When Is a Song More Than Just a Song? When It Brings a Christmas Message

Those of you who know me also know what a huge part music plays in my life. I guess it was something I inherited from my parents who, while I was growing up, always kept a daily “soundtrack” playing on our family stereo. Sunday mornings would undoubtedly have the air ringing sweetly with the inimitable sounds of Jimmy Roselli’s Italian hits as mom took great care in preparing our Sabbath-day supper. Weekdays; depending upon my mother’s mood, one may have caught anything from the velvety jazz sounds of great legends like Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn – to the top 40’s hits of the day emanating from our little household. Eventually, the proverbial baton was passed on to me via my beautiful mother and I have been faithfully effectuating my melodic responsibility for almost a half-century now.

As you may imagine, thanks to my parents, I have been blessed with very eclectic musical taste. With an opened mind, I often surf the radio dial, and internet alike, seeking out beautiful music of any style (as well as from other cultures) to add to my ever-growing collection. For the past few years I have been favoring contemporary Christian top-40 music. Please don’t judge, give it a try… it’s just plain good music that happens to have a positive message. In these trying times it is comforting to be reminded of a greater power watching over us with unfailing love and forgiveness.

What has all this got to do with Christmas you may ask? Well actually for me, quite a bit. This time of year at the Abate house, Christmas would simply not have been Christmas without a backdrop of holiday anthems gaily sung by Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, and of course, Bing Crosby. Over the years I have held steadfast to this family tradition. However as I mentioned above, the past few years have brought me a fondness for Christian pop tunes and that affinity has introduced me to songs that I would otherwise never have had in my life; exceptionally beautiful music that I not only appreciate for its appealing tunes and catchy refrain, it also manages to open my eyes to my God and my life as a whole.

As we get caught up on the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I find it refreshing to hear an inspiring song that reminds me of why we are celebrating in the first place. Even as a young boy I can remember that on the very same album where Johnny Mathis sang about “Silver Bells’ and “Sleigh Rides,” there was one song in particular that caught my heart and made me think. It was a song called, “The Secret of Christmas.” The lyrics of the song imparts to the listener that … “the secret of Christmas is not the things you do at Christmas time – but the ‘Christmas things’ you do – ALL YEAR THROUGH.” I could not have been more than nine years old but I was dumbstruck by the simple truth in the message of those powerful lyrics.

There is unquestionably something about the Christmas season that causes us to become much kinder, generous, and more understanding human beings, no matter what faith we may follow. How beautiful the world would be, if only we could do so, every day of the year… but I digress. To get back to the music; a couple of years ago an artist named Brandon Heath, released a Christmas album titled, “Christmas is Here.” On that album is the song “Just a Girl.” It narrates the story of Christmas from the prospective of the Innkeeper who put the holy couple up in a stable where Mary gave birth to the Son of God. The lyrics take you away from shopping lists, flying reindeer, dancing snowmen, and colored lights, to wrap you up in the warmth of the true miracle of Christmas

Nativity

Although I respectfully acknowledge that Christmas is indeed a beautiful holiday, as any Christian truly knows, it is Easter that is the most important and joyous celebration on our calendar, as it is the very basis of Christianity itself! That said, there is one extremely important lesson that Christmas teaches us that can sadly become over shadowed by gifts, décor, and parties, and that is the fact that just as the innkeepers of Bethlehem turned away Mary and Joseph, we all too often turn away from our fellow man.

It is human nature to turn our eyes from suffering and things that we may find unpleasant but it is also a great human responsibility to do our part to ease the suffering. So you won’t give any money to that homeless girl who sits outside the subway station every day begging; tomorrow why not try offering her a friendly smile and some of your home-made Christmas cookies? I am certain that it would lift her spirit to know that someone actually cared enough to make her feel thought of, if only for a moment.

