Chapter 11: Mr. Svelte (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift: Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

Bootcamp has been very challenging for me as I am
ALWAYS hungry and get very tired on my walks uphill. After my
daily ‘choopie fit” I normally have “doggie aerobics” which entails
stretching my legs and working them as if I were swimming. I just
LOVE to swim! We also have fun with “spin the dog” which seems to
work very nicely on the carpeted floor in the living area. I get turned
around and around until I get really dizzy. It actually is lots of fun
because it makes me feel like a puppy once again. It is so important
to incorporate daily exercise into your life. As I am finding out,
I feel better, I look better and I have a brighter outlook and enjoy
activities more now that I am slimming down and building stronger
muscles. Sometimes I am referred to as Mr. Slimbutt which actually
is a wonderful compliment as opposed to my earlier nickname of
Mr. Coffee Table. Isn’t it great to tape over old messages with new
ones that are uplifting, motivating and energizing?! Oh boy, oh boy,
oh boy!

In my new neighborhood, there are several children who
come over to visit ME and even ask if they can walk ME! It makes
my heart sing and my dancing front paws sound like tap shoes on
the sidewalk. I get so excited going for walks with my new friends.
In the mornings, Lori walks me to the end of the block to visit with
a Slovak gentleman who reminds me a bit of John. He usually wears
a quilted flannel shirt just like my Master did and even speaks to me
in Slovak (Lori attempts to speak some words, but her inability to roll
her “rrrr’s” is a real disadvantage in speaking the language correctly).
Then the school bus arrives and all of my new friends get aboard the
bus and wave good-bye as they ride up the hill. I wish I could go to
school with them. I could talk to them about all of my stories that I am
sharing with you and they would laugh along with some of my antics.
Maybe some of the children have gone through losing someone that
they loved which would be something I could help them relate to as
well. I think what would be the most fun if I went to school is to ride
on the bus! I just LOVE RIDES! Don’t all Dogheads?…

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Arrowhead Parable Book Signing!

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Arrowhead Parable Christian Store Book Signing

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Julie C. Tedesco, Rob Nearing (Calvin J. Boal), Lori D. Marchell Carlsen (L.D. Marchell)

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“London Calling Jesus”

Author:  Julie C. Tedesco

 

“St. George’s Cross and the Siege of Fort Pitt:  Battle of Three Empires”

“Valiant Warrior:  Knight of the Third Crusade”

“Last Run of the Whisperer”

Author:  Calvin J. Boal

 

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

Author:  L.D. Marchell

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“Sharon Whalen and L.D. Marchell:  my fourth grade teacher from MacArthur School!”

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“Visit from my friend Lisa!”

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“Thank you to Arrowhead Parable Christian Store and everyone who visited the book signing!”

©Loriginal Designs

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Golden Opportunity!!!

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“You are a child of the Universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”

Max Ehrmann

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OK, so the joke about this cover photograph has to do with the beginning of sharing the original manuscript with friends and family, with the first draft completed September 2010. My good friend, Debbie Standard, arrived at Arrowhead Parable Christian Center with her first copy of the story in manuscript format and traded it in for the published book! You gotta love it!

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My cousin, Michelle Michalek, arrived early for her copy of Chert’s story. The book signing had a tremendous outpouring of my extended family which warmed my heart and soul! So very thankful for their encouragement and support in this labor of love!

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So here is the real “synchronicity” about the dress I am wearing. The top beaded neckline of the dress that I made is taken from a party dress of my Grandmother Marge’s. She was my first editor of the manuscript. As a word lady and Scrabble, Upwords and Crossword Wiz, she also had the married name from her first husband of Margaret Mitchell, the author at the time of “Gone With The Wind.” Her use of words has been a strong influence in the building of becoming an author in my life. Thank you, Grandma! Ya Ti Muc Muc Muc Lubiem!!!

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As Aunt Kathy Stolarcyk walked in and saw me, she smiled ear to ear and asked me if that was Grandma Marge’s dress, as I told her it was the collar from her dress. The beaded dress is what Grandma Marge wore to Aunt Kathy and Uncle Mike’s wedding! I could feel wedding energy in the dress, and now know where exactly she had worn it!

