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.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dogs of Provincetown

If there's a place that's more dog friendly than Provincetown, Massachusetts, we don't know where it is.  We've spent the past few days in P-Town, and we're not sure whether our German Shepherd, Beverly, is going to let us leave.  She's had more fun than us--which is really saying something.

We came here to speak about our book, Follow the Dog Home, at the Provincetown Library.  Around that, we had the kids with us for a day, before dropping them off at a Girl Scouts overnight camp farther down the Cape.  Jean and I have filled in the rest of the week with typical beach town activities.

Jean & Kevin Walsh on Cee Jay Fishing Tour

By and large, most of our time has been spent walking Commercial Street, the mecca of people/dog watching.  Beverly has absolutely loved being fussed over by friendly strangers.  We did the same with their dogs and took pictures.  Here are a few:

Maggie & Gracie, Australian Terriers
Sophie, Goldendoodle
Cairn Terrier.  Didn't get its name, but owner says it's the poster child for a Chicago area Wizard of Oz production.  Looks like Toto to me.

There are so many more, but you get the point.  We'll remember our visit to Provincetown more for the conversations we had, than for the stuff we did.  And, as always, the dogs were the conversation starter.

For more cute dog pictures from Provincetown visit us at -

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dogs & Dads

Beverly, Star of Follow the Dog Home
It's one of the greatest gifts my father ever gave me--a love of dogs.  His dad gave it to him, and I've given it to my children.  Our dogs have been with our families through five wars, the polio epidemic, The Great Depression and many, many good times.  I guess the point is, they've always been and always will be there.
Dad sitting on mother's lap with first dog, Dee Dee, looking on,  1941

The family dog is truly one of life's only constants.  Nothing has changed about them and nothing ever will.  In a world that moves increasingly fast, it's nice that one thing stays the same.

Think of the one person in your life who gave you your love of dogs.  There's a very good chance it was your dad.  Remember your dad this upcoming Father's Day weekend and give him something that will remind you why you're dog people.  In the pages of Follow the Dog Home you will see your own lives and your own stories.

Follow the Dog Home really is the perfect Father's Day gift and summer read.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dogs at Beach

Beverly (left) with smiling Amanda (right), Sandy Beach, Cohasset, MA, 2012

If there's a happier place on earth for dogs than a beach, I don't know what it is.  Doesn't matter where the beach is, so long as there's sand and kids.  It's the open space, the water, the joyful play with children, and above all else--the smells.

We've been taking our children and dogs to the beach for years.

Jean and Bulldog, Ocean City, New Jersey 2005

The beach is doggy Nirvana.  It's just so obvious.  The picture at the top of the page and the ones below are from Sandy Beach in Cohasset, MA.  Obviously there are beach rules and dogs are not welcome until later in the day, but it's worth the wait.  Two Golden Retrievers joined Beverly and kids before the sun went down.   And when the sun set, we reflected on what was the perfect day in the perfect place.

Jim & Heather Mensching with Jean Walsh, May 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Puppies That Nip & How to Fix It

Bear, Chocolate Labrador

I love puppies, but those cuties really do have sharp teeth.  I ran into Bear at the TV station and he was just going to town on his leash.  Then he substituted my hands for teething.  Bear was there with Jake the Vet who does a regular segment on New England Cable News.  Jake says the best way to discourage a puppy from biting is to use your thumb as a tongue depressor.  It works.

Samantha, Naples, FL

The same theory works for taking largemouth bass off hooks.  They don't have teeth, but they have some pretty pokey bristles around their mouths.  When you stick your thumb in their mouths and hold on tightly (see above), they just go limp.

Now I know some smarty pants is probably wondering if the same thing can be applied to the human species.  I'll only say this; if someone tries it on me, they're not getting their thumb back!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How to Name a Dog

The most popular dog name in our town is Lucy.  We know that because of license registrations.
A family at our daughters' school has a Lucy.  Here she is, although she's doubled in size since this photo was taken a few months ago.

Years ago dogs often had double names, like horses.  On top of that they had nicknames.  Below is a picture of Claudia and Fly Boy.

Claudia (top), Fly Boy (bottom)

Fly Boy was my dad's dog as a child.  He was already named when they got him.  Perhaps it had something to do with his prodigious jumping ability.  He could jump like a kangaroo or "fly", but only in one direction.  He could jump into his outdoor pen with ease, but impailed himself on efforts to jump out.  The ground was level on each side.  "Dumbest dog in the world," Dad says in Follow the Dog Home.

Dee Dee was my dad's first dog.  Dee Dee was short for Dimity Davis.  

Dee Dee (foreground), 1941

There was Frisky the Mongrel, who was better known as "Runner" because that's what he did--and usually away from home.  His speed was impressive.  So was his reading ability.  One day after a lengthy search, Dad's family found him sitting under a street sign that read Essex Avenue.  Right street, wrong town.  Runner was a couple of miles away from his true home on Essex Avenue in Montclair, NJ.

Susie and Family, 1988

Susan Marie--there's those two names again--was the family Golden Retriever.   My mom and dad had an arrangement.  She would get to name the boys, he could name the girls.  Mom and dad had three sons: Chris, Kevin and Michael.  Dad loved the name Susan Marie.  But with no girls to name, he named the dog after the daughter he never had.  We all called her Susie.

