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Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Old Girl Mila

I love my old dog Mila (pronounced Meela). She is somewhere past 13 years old, and she has severe hip dysplasia, as well as arthritis in her hips and spine. But despite all that, she still loves to go for her daily walk with me and our other dog, although her pace is very slow.

Lately, Mila has been staying very close to me. If I'm watching television, she will be either on the big bean bag in the living room, or snuggling with a pair of shoes I have removed but not yet put away. If I'm in my office, she will usually be found in a corner, watching me. When I leave the house, she will lie by whichever door I used to exit. If my daughter is home when I leave, Mila will whine and cry until I come home.

I found Mila while living in Houston; she was pregnant and apparently had been dumped in a neighborhood greenbelt. It was obvious she had been an outside dog, as she wasn't housetrained, and she had  no concept of toys. She never did learn to play. When outside, she could often be found in the plants at the edge of my yard. Inside, she would rest behind a chair.

Mila has always liked to keep to herself. Despite that, however, she loves attention from me. She tolerates being brushed gently, and having her nails trimmed, although that is usually a 4-step process, with her tolerating the torture of having only one foot done at a time. When she has had enough, she just gets up and leaves the room.

Our favorite part of each day is the time I spend with her just before bed. She loves her bed, which is cozy and soft. An old blanket makes it even cozier, and the bed's three high sides make it nice to lean against. I get down on the floor, give Mila a kiss on the head, stroke her ears and tell her she is a good girl and that I love her very much. I call her all three of her  nicknames: Missy Lou, Piglet and Sweet Pea. Then I give her a neck massage. I think that is her favorite thing in the whole world -- a massage of her neck muscles. It is obvious how much she enjoys the massage, as her eyes close and her body relaxes.

Mila has been with me since she was about 18 months old. We moved from Texas to California, and then to New Mexico. She has traits of both beagles and Labradors. Her coat is the color of a yellow Lab, and very thick. But it bears the tell-tale markings of a beagle in the cream-colored tip of her tail and paws, and her droopy ears. She howls and sniffs like a beagle, and she has the appetite and gusto for food of both beagles and Labs.

I know that the time is coming when Mila's hips will no longer be able to support her, and that I will have to say good-bye to my old girl. Until then, I will cherish each day with her and celebrate the unqualified love she has given me.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Grateful for Everything

Isn't this a fabulous sentiment, expressed by that lovable loser, Charlie Brown, and his faithful dog Snoopy? Look at the joy on their faces and in their bodies. Pure exhilaration. No worries, no fears, no 'what ifs' -- just gratitude.

I started to wonder whether it is possible to set aside just one day to be grateful for everything and everyone in our lives. I don't think it will be easy. Difficult people, traffic jams, uncooperative 'customer service' representatives and a myriad of other things always seem to spoil an otherwise good day. It is so easy to focus only on the hassles in life and on the things we wish we had, but don't.

So today, I tried to think about everything for which I am grateful as I encountered it. Going for a walk, I appreciated the beautiful blue sky and white clouds, the mild temperature and breeze, and living in a state of wondrous natural beauty. I was grateful to see and hear sandhill cranes foraging in the fields, to hear the honking of geese as they flew overhead, and to have a quiet, traffic-free place in which to exercise. I was grateful for my warm jacket and my reliable car, for my nice house, and for my daughter and dogs awaiting my arrival home. 

Think about the things for which we should be grateful, but that we take for granted: running water (I learned about this a year ago when my water pump died and we had no running water for three days until the pump was replaced), electricity and heat. I am grateful for the food in our house, for my clothing, my wonderful bed and the blankets that keep me warm.

I am grateful that my daughter still lives at home and that we still enjoy spending time together. I am grateful that my dogs are doing well despite the infirmities of age, and that my body continues to serve me well, with only the occasional annoyance of bursitis and arthritis.  I am grateful that my father, at age 87, is still able to live on his own, drive and take care of himself.

During these tough economic times, I appreciate my pension and Social Security income, and the fact that my daughter has a part-time job. I have money enough to get me through the remainder of my life, with some left to my daughter and favorite charities.

I appreciate the opportunity to help others through my volunteer work at a food pantry and with a wolf rescue group. I am grateful for my ability to write, for my college education, for finishing (finally!) my book and for living in a place where I can indulge my passion for photography.

I am grateful to have medical insurance, for my physician and physical therapists, and for the ability to get prescription medications when I need them. I am grateful for our veterinarian, who recently treated Tia and made her feel better.

Today's exercise in gratitude again opened my eyes to the blessings I have and gave me a sense of calm when I started to get irritated about something insignificant. I believe that consciously thinking about gratitude on a regular basis is a good reminder of all the people and things in our lives that give it meaning. I don't have the discipline to do a gratitude list every day, as some people do, but setting aside a day once in a while to focus on gratitude provides a great opportunity to think about our blessings.