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Quilted Painting of Hummingbird with beadwork

As some of you have seen from a previous posting, I painted a hummingbird on the yellow dress of my Grandmother Marge’s and utilized all the beadwork from the hemline of that dress to frame the picture. Interestingly enough, my hummingbirds have been coming back around to the feeder this week and I am reminded of my beloved Grandmother Marge whose first anniversary is on the Blessed Mother’s Assumption. Ironically, my Grandmother Susie Marchell also passed on that sacred day as well, with Mom’s anniversary being Easter Sunday, so I have been very blessed with such spiritually strong, powerful and loving women figures in my life!

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“The color PINK represents caring, compassion, unconditional love and understanding.”

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“The color YELLOW symbolizes friendliness, warmth and honesty; displaying light, hope and encouragement.”

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My cousin Michelle Stolarcyk arrived as we shared our stories about Grandpa Stolarcyk and his crazy wild pants that he would wear as well as Chert’s love of Battaglini Bread from my Uncle Joe and Aunt Carol’s bakery, where no dogs are allowed!

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Now here is another “synchronicity” story about Becky Tinker, a previous co-worker with my Mom who happened to move across the street from me a few years ago! We have great fun together and always feel my Mom’ Joyous Spirit hovering around us when we go for our walks around the neighborhood! I offered Becky the manuscript, but she wanted to book instead!

Thank you to Craig Hall at Arrowhead Parable Christian Store, to all the people who came to visit and hear about Chert’s story and purchase a book for themselves or family and friends! I hope that Chert’s story warms their hearts and gives them some insight into the short and purposeful lives of angels in furry clothing!

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“My Father’s Greatest Gift: Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever” is available online through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc., as well as my website:

http://loridmarchell.com/

©Loriginal Desgins

My Father’s Greatest Gift

Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever

L.D. Marchell (pseudonym)

My Father’s Greatest Gift

Each chapter begins with noted scripture verses to read from the Bible in relation to the context of each chapter.  This is a true story, as narrated through the eyes of a Black English Labrador Retriever named Chert whose purpose is revealed in the story.  In his own words, throughout his fourteen years of life, Chert Dog comments that “…doghead is pretty easy to learn, you just have to speak from your heart.”  This velvety black, with chocolate accents, English Labrador Retriever came into my father’s life a few months after the unexpected death of my mother.  It touches on the Slovak ethnic background of our family, hence his name Chert, which means devil!  He shares his triumphs and escapades, as well as his life’s mission.  With a “doghead” slant on wisdom and his purpose, the story’s main theme is about the power of unconditional love and forgiveness.

This newly release book can be found on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Google, as well as http://www.loridmarchell.com/ “My Father’s Greatest Gift”online.  A link has been provided.

 

 

 

 

 

Addendum: Jaco Kitty (excerpt)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

Č’ert Dog had a plan for me. Four months to the day, I awoke
compelled to walk to watershed where we would drive him to go
for his walks. It was the last place he walked while still with us. As
I began walking back down the busy road (which I normally would
drive when Č’ert was with me), I heard a crying sound. Sure enough,
atop an old oak tree there clung a gold and white kitten holding onto
the very top of the tree for dear life. After about an hour and a half
of praying, talking to him and encouraging him, he finally took a
“leap of faith” from his predicament as he began to fall down the
tree, clinging to branches along the way. I climbed up the tree and
caught him. He trembled as I wrapped him in my scarf and I held
him close to my chest as I walked him home. He was very dehydrated
and looked as if he had not eaten for many days…

Jaco Kitty’s first toy was a tiger printed bow tie from one of
Č’ert Dog’s Halloween costumes. I stuffed it and put elastic around
it. It is his favorite toy and he brings it everywhere with him. It is
actually very coincidental as that it was Č’ert Dog’s as he always had
to have a toy, a shirt, something in his mouth. Jaco is also very fast
and runs around the house and outside when we are outside with him.
When he first gets up in the morning or when he is running around,
he makes a squeaking sound similar to that of my favorite bird call
of the goldfinch. Of course, he goes for the white birch tree out front
and likes to perch inside its weeping branches. I did find him in a
tree, so I guess it is his favorite place to be!

