Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I open the hall closet looking for my boots. I know I’ve shoved them in here somewhere. Oh there they are in the back with one scattered over here and the other one over there. I have to reach in deeper in the closet to get the second boot. It’s leaning haphazardly against an old cardboard box. The box looks familiar but I don’t remember what I put in it. I drag the box to the front of the closet as I kneel on the floor to peek inside to see what treasures I may have hid in there. I see piles and piles of pictures. Big pictures, little pictures, even black and white pictures. I gently pull out a small handful of photos and lay them on the carpet next to me.

Memories all come alive as they play with my brain begging me to remember and asking me to walk down memory lane as one picture after another transports me to another time and place. Was I ever that young and skinny I ask myself, looking at those hip huggers I’m wearing complimenting a slender, youthful frame? There’s one of me with the wind blowing my hair across my face as I’m playing on the beach with my very first German Shepherd puppy. My how inquisitive she was. There wasn’t anything that frightened her. Waves rolled onto the shoreline crashing gently across her paws. She moved back as if she knew that a larger wave might carry her out to sea. She was small but smart enough not to venture too far from the sandy beach that her paws felt secure on. Oh there’s another picture that shows how I drew a heart with her name “Helga” sketched in the wet sand. Just 24 years old and my future was waiting to become my history.

I reached in the box and pull out a few more pictures. Oh there’s one of me holding a chubby little puppy not more than six weeks old. I thought he was chubby then, but that was because he had this fluffy coat around his head making him look more like a Lion then a puppy. I would soon find out that fine “feathering” would signify that he was a coated pup.

Oh here’s a show win picture of Connie Beckhardt giving my Xanadu Best of Breed at “The German Shepherd Dog Club of Eastern Connecticut.” Sadly the club is no longer in existence and nether is my friend Connie. I can still hear her sweet voice when we would talk on the telephone almost like it was yesterday. “Oh hello Barbara dear” she would greet me. Some years later I would run into her again at the Westminster Kennel Club down at Madison Square Garden. She was already sick now as she told me, but I embraced her and smiled and acted like she would be around forever. I had no way of knowing that was the last time I would see one of the icons of the breed as I gently kissed her on the cheek and bid her fair well.

What’s this picture laying upside down on the floor? I turn it over and it’s another show win picture of Xanadu winning Best of Breed under Dave Rinke with the only time the late, great LaMar Kuhns handled her. I smiled looking at his devious little face with his one eyebrow raised in the air staring deeply into the photographer’s camera. Showman extraordinaire……that was LaMar. This short, robust, boisterous most colorful of all those at ringside man would play an important part of my memories when I looked back on my show and breeding career. “Barbara darling what do you think of my dog?” he would ask as he proudly displayed his newest superstar while standing in the ring. His newest superstar was the great Ch. Wellsprings Ironsides or Charlie as he was known.  I keep shaking my head back and forth looking at that picture saying to myself what a character he was.  Just look at those "colorful" pants and his bright jacket to coordinate his look!  He was such a great promoter of a dog if he loved him and he loved this dog.

I reach in the box and pull out another handful of memories. ‘Oh these go way back”, I say to myself. There is another icon of the breed, Lorraine Clifford stacking and posing her great “H” boys, Hawkeye and Hammer so a very young and still very “wet around the ears me” could take their pictures. And here’s another one of her setting up her beautiful young stud dog “Steel Curtain.” “Wow”, I find my self saying out loud. He’s the very first stud dog that I ever bred a bitch to. In fact, I pick up that picture of the coated puppy and remember now that he is the father to the little fluff ball.

I pick up another picture and this one’s more personal. It’s a New Year’s Eve party at my house with all my dog friends. It’s aged quite a bit as have the people in the picture. How festive, how joyful as everyone is standing with a drink in their hands rose up in the air with funny New Year’s Eve hats on their heads. There’s Nancy, there’s John, there’s a pregnant Jane and her husband Sylvan, there’s Ruth and Joe and Nick and Ed too. Smile everyone for the camera for you’re never going to look this young again.

There’s the picture of the chocolate mousse cake with “Congratulations Ch Xanadu ROM” handwritten in white icing almost too pretty to cut into. “You guys don’t really want me to cut into this cake, now do you?” First her championship party…….I wonder if I have pictures of that one as well, and now her ROM party. “Did dog people really need a reason to party?’ I giggle to myself.

Yes pictures of first litters and last litters too. Champion pictures, new “superstar” hopefuls set up on the front lawn, puppies playing “catch me if you can” and there’s even a few of my mother holding those twin coated puppies on her lap that were so easy to sell. Yes, they’re all gone now, my beloved mother included. But the pictures allow me to open up the flood of memories that always remain when all else is gone.

I pick up the pictures and carefully put them back in the box promising myself I will finish going through the rest of them another time. Like the pictures in that box, those faces of all the people and dogs I’ve known before remain forever in my heart as part of those that I’ve cherished and have helped make my journey on this earth what it has been. I wonder if I've thanked them enough.  I wonder if they knew I cared enough.  I wonder if I showed them how much they meant to me.  Some are gone and some remain but all have left their impressions, with their voices still echoing in my mind. They’ve help shape, helped mold, helped encouraged a “thirst for knowledge” young girl that I used to be to the matured, sometimes gray around the temples woman than I’ve become.

I push the box inside the closet, close the door and walk away with a smile on my face feeling like that 24 year old once again if only for a brief moment or two. I pat my dog on the head as I go down the stairs with a new spring in my step carrying my memories with me. When’s the last time you looked inside your cardboard box and remembered?

From the book:  "THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU" - "I have filed away at least a million things to thank you for, but somehow I never got around to actually telling you what I felt nearly as often as I wanted to." --BTG, inside Thank You for Being You.  This book makes up for every thank you letter you forgot to send. The perfect expression of gratitude for parents, friends, siblings, co-workers, and loved ones.
New York Times best-selling author Bradley Trevor Greive (BTG) knows a thing or two about offering thanks. He has penned 15 book titles that have been published in more than 105 countries and have sold more than 15 million copies. That's an awful lot of thank you letters to write, so BTG decided to pen the ultimate acknowledgement of appreciation ideal for expressing a range of gratitude-induced sentiment.  So, for all the thank you letters you may have sent, and especially for those you forgot to mail, consider this the long-overdue, but perfect message.

My rating:  People and animals make your life's journey what it is today:  (4)

1 comment:

  1. I looked into my "cardboard box" recently..and the photos and momentos it contained reflected a life full of rich blessings, some sweet losses, of homes come and gone...children grown with little ones of their own...and dogs. So many wonderful four footed companions that have shared my life throughout the years.
    Gizmo, our little puppy mill Lhasa who left us due to the egregious mistakes of his breeding...of Whab, our 170 pound Saint Bernard who found new life and love with a family of 7 children mourning the death of their old Saint..
    Lady, my mini poodle who left an enormous hole in my heart when she crossed; she was my childhood dog...the only one that stayed long enough to have shared in my growing up.
    Moments in time caught on little squares of paper..of friends and family who are no longer here except in the continuing memories I carry with me. Of homes I shared with loves lost, of children that once were; snapshots of my days
    as a "gypsy" child as we traveled across the country seeking what I will never know.
    It must be the time of the year, the shortening of the days that causes us to ponder over these
    Kodak memories. Everything begins to close in around us; trees shedding their coats, baring their limbs to the blast of the autumn ocean winds, and houses lit up like jewelry boxes in a row welcoming us in to hearth and home.
    We drape lights on the trees and put candles in the windows to ward away the encroaching darkness...but still it plods on inexorably reminding us of our utter "smallness" in the universe.