The Tale of the Black Dog Saloon

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 Photo credit: John McMurry, McMurry Studios.

 Once upon a time, there was a not-so-young couple who, for ten years, had planned to finish their basement. They talked, they pondered, they speculated, and they saved. Over the years, several messy projects happened, inherited stuff kept coming along, work or other things interfered. They wondered if it would ever get done!

Before 1

They wanted a bar and a family room where they could have people over. She wanted a guest room, where their guests would be cozy during the winter months, vs. staying in a winterized RV.

And, of course a bathroom. If you look close, you can see me waving. Helloooo! Oops, I meant her. I had a tense lapse.


And her laundry was in there now too, a much handier place than where it originally began…now located behind the barn doors.

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 Photo credit: John McMurry

Could they, would they, be able to come together with a vision for a space that worked for both of them?


She had a vision for it, as a warm, rustic space with a great deal of character and personality. She knew he would love it once it was done: they both loved rustic things, a casual style, and dog-friendly.

Because their life had pretty much gone to the dogs.

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 Photo credit: John McMurry

While overall progress went smoothly, a few speed-bumps popped up here and there, as happens between two strong-willed, stubborn people. Finally, she assured him: “You’ll love it when it’s done, I promise.”


And he did. And does. Although there were parts of the construction process he didn’t like, such as procuring the barnwood from the 3 now extinct barns on her family’s farm.


Can you say, “Raccoon poop?”

444Or constructing the concrete counter tops.

Construction seemed to take forever. Like watching a pot boil. But of course it’s one of life’s bittersweet ironies that the more you want something, the longer it takes. While progress was slow though, her vision never faltered. If anything, it only got better. Like fine wine.


“We need a name for it,” she said.

“Why?” he responded.

“To give it personality. To express US.” she answered.

That’s a great idea!” he said.


“Oh.” he said. His needs were simple. He just wanted to drink beer there. 😀

And then one day, she knew what the name had to be.

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They were advocates for those who couldn’t advocate for themselves. Because black dogs everywhere had a huge public relations problem.


Black dogs, particularly the large ones, are usually the last to get adopted. They linger in shelters and rescues everywhere, waiting, waiting, waiting. Is it because they are intimidating?  Mean to children and old people? We know they don’t photograph well, and their appearance is….well…simply generic.


You can read more about Black Dog Syndrome here.

This not-so-young couple had, of their own doing, assigned themselves the unofficial role of Champions for Black Dogs Everywhere.

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 Photo credit: John McMurry

So it seemed perfectly fitting that their new basement bar should be named the…

DSC_0149Before they knew it, the bar was complete. Their friends began to come over. One friend gave her the coolest birthday gift ever! Their very own logo.

In a moment of inspiration, they had shirts made.

2014-09-06 17.46.23Inspired, she began to put together creative auction baskets and fundraising events for a local rescue, to help all homeless animals, not just the black ones they loved so much.

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Her rescue roots run deep.

You see, every dog that she has ever had in her life, except for one, have been rescues. And every dog she has every had except for 2 have been black. Some came through the rescue, some through friends, some were simply roaming the road and she invited them to stay. And it was she who introduced and converted him to the plight of the Big Black Dog.


The Big Mags






Since they both love rustic stuff, junk, Big Black Dogs, and beer, it was a no-brainer.


To this day, it is well-attended by black dogs. 😀

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Photo credit: John McMurry

Friends have given them meaningful gifts, such as this painting of her parents’ old house done in reverse, behind glass…


Or the wonderful shadow box with ribbons from her great aunt and uncles’ years of raising hogs, showing them, and serving as judges at Fairs across the country.


Speaking of her great aunt:

DSC_0153 Each person who visits the Black Dog Saloon leaves their own mark…


Or fun memory.DSC_0056

And each dog who has gone over the Rainbow Bridge still has a place.


The Saloon is full of memories, gifts, sentimental things and attachments.

Yardsticks from businesses that no longer exist.


A grandfather clock which was handed down from Jimmy’s ancestors (his great-grandparents, I think).


 Beers and NASCAR-related gifts.


NASCAR memorabilia.


Most recently, a spring from a tractor seat that is 99% likely to have come from her dad’s old tractor.


There’s so much fun and quirkiness in the Black Dog Saloon it’s impossible to talk about it all. She jokes that they did exactly what she advises her clients not to do when they own a house. Because how can you put a price on it, and how would they ever leave it behind?


Most weekends find them hanging out in the Black Dog Saloon with black dogs and friends. Recently, after a hard afternoon working in the yard, he told her: “You owe me a drink!”

“I know this great little bar,” she said.


And that, my friends, is the tale of how the Black Dog Saloon came to be: a place that’s the most well known yet mysterious bar in Kirksville. 😀

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Photo credit: John McMurry

If you’ve been there, what’s your favorite thing about the Black Dog Saloon?

Cheers, friends!

Living in the Shadows, Part 2

2015-10-05 10.22.49Now where did I stop in Part 1? Hmmm..

Ah yes, my epic meltdown.

That would be the one where I irrevocably dented Ekko’s poor food bowl.

We were both different after that, in a good way.

I began to actually embrace our walks, and felt a wealth of patience and love. I knew that we’d both passed a milestone; now that we’d both found peace. It was time, he was ready.

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Shortly after Buckley came to the Rescue, we received an application from a potential adopter named Lauri from Seattle. Gordie, her aged Gordon Setter had passed over the Rainbow Bridge earlier this year. From her half-acre lot with a creek to her love of dogs and rescue experience, she was perfect!

