Great Dog Story and well worth the reading! I know that I have included this poignant, bittersweet story (true) on my blog before, but it is timeless.  I never get tired of reading it and crying over it.  With Al’s passing I am considering my own mortality; hopefully, I will have years left to give back to society as I have been very lucky and fortunate in my life, especially in my choice of a husband. This story reminds me that one must not forget to provide for one’s dogs in one’s will; one should create a trust for one’s dogs to ensure their welfare when their owner can no longer love and care for them. I am very aware that the dogs I breed and keep now will be ten by the time I am 76.  I want them in good, loving homes when I am no longer able to care for them. Just think about it please. 

They told me the big black Lab’s name was Reggie,
as I looked at him lying in his pen..  The shelter was
clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly.
I’d only been in the area for six months, but everywhere
I went in the small college town, people were
welcoming and open

Everyone waves when you pass them on the

But something was still missing as I attempted to
settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog
couldn’t hurt.  Give me someone to talk to.
And I had just seen Reggie’s advertisement on the local
news.  The shelter said  they had received numerous
calls right after, but they said the people who had come
down to see him just didn’t look like "Lab
people,"  whatever that meant.  They must’ve
thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me
in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad,

bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis
balls, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous
owner.   See, Reggie and I didn’t really hit it off
when we got home.  We struggled for two weeks (which is
how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his
new home).  Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to
adjust, too.  Maybe we were too much alike.

For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis
balls — he wouldn’t go anywhere without two stuffed in
his mouth) got tossed in with all of my other unpacked
boxes.  I guess I didn’t really think he’d need
all his old stuff, that I’d get him new things once he
settled in.  But it became pretty clear pretty soon
that he wasn’t going to.

I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he
knew, ones like "sit" and "stay" and
"come" and "heel," and he’d  follow
them – when he felt like it.  He never really seemed to
listen when I called his name — sure, he’d look in my
direction after the fourth or fifth time I said it, but then
he’d just go back to doing whatever.  When I’d
ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly

This just wasn’t going to work.  He chewed a
couple shoes and some unpacked boxes.  I was a little
too stern with him and he resented it, I could tell.
The friction got so bad that I couldn’t wait for the two
weeks to be up, and when it was, I was in full-on search
mode for my cell phone amid all of my unpacked stuff.  I
remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guest
room, but I also mumbled, rather cynically, that the
"damn dog probably hid it on me."

Finally I found it, but before I could punch up the
shelter’s number, I also found his pad and other toys
from the shelter…I tossed the pad in Reggie’s
direction and he snuffed it and wagged, some of the most
enthusiasm I’d seen since bringing him home.  But
then I called, "Hey, Reggie, you like that?   Come
here and I’ll give you a treat."   Instead, he
sort of glanced in my direction — maybe "glared"
is more accurate — and then gave a discontented sigh and
flopped down.   With his back to me.

Well, that’s not going to do it either,  I
thought.  And I punched the shelter phone number.

But I hung up when I saw the sealed envelope.   I
had completely forgotten about that, too.  "Okay,
Reggie,"  I said out loud, "let’s see if
your previous owner has any advice."…. …..

______________________________ _________

To whoever  Gets My Dog:
Well, I can’t say that I’m
happy you’re reading this, a letter I told the shelter
could only be opened by Reggie’s new owner.
I’m not even happy writing it.  If you’re
reading this, it means I just got back from my last car ride
with my Lab after dropping him off at the shelter.  He
knew something was different.  I have packed up his pad
and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip,
but this time… it’s like he knew something was
wrong.  And something is wrong…which is why I have
to go to try to make it right.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it
will help you bond with him and he with

First, he loves tennis balls.
The more the merrier.  Sometimes I think he’s part
squirrel, the way he hordes them.  He usually always
has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in
there.  Hasn’t done it yet.  Doesn’t
matter where you throw them, he’ll bound after it, so be
careful – really don’t do it by any roads..  I made
that mistake once, and it almost cost him

Next, commands.  Maybe the shelter staff
already told you, but I’ll go over them
again:  Reggie knows the obvious ones —
"sit,"  "stay,"  "come," "heel."  
He knows hand signals:
"back" to turn around and go back when you put
your hand straight up; and "over" if you put your
hand out right or left.  "Shake" for shaking
water off,  and "paw" for a high-five.  He
does "down" when he feels like lying down — I bet
you could work on that with him some more.  He knows
"ball" and "food" and "bone"
and "treat" like  nobody’s

I trained Reggie with small food
treats.  Nothing opens his ears like little pieces
of hot dog.

Feeding schedule:  twice a day,
once about seven in the morning, and again at six in
the evening.   Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter
has the brand.