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Chapter 11: Mr. Svelte (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

My new family is involved in an old English style of dance
called Morris Dancing which involves groups of 4, 6, or sometimes
even 8 people who line-up in two rows across from each other wearing
white outfits and bells on their shins and either handkerchiefs or
sticks in their hands. They weave around each other and jump up in
the air and dance along with music which is played on instruments
such as an accordion, concertina, violin, drum and flute (just to name
a few). I understand that Lori and Chris met while dancing at the
Maple Sugar Festival in Marathon, NY. Morris Dancing remains an
important part of my new family’s life. That said Chris took me for
a ride with him to this old English Tudor styled inn in a place called
Gilbertsville. There were several other Morris dancers and musicians
at the inn, which they referred to as the Major’s Inn. There was much
music, dancing, drinking and food to enjoy. Several Morris dancers
gave me many yummy treats which I thankfully inhaled. Little did
I know that all this diet and exercise that I had been so diligently
pursuing would create such intestinal complications from this rich
food! Oh well, he wanted to bring me!

The next day Lori arrived with a very close friend who also happens to be a Morris dancer, but for the women’s team. Since the weather had turned cool and rainy,
they let me stay in the car, which I gladly enjoyed having the warmth
and comfort instead of the wet, hard pavement and sidewalk. Then,
we drove back to the Major’s Inn for a big feast! More rich food, but
this time Lori was keeping track of my diet regime and I thankfully
did not experience any further intestinal difficulties thank you very
much!

That evening, we were sleeping in a corner room of the vast
mansion when all of a sudden, there was an incredible amount of
noisy music coming from the hallway outside the door! Being the
protective and inquisitive Doghead that I am, I went closer to the
door to investigate all the commotion. Well, wouldn’t you know it,
they opened our bedroom door! Then the music and noise became
much louder and I began to wag my tail in anticipation of being able
to be part of this unusual sounding marching band. Apparently, my
presence was not well accepted as I was suddenly pushed back into
the room, sliding along the wooden floor as the door slammed behind
me! Oh well, I really didn’t care much for their style of music anyway.
I much more enjoyed the music accompanying the Morris Dancers.
Maybe that is why the marching band only plays at night because they
really are not very good – is sounds more like nonsense than music
to my Doghead ears anyway!

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In memory of Bob DeLucca

 

 

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Chapter 2: Smelting (excerpt)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

…Later that day as the sun began to sit low in the sky it reflected
its brilliant hues of orange, pink, yellow and purple. That is when
many people of all ages, shapes and sizes began arriving to Salmon
Creek. They had long nets and wore funny boots that stretched all the
way up to their waist! People began to build campfires on the stony
banks of the creek. There were also other kinds of Dogheads there. I
spoke out in my excitement! Soon, the sun had gone to sleep and the
sparkles of stars in the sky began to appear with a big yellowish-white
moon rising against the darkening sky. Lanterns began to turn on as
the people began to wade into the creek with their long nets as they
scooped up the silvery-blue colored smelt from the rushing waters.
Soon, Salmon Creek was filled with the lights of the lanterns and it
appeared to be BRIGHTER than the stars in the sky!…

Chapter 1: Puppy Number 8 (excerpt)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

Ah, Doghead here. Let me begin by saying that from my
vantage point, things are really warm and toasty! I kept it that way
as long as I could to be a gentleman and let my brothers and sisters
go before me. And then my turn arrived. All of a sudden, I felt a
large tongue licking me and heard a lot of noises that were new to
me. Then, my eyes were opened and I could see my Mother, Parisian,
with all of my brothers and sisters! Wow, we were out and making
noises that I had never heard before! My Father wasn’t there, but his
name was Broadway Bound and I inherited his dancing abilities as
I’ve been often told!

One by one I had to say good-bye to my brothers and sisters as
they left our home to live with their new families. I wished them well.
I stayed with my Mother and her owner, who happened to be my new
Master’s nephew! They were similar in some ways – they both had
been athletes and they could speak both Slovak and Doghead (more
on that further into my story). My Mother, Paris, was very lucky to
have such a kind and dog-friendly master who seemed to always have
special things for us to learn. I think I especially enjoyed the rides in
the cart behind his tractor. Going for rides in the truck is still one of
my most favorite pastimes!

