Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dog Diaries

“This is a very engaging dog,” said my brother-in-law.  “I’m not a dog person,” he added, smiling, “but this is a very engaging dog.” 

Over the last couple of weeks, Cleo has been learning that one size does not fit all.  Although her default mode of greeting is still to hop repeatedly on her back feet, reaching her front paws to the greetee’s thighs while simultaneously trying to clasp the person’s hand in her mouth, it has clearly begun to dawn on her that not everyone finds such behavior charming.  She has long known that her mom, her dad and her trainer, Pluis, aren't amused.  The kids at school, on the other hand (probably a hand sodden with puppy spit), can be counted on to let her get away with it.  But I have a top secret plan to deal with this behavior! 

Still, Cleo has shown lately that she understands that individuals must be treated, well, individually.  My little girl, now just weeks away from her first birthday, is growing up. 

Puppy's Log: Fall 2011

Marvin the cat must be given a wide berth if you want to avoid getting your nose smacked, but if you keep a foot between you and him, you can bounce in front of him, barking in his face because he’s too stout to close the distance between the two of you before you dodge away.

Rufus the cat will not only tolerate being chased, but will sometimes wait for you to catch up to him.  He is a pacifist and won’t claw you even when you wake him up by jumping onto the chaise and socking him in the ribs.  It’s cozy to curl up back to back with him for a nap.

Daddy likes to roughhouse and will do exciting things like turning you upside down, but it’s okay because he will never let you get hurt.  You can be wild with him.  He is best at playing keep-away and you can hang onto the ball because he will chase you all over the house until you drop it by accident.  But when he whispers, “Leave it,” then you should because he will do something fun with it, like throw it really far.  Daddy doesn’t like it when you lie all over him because it makes him claustrophobic.

Mommy loves it when you lie all over her.  It is best when she helps you onto the bed in the morning so you can curl up together.  Then you can shove your back into her chest and curl up into a tight little ball and she will spoon you.  You need to do what she says even when you don’t want to because when you do she pats you and kisses your head and tells you how smart you are.  She is not as fast as Daddy at keep-away, but she will keep playing with you if you shove the ball against her leg when her back is turned.

You can play really rough with the blonde girl at school because it makes her giggle and roll around with you.  You can hold her arm in your mouth and lick her nose and push on her shoulders with your paws outstretched.  She misses you a lot when you are gone and tells Mommy she’s sad that you’re not there.

The brown haired girl likes it better when you try to outsmart her in keep-away.  You can’t play rough with her, but she will make obstacle courses for you for hours and hours.  She doesn’t laugh or giggle, but she smiles and whispers to you a lot.  It’s best if you stand and listen to her.  If you stand on your back feet and very gently put your front paws on her leg she will pat you.

If people at the beach are walking hand in hand, you can run between them and they will admire you.  If they are walking close together, but not holding hands, you can put your sandy paws on their legs and they will laugh and talk to Mommy and Daddy about you.  If they are walking alone or sitting by themselves, you need to go up to them and touch them with your nose.  Then they will pat you and they might smile at you, too.  With that tiny old woman who you passed yesterday as she tottered onto the beach, you have to go back to her and very gently stand at her feet so that she can slowly reach down to pat you.  You have to smile at her and then politely step away a few feet before you bound across the sand back to Mom.

If you reach up to hug Aunt Laurel, she will take your picture.  Don’t try to chew on her because she will hold your mouth closed and explain why chewing on people is a bad idea.  She has long hair that sweeps down around her shoulder when she bends to pat you.  It is very interesting to look at.  If you hold the ball in your mouth and stare at her, she will chase you.  If you give her the ball, she’ll bounce it for you.
Photo by Aunt Laurel
Uncle Milton is trickier.  He will try to avoid you altogether.  He will step away from you if you get too close and he really doesn’t like it if you jump up on him.  You have to try all kinds of things to get him to pay attention.  But if you wait till he’s sitting down, you can take the ball to him and very, very gently put your paws on his leg.  You can look him in the eye.  Then, when he reaches for the ball you can dance away and he will smile at you.  If you put the ball at his feet, he will play soccer with you.  Eventually, he will laugh and call you “a very engaging dog.”

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Puppy Will See You Now

Truly, there is no way of knowing what is best for another human being.

