Swim, PT, SwimA Memorial to P.T. Barnum

Categories: Poems
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Published on: October 2, 2009

Heaven’s Park

By Diane Graebner

Saint Peter sits at heaven’s gate, his gilded book in hand;

Upon it writes the names of those admitted to the Promised Land.

As each is called, he speaks their names, and writes them on the page.

And then below he writes their deeds; the story of their age.


And when each life is written down, upon its golden line;

Each man or beast goes through the gate into a land divine.


All worldly cares are thus relieved; all troubles cease to be;

Each one released from mortal woes, and earthly frailty.


There came a time a small frail dog approached the heavenly port;

His fragile legs could barely stand without a hand’s support.


He looked about with fading eyes, and trembled on the mat;

St. Peter softly wrote his name, then gave his head a pat.


And then with one last gentle touch, the gates were opened wide;

The tiny pup first faltered, then slowly limped inside.


In front of him there suddenly, appeared a great green field;

He felt his cares all melt away, his pain and anguish healed.


A gentle light shone all about, where trees and flowers grew,

Be-speckled by the rays of light, and gently washed by dew.


And there he plays eternally, within that heavenly park.

And angels smile to watch him romp, and hear his cheerful bark.

In honor of my dog, Phineas Taylor Barnum, who died on September 23, 2009.

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Swim, PT, Swim!

Categories: About Diane
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Published on: September 18, 2009
Swim, PT, Swim
Swim, PT, Swim

On Tuesday, September 15, 2009, my fox terrier Phineas Taylor Barnum (PT for short) turned 18! For those of you counting, that’s approximately 137 years in human terms! Ok, that math is probably a little off, but as his vet says, he’s no longer “elderly” and is now “old!”

In spite of his advanced age, PT is still in very good condition. He eats well (scrambled eggs and brown rice for breakfast every morning, and chicken, baked potato, and peas for dinner!), is alert, and reasonably active. He’s lost his hearing, but it was a year before I realized it since he wasn’t really too good at listening anyway. His vision is not as good as it once was. He sees well up close, but distance is another matter. He follows so closely that if you stop short, he runs into the back of your legs! I keep threatening to buy him a pair of doggy bifocals!

The one problem that PT does have is arthritis. About a year or so ago, he began having difficulty walking. He wobbles a bit, and his legs were getting weaker. It became harder for him to go on walks, as his legs would eventually wobble and cease holding his weight. It was difficult to deal with, as he was still very active and I was finding it hard to keep him from hurting himself.

I had read online about canine hydrotherapy. Just as with humans, dogs benefit from the non-impact environment water provides. Swimming in warm water relieves muscles, and enables flexibility. But where could you take a dog for that kind of thing, and how much would it cost?

I Googled it. My search returned a group called Hip Dog Hydrotherapy. Based in Winter Park, Florida, Hip Dog provides just the kind of therapy PT needs. Volunteer therapists with degrees in massage therapy and veterinary therapy and health work with dogs of all breeds and sizes, with a wide variety of injuries, ailments, and needs. Each dog receives Reiki massage, therapy, and swims in 30 minute sessions.

PT has been swimming with Hip Dog for a few months now. Although minor changes were instant, we are just noticing some major improvements. His legs are less wobbly. He’s growing muscle. Over the past couple of months, as I’ve left the apartment for work, he hasn’t bothered to get up off the floor to follow me to the door. This week, he has walked me out every day! He’s attempting to run. It’s not pretty, and I discourage it (no point overdoing it now puppy!) but the fact that he feels well enough to try is heart warming. For awhile, he didn’t want to be held or petted. I imagine his legs and hips hurt. Recently, he’s whined to be put up on the couch to cuddle every evening as we watch TV. Just like in humans, the therapy is improving his flexibility, building his muscles, and aleviating his pain.

Unfortunately, the weekly cost is difficult. Because they are volunteers, the cost of the therapy is extremely reasonable. They ask each person to pay $35 per session, which is way less than therapy normally costs. The funds contribute to upkeep on the pool and other minor expenses only. Payment is through a sort of honor system, and if you are unable to pay the complete amount one week, they claim that the main thing is to keep the dog swimming. Giving up therapy because you can’t afford to pay is not an option.

Because I work in a very low-paying industry, it is difficult. I’ve cut back on other bills, doing everything I can to lower utilities and cut costs. I still have some trouble paying the $35 every week, especially on the week rent is due. It’s been difficult, but worth it.

Just look at the happy look on this dog’s face if you doubt me!

Swim, PT, Swim
PT swims with some help from his Hip Dog Therapist
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