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I knew nothing about Australian Shepherds when Shannon told me about a litter of Aussies in Chesapeake. We were looking for a companion for our feral dog Abbey. When we went to the huge property the pups were at Shannon fell in love with another puppy but I wanted the little girl rolling in her own poop because she was playing so hard. I gently pressed to get her and Shannon agreed. When we brought the pup home she screamed as we left the farm she was born on. Shannon wanted me to take her back but of course we never turned around. Like many big choices in our life we were not prepared for her when we got her. We had to go straight to Petsmart and get a kennel and all her supplies. We named her Lily…..with one “l”.
I had never had a dog that enamored herself to me. She was a puffball and the first couple nights we had her I slept on the floor next to her. I eventually put her kennel next to my bed and hung my hand in the cage touching her to calm her at night. She was a handful as a pup. She was destructive but her face always saved her with me. One day she kept making noises driving Shannon crazy so I decided to take her outside and go for a run. I had just started running and was not over excited about it but needed to do it. That day I took her on a mile run and when we came hame I thought I killed her because she panted so long and hard. I learned that day that she had no quit. You had to make her stop or she would go until her heart popped. We started running daily rain, snow or shine. We ran up to five miles a day for a couple of years. I was always at ease when her and I ran. She always lead. Any problems I had on a given day fell away when the Bears and I ran.
The relationship with Abbey, her dog buddy, was fair at best. the dogs liked each other but rarely played together. Abbey was a sweetheart but had feral drawbacks. She would from time to time violently attack Lily. Lily was much smaller but she always took the fight to Abbey and even though Abbey was often the clear winner it was Lily you had to pull off her exhausted sister. We were at a Petsmart one day when two large male Aussies attacked Lily. Lily left both of the boys bleeding and not wanting to continue the fight. I didn’t like the fact that she had to fight but it illustrates more that she did not know the word quit. She was always outsized but it made no difference to her.
Lily always made me smile. She smiled all the time. I am not kidding when I say she smiled. When you would pet her it was clear you were making her happy. Lily loved the beach and chasing tennis balls. That girl could jump great heights to catch a ball and would bring it right back covered in sand. Lily would have a mouth full of sand too but she did not care because she was playing.
When Abbey died Lily moved to our new home and really enjoyed being an only dog. She would walk around Emmas friends in the yard waiting for someone to drop a snack and if they did not pay close enough attention she would steal it. A little girl name Maddy was playing in our yard while I was on the patio with Lily. A worker building the neighbor’s house cam into our yard to grab some debris. The worker got too close to Maddy and Lily launched between the child and adult and made it clear he was going no further. Lily was very protective.
After several months of solo dog Lily would gain a Great Dane sister. Lily quickly warmed up to her and finally had a dog that “played” with her. Lily was greatly outsized but the Dane knew Lily was the alpha. In recent months the near 14-year-old girls hips failed, her sight failed and her mind failed. Lily would go out in the dark to pee and we would send Neffie (our Dane) to get her. Neffie would stand guard over Lily as she relieved herself. Knife struggled when Lily was gone so we got another Dane puppy to be her companion when the inevitable happened. Lily, even in a very weakened state, held the alpha over both Danes. Lily tried her best to play with the puppy but she would fall to the ground.
Lily made everyday a good day. Lily owned me. I love her so much and this next passage kills me. She was very light. She could not keep weight on. The vet offered some options to help but they did not take. She had large sores on both hip bones and it hurt for her to lay down. Lily never liked couches, beds or blankets and the hard word had to hurt her. She recently reached the point where she could not get up off the floor and that was the end. Neffie would not let me take her to the vet for the last trip. Neffie blocked me from her and kept running to Lily. When we made it to the vet Lily was defiant. The vet said letting her go was the best choice. Shannon knew this to be true and I knew it to be true but I needed the vet to say it. I stayed with her until the end. She never quit. She needed sedatives to make her lay down and even in passing refused to close her eyes. Lily never, ever quit. This dog is inspiring. She is a living metaphor on how to approach life.
We apply human traits to animals but they make a difference in our lives. Pets brings up when the world wants to pull us down. Lily loved me every single day. Lily never gave up on me. Lily pushed through two Great Danes to greet me even in her final days. She hurt but forced herself up because she loved me. I love her and will never have the hole she left filled. I sang her to sleep with a song a made up for her and the song’s title says it all “Their ain’t none better than the Bears”.
Friends love your family pet or human because life is as they say too damn short.