When I was studying psychology for a bit, one of the required texts was titled, How Clients Make Therapy Work.  The point of the book, obviously, was that it is not the therapist who effects a cure, but rather the client who brings a creative, invested presence to the session and who, therefore, figures out the best pathway to healing for him or for her.  The best thing the counselor can do, then, is to be fully present, authentically listening, and to provide the space and the experience for the client to find a way home.  Nothing has made this clearer to me than one little dog.

When I first started as dean of students, I felt like a failure if I couldn’t solve every student’s problem in one sitting.  I wanted to guide, advise, fix, coddle and restore every individual who came through my door.  If I could do it all in forty-five minutes or less, so much the better.  Thankfully, over the years I’ve come to realize not only the impossibility of such a feat, but the downright damage that such an outlook can inflict.  It’s great to give advice, but if a child isn’t developmentally ready to enact that advice, your words have been worthless and you’ve cut yourself off as an avenue of solace—why would a child turn again to someone who just made her feel inadequate and alone?  Sometimes a situation simply can’t be fixed, and to make a promise to a child that you will is to lie to him.  To coddle a teenager, as much as one might want to, is to send one of two messages: Either that the people around you will always step in to make life easier for you (Good luck with that) or that you, teenager on the cusp of adulthood, are not competent enough to handle the challenges that await you.  Neither of these is a productive message.

Now when I feel the kneejerk need to make the booboo go away, I take a deep breath, let go and listen.  In fact, I have learned to accept that sometimes, I’m not the right person for the job.  Rather than my approach, a student might feel more comfortable talking to a man, dealing with someone a bit gruffer, or any number of qualities different from mine.  Some of this understanding has come from classes and workshops, some from experience and a lot from Cleo.

This past week was the first full week of classes and Cleo and I have had many opportunities to interact with students.  Some stand back and observe her from a distance.

“She’s gotten so big” is a constant refrain.

“Look how much lighter she is,” they say, comparing her in the flesh (or in the fur) to her pictures from last spring which hang next to my door.

“What are those spots?” asks one in dismay.

“Oh, I love her spots,” exclaims the next.

Others come right up to the baby gate, but stay on the far side, leaning over to pat her or actually reaching through the bars.  “You can come in,” I say to them.  They ignore me.  After I go back to whatever I was working on, I can hear them talking to her softly.  I can’t tell what they are saying, but both of them seem to be getting a lot out of the conversation.

Others come into the office and sit on the floor or on the sofa and talk to me as they pat her.  As her recent cut has grown out, I’m hearing a lot more comments of “She looks like a dinosaur” than that she looks like a lamb.  There is a certain pterodactyl-like air about her.

Whenever I have thought of therapy dogs, I’ve always pictured a gentle, demure creature who moves delicately and calmly through the wards followed by the Ohs and Ahs of an uplifted populace.  It turns out that adolescents really need something different, and Cleo is more than happy to oblige.  Oh, I still want Cleo to be able to do the gentle and demure thing, but I had no idea how much my students would love rough-housing with her.

One new student who comes to visit Cleo regularly is a young woman, I’ll call her Bea, for whom school is simply exhausting.  She was diagnosed with ADD three or four years ago and has been learning to manage her focus, attention and organization since then.  Staying on task and attentive to the events in a classroom for six periods a day is an effort that takes every ounce of her willpower and energy.  In fact, it verges on the heroic, but she is so committed to her education that she makes that effort with cheerful good grace every day.  Then she comes to my office and wrestles with Cleo.  They roll around on the floor together, Cleo trying to lick Bea’s nose while Bea tries to defend herself.  Sometimes Cleo will sneak up behind her, stand on her hind legs and wrap her front legs around Bea’s neck, pinning her as she chews on her hair.  The first time all this happened I tried to stop Cleo from being so rough.  Bea made it very clear that she loved it, in fact, that she needed just that kind of brawling energy.

Friday was the back to school dance, and Cleo and I chaperoned set up.  Our dances, possibly uniquely, are held in our school library which makes it easy for me to monitor the decorating committee.  Their approach this time around was minimalist: a few laser lights, a fog machine and several beach balls.  They finished pretty quickly.  Since Cleo and I were on duty for another hour and half, I closed the outside doors and let her run around the building.  When I opened the baby gate to let her out, you would have thought I’d opened the gates to Disneyland.  “No way!  For real?!” a student exclaimed, gaping at me.  “Sure,” I said.  For the next forty-five minutes I heard two or three students and a very happy dog pelting around two floors of the library.  Chase, Fetch, Keep-away, Monkey in the Middle, Tag and Race-You-to-the-Top-of-the-Stairs cycled around each other.