One of my favorite Christmas memories is from my days in New York City. I had a bunch of friends over for a Christmas tree-trimming party. Once the tree was decked out in all its holiday grandeur, my guests accompanied me down to Grand Central Station where, at that time, the homeless were known to gather. We gave them all the leftover food from our party, properly wrapped for presentation, along with paper plates, plastic cutlery and paper cups. The gratitude and smiles we received filled everyone (from both perspectives of the story) with the true meaning of Christmas. So much so, that when my friends and I returned to my apartment and stood together in the soft glow of the beautifully lite Christmas tree, it inspired us to spontaneously grasp hands and sing, Silent night.

Every day we have the opportunity to touch someone’s life. I pray to God that I recognize my chances and he grants me the ability to do the work he has for me here on earth during my lifetime.

Christmas is a time for reflection, a time for giving, a time for loving and, for me at least, a time for music that fills me with the spirit of Christmas and the miracle of the birth of the savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Now along with my traditional holiday musical favorites like Jingle Bells, Sleigh Ride, and Winter Wonderland, I have some new Christmas favorites such as Francesca Battistelli’s “You’re Here,” Downhere’s “How Many Kings,” and the afore mentioned Brandon Heath’s “Just a Girl.” I hope you too take a moment to listen to these songs, as I know that they will touch your heart as they have touched mine. For your convenience, I have posted links to their Youtube videos by simply clicking on their titles.

No matter what holiday you’re celebrating, may God bless you with peace, joy, love of family and friends, and the good health to enjoy it all.
Until Next Time,
Don

 

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One American’s Message to France

So terrorist attacked our beautiful city of Paris last week and I say “our” city in solidarity to all the free nations around this majestic planet we live on. They may call themselves terrorist but never before has a name been so inappropriate.

Their goal may be to induce terror but with each and every action they take, they accomplish the opposite. We don’t fall and cower in terror; instead they only make us become more patriotic, more compassionate, and stronger in our convictions… and in our faith!

I thank God with all my heart that my dear French friends were safe from harm’s way. I don’t need to name them, they know who they are and they also know that they are more like extended family to me than friends and that I love them all with every inch of my being.

My heart goes out to all those who were affected by the cowardly bombing of the innocent (and unarmed) citizens of the Great Nation of France. I pray for the souls of the dead, the healing of the injured, and peace for the surviving family members.

Paris, you are the City of Light, and that light shines through your darkest moments.  Your bravery and strength has your law enforcement already arresting the cowards responsible.  You are France, and you do not stand alone at this time. I am with you, America is with you, the world is with you. We support, love, and hold you in our hearts. May God Bless you now and forever. Vive la France!

With love from,
America

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Fifty Years of Theresa (and counting!)

The other day was my sister’s birthday. As difficult as it is for me except, my kid sister turned 50; the big Five-O! I don’t even want to talk about where that places me in the grand calendar of life; let’s just say that I am older and leave it at that.

If anyone in the world deserves to be celebrated, it’s Theresa. She is the most giving, kind, and sacrificing person you could ever hope to meet. Theresa even chose a job where she could nurture and care for children with special needs. The students adore her and if you know Tee, you most likely do too.

So in honor of her grand milestone birthday, my other (but equally wonderful) sisters planned a special surprise celebration in her honor. Unfortunately for me, I would have to be away on business and was unable to attend. That said, I had to do something to make my presence felt by Theresa. If there is one major trait that Tee and I share, it is that we are both extremely sentimental. So I sat down and penned a letter to my dear sister that I hoped would convey what is in my heart and let her know how grateful that I am to God for giving me the privilege of sharing life’s journey with her.

Once the letter was completed, I went through all the family photos covering the past fifty years. Thanks to my sisters, my niece Taylor, and Theresa’s sisters-in-law, Jean and Virginia, I was able to put together a video-slide presentation celebrating Theresa. Our brother-in-law, Joe, who is married to our baby sister, Sharon and is a wiz with technology, arranged to have a screen at the party, which would allow everyone to share the past fifty years of the guest-of-honor’s life! Not only that, my sister Janice agreed to read my letter aloud to Theresa and I understand that Janice did a stellar job! Thankfully, I was blessed to have the ability to reach out across the miles and touch my sister’s heart. In our own special way; we did get to spend a bit of her birthday together in spirit.