Brother G, The Big Red Machine, Gossy Bossy, Mr Wiggly Whiskers, and many, many others but his name is Gossamer. Gossamer is the first pet my wife adopted as her own as an adult out of Pharmacy School. She adopted him and very shortly after the Big Tig. She named him after the big red character Gossamer in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. He was a red fluff ball with crazy crinkled whiskers and underneath it all a very sweet but grumpy face. While Grumpy Cat looks grumpy Gossamer looks like he would kill you for sport. It was all looks though because he was sweet as the day is long. He was not overly friendly but when you pet him he would mostly oblige. Gossamer was the very first link to my wife. When my wife and I started dating she gave me a key to her apartment one night so I could meet her when she got home. She warned me that Gossamer did not easily warm up to people. When my then girlfriend walked in he was sitting on my lap chilling out like a popsicle. He never left my side from that moment until this morning where he lay on my lap while our Great Dane and Australian Sheppard watched over him.
Gossamer was a good boy. He was never very large but he had the heart of a lion and he thought he was as big as one. If the dogs wanted a fight he would oblige. Gossamer was the cat that stayed in the background. Most times you never knew he was there. People would come to our home several times before they saw him for the first time and he was always out in the open. He liked to sleep in the downstairs bathroom. One night a friend went into the bathroom did what she had to do and was startled when the entire time in the very small bathroom she did not notice him glaring at her from under the sink. I think he had a dark sense of humor. It’s a dark story but a classic Goss story. One evening our cat Kozmo suddenly died of what we assume was a heart attack. We heard Kozma falling down the stairs and rushed to his side. When I looked up Goss was at the top of the stairs all Omen Devil Child like he had pushed Kozmo. Kozma and Goss were never close. I retold that story over the years to soften the blow of a very sad night.
Animals are not human but to good pet owners they represent family and events. Gossamer was the last link to the beginning of my relationship with my wife. The animals that remain all came well into my daughter’s life and she is only seven. Pets are the good in the world. They are loyal and almost always bring a smile to your face. We can learn so much from our pets.
Goss was closer to 18 than 17 and he had a good life but even more amazing is he made our lives amazing. In his last days he could not move around much or chose not too but he would make his way to me and get me to pick him up. He would snuggle in for ten minutes and leave. He wanted to remind me he loved me and maybe needed me. We all need to be needed and fulfilled that for me. This morning I took him to ease his transition. I did something I had never done before I prayed over him. I asked that not only he have an easy passing but that my wife and daughter would handle it as well. I told him the Big Pig, and Big Brown (our dog), Pancakes, Junior, and even his arch nemesis Kozmo would be there and he would play as his younger self. I broke down in tears both in sadness and relief because I realized he was going to be okay but it reminded also of the years with the family bets over the years. I held onto him until he could see the glimmer of Heaven behind his eyelids.
We lost our three senior pets ranging from 12 to nearly 18 years in barely two years and now my I look at my Aussie realizing she is senior pet by a mile and I sadden up but I am comforted that she has a great group waiting for her when (hopefully years from now) the time comes. Life is precious and so are the ones we share it with so remember to love with your whole heart at all times. I will never forget Brother G.
Imagine our souls float aimlessly through the air before we are born. When your soul finds your vessel or body you become a person. A new person or baby is lost and clamoring to be loved, taught, hugged, and molded. We have no choice where we land and are lucky when the ones that raise us are good and just people. Today a new life came to our world. He found a home that is truly great. Lets start with his new sister. She is going to need a little time to adjust to you because she has had a few years where she was the only ticket in town. She is smart and beautiful. She has laid some ground work for you and made many friends that she will share with you. She will be loyal to you until the end. She is going to be alot of work for you as she grows older because the boys will be calling and you may need to run interference. You may have to even lay down the law and make sure they understand that although she will be more than capable of handling herself she has a brother that will back her every step. I have seen your sister stand up to kids older than her without hesitation for her friends. The ability your sister has to stand up for the ones she loves and cares about is a passing breed but thank God we have her to hopefully carry that trait along. Your father is rare too. He is a throwback to a time when men not only loved their family but their neighborhood. He does not care who you are if you are part of his community because he gives all newcomers a welcome open hand. He believes that a neighborhood is an extension of family. He wants the best for his neighbor and has never let petty things soil the neighborhood he loves. He gives of his time and heart. Your father is like no man I have ever met and I have known many. He will pass many good things on to you and you will do well to listen and soak up his knowledge. He is a good man and he will make you a good man. They say behind every good man is a good woman and this could not be more true than with your family. Your mother is a force. Your mother always speaks up and does not care if it is not the popular thing to do. She is honest and loyal to those she cares about. She has a sense of humor that will make you laugh on at a funeral on Christmas day. She puts others before herself. She is the origin of the smarts your sister carries. She will lay her life down for you (as would your father) and not even blink. Your mother is a model for other mothers to follow. She will rock the child of the mother that would think nothing to show another child a “lesson”. She does the right thing as does all of your new family. You see Reid you have already won in this life and you are not yet 24 hours old. You will know nothing but great love. You will laugh and learn and be part of an incredibly,respected family. I look forward to looking across the street from my patio to yours and watching your family holing you as they sit on their patio and talk to our other neighbors. You are a lucky young man brother.
