Respecting privacy: a case example

Have you heard of Elements Calgary (formerly Calgary Association of Self-Help)? Elements provides support to people with severe and chronic mental illnesses, including people who are under long-term psychiatric care. They may have schizophrenia, severe depression, bipolar disorder, or some other debilitating mental illness. These people are often poor or have unstable housing, and sustaining employment, whether temporarily or permanently, is often beyond reach.

Elements provides a warm, supportive environment where these people can socialize with others and access services. They have access to mental health counselling, life skills and vocational training, and opportunities for social interaction.

I have never been disabled by my supermarket-variety anxiety the way these people have been by their malfunctioning brain chemistry. I admire them deeply for plugging along despite their mental-health challenges, and I’m relieved that agencies like Elements are available to them.

PALS visits Elements once a month. Jelly and I have signed up for the Elements visits for several months now. We have met many of the regulars at Elements. These people are often unable to care for a dog themselves, so they’re always grateful for a visit with a PALS dog.

Jelly and I went there yesterday for the first visit since June and were greeted by many familiar faces. One fellow was especially pleased to see PALS. Mr. Success Story shared that he was doing so well he was readying himself to return to the workforce. At one point, his illness interfered with his capacity to work, but he had made great strides in recent months with Elements’ support.

Mr. Success Story wanted us to know how much Elements, and the PALS visits, had helped him through his darkest period. I imagine that he is still alive because, when he was at his lowest, he found an accepting place where he could go. He realizes that physicians and mental health workers may refer clients to Elements without fully appreciating the good the agency does. He plans to find a way to get the word out through social media.

As you can imagine, there are strict privacy rules in an agency such as Elements. We certainly cannot share people’s names or identifying information, and I’ve been so vague that you could walk by Mr. Success Story on the street without realizing I was speaking of him. I wanted to share his story nonetheless because I was moved by it.

The same privacy rules do not apply to us: PALS members are shameless about having our pictures taken. Not knowing this, and wanting to respect our privacy, Mr. Success Story kindly asked the PALS volunteers (human and dog) whether he could take photographs during the visit. I may not like looking in mirrors, especially the side view, but I will pose for a PALS picture with Jelly without hesitation. If Mr. Success Story felt that those pictures might help him to garner publicity for Elements, we’d be in there like a dirty paw. “Snap away!” I said.

Best of luck, Mr. Success Story. You deserve all the credit for how far you’ve come. I’m glad Elements was there to help you along in your time of need.

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The Hardy Boys: Mystery of the Missing Bride

Two male hands cutting a wedding cake

Following the fairy-tale wedding I shared with you last week, a compelling mystery arose at the restaurant celebration. I’ll provide a few clues along the way so you can solve it yourself.

I’d mentioned last week that after the ceremony, the newlyweds and their children hosted dinner at a lovely restaurant nearby, inviting J. and me, as well as the lovely minister and his wife. When they made the reservation, they made arrangements to bring along the beautiful wedding cake their daughter had baked so it could be served for dessert.

The family arrived at the restaurant first, two dads and their son all decked out in suits with boutonnieres, and their daughter in a stunning dress with a lovely wrist corsage. One of the dads handed the gorgeous cake to our greeter. The rest of the party arrived soon thereafter, filling the remaining four seats at the table. We sat facing the happy family, two glowing dads flanked by their two children.

It was the perfect evening with easy conversation. After Tom’s diatribe on red Smarties, Harry shared his feisty wedding-suit saleswoman’s loud comments on his hard-to-fit high glutes and saggy bottom. I dare say a splendid time was being had by all.

As we awaited our delectable meals–this was a grown-up restaurant after all–one of the serving staff leaned toward Harry and quietly asked him something we couldn’t hear. He tried not to draw attention to the interaction but because we were nosy, he acknowledged he’d been asked, “Shall we serve the cake when the bride arrives?”

Now I understand why Harry looked so confused at this question. There were 8 seats at our reserved table and all of those seats were taken. Even if a bride were due to arrive later, where would she sit? On Tom’s dapper lap? Wouldn’t that be a bit awkward for Harry? How could the server miss the two glowing grooms?

Harry appeared to take the comment in stride. (Did he really? How hurt was he by this innocent question?) He quietly instructed the server to bring the cake out when it was time for dessert, which another server did at that time. She asked no less delicately where to place the cake. (Sure, gay folks can marry in Canada, but they must not celebrate their union in public, it seems.) J. quickly piped in, “Between Tom and Harry [the “obviously” was implied].”