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Theresa and Yours Truly

I could not post this blog on her birthday, as it would have given the surprise away but now that the party is forever etched into her heart and mind, I would like to share with all of you, the special woman that is my sister, Theresa Ann and what makes our bond so unique…

Dear Theresa,

How I wish I could be there with you to help celebrate this milestone birthday. I hope you know that I am with you in spirit.

It’s almost unfathomable to think that it was fifty years ago when mommy and daddy came walking through the door of our little apartment at 107 Engert Avenue, in Brooklyn, with my new baby sister.

Only a child myself, I had been secretly wishing for a baby brother, after all, the scale was already unbalanced; two girls to one boy. When news broke that mommy had the baby and that it was another girl, I was beside myself. I was quite sure that I was going to be very indifferent to your arrival but when mommy sat me down on the sofa and placed you onto my lap; my heart melted. I couldn’t believe that I was able to love you so much. As your tiny fist held tightly to my pinky finger, I remember thinking, “this is my new sister and it’s gonna be my job to take care of her and protect her, all my life.”

Not that you’d need it, you were a fighter from the get-go. Born blue, you beat the odds and drew that precious first breath of life into your lungs to let out the cry of your arrival. Clearly God had a plan for you and I was lucky to be a part of that plan.

As a man who was never blessed with any children of his own, I had the honor of helping our parents care for you, Janice, and Sharon. The happiness that those years have given me fills a place in my heart that would otherwise be hollow.

I remember back in Bayside, spending days and days holding your hand, teaching you to walk. I can still remember the evening I gently slid my finger out or you grip and watched you take those first steps on your own. Mommy and daddy were sitting on the front porch, chatting with neighbors as I excitedly gave them the news. Everyone, including the neighbors, came inside to witness you do it again – and you didn’t disappoint; you teetered across the floor with a knowing grin on your face that made it quite clear to all, there’d be no stopping you now!

Not only did I get to teach you to walk but I was also there to teach you how to ride a bike, jump rope, roller skate, and swim across our little pool.

I remember the hours spent on chilly winter afternoons, riding you on my bicycle. Around and around the court we’d circle until the “Chow-Chow Cup” truck would finally arrive and we would share a cone shaped paper cup full of greasy (but hot) fries, which we thought was the bomb back then!
As silly as it was, it made us both feel special to have this secret moment just between the two of us.

And of course there were the trips to the florist to see Santa Claus and his workshop; hikes through Ally Pond Park, and picnics at Oakland Lake; such happy memories.

I fondly remember the days spent dressing you up and fixing your hair for school. I even made your Halloween costumes. I helped you with your homework and played your favorite songs on my stereo; always loving how much it would make you smile – or better yet, dance!

I gave you piggy-back-rides, pushed you on swings, and in Vermont when daddy took you fishing on the little row boat, it was I in the water beneath, who would slip a fish onto your line and give it a tug. I picked you up from religion class and even dressed you for your First Holy Communion. How beautiful you looked that day. You knew it too; you couldn’t wait for Sister Agnes to see you!

As you grew, I’d take you to work with dad and me and you would help us to fill displays and price bottles. When the work was done, we would all go to Junior’s for a hearty lunch. As I remember, there was usually a little bit of downtown shopping involved too!

I made the flowers for your wedding, and James and I did your hair and make-up. As you came gliding down the aisle on daddy’s arm, you looked like Heaven’s most glamorous angel.

I could go on and on about the times we’ve shared but the important thing is; they were many – and they were happy.

Our family has spent a lifetime being there for one another, supporting each other and loving as only mommy could teach us. Because we have each other; our good times are better and the bad times more tolerable.

I am so proud of the woman you’ve become and the amazing mother that you are. You have a reputation for being a person who cares deeply and is always willing to help others. Your special brand of kindness breaks through the barriers of the troubled students you help, bringing them joy and comfort in knowing that you are there for them.

You’re a true and loyal friend and about the best sister a guy could ever wish for.

