Saturday, December 22, 2012

Clabo: Dog in Need of Home

In the late summer of 2011, I drove to Claiborne County to meet a new client.  I had the wrong address - for her home instead of her office - and so found myself on narrow, windy country roads with no cell phone reception.  Slowing to make a sharp turn onto a one-lane bridge across a river, I saw a dead dog lying in the gravel on the side of the road.  It looked as if it had been there for days, as its abdomen appeared to be gone.  It made me sad for a moment, but the stress of being late to a meeting that I couldn't find kept me moving.  I looked away to drive across the bridge.

Then, as I turned my head away, the dead dog wagged its tail.  I stopped the car and stared.  The dead dog picked up its head.  It was wearing a collar, and was lying at the end of what could have been a gravel driveway.  I thought it must belong to one of the local houses.  And I was late.  So I drove on.  Ten minutes later I was still lost and ended up back at the bridge.  The dog was standing in the middle of the road.  I stopped the car.  He resembled a young Great Dane.  He slowly wagged his tail once or twice, as if to say, "Are you....?"  Again I noticed the collar.  There were a few houses within a quarter mile.  Totally lost and late, I continued on, driving back toward civilization where I could get a cell phone signal.

Two hours later, I was finishing my meeting.  I said to my client, "There's a bridge out near where you live, and I saw a dog...."  "Oh, the black one?" she asked.  She explained that the bridge is a favorite dumping ground for unwanted dogs.  This young dog, she said, had been there about a week.  She had taken him food once, she said, but she already had six dogs and several cats, all of which she had rescued from that bridge.  She couldn't take one more.

I started to leave town for the 2-hour drive back home.  But I couldn't leave.  I drove back to the bridge.  The dog was gone.  I got out and slammed the door of the car several times, whistled.  No dog.  I drove across the bridge and a mile to the right, a mile to the left....  There was a small Baptist church by the river with a picnic table.  A car was parked there.  Several children played by the river while a mother sat at the picnic table.  Several dogs played with the children.  Among them was a black dog....
I stopped and spoke to the woman.  She said that the black dog was not hers.  The other three dogs she had there, she had rescued them all from the bridge.  One of them, a beautiful, old golden retriever mix, had been shot when she found him.

I watched the young, black dog.  He was skinny - so skinny that you could count every rib.  The impression that he was starving was amplified by his high belly, like a greyhound.  He played and romped with the children and other dogs, with a clear preference for the children.  The woman, her oldest daughter, and I coaxed the dog to the car.  He came to me when I leaned over and held out my hands, but bolted when I tried to take hold of him.  We eventually coaxed him into the back seat with some food and I drove away.

He was silent on the drive back home, sitting upright in the back seat and looking out the window.  I stopped at Walmart, bought a clean collar, leash, bowl and dog food. He ate in the parking lot, then sat on my foot when he was done.  I noticed that he paid particular attention to any children that he saw.
I made several calls on the way home, trying to find a no-kill shelter.  But it's Tennessee and I am not "plugged in" to the rescue community.  So I took him to the vet, who picked a pound of ticks off him, gave him shots, and pronounced him a healthy dog of approximately one year. He sat on my foot in the vet's waiting room.

We got him neutered.  My older dog, so used to being an "only child," did not appreciate the intrusion.  We asked around for homes.  He was completely untrained, but very quickly became house-trained and learned his basic commands - come, sit, heel, stay, no, lie down, okay.  He has boundless energy when he is first released outside, and can outrun a rabbit on the foot (which we saw him do).  He has a soft mouth, and has never hurt anyone with his teeth, even in rambunctious play.  The most risk he poses is an accidental bump to someone's knees.

We have had him over a year now, but we are still only a foster home.  We had to send my old dog to stay with my in-laws because two new kids, one new dog, and one old dog was just too much.  Clabo - that's his name - still bears at least one BB or shotgun pellet under his skin from his time in Claiborne County, but is otherwise a civilized, indoor dog.  He needs lots of exercise and an opportunity to run.  Daily walks are not really enough.  Most days he runs laps around our yard, under voice control only, and comes back inside when called.  Occasionally he will go run, just to run.  I turned my back on him one morning last week as he was running laps in the yard and I was about to leave for work.  When I next saw him, he was on the other side of the boulevard in front of our house, leading a car by about 10 feet at 25 miles per hour.  A quick, "Clabo, come!" is all it takes to bring him running back.  He rarely ignores that command, and will come from who-knows-where if he has disappeared.