Gradually, each student was picked up for dinner before the dance.  I heard the last, “Bye Cleo!” and figured it was time to collect her before she started tip-toeing around on my cracked ceiling again.  I stepped out of my office, but stopped, stood still and listened. 

Pock!  Jingle-jingle-jingle.  Pock!  Jingle-jingle-jingle.

I quietly stepped forward and peeked over the railing down to the bottom floor.  I hadn’t realized Simon was in the library still; I thought he’d left as soon as set up was finished.  Yet there he stood at one end of the library, Cleo’s ball in hand.  As I watched, he bounced it hard against the floor, Pock!  As it flew up, Cleo danced on her hind legs, forefeet in the air, then as it came down she dashed after it, grabbed it and brought it back to him: jingle-jingle-jingle went her collar.  She dropped it at his feet.  He bounced it again: Pock!  Jingle-jingle-jingle. 

On Thursday morning, Simon’s father had come to speak to me.  Simon, one of the most principled, earnest people I’ve ever known, has been showing signs of depression lately, expressing to his dad a sense of hopelessness.  Both his father and his mother suffer from bipolar disorder, the onset of which often accompanies puberty.  Simon’s dad came in to ask me to keep an eye on him.

As he played with Cleo, Simon’s face was intent and serious.  He didn’t smile at her antics.  He was completely unaware, of course, that it is almost unheard of for Cleo to bring the ball back and drop it.  After all, Keep-away is her favorite game.   I backed away; I didn’t want him to see me watching.  I listened in, though, as they played for several more minutes.  Once or twice I heard Simon chuckle quietly.  Then the sounds of the game stopped and I heard him talking softly to Cleo.  I have no idea what he was saying to her, but a few moments later, he bounded up the stairs two at a time.  He banged out of the library and an instant later I heard him call out to one of his friends.  As I watched through the window, the two boys met in the center of the Quad, laughed and headed up to the parking lot.

Cleo had followed Simon up the stairs and stood, tongue lolling, looking after him.  She saw me and walked over to sit on my foot.  “Good job, Baby Girl,” I told her.

My students seem to know what they need from a therapy dog.  And Cleo knows how to respond.  The official therapy dog certification, that’s for us humans.  Our dogs already know what to do.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

May You See the Lights Surrounding You

It’s been a busy week for Cleo and me.  On Wednesday, school started and Cleo took up the mantel of School Dog once more.  Most of the time she was in her element.

Returning students who stopped by to see her commented enthusiastically on how big she’s gotten, how much lighter her hair is and how come she’s got those weird black spots?  I was delighted when one of Cleo’s good friends from last year came by after school on Friday to hang out with her.  It didn’t take long for them to reengage in a rousing game of Keepaway. 
Ready for Keepaway.

New students walking by my office have stopped dead in their tracks when they realized that she is, indeed, a real dog.  “I thought she was a stuffed animal,” one boy exclaimed.  Many times I was asked, “Does she really come to school every day?”  Yep.  

And of course, the common refrains:

“She looks like a little lamb!” 

“Oh, she’s so soft.  Pat her!  You won’t believe how soft she is.”

“Can we play with your dog?”

And sadly, “Is she supposed to have those black spots?”

It’s a tribute to our population of students that they were all fascinated to learn that her hair has grown back in the same color as her baby coat and will gradually lighten until it once again blends in with her current hair color.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some science fair projects are developed which revolve, somehow, around Cleo.

One afternoon I needed to speak privately with a student.  At the same time, three freshman girls appeared at my door wanting to play with Cleo.  “How about if you play with her in the library?” I asked them.  You would have thought I’d told them they’d all won a date with Taylor Lautner.  As I spoke with the older student, I kept an ear cocked to the sounds outside my door.  Giggles and excited tones reassured me that all was well.  When I opened my door fifteen or so minutes later, a pretty adorable sight met me.  One of the young women was stretched out on the floor just outside my door.  Cleo was perched on the girl’s stomach, tongue lolling, a look of victory in her eye.  The other two girls, kneeling at the prone girl’s head, were waving a toy at Cleo.  I have no idea what game they were playing, but it was clear that a better time would have been hard to come by for all four of them.