I was optimistic, but Seattle was oh, so far away, and it was a long way to come to get a dog and then find out he didn’t fit in. We began corresponding regularly via email. I gave her detailed information and honest descriptions of our ups and downs so she would know what she was getting into. (Okay I might have glossed over the whole meltdown thing.) 😀

In turn, she confided that she wasn’t completely sure she wanted another dog. Her long-time boyfriend, also named Lori – his family is Scandinavian, where that is a man’s name – has Alzheimer’s. She thought Buckley might be a bright spot for both of them as the disease progressed, something they could simply enjoy with no remembering needed.

She surprised me with a ‘care package’ of coffee for the 5 a.m. walks and dental chews to help with his teeth, which needed cleaning.

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We seemed to have a lot in common as the weeks and emails, which now included video and pictures, passed. My reaction when, focused on shooting video, I ran into a stick dangling from a tree and gouged my forehead was just a bonus. 😉

Around the end of August, about 5 weeks after we began fostering Buckley, I received an email from Lauri:

“I wonder if I found the reason that you didn’t give up on Buckley.  Without you providing updates and info on exactly what Buckley is like I might not have continued to have interest in him, because of the distance.  As it was the stories kept me thinking.. hmm,maybe.  Well last night I showed my boyfriend the photo of Buckley looking at the printer and the photo of him standing on a leash looking at the camera with his head cocked.  I’d shown them to him before but he didn’t remember.  Anyway, this time he looked at the first photo, and looked and looked.  I reached to take the phone to bring up the 2nd one but he held on to it a bit longer.  Wanted to look some more.  When I showed him the second one he did the same… lonnng look…  with a dreamy-eyed smile.  It made me think, whether *I* need Buckley or not, I think my boyfriend needs me to have him so he can enjoy him.  It was a look I hadn’t seen for a very, very long time.  

The photos came up in conversation because I’d sent them to a trusted friend.  I told her I was considering adopting and asked if she wanted to ‘talk me down’.  Her reply;

Lauri, you can’t say no now, this one needs you and you need this one, just look at this face,  he needs your love!!!!!!!!!!!  (Not much help, am I?)”

I was too moved by Lauri’s email to respond right away. It brought tears to my eyes.

Lauri and Lori must be incredibly special people for God to weave his handiwork to bring Buckley into their lives.

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If we had never lost Harley, who was a boisterous handful, we would have never been able to take in Buckley. And if I had refused to listen to my inner voice and given up on him, this adoption would not be happening.

From that point forward, things began moving quickly. I began things to prepare him for his new people: we stepped up the car rides and increased our leash training.

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Labor Day weekend Lauri surprised Lori with a drive to the airport; she told him they were flying to Minneapolis, renting a car and coming here to pick up Buckley. He was overjoyed.

My friend Jenny suggested wisely that we get him an Adaptile collar, which emits ‘happy’ pheromones to calm him for the transition to a new home and a cross country car trip. I placed the collar on him as they pulled in the drive, hoping that he would associate the ‘happy’ feelings with seeing them.

It worked like a charm! See? 🙂

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Lauri and Lori were as nice as I knew they would be. They had planned to stay for an hour or so to get to know him, but thanks to the ‘happy collar’ he took to them so quickly that it seemed they were here only a few minutes.

Off they went on an epic road trip back to Seattle, venturing through the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore, visiting the Corn Palace in Mitchell and the famous Wall Drug among other highlights. 2, 552 miles later, they were home safe and sound.

Buckley is now Bo, and is settling nicely into his new life.

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He has some challenges: he still needs work socializing with other dogs,  and he still hates being crated and left alone. But he’s learning to play, and he’s getting love and patience from people who have plenty of it to give.

“And Lori.. well he’s totally enjoying Bo.  Loves to watch him run in the yard, the way he hunkers down and walks low when he hunts, the way he sits so tall and watches for squirrels and birds in the trees, the speed Bo has when he takes off on a dead run (after who knows what), his playfulness when we throw toys for him in the house and he fetches and prances around.  (another video I need to get).  He calls him Gordie 90% of the time and it makes me think that not always, but sometimes, Lori thinks this is Gordie.  Has this allowed him to go back to when Gordie was still with us?  Wouldn’t that be wonderful for anyone.. to be able to go back in time, before a loss, as if it never occurred?   What a gift that would be.  Sometimes I’ve thought it might be too confusing to have gotten a dog that’s the same breed as the one we recently lost, but maybe for Lori it was exactly the right thing to do.” 🙂

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As for us, Bo gave us a new appreciation for our sweet little girls we have. Sometimes it’s easy to ‘want’ instead of appreciate what you have. It reminded me how precious time really is and how you shouldn’t squander it on things that don’t matter. And, thanks to him, I have a new friend.

It’s an amazing demonstration of God’s work that a sweet little boy who spent the first years of his life living in the shadows should accompany a man as his life’s journey takes him deeper into the shadows of Alzheimer’s.

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Thank you for helping all of us grow into better people, Bo. Have a wonderful life. You deserve it. 🙂

Living in the Shadows

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I really wouldn’t have believed this had I not lived it myself. It just goes to show how God’s plan for us is so much bigger than we can ever conceive.

I almost gave up on him.

He was a mess.

Dogs tell you a lot about their former lives through their behaviors. Buckley was a timid and sweet but nervous, un-socialized ball of fur who’d lived on scraps supplemented by dog food. He didn’t know how to play with toys and had never had treats. He’d never had a collar much less walked on a leash and most likely his only bath had been right before he came into the Rescue.

