Show me a picture of a canine mother and her pups and I can’t help but go, “Ooh.” Show me a video of a golden retriever mom and her passel of pups playing in the snow and I melt. I hope this brightens your day as much as it did mine.
Show me a picture of a canine mother and her pups and I can’t help but go, “Ooh.” Show me a video of a golden retriever mom and her passel of pups playing in the snow and I melt. I hope this brightens your day as much as it did mine.
The first story I saw this morning on Yahoo news was about nine Golden Retriever comfort dogs who have come, courtesy of Lutheran Church Charities to be with the residents of Newtown, CT as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives after last Friday’s tragedy.
This brief video should help you start your day in an upbeat way.
This post is reblogged from allaboutlemon whose work I have followed for most of my own blogging experience. The five minute video brought both a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.
Let’s watch this very inspirational video and all our disappointments will turn into a joyful new direction.
As tomorrow is the beginning of Advent which commences on that Sunday the closest to the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30th), I thought it would be appropriate to put up a post on a religious theme. Well, mostly a religious theme depending on whether or not you consider Xmas to be a religious event.
I remember as a child that during the summer the vestments worn in church by the clergy were green. A never ending sea of green, week after week and month after month. And then suddenly they took on the color purple as Advent began. (This was a clue to the faithful that something was up – and what was up was that we were awaiting the arrival of Christmas – and, no that is not a misspelling of Xmas).
If I had somehow missed the hint dropped at church I received a reminder when I went to school as casting for the Christmas play had begun and I truly hoped that I wasn’t going to be the ox as had happened the previous year. As is appropriate to the season, my wish came true. I got to be the ass that year.
Now my school was way ahead of its time. It was a private but non-religious place of learning. It was a very ecumenical place. We students, as nearly as I could figure out were either Christian (in various forms), Jewish (in various forms) – well it was in New York City – unidentified, or unconcerned about the whole religious experience. Amazingly, we all got along quite well.
I always thought that it must have been hard for the Jewish kids to get into the spirit of a Christmas play – but they were all good sports about it. I give credit to the school staff for that. As we all know, Jesus was a WASP, but in our play they had dabbled in revisionist history and turned him, his father and mother into Semites.
This, of course, opened up a number of roles for the Jewish kids in class to play. If they didn’t get cast as Mary or Joseph – there was still plenty of room for them as one of the shepherds stage right. We didn’t have to worry about accommodating the Muslim kids as we didn’t have any in my class and the one child who was Buddhist just sort of transcended the whole thing.
Well it went on that way for years. We would send people Christmas cards to which we had affixed Christmas stamps. We would wrap Christmas presents and say to those we passed on the street, “Merry Christmas.” I remember saying that to Mrs. Rappaport who always wore her Star of David and lived in our building and she just smiled broadly at me and said, “Well, Merry Christmas to you too, sweetheart.” Then she bent down and kissed me on the cheek.
I’m not sure what Madalyn Murray O’Hair would have thought about my exchange with Mrs. Rappaport but it’s safe to say that she probably wouldn’t have been amused. But as I was in a private school and this was before the Supreme Court decided that prayer and Bible reading was a no-no, I suspect we really didn’t need to hear from her on the subject.
Well we meandered through the four weeks or so from the start of Advent until the big day finally arrived – or more correctly the big night – Christmas Eve. We would all trundle off to church for the Midnight liturgy filled with the old war horse hymns that we loved and which I still love. You probably know some of them, “O, Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and the excellent choir would always sing “Silent Night” a cappella in the church which was illuminated only by the flickering of a sea of candles.
That service was always my favorite of the year. You see, for just a few weeks, suddenly we all seemed to be just a little nicer as people. A little kinder. A little gentler. In some ways it was with melancholy that I walked home with my parents and grandmother. I knew that seven days hence we would start a new year. And with that new year, most of us would return to our old ways. It would be eleven long months until the spirit of compassion would once again reach out to us.