I wonder whether, by the time we left, the serving staff had figured out whose wedding we were celebrating. I had not just married Tom nor J. Harry, since we too are already gaily joined in matrimony. Similarly, the minister and his wife seemed very well heterosexually matched. And the children are a bit young for wedded bliss. That left only Tom and Harry.

People rarely bat an eye when I speak of Jelly’s other mother. But gay husbands and fathers are harder for many to understand. I can only pray such misunderstandings are not a daily occurrence for our dear friends.

In retrospect, I wish I’d clinked my glass loudly, prompting the grooms to demonstrate their love for one another with a mushy kiss. I imagine this simple gesture would have cleared up all of the confusion.

Do you eat the red ones at all?

Red smarties coming out of the box in the shape of a heart

After the lovely small wedding we attended last week, Tom and Harry hosted the minister and his wife, as well as J. and me, at a fancy schmanzy restaurant for a celebratory dinner. Over the course of our meal, we had no end of engaging conversations.

At times, we shared our most private thoughts. Tom mentioned, for example, that, when he was younger, he had hated the taste of red Smarties. He tried to convince us all that red Smarties tasted different from the others, at least when he was a child. He was quite insistent. He was so animated I wondered whether red Smarties were so abhorrent to him that he refused to eat them.

As a chocoholic, I was curious about Tom’s assertions. I had to find out for myself if there was any truth to what he was saying. Thank goodness that clinical psychologists like me are trained in both research design and clinical practice. I could tell you with my eyes closed exactly how to assess Tom’s hypothesis. And, yes, my eyes would have to be closed.

In mere moments, I had designed the perfect study. I picked up a box of Smarties at the grocery store a few days later. (They happened to be on sale.) I coerced J. into being my assistant as well as the second subject in my study. I would pay her in–this is obvious–Smarties.

First I divided the Smarties into two groups: the red ones vs. everything but red. Then I sorted the Smarties into groups of three, each group having one red Smartie. I turned my back to J. and asked her to hand me a group of Smarties one at a time in a random order. When I received the first Smartie, I forgot to close my eyes as I brought my hand to my mouth. What a dummy. I kept my eyes shut through the remaining trials.

J. agreed to participate in my study but she refused to be blind to the colour of the Smarties she was eating. I recall she said, “Just give me the darn Smarties.” She didn’t believe knowing the Smartie’s colour would influence her taste perception at all. She wasn’t taking the study as seriously as I was, apparently, and her responses may be biased as a result.

In any event, the findings were as I expected (I’ve just added experimenter bias to subject bias): neither of us disliked the taste of the red Smarties. We also concurred that the red Smarties didn’t taste any different than the others. Over the course of the brief study, we didn’t spit any red Smarties out in disgust; we savoured all of the Smarties because Smarties are inherently yummy.

My interest in Smartie research did not stop there, however. I began to wonder what proportion of Smartie lovers suck them very slowly vs. crunch them very fast. (I, for one, am a slow Smartie sucker. Ah, the taste of smooth melting chocolate…but I digress.) This burning question has prompted a second study. If you would like to participate, contact me at 1-800-SMARTIEPANTS. Compliant subjects only need apply. That means no Smarties for you, J.

Why are these playoffs different than all other playoffs?

We are on the second day of Passover now, Jews around the world are struggling with GDDTM (that’s “gastric distress due to matzah), and my suffering is just beginning. Tonight the Stanley Cup playoffs kick off and Edmonton Oilers fans province wide will end what they have dubbed the 10-year post-season drought. Try hanging out in the desert for 40 years, Oilers fans, and you’ll appreciate the true meaning of drought.

Tonight, with the help of their key player, Connor McDavid (that’s McJesus to you), the Oilers will start their run at the Cup. Oilers fans will be glued to their television sets to watch the first-round match up, knowing their boys in blue stand a good chance.

Sadly, the Calgary Flames have earned a playoff spot by the skin of their goalie, and their fans do not hold out the same hope. I don’t know hockey, yet I’m anticipating they’ll barely make it through the first round. They’re up against the best in the West and if I were the betting type, I’d be placing my money on the other team. Calgary doesn’t stand a chance. That’s why I have not chosen even one Calgary player in my hockey pool. (Sure, maybe J. chose my players for me since she’s the only true hockey fan in this household, but even if I were choosing for myself, I’d have passed on the Flames.)