Left to right.  Kevin, Samantha, Bob holding Annie & Beverly

We are currently on our second German Shepherd.  The first was Tiffany, the second is Beverly (seen above).  We give our Shepherds girly girl names to take the edge off the reputation.  "You can't name a German Shepherd Tiffany," more than a few people have offered.  "You gotta give them a strong name like Duchess or Olga."

Uh, no we don't.

I bumped into a very cute Corgi the other day who was being walked by a young high school girl.  I like Corgis.  Their faces are as happy as a Bulldog's face is sad.  I asked the girl what the dog's name was.  She said, "Annie."  Just like my dad's Corgi, Annie, seen in the family photo above.

Annie the Corgi
Winnie the Bulldog
One final one.  Years ago I saw a high school boy walking an odd looking dog around a lake in Central California.  The dog looked like it could have been from outer space, or from Guam which is legendary for strays, or "boonie dogs."  The dog's name was Yigo, pronounced Gee'-go.  "How did you get that name?" I asked.

"Well my dad was in the Air Force and we lived in Guam.  Guam was the name of our village.  He's named after our village.  Nobody's ever heard of it."

Not true.  Not only did I know where Yigo was, I'd been there, having lived in Guam in the mid 1990s.  The dog's name sparked a much lengthier conversation after that.

Have a cool dog name story?  Share it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wait, Where? Dog Book at Hardware Store

I suppose it's interesting enough.  People were wondering why our book, Follow the Dog Home, was being sold at a hardware store, in addition to the usual places.  Good question.  Answer: it's different.  That answer is often followed by another question/statement combination.

"Who buys a book at a hardware store?  If I want a book I go to the book store."

Look, I get it.  But look at it this way.  You don't find Follow the Dog Home at Ace Hardware in Wellesley so much as it finds you.  You go to Ace, buy your lightbulbs and Scotts Lawn 4 Step Program, and while you're checking out you see the book next to the register.   It's an impulse buy, much like the caramels, batteries, gum and windshield sticker wiper-offer that it's sandwiched between.

Having a sign looking right back at you that explains the book is autographed and written by a local family sweetens the pot.  And it helps that RJ the Owner likes me and the book too.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Love Dogs, Hate Dogs

Beverly, Follow the Dog Home
I think it's fair to say that the overwhelming majority of people who read our book, our blog and our Facebook page love dogs.  But to think they all do is naive.  My experience in radio, television and published writing reminds me of that.  There will always be those who love to hate you, and what you care about.

Take Rush Limbaugh for instance.  It's commonly known that a good chunk of his radio audience listens to hate him even more than they do already.  It works for him and the ratings. 

We got a note the other day from a reader, who it's fair to say had issues with what we wrote about in Follow the Dog Home.

The angry reader pointed out that my dad's first dog, Dee Dee, who was poisoned by a spiteful neighbor more than 70 years ago, deserved her death for foraging in the man's trashcans.  What's more, the note called us "dog freaks", "inconsiderate self-centered morons" who don't care if our dogs poop and pee in other peoples' yards.  To sum it up, the writer said loose dogs are fair game for being poisoned, run over by cars, etc.  I find that disturbing.

Dee Dee (foreground), poisoned by a neighbor

Much has changed about attitudes toward dogs over the years.  My neighbor in Wellesley, MA, Pasquale, who's in his 70s or 80s, remembers the days "when dogs ran wild."  "There were no leash laws," he said in his Italian accented English.  People just dealt with it--for better, or worse, usually leaning toward tolerance-- much like they did when a neighborhood baseball game led to a broken window.

We've evolved.  Animals are now legally protected from cruelty and people are protected by leash laws.  By and large most dog owners I know strive to be good neighbors, raising obedient dogs and picking up after them if they soil another property.

But there will always be a few in the minority who just don't get the dog life that so many of us love.  A couple of years ago I was walking my German Shepherd, Tiffany,  in Ocean City, NJ.  She tinkled on the edge of the greenest grass I'd ever seen, just inches away from the sidewalk.  The homeowner unleashed a scolding dripping with disdain.  As rough as that was on the ears, it was certainly better than a poisoning.  And naturally, we were more careful the next time we walked by.

Tiffany, yellowed a green lawn

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dog Needs Glasses

It started as a goof, and took off.  We put reading glasses on our German Shepherd, Beverly, as Samantha read our book to her.  We posted it on the Follow the Dog Home Facebook page, and things went crazy.  Internally and externally.
Samantha Walsh & Beverly

Jean Walsh & Beverly

Jean liked what Samantha did, duplicated it, then did a switcheroo. Can you see the difference in the two photos?

Next thing we know, glasses end up on Mia, a gorgeous German Shepherd owned by our pal Laura Borden in Pennsylvania.

Connie Byron sent me the above picture.  Apparently her sweetie, Rosie, saw the focals as a chew toy instead of an eye aid.  That happened to me a few years back with my Golden Retriever, Susie.

I don't know what we've started here, but I'm entertained.  And I'd like to see more.  Send us your spectacle wearing doggie photos.