or maybe Brooklyn accent in there too. And did you notice… head tilt…. what do you think – does he always tilt his head the same direction?
Happiness!! More of Charlie’s unimaginable joy.
We all need unimaginable joy in our lives.
Charlie is on the beach. His head is lifted into the wind, feeling the breeze and smelling all the things that a beagle can smell. Sheer bliss… He might not be showing unimaginable joy in the form of the Snoopy Dance or giving you a goofy grin… but this face, this is his bliss face. He loves the beach. I’m not sure if it is because he likes the water (he does) or if it is because he likes the variety of stinky smells! He loves smelling dead fish, all things about birds, people cooking out. You name it he can identify the smells. He can tell you exactly where it is coming from and more importantly where he might snag a tasty treat! If you happen to go to the beach with Charlie – you had better safeguard your burgers!
Charlie with a chin over Ella … Charlie and Ella are best buds and snuggle together all the time. The fact that they are looking in different directions could be that each dog finds different things distracting. This photo was taken on the main traffic circle at Duke on a Sunday morning. There were several cars that kept driving around the traffic circle watching as I took a series of photos which I found distracting. I can only imagine what the dogs thought! Charlie “watched” the cars go round and round!
Charlie still has the smile… and unimaginable joy… and can make you feel special just by being near you. I still get requests for visits with him, but he is retired and has earned the right to be a couch potato, prowl for critters in the back yard, open all the kitchen cabinet doors (and climb inside) and howl at strange sounds.
Charlie’s parting thoughts are for you to find your own unimaginable joy. The list below are some of things that are Charlie’s happiness which is why he wants you to know that you should feel free to add whatever it is that makes you feel unimaginable joy.
I ask everyone who calls as a new client “please tell me three things that you love most about your dog” because if you can do this than you haven’t given up hope. If there is hope then change can happen.
I find that even in the most worrisome of cases, people want to tell me more than three things they love about their dogs. This is great news because when a person remembers why they love their dog they will be able to face even the most challenging of situations. Many times when I get a new client it is because “they’ve tried everything else.” My clients need to be prepared to work hard. They need to have a reason why they are working through the issue at hand or we won’t be able to resolve the problem. Remembering why you love your dog is a critical part of the program.
In honor of all my clients and my own dogs I would like to take this opportunity to let everyone know how thankful I am for my own dogs. I want to share why I love each of my dogs with you.
Resilient and amazing – any dog that had both eyes removed by the time he was 4 months old and is able to bring love, laughter and joy wherever he goes – that is beyond amazing in my book!
Persistent – Can find anything with the super-power/bionic nose of his!
Trust and friendship – I’ve learned what it means to take a leap of faith from Charlie who will jump on or off a surface if I tell him it is all clear … he trusts me to tell him that take the jump without being hurt.
Loves to learn, play, and swim. These abilities make Jade a very fun dog to be around! Jade started hanging out on Duke University’s campus as a tiny pup – sometimes I wonder if she’s earned an advanced degree…
Makes sure everyone, human and canine alike, is safe and secure – no matter what we are doing Jade needs to be sure that everyone is safe.
Resilience, trust, and friendship – Jade has several autoimmune disorders but never lets them get her down for long. She is an amazing dog and friend that has taught me so much!
Courage and beauty combined – a brave little girl who reminds me every day that beauty is comes from the inside. We tend to focus on the outside, but when someone is truly beautiful that starts deep inside and pours out through depths of of every cell.
Her spirit – she sparkles … the only dog I know who is so proud that she can do a “down” that she adds a “twirl” to it! I’m not sure if this is because she loves to twirl or if it is because I laugh every time she does it. Either way it shows her desire to sparkle…
Trust and friendship and the fact that she is a love bucket!
A Photo to Make You Smile…
Now it’s your turn – what are some of the things that you love most about your dogs? I’d love to hear from you, if you are inspired to share what you love most with me here. ! If not, be sure to take a minute and write your list down for yourself. Remember to celebrate your dog. Go on a long walk. Play with your dog. Do something special for him or her. That is my wish for you, and all dogs, I hope that you are enjoying and loving your dog today.
It was an honor to give a TEDx Talk in Lizard Creek North Carolina. I was thrilled to be part of the day because the theme was “Shaping the Unseen.” If you aren’t familiar with my dog Charlie, let me introduce you – Charlie is my blind beagle and was my Pet Partner for over 8 years. Much of the work I do with animals is about shaping and since Charlie is blind all the work we do is “unseen.” I hope you take a few minutes and enjoy the TEDx talk – the video is embedded below.