I’m not quite sure when Christmas evolved or devolved into Xmas. As I understand from a friend who’s spouse works at a division of Kroger Foods, the staff have been informed that the proper greeting for their patrons is, “Happy Holidays.” That is the only reference to the season which is permitted and should someone violate that they are subject to termination. Talk about a way to infuse a little holiday spirit in your employees and make their season bright.
I would be remiss if I didn’t introduce a little history here. You remember St. Andrew whose feast day is used to determine the start of Advent? Well he was crucified on a cross that was in the form of an “X”. So that might be the origin for our referring to the upcoming holiday as Xmas. I don’t think with our current need to sanitize, whitewash and PCify everything that Xmas is in any danger of extinction. I’m pretty sure it’s here to stay.
I admit to being old-fashioned in some ways and am going to keep a few traditions as I learned them in childhood. I am looking forward to the thought of a service starting at midnight, a choir singing a cappella and a church in total darkness other than the light cast by a sea of flickering candles.
I am going to hold on to Christmas and not be ashamed to call it that. I will try to be a little nicer, a little kinder, a little gentler to others and spread good cheer and warm wishes to those I meet. And I’m going to hope, as I do each year at this time, that the idea catches on.
I’ve been hoping that for a long time.
Let’s begin at the beginning which we know is a very good place to start. My love affair with dogs started very shortly after I made my way into the world – kicking and screaming and annoyed at the bright lights in the delivery room which had disturbed the comfortable warm, dark and secure accommodations I had previously enjoyed.
A short while later I went to a new place that I would call home until the time that I went off to college. It was a small apartment filled with an amazingly loving and wonderful buff colored Cocker Spaniel named Taffy who would act as a surrogate guardian for my parents and grandmother.
Mom and this guy called Dad had disappeared for about a week on something that was called a honeymoon. They had been married on Flag Day and ten days and a year later I popped into the world. This was back in the days when the sequence of events was getting married and then having children. Even then, (although we had not yet invented the word), there were people who were dyslexic and got these instructions backwards – but they were relatively few in number and polite people didn’t talk about them.
Now Mom had gotten Taffy as a puppy – but by the time of her marriage he was twelve years old and very devoted to her. She was concerned that he might be jealous of this new addition to the family. As it turned out, she had nothing to fear. Taffy considered it his duty to take care of this baby, sleeping by the side of my crib, ever vigilant should anything or anyone disturb me.
Perhaps he saw in me a kindred spirit. Maybe it was the fact that I pooped and piddled with abandon in those old fashioned cloth diapers which Mom and Grandma had to wash out and launder and then reuse. Perhaps those smells reminded him of the others of his kind whom he knew only by the aroma that they left on the fire hydrant down the street. In any event, Taffy assumed the role of my protector and guarded me with all his might.
After awhile my parents decided to introduce me to the wonders of Central Park. I had a big English stroller carriage and Taffy and I would ride in it together. I would gum his ears with my mouth and do the same to his nose. He reciprocated these affronts to his dignity by showering my hands and face with licks and then would resume his rest at the foot of the carriage, always attentive if a stranger came too close to his baby.
Taffy lived to be nearly seventeen. I was in the apartment but sleeping when he passed away near my little bed. My parents removed his body before I awakened and had it cremated. When I got up that morning I remember looking for him. That was when I first became aware of the principle that where there is life there is also death. I remember crying inconsolably at the loss of my very devoted friend.
A week later my folks came home with Taffy’s ashes – and a new addition to our little family. This was a pure black Cocker Spaniel puppy whom they named Ace. And after Ace there was Andy and a succession of wonderful companion dogs with whom I have been privileged to share my home and my heart with the sole exception of the four years I lived in college dorms.