Not to say that every moment was an unmitigated triumph.  Earlier in the week, a student became emotional as we talked about a tough time she’d had over the summer.  Though she’s only eleven months old, Cleo has come so far in her training since May that I hoped she might be ready to settle down next to the unhappy teenager and provide a little snuggle-comfort.  Well, not quite yet.  Instead, she grew fixated on a toy that had previously become wedged under the couch.  Rear end in the air, tail waving, she tried doggedly (sorry!) to squeeze her muzzle into the narrow gap between the floor and the bottom of the couch.  She clearly decided that the student’s legs were in her way because she kept planting her back feet on them, trying to shove them aside.  Maybe she thought what the student needed was a good laugh.  As multiple sodden tissues made their way into the trashcan, the error in Cleo’s reasoning became apparent. 

A friend told me this joke the week Cleo came to live with us: What’s the difference between a terrier and a terrorist?  You can negotiate with a terrorist.

To give the student a little respite from the scrabbling four-legged, I scooped Cleo up, popped her into her office crate and closed the door.  She looked at me resentfully, then curled up with a long-suffering sigh and went to sleep.  It turned out she would get the last word.  When the student had cried herself out and had moved into the cheering up phase, I thought it would be a perfect time for Cleo to join us.  I opened the door to her crate and said, “Want to come out, baby girl?”  Without lifting her head, she opened one eye and looked at me.  Then she shut it again, curled up a little tighter and went back to sleep.  To be fair, I was pretty sleepy at times last week, too.  It isn’t easy for any of us, getting back into the swing of the 6 AM alarm.

My colleagues also stopped by to give her their various greetings. 

“Hey, baby.”

“Hi, Chloe!”  (It took this colleague a couple years to get my name right, too.)

“C’mere, poofball!”

“Ooo!  I’ve missed you.”

Several years ago, the faculty came up with an effective practice.  The early morning library proctors for the first six weeks are always the ones who are strict enough to instill good behavior each school year.  On Thursday, Cleo and I had just gotten into the office when someone at the computers outside our door made a noise—knock, knock, knock, knock.  In a flash, Cleo was at the baby gate sounding the alarm.  Loud barking echoed through the library.  “Hush!” I said, and she stopped.  Without missing a beat, the proctor said, in a strong, clear voice, “What Cleo is telling us is that the library is much too noisy.  Let’s keep the noise level down, please.”  There is more than one way to make yourself useful at a school!

Last night I went with my husband to his fortieth high school reunion.  I have never been to a reunion of my own high school class.  Sure, it's not uncommon for people to actively avoid reunions, and I don’t know if John would have gone if his band hadn’t been asked to play for it.  That would have been a real loss for him.  There were a couple hundred people in attendance, all having a wonderful time.  They were unrestrainedly delighted to see each other.  There was a resurrection of the old folk festival group that culminated in everyone singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Puff the Magic Dragon.”  Food, drink and conversation flowed naturally into a touching remembrance of classmates who have died.  This flowed naturally into the celebration of life that is the act of dancing to a kick-ass rock band.  John’s grin and energy and sheer pleasure at playing for his classmates had me smiling so much that my cheeks hurt by the end of the night.

Part of the evening was a celebration of a retired teacher, a fellow with a complicated history who happens to be an old friend of mine as well.  Often both witty and wise, this man, now in his seventies, spoke to his former students clustered around him.  “People say that high school is supposed to be the best time of our lives.  High school is one of the hardest times of our lives.  Hormones are pogo sticking our emotions so that we feel on top of the world one day and in the deepest misery the next.  We need support to make it through.”  He talked about the support of fellow students—in class, in choir, on teams.  He mentioned the support of teachers and parents.  He pointed especially to the support offered by the handful of students who formed a folk group and performed for the school, the ones who reunited last night to sing together for the first time in many years. 

I was especially touched by what he said.  It is so profoundly true.  Of course, we all need support.  We need the courtesy and kindness of loved ones, acquaintances and strangers alike.  But it is especially true that adolescents need support.  Life is even more complicated for them than it is for those of us celebrating decades of life after high school.  So many daily issues are brand new to them: first dates, first breakups, college applications, strained friendships.  To make it harder, they are told by advertising, media, their peers that they should be grown up and in control of their existences. 