The Oilers-Flames rivalry dates back almost as many years as the Jews’ wandering in the desert. That’s why Oilers fans are gloating over their successful season and their playoff prospects, while Flames fans fear the end is near.

Life-sized stuffed Grover in Oilers jersey sitting on couchDid I mention that J. roots for the Oilers and I for the Flames (solely to irritate J., of course)? This won’t be a problem after the first round of playoffs, when I too will be rooting for the one Alberta team still in contention, but tonight I will be outnumbered: J. has invited her Oiler-fan friends to her woman cave to kick off Round 1, and I will be the only one wearing a vibrant red Flames jersey. Even our life-sized Grover is rooting for the Oilers, and Jelly will be doing the same, under coercion. (N.B.: I will not be posting a picture of Jelly in her cute little Oilers t-shirt because I refuse to soften the blow of her disloyalty.)

One of the couples attending has baked a homemade cheesecake adorned with the Oilers’ logo. This same couple made that scrumptious rainbow cheesecake for Pride last September, so I know it will be divine. It looks incredible, don’t you think? However delicious it may be, I’ve been told I don’t get any unless I join the immoral majority. If I really want a slice of cheesecake, I must jump on the blue bandwagon.

I can’t switch allegiances yet, though, because I enjoy being the antagonist. No matter. This cheesecake will not be kosher for Passover, and you know I am too good a Jew to eat of the forbidden fruit. So enjoy your delectable cake but first pass me the matzah, would you? Tonight I must suffer like my ancestors. Bring on the GDDTM.

Cheesecake with Oilers logo on it

Sometimes I defer to cancer.

Pack of playing cards that say "Cancer Playing Cards"

Something wild and crazy happened yesterday. J. booked a flight to Vancouver next Monday with our good friend, who has a meeting there. I know, it sounds crazy, it is crazy. She used some Airmiles–thanks to all those prescriptions I’ve purchased over the years–and the taxes were reasonable, so she’s leaving and coming back on a jet plane, all in one day.

J. asked me several times whether I’d like to come too and I didn’t have to think long about my response. It sounds like fun, and I love Vancouver, and I never turn down a chance to get away, but I declined. I can’t manage waking early, rushing to the airport, walking my socks off, and flying back home in the evening. I could go, but I’d crash midday, slow everyone down, and ruin the day. Then I’d need the rest of the week to recuperate. I might love to go in theory, but in practice I know such a fast and furious outing is contraindicated.

Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I might have been able to manage it, though. I’m doing fairly well now even with cancer, but I’m not the party animal I used to be. That’s why cancer piped in and decided for me. I told J., “Sorry, honey, but my leukemia said no.” (To clarify, I was not pulling the L card here. The L card only works in situations I want to avoid.)

When I push myself too hard, cancer reminds me, “Slow down. You move too fast.” I should probably heed cancer’s reasonable and realistic voice in me more often. Last week, I was wiped after going to two plays two days in a row. After a few hours of sitting and listening and not much else, my exhaustion surprised even me. When I go out for dinner, I’m pooped for the next day or two. I volunteer late Monday afternoons and Tuesdays I’m tanked. I know what I can do and what I can’t. I may respect those limits, but I also resent them.

[Skip the next paragraph if you’re not up to hearing Sadness’s perspective.]

I made the right decision about staying home but I still feel sad and so does J. Would I rather J. didn’t go? Nope, I want her to have a great day with our friend. There’s no point in our moping together at home when J. could be enjoying great sushi in good company.

I forced myself to see the bright side, though. While J. is gone, I can hang out in her woman cave all day if I want. I can mess up every room of our house and no one will know (assuming I tidy before she returns). Oh, how I’ve longed for opportunities to desecrate our clean home since J.’s retirement! I will relish this freedom.

Even better, Jelly and I will have a little mother-dog time. I will be Mother Superior for a day! I’ll ply her with endless treats and let her up on the couch. On second thought, maybe I’ll skip the couch, since no amount of vacuuming will eliminate her hair once it’s interwoven through the fabric. Why would I want to spend my Day of Desecration vacuuming anyhow? Here comes the L card….

Things my dog has taught me this week

Senior woman smiling at yellow lab sitting at her feet

I hope this post will be the perfect anti-dote to the U.S. presidential inauguration. You’re welcome.