One of those dogs was a gift, some were rescues, all have been wonderful friends. Whether it was the two goofy Irish Setters, Finney and Tristan, the wonderful Newfoundland/Belgian Shepherd mix, Josh, the German Shepherd mix, Dusty, the Golden Retrievers, Dickens and Spenser and now, my Lane Bryant girl the Irish Wolfhound look alike, Gracie. They have all been the most constant and devoted companions. And, of course, now there are the three Golden Retrievers for whom Gracie and I have been surrogate parents for much of this past year, Bubba, Bébé and Kali.
I had expected their owner to ask us to care for them over Thanksgiving as he was hoping to visit relatives out of town. As it turned out that trip did not occur and so Gracie and I celebrated the holiday together. But on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I received a call from him to let me know that he wasn’t feeling well and thought that, if I could, it would be better for them to stay a few days with me rather than with his girlfriend and her three dogs. So I arranged to meet her at the dog park to pick up the kids. Gracie and I hadn’t seen them for just over two weeks.
When we got to the park, I could see Kali was the closest of the three. Her parents were at the far end and were facing away from Gracie and me. She suddenly spotted the two of us and took off in our direction, running and barking in her very treble voice. This caused mom and dad to turn around and they too began running toward us at full kilter.
I would have to say that this reunion lasted for at least five minutes, all three of them showering their affection on both Gracie and me and raising such a ruckus that four people who were passing by the outer fence of the park stopped to watch the whole thing. One of the men in the park came over and said I must be the “Dog Whisperer” of Las Vegas.
I don’t know why dogs seem to have an affinity for me or I for them. Perhaps it is because we are cast from the same mold of simplicity. They ask for so little. A home, some food and water and a little bit of love. Yet they return so much loyalty and affection for what we bestow on them. And as for me, the gratitude I see in their face after they have enjoyed a meal, followed by one of them curling up in my lap is the greatest gift I could imagine receiving.
If all our world leaders had a companion dog as a guide to teach them their ways this might be a more harmonious planet. For in the end, we make the choice if we should follow a path of anger and hatred and war – or whether we should walk down the road letting the simple joy of loving be our guide.
I was raised in a loving environment. That was the luck of the draw and my good fortune. Growing up in a small family unit where we all looked after one another, and mostly my parents and grandmother looked after me, it is just natural for me to extend that compassion, as best I can, to others whom I meet. I cannot imagine what it would have been like being raised in a house where animosity and acrimony reigned, rather than the loving home in which I was nurtured.
As I write this on the morning of Election Day and reflect about my upbringing, I think that is the essential and underlying difference between the candidates of the two major parties one of whom we will elect to the presidency today. It is reflected in their campaigns and more importantly in who they are as people.
On the one hand I see a man who was raised in a caring environment in much the same way that I was. Obviously, I can relate to that and to him. It does not surprise me that in rearing his own family he has offered them the love and nurturing that he himself received.
On the other hand, I see a man whose parents were divorced when he was at an early age and who was shuttled off to surrogate parents for his rearing. I imagine that took a toll on his sense of self-worth and facilitated a need to overbuild his ego to compensate for this neglect.
On the one hand I see a man who realizes that the only way we can move forward as a community and a country is by doing what he believes is right, not just for those members of some specific interest groups, but for all of us.
On the other hand I see a man who has spent four years trying to separate us with his rhetoric of divisiveness, pitting one segment of the population against another.
On the one hand, I see a man who has enough love for his fellow man’s intelligence to believe that the individual should determine her own destiny.
On the other hand, I see a man who hates his fellow man’s lack of intelligence and believes that only the “state” is wise enough to determine what is best for each of us.
On the one hand, I see a man who believes that a vote for him is a proclamation that we can set this country America, in which we are all privileged to be citizens, back on the right course to prosperity for all.
On the other hand, I see a man who says voters should express their anger and “vote for revenge.”
Perhaps the poet, Virgil was right. “Omnia vincit amor.” “Love conquers all.” But it doesn’t always accomplish its mission in a heartbeat or the blink of an eye.
We know from history that hate often extends its evil hands upon us with brutality, and tries its best to squeeze the love out of us with threats and with violence. It takes a brave soul to hold on to principle when it is in the grip of terror.