He’s up on his shots.
Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info with
yours; they’ll make sure to send you reminders for when
he’s due.  Be forewarned:  Reggie hates the
vet.  Good luck getting him in the car — I don’t
know how he knows when it’s time to go to the vet, but
he knows.

Finally, give him some time.
I’ve never been married, so it’s only been Reggie
and me for his whole life.  He’s gone everywhere
with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if
you can.  He sits well in the backseat, and he
doesn’t bark or complain.  He just loves to be
around people, and me most especially.

Which means that this transition is
going to be hard, with him going to live with someone

And that’s why I need to share
one more bit of info with you…..

His name’s not

I don’t know what made me do it, but
when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told them
his name was Reggie.  
He’s a smart dog, he’ll get used to it
and will respond to it, of that I have no
doubt.  But I just couldn’t bear to give them his
real name.  For me to do that, it seemed so final, that
handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting
that I’d never see him again.  And if I end up
coming back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, it
means everything’s fine.  But if someone else is
reading it, well …. well it means that his new owner should
know his real name.  It’ll help you bond with
him.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even notice a change
in his demeanor if he’s been giving you

His real name is "Tank".

Because that is what  I

Again, if you’re reading this
and you’re from the area, maybe my name has been on the
news.  I told the shelter that they couldn’t make
"Reggie" available for adoption until they
received word from my company commander.  See, my
parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could’ve
left Tank with … and it was my only real request of the
Army upon my deployment to Iraq , that they make one phone…
call the shelter … in the "event" … to tell
them that Tank could be put up for adoption.  Luckily,
my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoon
was headed.  He said he’d do it
personally.  And if you’re  reading this, then
he made good on his word.

Well, this letter is getting downright depressing,
even though, frankly, I’m just
writing it for my dog.  I couldn’t imagine if I was
writing it for a wife and kids and family … but still,
Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as
long as the Army has been my family.

And now I hope and pray that you
make him part of your family and that he will adjust and
come to love you the same way he loved me.

That unconditional love from a dog
is what I take with me to Iraq as an inspiration to do
something selfless, to protect innocent people from those
who would do terrible things … and to keep those terrible
people from coming over here.  If I have to give up Tank
in order to do it, I  am glad to have done so.  He is
my example of service and of love.  I hope I honored
him by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that’s enough.
I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at
the shelter.  I don’t  think I’ll say another
good-bye to Tank, though.  I cried too much the first
time.  Maybe I’ll peek in on him and see if he
finally got that third tennis ball in his

Good luck with Tank.  Give him
a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight – every
night – from  me.

Thank you,  Paul Mallory

I  folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope.  Sure I
had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even
new people like me.  Local kid, killed in Iraq a few
months ago and  posthumously earning the Silver Star when he
gave his life to save three buddies.  Flags had been at
half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on
my knees, staring at the dog.

"Hey, Tank," I said  quietly.

The dog’s head whipped up, his ears cocked and his
eyes bright.

"C’mere boy."

He was  instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on
the hardwood floor.  He sat in front of me, his head
tilted, searching for the name he hadn’t heard in months.

"Tank," I whispered.

His tail swished.

I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each
time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture
relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood
him.  I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried
my face into his scruff and hugged him.

"It’s me now, Tank, just you and me.
Your old pal gave you to me."  Tank reached up and
licked my cheek.  "So whatdaya say we play some
ball?"  His ears perked again."Yeah?  Ball?  You like that?
Ball?"  Tank tore from my hands and disappeared in the next room.

And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in
his  mouth.




      I do not like this Uncle Sam,
      I do not like his health care scam.
      I do not like these dirty crooks,
      or how they lie and cook the books.

      I do not  like when Congress steals,
      I do not like their secret deals.
      I do not like this speaker Nan ,
      I do not like this ‘YES, WE CAN’.

      I do not like this spending spree—
      I’m smart, I know that nothing’s free.

      I do not like your smug replies, when I
      complain about your lies. 

      I do not like this kind of hope.
      I do not  like it. nope, nope, nope!



Go green – recycle Congress in2010!

All I can say is throw the bums out this election.  Send a message to Congress as in the movie Wall Street:  “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” No more pork barrel politics, no more corrupt politicians getting wealthy on our backs, no more sex or any other scandals, no more crawling in bed with big corporations like BP, no difference in national health care plans for Congressmen and regular citizens, no more of the same which is breaking the back of this country.  No more of the Federal Government interfering in every aspect of our lives and no more total reliance on the Federal Government but reliance on ourselves.  Get back to what our country once stood for “In God We Trust” and in hard work we believe.


postheadericon Eulogy for My Al

Thank you to all of you who have sent condolences through many emails and many, many cards.  I would like to thank each of you personally, but of course cannot.  Your words of sympathy and encouragement made it easier to bear up under the incredible grief I feel every second of every day. Grief is a strange bedfellow and I am doing my best to get on with life as Al would have wanted me to do.

