Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter Itch, Doggy Scratch

We upgraded the heating system in our house, switching to forced air.  It's cheaper and the house heats up faster.  But you know what?  There's a price to pay for it.  I get really itchy from all that warm, dry air.  At least I can do something about it with lotion and clothes.  Beverly, our German Shepherd doesn't have that option.  She's been itching for weeks.  Finally all that itching created an infected spot on her back, which needed antibiotics.  The vet shaved a little divot out of her back.  She's getting better with the meds, but it's going to be a perpetual problem.  What we do to improve our lives as people, sometimes has an adverse effect on our pets.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Throw Me a Bone, or a Kidney

I got some wonderful news recently.  It comes three years after I published my first book, The Marrow in Me.  Most people who read this blog are dog folks.  Bear with me as this has nothing to do with dogs.

Three years ago I published my first book, The Marrow in Me.  It's the story of how I became a very rare bone marrow donor for a teenager I'd never met.  The roots of the journey stretch back to my television days in Hawaii.  It was the greatest gift I ever gave, and the greatest gift I ever received.  Sadly the marrow that was extracted from my pelvis and transplanted into 16-year-old Adam Hardin's body wasn't enough to save his life from and long and very painful bout with leukemia.

Adam Hardin, my marrow recipient

I've long dealt with my grief hoping that someone somewhere would read the book, be inspired to donate, and ultimately save a life.  That would be my validation, my chance to vicariously live the dream I hoped to have with Adam.  That moment finally came, albeit differently.

It turns out an employee of my stepsister, Ellen McGrattan, spotted a copy of The Marrow in Me on Ellen's coffee table in Minnesota.    She borrowed it, read it, and said it gave her the courage she needed to donate a kidney to her nephew.  She saved his life.  In a nutshell the book above did exactly what I wanted it to.  It just used different equipment.

Jade Moon, with left hand on her father and kidney recipient's shoulder

As luck would have it, there's another Hawaii connection to share.  I just learned a woman with whom I shared many a newscast with when we both anchored at KGMB is also a kidney donor.  Jade Moon, now a columnist at Midweek Newspaper, saved her father's life.

Now I'm not going to kid myself into believing that I'm the straw that's stirring this MaiTai of goodwill and blessing.  I am simply blessed to be surrounded by those who embody the richness of life and share it abundantly.  It is the Spirit of Aloha, and it reaches into our hearts, souls, kidneys and bones.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

German Shepherd Stops Foils Potential Road Rage

Beverly in Pickup Truck

So I'm rolling along in my pickup truck on a hot Saturday afternoon on Labor Day Weekend.  I'd just cut the grass and I'm taking the clippings and other trash to the Wellesley, Massachusetts dump.  Beverly is in the backseat of the cab.  Along the way, the driver of an impossibly large Chevy Suburban made an illegal turn in front of me at an intersection.  I had the right of way, but it didn't matter to him.  If I didn't let him continue his bold and rude move there would have been a minor collision.

To let the man know he'd committed a violation, I gently tap-tapped on my horn and shrugged reasonably politely.  His passenger looked out the window, sarcastically shrugged back, and gave me the middle finger salute.  What great guys.  Turns out they were going to the dump too.

When I pulled alongside the offending aircraft carrier at the dump entrance, the driver looked over at me with the unmistakable arrogance of someone who thoroughly enjoyed being a jerk.  He was getting a rise out of it.  What he didn't know was something else was rising in the back of my cab.  I lowered the window and Beverly stuck her head out.  If you could have only seen the change of expression on both their faces.  They wanted no part of that.  Oh the joys of owning a German Shepherd.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What the Dog Smelled

Outside Hockey Rink, Wellesley, MA

I've always been fascinated with smell.  I'm not alone.  Look at the millions of people who wear perfume and cologne.  Smells touch more than our noses, they put imprints on our memory.  If a woman walks by wearing Tea Rose, it reminds me of my mother.  If someone is wearing Polo for Men, Mike D instantly flashes into my mind.  You could smell Mike down the hall in high school.  He's since toned it down.  When I walk into the Boston Garden for Bruins games, I'm overwhelmed by the smell of Dunkin Donuts Coffee brewing inside of North Station.  

The picture above sparks so many memories.  The dog is on a stoop outside of the Babson Skating Center in Wellesley, MA.  Hockey practice had just finished and several players were hanging out on the stoop with their oversized bags slung over their shoulders.  The dog was in smell heaven even though the players stunk to high heaven.  I know this because I play the game and cover the Boston Bruins for a living.  Most locker rooms smell like sweaty athletes, whatever that means.  But there's no smell like a hockey locker room--and nothing smells worse than the inside of hockey gloves.  Hours after you play, shower and scrub, hockey is still on your hands.  And as we know dogs will bury their noses in just about anything.


