First of all, sadness with gratitude. My beloved sister-in-law, Lana Lutringer, passed away July 30 from ovarian cancer. We had an incredibly close relationship over many years. Often we would joke about how close we were and how we seemed to have our own language--after all, being married to one of the Lutringer men takes a special sort of understanding, right? We loved each other dearly, and her passing left such a big open space in my heart. I am thankful, however, for the closeness we shared. Gosh, I can't begin to count the times we shared laughter, tears, elation, sadness and every other emotion you can imagine. We kept each others secrets and always shared a tender affection. Thank you, Lana, for being a sister, friend, confidant and pal to me. You always had my back and supported me through the most painful and happy times of my life. I love you. Godspeed, dear one.
Then comes work...two positions were eliminated in the Dept of Theatre and Dance--mine and the Grad Program Coordinator. It was a complete shock to many of us, but there was no choice but to face it. Since ending my employment in July as originally planned by the chair of the dept would be only 6 months prior to my eligibility for full retirement, one of the assistant deans stepped in and offered the same position in her office through January. Therefore, as of February 1, I will be retired! While I have been looking forward to eventual retirement, having my position eliminated due to budget cuts and reorganization seemed completely surreal. Now that I've had some time to process (along with 7 weeks off), I'm getting closer to actual joy and celebration. Since I'd been with the dept for over 17 years, I've had a lot of support, numerous lunch invitations, visits, and loving care from many friends and colleagues. Michael and Adam were right there for me the instant the news was out. They were angry at the treatment I received, supportive, loving and ready to fight for me. Wow, little did I know when I first met them as students in the mid-90's that they would be permanent presences in my life. Blessings tenfold! Also, Jen and Amanda understood my confusion and how I felt suddenly uprooted. They called me often, and Jen treated me to Harry Potter! Now I'm looking at this shift as an opportunity for me--I honestly believe that a door has been opened and it's up to me to bravely step through it. And I'll have lots of time to spend with my grandsons and work with the pups in various ways.
And speaking of grandsons...this is a snapshot of my youngest, Jonah Mark Hughes. He turned one year old in June! Special, yes? He is one very busy little boy! It is an understatement to say that Jonah has a terrific mom. As Michael mentioned one day, Amanda is an inspiration to many. She has built, step by step, a healthy life and cares for her amazing son with grace and determination. What a girl!
Caleb continues to thrive in the Divine Canine therapy work. Since I last wrote, we have made visits to Fort Hood (to visit with injured and PTSD soldiers). In fact, his photo was used in the intro of an article about Divine Canines' Fort Hood work in Haute Dog Magazine! We also made numerous visits to St. David's Rehab Hospital, the Children's Shelter and the Acute Unit at Austin State Hospital. It is heartwarming to witness the impact Caleb has on the patients and staff at these places. When his Divine Canine vest comes out in preparation for a visit, Caleb immediately shifts to a focused demeanor and posture. I'll get a newer photo up soon so you can see how beautiful he is at 123 pounds. He loves his work! I'm so grateful to God for Caleb Lee's presence in my life.
In addition to the fulfillment the Divine Canine work brings to Caleb and me, some wonderful, positive people have entered my life. Our friendships feel as if we've known each other for many years, and we are quite protective and affectionate toward one another's dogs. I've learned a lot from each of them, and I treasure the time we share. One of the more comical ones, Alice, stated that the adventures she and I share should be considered for a reality show! She's likely right on the mark with that one! We laugh and laugh and laugh--good medicine!
Iris is still the princess of the house--if you don't believe me, just ask her! She had some corrective surgery this summer, and it has helped immensely. She is no longer plagued by the recurring infections and seems to have even more energy to boss the boy dogs! They always give in to her, and it is comical to watch!
Asher and I are in two classes at this time. One of them is fieldwork which is about distance control and following commands while away and/or off leash from me. Last Saturday, we did air scenting. The trainer covered Asher's eyes while I hid in the woods, then she would send him to find me. To say he had fun would be an understatement! The pure joy in his face when he would locate me--so happy! The other class is a foundations class with focus on agility. We're having a good time in that one, too, and he is a favorite of the instructors. He's just so expressive that it's hard not to smile when he looks at you! Both classes offer the two of us an avenue for regular physical activity and terrific interactions with nice people. When Greg (my vet) told me I hit the jackpot with Asher, I wasn't sure what he meant. Now I know. That pup is like a fullback--solid muscle, endurance and determination. I've not had a Catahoula Leopard dog before, and it has been fascinating to learn about them. I'm, indeed, fortunate. The good Lord has blessed me with 3 very different pups that fill different needs in my life. How could I be so lucky?
Words of appreciation to someone special. One of my long-time friends has been an incredible help to me for a very long time now. Whether I was sad or happy, ill or well, this beautiful woman repeatedly reminded me that she was only a phone call away. During the initial shock of the UT changes, she propped me up, joined my anger and frustration and stayed in touch daily. She understood the trauma of losing such a large piece of my existence. Looking back over the years I realize that there is no way to measure what we've been to each other. I remember when Mark was having his very first biopsy, she found me in the Seton waiting room to bring a bag of healthy snacks for me to have during our Seton stay. When I went into a fog after Mark's passing, she gave me my space but was never far away--never. She and I have laughed and cried over many events in our lives. This lovely person understands my dogs' roles in my life, and she rejoices in the happiness and laughter the pups provide. Like a number of my friends, she has a special fondness for Iris. For those of you reading this who know Iris, I'm sure you understand. I'm fortunate that I don't have to imagine my life without this special friend. Thank you, Dana. I love you.
Well, I'll wrap up for now. There's always more to say, but then there's always tomorrow, right? Thanks for reading. Be well.
He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.) When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me... whenever... wherever - in case I need him. And I expect I will - as I always have. He is just my dog. - Gene Hill