My most exciting moment was when I met my Master,
whose name is John! John is a handsome, stoic man whose firm,
commanding voice gave way to the most endearing soul I could ever
wish to have – we were best of friends from the start! John’s son has a
very similar compassionate soul – a dog’s heaven on earth, to be sure!…

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Chapter 10: Tomatoes, Sunflowers and Roses (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

John had a heart of gold and would do anything for you.
His loves were his beloved wife, Connie and her father, his son and
daughter, his brother and parents, in-laws, family, neighbors and
friends. But his most special gift was that of loving wildlife and
gardening, and did he ever grow amazing tomatoes whose “stalks”
stretched alongside the backyard garage to almost the rooftop! The
sunflowers had enormous flowers of which all the birds would flock to
for a feast! His lawn was the lushest and greenest in the neighborhood.
And I had heard from many that when Connie was alive, the rose
garden’s beauty and fragrance had a surreal appeal. You might say
he was blessed with a “green thumb” as many referred to him as a
Master Gardener. One could also note that it was his education and
training at Cornell’s Agricultural Program. A neighboring retired
veterinarian would often comment that it was the Japanese Quail
droppings. I personally say that is was his complete and selfless love
of planting, watering, nurturing and talking to the many plants, trees
and flowers that he gave his unconditional love to. I know that for a
fact because the minute I met John, I could see immediately through
his outer gruffness when he smiled at me with a twinkle in his eye
and spoke to me with words filled with an altruistic appreciation for
Dogheads like me. There seemed to be a release in his demeanor
the day that we met, as if to say that he had found a fresh start and
relief to his tired and grieving heart. I loved him from the start. He
gave me discipline, to make me a better person-I mean Doghead! He
showed me many wonderful places and exciting people to expand my
horizons. My most favorite times with him were being co-pilot when
we went for drives and sleeping on his pillow on his couch.

It was in his brokenness that God healed his spirit thought the
love of his children, the kindness and many homemade-meals from
his mother-in-law, family and friends and the many adventures that
both he and I had throughout his life. I was there to see two weddings
as he became a father to yet another son and daughter that brought
in many new family members. This brought much change for him
to deal with at first, and though reluctant and stubborn, he seemed
to adapt graciously until he had a sense of pure knowing about
him…

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Chapter 6: Happy Family (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

John and I went to a party and I got to meet another Doghead
named Lad. He had longer white hair with liver-colored spots and
hair wings off the back of his legs, ears and tail. I had never seen
a dog with hair wings before! Talk about energetic! He ran circles
around me! I’ll bet he drinks espresso coffee or something. There
were lots of people there, new faces and familiar faces. It was a
beautiful day and I went for lots of walks in the woods behind the
house. I think this is the home of Lori’s fiancé. His parents are really
fun people and they want me to call them Papa and Bobci. They’re
cool because they have a Doghead, too. Lad likes to swim and dive
for rocks! He actually dives under water from their boat and picks up
the heavy rocks in his mouth. The poor guy really does need to go
to the dentist for some dentures or something! Except he would need
super glue to hold the dentures in if he continued to pick up rocks, so
I guess it’s best for him to just keep what is left of his teeth!

 

Chapter 5: Co-Pilot (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

On a ride out to the countryside, John’s vehicle broke down.
We had to walk for a while and my paws started to bleed, so my
beloved Master carried me until we found help at the in-law’s family
auto dealership. I guess I am very heavy because he was having a
difficult time. He is sooooo good to me; I wish I could take away that
empty place inside his soul. I smile and carry his quilted flannel shirt
everywhere we go and wag my tail and even bark to bring him out
of himself. Sometimes he’ll grin and laugh and say that I am the best
dog he ever had. But deep down I know that no matter how much love
I give to him, he is missing the woman who made him feel complete
even despite himself. So I guess I’ll just keep taking his shirts down
off of their hangers and bite off all of the buttons and run away when
he lets me outside without a leash to help him transfer some of his
emotion into dealing with me! Ha! Ha! Ha!

There are so many different colors, shapes and sizes of
vehicles at the dealership! Some have soft cloth tops, some have really
big wheels with white sidewall tires, rims and back seats that open up
on the outside of the vehicle which are called rumble seats! The newer
vehicles have common names such as Chevrolet, GMC or Pontiac.
Others from the antique and classic collection have unusual names
like Studebaker, Auburn, Rolls-Royce and Lincoln just to name a
few. John has one called a Packard that is black with a rumble seat
and was made in 1935, the year he was born. I would love to ride in
it someday! I would wear my dark goggles and flashy scarf and feel
the breeze running through my ears – it sure would beat putting my
head sideways out the window all of the time!