We saw the ugly manifestation of hatred in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. We saw how Hitler polarized the German people, dividing them and pointing to the Jews as the reason for their economic troubles. And when he had sung the dirge loudly and often enough, we saw the trains begin to fill up with the “enemies of the state” as he began shipping them off to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Belzec and Treblinka to meet their deaths.
And those who were not affected were silent – and perhaps grateful that it was someone else’s fate and not theirs which the state had determined. And in that silence, men and women of conscience writhed in agony, knowing that not acting or speaking out was cowardly and an act of tacit hatred.
There are too many such examples of hatred in our brief history on this planet. But we have also seen that such leaders and countries which ensconce them do not last for long, because anything built on a foundation of hatred is doomed from its very inception.
It is fortunate that we have examples as well of those who have selflessly given themselves to a good and just cause and whose motivations were guided by love.
We need look no further than to those who founded America and wrote a Constitution which, to the best of their ability and the circumstances of the times, was inclusive and which deemed the individual to be the building block on which the entire structure depended.
They wrote us an inscription which extolled personal responsibility and which offered us the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” And what could be more loving than to acknowledge each of our entitlement to those three?
As I reflect on the rhetoric of the campaign and listen to the pundits describe “what the issues are that will determine the outcome” I have heard that, “It’s the economy or that it’s social issues.” But to me this election is about whether we want to embrace either love or hate as our guiding light in going forward.
As the old knight said in, “Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail” when the Nazi collaborator entered the Grail Chamber with all the possible vessels which might be the real Cup of Christ, “Choose wisely.”
He didn’t. It is with love that I say, I hope we make a better choice than he.
When I was ten I received a surprise birthday present from my aunt and uncle. It was a brand new crisp twenty dollar bill. I had seen one before, but had never actually held one in my hand. And I had certainly never been the proud possessor of such a thing. I was awestruck when I opened their Birthday Card and saw the bill inside.
Of course, this was many years ago. Twenty dollars would buy two hundred comic books, instead of being a minor deposit on a pair of gym shoes or designer jeans. I offer you that information just to put the gift into perspective.
Well we had a festive little Birthday Party, Grandma providing the catering, the finale being my favorite birthday (or any other occasion) cake, a three layer sponge cake with fresh whipped cream and strawberries spread between the layers and topped with more whipped cream and glazed whole strawberries on the top, leaving just enough room for the insertion of the ten birthday candles.
After the company left, my Mom, who had whisked away her sister’s twenty dollar bill for safe keeping asked what I was going to do with all that money. I had seen some ads on television from a group called CARE. They helped out a lot of poor children in Africa and other underdeveloped countries. So I asked Mom and Dad if it would be alright if we could send them ten dollars and if I kept the rest.
My mother hugged me and said that would be a very nice thing to do and she promised to get their address so that they could send in a check for my donation. But as it turned out, after she sent in my ten dollars, she and Dad received a thank you from CARE and some information from them about the work they did, and they became regular monthly donors to CARE for the rest of their lives.
Apparently, even ten year olds can make a little bit of a difference in the world.
Since I made my little donation to CARE, many other organizations have been founded to help feed those who do not have enough food to survive. Although I have forgotten the particular group that placed the ad, I remember one that said a ten dollar donation would enable them to buy enough food from a food bank to feed a family of four for a week.
Imagine that. For the price of a couple of “Happy Meals” we could feed an entire family for seven days. It’s something that we should all think about the next time we pull up to the drive in window.
But as much of a difference as each of us could make to the impoverished who share our planet, this is minor compared to one other benefit we could offer the world.
I’m not sure when we will see the final accounting of the amount of money that will be spent this year on the Presidential campaigns of the two candidates. Not to mention the amount that will be spent on senatorial and congressional races and local offices. But my guess is that $500 Million is probably a low estimate. And that’s just for television advertising let alone all the mailers and flyers which besiege us at every one of these events.