It’s not like people tell you “Basically I had this dog in my backyard, I fed it and occasionally he got to play and that’s it.”

Buckley was the product of an accidental litter between a Gordon Setter and an Irish Setter. His parents were breeding stock, and the only time in his 5-year life he’d been out of the backyard was to go to the vet. He saw the same people, the same dogs, and did the same thing every day.

It’s like he lived the first part of his life unseen: he lived in the shadows.

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His previous owners were not bad people. They were very nice, former breeders who had simply had grown older and out of the business with several dogs they had never placed. Life is busy, and time had simply slipped by.

One quality I’ve observed about breeders is that most of them think of their breeding animals more as livestock. It’s not a mindset I understand nor share, but that doesn’t make them wrong and me right; it just IS. And that’s why we live in America. 🙂

There’s obviously a need and a place for breeders in the world. I have friends who are good, responsible breeders and are huge advocates of rescue. Not all breeders are bad. (Some are, but that isn’t what this post is about.)

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The reality was that we had so little information about him when he came in that we didn’t realize Buckley had all these issues. It’s very likely his owners didn’t either. After all, he had lived in their backyard all his life where everything was comfortable and familiar, and since they didn’t spend any time with him, how would they know?

“What was I thinking, fostering a BIRD dog without a fenced yard?”I ask myself now.  😀

And yet, he taught me more about life in the 6 weeks I’d had him than anyone else ever had.

He was full of nervous energy, unmotivated by treats or toys, hated being crated with a passion. My friend Jenny, very knowledgeable and wise about these matters, offered wisdom and crate toys to prevent boredom. Unfortunately, he wasn’t treat or toy motivated.

For the first week or two he was here, he would wail constantly when I left the house, no matter who was home. My poor husband, who is notorious for being impatient, was wonderfully patient. He was much more gracious than I would have been after listening to him wail for 45 minutes.

After several battles, Buckley and I finally came to a mutual understanding: I would agree to stop crating him, and he would agree to stop wailing every time I left.

Everything was new to him. Sounds, mirrors, dog beds, television.

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He hadn’t yet learned healthy outlets for his nervous energy, such as chewing on a bone or toys. So, we walked. And walked and walked and walked.

I walked my yard more in the 6 weeks I had him more than I had in the last 15 years. When I look back upon that period, I feel like it was spent walking Buckley, with short stints of productive activity in between.

And we walked.

In the rain. In the heat. In the dark.

I prayed daily that he would be adopted, and yet in my heart I knew he wasn’t ready.

I had grown to care about this sweet little boy who deserved a life and a loving family. And certainly no one would be willing to take him on at this point; I could barely do it myself.

Something inside me just kept telling me to hold on. “Don’t give up on him! Don’t give up!” the tiny little voice said.

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And so I kept plodding along. Get up, walk Buckley. Work out, walk Buckley. Shower, walk Buckley. And so it went.

One hot, miserable summer day my increasing frustration bubbled over. I couldn’t take it.

I had an epic meltdown.

Fortunately, only the dogs were here to see it. It involved yelling, screaming, and repeatedly banging poor Ekko’s food dish on the kitchen counter top. It has a nice little dent in it to remind me of that day.

And then, it was over. I was exhausted, and but relieved. I felt lighter.

Sitting at my desk a while later, I realized something that was so profound, I wrote it down in my notebook so I would be sure to remember.

“I’m focusing on the wrong things for the direction I want to go.

Spend time working on the activities that get you where you need to be.”

Time is a precious commodity, and life will always be busy. I needed to spend my precious hours between Buckley walks working on the things that are really important. The big things. The things that matter. And my family, the parts of my work that really matter, those are the things I needed to be focusing on, not the busy work of scratching things off a list.


And just like that, I let the “To Do” list go.

I still make notes  and write down things I’m afraid I’ll forget to do so I don’t have to carry them in my head. That list just matters less.

Most people have to get sick or suffer a loss to come to these conclusions. All I had to foster a difficult dog. I am truly blessed.


2015-09-03 19.52.31This picture is blurry, but it still makes me laugh.

“What, momma? Is there more?”

Yep, there sure is. I hope you’ll come back for the rest of the story, because it’s awfully special too. 🙂

Goodbye Harley

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As I sit writing about the loss that we feel, I admit it comes with almost a feeling of guilt. There are others who have lost so much more than us: families who have lost loved ones, those who are suffering from horrible illnesses or injuries, a friend who recently lost her oldest son, taken from this life far too young.

We can’t possibly know or understand what they feel, and our hearts hurt for them. But to us, our loss is painful. Without children, our dogs have become, in a way, our children. They are our family. They are who we look forward to coming home to each night.

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Harley liked to live life his own way. We did our best to try to teach him to live by our rules, but he was his own man. His life had gotten off to a rough start, but when he came to us, he brought something that we’d been missing for some time and really didn’t even realize.

Harley was a Doofus Maximus. In other words, a goofball. A lummox. A dingbat. He brought us joy, laughter, and silliness. Over-the-top boisterous fun, which we hadn’t had for a long time.

Jimmy’s heart really had never healed after losing his beloved Maggie. You see, the other girls are sort of Momma’s girls. He really didn’t have a buddy anymore.

And then Harley came along. For a few weeks, there was unrest until everyone figured out their job  in our household. Once that happened, it came easy: Harley looked after Jimmy, Ekko looked after me, and Charra looked after both of them. And for the most part, we had peace.

Every day, Jimmy rejoiced that he “had a wiener in the house!”

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Little did I know it was a ploy.