First, in case you’d forgotten, Canada’s national radio still has a sense of humour. I’m referring to a recent story on #DoesItFart, the database of animals that pass gas recently developed by biologists. (The whole rip-roaring interview is here.) Turns out chimpanzees’ farts help biologists locate them in the forest, birds have the anatomy necessary for farting but don’t, snakes fart, and millipedes let out noxious gas but whether they’re considered farts remains unclear. Oh, yes, and dogs are on the list too, as I can attest. Lucky visitors may hear my dog’s humanoid toots while she’s sleeping. I could tell you more about this topic, but I try to focus on more serious matters in my blog, as you know.

So I thought I might share some recent insights from my seniors’ visits with Jelly. My initial worries that Jelly wasn’t connecting well with the seniors because she was too busy cleaning the floor gave way to this week’s observation that every dog is a food-on-the-floor opportunist. Consider it instinct, right up there with chasing squirrels and begging for dinner. Who can fight instinct?

I was also worried that when she’d finished cleaning the floor, Jelly wasn’t properly attending to the seniors wanting to visit with her. Maybe she’s not always looking up adoringly but Jelly stands patiently while she’s being petted and wags her tail in response. Even those who can’t reach her enjoy looking at her and learning about her. This week, Jelly brought joy to a woman in the hospice wing, a former dog owner, who was too high up to pet the animals from her hospital bed.

Some of these residents may not get many, or any, visitors. They look forward to the dogs, who break up their long and sometimes lonely days. Also, the dogs bring joy to those who do visit and to the staff too. A woman planned a special visit the week after her husband died, planning it around the PALS visit. She needed the connection, and I’m glad we were there to greet her.

We visited a man who had had a stroke and did not have full use of the right side of his body. His eyes lit up as Jelly stood under his right hand, which he could barely move. He petted her as best he could, touching her soft little head. For the few minutes we stayed with him, he seemed content to maintain contact.

Then my colleague and I visited the rehabilitation unit with our pooches, where we spied two women in wheelchairs at opposite ends of parallel bars. The dogs visited with the women briefly, following which the frailer of the two, likely in her 80s, arose from her wheelchair and, with the physiotherapist following her for reassurance, walked the full length of those bars. When she arrived at the other end, she stood for a few minutes while I clapped and Jelly, sensing the excitement, gave a whole-body wag. Maybe we’re both getting the hang of this assignment.

Thanks to Jelly, I’ve come to realize that sometimes it’s enough just to be there. That we certainly can do.

One of these gays is not like the other

Picture of female mechanic working on carI thought this blog was supposed to be about my travails with illness, but I’ve learned that other topics may drive up my readership. This past week, I have two new unsuspecting readers, which brings me to 250 followers. And I recently realized that people could follow the blog anonymously, so I’ll assume there are some of those, not to mention the occasional visitors. Thankfully, I have no idea how many people actually read my posts, so I’ll assume it’s every single one of you.

I know these past few posts have been so gay, but they’ve garnered a surge of interest, thankfully all supportive. No homophobes have weighed in, perhaps realizing that their comments will go directly into the trash. In the interest of my still being gay, I have one more post on this topic. Then I’ll move on.

Being gay is such a teensy part of my identity that I don’t think about it much anymore. Rather, every morning I wake up and, without fail, I remember that I have leukemia. I wake up and remember that I’m a psychologist, and I feel sad that I’m barely working. Then I trip as I get out of bed and remember that I’m still clumsy. Upon awakening, I rarely think, “I’m still gay!” Who cares?

I can count my close gay friends on one hand. Most of my, and our, friends are of the heterosexual persuasion. Sometimes I get sick of their pushing their straightness on us by, you know, holding hands as they walk down the street or smooching in public. “Get a room,” I say, or “That’s heterosexual privilege for you.” But mostly I’m okay with their straightness. I know they were born that way and even if they wanted to be gay, even if they really really tried, they wouldn’t make the team. We gays are a highly exclusive group.

I’ve also learned that, although I share a sexual orientation with other gays, that’s doesn’t make us buddies. Turns out gay people come in all shapes and sizes and colours. Not all gay gals are mechanics nor all gay men ballet dancers (except for Billy Elliott, of course). We’re everywhere doing everything that you straighties do.

So when friends approach me and say, “Hey, Annie, I have this really nice gay friend and I’d like to introduce you two,” I’m unsure how to respond. I consider asking, “Do we have anything else in common other than our gayitude?” I wonder, “Could I introduce you to my straight friend Breeder, since I’m sure you’d have a lot in common, being straight and all?” But my inside voice says, “I know you mean well, but do I have to?”