So here’s to you and your first fifty years. May those beautiful memories be your guide and your comfort as you set forth on the next chapters of your life. My birthday wish for you is that you may realize how much you are treasured and loved, and that you always know that your brother is here for you.

I love you Tee, more than these simple words can express and I know that mommy is looking down on you with pride and great joy for all that you do and all that you are… The one… The only… Theresa!

Happy, happy birthday little sister.

With love from your brother,

Don

PS, I hope you enjoy the little slide presentation I’ve assembled, chronicling and celebrating, the past fifty years of “you.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiFNJ9lxBTw

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What’s Going On?

Pardon my rant but…
When did grown men, in their 30’s and even 40’s, all begin to act like twelve year-old boys? What happened to the wisdom of the dads of yesteryear? From Jim Anderson of Father Knows Best to Alex Stone of The Donna Reade Show, Walt Cleaver of Leave it to Beaver fame, or Mike Brady from the Brady Bunch, dads have been dispensing wisdom that growing up and becoming an ADULT MAN used to bring automatically. I know first-hand that my father was a hard working guy whose priority was making sure his family had all that they needed. I cannot recall him ever having to be drunk, hang with his bros, or go out and play.

Nowadays it seems that in the world of entertainment, our male role models, play video games more than they work, drink more than they eat, must be the first to buy the newest iPad, quote stupid syfy movies, drive recklessly for fun, and would betray their best friend, wife, or even their own children in an attempt to win a silly game or merely “be right” or have the last word for that matter!

At least in the land of show-biz, God and Country are out – in favor of football, fast cars, guns and big (albeit artificial) breasts. This is what the world has been watching on TV and films for the past few decades and what has it gained us? All I see is a blatant lack of respect for authority, non-stop shootings that make the old, wild west seem tame by comparison, and a generation that knows so little about empathy, sympathy or the world around them, that in an effort to have purpose to their boring lives, they can be swayed into the jaws of a crazed, radical organizations by a simple “social media” message!

If you’re not getting anything out of your church or current religion, it’s not the organization… it’s you! EVERY church and temple out there has ministries where you can put yourself to good use. So you want to feel you make a difference? How about volunteering yourself to feeding starving children, caring for the elderly, working towards housing for the homeless, cleaning up the planet, assisting Doctors without Borders, or hell, even help out at a local animal shelter! Look around you; I am sure you have family, friends, and neighbors that may need your help. It would seem to me that such work would not only give your life meaning, help humanity, and change the world but it would show favor in the eyes of God, if you’re so inclined to believe (as I am).

Here’s a newsflash for the crazy radicals and bored, spoiled teens who think the world owes you because you were picked on, left out, or misunderstood; once you’re dead, you’re dead. You NO LONGER retain human form and your body rots away into the planet so you will not have any use for the 12 virgins you’ve been promised will be waiting for you if you blow yourself up in a car-bomb! You’re dead you jerk, you have no human body or a reason to procreate so therefore, no silly carnal desires. It does not take a genius to figure that one out. You will not receive any measure of “fame” for shooting your unsuspecting classmates. You will just die… the end! Then it will be your spirit that will have to answer for your actions when you meet your maker.

Speaking of that, how will you explain, killing the people he created, turning your back on the hungry and the poor, and destroying his beautiful planet, not to mention the art and historic architecture his children created by his gracious gift of talent?

I know that this blog is very deep but I am feeling exceptionally poorly these days and today’s TV news sent me over the edge when I learned about a sweet, innocent little two year old girl fighting for her life right here, just a short ride north of my town. Why is she fighting for her life? Some moron’s stray bullet came to rest in her young face! This freakin’ idiot who thinks he is a big man and has a right to shoot his gun (most likely attained illegally) has ripped a family apart. Other headlines; “Couple accused of keeping two of their children locked in a closet and feeding them out of a Bucket,” “Woman’s body found dead on side of the road from apperent homicide,” Two people arrested for setting a man on fire,” “Drive-by shooting sends brother and sister to hospital after car is riddled with bullets.” This is all only today’s headlines. It’s as though there is no respect for human life any longer.