He’d been out once already. Our potty ritual was for me to let him outside, and I would stand on the front porch and watch. Once he realized I watched, he would watch to see if I was watching. It became a game.

So for the second time this morning, he acted very excited to go outside. It was an emergency! He needed to go now! I assumed he needed to poop.

I opened the door. He shot past me off the porch, running full speed toward the front of the yard as if he were after something. Knowing he wouldn’t listen to me (as in the past), I sighed and walked to the kitchen, stuck my coffee in the microwave, immediately walking back to the front door. That probably took 20 seconds or less.

I thank God that he protected me from seeing it.

By the time I got to the front door, it had already happened. I saw him lying in the road, the vehicle just past him slowly moving, then speeding up and driving away.

It didn’t register.

“What is he playing with that he’s lying in the road?” I thought.

I called to him.

He raised the front of his body up, barked twice and yelped, not so much in pain, but more as in telling to hurry up, he needed help.

Realizing what happened, I ran to him as fast as I could. My worst nightmare would be seeing him ran over yet again right in front of my eyes. Our yard seemed to be huge, but in reality it probably took less than 15 seconds for me to reach him.

By the time I reached him, he was taking his last breaths. I couldn’t believe it. Surely this was a bad dream.

Dragging him off the road, I called Jimmy and laid there snuggled up against him (pajamas and all), until Jimmy could get here to pick him up.

A neighbor, whose kindness I am grateful for, turned around and waited with me until Jimmy came. Several vehicles stopped, but there was  nothing to be done.

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My heart hurt for my husband. His heart hurt for me. We talked about every hour or two, because we didn’t know what else to do.

Harley made Jimmy smile again. He finally had a dog of his own, a buddy. They were inseparable. I knew he would feel the loss acutely.

Thankfully, we are not “what if” people. What is, is.

We all suffer setbacks. But to torture yourself doesn’t change anything. All it does is make you miserable. Life will always hand you lemons, and sometimes it makes you feel weary, as if you don’t want to go on.

But the quality of your life and your character are determined by how you react to things.

You see, we believe that things happen the way they are supposed to. We don’t always understand them, and may not for years. But at some point, it all makes sense. By no means does it hurt any less. But our faith helps provide us perspective and logic.

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I have experienced premonitions in the past that have always preceded a loss.

I didn’t remember until this evening that I’d had somewhat of an ominous feeling the last few days. I couldn’t explain it, and it wasn’t terribly intense. Just a feeling that something bad was going to happen.

Our friend Jenny (who also happens to be our veterinarian) came by to bring us a card this evening and to offer her condolences

“I don’t understand why God would give us something to fill such a void only to take it away,” I said tearfully.

“Because he needed you,” she said wisely. “He lived a wonderful life with you that he most likely wouldn’t have had otherwise. Not many people would have been willing to take him  and his situation on. And in spite of your best efforts to train him, to calm him down, he wanted to live life his way.”

And just like that, it all made sense.

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Our time with Harley was way too short. We had him less than a year, and he was only 15 months old. And to quote my husband, “he lived life full bore until it was over.”

We all should be so lucky. And at the end of the day, it’s about him and not us.

Thank you Harley, for all that you gave us. I’m so glad we were able to share our lives with you. We’ll miss you always.

A Visit From Titan


Remember this pitiful, malnourished little guy who, with near-frostbitten feet, somehow managed to survive Winter Storm Titan and it’s -13 degree temperatures?

The day after this picture was taken, he met me for the first time at the vet’s office. He weighed 27.5 pounds and we weren’t sure for the first week or so if he would even survive his ordeal.

Well, he and his parents came to visit us recently. We hadn’t seen Titan since Peggy took him home in late April.

If this is the first time you’re reading about Titan or you want to refresh your memory, you can learn all the deets on his rescue here and on his adoption here.  


He looks magnificent.

The picture below is the first day I brought him home, the first time he’d been inside a home, and he’s greeting Ekko for the first time. (In case you’re wondering, you’re looking at Ekko’s behind on a short hair day.)

Meeting Ekko

He was about 5 months old then, and so near starvation that we were all concerned that if he survived, his growth may be stunted.

This is Titan and Ekko now. 🙂

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He weighs a strapping 67 pounds, and he’s not only bigger, he’s also filled out. He is still a couple of pounds underweight for his age, and he’s also probably still growing.

The transformation is amazing!

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Here they are side by side. Titan looks very handsome in his Chicago Police Department-issue collar!

And who did he want to play with the whole time he was here? The guy with the bad ‘wheel’, of course!

Poor Orbit. We went through a lot of sedatives while Titan was here.

Too bad Peggy’s sister and her family weren’t ready for a dog yet. Titan and Orbit could have been cousins!

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Isn’t he handsome?

It was kind of challenging to get pictures of him while he was here. I had to use my phone, and it has a slower shutter speed. Dogs move faster than you think, even when they aren’t moving fast.

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Cameras seem broken if the batteries are completely dead. I’m just saying. I’m not saying that was what was wrong with my camera, mind you. I’m just saying that right after John and Peggy went home, my camera started working again.

Go figure.

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“Mother, what are you doing?” Ekko asks. 

Back in Chicago, John and Peggy also took him to a canine dental specialist. Somehow, this little guy managed to survive a very high fever, such as distemper. It killed the enamel production on his teeth, leaving them only partially protected.

With state-of-the-art dental procedures that simply aren’t available here, they were able to grind down his critical teeth and apply a bonding agent. At his young age, he had to have three removed. This bonding agent will have to be re-applied periodically, and will hopefully be able to save his most critical teeth.

