Big lessons from a small dog

Looking towards the light

In a wheelchair beside the Nurses’ Station, a tiny old woman sits, eyes closed, lips parted, hands folded in her lap. Her head droops to one side.  Ragged wisps of hair fall across her forehead.  Her nightgown is rumpled, one slipper missing.

She is alone. Silent, but not asleep.  Visitors pass, a staff member rushing by jostles her wheelchair but offers no apology.  She doesn’t speak. Hours pass. No one notices. Until…

IMG_1147A small dog being led by a visitor stops, pulls at his lead and sits quietly at the woman’s feet. After a few seconds, the woman opens her eyes and raises her head. A smile steals slowly across her weathered face at the sight of the little dog. Her watery eyes twinkle.  A surprisingly cheery voice breaks the silence. “Well, hello there! Aren’t you a pretty little thing?” A bony finger reaches down, strokes the little dog’s ear. He stands, reciprocates with a swift lick of his tongue, then sits again, looks up at her expectantly. They regard each other quietly. She reaches down and gently strokes his back.

She turns to the visitor, “Do you take good care of him?”

“Yes, I do, ” the visitor says.

“Well,  make sure you do, now, ” she admonishes.  Her soft voice carries a certain honeyed lilt,  typical of that taught  in finishing schools for genteel southern ladies.

“Don’t worry,” the visitor assures her, “I’ll take good care of him, I promise.”  A few minutes pass as the woman talks quietly to the little dog.

Finally, she looks up at the visitor, “Thank you.” she says softly.  “Can he come back sometime?”

“You’re welcome, “ says the visitor.  “Of course!  I’ll bring him to see you again.”

The woman smiles as the visitor and the little dog walk away down the hall.


I was the visitor, and the little dog was my Boston Terrier, Jake.  I was humbled by his simple and spontaneous act of caring.   My heart was heavy as I walked away, suddenly and acutely aware of the lonely, forgotten people around me; people who seldom if ever received visitors, whose lives had so little joy.   I had been one of the guests rushing past.  But what could I do? I didn’t know anything about her.  What if I upset her?  Besides I was busy with all the cumbersome paperwork and scheduling  for my husband’s  short-term physical therapy.

But, in fact….The entire episode lasted less than 5 minutes.  No introductions were made, none needed.  No approval forms were required,  no money changed hands.   A little dog simply administered the strongest medicine of all: love freely given with no thought of return.  Can I do as much?

Why write?

Snoopy at typewriterAs of 8:00 P.M. tonight, 48,173,673 books are available from Amazon.  Of those, over 3 million titles were in literature and fiction, over 1 million in spirituality and religion, over 500,000 in biography and memoir, and almost 2 million in money and business.  Of these, 2,535,376 were e-books,  103,023 were released in the past 30 days and 46,226 were self-published.  And that’s just Amazon.

What are all those books about?  Who wrote them?  Who READS them?  More to the point, who buys them, and which ones?  Food for thought if one aspires to writing as a career.  Even if writing is an avocation, it gives one pause.

So why write? Why indeed.  Aside from the discouraging statistics  above, there are many practical reasons  NOT to write.  Here are a few that come to mind:

1.  The world does not want and certainly does not need a book about “My Heroic Life,”  no matter how interesting I think it has been.  Everyone thinks their life is the most interesting.

2.  Writing is hard work and extremely time-consuming.  It’s hard to find  time to get dressed and eat balanced meals, let alone sustain human relationships (although dogs are more forgiving).

3.  Writers must endure increasing levels of rejection.  First come the humiliating rejection letters from publishers.  Then once published, threats of lawsuits from outraged relatives alleging exposure of their disgusting secrets, and, if one is finally successful, hate mail from crazies.  Writers, overly sensitive by nature, are ill-prepared for such abuse and cannot afford the psychological care needed to overcome it.

4.  Writing is expensive.  First there is the laptop – a must-have.  One needs a well-stocked library of classics and writers in one’s genre as well as a respectable stash of writers’ self-help books, membership in writers guilds, attendance at workshops, and (highly recommended) a cabin in the wilderness without distractions of neighbors, family, and social media.

5.  Writing is not good for your health.  Working for long hours at a computer is linked to a myriad of health problems including back pain, headache, poor diet, and depression, to name a few.

I could name others; there are many  excellent reasons not to write.  To tell the truth,  I can’t really think of a good reason to write.  Can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, I write because – It’s just what I do.


The Cameo Project



Many of you have shared with me stories of inspiring women in your lives that shatter the stereotypes of the “Southern Woman.”   Beautiful, capable, and strong women, funny,  eccentric, sometimes a little crazy, and in every size, shape and color.  Such great stories!  And I know there are so many more out there and  I want everyone to hear them!    So, I’m inviting you to be part of my blog by joining the Cameo Project.

Here’s how it works.  Email a one-page double-spaced story about an important Southern Woman in your life to me at, along with a one or two sentence profile of yourself.   I will post them exactly as you send them, so please make sure they are  proofread for spelling,  grammar, and accuracy of facts.    Accompanying pictures must be in the public domain or be something you own.

Submission of your story, profile statement and image serves as your permission for me to post them on my website.  however,  you will retain all copyright to your work.

Sunrise surprise

There is a large vine on the fence by the lake that was not there last year. Its roots are buried under a concrete fencepost and it survived the coldest winter in recent history with no care at all. I assumed it was an annoying weed I would have to pull out,  probably two hours’ work. But overnight it opened its blossoms. It is Crossvine (Bignonia Capreolata to the naturalists).  A beautiful reminder that Nature has wonderful surprises in store for us in places we least expect to find them.