The Bridge Club

Elton HillsI grew up in a fairly idyllic neighborhood. We had sidewalks on which to roller skate, or throw annual bike parades. Basketball hoops in the driveways, a skating rink and sledding hill. Dad’s who went to work in the morning, and ate supper with their families every night. Mom’s who led girl scouts, baked class treats and made sure you got home for dinner when the street lights came on. We had sandboxes to play in and sprinklers to run through and played house in the basement and danced to the Monkey’s in the living room. On summer nights we sat on the porch and watched the big kids drive by, flew kites in the school yard and made forts under the picnic tables. And every third Wednesday night of the month our Mom’s played bridge.
On the day of bridge night at our house, I would come home from school to the sight of two card tables set up in the living room. The “bridge cards” set out and new bridge tallies on the tables. The bridge tallies usually had a theme, depending on what time of the year it was and there were always small dishes of candy and peanuts. On the dining room table the dessert plates and coffee service was set and there was always something special made for the “bridge club”. Yes, on the third Wednesday night of the month the neighborhood Mom’s ceased being mothers and became, “The Bridge Club”.  Bridge tallies

As a child I can remember laying in bed listening to the slap of the cards, the murmur of conversations and the bursts of laughter. Always wondering what they were talking about and how as a group they could set their tone so that little ears upstairs could not hear anything! Bridge night was sacred, Dad’s went to the basement, kids made themselves scarce and bedtime was adhered to, no whining or complaining. If we were lucky there was a little extra dessert made for us.

I am not exactly sure what year the bridge club started. Suffice it to say, it has been around as long as I can remember. Well over 50 years of cards, stories, and laughter. Kids grew up, and one did not. Parents died, and grandchildren were born. Anniversaries were celebrated in silver and gold and retirements flourished. Cancer and Alzheimer’s, new houses, new neighborhoods, RV’s and winter’s south. Life moved on every day but for the third Wednesday night of the month.

Eventually the third Wednesday night was traded for the third Thursday afternoon as spouses died, and eyes grew dimmer. Dessert was traded up to lunch, and great-grandchildren were born. Canes and walkers, hearing aids and trifocals had all been added to the mix, but cards and stories and laughter remained. Bound together by tradition, friendship and a deck of cards, eight women, over 50 years, a story in and of itself. On Monday they will gather, one less in their group, to say goodbye to Beverly. Seven women, bound together by tradition, friendship, a deck of cards and love.

Bus Riding Poodle!

Vivian added a new volunteer venue to her resume this past week. She is now an official Life Care Medical Center volunteer! Life Care is the hospital and nursing home in our neighboring city of Roseau, and we got interested in going there when we met Deb the RN at the health fair in Warroad last October. It took some time, a few emails and a call to the local bus to figure out the “How” and on Monday we had our volunteer orientation.

As some people know, I am visually impaired and no longer able to drive a car. I can see, but some things are distorted and other things may appear to be closer or farther away than they really are. I tend to trip over non-existent bumps in the road, walk into door jambs, and have given up on applying mascara, because the wand ends up in my eye more often than not. Technology is my friend, and I love my kindle, my 40 inch TV, my IPad, and my 32 inch computer monitor. I also love my chauffer, Mr. Puppyjackpot, who takes me wherever I need to go. Marvin flight at 5:30 AM on a Monday morning? No problem. The grocery store, the pharmacy, the bank, the Warroad Senior Living Center, he is on it. But asking him to take me to Roseau, to volunteer seemed just a bit over the top. Therapy Dog work is my dream, not his, and he already gives up an hour and a half each Saturday to take me to the Senior Living Center.

According to their website the FAR North Transit bus is GENERAL PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, and is for everyone. It is handicapped accessible transportation and anyone can ride regardless of age, race, sex, religion, or income. So did anyone include a black, standard poodle therapy dog? A few emails later and I had my answer; my therapy dog that was going to work at the hospital would be allowed to ride the bus as long as I was with her. Vivian is a really good and smart therapy dog, but so far she has only been allowed to work if I am with her, so no problem there!

Monday, I took the afternoon off, went home for lunch and picked up Vivian and her volunteer gear. Mr. Puppyjackpot dropped us at the parking lot at work where the Far North bus picked us up. As he opened the door the driver looked at us a little skeptically.
“Is that your therapy dog, the poodle?”
“Yes, this is Vivian” I replied.
“I thought she would be little”
“Is she too big to ride?” I asked.
“No, but they said she would ride on your lap.”
“She might, she fancies herself a lapdog and she has never been on a bus, so she might be a bit timid” I told him.
“OK, I got room, come on up”

Vivian walked up the steps with a little prodding, walked to the front seats, jumped up and took the window seat. I sat alongside her. As we headed down the road, Vivian sitting regally next to me, the driver kept shooting her looks in the rearview mirror. “I have never seen a dog like that!”

“A standard poodle?”
“No, a dog that thinks it’s a person”
“That my friend, is because you have never met a standard poodle!”

At the next stop Vivian watched as a man entered the bus, greeted the driver and sat across from us. Vivian leaning forward, turned her head and stared at the man, which I will admit was probably a little rude, but she is a dog.