His teeth look terrific!

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We even celebrated his birthday while he was here. Although after all that dental work, he didn’t get any cake. (We ate his piece.) 😉

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It was fun watching him as he remembered each of us. He recognized my voice, and as he checked out our house to make sure everything was still in the same place. When Jimmy came home, he got excited: he remembered him too!

Sophia pulled in, and he got very excited. He remembered her too! And her car!

And he remembered Joe! It was fun watching him get excited about remembering something.

We took him back to see Dr. Webb and Dr. Lindquist.  I just happened to sit on the same bench I where I sat holding him for the very first time. Peggy sat directly across from me, holding Titan’s leash.

Titan walked over to me and leaned up close, looking around the room. As I sat there talking to him, I felt a connection with him, and knew he was remembering what was for him a life-changing moment.

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And his near-death experience has changed him. To this day, he despises windy days, and only spends as much time outside as he has to. It doesn’t matter if it’s a warm or cold wind. I would imagine the little guy experienced enough cold, biting wind on his lonely journey to last a lifetime.

Titan is special.

And it’s not just us who think so.

I knew it, looking at his pictures Leslie sent me.

It’s obvious, even to people who’ve never seen him before. We walked him into Tractor Supply, and a stranger remarked on what a beautiful dog he was, and wanted to pet him.

Peggy and John tell us it happens all. the. time. No matter where they are.

As sad as we were when he left with Peggy the first time, we had no pangs when he left this time. He is right where he is supposed to be, and with the people he was meant to be with.

I’ve wondered several times about the person who dumped him. No doubt, if he (or she) could see him now, they would wish they had kept him. Titan has matured into a dog that everyone would like to have.

Of course, his dad would first like to punch whomever dumped him…and then thank him for one of the best things (besides Peggy, of course!) that’s happened to him.

As usual, the weekend went way too fast, and before we knew it, it was time for them to go. We gathered everyone in front of the fireplace for a picture.

Naturally, when we want to take a picture of our family, we can’t get the girls to sit still or be in it. But get one of someone else…and it’s a whole different story.

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It’s a canine cluster.

Here’s the Bauer family. And two Stanton butts. Go figure. 😀

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Gotta love those happy endings. And the Bauers too, of course. 🙂

The Story of Orbit

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This handsome little face belongs to Orbit, our current foster dog. He’s lived with us for about a month now.

Orbit and his brother Orrey were about 3 months old when they were dumped in a rural cemetery. They lived underneath a big dumpster; starved for human attention, they would run out to greet people when they threw away their flowers.

Over the next 3 weeks, nice people gave them some food until a Good Samaritan contacted the rescue. The little guys went to separate homes so they could learn to be without each other, which would give them a much better chance at being adopted.

Orbit just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, a terrible accident happened, and he got ran over. With multiple pelvic fractures, he needed orthopedic surgery and time for the other fractures to heal. This picture was taken right after he came home from surgery.

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And crate rest. Lots of crate rest.

This is where I came into the picture. I guess you could say we are the Canine Critical Care Unit. 😀

Basically, the surgeon removed the ball joint attaching his leg to his pelvis. It had a large crack in it, and pieces were chipped off. The muscles act as a sling to protect and keep his leg and pelvis in place, and miraculously, over time, scar tissue forms. That scar tissue basically reforms a new ball joint.

That’s the simple explanation. The real one has lots of big words that I don’t know how to pronounce, much less spell. But then, that’s why I have ‘people.’ THEY know all about these things!

Orbit 2

Orbit’s a happy little guy. He really hated the plastic e-collar, and even though this looks like a clown collar, he was much happier with this collar. He was actually quite funny with it.

We had a few power struggles in the beginning. Orbit thought we should do things his way.

I disagreed, and after a 24-hour battle of the wills and my repeated assurance that “I am the boss of Orbit!”, we came to an agreement based on mutual respect and understanding.

I agreed that when we were all home and he was out of his crate and could be supervised I would allow him to be without his collar. In return, he agreed that when he had to wear it and go into his crate he would do it without objecting or complaining.

And he kept his word. He only made noise if he had to potty.

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 “I’m too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it hurts…”

 He’s a funny little guy. And he has the softest fur I’ve ever.seen.ever! It’s like he’s wearing a cashmere coat. He is so soft with big velvety ears, you just want to keep touching him. And since he believes the best place to sit is in your lap, you have plenty of opportunity.

He loves to snuggle.

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And he loves to play. But he’s not supposed to play.  Not yet. His body is still healing.

Of course, Ekko loves to play with him. And he really wanted to play with Titan when he and his parents were here. But it’s still too soon, so whenever he gets too rowdy he has to take a sedative.

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Poor guy. Do you suppose he wonders just why, every time he starts having fun, he gets really sleepy and has to go take a nap? 😀

If only he knew.

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He gets along with the other girls pretty well, most of the time, although Charra is pretty much above the play.

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He and Charra were sharing this bed as I got ready for work the other morning. I heard snarling, and walked in to see what was up.

They both look up at me, questioningly. “Yes? Did you need something?”

I’d leave the room, and within 30 seconds I’d hear snarling again. Each time I walked in, they would give me the same look.

Clearly, this was an issue that was none of my business.

Orbit 3He still sits a little funny, but that will get better as his  hip heals.

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Much of their playing involves them lying down. They’ve figured out nobody gets in trouble this way.

And, as always, we’ve pondered keeping him. We’ve done this several times, and each time we feel we’ve made the right decision to let them go.

