Life has a way of reminding us that we are not really in charge as much as we think we are. This year in its entirety is certainly a reminder of that on a mass scale. Prior to 2020, if you were lucky, you went about your daily life immersed in your own bubble of wants and needs, pressures and distractions, with near blissful ignorance of other happenings around you – a stark contrast to the blast of daily reminders of big problems we now see daily.
Still, if nothing else, we humans remain masters of distraction. We are a species that is easily bored and has a seemingly insatiable need for new experiences. At times we do whatever we can to avoid dealing with reality. Two clear examples of this obsession with distraction that I’ve seen this year are 1) the huge rise in remodeling projects people have undertaken as the boredom of staying at home during a pandemic has increased, and 2) the huge rise in RV sales. No doubt, the need to distract ourselves leads to many side effects, both good and bad, and that can include putting a strain on our mental health. During times of trouble or uncertainty pets can be one of our most cherished comforts. As such, it’s not surprising that recent reports have stated that pet adoption rates have surged during the covid-19 pandemic. Some animal shelters have even adopted out most or all of their pets during this time, something unheard of in my life’s memory.
Pets have become entwined in all aspects of our lives, from seeing dogs at outdoor cafes to therapy animals at nursing homes and hospitals to bringing dogs to work to service animals supporting individuals with day-to-day needs. There is a hardly a place where we have not welcomed and integrated our pets. Not only is this pet integration true in the outside world, it holds true at Identity Works as well. Although it is currently on ‘pause’ due to the pandemic, we are a dog-friendly workplace that has welcomed our team’s furry family members in the office for years. Their presence simply makes good days better and stressful days bearable.
Ted, our block-headed yellow Labrador retriever, was one of the first four-legged Hanchette family members to cruise the office space at Identity Works. His first priority was always to see if anyone had dropped any snacks. His second, was to say, “Hi” and spread happiness with his very chill demeanor. Many of our clients may remember Ted with a red bow gracing our holiday thank you cards and gift package a few years back. He has brought great joy to our family and the Identity Works team for 12 years now.
On a recent evening I received a call from Bridget, who was up at our lake cabin with Ted and our daughter. They were concerned that Ted wasn’t doing well and were driving quite a long distance to get to the closest emergency vet. As feared we were told that Ted has cancer and will only be with us a short time longer. Hearing the news, this dad, as well as our other two kids rushed to our cabin to be with him. Ted, in classic “Ted style”, seemed to understand and just laid on laps with 100% of his big dog weight, soaking up all of our hugs and love.
This dog was our kids’ keystone pet. He was there from the time they were in grade school, all the way through college, and now onto adulthood. It’s truly amazing the years of growth and transition a dog witnesses in the life of a family. We spent so much time with Ted – from training and hunting to camping and time on boats at the lake. He let the girls dress him up and integrate him into their childhood fantasy games, along with some very patient cats. We all spent time hugging Ted for comfort when Bridget was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He has been more than simply a pet for our family. He is a loyal friend and counselor that is simply always there for us. Not only is he our support, he is also a class clown that constantly brings smiles to our faces.
Pets remind us to be better versions of ourselves simply by their constant example of unconditional acceptance of those around them. They don’t care about any of the baggage we bring to the table. They simply love us as we are. They remind us how to treat others with empathy and gentleness. These are lessons we all need to remember during these trying times and with all the division in this country.
Thank you for spreading your joy, Ted. You are a trusted friend and we smile often when we think of you. I hope our time together lasts a bit longer.
While Yusuf has a song about dogs, called “I love My Dog”, I’ve chosen “Oh Very Young” as it just seems to fit my mood. Enjoy.