Day after day the news informs us of a body found shot to death on such-in-such street or in a car, a canal, an alley, a parking lot, and even in their own bed. We feel hopeless as sit idly by shaking our heads in disgust as “the powers that be” fight any legislature aimed at putting an end to this horror because “it is our first amendment right to bear arms!” I don’t think that some dumb hick with an arsenal of automatic weapons was what our forefathers meant when they believed it was important to bear arms back in a day and time when we needed to protect ourselves from British invasions, attacks by the angry Native Americans and quite frankly, men needed guns to hunt for their food. They did not “kill for sport” and the entire sacrificed animal was put to good use whether for food, clothing, or energy.

It’s as though people can no longer tell the difference between make-believe and reality. I was actually sickened while watching “former honor student” Shayna Hubers, laugh in her police interview as she told the gruesome details of shooting her boyfriend to death. Recalling the moment she put the gun to his nose and pulled the trigger, “I gave him the nose-job he always wanted,” she said with a giggle. I don’t know about you but that sounds anything but remorseful to me.

On so many levels it seems that for all we learned, we are moving backwards. It feels like there has been a resurgence of racism, hate, and phobias that are bringing the world to its knees.

What can we do to change the world? Damned if I know! I do know that more violence is not the answer. Maybe it’s time to once more teach simple things like, make love not war; we are all brothers and sisters, and God is watching us. Our children must be taught about empathy, kindness, and sacrifice in an effort to stop the plague of selfishness and entitlement that has taken control of society over the past several years.

I hope that things start to get better soon. I feel sorry for today’s young who know a world very different than the one I grew up in. We may not have had internet or high definition television, but we were happy, caring people who always had something to do and friends to do it with. We actually spoke to them, one-on-one, had genuine social skills. We didn’t sit alone in a room and text until our thumbs needed surgery. I do have faith however. For all the bad news we hear about, which gets the lion’s share of the press, there is a lot of good in the world and the people in it if we take the time to look around. I am sure that God will do good by us but maybe we should do good by him too… just sayin’.

Thanks for letting me rant, I promise my next blog will return to my usual lighthearted self.

Until next time,

Don

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The Story of Our little Buddy

It was exactly three years ago this morning that James received an “urgent” email with a photo of a scruffy little dog wearing a necktie. The message read, “Do you know anyone at all who may be interested in adopting this little guy? We need to find him a forever home within the next few hours as he is scheduled to be put down at three o’clock this afternoon!”

Buddy Pre-adoption

James had been haunting me about adopting a dog for about five years but I was holding fast to my decision not to do so, as we travel a great deal for our job and it would be unfair to ask family members to dog-sit for us that often. Beside, my workload was already full and I was not relishing the idea of having to care for a dog on top of all the other things I already have in my daily schedule.

“Oh the drama!” I replied when he called me into the office to see the dog’s photo and message. “How old is the dog?” I asked.

“He just turned thirteen months this week,” James replied, reading the details in the message.

“Like they’re really going to kill a one year old dog for no reason,” I responded. “That’s ludicrous!”

“But they are!” James added. He was given a stay of execution when Dan and Ron (two guys who run a dog rescue here locally) took him from an all-kill shelter with the stipulation that they had to find him a home within a week. The dog’s time is up today so he must be brought back to be put down.”

“Oh, someone will adopt him if that’s true. There are people out there in Wellington with large farms who could offer the lil’ guy a great life!

I returned to the business of my day but for some reason, I was unable to get that silly dog out of my head. What if nobody steps up and takes him? How awful that they would simply end his young life. It’s not the poor pup’s fault that he has no home.

By noon I caved in and asked James to see if the dog was taken. He checked with Dan and Ron and no one even called about him as of yet. I could actually feel myself start to sweat thinking that the dog may really be put down in the next couple of hours. Before I even realized what I was saying, I called out, “let’s go have a look at him!”