I guess before my time John’s step father-in-law owned this
dealership and was quite a character, or so I have been told. He
always wore really wild colored pants that had prints and plaids
on them and you could see him coming at you a mile away! He
absolutely LOVED collecting cars, ALL makes and models and
would travel across the country with a traveling car club. They had
a chance to participate in a movie that required antique cars and
went to big parties. Oftentimes, he would buy another vehicle while
traveling and either had someone drive back to get it or he would
drive it back himself and have his wife drive the other vehicle. When
they moved to spend their winters in Florida, he would drive his
1957 Packard convertible that had bright pink interior and a white,
pink and black exterior with a license plate which read “Pink Pet.” I
never thought of a vehicle as a pet before, but I guess everyone has
their passion! He would drive to the donut shop every morning to get
coffee and donuts (us Dogheads call them “doghnuts”)! My Master
gives me white powdered sugar-coated ones when he has coffee in
the morning. I get covered with the white fluff, but they are tasty! I
think that his relative loved cars just about as much as I love PIZZA!…

Chapter 4: Quail Eggs (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

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…John has found a new use for his business as a hatchery for
Japanese Quail. Those crazy birds sure can make a lot of noise –
they are lucky that they are in cages otherwise I would just have to
chase them, being the bird dog that I am! No, I would not eat them –
yuck! And remember, unless it’s covered with tomato sauce, I am
pretty much a vegetarian. Anyhow, John sells their molted purple-blue
speckled eggs to Japanese restaurants in New York City. A big
D’Artagnan truck drives up on Fridays to pick up the quail eggs.
I’ve never been to New York City, but I think it would be fun to take
a ride there. I’ve seen on television these bright red double-decker
tour buses that are in the city. I would ride on top of one of those and
see all of the sights! I think I would like best to go for the Macy’s
Thanksgiving Day Parade with all of the floats, big balloons and
music during the day, then at night for all the beautiful holiday lights!

But back to the birds…as I said, John graduated from Cornell’s
Agricultural School and has recently been working with them in the
business of quail-raising. Sometimes we go for rides up to Cornell
to pick up more quail. John has a machine that gets very hot and it
hatches the quail eggs. He keeps the females while the males end up
going back to Cornell. He started this operation in the basement of
the house that we live in, but it outgrew that space, so he moved it to
his business property.

John takes such joy in creating Easter egg baskets for friends
and family using the molted bluish-purple speckled quail eggs in
little tiny baskets. Unique, that is for sure! Can’t say I ever tried a
quail egg, though – I guess they are cooked then pickled and served
in Japanese restaurants as a delicacy. If people could see a “behind
the scenes” of the life of a quail, they might have seconds thoughts
about terming it as a “delicacy” as their lives are not any different
from that of a chicken – the chickens just lay bigger eggs…

 

Chapter 3: Ice Skating (excerpt)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

John has a daughter, Lori, who came to live with us. It’s funny
because she’s not at all like us guys. I overheard her talking to her
brother about me saying that she was most curious about me! She got
bundled up on a cold, snowy night to take me out for a walk. Little
did she know what I had in store for her! The minute we stepped
out of the front door, I was away running while pulling her along
behind me on my leash. As I ran, she went sliding along behind me
across the ice glazed street! I think she would have done better had
she clad her cross-country skis, but who am I to say? I think I’ll keep
her as my human girlfriend because she has a compassionate heart
just like her Brother and their Father. I hear that their Mom was a
really fun, loving and joyous woman. I have a lot of work to do to fill
her shoes! I mean, I have four paws, but you get the picture. My job
here is to bring some love, fun and memorable experiences into this
family’s life because it has been so broken by her loss. God has big
plans for me. I hope that He will give me direction because I want
to do the best that I can to help and as you know, us Dogheads don’t
have many years here, so we have to work extra hard at our jobs.
Sometimes, I ask my Master’s wife to give me some suggestions and
I am beginning to feel like she is helping me out here.

Chapter 8: Snow Plowing (excerpt from Chert Dog)

My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

Snow, snow, snow!!! How I LOVE SNOW! Whenever I can,
I put my head through the light, fluffy stuff then roll over and make
doggy angels! Sometimes, the snow gets hard and icy, then it is no
longer fun for snow plowing! I will sit outside in the snow for hours,
catching the flakes on my tongue – tasty! The way the shadows of
blue and silver sparkle like diamonds on the snow are my favorite
thing this time of year! Everything has a fresh newness to it and you
feel revitalized with the crisp air. I could sit in the snow for hours – it
is one of my most favorite pastimes!

