Happy Sunday, March 8, 2020
Good morning and thank you for joining me today. First, I hope you all remembered to spring forward one hour with the change to Daylight Savings time. Besides the loss of an hours sleep last night, we will eventually gain more sunshine at the end of each new day. Yay! Bring on Spring and Summer!
I want to send very special wishes to some amazing and fabulous people. Happy Anniversary to my sister and brother in law, and friends Julie and Dana and Karen and Doug. Happy Birthday wishes to my nephew. I will include my friend Jahna in the mix, since her birthday is coming up too. All of these celebrations are within a few days of each other, so hope your special days are fun and full of happiness and love!
All of these great people, and many others like them (like myself), tie into today’s topic. It’s all about the power of pets. Our mental and physical health is of the upmost importance to each of us. Let me share how pets can play an active role in assisting in this process. Our body is always working in a coordinated effort to maintain a happy and healthy status. What we do or don’t do to support this work will obviously affect our body, mentally and physically. Pets are an amazing pathway to supporting our mental health, which in turn has a positive impact on our overall well-being. We all know the amazing benefits of service animals. Consider the boost a pet can bring to energize your life. Yes, they are a commitment, but one that provides awesome results. If you do not have one, you can always visit someone who does and reap some benefits for yourself. Pets are great for enjoying some outdoor time in nature. Walking, running or just sitting can bring joy and comfort.
I have been a dog lover all my life. As far as I can remember, we always had a dog in our family. I believe this was because my Dad had a great love of dogs. He often told stories of his dog growing up as a kid. He was the youngest of seven children. He said he loved following his five older brothers around, which typically got him into trouble. The boys had a loyal hunting dog that was always with them. One evening the five brothers came home in the early evening. They had been out most of the day in the woods behind their home. The family was seated at the table ready for dinner. My Dad was visibly missing. His mom asked the brothers where he was. At first they were quiet, then said they didn’t know. When my dad’s father inquired the boys admitted to leaving him in the woods. Needless to say, they were immediately sent out to retrieve him and bring him home.
My Dad told me his brothers told him several times to go home and leave them alone. After his final refusal, they tied him to a tree and left him. He said their dog stayed by his side the entire time. It was well into darkness when the boys came back into the forest to get him, with the dog still there beside him. I’m not sure what kind of punishment the brothers received, but knowing my grandfather, I’m sure it was swift and just. Dad told me that was the best dog he ever had. My sister and I were lucky having an amazing dog loving Dad. As much as he would say he didn’t really care, it was easy to see the happiness and joy our pets had on his mental and physical health. Looking back, I know our dogs made me a happier kid too.
As I have grown in adulthood, my love of dogs and animals has increased. I bought my first single family home in the early 80’s and a dog followed that purchase shortly after. It was a sunny Saturday morning when a neighbor a few houses away knocked on my front door. A cute little puppy had been dumped in front of their home in the darkness of early morning. They heard it’s cries and rescued it from the cold. Now they were searching for a home. Many homes in the area had pets. These people had two dogs of their own. My back yard was huge and I couldn’t resist her cute face. I named her Bailey, because she was the color of the Irish cream drink. She was a sweetheart; a lab retriever mix and loved to chew on everything. She brought lots of licks, companionship and constant love.
Early in my law enforcement career I had the opportunity to apply and try out for the Special Weapons and Tactic unit (SWAT). I was honored to be selected for the team. The assignment afforded me the opportunity to work and train with many specialized police and military personnel. One of my favorites was working with the K-9 teams. We often worked in tandem during criminal searches. To optimize these duties, we often conducted joint training exercises. The handlers and dogs are highly trained. I recall a training session when I was hiding in a vacant hotel. I was secreted in a room wearing a bite sleeve. The dog was released to find me. I could hear him running down the hallway. I heard him sniffing at the closed door. When the door opened and he rushed into the room, I recall the sheer power of his bite on the sleeve. His strength nearly took me off my feet. They are truly incredible and smart animals.
When I left SWAT, I requested to be reassigned to the Mounted Unit. I have always dreamed of being a cowboy. This provided me the perfect setting to be a law man on horseback. I had only ridden a couple of times in my life, so learning to ride properly was an incredible experience. Cowboy hat, boots, spurs and a horse named Almond capped my dream. She was an awesome horse; intelligent, attitude and a personality all her own. After a month of extensive training, I was ready to hit the streets of Los Angeles in the saddle. It was my very first day on duty. We were deployed in the Westlake area, west of downtown LA, where our horse trailers were parked. My partner and I rode south and crossed into MacArthur Park near Park View and 6th Street. As soon as Almond’s hoofs hit the grass she fell to her knees in an attempt to graze on the lush green grass. Her sudden movement down nearly launched me forward like a rocket. Luckily for me my reflexes were fast enough to tighten my grip with my legs and grab the saddle horn just in time. I would have surely been ejected if I hadn’t already been expecting the unexpected. My partner laughed, while I pulled her face away from the grass and regained my composure. Needless to say, that never happened again. Over my nearly two-year partnership with Almond, we became great buddies and teammates!
K-9’s and horses, like Almond, may not fall under the description of pets. They still bring the power of compassion and love. Let me share this story to clarify. I always brought my daughter to visit me at each of my assignments during my career. SWAT and the Mounted Unit were no different. I wanted her to see where I worked and understand what I was doing. It was important for me to share that with her so she wouldn’t be fearful of my job. When I brought her to visit the stables, and Almond, it was amazing to see the connection between the two. She is a true animal lover and watching the two interact was heartwarming to say the least. We, of course, had to visit each of the other horses during our stay. It was crazy watching each horse poke their head out of their stall as she approached. They were all anxious to say hello and have their face rubbed as they would dip their head toward her. If that isn’t friendly pet behavior, I don’t know what is. I developed a new found respect for horses, their abilities and intelligence. It was an empowering and thrilling ride to work there.
When my daughter was ten we set out to rescue a new pet. We went to the local animal shelter to take a look. She immediately found and fell in love with a puppy. When she showed me the dog, I recognized an immediate resemblance to my old puppy. It was Bailey reincarnated. My daughter named her Cinnamon, because she looked like the spice. This dog was a retriever lab mix and loved to chew everything in sight. Like Bailey, she was a lover and brought great joy and happiness. As much work as she created, she brought one hundred times more fun. We shared lots of walks, runs and camping trips. Cinnamon was very much a part of our family. She always provided love, friendship and lots of snuggles. Pets make great companions for kids and adults of all ages.
Dogs, pets and animals in general, can bring wonderful calmness and pleasure into our life. Their unconditional love is never ending. They help us reduce stress and anxiety. Pets have the ability to calm our fears and enhance our mental stability. Along with being great companions, they truly work their magic on our brains. When we maintain the balance of our mental and physical health, we enjoy more vibrant and meaningful lives. Animals have the amazing power to energize and boost our moods. It doesn’t matter what your preference is; dogs, cats, horses or some other fun pet. Allow your inner child to come out and play. Relax and calm your mind while sharing fun pet times. They really can improve and revitalize our health.
Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more! The healthy life puzzle is always in rotation. Let’s be healthy and strong mentally, physically and spiritually!
Thanks for your love and support! Embrace Life! Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!