When we arrived at the guys home where they sheltered the dogs, I saw that there were a bunch of canines running around the fenced-in yard.

Dan informed us that he and Ron had rescued and found forever homes for three hundred and forty-some-odd dogs this season by bringing them to the Wellington Horse Show. This little guy had arrived after the end of the season and there was no longer a show to bring him to and almost no one left in the very seasonal community to even consider saving the little guy.

He explained that the dog had been removed from an extremely abusive situation after neighbors could no longer bear to hear the dog cry. He had been caged daily and placed into direct sunlight without any water as part of his routine torture. His fur showed the evidence of his plight as it had been bleached out into spotty red tones by the strong mid-day sun. In his short life, the dog had been beaten regularly and was dehydrated from the sun torture. He was skinny from malnutrition and had never had a haircut (or bath for that matter.)
I went out into the yard where the dogs were roaming and playing, I sat down in the grass and called out. “Come ‘er buddy!” The word buddy was used as a term of endearment as in my buddy or friend. In a second, the little Miniature Schnauzer-mix broke away from the pack and came prancing like a gazelle into my lap. He began to bark and kiss my face as if he knew before I did that we belonged together. All I could think was; how could anyone want to harm this tiny animal who only wanted to love and be loved back?

Holding back a tear, I looked up at James and Dan as I gently sighed, “We’ll take him and his name is now Buddy!” The little guy, who came with the name of Cuba, reacted so well to my call of buddy that it only seemed fitting.

“Hold on!” James called out. “He’s very yelpy!”

He was, but I wrote it off to excitement. Dan conceded that the pup was indeed yelpy for the first few moments with anyone new. Between that and his history, Dan believed people had been scared-off from adopting the dog for fear that he may have too many issues. It was a Friday afternoon so James asked if we could possibly take him home on a trial basis for the weekend to see how the dog may adjust to life in our home. Dan agreed to the test, and James asked one last question, “Can we take him directly to a groomer?” He was dirty and tangled and it was quite difficult to even imagine what he truly looked like under all that long and scruffy fur.

After a bath, a haircut, a manicure, and even a blueberry facial, Buddy emerged a very handsome and regal looking pooch and I do believe that he knew it himself!

A Now Well-Groomed Buddy Striking a Pose for the Camera

A Now Well-Groomed Buddy Striking a Pose for the Camera

From the moment we walked in the door, Buddy never left my side and every time I sat, he would jump up onto my lap. He watched me work, clean, and even watched as I peed as he took in all the curious details of my day. When he finally had to pee himself, Buddy ran into the bathroom and lifted his leg against the toilet, proud that he knew exactly where to relieve himself at his new home. How could I get angry at what was plainly an attempt to do the right thing? All I could do was call out, “NO, no! Not there!” through my laughter. Then I leashed him up and took him outdoors to go. That was his first and only bathroom mistake… ever!

On my Lap and in My Arms

On my Lap and in My Arms

One of the things I noticed about Buddy was how he would panic when I tried to take him for a walk. With the memories of his torture in the sun still fresh in his mind; as soon as he was out of the shadows and entered the sunlight, he would try to pull himself into any shade he could see. He would try to escape the sun’s rays by going under a bush, a tree, even under parked cars. It took a couple of weeks before he learned that stepping into the sun was not a punishment and that he could freely leave the sunshine at any time. These days it does my heart good to watch my lil’ Budster actually decide to sit outside by the pool, taking in the sun’s warmth for the pleasure in which God intended.

Soakin' Up the Sun!

Soakin’ Up the Sun!

I was told by three different trainers that I would never be able to teach him the command “come,” as each time he heard the phrase he would run away, cowering and shaking with fear. To him the command meant, come and take a beating. It was suggested that I try to teach him a new word like “side” or “here” but I was determined to teach him that it was his former owner who was bad and not the word. I am happy to report that Buddy does indeed understand and obey the word come. He does so without any question, fear, or doubt in his mind.

