Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Christmas - Let's Pay it Forward!

One of my more recent blogs was written about a bad day I had and complaining about my car needing repaired. Looking back on 3 months ago, it was a crazy few days. The expression of when it rains, it pours was completely true. I won't bore you with the details of everything that went wrong (or maybe I should say not in my favor), but let's just say I was a bit overwhelmed and was afraid to ask "what next?" Because I didn't think I could handle any more downpours of bad luck!

I know that God always provides when we need him to. I am a personal testimonial to this. And I can personally say he has blessed our family with exactly what we have needed these past few months. Since we have been so abundantly taken care of these past few weeks, my girls and I talked about ways we could give back, even if it was just something small.

With Christmas just around the corner, we agreed that we wanted to get a Christmas tree angel from the giving tree. We decided to go to our local Wal-Mart and pick a name and go shopping. Well, time got the better of us, and we kind of procrastinated. But the good news is that when we went to pick a name off the tree, there were 3 names left. My little one wanted to choose a girl from the tree to buy gifts for, but all the girl names were all taken. All that was left were 3 boys who were pre-teen ages. We picked one of those tree angels off the tree and off we went. I am so used to shopping for girls, so it was really took some effort to think what this little boy might like. The angel tag from the tree listed his clothing sizes and interests so we picked out a variety of clothes and some toys we thought he might like. The girls loved help picking out stuff and I had a warm feeling in my heart when we dropped our bag full of goodies off at the drop-off location for this charity. Plus the girls got a taste of what the true meaning of Christmas is. They were able to help out someone and that feeling made them happy to be able to help someone in need.

Lately I have found myself doing little things for others, strangers included, just because I want to. I admit I've not always been great about offering to help others out because like most people, I'm usually in a hurry and on a mission to get things accomplished. Just like today, there was a lady in a power wheelchair while grocery shopping staring at me getting my milk out of the cold section. I started to walk away, but instead turned around and asked if she needed help with something. I'm certainly glad I asked because what she needed was on the very top shelf and she couldn't reach it. I was happy I could help her out, and it only took about 10 seconds of my time and cost nothing to help her. I'm not telling you this to receive a pat on the back. Just simply sharing a story of how we can help others if we just take a moment out of our precious time and offer our help.

If it has been awhile since you have paid it forward, I challenge you to try this task. It doesn't even have to cost you any money. It might only take a couple minutes of your time, but it would help someone out. Is there an elderly person you know who could use some help around their home, or maybe someone to drive them to the store, or maybe just visiting someone like this for a little while? Is there an organization that you know could use some help and you could offer some of your time? Is there a family or friend you know could use an extra little something that maybe you could make a meal for or offer a gift card for a meal? It's little things like these examples that travel a mile. Sometimes if we just make a least amount of effort, it means the world to those on the receiving end. So again, I challenge YOU to pay it forward, in some way, big or small, in the next week. There are plenty of ways to do this. And the greatest part is that you will love the feeling inside when you do pay it forward. And in return, God will provide for you when you need it. It may not be in the way you expect to receive it, but it always comes full circle. Do something good for someone else, and in return, something good will be given to you.

I recently read a story in my local paper about an anonymous donor paying off several customers who had things in layaway for Christmas at K-Mart stores. The lady's husband had passed away and she was paying it forward by helping others. She was even handing out $50 bills to people in the store. This, ladies and gentlemen, is an angel sent from Heaven to help others in need. What a lovely surprise to those who had their layaway balances reduced or even paid in full. God always provides when we need Him to, and this is just one small example.

Remember, pay it forward in some small way and you will receive blessings in abundance of your good deed. God will always take care of us when we need Him to. But He also asks that we take care of others when they need us to.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Making New Memories

It's that time of year again ~ Christmas just around the corner, Santa Claus coming to town soon, holidays, gatherings with family and friends, gifts, enjoying a few days from the normal routine, etc. I absolutely love this time of year, and as time passes, I love this season even more. The kids get a little taller each year, get a little smarter, and yes, another year older. Children don't stay little forever so I want to make the most of it while I can watching them grow up!