If we keep him, we’ll name him Harley (he looks like a Harley), and try to figure out a babysitter while we’re gone to Florida.(Three is really too many when you’re in close quarters such as a camper. And only two people to walk them.) 😀

Something has held us back though to making it official.

And then yesterday, something happened which has made us think.

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“My name is Orbit, and I’m a crotch sniffer.”

Orbit LOVES kids. He saw the neighbors come home, and with great joy, bounded over to meet them and say hello. And tried to go back and see them several times last night.

Clearly, he misses playing with the kids at his first foster home.

And now we wonder: will we be robbing him of the joy of playing with kids if we keep him?

Sure, he would be happy with us. But are we really the best family for him?

And that, my friends, we don’t have an answer to yet. We’ll just let it ride for now, and eventually a decision will be made. (Even the lack of a decision is a decision in itself.)

He’ll either get adopted, or he won’t. And life will go on, until the next one.

So for now, we’ll squeeze him and his soft fur and his ears and laugh at his antics, and see where life takes us on its ‘Orbit.’ 😉

That Wascally Wabbit!

2014-06-18 20.52.58So close, but yet so far…

We live close to a state park and our house is surrounded by timber. Since we built a pond in our backyard we’ve had an abundance of wildlife living around our house.

This provides for many interesting visuals and a great deal of humor. Animals can simply be hilarious to watch.

Unless you’re one of our dogs.

In which case it’s a rare instance that you get to actually go outside and chase the “offending” animal.

The animals know this.

Take for instance this rabbit just outside our Great Room window the other night.

The girls began suddenly carrying on, prompting me to get up to see what all the racket was about.

Mr. Bunny (merely making an assumption here, I wasn’t close enough to check) was minding his own business nibbling in the grass.

Enter offensive dogs barking furiously.

Mr. Bunny pauses to see if dogs will be coming outside. He ponders for several minutes, waiting and watching.

The girls remain at the window. Here comes the human, taking pictures. Everyone remains at the window.

Mr. Bunny decides no one is coming out, but  remaining alert “just in case”…he turns his back to them. He appears to be ignoring us.

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The girls continue barking furiously, begging me to let them out. Charra told me they needed to go out.

It’s at this point I feel I should mention that this isn’t this bunny’s first rodeo here.

Mr. Bunny lives here with it’s mate, and they often play with each other around the yard.

Very rarely have the girls been let out to give chase; it’s usually an accident. None of us realized they were there until we opened the door.

We have no desire to see Mr. Bunny/Squirrel/etc. get disassembled while we watch.

It had been a really hot day.

For Mr. Bunny, it had apparently also been a long day. He was pretty tired.

There’s nothing like stretching out and relaxing under a big shade tree on some nice cool earth. Ahhhhh…..

2014-06-18 20.56.53Isn’t that nice?

Mr. Bunny really enjoyed it.

And it was especially good since his nice little resting spot was right in front of our window.

2014-06-18 20.57.13And two extremely frustrated little girls were watching.

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Ahhhh, what a perfect summer evening, just relaxing…

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After we all went to bed, I slipped out and checked on Mr. Bunny. Most likely he left as soon as the girls weren’t watching any more.

Game Over! 😀

Things in Life I’ve Learned From My Dogs

Skippy and me


This is the first post in a series about me, my dogs, and everything I’ve learned from them. I am smarter, and a much better person because of them. (I wish I was as cool as they think I am. HA) These posts are especially appropriate because I just found out I’m allergic to dogs. Not that I intend to do anything differently, of course, except spend the next few years getting shots. 😀

This is me and our dog Skippy when I was about two.

Skippy is the first dog I ever knew, and one of only two purebreds I’ve ever lived with. He was a beautiful English Shepherd.

He was never vaccinated or neutered, lived outside (except in our basement when it was cold outside), and ate nothing but table scraps.

And he lived to be about 18 or 19 years old. Go figure.

I grew up as an only child. (I wasn’t an only child, mind you.)

I had older brothers and a sister. But I was an accident (my mom was sure she had cancer), so I came along much later after my siblings. In fact, they were all pretty much in high school when I was born.

Eventually I had nephews around, but much of my early years was spent with my barnyard friends, since we lived on a farm way out in the boonies.

I had a pet pig named Curly, and chickens, and bottle calves to play with.

In fact, I spent so much time with the chickens that one of my mom’s friends became concerned. But that’s another story for another day. 😉

I suppose I learned to be resourceful spending so much time by myself.

Skippy was my buddy.

Skippy taught me how what a good friend, and good company, a dog could be. He and I hung out together, went on picnics with Miracle Whip sandwiches out in the pasture, and explored. If my mother wondered where I was (or any of my siblings when they were younger) she called Skippy.

He was a great dog and a terrific friend, and although I don’t have many pictures of him, I have lots of great memories. 🙂

Our Last Weekend With Titan

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Titan went home with his new mom yesterday.

We knew it would be bittersweet. Adoptions always are. While you are sad to see them go, that sadness is outweighed by the happiness you feel at knowing they are going to a wonderful home.

Although we discussed keeping him ourselves several different times, each time we came back to the same thing: two dogs were so much easier for two people to do things with than three. Especially when you have no idea how large the third one is going to be.

We couldn’t have chosen two better parents. 

Peggy and I graduated from UNLV together, worked together, and have been friends since. Even our husbands are now friends.

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We rode out the storm in Daytona with them. They are godparents to our own dogs, if something happens to us.

Peggy came down Friday, and we all had a great weekend together. She fell in love with Titan instantly. Like that was a surprise? 😀

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He liked her instantly, and spent a lot of time snuggled up with her over the weekend.

