3/30/97 - 6/8/05

Vern     Tinkerbell     Skippy     Koi     Peanuts     Starbreaker     Mittens     Tigger     Others

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Life is full of teachers.  Nearly every one and every thing that becomes a part of our lives has the possibility of becoming a teacher.  My precious boy, Vern, was one of the finest teachers in my life.


Vern was so food motivated.  He would never let me sleep in on weekends unless I got up to feed him, first.  I’d wake up with his wet nose about 1 inch from mine.  He would be quietly staring at me, and grinning from ear to ear, and it woke me up every time.


Lesson 1: You do not have to be rude or loud to get attention, you do not have to say a thing to be heard, and you do not have to touch to be felt.


Vern (and Tinkerbell) woke up every morning with a big happy grin and took a minute to stretch and snuggle.  It was one of the highlights of my day.  They greeted me the same way every time I came home, no matter how long I’d been gone.


Lesson 2:  Always greet the ones you love with a smile and a cuddle – you never know when they’ll really need it, or when they’ll be gone.


Vern was uncanny at determining who a person was on the inside.  I have memories of him pointing out to us a con artist, a drug dealer, and a liar (and more), all without violence, but also without apology. This same dog was fine with letting a young retarded boy hang all over him, grabbing and pulling and squeezing, and patient Vern just kissed him whenever he got the chance. 


Lesson 3:  Appearances mean nothing – trust your dog.


At the first park we took him, there was a playground.  One day a father with a three-year-old (or so) said "Look, honey, a 'Carl' dog."  Then brought her over to visit.  She was shy and we told her that he'd kiss her if she asked.  She did and he kissed her and she giggled.  Next thing you know, Vern had ~20 children arranged around him in a semi-circle all shouting “gimme a kiss!” at the same time, and he eagerly attempted to comply with all the commands and never once got crabby or disobedient -- he was proud and smiling. 


When we first got Tinkerbell she was nearly 6 months old and very traumatized.  Vern took her under his "wing" and took it upon himself to "reach her" so that Paul and I could teach her and bring her into the family.  Without him, that baby would have been lost completely because, truly, he was the only one who could communicate with her for the first 2 months.


He and Tinkerbell encountered a baby opossum in our yard one night and rushed on it and 'caught' it.  It played dead and they sniffed it all over, then when I told them to, they backed off and let it go completely unharmed. 


We had a barbeque and one of the mothers left her baby in a carrier on the ground to be watched by the others while she used the restroom.  Vern walked up, stuck his head in the carrier, sniffed the baby, kissed it’s whole face, and went in search of more barbeque. 


At a different barbeque one of the guests brought the smallest baby puppy you've ever seen in your life (it was maybe 2 pounds).  It was so insistent that Vern play with it, and so concerned about Vern's size.  But Vern played and was gentle and never hurt the little guy or scared him.


Lesson 4:  Children, of any species, are to be loved and cared for, not harmed.


After only 8 years with my handsome boy, we noticed a lump on his shoulder. The diagnosis was a fast growing, terminal bone cancer and he had only a couple months left to us. We wanted to make that time special and so we took him to the park and made him boiled liver, but there wasn't even enough time for a barbecue. A couple friends just came to visit. The look on Vern's face reminded me that this is how it was for him as a puppy and over time we'd gotten lazy. I remember so clearly the "no way, mom -- liver?!!!" look when he smelled it. How long had it been? I don't know. And this dog I loved so much that it still hurts a year later.


Lesson 5:  Life is short and ends without warning. Live each day as though it were your last. Treat your loved ones as though you will never see them again. Laugh. Love. There is no room for hate and pettiness. Eat off the "good" dishes whenever it strikes your fancy. Screw "them" and what "they" say. It's your life -- own it. You just traded 24 hours of breathing privileges for today. Did you get a good value?