Al’s Memorial Service took place Thursday. August 19, which was a month after he died due to his older brother not being able to make the trip until then.  Fr. David Shalk, a friend of ours, officiated at he Catholic service although Al was not Catholic.  I am grateful to my parish, St. John Neumann, Sunbury, Ohio, and its pastor, Fr. David Sizemore, for allowing the service to be held there as I was greatly comforted.  I am very grateful to all who came to honor and remember Al and to support me.  The beginning music was my husband’s beloved Bach, followed by my niece Annie singing our favorite hymn, “On Eagles’ Wings.  Al’s niece Gabriella, an opera singer, sang the “Lord’s Prayer” and “The Wind Beneath Wings.”  I carried my beloved’s ashes out to Sarah Brightman’s melodious and haunting “It’s Time to Say Goodbye.”    At the risk of repeating parts of what I have already related on this blog, below is the Eulogy I delivered for Al:


Al’s Eulogy

I loved my husband. Our first conversation on the phone before we met was about broccoli, gardening, and nature. Thank God he loved he loved dogs and horses for if he didn’t I was in trouble. I was a “goner” as soon as we met. We met January 20, 1984, on the coldest night of that year and we knew that we belonged together. We just knew. We weren’t sure how; we weren’t sure why. We just knew that no longer would we be alone. Our first kiss in the restaurant parking lot sealed our future.

We were married six weeks later . . . the feisty gal from Brooklyn (Al hated New Yorkers, go figure)—the queen of excess and Irish emotion and the master of moderation and restraint. The earthy hopeless romantic and the complete realist with a wry sense of humor.

A poem from the romanticist Elizabeth Barrett Browning describes my way of expressing my love for Al:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with a passion put to use

In my old grief’s, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints, I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God chooses,

I shall but love thee better after death.

In Al’s desk I found the following Alfred Lord Tennyson poem in Al’s writing; it describes Al’s way of expressing love with his own brand of humor perfectly but doesn’t say much for me:

In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

He will hold thee, when his passion shall run its novel course:

Something better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse.

To explain further Al’s sense of humor, I submit the following: his favorite tee shirt which I hold up now and which sweetly reads: “My next wife will be normal.”

What is the measure of a man: for Al it was honor, integrity, ethics, honesty, strength of character, and stoicism. He believed in hard work and no complaints.

For Al it was the love of his children Carolyn and Stuart, his grandchildren Audrey and Darren, his brothers Bill and Jack, now deceased, his sister Susan and his nieces and nephews, and me.

For Al it was gardening; farming, nature, red tailed hawks, bird watching, Celtic history and music, Bach, his beloved Cavaliers and the Rattlebridge fame we achieved together, his mare Buttercup to whom he sang the Gilbert and Sullivan tune, “They call me Buttercup” from the time she was born. For Al it was science, his great passion for sailing especially with his brother Bill. And for Al at the very end it was Jesus Christ whom he had spent his lifetime at least publicly denying.

Before we were married, he told me: “My soul is in your hands” and I took it very seriously. I felt that if I were a better Christian and a better person, I could set the example to bring him to Jesus. Al despised the hypocrisy of organized religion with its corrupt scandalous leaders who should have been the epitome of God’s grace and kindness to man. I explained that because men were fallible, it did not mean that belief in the goodness and omnipresence of God was tainted. I prayed for 26 years that Al would believe as I believe. He balked. His soul was never in my hands but in God’s hands all the time. Two days before Al died, he became filled with anger physically pushing me away and harshly uttering that “he hated this world and wanted to leave this earth.” I climbed in beside him, held him tight, and fervently told him to let go of the anger and the darkness in his head for it was the devil’s work. I begged him to accept the light and God’s love. I said the “Our Father” and he joined me in the prayer. I asked him to pray to Jesus and he said “I am” and physically relaxed. Later he told me to ‘let him go” please let me go and I told him yes, it was okay to go.

The night before he died, he was restless and agitated. My niece Annie and her husband Eric, both of whom loved Al very much and whom he loved, and I held a prayer vigil over Al. I once again crawled in beside him as close as I could, inhaling his scent, and whispering my love for him and more importantly God and His Son Jesus’ love for him. Eric said that Al visibly relaxed as peace descended upon him.