He had an episode of separation anxiety about a year ago, but has not had any since.  He is crate-trained, and stays in his crate when we are gone during the day.  He is loose in our home when we are there, and sleeps on a dog-bed in our bedroom at night.  Although the cat may disagree, Clabo is good with the cat and only wants to play on occasion.  To a good home, we will send him with his bed, crate, bowl, etc.  He is micro-chipped and is up to date on all his shots, and has been on Trifexa since we have had him for fleas, heartworm, etc.

He stays off the furniture.  Unless you are on it.  If you are sitting on the couch, he is likely to sit at your feet, then place one paw on your lap, then another....  Next thing you know....

This started as Clabo sitting at her feet. He is very subtle.

He loves to be outside with the family, mulching or doing whatever else you want to do.

"Out of the kitchen" is a commend he knows well, but it lasts for only about 3 minutes before is back looking for fallen food.

He is such a sweet dog that a spray bottle is the only deterrent you ever need.

If you know of a good home for Clabo, please contact me at or (865) 236-1073.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Those Children in Our Photos

Emma and Rylie are 6 and 4, brother and sister, the grandchildren of close family friends.  They have an older half-brother, who was removed from his mom's care and placed with the grandparents, who eventually adopted him.  Both of their parents have had problems with substance abuse and the law.

The state removed Emma and Rylie from their home in 2010, and placed them with their grandparents.  Then their grandmother had a heart attack, so they were placed back with their mom (with a restraining order to keep their dad away).  Then their grandfather had heart surgery, too.  

By March 2012, the state had received several reports that the children were not being cared for.  Emma had missed 33 days of kindergarten and been tardy 60 times.  When the state finally removed them from their home for the second time, the grandparents couldn't take them.  They were going to be put in foster care, so Jodie and I volunteered to help care for them to keep them out of the foster system.     

We started taking them every weekend, while they spent the weekdays with their grandparents.  At the end of May, Jodie took a two-month leave of absence from her job and they moved in with us full-time.  We went to court and were given temporary custody in mid-June.  By the end of August, the children had started calling us "Mommy" and "Daddy," on their own.  We answered as if it were perfectly normal, although it was unexpected and strange.  In late September, a final order gave us custody that is - barring some exceptional and unexpected turn-around by the parents - permanent.  However, because both the kids and we worry that something could happen to take them away, we are now fighting to adopt them.

Sweet morning moments, back when he still used his "bo-bo" 
Silly sticker boy.

Seaweed salad.

They've become good friends with my nephews, and see them usually twice a week or more.

Girl can hold a pint glass (of root beer).

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and The Sound of Music.

Ready for school.


Watching Mary Poppins

Cute kids, cleared for take-off....  Before we sold the airplane.


All 3 goofing off before school/work

Recent family trip for a beach weekend in Hilton Head, SC

Poster child for the wonders of a Montessori education.

Emma was in kindergarten last year, but missed so many days of school that they were going to keep her back and not let her go to first grade.  With her grandparents' help, she just made it into first grade.  I took her to reading classes last summer, and she has caught up with her peers.  We have them both enrolled in a Montessori school near our house.  I take them to school every day before going to my office, sometimes by car, sometimes by bicycle.

Helping with the flower beds and garden

My family

Helping in the garden, and "building a worm farm."

Rylie just started cello lessons, and has "a knack" for it, according to his teacher.

Emma loves to help host dinner parties, and is very good at it.

Family weekend at Fall Creek Falls State Park.

They're growing up so fast - in just a year we've seen a huge change.

Recent trip to Disney - a dream come true for the kids, an endurance test for me.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Day That Nana Left Tennessee

The day that Nana left Tennessee,

The wind stormed the countryside

Howling and kicking at what was left behind.

Lightning gnashed it's teeth.

The skies wept and threw stones.

Trees and bushes rent their garments

And threw themselves upon the ground.

That is what happened the day Nana left Tennessee.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Nana Hears the Birds

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dowling Park Reprise

I went to pick Nana up from Dowling Park a few weeks ago. It was another beautiful day to fly, and Dowling Park was sparkling in the warm sunshine when I arrived.

We had lunch at Doris and Cal's house, and it was DELICIOUS. I snapped a picture of one of the recipes - - which looks a lot like the index card of the squash roll recipe that my mom had when I was young. It turns out that the recipe for this souffle is from the same cookbook, and for all I know may be in the same handwriting....

After lunch I sat and went through an old book of photos from the Somerville Advent Christian Church with Doris, Marilyn, and Nana. Then the strangest thing happened.....