After having a test done on Buddy’s DNA this year, it was determined that one of his parents was 100% pure-bred miniature schnauzer and the other 100% multi-generational mutt. I believe that when he was a puppy, one could not tell he was a mixed-breed and that his first owner planned to breed him. He had already had the dog’s tail cropped like a true breed and had not had him neutered. I think that once Buddy started to grow, it became evident that he was not a pure-breed and therefore worthless to the owner, who took his frustration out on the innocent dog.

Chilaxing!

Chilaxing!

I don’t know all that Buddy had gone through during that first year of his life, in fact I try not to even think about it. I do know that nowadays, he is quite a happy and loving member of our family and I can’t even imagine my life without him in it. He helps me through my issues with chronic- acute pain and gives me at least a few reasons to laugh out loud each and every day. His actual day of birth was sometime during the last week of February 2011 but we celebrate his “re-birthday” of March 30th; the day (thirteen months after he was born) when he became a member of our family… forever!

Happy Birthday Buddy, you are and always will be, my little man!

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The Great Canine Mystery

Like I needed C.S.I. or N.C.I.S. when there was a real canine conundrum waiting to be uncovered here at my house? “The Mad Mystery of the Mutts Missing Mainspring” or “What Kind of Dog is He Anyway?”

At long last, the verdict is finally in on my pups. Their DNA test results have come back from the lab and yes, it did in some cases simply confirm the obvious, while other results were total shockers.

1st Buddy:
No surprise here; one parent was 100% Miniature Schnauzer and the other was so many generations of mutts breeding other mutts, that it is virtually impossible to narrow it down to anything more than “mixed” breed (at least through the basic DNA test). So as far as breed goes, we know exactly what we knew going in, he is Mini-Schnauzer mixed with “something else.”

Buddy

Buddy

Common Traits:

Being vocal (barking) and a need to protect and guard the home: This is one hundred percent true! He is a bit Napoleonic at times, thinking he is much bigger than his 13 pounds.
Smart and Treat Driven: Well, he’s smart enough to know that he doesn’t care about treats or learning any stupid tricks. Luckily, he has the important basics like stay, come, sit, and down, under his belt. Quite frankly, I think he knows want’s important and what is merely human amusement. As far as Buddy is concerned, if we want entertainment, we should go read a book or turn on the TV! I am actually surprised that his DNA didn’t reveal that he is part cat!

Buddy always resting but always alert!

Buddy always resting but always alert!

Theo:
Big surprise here! We were sure that he was at least “part” Bichon for two reasons, one; he looks it, and two; we were told by the people who surrendered him, that he was half Bichon and half Shih Tzu. Test result show that although one parent was at least “part Shih Tzu, he has absolutely no Bichon in him at all. He is however also mixed with Lhasa Apso and Chinese Crested! Yes, Chinese Crested. Who knew? His other Parent was an amalgamation of Cocker Spaniel and Rottweiler. Also, like Buddy, one of Theo’s parents also possessed a concoction of so many generations of diverse breeding that it can only be call “mixed” breed. I guess that’s the politically correct way to say mutt these days.

Theo (short for Theodore)

Theo (short for Theodore)

This special blend of breeds should have Theo showing some of the following traits:

Loyalty: 100% true of my Theo
Smart: Also true. No this is not the ranting of a proud papa, the dog is smart, there is just no way around it.
Hunter/Scouter: SO very true! Theo loves to lead the way, although he totally “heals” during our walks unless I give him the okay to relax. I have often said that had I waited to learn about his personality before naming him, I would have wound up calling him Scout! That same characteristic is also responsible for his desire to retrieve, which makes him enjoy fetching things. Whenever Theo gets board, he brings me his “toy de jour,” so that I can throw it and have him “bring it” …over and over again. If I am dumb enough to pick up the previous day’s toy and throw it, I get a look that says, “are you freakin’ kidding me? That’s so yesterday!”
Treat Driven Pleaser: I’m glad there’s proof that it’s genetic; I was beginning to think he picked it up from me! Theo unlike Buddy is happy to learn silly dog tricks. He plays dead when shot with my finger, gives me a high-five on command, sits, lays down, gives his paw, then switches when I say, “other one,” and best of all, kisses me when I say, “give daddy a kiss.” This is only a sampling of what he has learned to date. I soon plan to work on a “hug” command. How cool will that be?!

