Toby Full of Heart

I like my personal, peaceful sits. Ya know, those times when breezes and people pass by without relinquishing their troubles … asking me to understand something I care not to appreciate at the moment. My sedentary self on a comfortable chair, outside any coffee shop or bistro, furnishes me breaths I cannot get inhaling busy air while going about daily congestions. Yesterday. Business passing by in which I didn’t need to be involved. Human interactions less interested in the iced green tea placed just within my reach than what was waiting inside. Nearly perfect as the early afternoon sun’s shade crept across a marginally wobbly iron table. A nice breathing space shared by all – a table, a deserving man, the slight early summer breeze, and Toby … a little guy who teaches all of us ToBe full of heart.

He was a little fretful an hour before this picture was taken. Can’t say I blame him. The “experienced” ladies in charge of his care appeared to be concerned about everything swirling around the outdoor patio. They were sweet … don’t misunderstand my words. Toby did the best he could to slowly find his way around the unfamiliar maze of sixteen metal legs and four familiar human legs. The older countesses of this blog did come across their happy breezes as well on the upper side of their table as Toby twirled beneath. I suspect this was the situation even before I walked by to enter Panera Bread. Loved for sure, he is. I’m sure.

Loved for years. Toby isn’t young. Cataracts kept him from moving too fast. Casual glances in his direction between my sips of tea didn’t appear to make him move much. Either his interest in my interaction was “meh”, or he couldn’t see me. I’m so inclined to believe the latter is true. I need to wonder this … Yes, unconnected “peaceful sit” time is valuable, but being tossed off by an aging canine can sting a bit.

In between Toby times, there were times ToBe absorbed in heartfelt thoughts. Just passing by, they were. Not completely soaking in all of my time, but here and there. Too many deep, pensive notions in a row – in combination with the near perfect weather – would have slunk my body into a three-hour Sunday trance the likes from which no “Flavorful & Craveable” smelling salt could bring me back. Maybe a flaky, chocolate croissant? … mmm, possible.

I considered how busy we can be. This isn’t new to any of us, is it? The cars pulled in and out … customers came and went carrying their orders. Smiles – I think were genuine, but I am not one to judge. Most, if not all, who sat as my concrete companions under the strip mall roof entertained their afternoons with phones in one hand. Expected busyness in 2021. Even I checked my friendly messages once in a while. It is what we do. We want to stay engaged in something – connected to busyness – even when really easy early summer breezes offer us time to get away from all of it.

I considered how difficult big changes can be. When casually over-the-shoulder spying on the gentlewomen of the Panera patio, I had to wonder how many changes have taken place during their, assumed, nine-ish decades of life. Clearly in their late 70’s, possibly 80’s, they laughed through conversations I couldn’t clearly make out (and, for the record, wasn’t trying). Were these the same friendly laughs carrying them through the deaths of spouses? Sisters loving each other once again as they did when loving parents passed into energy eternal? Are salads and sandwiches the daily connections they need to small-bite the large change pains that are still sitting in their lives?

I considered how wonderful friends can be. I’ve said this before and will continue to say it. Quite straightforward is this safety net of comfort, support, and advice. When we are too busy and going through a major change in our life, friends support us. They tell us what we need to hear – even if the advice is not exactly framed with words pleasing to our ears.

While all of this circled around the table and the inside of my cup became more melted ice than tea, Toby appeared from under his lunchtime abode. What emerged in plain view was the heart on his coat. I couldn’t resist the notion to believe his heart was more than black on white in front of my eyes.

Only after considering what’s truly important in life, does one’s heart appear. I didn’t see it as he slowly scurried about earlier. It was seen only when I was ready to see it. Toby’s heart is inside his aged little body, too. He can’t see very well. He can’t move fast. Chances are good – if I ask the nice ladies – there would be other ailments he has. In his frailty, however, he reminds us there’s goodness all of us can see in our change and busyness.

Life isn’t easy. I guess that’s the point here. It’s a lot nicer for me when I can have my personal, peaceful “sits”. When hearts are wonderfully placed in my life – unexpectedly – I must ask, “Toby, or not to be?”, …then take that comfortable path to a small hamlet where coffee shops and bistros exist as breezy escapes. To be full of heart is the only way forward – inside and out. It’s tough, but as long as friends have our back, we don’t have to see everything clearly.

If this is good enough for Toby, it’s good enough for me. Glad to have a new friend.

Bubbles near the Heart

Picture courtesy of TommiAnn Tromme

Some pictures are. Just are.

If there is one to capture our escaping from the past twelve months, this is it. Cheery canines, or that magnificent young girl? … Be that. To be one of those reflecting floating fantastics, in between the smiles and joy, would be heaven on earth as well. Bubbles near the heart of that child. Yes, some pictures are. Just are.

It doesn’t have to be just our release from pandemic restrictions, either. To be fair, we’re not as far removed from those woods as she is … running across a green field with passion I wish some adults would have toward popping the covid bubble. She has fight and energy. Joy and love. There’s a direction in her expression I rarely see in worn, half-tired adult faces who’ve lost perspective on bubbles in their lives.