Because this was Peggy’s first dog since she was a kid, we surprised her with a ‘baby shower’. She was thrilled, and we all had a blast. Where else would you have a shower for a black dog than the Black Dog Saloon? 😉

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The cake that HyVee made was absolutely adorable. We all had blue lips afterwards. It was great. And so was the cake!


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Peggy was so excited about adopting Titan that she had her nails painted blue.


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Titan, of course, helped open gifts and especially appreciated everyone’s thoughtfulness to send tissue paper for him to play with.


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But all that help was exhausting, and sometimes a guy’s gotta rest under his new woobie his mom opened for him.


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The last day came too quickly, and before we knew it, it was time to load the car.


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Since he doesn’t have opposeable thumbs and wouldn’t know how anyway, in the meantime he had a last play with Ekko and Charra.


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Then Traci came by for a quick visit. In canine speak, Titan learned quickly that “Traci” means “treats”. 😀


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And of course there’s nothing more appropriate to wear for a road trip than dirt.


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Everybody went in to get a big drink and rest for a few minutes while we finished loading up.


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Then, it was time to get in the car and go.


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I’ve learned that sometimes we aren’t always the best home, which sounds hard to believe. We wanted him, but they needed him.

Like all of us, their life has been full of ups…and downs. Happy times, sad times, stressful times, stressful work.

Titan is their ‘first child’ together, and their only dog.

Titan is incredibly social. He loves people.  He knows what it’s like to run free; he doesn’t need a big yard to make him happy. What he wants, and needs, is a family.

His life now will involve trips to Day Care, swimming lessons,  the dog park, playing with nieces and nephews, and traveling with his new parents as much as possible. He’s going to go for long walks, visits to the golf course (where hopefully he doesn’t chase the golf balls), and for obedience training. And since Chicago is home to a number of canine dental specialists, he’s going to visit one soon, where hopefully they can take measures to prevent him having to eventually have all his teeth pulled.

And in about six  years, he’s going to live on the beach in Gulf Shores.


For a little guy whose life got off to such a miserable start, it’s going to be a wonderful life. After everything Titan has managed to survive, he so deserves this. It’s as if after being so close to dying, he decided to make the most of every day.

Only two weeks ago, I told Jimmy that I was ready for him to go.

As much as I loved him dearly and am continually amazed at what a truly incredible dog he is, I was tiring of our house in a constant state of chaos with toys and shredded paper everywhere. He and Ekko loved to play, and our house regularly sounded – and looked – like a herd of small buffalo had thundered through it.

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We had him seven weeks. It took us nearly that long to get him healthy. And while he had been feeling good the last three weeks, he had a skin barrier issue and only received a clean bill of health from the vet three days before Peggy arrived. By the time he was really and truly well, it was time for him to go.


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When I got home from work last night, I felt a huge lump in my throat when I saw the red Santa hat he’d removed from the stuffed animal he’s holding in the above picture. He’d carried it around, left it outside in the rain, and had played with it again in the yard just that morning. I saw his food bowl that will never be his again. I picked up all the stuffed animals he’d dragged around the house. Wanting him to have something familiar, I’d sent his favorite toys home with Peggy. Now I was glad I didn’t have to look at them.

I walked back to the bedroom, and was struck by the emptiness left now that his crate is gone. Our room was empty, and so were we. I just sat for a few minutes in stunned silence.

It was like someone had died.

I prayed for guidance. While I had absolute confidence that we had made the right decision for Titan and that he and Peggy and John were a perfect match, both Jimmy and I wondered if we’d made the right decision for us.

Even the girls were quiet. Ekko looked for him. She went down to the basement, back to the bedroom, and around the living room and kitchen. She sat outside on the front deck for several minutes. Her eyes questioned me: “Where did he go?”

After Titan left, Ekko and Charra had their vaccinations, Ekko got a haircut,  and they went to the shop with me. It was a big day for them. I think she’d forgotten Titan had gone with Peggy.

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Feelings are a complicated thing.

Sometimes, those feelings can be intensified if you aren’t at your best. I was incredibly tired yesterday, and Jimmy just flat out didn’t feel well. Neither of us were really 100%.

Titan and Maggie were both big doofuses. (Is that the plural of doofus?) 😀 Titan had a lot of the qualities that we used to love about Maggie, and none of the qualities we didn’t.

It’s only been a few months since we lost Maggie, and I’m not sure we’ve had time to process that loss. Less than a week after she died, we left for Florida. Less than a week after we were home, Titan came into our lives.

When we had Maggie, her needs came first. It was Maggie who went to the shop, Maggie who went along for rides. Because three was too hard to handle, Ekko and Charra had to be left behind.

With Titan, his needs had to come first. He had to learn to enjoy car rides and to meet people so we could get a feel for his behavior in public, and we had to do it quickly. Once again, Ekko and Charra were left behind.

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Now, it’s their time.

They will have an opportunity to blossom, and to have some fun. Charra has finally begun to play again for the first time since losing Maggie. There have been a lot of changes in her little life. And, Maggie was her hero.

Maybe it’s time to enjoy the girls we have, and, like Titan, to embrace life every day. Sometimes you just have to have faith in the process. We don’t always know all the answers, and we have to have patience until God reveals everything to us.

If we were meant to have kept Titan, both of us would have felt certainty about that decision. The fact that we were conflicted is an answer in itself.