Did someone say treat?!

Did someone say treat?!

So now I have an idea of why they look like they do but does this make them what they are? I think not. Just like with children, it’s the old nature verses nurture debate. However what uncategorically is true about them is that they are 100% my little boys! And because they are, they’re so full of love that they greet me with wild adoration as though they believed they were never going to see me again, whether I’ve been away on a trip for weeks or because I stepped outside for a moment to check the mailbox! I love how they stop whatever they’re doing to come charging the moment they hear me say, “wheeeeeeere’s my boys?!”

Both will sit perfectly still and allow me to give them total head-to-tail haircuts with a small hair-cutting scissor. I believe they would rather do this than go off to a groomer. Buddy thinks that getting his morning grooming (by me) is the highlight of his day and only has to hear me tap his brush on a surface to come skidding into position with his head held high and I swear; a smile on his face!

Neither dog likes the water but they both tolerate their weekly baths and actually think that they are all that and a bag of chips when they’re all done. They even walk into the shower on their own when I declare it “bath time!” Knowing that I am caring for them, my boys happily let me clean their eyes free of “sandman” goo and brush their teeth daily.

They sleep in bed at our side, always making sure that some part of them can feel us, even if it’s just a back paw against our leg. I know that they do this because they feel protected and secure under our care.

Theo was three months old when he came to us. He had no story of misuse other than being the runt of the litter, most likely due to having been born with a twisted paw. This made him the “pup with the problem” that no one wanted to take on. At least he was loved by the young woman who fostered the surrendered mom and her pups. At this point he was still basically being cared for by his mother.

Theo's turned leg makes him look like a ballet dancer!

Theo’s turned leg makes him look like a ballet dancer!

Buddy was an entirely different story; one I can’t even get into because it hurts me too much to think of all he had to endure the first 13 months of his life, before animal rescue finally came to take him away from the abuse. So, Theo was a surrender and we literally saved Buddy from being euthanized, a mere four hours before he was scheduled to receive the shot! For these reasons, my canine kids are referred to as, rescues.

Buddy prefers his breakfast in bed but he deserves a little spoiling.

Buddy prefers his breakfast in bed but he deserves a little spoiling.

I agree that it was a rescue, but it is my belief that they rescued me. After years of dealing with chronic, acute pain and the frustration that accompanies it, these two little guys give me a reason to fight threw it. I can’t allow myself to get caught-up in a pity party when they need my care. There is no getting around it; they depend upon me for their wellbeing. Seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, regardless of holidays, birthdays or how much my body hurts, they need to be fed, walked, groomed, and loved. It’s a lot of work but what they give me back, cannot be measured; the loyalty, company, trust, and unconditional love is like no other and never, ever waivers.

I guess I really always knew everything I needed to know about my guys all along. They are a little bit of this and a little bit off that and… 100% love.

Until next time,

Don

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Hey, I Know That Girl!

One of the dearest people I know, my friend Christy Lamagna, has been featured in an American Express commercial. She tells the story of how Amex came to the rescue in her time of need. Of course she does so in her own inimitable way, which is as interesting and entertaining as it is educational.

It is no coincidence that American Express decided to team up with Christy for their piece. This perfect partnership depicts just how the most professional and savvy entrepreneurs make things happen without missing a beat. Christy absolutely exemplifies everything American Express represents; integrity, professionalism, dependability, and the drive to get the job done, the right way, every time!

Hats off to Christy for being one of the chosen few and kudos to Amex for recognizing how brightly their star can shine together.

Please go to the link below to see my friend’s commercial and I implore you to take a moment to click on the little “Youtube” icon on the bottom right, to comment about the fine job she does representing American Express. Your input could be what it takes to get her spot from “online” to television!

As always, thanks so much for your kind support.

Until next time,
Don

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