Were it not for noses, Follow the Dog Home would not have been the book that it eventually became.  Beverly's nose (seen above) led us back to the place where our journey with family dogs started 70 years earlier.  Dee Dee's nose led her to a skunk spraying which fouled the noses of family members, readers and especially Dee Dee (seen below watching over family).  The point is where there are smells, there are tells; stories to be told--whether it's a book, or another dog on a stoop somewhere else.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

If Not For a Dog's Nose

Follow Dog Home coauthor Samantha Walsh with Beverly

Three years ago this week, on the first Saturday of August, Beverly led us back to the exact place where our journey with dogs began.  Were it not for her nose, who knows if we have all that we do today?  By that I mean a critically acclaimed book, a Facebook page with nearly 8,000 fans, and the validation of the family dog as something greater than the family pet.

To bring you up to speed:  I moved my family to Wellesley, Massachusetts in August 2009.  I took my German Shepherd, Beverly, for a walk down Atwood Street, and she started sniffing around a particular property.  Prior to our arrival in town we'd never been to Wellesley, nor did we know anyone who had lived there.  Return trips to Atwood Street yielded greater curiosity from Beverly's nose, and it piqued my curiosity too.  It turns out the house in particular was briefly my Dad's childhood home.  The discovery of an photo confirmed it.  Dad never knew he lived there.  Neither did we.  Beverly might have known, but who can say for sure?

Walshes return to Atwood Street, 2011.  Left to right: Beverly (dog), Kevin, Bob, Amanda, Jean and Samantha. Annie is the Corgi on Bob and Jean's laps.

Walshes at Atwood Street, 1941.  (Foreground) Dee Dee.  Left to right (back): Elizabeth and Marie Beth (Walsh) Hall.  Elizabeth is holding Bob, Marie Beth is holding Bob's twin, Dick.  Bob is sitting on the exact same spot 70 years apart. 

We went back to the homestead with the blessing of the homeowner, and plunked Dad down on the  front stoop.  We really had come full circle to the place where it all started some 70 years ago.  Dad has seen five wars, and raised 17 dogs with his children and his children's children.  So much has changed.  But one thing never did--a dog's place in the family.  It is the one and only constant in life that we know.  And we wouldn't want it any other way.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What Do You Say to a Grieving Dog Owner?

Asia, minus her dog pal

I don't know what it is, but lately I've been talking to a lot of dog owners about loss.  Last weekend it was a man in Boston's North End.  He was walking Asia, his one dog instead of the usual two.

And yesterday I caddied for a nice fellow who put his friend of 13 years down just a few months ago, and quickly bought a new Lab to replace him.  He had such joy talking about his new puppy, but it was clear my golfer was still grieving the other one.

After the round, I shared with my loop part of what we wrote in Follow the Dog Home, because in many ways he was feeling similar to how my 10-year-old daughter and coauthor Samantha did a few years ago.  Samantha came home and discovered our 12-year-old German Shepherd, Tiffany, dead on the floor.  A few months after that, we got a new German Shepherd--Beverly.  I thought all was well.  What I didn't realize was Sammy's feelings of joy for the new dog were tempered by her concern that Tiffany would think we had abandoned her.   I never would have known this had she not expressed it in her writing.

Tiffany (dog) with Amanda (left) and Samantha

So as I was saying goodbye to my golfer, I wanted to leave him with something.  I told him what Lebanese Philosopher Kahlil Ghibran wrote about in The Prophet; something that we included in Follow the Dog Home.  Sorrow carves away at your being so the vessel can be refilled in whole when joy returns.  It's like a tall glass of cold lemonade on a hot summer day.  Were we not parched in body and spirit before, the replenishment wouldn't be as refreshing.

Beverly (dog) with (L to R) Samantha, Kevin and Amanda

Thursday, July 19, 2012

One Golden Dog, Two Kevin Walshes

I talked to the other Kevin Walsh.  Who's he?  He's the guy who found my Golden Retriever, Susie, on the campus of Purdue University.  I wrote about this in Follow the Dog Home on pages 147 & 148.  That's him below.

Kevin Walsh, Purdue Graduate, Dog Finder

Actually the better way to describe it is, Susie found him--on a campus of 40,000 students in West Lafayette, Indiana.  My adventurous dog slipped out of my fraternity house, as she often did, and somehow managed to find her way into a different frat.  Low and behold Susie walked into Kevin Walsh's room on the second floor of the Sigma Epsilon Phi house.  Nobody knows how she found her way there.  Satisfied with her discovery, she plunked down on his floor and took a nap.

Susie and Walsh Family, 1988

Many of our readers have told us Susie finding the other Kevin Walsh is their favorite story.  They also wondered whether I'd been in touch with my namesake, with news about the book.  Twenty three years after the 1989 discovery, we reconnected.

The other Kevin Walsh lives in suburban Chicago, and it turns out we have more in common than our name.  We're both married with children, and all of our kids are girls.  I have a Samantha (coauthor of Follow the Dog Home), he has a Samantha.  There's probably more that we'll discover later.

I'm sending Kevin a book.  He doesn't have a dog now, but he did growing up.  He tells me his wife and kids are really putting the pressure on him to get a puppy.   Something tells me after his family reads Follow the Dog Home, they'll get one.  And if they do, we'll have another good Kevin Walsh dog story to tell.