Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kennel Days

Working at a boarding kennel provides me with entertainment I never dreamed possible before this job. Some of it is fun and lighthearted, while occasionally my heart is broken.

People ask me how I can stand the sounds of dogs barking all day long. What is interesting is that they don’t, even when we have a kennel packed to overflowing. Yes, there are times that everyone chimes in, and some days we simply have a noisy bunch. Breakfast is a prime example of a noisy time. When I drive onto the property early in the morning, it is almost always quiet, with perhaps a lone bark here and there from an early bird dog trying to communicate with someone. But as soon as the kennel workers arrive, the symphony begins. Somehow, the dogs instinctively know when their food source has arrived. Once tummies are filled, it quiets down for awhile, when the dogs are taken outside to play and to go on their potty breaks.

I usually stay on the property for my lunch hour, and enjoy lunch while sitting under a training shelter on nice days. I seldom hear a peep from inside the kennel. It’s nap time, much like in a school kindergarten classroom. Every now and then, a dog will be aroused enough to send out a warning bark, but usually it is ignored by the rest of the guests. An exception is when we have hounds or Alaskan “sled dogs” staying with us. The dogs from the far north will sing to each other with the most mournful songs I have ever heard. I can imagine their relatives up in Alaska sending their voices across the icy tundra as the teams mush their way across the vast countryside. The hounds are an interesting bunch, as well. They will bay, bark, howl – anything to get attention. You’d think they were after a fox or rabbit from the noise they can generate. I enjoy listening to these two groups of animals communicate with each other.

Watching training is educational in itself. When someone brings in their pet for our two week board-and-train, it is often for an animal that has taken over the household, and the owners have no control anymore. Ashley is a wonder, and I love watching him as he handles the dogs and teaches them what they need to know to be good pets and family members. After training the dog, it is time to train the owners, which is also fun to watch. When the dog goes home, we can only hope that the owners will follow through with what Ashley has accomplished with their pet.

There are sad moments as well. Older dogs with health problems touch my heart as I watch them struggle to get up, and sometimes to simply walk outside. There are a couple of dogs who come to board with us who are blind and need to be guided so that they won’t run into something. We also see those with hip dysplasia and other physical problems who have trouble getting around. Getting old is as hard on the dogs as it is on us! And when an owner calls to tell me that their pet has died, it breaks my heart to receive this news. We never delete an animal from our database, but simply make it “inactive,” which is easier on me. I have also experienced the death of an owner, and have seen the sadness and loss in the dog’s eyes. I have shed many tears since working here.

Yes, this job is a good one for my collection of days. Each day is different, and each day offers new lessons. It is a very healthy place for me to be.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A New Kind of Normal

My world has been in upheaval for the past six months. I am not going into detail about what is happening, but I realize that in my collection of days, my days are certainly different now, and I feel compelled to write about them. I am now cozily nesting in a one-bedroom apartment all by myself. It is in an old house that has been converted into three apartments, within walking distance of downtown Monroe, GA. It is quite a change from living on five acres in a piny woods with vegetable gardens surrounding me that I have known for the past nine years. My life is once again in a topsy turvy state of change, and I am doing my best to ride the roller coaster without falling off or getting too dizzy.

When my old kind of Normal got to the point that I either had to escape it or be sucked into something I couldn’t live with, I knew I had to make a change. It took me awhile to work up the courage to do it, but with the help of good friends, a loving and supportive family, many answered prayers, and a dose of humility mixed with courage, I made my getaway. It isn’t easy, and certainly isn’t over, but progress is being made, and I feel like I am on my way in the direction of my new Normal.

I never thought I would be making this many changes at my age, but here I am. Being alone is giving me the chance to spend some time with myself and to figure out who I am. Somehow, I had lost myself without knowing it, and it took moving out to be able to look at everything from a different and broader perspective and to realize that I had become someone I didn’t want to be. My old Normal just had to go!

Fear has played a huge role in all of these changes. I am dealing with my fear, and facing it in a way I wouldn’t have dreamed possible a few months ago. In my new Normal, I am relying more and more on prayer and faith, and while it often seems that my faith is very weak, I am seeing daily that it is stronger than I had thought. It is helping me to face my fear with a stout heart and accept it as part of my new Normal without letting it overpower me, all the while relying on God to lead me through some pretty dark days.

There are new friends in my new Normal, and several old friends have re-surfaced after having been gone for awhile. I have been amazed at the people who have shown up to support me and to help me through some pretty challenging days, friends who I didn’t even realize I had before the old Normal gave in to the new Normal. I am most grateful for these special people in my life.

Yes, life is certainly different for me now, and I am taking each day as it comes in my collection of days with fresh eyes and a new heart. I’m not going to let a single day go to waste, and I am going to make sure I thank God each day, several times a day, for all of my blessings.

I have today and a new kind of Normal.