Furkids And Our Family

February 23, 2015 § 3 Comments

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The end of February is a favourite time of year.  Winter is coming to a close and it’s a tradition in our family to watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Even Mica, our seven-month-old puppy, joined us this year, frequently gawking up at the TV with curiosity at the furkids running into our living room.

This year’s viewing was bittersweet. It’s a year ago later this week that we suddenly lost our beloved Jasper.

If there was ever an example of how much a pooch becomes part of the family, it was Jasper. I’ve written a few times about how Jasper thought he was a human.

My eyes welled up often as I watch the Dog Show as they described the role canines play in watching out for their families while providing amusements for adults and children.

It’s a cliché, but dogs really are humans’ best friends. They are loyal and don’t hold grudges. They’re always ready to make our day. They make you smile, even when you don’t feel like it. They provide comfort and are the best listeners, whether we have tales of woe or happy stories to share.

Shortly after we brought Mica into our home in September, a work colleague, Karry, shared the verse below by author Erica Jong. It perfectly describes what dogs mean to us:

Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love,
they depart to teach us about loss.
A new dog never replaces an old dog;
It merely expands the heart. If you have loved
many dogs your heart is very big.

Joyce and I have been married nearly 29 years and we’ve had a dog almost 27 of those.

First, there was Sammi. She was always nervous and traumatized from shoddy treatment prior to joining our family. She was smart-as-a-whip, the most patient big sister when Peter was a toddler, gnawing on her legs, and the most loyal dog ever.

Then there was Jasper, a golden lab/shepherd/mutt cross.  He was once described diplomatically as rambunctious by a neighbour but he wanted to be everyone’s friend. His belief that he was a person was defined by taking up his full third share of our bed.

Mica, a Bouvier-Golden Retriever cross, is still forming her personality, which, much like her fur, is still trying to figure itself out – she was born completely black but now tufts of white are showing through.

Anyone who thinks dogs are just animals has never come home from a stressful day to a happy-faced puppy, wagging its tail, bounding up to greet you.

Here’s to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for reminding us of all the various breeds of these fine companions. And here’s to all the joy they bring my family and all the other furparents out there.

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Inspiring And Being Inspired

February 2, 2015 § 4 Comments

Photo credit: Lauren Nelson

Photo credit: Lauren Nelson

Co-author Wendy and I started this blog more than five years ago to create content for a motivational/inspirational book(s). While we’re devoted to encouraging others, our thoughts are naturally shaped by events, people, situations, and the moving words of others.

I’ve reflected on some people who’ve inspired me in the past and even in recent days.

I was reminded of the first individual on Jan. 24 when alerted on Linkedin to Ian Nielsen-Jones’ birthday.

Ian was the president of the Ontario Lottery Corporation when I signed on in 1992.

The message he conveyed during new employee orientation sticks with me to this day and has been a strong influence on how I do my job.

Ian told new staff that if someone saw them in a store wearing a company jacket and had a lottery-related question, they should either be able to answer the enquiry or know how to direct the customer.

Now a senior competition expert at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Ian encouraged us to consider ourselves as ambassadors. I have adapted that thinking to every job since, particularly when dealing with the public.

Inspiring Global Leaders

At the City of Grande Prairie, I strive to engage residents in recognizing their voices count.

Who better than Nelson Mandela to illustrate how an individual can make a difference? In December, we marked a year since the death of the former South African president.

Mandela could have easily given up after 27 years in prison. Instead, he would see to the end of apartheid.

He once stated, “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

Teachers Guiding The Way

I have a soft spot for teachers, having worked in the education sector for many years.

The work of two friends inspired me to tell their stories.

Natalie Richer, a Grade 5 teacher in Ottawa, is a leader in the Be the Game leadership and mentorship program. It’s an initiative to end the cycle of bullying while building strong character in elementary and secondary students.

“I see the effects of bullying and, more particularly, cyber-bullying in my class every single day,” she says.

“In January 2013, I was looking for a solution when CTV Morning Live Ottawa tweeted they would have Joe Drexler on their show to talk about his program. I quickly searched more about it to see if it was something I could implement in my classroom.”

The program is geared towards acts of kindness. By shifting the mindset of students towards the positive, bullying can be decreased.

Always an optimist, Natalie wrote Drexler for details, including whether the program was available in French.

“While it wasn’t, yet, we started to exchange emails about my views on his program, as a teacher. I learned more and tried a version of the program by myself in the classroom. The 21 Day Challenge is simple, yet effective.

“I got more and more involved and offered my input and ideas. The program evolved, the partners are growing and we are touching more and more students. I had the chance to see Joe in action with different age groups and while the messaging differs, appropriately, he manages to impact so many students with his inspirational presentation.

“Especially with high school students, he has an extremely touching story of a young girl that took her life after months of cyber-bullying. It touches them in ways we never thought possible and pushes them to make real, long-lasting change. We believe that talking about the real issues and effects is what makes this program worthwhile.

“The kids want to be better and sometimes don’t realize how powerful their words are. Because they’re so good at manipulating electronic devices, doesn’t mean they know the possible effects of spreading online hate. They want to talk about it and to learn more. I truly believe that our programs make a difference and that every school should get it. With the help of today’s youth, I truly believe that, together, we can create change and make a difference!

Julianna Oligny is a teacher to be. She’s also destined to be a great educator.

“What got me into special education was my work at the summer camp where I helped autistic and children with Down syndrome. I simply fell in love with them and their joy of life, so I can say that my biggest inspiration is them,” she says.

“I love to make people happy and I try my best to help anyone who needs it. Pay it forward is my way of thinking.”

Julianna actually began studying to be a graphic designer but after the first summer camp, she knew what her future was meant to be.

“I finished my studies in that domain and I knew that that’s not what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to do something better, to help the world.

She’s now in her third year of her bachelor in Special Education at the University of Montreal.

“My goals are to be someone that kids look up to, to inspire them to never give up no matter how hard it can be. I want to be that person who won’t give up on them like so many did before.”

Promoting Mental Health

#BellLetsTalk was an overwhelming success for raising funds to address mental health needs and creating meaningful conversations. It encouraged people to reach out to those requiring help and for those in need to get assistance.

I made many new connections through promoting the campaign in late January, including Natasha Bustos, a student, who lives in Ontario. I was impressed with her as a #BellLetsTalk warrior on twitter.

“I have been very passionate about the importance of mental health for as long as I can remember,” she says. “I’ve always cared about making sure that my friends and family are doing well, and helping them in any way that I could if they weren’t.”

Natasha found dealing with her own personal strife over the past year has given her a greater understanding of mental health issues.

“What makes me so passionate about mental health though, is that it doesn’t receive as much attention as physical health. I truly believe that our mental health is just as important as our physical health which is why I am trying to bring awareness to it and want to help people in any way that I can.”

Where Am I?

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