Thursday, December 29, 2011

"I was Pitching the Book Boy!" Grandpops sells Follow the Dog Home

Beverly, seen above, was thrilled.  We had a nice Christmas together with the Walsh/McGrattan crew in Ledyard, Connecticut.  We are a real life Brady Bunch.  A combined family of nine adult children, 20 grandchildren and two spouses who remarried after losing their spouses in the early 90's.

With family all over the country, it's not easy to get together.  We did pretty well this year: 14 people and four dogs gathered to open presents, reconnect, argue in good fun and drink good wine.

One of the more interesting discussions involved three generations of Walshes, and the authors of Follow the Dog Home.  I did the videotaping as my dad, "Grandpops", chatted with fellow author and granddaughter, Samantha, about his book marketing efforts.  As usual, Dad was silk.  Click on the link below the picture and you'll see what I'm talking about.

"I was pitching the book boy!" Grandpops Video

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dogs and Their Friends' Names

Beverly & Chance during a summer playdate
Do dogs recognize the names of their friends?  I'm convinced of it.  The other night we had dinner over at the Starck's house.  They have a Lab mix named, Chance.  Chance is our dog, Beverly's best pal.  Chance was happy to see us, just like he always is.  When we said Beverly's name, Chance did the unmistakeable head tilt that all dogs do when you strike a chord.  After pizza and wine we returned home.  Beverly smelled Chance's scent all over us.  And when we said his name, she did the same goofy head tilt.  So there you go.  Yes, dogs recognize other dogs' names.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Book Arrives at Authors' Houses

So just in time for Christmas we got our authors' copies of Follow the Dog Home.  It was an anxious time leading up to that, because even though you've seen a draft of it on the computer and on Kindle, you never really know what it's going to look like, until you see it for real.  The end result is: we really like what we see.  You will too.  And you know what?  It reads even better.  Celebrate!
First look at the book

Samantha & Kevin signing first copies of book
Sammy signing, Amanda cerealing

Star of the book, Beverly, takes a look

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Letter to God When a Pet Dies

From Rasta Ranch Rescue:

Our 14-year-old dog Abbey died last month. The day after she passed away my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so, and she dictated these words:

Dear God,
Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.
I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.
Love, Meredith

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith' in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies.' Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:
Dear Meredith,
Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away.
Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I'm easy to find. I am wherever there is love.

Love, God

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Poker Folds, Smokey Fuels the Fire: Excerpt from Follow the Dog Home

An excerpt from Follow the Dog Home book
as told by Bob Walsh:

“The woman grabbed her son by the ear and started hitting him
on the back of the head with her purse,” Boots remembers
with a laugh. “She was whacking him all the way down
the street.”

That boy didn’t dare tease Dicky again. Recently my
son Kevin, ever the reporter, put the squeeze on me for
more information. “So who was the kid that Uncle Dick

“I’m not telling,” I told him.

In addition to feeding Poker, I also tried to take on
his grooming requirements too. Cutting a Cocker’s coat
is no easy task. I tried and tried and tried. I’m not sure
how handsome he looked when I was done with him, but
his hair was definitely shorter. I don’t think he was into
appearances anyway.

As blessed as we were to have Poker, he was not blessed
with longevity. He lived to be just six years old. He fell ill
one day in 1953, and Dad took him away. About a
hour later we heard Dad’s car pull into the driveway. I
walked over to the dining room window and looked
outside. Dad was sitting in front of the steering wheel
cupping his forehead with his hand. He sat there for a
few minutes, squeezing his thumb and fingers together
as if to rub out a headache. I just stared out the window
wondering what was taking him so long to get out.

“What’s your father doing?” my mom asked, seeing me
from across the room.

“I don’t know,” I told her.

Almost as soon as I said that I saw my dad reaching
for something in the front passenger seat. I thought he
was reaching for Poker, but the back of the front seat was
too high to see down to the seat itself. When he got out of
the car, he had Poker’s leash and collar in his right hand,
but no dog. He walked up the steps slowly, opened the
door, and came inside.

He took his long overcoat off even slower, while still
holding the dog’s leash and collar. He got stuck in the sleeves,
but eventually wiggled his way out. There was a growing sense
of unease that we all felt.
In a tossing motion, Dad’s keys landed on a small table
by the kitchen with a thud and a jingle. We could hear his
footsteps on the hardwood as he walked toward the front
room where we had all gathered.

When he got to the front room, he looked at us kids and my mother
and then down at his hands, which held the dog’s essentials. He looked
so sad. Finally he looked up and simply said, “Poker died.”