Al died the next day very peacefully and I know he died believing—the answer to my prayers.

Recently I had researched near death and dying experiences which seem to mirror each other around the world. Dr. John Lerma, hospice physician at Houston Medical Center, wrote the book Into the Light which chronicles the stories of dying patients who testified that they saw angels and sometimes Christ at their bedsides embracing them with incredible love. Sometimes inexplicably a white feather would appear in the room–a sign that the angels were filling the room with light.

Even though I believe that Al is in heaven, I have begged Al and God for a sign. The other night just before closing, I pulled into Lowe’s and at my feet as I got out of the car lay this white feather. The smaller feather Annie just found in the barn at the farm Al loved so much, the only white feather we have ever seen at the farm. I have my sign.

The love of my life is with God watching over those he loved especially me and cringing that I now have access to the checkbook which he knows I will screw up for before I was married I balanced my checkbook by changing banks every four months. He is also worried that I will never change the oil in the cars. Al took good care of me. He was my rock, my support, my solace, and my friend. A friend just wrote me: “In knowing Al, a person of quiet wisdom with a sneaky little dry sense of humor, there is one thing I loved seeing each time. This is a man who really "got you". He knew you inside and out and loved you. He loved sharing life with you.” Yes he really “got me” and I “got him.” Two souls that came together on that cold night.

Not a demonstrative man verbally he still told me many times: “all I do and my life is for you.” His support allowed me to fly but he was always and always will be the “wind beneath my wings.” His love is alive in my heart, but oh, my Albie, I miss you so . . .


postheadericon A Sign from Heaven; My Prayers Answered

Before we were married, Al and I had dinner and talked about God.  I am very Catholic although I did not always practice my faith as I should have, but my journey has led me to more spirituality and a better understanding of Christianity and Jesus Christ whom I love with all my heart. Since Al was not truly a believer, he told me that night that “his soul was in my hands.”  I took his statement very seriously and believed that if I was a better Christian, Al would believe. I prayed for his acceptance of Jesus Christ as his personal Savior for twenty six years. Al hated the hypocrisy in organized religion from the corrupt evangelists, to the problem of pedophile priests, to the lack of human decency from those who professed to be oh so Christian.  I felt the same way, but man sins.  I keep telling God that His biggest mistake was giving us free will as we have really screwed it up. 

I ministered to Al every chance I could.  When he was in the hospital the several times in the past two years for his chemo treatments, he met one of the chaplains, a Lutheran minister, who had several conversations with Al. Still I saw no progress in his acceptance of God.  When listening to music, especially his beloved Bach, he often stated that music was a reason to believe in God’s existence.  This last time in the hospital, my praying for him was non stop.  When he admitted to being terrified, I calmed him down with prayer and talk of heaven:  he had nothing to fear.  During his anger described in a previous post, I prayed and talked him through the anger by telling him to push the dark thoughts out of his head and let in God’s light. I did not stop talking and praying.  He was visited several times by the Lutheran chaplain with whom he had talked and by my Priest, Father Shalk, whom Al knew and liked.  Finally when I asked him to pray to Jesus, he replied “I am.”  The night before he died Eric, Annie and I held a vigil over him, praying, reading from the psalms, and singing hymns.  I crawled into his bed and held him, caressing his face, reminiscing about our life together and talking about God’s love for him and how God was embracing him as he left me.  He died the next day very peacefully; I know he accepted Christ but my faith can be weak so I kept praying that he was in God’s arms and happy in the Light.

I have read two books by Dr. John Lemma MD: Into the Light and Learning From the Light.  Dr. Lerma works at Houston Medical Center in hospice.  He has studied near death experiences as he worked with his patients.  I have read several books on near death experiences; all the research done in every country on this phenomena describes the same scenario no matter what the language, faith, or terminal  disease.  All the patients describe the same experiences while nearing death; they describe seeing angels and sometimes Jesus Himself.

Now I have prayed for a sign that my Al is okay and in God’s arms instead of mine.  All of Lerma’s patients describe seeing angels; sometimes a feather appears near the patient where there is no real possibility of a feather appearing. I have been begging God to let me know that all is well with my Al.  I know he is in heaven because I believe in the mercy and goodness of God. However, I been agonizing over not knowing how to reach Al or having him reach me.  Well, today, while shopping at Loew’s I got out of the car on this huge expanse of blacktop and at my feet lay a white feather with no reason for the feather to be there.  I had my sign and it is real.  I worship the kind and merciful God who gave me this small miracle from one of His angels wings.  I have my sign; my Al is basking in the glory of God. Praise to you, Oh Lord, and Your Son who died so that my Al can live forever in The Light.