What if, you’ll forgive my clinging to my childhood starry-eyed optimism, what if, instead of contributing to political candidates, those donors turned their attention instead to the charities whose mission is to feed our poor? Can you imagine the impact that $500 Million would have in reducing the suffering, malnourishment and need of people both in America and around the world?
Instead of seeing an endless procession of ads bashing the other candidate and explaining why he or she is a thief, a crook and a liar – all of which I find extremely depressing, we might see an ad of a little girl in Somalia or Appalachia who said, “Thank you for helping my family by giving us our food.” That would be an ad that I would actually enjoy watching and feel good about seeing.
As with all things it comes down to priorities. But if a child of ten could see the misery of other children who were less fortunate, shouldn’t we adults have the ability to share that insight? Shouldn’t we all CARE?
I have debated whether to write this post for almost a week. But something caught my eye this morning which decided me to move forward with it.
First a bit of history. Two of my readers who are both thoughtful and comment frequently on my posts got into a “discussion” on one of their blogs. The exchange became a bit heated, although both participants tried to lay out their differing positions without resorting to acrimony.
One of those readers has a faith-based view of his relationship with life – the other approaches life from an atheistic position. The specific topic which caused the conversation was the issue of “gay marriage.”
Now while they chose to differ in their views on this specific issue, what I find remarkable is that I suspect these two gentlemen probably do agree on the social and political issues with which we find ourselves confronted today about eighty percent of the time. How they arrive at similar conclusions is less important to me than I believe that it is to them. So allow me to offer them the following example to support my position that it is not so significant how we arrive at our destination as it is that we do arrive there.
Consider the case of two car drivers. Both are aware that there are speed limits which we are supposed to observe. The first driver believes in following the letter of the law and regulates the speed at which he operates his vehicle to be certain he always is within the limit – because that is the law. The second driver, less concerned with the law than safety, also chooses to drive within the limit because he believes that doing so will minimize the chance of an accident in which he, his passengers and other motorists will be involved. Does it matter which rationale brought both these drivers to the same conclusion? Of course not.
Religion and science have long been contenders in the battle to explain universal and epistemological truth. They have butted heads often, but a reading of both their histories suggest that they both share a common weakness. That is that while they declaim that what they say is so is so – what they say has and will continue to change over time. That is evident in our religions’ accepting a heliocentric based solar system to replace the geocentric one we saw in the Middle Ages; and that is evident in something as fundamental as the expansion of the periodic table of elements which has occurred in the last fifty years.
There is another commonality between the positions of both the religious man and the atheist. That is that both positions are based on faith – as it is neither possible to prove the existence of God nor to disprove it. We should have given up trying long ago and just accept that “it is what it is – whatever it is.”
But let’s return to the item that caught my eye this morning and to discuss the issue which precipitated the conversation between my two readers. That was an announcement yesterday by NASCAR driver, Denny Hamlin that he and his girl friend are expecting their first baby.
“Hamlin says marriage is not in the immediate plans. There’s no reason to rush into it.”
Based on the number of unwed pregnancies; the number of illegitimate children who are being brought into the world and for whom we are asked for financial support; the explosion in the number of children born into single parent homes which put them at a great disadvantage in the challenge to become productive members of society, do we not have far greater challenges because of the behavior of our heterosexual brethren than to spend our time on the issue of gay marriage?
We know that the estimated ten percent of us who are gay or lesbian did not cause this problem. But they will be asked to pay for the results brought about by it. Is that fair or equitable? My atheistic reader and I would both say no (not to put words in his mouth). I happen to believe my religious friend might agree with that as well.
Frankly, I’m tired of the “Support Chuck-Fil-A” and stage a “Kiss in at Chuck-Fil-A” mentality. Both sides do nothing but further fractionalize us and rather than bring a positive message serve more as media circuses than means to an honest discussion and resolution. And if America needs anything right now it is honesty, starting with our elected officials and with every thoughtful citizen participating.