Nobody said a word. It was clear Dad was upset and
any questions would only make him feel worse.

“I think Dad took Poker’s death especially hard because it was the
first dog that was truly his,” my sister remembers.

I just remember feeling really sad too. I was sad for my
dad and sad for me. Little did I know a few years later
that Dad and I would share another loss and connect on a
deeper level. History would repeat itself thirty-four years
later, only this time with me as a father and my son Kevin.

Oh yeah, one other thing about Poker. Not even an
hour or so after Poker’s death, Smokey the Cat made a
visit to our house. He sat on a table in our backyard with
the confidence of a cock in a henhouse. He knew Poker
was dead and had the audacity to rub it in. I never did like
that cat.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Behind the Scenes TV Coverage, with Bob Walsh

So we went to a local TV station to shoot some canned interviews for the book launch.  That's TV talk for interviews that will be distributed to the mass media for use in talk shows, news programs, etc..  It was fun, especially for 10-year-old Samantha, who's hoping to sign autographs and meet Leonardo DiCaprio because of it.  Then there's my dad, Bob, who did a fine job answering questions from our "interviewer" Jean.  Afterward I interviewed my dad with my iPhone about a foot away from his face.  Oh, was he ever thrilled about that.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dog Sleeping with Jesus

I don't know if this German Shepherd channeled its inner Wise Man or what, but my eyes clearly tell me it found a comfortable place to crash.

The shepherd puns are endless: the German Shepherd found The Good Shepherd; the Lord is my shepherd... there is nothing I shall want, etc.

My pal Lorraine posted the picture on her Facebook account.  She got the picture of the dog in a manger from an email.  I don't know who the dog is, or where it came from, but someone closer to the source of the photo suggested it was a stray.  If true, that's the best looking stray dog I've ever seen, and an animal smarter than any wise man I've ever known.  Who needs a star when you can follow your heart home? 

The more I look at this picture, the more it reminds me of our dog, Beverly.  It's not Beverly above, but there is a likeness. And like our friend in the manger, Beverly has led us to some interesting places too--my father's early childhood home, site unseen, the best among them. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

When Might is Right: Excerpt from Follow the Dog Home

Excerpt from Follow the Dog Home Book
as told by Bob Walsh:

It was the kind of thing that would bring
a lot of kids to tears, but not Dicky and not me. I was mad
and determined to get even.

I took off running after the kid. Another friend joined me.
I think the offending boy was surprised how quickly we
caught up to him. He hadn’t even reached the corner before
we grabbed him. He put up a little fight but was totally
overmatched. We dragged him by his wrists and shoulders
all the way back to Dicky, who was grinning and waiting.

Dicky’s eyes lit up when his tormentor approached with a
fearful look on his face. Dick dropped his crutches, reached
out with his arms and said, “Let him go.”

As soon as we turned him over, Dick had the kid
wrapped up in a tight bear hug. The kid tried to wiggle
away but was no match for Dick’s unbelievable upper body
strength. Although just a fourth grader, Dick was
probably as strong as a high school offensive lineman
because of his time on crutches.

Pleading for mercy, the big kid was in tears and out of
breath. After about a minute, Dick dropped him. He had
all but squeezed the life out of him. The much larger boy walked
away, looking small and defeated.

A short time later, there was a knock at the door. My
mother answered. A woman with the same ten-year-old
boy standing alongside asked if there was a boy named
Bobby Walsh who lived there.
“Yes, I have a son named
Bobby,” Mom answered. “Why do you want to know?”

“Well a boy named Bobby beat up my son,” she said.

She left out the part about Dick being teased, or maybe
her son didn’t tell her about it. Dick and I could hear the
conversation from where we were in the kitchen. We
made our way over to the breezeway for a better listen,
but we were careful not to stick our heads out too far so as
not to be noticed.

As the volume and tone of the conversation grew, so
did Dick’s eyes. He looked at me with a sense of shock
and wonder about whether we might be in trouble. No
sooner did I shrug my shoulders, Mom called out my
name, summoning me to the front door.

I left Dicky and Poker in the kitchen. Mom pointed at
the boy and asked me, “Did you beat that boy up?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Why did you do that?” Mom wanted to know,
somewhat angry herself now.

“Because he called Dicky a cripple,” I announced.

As soon as I said it, Dick came hobbling to the front
door with Poker in tow for moral support. Boots caught
ear of it and followed. Poker poked his head out from
between Mom’s legs and barked at the boy. The other
mother was mortified by what she saw and what her son
had said.

