Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bedtime Poetry: Silentium






Sometimes before we go to sleep, my mother will read us some poetry.  I help my mother with the harder words.  Whenever she learns a new poem, I give her a big kiss as a reward.  For a while I tried giving gold stars, but they just stuck to my tongue.

This is part of a poem called Silentium! by Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev.  I like poems that have exclamation points.

Speak not, lie hidden, and conceal
the way you dream, the things you feel.
Deep in your spirit let them rise
akin to stars in crystal skies
that set before the night is blurred:
delight in them and speak no word

Live in your inner self alone
within your soul a world has grown,
the magic of veiled thoughts that might
be blinded by the outer light,
drowned in the noise of day, unheard
take in their song and speak no word.

    


I am often surrounded by people, both at work and outside of work.  I dont mind because I love people and they love me.  But all this loving can get noisy and distracting, what with the kissing and the cooing and the constant Oh, Shamzi, youre so cute.  So when Im not working, its important for me to be still, in my mind and my body.  Some people call this meditation.  I dont do anything formal, like set aside a special time or place or put on a leotard.  I just try to be still in my everyday life and activities.
I like to be fully present in whatever I am doing, wherever I am, whoever Im with.  For example, lying in the sunny patch of our apartment and basking in the warmth, with eyes closed, belly asking to be rubbed.  Sitting on a patients warm lap, and being petted with complete love and tenderness.  Taking a walk close to nature, like in the park, the beach, or the forest.
   
We are so lucky to live in a city that contains these amazing pockets of nature amidst the concrete and the skyscrapers, like tasty bits of chicken in my dinner bowl.  I love the feel of soil (or the rocks or the sand, depending on where we are) beneath the pads of my feet.  I have to tiptoe around wet, muddy patches because I dont like getting my feet wet, and my mother wont always carry me.  I love the smells of the different trees, the sounds of rustling leaves as the sneaky squirrels try to avoid me, the sight of the sun streaming through tree branches like stained glass in a cathedral.  My mother and I can walk for hours without speaking.   The world is such a sacred place.

If we are constantly thinking or talking or doing things, then we are not paying attention to what is around us and more importantly, what is within us.  The great thing about being a dog is that I am not expected to speak.  I can be silent.  I bet people wish they could be dogs too. 



Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Human Color



 
Dogs, like people, come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. And dogs, like people, have their preferences. I for one prefer being around dogs my size, especially Chihuahuas. Maybe we feel a kinship because we look alike or share some of the same DNA. Maybe it’s because we can see eye to eye, or should I say, sniff butt to butt. 

I know someone who loves Corgis and falls into a swoon whenever she sees a Corgi. Someone else goes crazy for blue-eyed Huskies. I ain’t mad at them for liking other dogs more than they like me. My mother loves all dogs but she specifically wanted a small one for therapy work. Don’t get me wrong. Dogs of all sizes can be therapy dogs, but the big ones can’t hop up on patients’ laps without squishing them or jump on beds without breaking them. 

Would you believe some people actually dislike or even hate certain types of dogs? Some people can’t stand little dogs, because they are “yippy” and “annoying,” or dislike pit bulls because they think they look “scary”? It’s one thing to have preferences but I don’t understand why there has to be any hate or dislike involved. After all, we can’t help how we look. I was born looking like soft homemade caramel with a chocolate drop for a nose. But that doesn’t make me good or bad. (Seriously, how can caramel and chocolate ever be bad though?) How can one type of dog be better than another? Aren’t we all alike underneath our fur? 

Which reminds me of a story. (You saw this coming, right?) One day a patient asked my Mom to sit down and talk with him a while. The nice man was very large and had an equally large voice to match. He used to be a boxer, and lived a tough kind of life. Now he has lost much of his memory, but he remembers some important things, which he wanted to share with my Mom. She sat down on the chair next to him, while I snuggled on his lap. 

Nice man: Do you know what my color is? 

My Mom wanted to be sensitive, so she asked if he could clarify what he meant. 

Nice man: Just tell me what color you think my skin is. 

Mom: Brown-ish? 