My old friend was right.  Support comes in many shapes.  A teacher or a parent.  A folk music group.  A classmate you haven’t seen for forty years telling you you’re awesome.  A stranger who says, “I know you!  I read your blog!”  A friend who checks in to see how you’re doing after a particularly tough day.  Or a dog who sits on your stomach and makes you laugh.

Support is having a friend to nap with.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

She Puts the Fun in Fungus

Unperturbed by spots,
Cleo holds her ball at a jaunty angle.

Well, the results are in.  According to our wonderful vet, Cleo’s hair samples grew “A big, hairy fungus.” 

It’s still a mystery why the fungus grew only in those three spots, but I’m glad I started the treatment early.  To be safe, we’re back to spraying the anti-fungal lotion on her back twice a day, but even before the official diagnosis came in, she was showing a great deal of improvement.  Her hair is growing back at a rapid pace. 

Although she looks fairly startling with the blotches on her back, I can’t help feeling nostalgic.  As the hair regrows, it comes in as black as her original baby coat.  Over the next six to twelve months, she’ll go through the whole maturing process all over again as her hair gradually lightens to the adult color.  I am reminded each time I look at her of her very first days with us.  Such a tiny little girl. 

Each night, John and I allow Cleo to settle down and fall asleep on our bed before we transport her to her crate where she immediately curls up and settles in for her long summer’s nap.  Last night, it was my turn to evict.  “I’m going to get fungus medicine all over me,” I said as I picked her up.  It was amazing how little I cared about that as I snuggled her warm little body into me.  Cleo’s sleepy head flopped against my shoulder as her nose pressed against my throat.  We stayed like that for several minutes before I tucked her into bed.

Our trainer, Pluis, says that our dogs fill “a great gaping hole in our lives.”  Had you asked me if I thought I had a hole, gaping or otherwise, in my life before Cleo arrived in it, I would have laughed and responded with an emphatic “No!”  I’ve been through enough to know how fortunate I am to have found my husband.  I have a good, stable job where I am valued and where I can make the kind of difference I recognize is essential to my well-being.  I have some treasured friends who are caring and loyal.  I live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  What hole could there possibly be?

And yet, Cleo found one to fill.  As I said way back in the first post, John knew how important she would be long before I did. 

I don’t think of myself as a particularly maternal person.  I have tried to be a good mother to my step-children, all beyond babyhood when I first met them, but in general, babies, at least of the human variety, have never held an interest for me.  I’m not one of those people who stop by a stroller to coo and admire the contents.  Babies sense that and tend to ignore me.  We’re mutually agreeable with the arrangement.  They find John endlessly fascinating.  They will gaze at him, rapt, when we are standing in line at the grocery store, their little mouths drooping, drool oozing down their little chins.  If there happens to be a baby, toddler, small child at one of his gigs, forget about it.  They will stand, sometimes three or four deep, directly in front of him, alternately staring at the guitar and his face.  Sometimes they’ll flap their arms or wiggle their butts to the music.  Even for a non-baby-ite like me, it’s pretty darned adorable.

My sister Jan also responds well to babies, possibly because she used to have one herself.  My niece, now verging on young womanhood, was a lovely baby.  People used to tell her mom and dad that she should be in the Baby Gap ads.  Honestly, after meeting her, even I was tempted to reconsider parenthood.  Then I realized that I was perfectly content with the situation as it stood.  But a couple of weekends ago, my sisters and I went on a mini-retreat together.  At breakfast in the hotel dining room, Jan spotted a baby at the table next to us.  “What a happy little boy!” she exclaimed, smiling at him.  He responded with a huge smile and winningly grabbed his foot.  Babies sense when someone authentically appreciates them.  As for me, I authentically enjoy and appreciate adolescents. 

So last night, as I stood cradling my sleepy baby girl, her fungicidal blotches sliming all over me, I had a dual realization.  The first was, Now I get how parents can cuddle their puking infants.  The second was, Ah, this is the gaping hole that Cleo is filling.  She looks at me to share her joy on our walks.  She presses against me when she’s frightened or intimidated.  She snuggles into me when she’s sleepy.  And I want to share in her joy and her victories, to encourage her when she’s scared, and to protect her when she’s down.  I am Cleo’s mom.