This year we experimented with a couple new things that may become our traditions. First thing, there is a Santa train that passes through our neighboring town on a Friday each year. I have always heard about it and thought it sounded neat, but decided that this was the year we were going to experience it for the first time. Luckily the day that it was due to arrive was my scheduled day off from work so after school, we loaded up in the car and off we went. We arrived 1 1/2 hours before it's scheduled arrival time because I knew the line would be long. And I'm glad we did! We were about 30 people back in line so I knew we'd get a good view of it when it came pulling up on the track. I saw some friends of mine and chatted with a few here and there while waiting in line. My girls found a friend of theirs they have known since she was a baby so they were running around with her. What was super nice about the place we saw the train is that it was located at the fire station. They set up lines to wait inside for the train so we weren't out in the cold. And what made it ever better was the hot chocolate and cookies they served each person. Even though I ended up wearing half of my 6 year old daughter's hot chocolate, it was all the well worth it.

The train arrived about 10-15 minutes ahead of schedule which was fabulous! I had no idea it would be as long as it was. What I was thinking would be 1-2 train cars turned into at least 5-6 (I couldn't count them all). The girls faces lit up as bright as the stars in the sky when they saw the Santa train. Then all of a sudden all of these cartoon and storybook characters started to climb out of the train. They were circling the crowd and dancing with each other and interacting with the kids. Buzz Lightyear even pulled my oldest daughter out and started dancing with her! It was amazing to see the inside of the train and the kids just loved seeing Santa and Mrs. Claus. The time inside the train was only about 10 minutes but so worth the long wait! Because when we left the line was wrapped around outside of the building and those poor folks had at least a 2 hour wait.

After the neat train episode, it was time to decide on dinner. There was a little cafe just down the street that I have passed for 31 years but never stopped in there. I asked my girls if they wanted to try something new and they were excited about that. Little did I know that they were closing about 5 minutes after we entered the restaurant. I noticed it was half full when we got there but within about 15 minutes, everyone has cleared out. I apologized to our waitress and she was so sweet and glad that we came in. She told us it was no problem and to take our time. It was a cute little place that served homemade food. I do believe we will be going back sometime!

The Santa train we finally got to see:

My girls with Santa & Mrs. Claus:

Girls with the Snowman:

Making New Memories ~ Part 2

I have always wanted to host a Christmas cookie exchange party. I decided this year I was going to do just that! I asked my oldest daughter if she wanted to help me because she loves helping to plan stuff like that. "Did you say cookies Mom? Cookies?? Why, of course, Mom, I'd love to!" That child would turn into a cookie if I would let her! So we set the date, time and sent out the invitation. We only invited a few ladies who lived close by, mainly our good friends and family. I must say I love hosting parties but they can be alot of work. Clean the house, make sure the kids keep the house clean, clean some more, bake the goodies, prepare the finger foods, get the drinks ready, etc. I love, love, love hosting events but it can sometimes take many hours/days to get ready for fun that only lasts for 2 hours. All was set and the guests started arriving as scheduled, with the exception of the grandmas who arrived early but that was fine. Each person brought in their yummy goodies. There were peanut butter blossoms, more peanut butter blossoms, peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, no bake cookies, peppermint cookies, cereal balls with white chocolate, gingerbread women men, different types of fudge, snickerdoodles, the list goes on and on...

The kids decided to play in the girls rooms while the ladies mingled and chatted. There was Christmas music playing, candles burning, and the feel of happiness and Christmas in the air. I can say our Christmas cookie exchange was a huge success and I think we have found our annual event to do again next year! After all, how could you not want to make one dessert and then bring some of each of these home??

We are making new memories each year that comes and goes. I love the feel of the holidays and the feel that is in the air during Christmas time. And I love the reason we celebrate CHRISTmas. I have taught my girls that Jesus's birthday is on Christmas Day. Without Jesus who died for our sins, who knows what this world would be like? I do not want to know what this world would be like without Jesus or God. Because without Him, we would not exist, or be who we are today. Thank you Jesus for the many blessings you have given the world. And for that, I cannot wait to celebrate your birthday in just a few days. Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Suck It Up Buttercup

Well, hello again, blog! It's been awhile since I've been able to catch a breath to write anything for awhile. Summer has been crazy busy with work and 4-H stuff for my girls. I have missed you, fellow blog!