Nice man: (laughing) No! Try again. 

He held out his bare forearm, closer to my Mom’s face, so she could get a better look. 

Mom: Dark brown? 

Nice man: (laughing louder) NOPE! . .. Ok, what color is your skin? 

Mom: Umm…. Kind of beige-ish? 

Nice man: NOOOPE! 

He whooped in delight. My Mom laughed with him, because he seemed to be so tickled by this exchange with her. It was like when a child tells a riddle, and he giggles in delight because he KNOWS no one will ever guess the answer! 

Nice man: Do you give up? 

Mom: Yes! I give up. What color IS your skin? 

Nice man: HUMAN COLOR! My skin is HUMAN color, and so is yours. All of us are the same. We are Human color. 

Laughing even harder, and shaking his head, he said, “People are so dumb! They don’t get that!” 

The nice man is right. The color of our skin or our fur doesn’t matter. Underneath, we are all the same. Humans are humans, dogs are dogs, and so on. We are all the same spirit inside of different appearing bodies. 

I don’t know how any of us ended up here, but we are here, and we need to live with each other. So let’s be cool. Let’s be kind. I love all of you, no matter who you are or what you look like or what you’ve done. 

Pass that love on.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

On Sharing




This might be hard to believe, but not all people want to be nice.     ...Me, I live for being nice. I wake up ready to be nice. I go to sleep dreaming of how nice 
I will be the next day.  
As my Mom tells me, I am like the sweet gooey center of a jelly donut.  If I had my own car, the license plate would read NCESHAMZ.


                One day my Mom and I were visiting a patient.  I knew the man was nice, but for some reason he wanted the world to think he was mean.  He scowled and acted like a grumpasaurus.  I just sat in my Mom’s arms, as I do, and looked at the man as he ate his pizza.  The man tried to ignore me, but soon he succumbed to my animal magnetism.  (Everyone does, sooner or later.)  He asked my Mom, rather grudgingly, “Do you think he would like some pizza?”  Would I ?!?  I LOVE pizza!  It’s my favorite food, next to chicken.  My Mom responded, “Well, you can offer him some.” 
I sat up even straighter, and my tail started wagging uncontrollably.  The man tore off a small piece of the cheesy crust and held it in front of my face.  I took the treat from the man’s hand, being careful not to slobber, and I ate it daintily.  My Mom taught me good table manners.  Just because I look like a dog doesn’t mean I have to eat like one.  Afterwards, I blissfully licked my lips and looked into his eyes again, hoping for more.
Instead, the nice man (for he was nice, despite acting so gruff) said, “You know, the little bugger just sits there looking at me, like I could be a decent person.  He makes me want to share...  Stupid little bugger.”  He said a few other words that I’m not allowed to repeat. But he was smiling inside. And then he gave me another little bite. My Mom later put me down onto his lap, and he stroked my head gently with his big hands for a while. He loved me.

Now, I’m not sure what a “bugger” is, but it kind of sounds like booger.  Even though he was calling me strange names, the nice man liked me and wanted to be nice to me.  I think it is easier for humans to be nice to dogs because we’re so adorable and we’re so happy for every little bit of attention and kindness.  And maybe because we return the love so happily, too. 
          We all have the capacity for kindness and love. But sometimes humans need some help at sharing emotions and expressing their niceness. Maybe, if they just thought of other humans as funny-looking dogs on two legs, being nice might be more of a breeze...   
 People can practice being nice on me anytime.  
        More pizza, please. 


