Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Bird and I had our first assignment as a registered therapy team last weekend and it was a great success from all sides. The camp we attended is for families with children who have been diagnosed with cancer. It affords them a chance to get out and do fun things together and with other families/kids in similar situations (arts and crafts, zip line, horseback riding, pool, lawn games, jumpy house, etc...). Therapy Dogs, Inc. has been asked to have dogs present for several years now, and they are apparently always a big hit. This year was no different, and a few kids and parents remembered some of the returning dogs from prior years.

I was afraid it was going to be a sad and depressing day, but it was actually quite fun and light. Yes, there was a young boy missing an arm (my favorite), a couple were obviously undergoing chemo, one used a crutch to get around. But they all had such super attitudes and big smiles on their faces, you generally couldn't guess which sibling in a family had been diagnosed with cancer. The staff was also fantastic and was obviously doing everything possible to make the day fun for the families.

You never shook the fact that these were kids facing unfair difficulties and futures, but damn if they didn't make my day when it was supposed to be the other way around. Here are a few pictures I was able to sneak in (always after asking parental permission, but the real names of the kids and the camp will be kept under wraps).

Before the families arrived for registration, the staff needed a little dog love to get the morning started:

This is Sadie, another therapy dog Bird tested with. This was her first gig as well.

Sadie's owner makes bookmarks for all of the dogs for every occasion. She has another dog who has been a therapy dog for several years, so she has bookmarks for the kids' cancer camps, veterans' get-togethers and parades, etc..  The kids loved them. (I gave one to my ex-3yo-boyfriend and I think I won him back).

This little girl was fearless and completely entranced by the dogs. Her mother told me she had matured a little since last year as she hadn't put her finger up Bird's nose. Not two minutes later, her finger went up Bird's nose. But like a good little therapy dog, B just stood stoically and took it.

This little boy was awesome. He lost an arm to cancer and his shirt says Campers Can Do It All. The little boy stick figure on his shirt is doing all different activities. And he did, too, including leaving a trail of popcorn on the ground for Bird wherever he went. Even if she wasn't around. He dropped some under the table and one of the other dog owners said, "You dropped some popcorn for X." He said, "No, that's for Bird." To her credit, she did not steal one kernel of popcorn or stick of cotton candy from anyone. Frankly, I was more concerned when I saw all the balls out on the lawn. Balls of all sizes and bounciness, all kinds of things to be thrown in, through and over other things. She stopped and gave the cornhole toss a second look, but otherwise was a champ at ignoring what was going on with the balls (though to be honest, if a soccer game had broken out, it would have been all over).

Bird meets Gazpacho the rabbit. Who I will never believe is a rabbit and not a muppet. The softest thing I've perhaps ever felt, this rabbit was like every child's dream of their stuffed animal come to life.

Bird still cared more about Gazpacho's owner than Gazpacho. I guess I can safely get a bunny.

I'm not sure what it is about dog noses, but B's got a workout. All this little guy wanted to do was stand there with his hand on her nose. So we did.

Bird and I enjoyed ourselves so much we stayed for two shifts. This town is generally pretty hot in the summer, so the therapy dogs do 1.5 hour shifts. We got lucky and it was fairly cool on this particular day so we stayed for three hours and could have stayed longer. They invited us all in for lunch, but I figured we were pushing our luck on the behavior front and we all called it a day.

All of my dogs have been great with kids, one even better than B because he simply ignored them, even if they tortured him. But I'm not sure any of them would have wanted to go through what she did for three hours and enjoyed it and interacted as well as she did. I was really proud of her. I was also really proud of those kids, not one of whom was anything other than gentle and kind to her.

A successful day. I only needed one bourbon when I got home. I'll remember it for a long time and can't wait to do it again.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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