Suck it up buttercup... this was running through my head today and by coincidence, I found this exact same phrase on a recent post on a blog that I follow and hadn't read for awhile. So I'm thinking this is God's message to me today!

Have you ever had one of those days where bedtime can't come quick enough? You want to rewind, get up, and start over again? Yeah, well, today just so happened to be that day for this country girl. And let's just say it started bright and early this morning. My oldest daughter is now in middle school and gets on the bus over 2 hours earlier then she used to for elementary school. It was one of "those mornings" and her crankiness tried to spill over on to me. Notice I said "tried." It didn't happen, and I was not going to allow it to. Granted, I am not a morning person, and probably never will be. So this is challenging for me some days. I wake up each morning, grateful for another day to be alive and well, and tell myself that I will have a good day. I even said to myself that I was going to have one of those days, and I was right! The majority of my day wasn't too bad, until I was 5 minutes from home.

I saw something I've never seen before. My car's 'service engine soon' light came on for the first time I have ever seen since I've owned it. I arrived to pick up the kids just in time to smell something to do with antifreeze. I am completely non-car-mechanical (that was a fun word to make up), so I instructed my mechanic in the family to go take a look at his next victim. He fired up the engine only to see white smoke rolling from the exhaust pipe and the smell of a hot engine sifting through the air. Strike one, strike two! I did not want to know what strike three was going to be. My poor baby will have to sit for a few days until the diagnosis is made. That will give me and my truck some bonding time since it's not my favorite primary vehicle to drive. I guess there goes my paycheck for gas the next few days at 10 miles to the gallon!

So after the initial shock of my daily driver coughing and hacking out some nasty stuff, I decided to tackle the rest of the night. The first thing I did when I got in my house was attempted to put the groceries away. A bag fell from my hand and I heard CRASH! Oops.... guess the brand new light bulbs I got today were no longer usable. Just grand... Next, my front door decided to jam itself shut. Sigh, what next? I wasn't sure I really wanted to know. The next hour passed uneventful until one child was sick to her stomach. Then the other did not want to go to bed at normal bedtime. She was hungry, she was thirsty, she ran out of drink and needed more, she had to potty, she wanted another hug and kiss, sigh....

Is it morning yet?

No, it's not so I guess I will continue writing on this blog :). I have always said that we have bad days, and we have our good days. Well, if today was a bad day, tomorrow has to be better. Right? I certainly pray that it is a better day! Was it a coincidence that 'suck it up buttercup' kept bouncing around in my head today? Nah, it was a clear message from God himself to literally suck it up. I need to hold my head up and look forward because better things are to come. The car will soon be fixed, the broken glass was cleaned up, the little things that went wrong today are just that. Little things that won't matter in a week, or a month from now. So here is to a better day tomorrow, and hopefully the rest of the week too! At least tomorrow is the end of the month and with September not only comes a new month, but a new season too.

Since my little ones are in bed and my house is too quiet, this buttercup hears Zumba calling her name. So off I go to suck it up and burn some calories all at the same time! Remember to live and love happy :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Saying Goodbye is Never Easy

Well, the day I never wanted to arrive, shockingly came on Thursday, May 19, 2011. This is the day I never knew how to face. My palomino gelding, Sunset, was laid to rest. I received a call towards the end of my work day from my mom, saying I should probably get home. He was colicing, and it did not look good. Normally, this horse will colic 2-3 times a year, and he has always come out of it, so in my head, it was just another one of those times. I expected to arrive at the barn, walk him around for a few minutes, and then put him back in the stall and thank God that he did not choose that day to take my horse from me. Unfortunately, that was not the case. My mom had already did the necessary actions that a vet would have done - mineral oil, shots of banamine, walking him without stopping. When I got there, I took over walking him at a rapid pace because he was trying to lay down. When a horse colics, that means there is pain in their abdomen, and their natural instinct is they want to lay down or roll. That is their way of relieving the pain. For some reason, my horse had a tendency to do it every few months, and it was always scary. But luckily my mom has tons of horse knowledge, and always knew what to do! You can read more about colic in horses HERE.