Friday, January 17, 2014

How I Became Shamzi




          Have you ever wondered how I came to be named Shamzi, and not Fido or Larry or Bob?  Gather around, boys and girls, and let me tell you the story, which started long before I was even born, way back in the days of B.S. ---Before Shamzi.
          In 2006, as my mother was driving home on a rainy day, she found a dog running in the road.  The poor thing was cold and scared and too smart to be caught easily.  So my mother called her brother, my Uncle Faz, who cornered the dog and grabbed him with his big brave hands.  They took him to the animal shelter and tried to find his person.  No one claimed the little guy so my mother adopted him.  She named him Rumi, after one of her favorite Persian Sufi poets from the 13th century. 
Even after he left the shelter, Rumi the dog was still very scared, like maybe his life before my mother was not so pleasant.  In addition to love and care, Rumi also needed a lot of time and attention, which would have been hard for my mother to give at the time.  Instead, she found Rumi the perfect home with her lovely friend, Margaret.  In his new home, Rumi transformed from being a trembling little scaredy-cat to the happiest dog in the whole world.  He is always smiling.  Little did he know, as he ran into the street on that cold, rainy day, he was running into the arms of his new life.  As Rumi the poet (not the dog) wrote, “What you seek is seeking you.”
          Fast forward to January 13, 2010.  My mother, completely on a whim, went to the animal shelter to check out dogs, with no expectation of finding The One.  I’ve already shared with you the story of that magical, mystical day, about how our eyes met and we felt an instant connection.  My mother said she wasn’t sure about adopting me, but I know she was sure.  Look at me!  How could you not love this face?  As for my name, my mother thought since there was already a Rumi in the family, why not name me after Rumi’s closest friend and spiritual guide, Shams of Tabriz? My formal name is Shams, or Shamz, but my everyday name is Shamzi.  Thank goodness Rumi’s best friend wasn’t named Mortimer.
The name “Shams” is a big name for such a little guy, but I do my best to live up to it and be a spiritual guide to my mother and others.   As Rumi the poet (not the dog) wrote, “Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
 


Monday, January 6, 2014

Shamzi the Red-Nosed Reindeer



You know Christmas is just around the corner when you see reindeer in the halls.  People at my mom’s work reported multiple reindeer sightings around Christmas-time.  Why, Santa must be early!  His reindeer are everywhere!  Is that Dasher in the cafeteria asking for a salad to go?  Is that the police giving Prancer a ticket for being double parked?  Hee hee hee.  Don’t tell anyone, but it was actually I, Shamzi the Therapy Dog, disguised as Rudolph, Santa’s head reindeer.  I fooled everyone.   
 

 
 Why would a Chihuahua-Terrier mix be dressed as a reindeer, you ask?  After all, it’s not Halloween or Mardi Gras.  Well, the holidays can really be a lonely time for people, especially in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.  No one likes being sick, and certainly not during the holidays.  So I try to bring a little cheer.   

  
  My work day isn’t nearly as long as Santa’s, but it starts early.  After a hearty breakfast of chicken and cereal, I don my costume, check my antlers, and shake my little caboose.


Then we hit the road.  Mom drives because my antlers block my peripheral vision.    


Once we arrive at work, the throngs rush out to meet us. 

 I put my mom on a leash so she doesn’t get lost in the crowd.  Everyone wants to greet me and kiss me.  So many people want to hold me and pose for pictures with me.  Instagram, here I am! ...Then I make my rounds, the pitter patter of my paws tapping urgently on the linoleum floors.


  Out of the way, people, I’m on a mission!  Got love to spread, cuteness to dispense, 
like colorful sprinkles on a cupcake.  
 My poor mom can’t keep up with me, as I drag her through the halls and from room to room.  (Mom thinks she’s in charge, but we both know who really holds the leash.)  The hospital staff, who sometimes feel tired and overwhelmed by their work, scoop me up in their arms as if I were a baby, 
momentarily forgetting that I am a ferocious reindeer.
The patients, who are often so sad and silent, perk right up when they see me.  Some of them can’t speak English but they convey their delight in their own language.  They gesture with their hands.  Their eyes light up.  They cuddle me, and I cuddle right back.  You see, it doesn’t matter whether they speak the same language, or whether they even believe in Santa Claus or Christmas. Or anything. I do know that they must believe in love, because that is the basic, truest language of all. And love is what we all are about.


 By the end of the day, I am one pooped little reindeer.  I plop into the bed that my mom keeps in her office and take a well-deserved snooze, antlers and all.  Rudolph’s work may be done for now, but Shamzi the Therapy Dog will be back on the job soon because people need love 365 days a year.