Learning to See With The Heart: Brian Tarallo of Lizard Brain Solutions created illustrations for each talk. It was inspiring to watch Brian work as he captured the essence of each talk. I was happy that Brain was able to capture the heart of my talk in such a beautiful and wonderful way. Plus, I think Charlie would love knowing that he is illustrated as a super-cool hero dog that wears ray-bans!
It was a great honor to be one of the speakers at the Lizard Creek TEDx event. A special thanks goes to Randi and Kathy Dikeman who coordinated the event! There are some great pictures and all the bios of the speakers are listed on the Facebook page for the event.
Celebrate who you are
Trust and believe in yourself
Leave doubt behind
Engage others in your dreams
When you do these things, you will discover anything is possible.
Again, thank you to all who made the TEDx Lizard Creek event possible!
Where I live, one pool remains open the day after the city pools close for the summer so we take our dogs swimming for the day. It’s the annual “Pooch Plunge” and a ton of fun!
If you have never been to a city pool filled with dogs you need to try it some time – it was an adventure! I loved the fact that everyone was engaged with their animals. Cell phones were only used to take photos! People wanted to share how much fun they were having and how awesome their dogs were!
The pool gave away tennis ballsand there were plenty to go around. Some dogs made no secret of their desire to have at least two or three balls in their mouth at one time!
As one dog was getting ready to jump in another dog was holding on for dear life! The dog in the middle of the pool was uncertain in the water and it took her most of the day to learn that she could swim. I’m not sure who felt a greater sense of accomplishment – the dog or her handlers! Once the dog figured out how to swim on her own she was a swimming machine!
It sure looks like this dog is trying to decide whether or not to take the plunge! In the meantime she decided a drink was a good idea. Oh so cute.
Did you know that you can teach a dog to get out of the pool using the ladder? Pretty impressive! This dog was in the deep end and showed no hesitation as she climbed up and out of the pool. Her routine was to take a lap, get out, shake off and then jump in again! If this dog isn’t already enrolled in an agility class I hope they get her enrolled soon.
What do you think? Are these dogs using telepathy to move the ball closer so they don’t have to jump in? I wonder if we put a thought bubble over their heads if it would read something like ” get over here you @#%! ball” or maybe “I’m gonna have to dunk you” or maybe it’s more like “go ahead, stay you where you are, make my day. You know I want to pounce on you and dunk you!” We’ll never know for sure. I enjoyed watching these dogs as they decided how to get the ball that’s for sure!
Meanwhile at the other end of the pool bunches of dogs and people hang out together.
You can’t tell how big the dog is from the photo – it is a Newfie – one of the larger dogs at the pool.
And the littlest dog – a Yorkie… it took him about 10 paddles to cover 1 glide of the Newfie’s! Seriously this little dog could swim a thousand miles a minute. He zipped in and out, around and through all the big dogs. He had a heart of gold and wanted to keep up with all the big dogs.
Dance like no one is watching… I love this picture. It’s hard to see all of the dogs in this photo, but there are at least 4. The spray station was a lot of fun and the dogs loved playing chase games through the “rain” drops! The little girl danced with such joy.
I couldn’t resist putting in a photo of Jade working in the water. Whether our dogs are swimming for fun or working in the water it is important that we remember whatever we do with our dogs, everyone should enjoy it. Jade would have enjoyed the Pooch Plunge, but I would not have been able to keep an eye on her and help others at the same time – that breaks my rule of take care of your animal first. Don’t worry, Jade gets to go swimming even if she didn’t go to the Pooch Plunge.
What I loved most about the Pooch Plunge was everyone was so happy. The joy people had when their dogs were swimming was evident to everyone present. When their dog learned how to swim they glowed with joy.
My goal in the coming weeks is to find a new trick to teach each of my dogs. I want to find something that brings joy to both my dogs and those around them. What about you? Will you me and find a new skill that makes you and your dogs happy?
This post is dedicated to my sister’s dog, J.J. the Zen dog. (6 Dec 1999-12 April 2015).
My sister said it best: “just as our lives were immeasurably enriched by JJ’s presence, we are heartbroken by his loss. We loved him deeply and with all our hearts. He was such a gentleman of a dog, so smart and kind. We will miss you JJ, thank you for being a part of our lives.”
My friend shared these comforting words with me when one of my own dogs passed away: “the sorrow you feel is only matched by the love you shared.” Perhaps others can find them comfort in them too.
It is hard to find the words to ease the pain we feel when a dog dies. Part of what dogs are about is joyful living, which is why we should continue to celebrate their life and remember all the joy they brought us. Maybe this post will bring a few memories back to life and honor JJ’s spirit.