Myself included.

Bubbles in the work we do to support ourselves and those we love.

Bubbles in what we believe about our self-worth.

Bubbles in our relationships with friends and relatives.

These, and many others, have been forgotten. I’m sure you can think of more. We forget these don’t last long – only a short lifetime. Cherishing them must be a priority while we enjoy the oxygen we’re so fortunate to have.

They aren’t perfect. We expect them to be most times, though. This young angel isn’t concerned about perfection. She’s pushing forward into an unknown future. With bubbles as helpful sidekicks, this pink-booted explorer finds her way across imperfect, rolling blades of grass to discover new ideas, colors, smells, or reflections from the beautiful sunlit day. She simply lives the imperfect life of innocence – apart from our complicated adult life of bubble-popping.

It’s just what we’re conditioned to do. And, it’s ok.

Sure, we’ve lost our child-like perspective. This world needs adults to, well, be adults.

Every once in a while, though, maybe you could step away from all of it and blow a few bubbles while standing in a field. Probably, if a few non-pernicious pups are willing to participate, they could join in. An afternoon away from the smudgeness of a workday, or a weekend when the sun is friendly and skies are open to it? Yes, find the time and an inexpensive dollar-store bottle of soapy liquid with a cheap, plastic ring inside. Field your dreams – if only for a few minutes.

This won’t pay the cell phone bill or ward off this crazy covid thing going on, but maybe – just maybe – it’ll help you escape from what ails your adulting bones that can’t seem to move the first ten minutes of every day.

Bones I wish I still had to keep up with the energy this young girl seems to have. I need fresh grass under my feet and a warm, quick breeze across my face … and a few sticky bubbles.

She has what it takes. I don’t know her. Permission was so graciously granted to use the photograph. Having an inkling what this picture represents to her family, I can share a portion of the reply I received after asking: “…I just love sharing her sunshine with the world.”

… And I can add one more bubble to my universe. A bubble I won’t be quick to forget.

Life is difficult. We know this. Look over your bubbles you may have forgotten and see if there’s time to play with them … if only for a few minutes with the passion and energy of a child.

You are you always. You just are – and that’s ok, too. Just like this picture.

The Lab, King

He’s a handful. A handsome one, according to my good friend, Joel. His outlook? I’m inclined to agree. A king in his lavish world. So much so, he’s named, “King”.

Not hard to imagine why his name is beautifully attached to royalty from any imagined canine country. Labrador-Latvia, Canine-Croatia, or Doggie-Denmark would each welcome his highness into their castle of splendor with one glance upon this magnificent pose. He’s begging the question … if he could ask with words, “If not me, then who?”

No doggy. Simply, no doggy I know at this time in my life. One paw down slightly compared to the other, a smokey white light glancing off his right snout, and that sneaky, ever-so-slender reflection coming at us from his right eye all give us a sense of puppy pompiness. The circumstance of this photo opportunity was, I’m sure, 50/50 impromptu/planned as Joel loves staged shots. I’m almost sure there are treats and teases behind the scene, but not 100% digesting the suggestion. Regardless of the motivation, King is the king of this moment.

Moments like this, right? Pets and their owners. Correction. Humans and their owners. Kings and subjects, queens and servants.

Variations of this frame, in all probability, have been clicked through many camera phones since I started tapping moments ago. Long haired hounds and short-tempered toy poodles wearing tiaras on their noggins. Setters sitting behinds against not-so worn carpet. Beagles – bellying up in front of windows without stained glass panels – posing proudly for their subjects. Sit-stay. Waaait. All verbal commands falling on the floppy ears of flighty, figity, yet finely furred monarchical masters of our happy expectations.

We truly are subject to their royalty. They own us…and I’m glad they do. We’d be lost within the kingdom of our minds if they weren’t ruling from their cozy corner beds and lazy, droopy eyes.

Not just dogs, of course. Queenly cats and joker gerbils qualify as well. Pets are princely no matter what form they take and we gladly let them assume the role.

I don’t see Joel much. A few times weekly as we meet for a breakfast chat with friends. King is never at his side during these morning moments. Frankly, even without Covid restrictions, there’d be no room for his beefy frame … King, that is.

Joel is lanky, has very large hands compared to his slim shoulders, and is an expert woodworker … not that this fact has anything to do with his cantankerous personality. The hair he sports appears unkempt as the middle part holds it all at bay. One glance, and you’d spot his uniqueness right away: a specific sway in his gate, articulate thoughts when he speaks to you, and an insistence you get to the point of your story.

His claim of not liking me very much is testament to the exact opposite. My words frustrate him, but he listens with attentive ears every time knowing the outcome. That end result being his complete understanding of “my” unique qualities opposite of his. I ramble on because I am me … I tell quality jokes because I am me … and I poke him with words, again, because I am me.

Enter King in Joel’s life. Joel’s respite from the likes of me. King sits and listens to his words without judgement. He accepts all while rejecting none. In doing so, being a king who pardons all the day’s troubles in a servant who is seen as an equal…

…Which puts the picture above in a whole new perspective. Joel admits King is handsome. I do wholeheartedly agree! This peppy puppy is, indeed, “The Lab, King” – a stately one; however, look again.

King is extending a hug – an invite to all of us, not just Joel. I want to curl up under his two paws and rest for a few minutes. A non-judgemental, kingly hug would be wonderful just about now for all of us.

All of our pets want to be here for us if we’d let them. I have a feeling we do, otherwise we wouldn’t have them. Today is simply a reminder, I guess.

So, they rule over our hearts and, at the same time, serve our emotional needs when we require that space be filled.

Hug a hamster, or search out solace from a salamander. Rest assured they won’t understand your words. Hey, Joel never understands mine, but he respects my friendship just the same. There’s hope and peace whether animal or human, so keep plowing ahead in your fields and knocking on the doors of the castle. The King is listening and will welcome you into his world someday for a hug.

What a wonderful day that will be.

Show Me Chloe

Ok. Since you asked. Here she is once again.

This past July 3rd, I introduced you to Chloe, the puppy. She’s still scampering about in our neighbor’s yard, tethered to – in her happy, anxious mind – a rather annoyingly short lead. If not, every whim and whisper nature provides would have her half way to China by now. This is her world. Her “I see Doug and want to give him something to think about now” universe.

“U” see, I am not one of those whims and whispers, supposedly. Considering I’m only that one letter off of being a dog myself, you’d think Chloe and I should be can-do, man-dog sypaticos. I think we are. She … well, … may think so. At this point, I’m not so sure. The occasional side belly rub gives me some puppy-cred and the special ball toy we play with at times sheds wonderful light into our friendship, however, one rather annoying habit of hers strikes a sour note across my heartstrings.

Being my canine neighbor across our not so well traveled avenue, she stares uninterrupted at me with her sad, wanting eyes. Beautifully calm, still, unwavering, she sits a few blades of grass from the edge of a driveway no more than 40 or so paces from my five trips back and forth on my property – loading the van for a day ahead. I always see her out of the cautious corner of either eye, depending upon which way I walk … careful to not make direct contact with the beast-ette. It is a dangerous game we play, for I would be tempted to smile uncontrollably at her insistence that I immediately approach – abandoning all my business needs at the moment.

One of any intelligence should assume, when finishing the task of loading said van with time to spare, this barely-out-of-puppydom would then welcome the very person to whom such pleas were advanced, right?

Uhm, wrong. That sounded too abrasive, so let me phrase it another way: Chloe wants me to come across and play a few minutes with her, then doesn’t, then does, then doesn’t, then …. you get my point.

If she wasn’t so damn cute and petable, I wouldn’t play this dog and mouse, “who wants to be a schmoozer the least” game at 7:30 in the misty morning. She sits there with her little butt barely on the grass, leash extended to its full length, … and brown marble eyes staring across like arrows lasered on my heart knowing full well I have a blue racquetball somewhere. Ah, the little, round rubber morning ball. It isn’t me she wants at all …

So, I walk “casually” over, pacing my step as if approaching a sleeping bear. Chloe’s tail wags a bit left and right and her, now, slightly larger than puppy body still does not move. Then, I’m only five steps away, a few seconds later, when she abruptly jumps a high-dee-ho, her leash gives a sigh, and back to the porch she runs … taking a path of zig-zags and look backs as if to say, “Ha! … gotcha again! .. Ya big sucker!”

There is no licky-lapy, jump into my arms, nice to see you moment. No Lassie found me alive in a well revelation. She runs from me the very moment I reach down – extending my arms to caress the very compassion and love she so wonderfully extended to me only seconds earlier. I, somehow, got a version of the smelly anti-dog plague in the four-point-six seconds it took to cross the street; OR, perhaps Chloe is playing a game, as usual.

It IS a game. A big freakin’ game I get sucked into almost every morning. Why? Because I’m me … and you’re you … and you’d do exactly the same thing, so don’t judge me.🤣

The lure of cuteness overload is exhausting sometimes. Chloe is sweet. I’ll continue to dance the dance. After a few minutes of rah-rah back and forth, she will settle and we’ll have some quality time as I sit on the stoop on her front porch. Ball-bouncy and side-scratchy morning time, as afforded by my nice neighbors, are important to Chloe, I guess. After all, she’s only a dog and I can only pretend to know what goes on inside her fuzzy little noggin’.

As for my brain, well, it’ll never change much. In about 45 minutes, the pleasure sensors will trigger puppy chemicals once again as I carry heavy coolers out from my commercial kitchen to the van. She’ll be sitting there … staring at me. Geesh.

I’ll not resist. Can’t. Show me Chloe and I’m done with all self-control. The best way to start any morning … on her terms, of course.

The dance begins …