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Monday, September 9, 2019

The anguish of feeling your heart die a little: Magnificent Tess left us Thursday, 9/5/2019 at 13 years, 2 months.

Tess, our golden and Abby our yellow lab

Update: A worthy obituary

The Yin and Yang of Life and Love: The Anguish of feeling your heart die a little.

Sadly, Tess, our golden retriever left us Thursday 9/5/2019... 

... and Abby, our yellow Lab, photographed in 2013 to represent the *Yin and Yang of life, are now in their 13th year. Sadly, neither is expected to make it much farther.

This is a tribute of their enormous contribution to my wife Kathy and I and to the greater world where they made their mark outside of home. We love them with all our hearts and the sad truth that owners mostly outlive their beloved pets is upon us once again.

Abby has been with us since right after birth, truly the cutest and best of the litter. We fell in love with Tess the moment we saw her in a shelter when she was just a year old.

Both are therapy dogs, recently retired because the spirit is willing but the bodies became weak. Both served years as HOPE: Animal Assistance Crisis Response dogs whose job it was to bring comfort to those in need at national and local disasters of every type.

They/we have been to the Washington D.C. Naval Yard for three days after the mass shooting in 2013 where 12 working there were killed, offering comfort and calm to all who were deeply affected.

They/we have been active participants for five years at Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a program offering help, hope and healing to all those grieving a loved one lost serving in America's Armed Forces. Each year for three days abutting  Memorial Day, TAPS would gather 1500-plus survivors--family members and children--in Arlington, Virginia just a mile from Arlington National Cemetery where many of their loved ones lie, offering programs to assist in every facet of recovery assistance and need.

Our dogs and Kathy have been active in hospital and hospice care with weekly visits going back 10 years. The response to this comfort is overwhelmingly unbelievable in many cases.

Kathy has made up a beautiful song that stops Tess in her tracks every time. Tess stops, sits and looks back as Kathy softly sings:

Oh the places we've been to, the things we've done,
I couldn't have done without you.
The people we've met and the smiles we''ve made
I couldn't have done without you.

You've opened your soul, given your heart
To everyone we meet
You let me see, through your sweet eyes,
Everyone is the same.

The places we've been to, the things we've done
I coudn't have done without you.

Bum Bum
 Badum Bum.


And of course, there are more of these stories untold. But most of all, they have been our pets, giving and receiving love as only a pet owner could know.

So life is hard now. Tess has cancer and ecoli. Abby is blind and is on seizure medicine. And both have had orthopaedic surgeries for hips and knees (thank God for Pet Insurance) and arthritis.  But, Abby and Tess still remain at a level of love and togetherness that says, "Not just yet."

It is/will be one of the hardest of times for any pet owner and, once again, it will be our time. So we relish in our lives together, their love and the memories while we still have that heart-to-heart connection that we know is fleeting.  A good pet owner never lets beloved pets suffer and we will not. But at this moment, we are mutually and affectionately one.

Lily, our  LabraDane
We do have a junior member therapy dog taking over those hospital and hospice duties. Lily is another adoptee, now about six we think. She is a LabraDane, a mix between a Labrador retriever and great Dane as you may notice. She is the big little sister who will sorely miss her adoptive sisters, but she, and we, will carry on.



*This is the original Yin/Yang post from 2013 and it gives the full meaning of this ancient Taoist symbol.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

So just how important are you?

John Wooden won 10 NCAA titles. But Al McGuire won one in a pink leisure suit. I'm calling it a tie.

This is a tale of two very important men in NCAA basketball history.

John Wooden
John Wooden was the legendary coach of basketball powerhouse UCLA which won 10 NCAA championships--including seven in a row--and had an 88-game win streak in his 12-year coaching career for the Bruins. His record over that stretch (1964-1975) was 291-10.

Al McGuire was the colorful coach of Marquette University for 13 years. His team won the NCAA championship in 1977, his last coaching year. He said of himself, "When I was losing, they called me nuts. When I was winning they called me eccentric."

When it comes to being important, John Wooden had the best take: "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is who you really are, your reputation is merely what others think you are."

If you have no character in a vital role, your importance will be measured by the consequences of your actions. Your value judged by others would be, for better or worse, your true relative importance.

McGuire told this story: At a fund raising dinner after his team's NCAA victory, food was being served to the head table seating 10 dignitaries, including McGuire. As one of the servers was dispensing one pat of butter to each diner, he asked for two. The server told him one pat was what everyone would receive. He said to her, "Do you know who I am? I am the coach of the Marquette basketball team that just won the national championship." She responded, "Sir, do you know who I am? I am the person giving out the butter. One pat!"  Importance is not who you say you are but how you are judged by your actions.

Wooden with Walton
Wooden helped turn out some of the best basketball players in the history of the game. He coached Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Lew Alcinder), Bill Walton and Walt Hazzard to name just a few. And they were all important as part of a team. That was Wooden's forte... build the team. After one incredible season and Championship, player of the year Bill Walton returned for the next season sporting a beard he grew over the summer. Wooden's teams were under a 'no facial hair' edict but Walton felt this was his time. He asked the coach how he liked his beard. Wooten nonchalantly said, "It is a fine beard Bill. Couldn't have done better myself. We will miss you though." Next day Walton arrived clean shaven for practice.

"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given, Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be Careful."  JW

"I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession." JW

 To which Al McGuire, from a grittier background, added, "I think everyone should go to college and get a degree and then spend six months as a bartender and then six months as a cab driver. Then they would really be educated.

So really, just how important are you... or better said, how important do you think you are? If you die tomorrow, are you so important than no one can take your place? In all of humankind, that hasn't happened once. Death has a way of leveling the real playing field.