Tracy K. Lorenz ...


Schlump the Wonder Dog

I grew up in a time where everyone had a dog and, for the most part, the dog was free range.  These weren’t purebreds of anything that ended in “doodle,” these were just dogs.  I had one, her name was Sam.

I should note that Sam was supposed to be a boy but it was discovered that Sam was a girl when the first puppy came popping out on the laundry room floor. Sam was waaaaay ahead of the LGBTQ curve. Sam also killed three of the seven puppies by throwing them down the stairs which was kind of odd for the most laid back dog that ever lived. The vet said she was only capable of taking care of four puppies so she snuffed the rest.  The four that lived (named John, George, Paul, and Ringo) were given away.

I was five years old when we got Sam and I got to pick her out. She was a black cocker spaniel mix with one white foot, she was also the runt of the litter and I chose her because, if I recall, she was the only puppy there that wasn’t hyping out. She just walked over and sat on my foot.

From the moment she came home she was “my” dog. There were five other people in the house but Sam never left my side.  Many a little league game had to be stopped because
Sam escaped from our house and ran over to the baseball field to lay down next to me at shortstop.  Sam’s attachment also made it easy for my mom to tell which of my friends’
houses I was at; all she had to do was look outside and see which porch Sam was sitting on. 

Sam wasn’t the smartest dog. We had a fence between our house and the neighbor’s and when the fence was removed Sam would still walk all the way around where the fence used
to be. I’d take her to where the fence was, step into the neighbor’s yard so she was literally one foot away from me, I’d say “Come here!” and she would turn and run all the way to the street and then run back up the neighbor’s yard to get to me.

One time my Dad taught her how to fetch a ball. He’d throw it, she’d get it and bring it back and drop it at his feet. My Dad was all proud and brought me outside to show me that he had taught Sam a trick. He threw the ball and Sam brought it into the backyard and dropped it at the base of the pine tree my Dad was standing next to when he taught her to fetch. From that point on if you threw a ball Sam would bring it back to the tree.

But she was also an idiot savant.

The entire time I was in grade school Sam would walk with me to school every day, rain or shine, drop me off, and then walk home. At about 2:45 she would get up, walk to school, and be waiting outside when I got out, she even adjusted for Daylight Savings Time. No one could ever figure out how she knew when to leave but she was like clockwork, it was because of this innate skill that my friend Dave Schaab nicknamed her “Schlump the Wonder Dog.”  There was a problem, though: when we moved she would walk me to school but then walk back to the old house. It took about a month to break her of that habit.

I’m only writing this because I found an old picture of me and Sam. As far as I know it’s the only picture of her that exists. I was about six, in my pajamas, and I was on the ground hugging her around the neck.

Sam was my constant companion from my earliest days until I went off to college. She may not have been the smartest thing but she could tell time which truly made her the world’s greatest ... watch dog.

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By Emmanual Hospice

Gone but hardly forgotten: coping with loss during the holidays

The holidays are a time to observe cultural and spiritual traditions, and to celebrate the gift of family and friends.

But what are you supposed to do when, in the midst of so much mirth and merriment, you’re overcome with bittersweet memories of a loved one no longer part of the celebrations we’re supposed to embrace with so much gusto?

“Even when you’re not grieving, this time of year can be hectic and crazy,” says Kaitlyn Cavanaugh, a hospice social worker with Emmanuel Hospice. “So there can be a lot of pressure already. When you also bear the weight of grief at the same time, that really adds to the work.”

Paramount in the process of coping, she says, is to give yourself permission to change or alter your routine – whatever it takes to create a healthy environment that honors where you are on the grief spectrum.

“Maybe because of the grief you’re still working on, you’ll make the decision to go to one fewer party,” says Cavanaugh. “Or maybe you’ll set limits elsewhere. The important thing is to give yourself some grace.”

You don’t have to search far and wide to comprehend the grip that Christmas and other holidays have on us, especially from a social aspect. We’re bombarded from multiple platforms with expectations to spend more, eat more and celebrate more.

Holding fast to traditions can put a squeeze on our time, actually reducing the hours spent with family rather than increasing it.

Cavanaugh suggests enlisting the help of a friend – an advocate – if you’re missing someone gone too soon. She speaks from experience, having lost her own father to a heart attack when he was just 49, while she was still in high school at Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

She also lost a grandmother on Christmas Eve, and Cavanaugh can close her eyes and still see the family photo they took around the Christmas tree that same week, hardly a dry eye gazing into the camera.

“No one looked happy,” she says. “Maybe it wasn’t really something we needed to do that day.”

It helps if you plan ahead of time how you might wrestle a tough holiday into submission, and Cavanaugh offers these tips:

• Take time to acknowledge your feelings. It’s perfectly alright to feel sad if you are grieving – even if it seems the rest of the world is celebrating.

• Have a Plan A and a Plan B when it comes to events and invitations. Don’t feel you have to accept all – or any.

• Enlist the aid of a friend or seek out a counselor. Tell them what you’re going through so they can support you if you need to bail out on an event.

• If a tradition feels like too much, skip it for a year or two. You can always re-visit it in the future.

• Be prepared for a carol or an ornament to trigger a memory. Give yourself the OK to cry.

• Light a candle. Say a prayer. Create or review a family photo album.

In any event, Cavanaugh says to remember there are no absolutes when it comes to dealing with grief.

“Be true to your own needs and give yourself space.”


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