I truly have one of the most maintenance-free, mellow dogs on the planet. Ellie is our 6~yr. old Newfoundland mix and is as calm and gentle as her literary ancestor, Nana, from James M. Barrie's Peter Pan. She spends most of her days just chillin', resting on the floor near my office, or outside in the backyard in the cool dirt of the garden in the summertime. She does her wiggle dance when it's time to eat, greets people at the door with polite friendliness, and barks one WOOF to go outside and barks one WOOF to come back in again. 

But once a day without fail, she "checks in" for her very own one-on-one "Ellie time." She will stand there and smile, then look at me with her big brown eyes, and dip her head to nuzzle in, her way of saying "PET ME!" Pet pet pet pet pet pet pet, I go, and if I stop too soon she will whip her head around and look at me and nudge me again, or roll on her back and wave her huge paws. Pet pet pet pet pet pet pet, rub rub rub rub on her ears, scratch scritch on her belly, until she is satisfied and wanders off again, content for another day.

It's a really good idea, what Ellie does, and I'm giving her credit. Without fail, each day we should have that one-on-one extended pleasant time with each member in our homes, should we not? Too often, "checking in" means nagging about homework or bills or dripping faucets, or we just never check in at all and end up separated, each person at a different screen, disconnected from each other. I'm not saying you have to rub your kid's ears (although if he or she digs it, you could), but what a nice thing it would be if we took even 5 or 10 minutes out of a day to do nothing but thoroughly enjoy the company of that person.

Ellie, after her "check in" time, often falls fast asleep into some lovely dog dream, relaxed in knowing that her family loves her and acknowledges her. We all deserve the same for ourselves, and all should strive to give that same sense of worth and belonging to the people we care for.

("Bronze Ellie," acrylic on canvas by Miss Ten, 11/29/12)