I have known many great men in my life. I worked with cops that were pure and simple walking examples of what a good man is. There are few men that are on a level that many never reach. I am talking about the kind of man who other men only dream they could be like. My wifes Pap, Jimmie Solomon was one of those men.
When I first met my father in law I was intimidated. He is a big man with a reputation you hear about well before you meet him but when I met him I had future mother in law back up and future wife back up. When I finally met him I quickly learned he was no one to be concerned with as long as you came correct. As long as I take care of his daughter and treat her as he would I had no worries. When I met my wifes Pap it was another story.
When I describe my wifes Pap it is my view of the short 15 years I knew him. If I get any fact incorrect about him they are my error and I apologize in advance for it. When I was first taken to “The Farm” to meet him I was taken back by the very long rocky road that lead to his house sitting up on the side of a hidden mountain. His brother lived just below him. The road seemed like a scary path to a place that city boys like me had no place going to. There was cattle everywhere. He raised cattle for a living and his farm was impressive to someone who had never been on one. I knew he was a hard man. He was a coal miner also. He had his back broken in the mines. He had the reputation in Morgantown that when he walked across the street it may not be a bad idea to be on the other side of the street. He had a missing finger and it took me a long time to ask him about it. When I met him I received a strong handshake. It was a handshake I could never match. Even in his late 60’s or early 70’s at that time you could tell his presence alone kept you in line. He commanded respect with a handshake and a gentle but firm gaze. He was very welcoming and kind to me on that first visit. I thought I would struggle to converse with him because we had nothing but his grand-daughter and a love for dogs in common. He was very easy to talk to. I listened to him tell me stories about the farm,coal mining, and Morgantown. He told you things you never knew. He did not make me feel dumb. I didn’t get many family stories from him but I learned a good bit.
My wifes Pap would sell his cattle to help fund his granddaughters college. He had my mother in law help neuter cattle. Get your hands dirty kind of stuff. His Farm is huge. To this day I truly do not know how big it is. He would take his ATV all over it and he told me of many times where he had to politely explain to strangers or neighbors the property lines. I am sure that meant a firm “let me explain this to you” conversation. He would run those mountains with his cattle dog. He got hurt once and was a good distance from his home. It was his dog that came and got his wife and brought her to him. He was a John Wayne get stuff done kind of man.
One of the conversations I had with him I will never forget was about my tires. We came to visit and he noticed my tires were balding. He pulled me aside and told me I wasn’t going home until I replaced them. He meant it too. He quietly told me that he would give me the money if I needed it. He told me this away from everyone. I felt like he was giving me an offer if I needed it without embarrassing me. We didn’t need the money but he was willing to take care of us. I fixed those tires the second we left the farm. I was not going to explain how I ignored him and his offer and took his granddaughter on a seven hour trip through the mountains home. He was kind. He didn’t say much but when he did you listened and most of the time you learned something.
My daughter was terrified of him. He played loud and with quick hard movements. He was not rough by any means but to a two or three-year old just learning to walk it was something to get used to. She learned to love his play and after a couple warm up trips she would go after him with great vigor. In his later years he had some trouble moving around but when his great grand daughters were there you never knew it. This hard man would scamper through his house chasing the girls with this huge smile on his face. It was a smile that melted you because it was at those moments that even tough you knew he was a man to be reckoned with and respected he was also a man with a great heart and love for his family. He was the true measure of a man. He was the most a man could be.
A couple years ago time caught up with him. He suffered from Alzheimer’s. I will not offend his life by waxing poetic about a decline with great detail. He does not deserve that. Suffice to say his decline was somewhat textbook for his age and the disease. We visited him in an elderly home in his last years. Even sick and in an advanced age the ladies at the home loved him. They loved him to the point it may have even got him in a little harmless trouble. 80 plus and making the ladies crazy. Like I said he was a mans man. The last trip we made to him was this past December. He loved his dogs and they had long passed and sadly a good part of the mind that made him the great man he was had passed too. We brought our Australian Shepherd to the hospital. His vacant stare gently cracked into a smile upon seeing our Lily Bears. I placed his hand on her head and he rubbed her fur. I saw that familiar smile. The one he had chasing my daughter and her cousin through the house with. No words but that smile was unmistakable. For a moment that dog brought him back. I am so happy that the last time I saw him I saw that smile.
The good Lord was in need of another good man and around 830 PM on 2-18-2015 he brought him home. I bet that there are girl angels up their lining up to get an up close look at the lady-killer. There his brother waits to show him the lay of the land to a farm he may have in Heaven. His dogs are running by his side and of course across that newly minted angels face is a unforgetable smile.