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Goodbye, Titan. We’ll miss you. We’re looking forward to watching you grow, to hearing about your adventures, and especially to seeing you and your parents in the fall. 🙂

Update: Shortly after arriving at his new home, Peggy sent me a picture of Titan lounging on the couch. We talked on the phone an hour or so later, and I heard a squeak toy in the background. He slept all night last night, and is really enjoying his walks. He made the trip fine, and is settling in well. Life is good. 🙂

Titan: A Progress Report

Titan Car rideTitan really is an amazing little boy.

It’s not so much that he has rebounded after being so near death.

What makes him so remarkable is his capacity for love and trust.

Rescued dogs are always special. While they often will bear emotional or physical scars from whatever trauma they’ve endured (sometimes at the hands of people it’s hard to think of as humans), they always seem to have a sense of gratitude.

I told our vet that Jimmy and I didn’t think Titan had been abused…just simply abandoned. Once in a while he can be a little timid when meeting new people, which is normal for most puppies his age…he is friendly towards everyone he meets.

Our vet agreed. “Either that, or he just simply has an amazing capacity for love,” she said.

Titan always receives raves when he visits the vet. He is such a good boy, he doesn’t seem to mind going there. They are friendly, they give him attention and treats. And, he seems to know that no matter how much he’s poked and prodded, they are all helping him. He trusts in the goodness of people.

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When we went back to the vet for his follow-up after 3 weeks, they were very busy. We waited patiently in the waiting room. While we were in there, a number of people came in with their animals.

Each time the door opened, he would stand, ears and expression alert with curiosity and friendliness and tail wagging, as if to say, “Oh, hello!”

One dog and his person waited in the room with us for at least ten minutes. When the dog had to go outside to go to the bathroom, Titan looked at me, his face questioning. “Why are they leaving?” his expression said.

“They’ll be back,” I reassured him.

Titan came into our lives March 4. On that day, he weighed a mere 27.6 pounds. Most of that surely had to be his frame.

As of Tuesday, he has gained 20 pounds.  He is still underweight, but of course he is also growing at the same time.

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Just last week, he finally began to act like a puppy. Clearly feeling better, he is running, playing, shredding papers, and teasing us. All normal puppy behavior.

Another victory.

He hasn’t quite grown into his large feet yet, and when he walks, he looks like someone who’s wearing shoes that are too big. 😀 Sort of like a clown, he pads along with those large feet…it’s comical and sweet at the same time.

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With praise and love, he has blossomed. I have only had to scold him once, and that was because he wandered too far from the house and didn’t come when I called. He’s never done that since.

In the beginning, he simply wasn’t well enough to leave the house or to socialize. We’ve started doing some things this week, like practicing car rides and meeting some new people, but I’m still being very careful what I’m exposing him to. He is still very vulnerable to illness.

It takes some time for a dog so close to starvation to fully recover. His body is nourished, and amazingly, his spirit is as well. He doesn’t seem to be starving emotionally: he doesn’t show any food-aggressive issues, doesn’t try to steal or beg human food, and doesn’t raid the trash.

But his system is still playing catch-up.

When we went back for his check-up late on a Friday afternoon, my vet and I discussed his plans and his pending move to Chicago for his forever home. (And that is another story for another day!)

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“When’s the last time he ate?” she said.

“At breakfast this morning. I wanted you to swab him for a DNA test, so I didn’t feed him all day.”

“If you want to leave him overnight, I’ll neuter him before I leave today.”

“You’re a Rock Star,” I told her.

Three weeks after his rescue, the complete blood panel they ran prior to surgery showed he was still as anemic as the day they first saw him.

Our vet told me later that normally they wouldn’t have even done the surgery with an anemic dog. But Titan had improved so much from the day she first saw him and looked so much better that she thought it was just a matter of his system not catching up.

We’ve made some dietary changes and he’s on a multivitamin. Hopefully another blood test next week will show an improvement.

He has a crusty, itchy skin issue which is causing him some hair loss. We’re treating him for mange, but our vets believe that it simply may be a skin barrier issue. Healthy skin keeps out bacteria which can cause illnesses.

His skin may simply have not recovered from his severe malnutrition. A special shampoo, Omega 3 and Omega 6 supplementation, and a special skin medication seems to be gradually helping.

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 “Mother, you really need to stop this picture thing. It’s getting embarrassing.”

His first bath here at home was like wrestling a greased pig!  Jimmy and I only have 4-5 more to go. 😀

Today I’m picking up a prescription for a sinus infection for him.

“He’s a bit of an enigma, poor little guy,” our vet said.

Next week, we go back for another blood test and his last booster shot, and we’re hoping to see improvements across the board. Time will tell.

He didn’t reach near-starvation overnight, and his system isn’t going to recover overnight.

But overall, he is rebounding wonderfully, and shows us every day what a truly remarkable and amazing little boy he is.

He’s funny, sweet and loving. He snores, prefers to sleep with a fan as he gets hot at night (and it covers his snoring!), and is curious about the world.

Terrified of cars at first, he now gets in and out all by himself. (He prefers to ride in the middle of the back seat, where he can see straight ahead and sniff out of both windows.)

Titan at the shop

He is enjoying going to the shop with me, and I can tell that his car rides and the people he’s meeting are building his confidence. 🙂

Nearly every day is a new ‘first’ or a small victory, and I can’t tell you how much it warms our hearts to see him grow and blossom. It’s incredibly rewarding, and been an amazing journey already.

(How many times can I possibly say the word AMAZING in one post?!)

For us, watching him is a good reminder of how important it is to embrace life fully, one day at a time, to keep a loving heart, and always be open to new adventures. :-)