It is football season – and John just LOVES football and his
favorite NFL team is the New York Giants! He is so knowledgeable
about the game, he could talk about it for hours with other football
fanatics – and he often does! Back in his younger years, if you played
professional football, you also had a full-time job in the off-season as
the pay was not that good. There was a feeling of camaraderie among
both the coaches and the players and you were a family. You did it
because you loved it, not for the money because it really didn’t pay
that much back then. Boy, how times have changed. Anyhow, he still
loves football and enjoys the announcer’s enthusiasm and background
information about the players.

Chapter 9: Thanksgiving (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

I, personally, got to pose with all my little “cousins” for a
family photo shoot. They even allowed for me to assist in some of
the present unwrapping festivities, of which I gladly partook. Out of
all of the holiday seasons that I have experienced with John, this one
seemed to be the most cherished. It is memorable for me in knowing
that my purpose and contract was nearing completion for John and
knowing deep within that he had put to rest all that had troubled
him throughout his life. He had finally reached his true, inner being
releasing all that no longer served him and was finally at peace.

Chapter 7: Twice The Treats (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

Now with two new families through marriage our lives are
really getting busier! More toys and treats for me! John is adjusting
well to all of the visits from his growing family with invitations to
visit and many activities. He seems to be softening up on the inside
as well as the outside, too. He laughs more and is excited about his
garden preparations for this year with many little plants started in the
sun room alongside the living room. He is quite a horticulturist with
his special lights, mixtures of soils and deliveries of unique seeds
and tiny plants.

As the weather began to get a bit warmer (and muddier), John
made greenhouse covers alongside the back garage to keep the tiny
transplanted plants warm and protected from any early spring frost.
He made them from recycled tanning bed covers. So his homemade
greenhouses kept the tiny plants warm and healthy as the weather
began to get warmer.

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Chapter 10: Tomatoes, Sunflowers and Roses (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

On a bright and sunny day, while basking in the afternoon
sun on the cool-grassy yard, a few goldfinches and cardinals flew to
the bird feeders as a soft, soothing breeze ruffled my fur. Chris and
Lori unloaded the truck to reveal oodles of red, juicy tomatoes that
they had picked from John’s garden. Even though he was no longer
with us, his garden was producing an incredible crop – his generous
heart was still giving to us from beyond. He taught me through his
patient process of germination to his bountiful plants bearing fruit
how important it is to give things their appointed time to flourish.
No two plants are the same; I am pretty certain that can be said for
Dogheads and people, too…

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Chapter 11: Mr. Svelte at Taughannock Falls (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! We all went on a family vacation
together and I got to stay overnight in a rustic wooden cabin in the
wooded-camping area of Taughannock Falls overlooking Cayuga
Lake. There were walks up the wide tree-lined pathway towards
waterfalls and we even got to go into the creek bed so I could swim
for a little bit. There were these deep sink-holes which made for a
refreshing experience. Several people of all shapes and sizes were at
the campsite, some had little children and Dogheads, too!

When it approached dusk, they tried to lock me up in the
cabin by myself, but it did not interest me in the least to rest inside
when I could be exploring new sights with them. So, we all piled
into the car and drove to a restaurant situated a few miles from the
campsite. They parked the vehicle very close to a window to the
restaurant so that they could see me from the inside. And you guessed
it – NO DOGS ALLOWED in the restaurant! I was very reluctant
with the situation at first, and continued to comment as they kept
coming out to talk to me and let me know that they would be bringing
me something to eat when they were finished with the meal. Well,
why didn’t they just TELL ME they were going to bring me some
eats? After that, I laid down in the back seat awaiting my delicious
treat that would be on its way.

Later that evening, they built a campfire which smoldered a bit
at first due to the wood being damp. After a while, the flames began
to crackle across the dried kiln and there was a toasty fire glowing in
the darkness of the night. They toasted some marshmallows skewed
on tree twigs over the flames and I tried one, but it was really hot
and sticky. I much prefer the uncooked version! Other campers had
fire pits snap-crackle-popping while the crickets created a cadence
of sounds that went along with the soft sound of the waves lapping
at the shoreline below. Since it was a moonless night, the orangey-yellow
light from the campsites brought warmth to the chill in the air.
Have you ever just looked into the flames, their colors ranging from
yellow to orange to red to purple to blue – as if it were a of rainbow
of sorts? Observing the burning piles of dried wood seems to be the
most mesmerizing experience I have ever had in my life. It seems to
take you either deep within yourself or very much out of yourself. But
wherever that cosmic place of serenity is, the flames seem to ignite
that knowing place in your soul.

