Anyone who actually HAS vacation days knows how precious they are, how carefully we hoard them, how miserly we are as we spend them. And so, it is with good reason you might ask how I recently spent six days of vacation.
Full disclosure, I have 20 days of vacation to spend each “year” (hire date anniversary to hire date anniversary). Usually, I spend them on stay-cations, doing chores and errands or being home when my son visits.
At church on Sunday, Jason our Director of Christian Education (DCE) asked if I would be interested in going to Connecticut with the church’s Comfort Dogs to help out for a week. There have been Comfort Dogs there since it happened in December, but they needed “fresh” dogs to come help out. Our dogs, new to us after the tornado in Joplin, had never made such a trip before. But it seemed right to respond to the call for help.
This is a busy time of year at work, but the boss OK’d it and four days later we left on Friday to give the dogs a day of rest after two days of travel.
The area is wooded, rolling hills, with “towns” bunched close, indistinguishable one from another. There are about 27,000 people living there. It seemed very much like home, in that respect. Small town, close knit.
We “worked” the dogs at a church, at a mall, at a surprise party at Town Hall, at a call center, a dance studio, the middle school, the “new” Sandy Hook at Chalk Hill, at the senior center and at a preschool. The dogs love to work and be petted. People young and old love to pet dogs. In some small way it was perhaps therapeutic. We were thanked again and again.
We took pictures, but always only with permission. The town is weary of the media spotlight. Understandably wary of prying eyes.
We became better handlers and grew to admire the strength and discipline of the dogs. Their work is draining. To be still, to be of comfort, when all around are smells and noises and, sometimes, poking fingers, takes great concentration on their part.
The five of us on the trip learned much about one another, too. I still feel new, having only returned to this particular congregation two years ago. Barely knowing everyone’s names, my introversion had me quiet for a few days. But working the dogs requires a certain level of engagement that spilled over to the group, and ultimately I learned a bit more about everyone.
This was a new type of vacation for me, but it was good. I’ll be shopping for more such vacations. If you’ve never taken vacation to help out, consider it.