Anyone that has ever lost an animal they have owned for many years will understand the pain. As a tribute to Sunset, I will share his story with you:

My mom received a call from our farrier back in April 1991 and told her she needed to come and look at this horse that he had. A family was selling him, and he thought Sunset would be the perfect match for us. Now at the time, my mom was nearly 9 months pregnant with my brother, so she could not ride this horse when we went to look at him. So I was the lucky rider, I was 11 years old at the time. He was quiet and easygoing and very laidback. I was a little nervous about riding new horses at that age, but I wasn't scared to ride him. We liked him so we traded another horse and some cash for our new horse, Sunset. When my brother was an infant, my mom would put him in the snuggie and trail ride Sunset. She trusted him enough to put a baby on him while she would ride at the same time, so therefore, I trusted the horse from the first time I rode him. Within a couple years, I had put dibs on "my horse" and would rarely let anyone else ride on him. He was absolutely the best horse I had ever ridden. He had the smoothest little trot and a slow, collected canter. I would ride that horse for hours and hours on trails around our home and Brown County. I showed him in 4-H for several years. I would always love it when he won his halter classes, and western pleasure classes. I did contest him, but he wasn't ever very good because he was so slow. But it was still fun to try and make him canter as fast as he could to get the best time in the gaming events. We went camping many weekends throughout my childhood and into my older teenage years. When I got pregnant with my oldest daughter, I rode this horse up until I was almost 7 months pregnant. And the only reason I didn't ride up until I was 9 months is the fact that is was winter, and there was no way I was riding in the cold! When my oldest was 3 months old, we took our first cruise on Sunset with her in my snuggie pouch. I trusted this horse with my life, and I knew he wouldn't hurt the newborn baby either. I continued to ride him with her until she was too big for the snuggie, then she rode with me on my saddle until she was big enough to ride him on his own. She actually learned to ride on him and showed him her first year in 4-H. My little one also rode him some last summer. My girls also rode him together, or double as we horse people call it. I rode Sunset in the fall parade almost every year until 2 years ago when I had to relinquish him to my oldest daughter. It was bittersweet ~ she was on MY horse, but I knew she was in good hands because he took good care of her. This horse also had a fabulous sense of direction. He also knew when we were headed home, headed back to camp, or headed back to the horse trailer. In the instance of the parade, at the corner of Main and Morgan Streets in our town, this horse would turn left at the corner and instantly pick up speed. That was the halfway point in the parade, so he knew he was downhill (not literally) on the way back to the fairgrounds. He had completed 50% of the route and he was homeward bound, and he knew it. I told my daughter what he would do, and I don't think she quite believed me. But as soon as he rounded the corner with her on his back, his high speed kicked in and I remember her telling me "Wow, Mom, you were right!" Now if I could only get her to realize that and say that Mom is right all the time... Anyway, this horse would also pick up speed when we were headed home on trail rides, or back to camp in Brown County. He would take his sweet time, and slowly move his feet when headed away from where ever we were, but hang on tight when we reach that halfway point and start to head back! This horse also liked to drink mountain dew. It was a tradition that I would drink a mountain dew at a horse show, or while camping and save the last couple drinks for him. I would pour it out close to his mouth and he would lap it up, all while usually covering me in the drink I shared with him. But I didn't mind. He was such a good horse, I had to share my drink with him! He also had a natural stance for posing for the camera. Almost all the pictures I have of him show him with his ears perked up, and happy. I even have a few silly ones as well. Like this one:

Yes, he was quite the poser! And with an owner like me that loves to take pics, well, let's just say it was a pretty good combination. Back to his story ~ I could go on and on for hours, and even days, about what a good horse he was. Our family has SO many memories of him and all the 20 years he spent with us. I remember a time that my mom, my brother, and I went to Brown County. My brother was probably about 7 or 8 years old, and my mom MADE me let my brother have him for the day. I griped and complained and whined ALL DAY LONG because I couldn't ride MY horse. Looking back now, I'm glad my brother had the safe horse because I wouldn't have wanted him to get hurt on something that wasn't as safe as my baby. My best friend told me she had alot of many fond memories of this horse, and that she remembers the couple times she was lucky enough to get to ride him. Like I said, I rarely let anyone else have him because that's how much I loved this horse. He was mine, and yes, I admit, I was selfish with him. Very selfish! The last couple years, Sunset has really started to show his age, and remind us that he isn't 9 years old anymore :(. We had to really baby this horse, and take extra care of him. I wasn't able to ride him about the past 3 years because his back couldn't take the weight like it used to. Not that I am heavy, but my 60 pound daughter is much lighter then her ole Mommy. We couldn't ride him in the hot weather because he couldn't handle the heat like he used to. I could ramble on about this horse, but that's just a few stories that come to mind at the moment. I am forever grateful to God for bringing this horse into our lives when he did. I am grateful for the many people Sunset taught to ride, and for the many fond memories he has left our family and friends. We have been so blessed the last 20 years when we bought this 9 year old horse, and laid him to rest at 29 years of age. His best horse friend, Murphy, was waiting in horsey heaven for him. So at least now they get to be together without any pain or suffering any longer. I miss this horse, and I will miss him everyday until I see him again someday. He wasn't just a horse, or a pet; he was a member of our family. People reading his story may not understand our bond with him, but I promise it is a bond like no other. After I realized that the fight was over, and putting him down was our only option, reality hit and I started bawling my eyes out. My last memory of him was him walking off into the Sunset to be buried next to his best horse friend, Murphy. I watched him be led off into the sunset, and it was a beautiful sunset that day. I don't think that's a bit ironic; I think God gave us a beautiful Sunset that day to let us know that our Sunset was ok and He would take good care of him for us. Another image I have in my head is that my daughter Mindy, who died 8 years ago, finally gets to ride her Mommy's horse. And if he can teach her to ride, then it was worth him going to Heaven, so she can have him. After my horse left, I sat in the grass for 30 minutes, just sat there in shock. My oldest daughter couldn't stop crying, and my youngest daughter told me I could get another Sunset. It was sweet of her, and I gently told her that yes, mommy can get another horse, but never another Sunset. Because our Sunset was certainly irreplaceable. Once I drug myself up from the grass, I went and sat in his stall for what seemed like an eternity. I sat in the stall with the gate that needed replaced (he was a little too playful with it at times), but there was something missing ~ my baby horse that would never stand in that stall again.

I will end Sunset's story now by saying thank you to this horse, thank you to God for letting us have him for 20 years, thank you to my mom for buying this horse and taking good care of him for as long as she has, and thank all our friends and family for their kind words on that tragic day. Life will never be the same without our Sunset, but at least he lived a wonderful life, and we loved him as much as he loved us. RIP Sunset's Son, you are loved and missed every single day.

This is Sunset and I in 1998 - my last year of 4-H

I carried the flag to the National Anthem my last year of 4-H on Sunset. I always liked this picture because the camera lens caught the sun. This, is proof to me, that my horse does live on in Heaven.

One of the few I could find of our 4-H years together - English Gelding Halter Champion

One of the many parades I rode him in. I believe this was in 2005.

Me & Sunset - Parade 2006

My little one sitting on Sunset at 4 years of age

Another one of my favorites - my girls both riding Sunset together

Me & Sunset - last time I rode in the parade 2007

My mom & I in the 2007 parade

2009 - My oldest rode Sunset in the parade. I love this pic because it shows my mom hugging Sunset, and my daughter being taken care of while riding that year. The bay mare I am on is a substitute since my horse was "taken" that day :)

My baby girl leading Sunset around by the halter

My ultimate favorite pic ever taken of him. My oldest is 3 in this picture. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this picture. We were camping that weekend and she rode him by herself and with Mommy too.

One of my favorites - She showed Sunset her 1st year in 4-H 2009. This is the way I love to remember Sunset - with his golden color shed out, ears perked up, and ready for the show ring!

My sweet little girl drew a picture for me at school. This was her mommy leading her horse Sunset. She is learning to write words correctly so it's not 100% right, but what she wrote actually reads "My mom horse died. He was sick." Now if this isn't a tearjerker, I'm not sure what is.

Sunset & Murphy - they were best friends and they are together once again.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Good Monday Morning!

Good Monday Morning! Or at least maybe if I say that, it will be. Personally, I dislike Mondays and probably always will. It means the fun weekend is over and it's time to get back to reality, back to school and back to work. I am just thankful that on this Monday, I have a job to return to since we did not experience the government shutdown. I know it can happen, but I cannot even imagine what effect that would have had on the entire country. I know what an effect it would have had for me personally, and I'm just one person in the huge nation. But if the shutdown would have happened, I would have done what I do in life, and that is roll with it because there are just some things that are out of my control.