Many years ago, friends kindly invited J. and me over to meet a gay couple they knew. Our friends decided the four lesbos would get along famously, but J. and I determined within the first few minutes that we had absolutely nothing in common. I imagine the other lesbos felt similarly. Unsurprisingly, we four did not fall in homosexual friendship.

So if you don’t mind, I’ll keep hanging out with my straight friends. We have more in common; that’s why we’re friends after all. And you can hang around with your friends, gay or straight. I won’t judge.

My vertically, but not horizontally, challenged dog

A few days ago, I outfitted Jelly in her blue PALS bandana and leash, and drove her to the seniors’ home for our second scheduled visit. There are eight owners and their dogs who visit the residence twice monthly. Residents look forward to the visits and, if they are dog lovers, their eyes light up when we come. I’ve been shadowing more experienced PALS participants to learn the ropes.

From these two visits, I’ve determined that Jelly’s temperament is well suited to the job, but she is by far the most ill-behaved dog in the group. The other owners can easily make their dogs heel and sit and stay and do a variety of other fancy tricks to the delight of the residents, while Jelly drags me around from one end of the place to the other, misbehaving at every opportunity.

In addition to her noncompliant behaviour, Jelly’s motivation for participating in these outings remains sketchy: she has continued to assume the role of resident vacuum, cleaning every inch of the crumb-laden floor, to my dismay and embarrassment. She’s not the most socially engaged critter at these times.

Jelly’s height has proven a bit of a challenge in this setting. Notwithstanding her aptitude for stealing food from our counter, Jelly is as short as a Shih Tzu. She may be long from head to tail, but she is short from head to foot. I’ve never considered her height a problem until now.

Most of the residents we visit are in bed or have mobility constraints, often using wheelchairs or walkers to get around. In any event, after two visits now, I have learned that many of these people cannot reach down far enough to pet Jelly. She is too heavy to lift onto the beds–I fear all 43 lbs of her could rupture any delicate spleen–but she’s too short for many to reach her.

Basset hound looking up at ownerFrom those residents with very long arms, Jelly accepts affection graciously. Still, she has not figured out that the residents are above her usual range of vision, and require her to crane her neck to look up. To get the fully Jelly experience, one must experience her droopy Basset eyes and her expressive furrowed brow. So far, the residents are only experiencing the top of Jelly’s soft furry head.

We may have miraculously passed the PALS assessment, but for us to succeed at this placement, we have a lot of work to do yet. Jelly needs to leave her perpetually scrounging persona at home, and harness her inner powers of obedience. She needs to focus on the others’ needs rather than her own. Finally, she needs to share her love far and wide with dog-loving old folks for one hour every two weeks. Otherwise, I fear we may be kicked off this PALS team.

Failing that, her voice may come out over time and familiarity. With some encouragement, I’m sure I can get her to howl during visits. No one can resist, or miss, a vertically challenged baying Basset.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Chrismukkah

Blue and gold Hanukkah sweaterPeople who don’t celebrate Hanukkah sometimes don’t appreciate that this holiday is but a drop in the bucket of Jewish festivals. We’re not commemorating the birth of a saviour or anything momentous like that. It’s more of a David-and-Goliath story, where the Maccabees play the underdog who prevails.

Hanukkah traditions also differ greatly from those of Christmas. There is no such thing as a Hanukkah bush and no gifts arrive via the chimney. We don’t hang Hanukkah wreaths (although an image search reveals a frightening number of them) and Hanukkah stockings don’t hang from the mantle. The ugly Hanukkah sweater is harder to find. We’re even blue and white to your red and green.

Box for a Hanukkah gingerbread houseI’ll admit we Jews bake our share of menorah-shaped sugar cookies this time of year, but few if any gingerbread. I was so flabbergasted a few weeks back when I spied a Hanukkah gingerbread house that I took a picture and sent it to all my Jewish friends. Building a gingerbread house is a Christmas tradition, and not one I’ve envied since childhood.