“Tell your dog to quit looking at me”
“Vivian, stop looking at him,” at which point she turned forward and gazed out the window.
“Your dog understood that?” the driver asked.
“Apparently” I replied.
“What kind of dog is that again?”

And from the back of the bus, came the reply; “A very smart dog!”

Vivian is a therapy dog, volunteer, bus rider, poodle ambassador and yes a very smart dog!
riding bus

Poodle Commands

Mr.Puppyjackpot and I are heading home, after a weekend trip to the cities for our first ever Wild Hockey game. It is Monday morning and we are currently traversing the “bog road”, which reminds me of my first trip down this road. Almost 16 years ago I moved to Warroad with my heart poodle, Anna. This road gave me a serious pause, in the “this is a good move” mantra that was running through my head, and occasionally being said aloud to Anna, who was happily snoozing in the backseat next to my prized possession, my personal computer. Yep, it was on this road that it dawned on me that I had never asked if there was internet connectivity up here, and based on the road, the trees and the overall lack of civilization I was a bit concerned that my PC might become a doorstop!

My fears were unfounded, Warroad had dial-up, and while slow, it allowed me to connect with my poodle peeps on the informative, fun and somewhat volatile “Poodle Support Group”. Who knew that all these years later I would be sitting next to my husband writing my blog on my iPad, happy to be headed home. 16 years ago I knew nothing about husbands, IPads, or blogs! I wrote stories, but on my PC in Word Perfect!

Today on our way north, I pointed out the rest area where Anna and I stopped on that initial trip, and it got me thinking about those early years with Anna. She was not quite three when I moved to Warroad, the same age Vivian is now. She loved a car ride and like Vivian would jump in the back seat and snooze until we got our destination. It did not matter if the trip was 18 minutes or 18 hours, she would lay down in the back seat for a little nap. However, just as I remember doing as a child, at every town, she would pop up as though to ask “are we there yet?” On longer trips she would occasionally sit up, woof once, and lay her head on my shoulder which was her signal for “get off at the next rest area please”!

Anna was not quite two when she discovered the horn. I was living in Shaker Heights Ohio, and would often take her with as I ran errands. A couple of places I frequently stopped at were the dry cleaners and a favorite Chinese food restaurant that were in the same strip mall. One day while waiting for my clothes, I heard a horn honk. Turning around I saw Anna in the driver’s seat of my car, so I smiled and waved at her through the plate-glass window of the storefront. As I turned back to pay, I heard another short bleat of a horn but paid it no mind. One more somewhat longer blast and the owner of the cleaners wondered aloud, ” who is honking their horn?”, with a shrug of my shoulder’s I indicated I had no idea, went out to the car and praised my sweet poodle on her good behavior in the car!

A couple of days later I went to pick up my Chinese food order. I am patiently waiting for my food when I hear a short beep, followed a short bit later by a slightly longer beep, then beep, beep, beep in rapid succession. In walks the kid who delivered for the restaurant asking, “who owns the poodle in the red Oldsmobile?” I indicated it was me and asked if something was wrong, to which he replied, “I think she wants you to hurry up, she is sitting out there honking the horn!”

So my city poodle, who knew to stop and sit at every curb, knew which way was right and which was left, learned another new command that week. That age-old obedience command “No Honking!”

Peggy and Anna 1995

Peggy and Anna 1995

There is a reason they call it a Nursing HOME!

Not long ago I read a facebook post that likened prisoners to residents in nursing homes. In fact it stated that prisoners were treated better than nursing home residents. I have to admit, I physically recoiled when I read that statement. I have actually worked in a prison, filled with incarcerated adult males and I currently volunteer in a nursing home. To equate one with the other, when it comes to CARE-taking is, I believe, inaccurate and unfair.

I am not talking about funding, or resources, I don’t want to get into that debate; but this post was simply saying that prisoners were cared for better than those in nursing homes. Really? What are the metrics behind that statement? How many nursing homes or prison’s, for that matter had the writer been in? What is their definition of care?

I am in a nursing home weekly. I know the nurses, the aids, the activity coordinators, the receptionists, the cooks and the housekeepers. I have watched them clean up rooms, serve food, hold hands, play bingo, do nails, serve a Pepsi or a cup tea, locate a favorite CD or bring their puppies and new babies in on a day off. This in addition to also taking care of the residents health needs; no small task when we realize that most people don’t enter a nursing home due overwhelming “wellness”. Viv and feathers

I have watched nursing home caregivers provide a space for memorial services, serve the lunch after the memorial (because that is what we do in Minnesota) and I have seen them lead the memorial service when there was no one else to do it.

I have also seen them cry. Cry when a resident dies; cry while hugging a family member. Yes, even cry along with the volunteer dog lady the first time she experienced the death of one the residents she visited.

Frankly that wasn’t my experience at the prison. Three meals and a cot, isn’t the same thing at all. Now I am not saying that the people who work in prisons don’t care. I certainly did. But it is different kind of caring and a different kind of caretaking. And by comparing the two you belittle the nursing home professionals, the family members and the residents. A prison is where you stay, because you did something wrong. A Senior Living Facility is home.
Viv and Peggy volunteering