I was reminded yesterday about how my life used to be. This was the used to be that was only 4 years ago, but it was enough of a flashback to remind me I am grateful for where I am today and all the positive changes I have made in life. So many things have changed for me, I have changed, my kids have changed, and it's all for the better. Is it ironic that "Roll with the Changes" by REO Speedwagon is on at the moment? Maybe, maybe not. I never listened to that song much, but it became of of my favorites about 4 years ago. And it's true - if you are tired of the same old story, then turn some pages. If you are tired of where you are or the way your life is going, make the necessary changes to roll into the next chapter of life. I'm sure I have posted this quote before but I love it - "You have to end one chapter to begin another." If our life is going to get better, then we must take the next step and make the next chapter happen.

Have you ever looked at a snow globe, shook it and then just watched the snow fly around? Inside that snow globe, is a story. We don't always know the story, but there is a story inside every snow globe. And the neat thing is, every person in this world can look at the exact same snow globe and tell a completely different story. There was once a time, I used to be inside the snow globe living the story. Now I am on the outside looking in, listening to the story. It is funny how time and circumstances change like that. And when we shift from living the story to being told the story, it's not always a bad thing. But I can say this, if you are being told the story that you should be living, then what are you waiting for? Take charge, and do what it takes to live the story.

We all make mistakes and sometimes it takes almost losing something to realize the value of it. Or sometimes we just need to go through experiences to teach us lessons about life. I thank the Lord every day for all things, good and bad, because it made me who I am today. I had an interesting conversation with my significant other recently. If he had made one decision differently in life, where would he be today? If I had made one decision differently in life, where would I be? And it could be multiple decisions, but one decision can alter how your life can turn out. What if he or I had decided not to get married the first time? What if he or I had decided not to get divorced? What if he or I decided to move from where we currently reside? What if he or I decided so many things different then we originally made the choice? Life would be different, and who knows if we would have ever met.

Typically, life is the same day in and day out. But things can change in the blink of an eye. And we don't realize it until it happens. So we should always go after what we want, do the things we want to do, and never hold back because we never know what tomorrow can bring. Thank God I am where I am today. Prayer does wonder, and we all need to remember that. If you don't like where you are, stay where you are and be miserable or change it and be happy. It's your choice really, nobody else's. It's a lovely day in Indiana today ~ or at least I am telling myself that as I look out the rain covered window at the dreary sky :).

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Story of a Soldier's Dog

This is definitely worth a blog post. It is not true according to, but it's great reading material. Enjoy:

They told me the big black Lab's name was Reggie, as I looked at him lying in his pen.
The shelter was clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly.
I'd only been in the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open.
Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.
But something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn't hurt, and it would give me someone to talk to.
And I had just seen Reggie's advertisement on the local news.
The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn't look like "Lab people," whatever that meant.
They must have thought I did.
But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner.
See, Reggie and I didn't really hit it off when we got home.
We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home).
Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too.
Maybe we were too much alike.
For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls --- he wouldn't go anywhere without two stuffed in his mouth) got tossed in with all of my other unpacked boxes.
I guess I didn't really think he'd need all his old stuff, that I'd get him new things once he settled in.
But it became pretty clear pretty soon that he wasn't going to.
I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, ones like "sit" and "stay" and "come" and "heel," and he'd follow them - when he felt like it.
He never really seemed to listen when I called his name --- sure, he'd look in my direction after the fourth or fifth time I said it, but then he'd just go back to doing whatever.
When I'd ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly obey.
This just wasn't going to work.
He chewed a couple shoes and some unpacked boxes.
I was a little too stern with him and he resented it, I could tell.
The friction got so bad that I couldn't wait for the two weeks to be up, and when it was, I was in full search mode for my cell phone amid all of my unpacked stuff.
I remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guestroom, but I also mumbled, rather cynically, that the "damn dog probably hid it on me."
Finally I found it, but before I could punch up the shelter's number, I also found his pad and other toys from the shelter...I tossed the pad in Reggie's direction and he snuffed it and wagged, some of the most enthusiasm I'd seen since bringing him home.
But then I called, "Hey, Reggie, you like that? Come here and I'll give you a treat."
Instead, he sort of glanced in my direction --- maybe "glared" is more accurate --- and then gave a discontented sigh and flopped down ... with his back to me.
Well, that's not going to do it either, I thought.
And I punched the shelter phone number.
But I hung up when I saw the sealed envelope.
I had completely forgotten about that, too.
"Okay, Reggie," I said out loud, "let's see if your previous owner has any advice."