Our world is consumed by Christmas each year, whether we celebrate or not. To be fair, J. and I do participate in our unreligious way since J. is not Jewish. In December, a few singing Snoopys dressed in Christmas garb magically appear around the house, as well as our beloved Charlie Brown Christmas tree. J. hangs Christmas lights on our house barring a December cold spell. Then she adorns our wholly unChristmassy Christmas tree with a variety of dog ornaments. And of course there’s the annual television viewing of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Hanukkah wreathBecause the Jewish calendar differs from the usual, the dates of Jewish holidays vary from year to year. This year, Hanukkah happens to start on Christmas Eve and end on New Year’s Day. A true confluence of celebrations! So the question arises: how do we celebrate both holidays at the same time? J. graciously decided that Hanukkah would take precedence this year.

On Christmas Eve, after J. lights up our doggy Christmas tree, we will light the first candle on the menorah. I will sing the blessings while J. hums along. (She’s not yet fluent in Hebrew.) Then we will join dear friends for a lovely Christmas Eve dinner. We will be bringing home-baked challah and a Middle Eastern salad because, well, I’m Jewish.

On Christmas Day, Hanukkah will take centre stage. We’ve planned a small Jewish feast for two in keeping with our Hanukkah celebration. We’re subbing Mediterranean-spiced turkey-zucchini meatballs for roast turkey, latkes for mashed potatoes, and apple sauce for that disgusting canned gelatinous cranberry jelly.

And the presents? Rather than opening all our little gifts in no time on Christmas morning, we will each open one small gift every evening for eight days as we light the menorah, as per the Hanukkah tradition. This way we will extend our celebration. Hanukkah, the holiday that never ends.

I wish you all a happy holiday season. Thanks for following along (tolerating my drivel?) this past year.

P.S. If I’m quieter than usual next week, I may be busy crafting my annual post on New Year’s resolutions. Stay tuned.

I can lead my dog to people but I can’t make her cuddle

Older fellow holding out basset hound's ears, both sitting on couch

So far, my PAL Jelly is relishing the endless attention from packs of dog-loving people. Before we started, I worried that she would misbehave on visits, but I see now that my fears were unfounded. Turns out she is too busy socializing to misbehave.

Our official twice-monthly placement starts in December, where I’m hoping Jelly’s occasional howling will not further deafen the (hopefully) hard-of-hearing retirement-home residents. Since we’d like to PAL around more often than that, we’ll pick up additional one-time visits at other sites. Watch me pace myself, reluctantly.

During our inaugural outing at the art fair, Jelly survived a near-constant stream of people wanting to meet her. One in particular stands out in my mind. A father encouraged his dog-fearing son to greet Jelly, pushing the young’un toward us. Jelly could sense the boy’s hesitation, so she eyed the boy cautiously, then moved to an eager dog-loving adult. I dragged Jelly back to the boy, but she wasn’t interested. I felt sad for the little tyke.

In hindsight, I should have let Jelly visit with whomever she wanted. I can’t pick her friends, and she won’t take to some people. Rejection is something we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. Jelly’s reluctance may have hurt the boy’s feelings temporarily, which is unfortunate. Hopefully another PAL welcomed him with open paws.

I may want Jelly to love everyone she meets, but she won’t. She’ll tolerate a lot, including incessant ear rubs and cuddling bordering on smothering, even if she doesn’t necessarily like it.

Since I’ve stopped trying to direct Jelly’s visits, I feel a lot more relaxed. I’m no longer acting as her social facilitator; she can manage the crowd herself. My new approach worked like a charm during our visit with stressed university students last Saturday. I let Jelly interact with whomever she wanted, and those students who felt neglected moved on to another dog. No tears were shed, perhaps because I offered free tried-and-true study tips to those who felt neglected.

Jelly has people she’s drawn to and others she doesn’t care for or is hesitant to approach. Heck, so do I. Maybe Jelly kept her distance from that little boy out of respect for his fear. Or maybe she couldn’t smell food on his hands like she could on the other children visiting that day, whose hands she washed lovingly.

If someone doesn’t fawn over Jelly, she simply moves on to the next person. She doesn’t waste her time seeking love and affection from someone who’s just not into her; she trusts the next person will find her irresistible. She doesn’t need everyone to adore her like I do. Think of the time I’d save if I stopped fretting about others’ impressions of me. Jelly is clearly the more emotionally mature of the two of us.

I do have one enduring concern, however: that Jelly’s entourage will not find her exuberant voice endearing. That high-decibel attention-seeking howl can be alarming to anyone who isn’t expecting it. In hindsight, maybe that’s why that little boy was hesitant to approach her. In that case, I don’t blame him.