*Read what the cruel boy's mother did to him for his
verbal offense in the next excerpt from Follow the Dog

Friday, December 9, 2011

Interesting Dog Names

That dog in the window is Beverly
I signed onto my Facebook account this morning and on the front page was a posting from The Huffington Post.  It was about interesting dog names.  I kinda sorta thought I might see my dog's name and picture among the 25 dogs on the list; otherwise I wasn't sure why the Huffington Post would out of nowhere pop up on my account.  Sadly, Beverly was not among the bunch.  I'm over it.  So is Beverly.  And if nothing else, that opened a window to another idea--a dog name post of my own.

Beverly follows Tiffany, who was the family German Shepherd that preceded her.  We prefer girly girly names for our German Shepherds because it takes the edge off.  When nervous people hear Beverly's name, they instantly decompress. 

Other stories:  I knew a girl in high school whose dog's name was Jeff.  Her boyfriend was Jeff too.  We had fun with that one.

A few years back I saw a teenager walking a funky looking dog, that almost didn't seem of this Earth.  I asked what the dog's name was.  "Yigo," (pronounced Gee'-go) he answered. 

"That's an interesting name," I told him.

"Yeah, we used to live in a village called Yigo.  Nobody's ever heard of it.  It's in Guam, and nobody's heard of that either," he answered.

"Oh, no, no, I know exactly what you're talking about.  When I heard Yigo and "village" instead of "town", I knew exactly what you meant.  I used to live in Guam too!"

For the geography challenged, Guam is a U.S. Territory in the Western Pacific region.  The boy was stunned, and of course I was too.  We bid each other Hafa Adai--Chamorro for good day--and went on our way.

My pal, Carter, who you see on a big TV network from time-to-time, had a Lab named Nalu.  In Hawaiian, Nalu means wave.  Carter is from Hawaii and surfs--pretty well I might add.

Years ago my dad had a dog named Fly-Boy.  He's in the picture to the left and below.  That dog could fly, but only in one direction.  He could jump into his outdoor pen, but not out of it.  The ground was level.  Doesn't make sense.  Neither did Fly-Boy.  We wrote about him, Beverly, Tiffany and others in our book, Follow the Dog Home.

My neighbor Bob, a retired Boston area firefighter with an accent as thick as chowdah had a Bulldog named Shakespeare.  It was better to hear Bob say it, "Shaykes-pee'ah."

Shakespeare was as cool as his name.  He was solid, unwavering, a true friend and confidant to Bob; much like Horatio was to Hamlet.

So that's my soliloquy on dog names.  If you have a cool comment to share, by all means do so.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pearl Harbor, How it Impacted My Family & the Family Dog

Seventy years ago, December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. That day altered the course of history and lives of hundreds of thousands of families, mine included. I wrote about that in my book, Follow the Dog Home. Right after the attack, my grandfather, a Navy reservist, prepared to join the war effort. His courage, patriotism and sacrifice were noble, but it came with a price. It forced a move that broke our family up for a while. And we weren't the only ones. This happened to almost everyone we knew.

While the war raged on, and fathers were off serving, our family dog at the time, Dee Dee, did a tremendous service too. She just loved my dad's family and comforted them when so much was uncertain, and the lives of those they loved were in peril. Dee Dee, and every dog my family has had since, has done pretty much the same thing: been there for us, in good times and bad; a true constant in an ever-changing world.

Dee Dee, 1941,
Wellesley, MA

Below is a reprint of an excerpt of Follow the Dog Home. I posted it on my blog last month, but considering the historical meaning of December 7th, and how the attack on Pearl Harbor reshaped American life and my family's too, I just had to share it again.

Excerpt from Follow the Dog Home book
As told by Bob Walsh:

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, sending shock waves across the globe, the U.S. mainland, and certainly down Atwood Street. For my dad and a lot of men, the attack stirred something inside. Dad wanted to do something about it. Eventually he did, with ramifications that would affect us all. My older sister remembers Dad becoming very quiet after Pearl Harbor and having discussions with my mom about what he was going to do. We’re pretty sure the unfortunate circumstances of the war gave Dad a chance to fulfill what, for him, was unfinished business.

Dad went to the United States Naval Academy and graduated in 1924. Most men who went to
the service academies back then were expected to make a career out of the military. But while at Annapolis, Dad’s eyes deteriorated. It didn’t affect his studies, but it would have a lasting impact on his military career. His poor eyesight meant he couldn’t serve on warships. That essentially put the kibosh on Navy upward mobility. 

With his career advancement limited, Dad was given the option to resign from active duty and join the Reserves upon graduation. That is what he did.