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Chapter 14: The Christmas Tree Forest (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

We went for a ride out through the rolling countryside on a
snowy day to meet the family to get their Christmas trees, but Lori
does not cut down living trees, she is into planting them. She tells me
that trees are our best friend, because they breathe in carbon dioxide
and give off oxygen. They provide homes for wildlife and shade
on sunny days and soak-up the moisture after the rain to prevent
flooding. The way that I see it, the more trees that there are, the more
oxygen for all. That sounds like one step towards achieving a sense of
balance in the environment, what do you think? Anyhow, we have an
artificial Christmas tree that was Connie’s which takes several hours
to assemble, but once it is complete, I could just gaze at the lights and
glistening ornaments all night. It is my important job to supervise the
whole process of putting the Christmas tree together!

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Chapter 13: Swimming, Boating and Walking with the Pack (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

My extent of boating experiences has been sitting in the
middle of the canoe as we take our time circling around the small
lake. I have also sat on the back of the two-seated paddle-boat, but
find this not quite as comfortable. Even though I have not gone out
on the small sailboat, I have been on the front of the one-man yellow
kayak, which I have found to be the most comfortable ride on the
water by far. I can lie down and rest my head and even take a nap
and let Chris do all of the work. I find all of these experiences very
restful and rejuvenating at the same time.

The family has quite a collection of boats in their fleet which
are lined-up on the tiny-pebble shoreline. The nieces and nephews
and their friends have such fun swimming, swinging over the water
from a rope attached to a shapely willow tree called “The Lady of the
Lake,” playing on the floating dock, doing a little fishing or taking the
boats out for a spin. There is always much activity when everyone is
at the cottage. Sometimes, I take a nap on the shaded slope up away
from all of the activity. I find the fresh air and scent from the wild
vegetation surrounding the area to be very intoxicating and soothing
to the soul.

nutmegandchertboating

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Chapter 15: Cousin Dugan (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

The next morning, Lori took me for a walk and I visited with
my Syria and had some more photos taken of me. It was a beautiful
day with the autumn leaves expressing their joyous celebration of
color as they lit up the hillside with their vivid hues. The sky was a
brilliant deep blue which brought a sense of peace to my heart. Then,
we all went for a ride, but this ride was not at all like all the other
rides I have been on in the past. I just knew something was different
about this trip. When we arrived at our destination, Lori went inside
the building and came back out to say that we were to come back in
about an hour.

Guess where we went? My most favorite place – watershed!
They helped me out of the back seat of the car and we strolled along
the pathway with the little pond nearby. Several Canadian Geese
were floating on the water and flying around the shoreline. There
was a creek on the other side of the pathway which flowed across the
many rocks in its bed. The colors on the hillside were a breathtaking
backdrop to our unexpected walk. I must say that it was truly the
most wondrous day of my life!

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Chapter 15: Cousin Dugan “My Father’s Greatest Gift” (excerpt)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

This past summer, we went up to the family cottage and I met
my new cousin, Dugan, a Wheaton Terrier. We became friends right
from the start! He was still a puppy, so he did test my nerves a bit,
but as soon as we both went into the lake and swam together, things
were great! We lounged alongside the sloping grassed bank of the
lake and took naps. Then, we went swimming again! Chris and Lori
went swimming with us, too. Then, they took me for a canoe ride.
I used to be able to sit up in the canoe and look around, but my legs
were sore, so I just laid down for the ride.

The real surprise came later that summer when the side door
to the house opened up and cousin Dugan’s family came inside with
a crate, food, treats and toys and they LEFT cousin Dugan in his
crate in the basement! Well, since I will not do those basement stairs
anymore (long story…), I waited for my family to get home. Then,
cousin Dugan was out of the cage and running around everywhere!
What was going on?! Finally, I learned that cousin Dugan was staying
over for a few days while Chris’ family visited Papa and Bobci on
the St. Lawrence River at Cape Vincent. Apparently, no dogs were
allowed there either!

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