How many of you have spoken to Nana about understanding "Do Re Mi," etc., as "the foundation to all music?" Statements such as, "If you have an understanding of the relationship between Do and Sol, then you can take any piece of music and play it in any key...." I've been hearing it over and over for a long time, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Well, it turns out that Nana isn't the only one, either.

After lunch, we said goodbye to Doris and Cal, then Marilyn drove us to the airport, where we were met by Leon and Shirley. Leon examined the Tiger and talked airplanes non-stop while I did a pre-flight inspection, then Nana and I got into the airplane and taxied to the end of the runway. Leon, Shirley, and Marilyn waved from the airport fence as Nana and I lifted off and headed west.

A few minutes later we intercepted the Suwannee River, then turned south past Dowling Park. We banked and circled for a minute while Nana waved goodbye.

The flight back to Knoxville was uneventful. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset as we left the plains of Georgia, and skimmed the Smokey Mountains in the dark, while lights of town in the valleys twinkled up at us.

As we crossed the last ridge, the lights of Knoxville spread out before us. Nana was over-awed. "Stupendous," "incredible," "gorgeous," were among the many adjectives she used. I didn't get a picture though, as I was too busy landing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dowling Park

Jodie and I had a wonderful time with Nana visiting us last week. It was a joy to have her here, and we did a lot of fun things. Church and our small group were stimulating for her, and she played the cello every day, read, and wrote letters, when she wasn't attending Emerson's violin lesson or visiting with other people in town. I miss her already.

On Saturday, Nana and I went to the airport. Jodie helped us load the airplane and get situated....

Then Nana and I headed south, over the Smoky Mountains, and across the agricultural flats of Georgia. We spoke of the Civil War and Sherman's "March to the Sea," and Nana made maps in her notebook and wrote down facts.

She really enjoyed the flight, and as we neared the Florida border she wrote everyone an email on her iPad for Chip to forward.

We were greeted at the airport by Nana's cousin, Doris Tingley, and her husband, Cal. It was wonderful to see. Nana and Doris hugged and laughed, and laughed and hugged.

We drove for 20 minutes, then passed through a large gate that said "Advent Christian Village" in big letters. Moments later, we pulled into the driveway and were met by another of Nana's cousins (by marriage), Donna Johnson. (For anyone who may not know, Donna was married to Bud Johnson, who is Nana's first cousin. Bud died about five years ago.)

Donna gave us a tour of her house, which is a beautiful, single-family house. When Nana sat down at Donna's baby grand piano and started banging out a hymn, Donna sang the notes - but not the words - with a beautiful voice (more on this below). As we exited through the garage, Donna pointed out her "Pinkie," which is a four-seat golf cart, painted hot pink.

We then toured Doris and Cal's house, around the corner from Donna's, then went to Marilyn's house, which is about a mile away. We followed a golf cart down the road. Leon and Shirley Lombard were there waiting, and Donna arrived shortly thereafter.

After eating and talking for hours, Donna, Leon, Shirley, Doris, and Cal left, and we slept well.

On Sunday morning, Marilyn drove us to church and we arrived a half hour before the service. The church is a large, modern building, very tastefully done in a beautiful setting. There were a hundred or more golf carts parked around the church.

We needed every minute of the half hour before the service started. Nana was approached by a dozen different people. Most of them knew her from Arlington, the Somerville Advent Christian Church, or Alton Bay. The only name I remember is Bobby Crocker, who Nana used to babysit with his two brothers (both now dead) when she was growing up in Arlington.

I estimate the congregation had about 300 people in it, maybe more.... My first impression was 600, but I keep questioning that number and revising it downward. The congregation was mostly people over the age of 70, but there were quite a few younger people and a surprising number of children. The music was great. The choir had about 40-50 people in it and considerable volume. The organist was good, and accompanied a grand piano. I saw Nana react positively to the music. The minister looked young at a distance, but when I met him later he appeared to be in his mid-40s. His sermon was good, energetic, and Nana loved it. I think everyone would recognize it as a good, definitely adventist, sermon.

After church, we were the last people out of the sanctuary, as there were more people who needed to see Nana. Doris grabbed one man as he went past and introduced him to Nana. He is the activities director for the Village. He was very excited when he heard that Nana plays the cello, and talked extensively about the music in the Village. There are two nearby colleges, and their orchestras come regularly to play in the sanctuary. There are also three cities within an hour of the Village, and organized bus trips to hear symphonies, operas, and to see plays are a regular occurrence. There are also smaller performance ensembles in the Village, coordinated by this man (I can't remember his name.... George something, maybe) and he practically begged Nana to come play cello there. "We need you and your cello," he said, and said that he would also love to have Nana's piano skills there. Nana was obviously pleased.