There seems to be reward cards for everything these days. Go to the grocery store and flash a card for better deals. Flash a card at your child’s hairstylist and get a free haircut. Hell these days there are even signs that say “scan your Belly” for better deals. A plastic card proves your loyalty to some. What if we had loyalty cards for other things in life and were rewarded by them in the same way. Maybe we could have spouse reward cards. “Hey babe I took out the trash so can I be rewarded with that kiss now? I have a card”.
What would a faith reward card look like? Maybe a bible would serve as a rewards card. You read the bible and follow it’s teachings and the reward is endless. I like that concept. I think everyone needs faith in their life. I have been accused of being an atheist because I don’t carry on much about what I believe or have faith in. I am not an atheist but I’m not exactly a Christian either. I believe in God but I rarely speak of it. Faith will get you through. Faith is the belief that things will be okay because forces we do not understand will sometimes help make sure all is good. Having faith is not good enough. I think you have to earn faith reward points by living a good moral life. Good behavior sometimes brings good things. The best part is that the harder you try to live a kind life the easier it is to do so. The kind life is infectious. If only one out of fifty people you treat with kindness turn around and do the same to one another because of the way you treated them then that is reward enough. If you have faith that all will be okay then it is easy to be kind because you know that your actions reward others.
I have faith in God. I have faith that if I live a good life I will be rewarded down the road. But I don’t try to live a good life for the sake of rewards. Living life for reward cheapens your actions. Live a good life because it is part of the very fiber of your being to help others and raise their spirit. Faith that all will be okay if you are kind will make it easy to forgive when the need arises. When you understand that you can’t change others but you don’t have to let them change you that is powerful. I believe faith gives us power to overcome. Faith will find funny or rainbows in the darkest day. When you love everyone and have blind faith you may face ridicule but that is only because some folks just don’t understand that faith is personal and does not mean the same thing to every person.
Have faith. Have faith in your own way. If it comes from the Bible great. If it come from church great. As long as it enriches your life and gets you through while at the same time helping others from to time to time then it will make your life well worth living. Life is worth living but life lived to help others, well that’s simply rewarding.
Will you have this women to be your wife….
Why hell yes I think I will. When I met my wife I was coming out of an all time low. I am a good man but I had some wear on me from a previous marriage and any woman who took me on would have taken a chance. I was untrusting and not looking for love. I was not in a rush for anything. She asked me out and we dated a long time before I even considered going in for a kiss. I did not want to find out that this perfect woman I was dating was not all I thought she was so a slow path was laid before discovering she was more than I could ever imagine.
….to live together in holy marriage?
We were married in a West Virginia backyard. We were surrounding by some close friends from several states. I was nervous but I knew I was making the right choice. My wife stands for something. She is pretty and she is smart but there is much more depth to her than that. She cares for people. She cares about strangers and their desires to have families. She see or hears danger and heads towards it instead of away from it.She doesn’t care that she does not have a plan when she heads toward the danger. Someone is in trouble and she wants to help. When a neighbor is in need she does not need in invite to go and offer them some relief from their grief. Being her husband is an honor.
….Will you ,love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health,….
She is unconditional in her love. She will stand for you no matter the cost. There is not a fight she will back down from for you. She will care for you when you do not or cannot care for yourself. In our marriage she has backed downed doctors, fire chiefs, and employers for me even when I wished she would not. She cannot handle the thought of anything harming me in any way. She loves me for me…freaky flaws and all as my daughter would say.
….and forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you shall live?….
There could be no other person for me. I have loved many and lost many. Some I lost were my fault and some were not but the thing I learned in those loves is that when someone is willing to give their every everything for your happiness it should not be taken lightly. I will never know a love greater than hers. I will die for her and I will never leave her side. No sickness will slow me down, no challenge life throws at us will make me do anything other than dig in deeper and love her more.
….In the name of God, I take you Shan to be my wife to have and hold from this day forward, for better, for worse….
To some marriage is disposable. You take flight at the first sign of trouble. Problems tear you apart. Problems should and doe strengthen true love and love is true as a babies smile. We have overcome family loss, pet loss, work complications, lost babies, infertility, dreams not reached….with the shrug of our shoulders. We have cried and had sleepless nights but when the sun rises we are together and better than ever. I am so deeply in love with my wife that I can’t breath from time to time.
….for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow!!!
Death shall not end this love because our daughter will bear testimony to our love. She will be a beacon of light that her friends, lovers, and children shall find shelter in. She will be, in part, who she is as a result of our love. We will set the example that you give your all and find ways to make things work. Love is not work. marriage is not work. Your heart will guide you if only your eyes are wide open. My eyes are always open. I am a blessed man, a rich man, and all of this because I have the love of my life. Shannon Thornhill you truly are my sunshine, my only sunshine, and you make me happy every night and day.