Guest Post: A Dose of Tia By Dina Mauro
A DOSE OF TIA
HOW A WOMAN AND HER RESCUED DOG EMBRACED LIFE THROUGH VOLUNTEERING—AND HOW YOU CAN, TOO
By Dina Mauro
Published October, 2012
A DOSE OF TIA
Introduction: Running to Stand Still
Through forty-two years of daydreaming and maturing, I’ve come to a place of peace and understanding in my life. Still young and fervent, I want to share my learning, yet hope never to stop being a student. This journal wanted to be written; it was ready to be shared. I’ve always been eager to know life’s answers and reach my destination. Like a good dish, I now know that I had to simmer before all of the flavors of maturity, insight, experience, and appreciation could melt together. Anything too soon would fall short of delicious.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I graduated high school and entered college. I envy those who knew exactly what they wanted to do at an early age. They got an early start and, chances are, they enjoy their focus. Good for them. As for the rest of us, it’s up to us to celebrate our unique qualities and strengths, and then combine them with our passions. Once we find the precise ingredients that make us who we are, we’ll whip up a delicious dish called our exceptional life.
After finishing college and entering “corporate America,” I had bills to pay, so I knew that I couldn’t leave my day job to go in search of myself. I needed something low risk. Not having a hobby, I made a list of things I enjoyed and turned that into a volunteer opportunity. The term volunteering gets a bad rap. As I once did, people often think of it as dreaded community service, but it is a priceless, untapped vehicle for us to uncover what we take pleasure in and understand where we thrive. Volunteering allowed me to dabble in different activities while learning more about myself. When a volunteer role didn’t meet all of my needs, I modified it to better suit me. By doing this, I enjoyed giving and uncovered a lot about myself that I didn’t know. It started me on the right path.
Initially, I volunteered at a nursing home. I enjoyed visiting people with my dog Tia, but this didn’t meet all of my needs. Rather than label volunteer work as boring and quit, I conducted some soul searching and asked myself why I didn’t enjoy it. By listing the pros and cons, I could make the right adjustments. I needed to get rid of or modify the cons and keep the items on the pro side of the list. What I did like about volunteering at the nursing home was having Tia with me. What I didn’t enjoy was visiting only with the elderly. I also knew that I enjoyed anything to do with medicine. I discovered my perfect match in visiting a hospital, where the wide age range of patients sparked my interest and kept me enthused. Am I a bad person because I chose to end my volunteer work at the nursing home? No. Had I stayed, I wouldn’t have been happy; the men and women would have sensed it, and eventually I would have resented going and quit entirely. Many people would love to volunteer at a nursing home, but it just wasn’t for me. Did I give up and throw in the volunteering towel? No! I realized what I liked and what I didn’t and made the right changes to try something else. I learned a lot about myself.
My mother is a hospice volunteer, and she loves every minute she spends with the patients. Her stories touch me. Once, my mother told me that one of her patients was unconscious and holding on to life much longer than anyone had expected. Day and night, the patient’s wife stood by his bed. At one point, my mother asked his wife, “Is there anything upcoming that he may be holding on for? Anyone he has yet to say goodbye to?” The wife thought for a bit and said that his birthday was coming up. The two women stood by his bed and sang “Happy Birthday” to this patient barely holding on to life. A short while later, he let go and passed away. It was a sad yet beautiful moment.
When I tell people my mother is a hospice volunteer, their faces light up with gratitude, perhaps because they think my mother is making such a sacrifice to help her patients. Little do they know that my mom consistently tells me it’s “her calling” and that she is meant to do this work. I know it sounds cliché, but by supporting the family and loved ones of the patient, emotionally, my mother gets more than she gives. She doesn’t look at it as being a sacrifice; she truly loves what she does. My mother would also tell you that she would and could never volunteer at a school with loud children. Why? Because she wouldn’t enjoy it. She was wise enough to choose a situation she enjoys in which she thrives and can give back. It’s a win/win. So, is she a bad person because she wouldn’t volunteer at a school? No. She simply had to choose a situation where she can be her best and, therefore, give her best.
How does this play into volunteering? I think the word volunteering usually conjures negative connotations. When I think of that term, images of picking up garbage on the side of the road come to mind. Cars race by while exhaust collects in my lungs, and I can’t wait to leave. Or I imagine helping a child to read, pulling my hair out because I don’t have that kind of patience. I imagine painting over graffiti on the side of a bridge while watching the same group of kids who put it there spray more on a nearby building. I’m here to say that volunteering can and should be a fun, rewarding, and priceless experience. Don’t think of it as donating your precious time; instead, consider it your hobby and passion, an avenue to embracing your exceptional life and filling your soul—all rolled into one sincere act . . . that benefits you!
I had no idea what journey my rescued dog Tia and I were on when we began volunteering and visiting patients and staff at Swedish Medical Center in the Denver metro area. Tia and I together we were an unstoppable team, connecting with people while peeling back the layers within me.
I have learned so much over the past few years. I cannot take action for anyone else, but what I can do is share my experiences to help others insert even more joy into their lives. No two people are the same; as a result, no two paths are the same. My experience may help get you started on a better path, and what you learn there may guide you to an outstanding path. Remember, you must take action in your life, or the world will do it for you. Chances are that you’re better off being the one in charge. Steer clear of ordinary and shoot for extraordinary.
I invite you to take a walk with Tia and me. As you stroll through these pages, I hope our hospital visits with patients and their families will whisk you away. As you step in further, I trust that you will learn from my personal journey and receive tips on how to find your unique path, as it speaks to your individuality. Perhaps the lesson I needed most was to stop and feel the gentle forces that influence my life—pulling and pushing me in the right direction. Much like a sailboat on the water, I needed to pull up my anchor, stop fighting the current, and allow Mother Nature to take me where I belong.
About the Author:
Dina Mauro spent twenty-one years in “corporate America” before she found her true calling. Though happily married and a mother of three boys and three “furry children,” her rescue dogs, she wanted more from life. Thus began her personal journey to find her exceptional self, with her beloved dog Tia by her side.
Tia, a beautiful one-year-old English Pointer, was found wandering along a highway in Utah having just delivered a litter of puppies. With no tags or microchip, she spent two months at a shelter, curled up in the back of a cage. Day after day, she watched people walk by who had no interest in adopting her. The day finally came when her “time was up.” With only hours left before being euthanized, a shelter employee called a Pointer rescue group in Utah, which came to her aid. She spent two weeks rehabilitating in a loving foster home before she found her forever home with the Mauro family and began the next chapter of her life as “Tia.” Tia spends her days happily patrolling a large yard in Colorado and her nights curled up on the couch with two “furry siblings” and a loving “human family” of five. Tia has thrived and come full circle. For the past eighteen months, she’s brought joy and affection to countless patients and staff at Swedish Medical Center.