After a few months of cooling his heels and successfully playing cards with his friends, Dad joined his dad at the phone company. The telephone industry was our family business and nearly everyone else’s back then. Grandpa (Daniel Walsh) got Dad the job. That was how things worked. Dad’s return to active duty during the war came with a caveat. His job in communications at AT&T was considered “essential” to the war effort. His superiors didn’t quite understand why he thought he could better
serve his country in a capacity different from what he was already doing. Clearly, Dad wanted more.

In the spring of 1942, Dad left for the Navy. It was a
sad time for us, but we were very proud of him. He still
couldn’t be on a warship because of his eyes, so he was
assigned to Solomons Island, Maryland, the initial base for
training crews in amphibious operations. The training at
Solomons Island and at the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base
in Little Creek, Virginia—where Dad later served—would
play pivotal roles in the amphibious assaults in places like
Normandy. When his work was done in the Mid-Atlantic
region, he would later serve in Hawaii.

The Walsh Family, 1944:
Back row: Albert Walsh, Jr., and Marie Beth “Boots”
Front row: Bob Walsh, Elizabeth Walsh, and Dick Walsh

Joining the war effort was a family affair filled with upheaval and uprooting. When Dad left, we moved
from Wellesley to Providence, Rhode Island. We moved in with Momma and Poppa MacAdam, my maternal grandparents. It was especially tough on my older siblings because they had to change schools. That’s never easy on anyone.

While the rest of us missed our dad and worried about our future, Dee Dee was in doggie heaven in the
home on the one hundred block of Benefit Street near Brown University. Poppa Mac doted on that dog and took her everywhere he went, including to work. Poppa Mac was a tough Scotsman who smoked sweetsmelling tobacco in a pipe. If you were looking for him, you could just follow your nose. Or you could call out Dee Dee’s name and retrace her steps. She would lead you to him because she was always with him. When he left for work as a night watchman at the Walsh-Kaiser Shipyard,
Dee Dee walked with him. She’d stay at the shipyard for a while before walking back home, arriving promptly each night at eleven. And then one day Dee Dee disappeared.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cruel Cat, Cruel Kid, Good Trumps Evil! Excerpt from Follow the Dog Home

Excerpt from Follow the Dog Home Book
as told by Bob Walsh:

Smokey would come over when the coast was clear,
sprinkle a couple of drops of tinkle on our grass, and later
watch Poker have fits following his nose. Smokey’s scent
would lead to his back door, and Poker would follow the
trail with smoke coming out of his floppy ears. When Poker
got to the back steps, he’d look up with jowls jiggling and
teeth bared. Smokey only fueled the fire by grinning back
smugly from the safe side of the window’s glass.

“Some day. Some day you’ll get him,” I told Poker over
and over again when it was time to bring him back inside.

Poker loved to be fussed over. When Dad would sit in
his leather chair, Poker would come right over and prop
his head up for petting. With a gentle touch Dad would
stroke the dog from the top of his head and down his back.
Dad would do it until his arm got tired, or Poker would
collapse and fall asleep from the hypnotic repetition.

As much as Poker would strike a pose next to my
father’s chair for the love and attention Dad gave him,
he would do the same for me, as I dabbled in art. Poker
would sit at attention for almost an hour as I sketched his
headshot and bust on a pad. I think his obedience came
from the fact that I would praise him for sitting so still. I
would talk to him about things going on at school and in
the neighborhood as I waved the pencil across the pad.
The end result was something I felt really good about.
Also, I remember the connection we had as much as the
art. We were real pals.

Poker was there for me when my brother Dick and
others weren’t available. Dick had to do a lot of physical
therapy because of the polio. Mom would help him with
that, or simply rub his sore legs.

“With Mom taking care of Dicky, and Al and I being
older and doing our own thing, Bob would sometimes get
the shaft and be lonely,” my sister Boots remembers, “so,
that’s why I think Bob really bonded with Poker.”

I was also taking on more responsibility with the
dog’s care. Mom and Dad did the heavy lifting, but it
was expected the kids would feed the dog when told, or
whenever Poker indicated he was hungry by putting his
paw on my leg and letting out a little whimper.

In 1949, we were in fourth grade. We were ten years
old. There was an incident involving a fellow fourth grader
who was quite large for his age. I vividly remember the big
kid taunting Dicky about his limp and leg brace. He called
Dicky a cripple.

*In the next excerpt of Follow the Dog Home, find out what
Bob and Dicky did to the cruel kid when they caught him, and
what Poker did when the boy's mother came to the
Walsh's home to complain.