Since my sister is a philosopher maybe she wanted to see if Plato was right when he stated that “A dog has the soul of a philosopher.”JJ taught her there are many reasons to love a dog…
“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift.” ― Mary Oliver
He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion. ― Author Unknown
“A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.” ― Robert Benchley
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” ― Roger A. Caras
“A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.”— Robert Wagner
“A good dog deserves a good home.”― Proverb
The next series of photos are JJ’s “canine family” photos. I’m including all three photos because I love the fact that these dogs gather so closely together to pose for the camera. The third photo I took when I was up for a visit . It is of JJ, Murphy and Maya. We had a great time walking through the woods on a fall afternoon.
“Humankind is drawn to dogs because they are so like ourselves—bumbling, affectionate, confused, easily disappointed, eager to be amused, grateful for kindness and the least attention.” ― Patricia B. McConnell
“I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren’t certain we knew better.” ― George Bird Evans
All animals except man know that the ultimate of life is to enjoy it. ― Samuel Butler
“Dogs are minor angels, … They love unconditionally, forgive immediately, are the truest of friends, willing to do anything that makes us happy, etcetera.” ― Jonathan Carroll
“Dogs, however, leave paw prints on our lives and our souls, which are as unique as fingerprints in every way.” ― Ashly Lorenzana
“All knowledge, the totality of all questions and answers, is contained in the dog.” ― Franz Kafka
“The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. ” ― Samuel Coleridge
“Golden retrievers … in spite of being dogs, they think they are also human, and nearly every human they meet is judged to have the potential to be a boon companion who might, at many moment, cry, “Let’s go!” and lead them on a great adventure.” ― Dean Koontz
“Dogs are … wonderful. Truly. To know them and be with them is an experience that transcends – a way to understand the joyfulness of living and devotion.” ― Gary Paulsen
“The fidelity of a dog is a precious gift, demanding no less moral responsibilities than the friendship of a human being. The bond with a true dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth ever can be.” ― Konrad Lorenz
“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love” ― Goethe
“The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.” ― Johnny Depp
Over the past year there were times when it was just the girls – Murphy and my sister….
“The average dog has one request to all humankind. Love me.” ― Helen Exley
“Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. ” ― Roger A. Caras
“We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment.” ― George Eliot
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” ― Agnes Sligh Turnbull
“Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend.” ― Corey Ford
“He took my heart and ran with it, and I hope he’s running still, fast and strong, a piece of my heart bound up with his forever” ― Patricia McConnell
“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.” ―Rumi
“We humans may be brilliant and we may be special, but we are still connected to the rest of life. No one reminds us of this better than our dogs. Perhaps the human condition will always include attempts to remind ourselves that we are separate from the rest of the natural world. We are different from other animals; it’s undeniably true. But while acknowledging that, we must acknowledge another truth, the truth that we are also the same. That is what dogs and their emotions give us– a connection. A connection to life on earth, to all that binds and cradles us, lest we begin to feel too alone. Dogs are our bridge– our connection wo who we really are, and most tellingly, who we want to be. When we call them home to us, it’as as if we are calling for home itself. And that’ll do, dogs. That’ll do.” ― Patricia B. McConnell
Below are links to a few other pages that continue to tell the love story of our dogs. These pages show how we love dogs beyond measure and then share our heartbreak when our dogs die. They remind us to cherish every moment – even those times when we are up all night with a sick or worried dog. These pages remind us that we wouldn’t trade a moment for anything and if we could we would love to spend just one more day with our furry friends… because dogs really are the best kind of friends to have.
JJ – thank you for being a part of my sister’s family and a part of my life too. We miss you and will love you forever.
EB White“She Doesn’t Answer the Phone” – this is the letter that he wrote about his dog Minnie http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/02/she-doesnt-answer-phone.html
This post is dedicated to Charlie, my blind beagle, who was my pet partner for about 8 years.
When we arrive at a facility sometimes we don’t know who will benefit most from our visit. It may be a patient, a friend, or it might be a staff member.
This post focuses on our hospital visits. Most of the patients we see are on the hematology/oncology unit. Some patients may have just learned that they have cancer while others may be end-stage cancer patients. When we enter a room there might be just the patient or there could be a room full of people. The patient might have received good or bad news that day. Maybe the patient had some treatments that were particularly hard. Or, maybe she is thinking about her husband and young children and how she may not get to see her kids grow up. When we enter the room it takes Charlie seconds to know if the patient needs him to snuggle, play, be serious, or be silly. My job is to watch and follow Charlie’s body language.