If I have offended either or both of my readers to whom I address this post I apologize. That was not my intent. I believe that if we focus on the things that divide us rather than those in which we are united, we are dooming ourselves to a dismal future. I know that is not what any of us wishes. And I know that both of you have a message and a perspective which we need to hear and consider. Please keep talking – not only to the world but to each other.
Here endeth the Mediation.
It’s amazing to me how much I learn about human life from what our dogs exhibit in the conduct of their own. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person who sees this – but, perhaps, I’m the only one who is looking.
My visiting Golden Retriever father, Bubba sired four litters. He is now neutered. Although he is one of the most gentle creatures, constantly looking for a gratuitous caress or insisting on one by marching between a person’s legs so they cannot ignore him, he doesn’t do well with un-neutered male dogs.
The dog park, with its requirement that all animals over the age of four months must be spayed or neutered in order to use the facility, should be a safe place to take all four of these creatures on our three outings a day. But it isn’t. During four of the last seven days, there have been one or more un-neutered males at the park.
I guess it’s possible that the people who brought their dogs didn’t see the sign specifying this rule. But in most cases I honestly doubt that. And because I believe that the dogs in my charge have the right to enjoy their time in a non-threatening environment I have felt obligated to point out to these folks the fact that they are violating the rule.
One gentleman apologized and said he didn’t realize that and immediately left with his dog. The other three found excuses why this rule didn’t apply to them. As a result, seeing that they were going to stick around, I took my charges and left. I have decided that if I see them again, having brought this to their attention, I will call the Park Marshalls and let them do their job. I’m sure they will bring a greater sense of urgency to this than I have been able to achieve.
Since I first met the three golden family about six months ago, Gracie and I have enjoyed their company as guests for almost half that time. Of course, mom, dad and baby already had a bond – but that bond now includes Gracie. It is remarkable to me and to others how, when they are visiting, she literally has a smile on her face. And I think that of the three, she has most closely bonded with papa, Bubba. The two of them, when we are home, can usually be found sleeping next to each other.
On an evening visit to the dog park the other night, a neutered male, I think an Australian shepherd mix, came in. He was about three years old and extremely playful. But he also wanted to do the dominance game with Gracie. We had completed four laps around the park and were seated in the shade for a few minutes before we began the drive home. Bubba was sitting in front of me and I was petting him.
When he saw this dog jump on Gracie he stood up and began snarling and barking and snapping his teeth. Fortunately, I was able to grab his collar. He definitely had blood in his eye and I know that there would have been an awful incident had I not been able to hold him. The shepherd continued trying to mount Gracie and Bubba kept up his protest until the other dog’s owner came over and pulled him off. When she had walked him a safe distance I took the four of them home.
It is clear to me that Bubba has identified Gracie as a member of his pack – or in human terms, family. He is the alpha dog and he is going to defend his family from any intrusions or threats from others. He is a devoted papa. While I certainly don’t want any dog fights to happen, it does make me feel good to know that Gracie, who hasn’t a mean bone in her body and I doubt would know how to defend herself, has him to look out for her.
Then I thought about my childhood – and how I had my own father who would have done anything and everything necessary to protect me from harm. Dad was a slight man, only about 5’ 8” and 160 pounds, but I know that if I were threatened he would have turned into a giant. How fortunate that Gracie has Bubba and I had my father to provide for our security.
And then I think about all those children who are abused, left to fend for themselves without a protector – a father figure – a role model. Although when we speak of child abuse we generally think about the infliction of active physical damage, I would argue that neglect and abandonment convey their own very deep scars. Those may be invisible but they cut like knives through the makeup of the children of our one parent families – whose numbers are increasing daily.
Could the disintegration of the basic family unit be one of the reasons that we live in an increasingly more self-centered society? Could it be one of the reasons that our children and young people engage in more and more horrible random acts of violence? Could the abdication of principle and morality explain so much of what is happening in world? And can our continuing along this path lead to anything other than our own destruction?