And like all moms, there are times I have to make Cleo do things she doesn’t want to do, like go to the doctor or behave appropriately.  The other day, as Cleo tried to climb me in her desperation to avoid having her temperature taken, the vet tech asked me, “Is she playful at home?”  It’s hard to explain how funny Cleo is.  It’s harder still to convince the uninitiated that she knows she’s being funny and is laughing, too.  While she loves to chase her ball at the beach, she equally loves the game of keepaway.  Though she mostly plays it with us, sometimes she challenges the waves to a game.  If the ball ends up at the edge of the water, she dashes to get it before a wave can surround it.  She snatches it up and dances away from the oncoming wave.  As the wave retreats, she scampers towards it, the ball in her mouth, a taunting smile on her face.   

Every once in a while, her sense of humor can be a tad obnoxious.  Last Wednesday, I had a meeting with a new student and his parents.  Cleo came with me to school so that she could start getting used to the routine again.  The lovely family came into the library and Cleo rushed to greet them.  Exclamations of delight and admiration spurred her on.  She was all over them, jumping, trying to mouth their hands.  She ignored my efforts to quiet her.  Much to her confusion and consternation, when the baby gate at my office door closed, she was on the outside, humans were on the inside. 

As Cleo stared in disbelief, I seated the family at my little conference table.  They turned to look at her, smiling.  Then we started to chat.  Cleo turned and walked out of my line of sight.  Perfect, I thought.  We can concentrate on questions about the transition to a new school.  Yes, well.  I had forgotten that earlier in the day, Cleo had taken one of her toys out into the library.  It is a four inch long, tube-shaped monkey that was given to her by an appreciative parent last spring.  Just around the corner, she started to chew on it.  SQUEEEEAAAK-AHHHHH.  This thing is the loudest chew toy I have ever heard in my life.  And it has the longest squeaks.  Most chew toys have quick, short, exciting chirps: squick-a, squick-a, squick-a.  Not this guy.  Long opening salvo: SQUEEEEEAAAAAK.  Long follow through: AHHHHHHHHH.  It was worse than a jet passing overhead.  We valiantly kept the conversation going, though both the student and his father were barely suppressing smiles and briefly glanced towards the door.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t able to suppress a snort of laughter myself.  The student and I made eye contact and smirked at each other.  I said to the parents, “I can take that from her if she’s distracting you.”  Both assured me she was fine, they weren’t bothered at all.  We continued to talk.

Cleo stopped the squeaking.  It was quiet.  Too quiet. 

The ceiling of my office is made up of fifteen or so large plastic panels, the kind that cover fluorescent light fixtures from the seventies.  They are set into a grid of wooden beams.  Above me is a balcony-like structure which houses our computer lab.  Imagine that you are standing on a balcony that overlooks a great room in a house.  The balcony wraps around to your left, and there it overlooks the kitchen.  If you stand at the railing and look ahead, you look down into the great room.  If you stand at the railing to your left you observe that the builders have put a plastic ceiling on the kitchen and you can’t see down into it.  You can climb over (or through) the railing and walk on the ceiling, but that wouldn’t be a particularly wise thing to do.

From overhead, I hear a tick, tick, tick of little doggie claws on plastic ceiling.  I look up. 

Over the summer, a cleaning crew came in to dust the library.  What seems to have happened is that one brave individual climbed out along the wooden rafters in order to clean the upper side of the plastic panels.  Unfortunately, he must have lost his balance and caught himself by stepping onto the plastic because one of the panels has a giant, jagged crack in it.  A section of it is sagging.

Cleo is standing on the broken panel, peering down at us through the crack.  The panel is sagging under her weight.  I see a gap begin to form between one edge of the panel and the beam that is holding it in place.  “Excuse me,” I say, and sprint up the stairs to rescue my dog before she plummets, skinny tail over tasseled ears, onto a very surprised student. 

By the time I got up to the computer lab, which probably took all of 9.5 seconds, Cleo was sitting a foot from the staircase in the carpeted aisle between computer tables.  Her mouth was open in a wide grin, her tongue lolling to one side.  “Think you’re pretty funny, don’t ya?” I asked her as I picked her up.  She turned and licked my face, still laughing.

As I walked back down the stairs, I could hear the family laughing and commenting on Cleo.  When we came back through the office door, the student said, “She is so cute.”  His father added, “And she has quite a sense of humor!”

It’s going to be a good year.

An average day at home...