Over the years my pet partners have trained the staff to bring them their favorite treats! Charlie started the tradition when the nurses would open IV bags and he begged. The nurses didn’t understand why he was begging when all they were doing was replacing an IV bag so I explained he probably thought they were unwrapping a cheese stick! Honestly, Charlie’s super power is his nose. He had to know that there was no food involved so he was playing the nurses big time. It didn’t matter to the nurses – they caved and brought him treats! When he did tricks and shared his joy with the nurses during our shift at the end of the day he brought much needed levity to the nurses before they went home to their families.
It is easy for me to forget just how magical Charlie is when he works as a therapy dog. I’m not immune to his wonders and I don’t have a shield up to his magical, mystical powers… it’s just that, he’s my Char-Char who snuggles with me on the sofa at night.
In my mind he is like any other dog which is why he is also my Char-Char the dog chases bunnies in the early morning or doesn’t come inside until he is covered in mud!
There is no doubt that Charlie is a special dog. He gives people hope when they have given up. Charlie inspires people to persevere on their path for healing. Charlie touches a person’s heart in places where others have had a hard time reaching. Everything he does is with love, laughter and joy. He does these things even though his world is a dark place which is why he amazes everyone he meets.
I salute my Char-Char whether he is cheering on a nurse, a patient, a family member or he is creating mischief at home. I know that Charlie has a very special gift. I am thankful every day that he is a part of my life.
The following is a story that shows how deeply therapy dogs touch a person’s life.
Jade and I were at the veterinarian because she needed some routine testing. One of our favorite nurses from the hospital came out of the ICU. It took a second for her to realize Jade was right there in the waiting room. As soon as she realized she was looking at Jade a slow smile formed on her face. Her smile started in heart and went to her eyes. She came over and gave Jade a huge hug. By touching and hugging Jade her mood brightened and her sadness seemed to float away. When she learned that Charlie was in the car she was happy! Her mood changed from sad to happy in a matter of a couple of minutes by seeing Jade and knowing that Charlie was nearby. At long last she could introduce these very special dogs to her husband for the first time. Both dogs made her feel better on a day when her cat was recovering from a very complex surgical procedure.
You see, our dogs aren’t just therapy dogs during visits inside of the hospital, school, prison, or wherever it is that we visit. Once our dogs become a therapy dog, they are always a therapy dog no matter where they are or what they are doing. It doesn’t matter if they are wearing a vest that says “Therapy Dog On Duty” or not… to the person who knows our dog as a therapy dog, our dog is always on duty!
Our dogs gladly do their job of relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, making people smile, and basically just sharing the burden of the day. The list of what these amazing dogs do for people is endless. When I first became a Pet Partner with Charlie I knew that people were inspired by him and remembered him, but I didn’t realize just how much he meant to them and their recovery until we had been visiting for about 3 years. The patient was in a hospital rehab unit for spinal cord injuries.We typically see the patients once since they only are there a few weeks at the most.
As we entered the patient’s room I didn’t know that Charlie had a fan. We were greeted with a TON of happiness because the patient and their family remembered Charlie. During our visit they shared with me all the joy he brought them before and wanted to know all the things that he had done since they last saw him!
The level of detail that they went into of our visit humbled me. We spent 15 minutes with them years before but the patient and their family remembered everything about our visit. Charlie was a turning point in their care. They could relate to Charlie and the struggles he had overcome in life. After meeting Charlie the patient decided that “if Charlie can do it, I can do it!” Charlie provided hope and the ability for the patient to persevere in their healing. Oh how happy that made me to hear!!
Over the years I’ve met quite a few people where Charlie has had a similar impact on their life by spending just a few minutes with them. Every time I hear a “Charlie Story” I am amazed and humbled by the impact one little dog can have on another person. One woman swears she owes her life to Charlie because he knew there was something wrong with her foot (at the time she didn’t know it, but her foot had gout, turned septic and needed to be amputated shortly after she met Charlie). Another woman adopted a blind dog in Charlie’s honor. I know there are many other stories and ways that Charlie has touched people’s lives but I don’t usually hear from people after we visit. It is enough for me to know that we make a difference.
Note: this post is adapted from a previous post. The posts about Charlie and therapy work were some of the most highly visited posts so I thought I would try get a few of them back up on the blog. As an update, Charlie is retired these days. He is almost 11 years old and has worked most of his life. He does “visit”with people when we go for walks through Duke Gardens but he no longer goes on official visits.