To Whoever Gets My Dog:
Well, I can't say that I'm happy you're reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie's new owner.
I'm not even happy writing it.
If you're reading this, it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab after dropping him off at the shelter.
He knew something was different.
I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip, but this time... it's like he knew something was wrong.
And something is wrong...which is why I have to go to try to make it right.
So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you.
First, he loves tennis balls.
The more the merrier.
Sometimes I think he's part squirrel, the way he hoards them.
He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there, but hasn't done it yet.
Doesn't matter where you throw them, he'll bound after it, so be careful - really don't do it by any roads.
I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.
Next, commands.
Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I'll go over them again
Reggie knows the obvious ones ---"sit," "stay," "come," "heel."
He knows hand signals: "back" to turn around and go back when you put your hand straight up; and "over" if you put your hand out right or left.
"Shake" for shaking water off, and "paw" for a high-five.
He does "down" when he feels like lying down --- I bet you could work on that with him some more.
He knows "ball" and "food" and "bone" and "treat" like nobody's business.
I trained Reggie with small food treats.
Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.
Feeding schedule: twice a day, once about seven in the morning, and again at six in the evening.
Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.
He's up on his shots.
Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info with yours; they'll make sure to send you reminders for when he's due.
Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet.
Good luck getting him in the car.
I don't know how he knows when it's time to go to the vet, but he knows.
Finally, give him some time.
I've never been married, so it's only been Reggie and me for his whole life.
He's gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can.
He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn't bark or complain.
He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.
Which means that this transition is going to be hard, with him going to live with someone new.
And that's why I need to share one more bit of info with you....His name's not Reggie.
I don't know what made me do it, but when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told them his name was Reggie.
He's a smart dog, he'll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt.
But I just couldn't bear to give them his real name.
For me to do that, it seemed so final, that handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting that I'd never see him again.
And if I end upcoming back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, it means everything is fine.
But if someone else is reading it, well ... well it means that his new owner should know his real name.
It'll help you bond with him.
Who knows, maybe you'll even notice a change in his demeanor if he's been giving you problems.
His real name is "Tank".
Because that is what I drive.
Again, if you're reading this and you're from the area, maybe my name has been on the news.
I told the shelter that they couldn't make"Reggie" available for adoption until they received word from my company commander.
See, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could have left Tank with ... and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq, that they make one the shelter ... in the "event" ... to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption.
Luckily, my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed.
He said he'd do it personally.
And if you're reading this, then he made good on his word.
Well, this letter is getting downright depressing, even though, frankly, I'm just writing it for my dog.
I couldn't imagine if I was writing it for a wife and kids and family ... but still, Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family.
And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me.
That unconditional love from a dog is what I take with me to Iraq as an inspiration to do something selfless, to protect innocent people from those who would do terrible things ... and to keep those terrible people from coming over here.
If I have to give up Tank in order to do it, I am glad to have done so.
He is my example of service and of love.
I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.
All right, that's enough.
I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter.
I don't think I'll say another good-bye to Tank, though.
I cried too much the first time.
Maybe I'll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.
Good luck with Tank.
Give him a good home,and give him an extra kiss goodnight - every night - from me.
Thank you,
Paul Mallory

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope.
Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me.
Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies.
Flags had been at half-mast all summer.
I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.
"Hey, Tank," I said quietly.
The dog's head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.
"C'mere boy."
He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor.
He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn't heard in months.
"Tank," I whispered.
His tail swished.
I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him.
I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.
"It's me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me."
Tank reached up and licked my cheek.
"So whatdaya say we play some ball?"
His ears perked again.
"Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?"
Tank tore from my hands and disappeared in the next room.
And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth..