Category Archives: Pets

Sometimes Angels Have Whiskers

FullSizeRender-1I couldn’t help but notice the ancient rat terrier sitting next to the wheelchair-bound man in the parkway. Both were fixated on the tree service workers trimming the gangly branches of a giant maple in the front yard just across the street. The terrier quickly shifted its attention to me as I approached.

Dogs. They’re such icebreakers.

I asked the gentleman if I could pet his dog and he said of course. A half-hour later, Bill and TK were my new friends.

TK, I learned, was short for “Tiny King”. Clearly, he was quite something in his day but he’s 16 now and well, not the ball of energy he once was. (I understand, TK.) Gray face, cloudy eyes, but still sporting an “I’ve got this” attitude; he was a typical terrier, oblivious to his limitations. He reminded me of my funny Jack Russell, Smudge, who died this year at 18. We used to call her a “little thug in a clown suit”.

TK had stopped me in my tracks, but it was Bill’s story that broke my heart. Continue reading Sometimes Angels Have Whiskers

Relaxation Lessons from a Jack Russell Terrier


Young Smudge
Young Smudge

Relaxing never came easily to Smudge. Indeed, for most of her life, she has struggled mightily with it. Terriers (especially Jack Russells) are just like that; if you’ve ever had one, you understand. Now in her twilight years (she’s 17+), she has become something of an authority on this topic (among others) and I’ve picked up some useful tips from her.

Whether you’re going on vacation, planning a stay-cation, or just enjoying a day off, here are 10 things Smudge has taught me that will help you relax and replenish: Continue reading Relaxation Lessons from a Jack Russell Terrier

Smudge the Dog Weighs in on: FOCUS

If Smudge could talk, she would tell you there is nothing in the world right now except that tennis ball and the very real possibility that someone might kick it or throw it.  You could dump an ice chest full of Gatorade on her head like they do to the winning coaches at the end of a championship football game, and she would shake it off and be right back on her target.

She is never going to stop being focused; that’s just part of being a Jack Russell.

When I was first starting out in my career, someone called me “intense” and I heard it as a criticism.  It sounded like an annoying personal trait, like I had taken focused too far.   For years, I tried really, really hard to be laid back.

Wow, I’m just not.

I value clarity and I admit to being a bit of a perfectionist.  I like to be absolutely sure about things if at all possible.  I hate having to go back and correct mistakes and clean up messes when – if I had just been paying closer attention in the first place – I’d be moving forward, not backtracking because of a major derailment.  And I can be very hard on myself, can you tell?

Smudge?  Not so much.

She never worries about screwing up.  She never worries, period.  She is focused with anticipation, not fear.  She is expecting a good time, something positive.   She wants to play and let me tell you, she’s hard to ignore.

Ah, and if you engage with her, Smudge will be all in, chasing and retrieving that ball till it’s slimy and disgusting.  She’s really good at it, too, even at 15½ .  (If I had ever learned to throw a Frisbee, maybe I could have trained her to be truly competitive as a Frisbee dog.)

The game is over when she finally collapses in exhaustion, which doesn’t take nearly as long as it used to.  But here’s the thing – she never even pretends to be laid back; she simply throws her whole quivering self into whatever she’s doing.

That’s just who she is.

I can’t change my basic nature any more than Smudge can stop being a Jack Russell, but I can learn to pay attention to what is motivating my intensity (there, I said it) and if it’s negative, I can make a conscious effort to let it go.  Yes, I can relax.

“Relax” is a command Smudge has yet to learn.

What motivates you to focus?

Rats with Good PR

Trespasser in my yard this morning

Sometimes you can get away with being destructive and annoying, as long as you’re cute, have a fluffy tail . . . and good PR.  Squirrels are like that.  They are members of the rodent family, but they are from the better-looking side.

We tend to treat everyone – including wild animals – differently when they’re adorable.  

We see squirrels in our yards and trees, in our parks, on running paths, near our picnic tables, and we don’t freak out.  We’re amused by their lightning-fast antics.  Some people even toss them a scrap of food and encourage them to come closer.

It’s true that given a chance, they’ll raid your bird feeder and dig holes in places you wish they wouldn’t.  They sometimes get in your attic and have families up there, which is generally frowned upon.

But they’re frisky and furtive and they mainly keep their distance.  When they do come close, we’re not particularly threatened (unless your mother has warned you that “wild animals that act docile are probably rabid!”)

But put a rat the same size in the same locations and we’d be screaming our lungs out (and I, for one, would be googling the nearest exterminator).  We wouldn’t be encouraging them with food or thinking they’re precious.

It’s all in the packaging.

People can be like that.  They can look good on the outside and behave according to others’ expectations.  They can be industrious and well-behaved, even entertaining.  But maybe they’re not really like that on the inside.

Maybe we’re all rats; some of us just have better PR.

What do you think? 

A Lesson from Smudge the Dog

Last Sunday I came home from church and Smudge, our 15 ½ year old Jack Russell terrier, was SO glad to see me it was, well, ridiculous.  Dancing around, doing spins, leaping in the air, yipping like a puppy.

I was kind of pleased at first – I mean, who doesn’t want to get that kind of crazy-happy welcome?  (I am pretty awesome.)  But then she just wouldn’t calm down.  She IS a Jack Russell.  I wanted the mayhem to stop so I reprimanded her firmly.

Didn’t work.

Then, you know what I realized?  SHE DIDN’T HAVE ANY WATER.

She was glad to see me because she knew I was the answer to her problem: She was thirsty, I was the source of water, and that made her happy!  She trusted that now that I was home and she had my attention, she was going to get what she needed.

That didn’t initially occur to me because it wasn’t the kind of reaction I might have had if I were dependent on someone else to meet my basic needs.   I would have probably been all whiny and dramatic, maybe trying to elicit guilt or pity to get what I needed.

But not Smudge.

I started thinking about whether that would be a better approach for me as a human.  What if when I am confused or fearful, instead of praying about it in a whining, begging kind of way, I truly believed that prayer would reveal the answer to me and I got excited?  Seriously, that’s not my default response.

How humbling.

And yet, isn’t God the source of all that I need?  Maybe not always what I want in the moment, but truly what I need?  What if I really came to grips with that and with the fact that when I pray, I have God’s attention, and He is far more faithful to give me what’s best for me than I am to give Smudge what’s best for her?

I’m going to try that.  I’m going to pray and focus on the fact that God knows and wants what’s best for me and I’m going to choose to be excited for that.  I may not dance around and spin.  I certainly won’t yip like a puppy (how undignified), but I’m going to trust that He’s the Giver of all good gifts and He wants to give His best to me.

It worked for Smudge.  She got a full bowl of clean, cool water and lapped it up appreciatively.

How do you approach God – exuberant and expectant like Smudge, knowing you’re going to get what you need?  Or tentative and apologetic, like me?  Have you ever learned a lesson about God from your pet(s)?  Please share in the comments!