Jun 06

Training service dogs

Note: My sister, Kathleen, is in Massachusetts learning how to train “service dogs.” These are animals trained to work with people with some form of disability. Just this past weekend I saw someone traveling with a “hearing dog.” The animals wear a mighty mouse type banner that tells the world they aren’t mere pets. 

Hi, gang.  Just a quick note because it’s late.  I’ve had a spot of trouble getting on line but my housemate/classmate Jen finally managed to get on the wireless network here on her laptop.

 It’s been great so far.  There are only 2 of us in the program.  Jen is an animal trainer who has worked at several zoos and aquariums training everything from killer whales to raptors.  We’ve been going into prisons the last few days to observe inmates training puppies who are anywhere from 4 months to over a year old.  Some of these guys are doing amazing work with the dogs.  We’ll be visiting a women’s prison in the next day or so.  We also got to observe the latest group of clients meeting their dogs for the first time.  This client group, 4 of them, arrived Sunday and started their training Monday.  We got back from jail in time to see their first meeting. Quite a sight. Three folks in wheelchairs, including a 15year old boy, and an older gent with a crutch parading around with their Labradors practicing heel and sit.  Next week we will travel with one of the clients to a prison where she will meet the inmate who trained her dog.  Bring the

Gotta get up early to hit another prison.  More later.

Jun 06

Northcountry June

Hazy sky filters through raspberry swaying oaks. The next door kids climb the maple tree and look down upon my Australian Shepherd seeking solace under the oversized pagoda dogwood in our backyard. My children. Adults now. Laze under stacks of books and sometimes emerge, blinking into the real sun of a young summer month. Standing in my backyard I call my dog into the house and she retreats further into the shadows. Too easily, I give up and marvel that I am outside, wearing shorts. Wind blowing through my hairy legs. The high temperature today is 80.

As the earth careens on its desperately short trip around €“ and tilted slightly closer to €“ the sun, June arrives in the Northcountry. Can our summer months be shorter than other people’s and our winter months longer? Each day passes and I beg it to return. Let me try again. Let me make more of it and have different memories when I am darting between the snowflakes.

Oak canopy  Flower

Oak canopy | Summer’s gift

Jun 06

Good night Uncle Bob

GOOD NIGHT UNCLE BOB. I hope you liked the sendoff. I’m told it was quite a show. You would have liked it I think. It was quite a crowd. A real Northeast Philadelphia event. You got ’em in from up and down the east. Sorry I couldn’t be there. It would have been fun to see everyone. Except that you weren’t going to be there. And that’s really too bad because I know you would have made me laugh. You always have. Back in those wonderful days when you and your two sisters (and, I guess, half of Hannah’s family too) were living within shouting distance down there in Florida we all used to have a good time. We’d come over and hang out at your place (your “tin box” as you called it fondly) and we’d talk about things. There would always be something you could slice up with that cool rapier wit of yours. And we’d wait for it … wait for it … here it comes! And then every once in awhile (sometimes days would pass) Hannah would come out of nowhere and put us on the floor laughing. Usually at your expense. But it was all in good fun.

Uncle Bob and sisters

Marian, Bob, Kay, Peg in Florida together

You sure did like Florida. And you must have been a heckuva salesman ’cause you got half of the living Walsh siblings eventually moved there after you. I think we were living in Topeka, Kansas, when the phone rang. It was your sister Kay informing me she had just bought a place in Bay Indies. Just across that alligator (singular) infested lake with the fountain in the middle of it from you and Hannah. She had waited the obligatory year from the time my father has passed on to make the decision. But she was goin’. I’m proud to say she called me first because she was most confident of my reaction. Heck, she backed me when I decided to go out West. Hitchhiking no less. What could I say? I’d never really been to Florida, anyway.

So January would roll around and we would load up for the trip to Cedar Rapids (we’d moved to Iowa very shortly after that phone call). Park the car at this hotel. Leave our warm clothes in the car. Fly to Sarasota. Like magic, winter would be gone. Not so shocking a transition as the return trip when, on some occasions, the car would be literally buried under a snow drift. And you know who had to wade over to it to dig out the down coats and snow boots (yeah, it wasn’t my lovely bride from wild and chilly northern Montana). This was one of your gifts. Bringing all of us together in a nice warm place and on top of that giving us a chance to listen to your stories. Always told deadpan in that Northeast Philly twang. Slowly drawing out the laugh. And then looking at us almost puzzled when we all started yahooing and guffawing.

It’s strange being from a place that is always €œup and down€ but never €œleft and right.€ Family lived in New England or Baltimore and then on down to Venice, Florida. Up and down. Nobody lived €œright€ because that, of course, is the Atlantic Ocean. What’s left is me so far as the Walsh clan is concerned. There are a few wayward Sheehy relatives out this direction. So you guys would sit down there in Venice and reel us all in no matter where we were. And we’d all forget for a little while that a thousand and some miles separated us. Sit on the beach and watch the sun set incongruously in the West (very confusing for a Philadelphian). We all knew these were precious times together.

Hearing about your transition has been a big deal for me because you kept the door cracked open a bit. I could hear my mother’s voice when you spoke. Oh you Walshes are a funny stoic bunch. But at least you know how to laugh. Selectively. Certainly not at your own jokes.

Have fun where you are. You earned your way there by living a long time, raising a great family and being a pretty darn good uncle. It was time. You’d been on this world plenty long enough. There wasn’t anything left for you to do here. Though, you could always lighten our day with one of your stories. Sleep well good Uncle Bob. Sleep well.

bob2.jpg bob1.jpg

From the shores of the Mississippi River, we salute you Uncle Bob