There is a cafeteria connected to the church. It kind of reminded my of Alton Bay, except larger and newer, and less camp-like. There is a buffet on Sunday and on Thursday, and food is cooked to order on other days. The food was GOOD, and healthy. The continual queue of people wanting to meet Nana and re-live old days continued through lunch, and she was standing and sitting repeatedly. I would bet that Nana got more than 50 hugs before noon on Sunday.

One conversation I overheard gave me a twinge of sadness. A woman that Nana hadn't seen in 50+ years said, "What happened to you, Janet? You just disappeared!" Nana said, "Well, I married a minister, you see, and so I had to be in church every Sunday, and we moved up Maine and were in the Baptist church, so we lost touch a little with Advent Christian goings-on." The woman responded, "Well, I'm SO glad to see you, it's wonderful to see you after all these years!"

As Nana and I strolled out of the building after lunch, Nana remarked on all the people she knew. It did seem like everyone was from New England and had some connection with Arlington or Alton Bay. Everyone knew Nana or Nana B or the Gedneys or had been in the Somerville church or had some other connection. "Nana," I said, "what's that hymn about being called up yonder?" She responded immediately, "When the roll is called up yonder! Oh yes, Greg, that's just what this is like!"

Nana went with Leon and Shirley, while I rode with Marilyn. Marilyn drove me around to see more of the Advent Christian Village. All the roads are private, so golf carts are legal through the whole area. Many of the residents who no longer drive cars still get around on golf carts because no license is required (a fact that was NOT lost on Nana). There is a grocery store, bank, a post office (the Village has its own zip code), a cafe, motel, fire station, police station (but there is reportedly no crime). The "clinic" is a small hospital, with its own pharmacy, and there is a sprawling nursing home. Everything is accessible by golf cart.

Marilyn drove me around to show me the various homes, including apartments in a large building, duplex apartments, and single-family homes.

We went to Leon & Shirley's house for a brief visit before they took me to the airport. After a brief tour of their home, Nana settled at the piano, and the others gathered around. After several songs, I thought to pull out my camera and caught this one (which I already emailed to some of you).

Nana, Doris, and Cal drove me to the airport. As I got ready to leave, Nana gave me a hug, and asked if I thought there was any way she could afford to live in "a place like this." I told her that I didn't know, but suggested that maybe she could gather some information during her stay. The three cousins were still at the airport fence as I took off to fly home.

* * * * *


I had looked at the website for Dowling Park - the Advent Christian Village, rather - before we went, and it had not made much of an impression on me. After my visit of less than 24 hours, I unexpectedly came away with a very positive impression. The website described the village as a place for "tired ministers" and missionaries, and that's exactly what it is. Everything about the place is designed to fit with that purpose - providing a vibrant place for elderly Christians.

Donna has aphasia and early Alzheimer's. When she sang that hymn, she sang the notes and not the words because she can't remember them. After talking to Nana for an hour on the couch, she left and asked Doris, "Who was that nice woman I was talking to?" She doesn't remember her grandchildren, and sometimes forgets that she was married. Yet she lives alone in a single-family house. She drives her golf cart to get groceries, mail things, and go to the bank. The community keeps an eye on her, she is invited for dinner at different people's homes, and she goes to concerts and other events.

All sorts of Christian enrichment are readily available. Concerts, trips to symphonies, sing-alongs around the piano, dinners, Bible studies.

I think the thing that struck me the most, though, is the grace with which these people - the cousins (all ages 80+) and the rest of the Advent Christian Village community - are dealing with aging and end-of-life issues. There is neither humor nor grieving with the failures that are happening. The failures are just accommodated as they keep on living, worshiping, and supporting each other. The second thing that impressed me was that these are her people. I don't remember meeting any of them before, although I have known the names of "Bud & Donna," "Leon & Shirley," and so on. But not just the cousins -- Bobby Crocker and a couple dozen others whose names I cannot remember - - they all, already, know and love Nana, and it's almost as if they've been waiting for her to come back for fifty years.

I'm going to pick Nana up at the end of the week. I am dying to know what she thinks of the place after her visit. As for me, though.... Well, I am very impressed, somewhat in awe.