If you go on any given e-mail list that is sharing their opinions about our beloved breed, you are bound to run into a few disgruntled people. Emotions can become rapidly agitated and tempers can reach the boiling point. Like the German Shepherd Dog that they own, they are a proud community. They feel things strongly and "Oh my goodness," challenge their viewpoints and sometimes the "uglies" spew out of their mouths, feelings become hurt and sometime friendships strained or lost forever! But like the most faithful dog on the planet (of course that's the German Shepherd Dog), the majority of the people connected to this breed when called upon for help, step up to the plate and score a home run! I always knew that I had made some wonderful friendships in this breed, but little did I know how wonderful they truly were. Even more surprising were those in our community that I never met who was right there for me during my hard times. Most people know people in this breed by the dogs they own and show, but sometimes we forget that they are human beings before they were ever a dog person. I am so blessed and so appreciative to all of you that reached out to me. It proves that there are, indeed, angels right here on earth.
It all began with my dog "Amber." Yup I wanted to include her here on my list of "thank-you's!" Like most German Shepherds, she's very smart and very curious. I remember how she would come up to me looking for a pat on the head because she's an extremely affectionate dog. When I look back on it, many, many times she would take her big black German Shepherd Dog nose and press it against my stomach and sniff and snort loudly. I would jokingly say to her, "What are you smelling Amber.......some bad stuff inside of me?" I've had some health problems these past several years so nothing surprised me anymore. Now I know what it was she was smelling. They say that a dog can smell cancer or other illnesses that you may be harboring inside. I was convinced that she did just that! So pay attention if your dog is paying attention to you a little more than usual.
When I was first diagnosed with uterine cancer and told some of my closest friends in the breed, they all were concerned and before I even knew what hit me, they were busy behind the lines, if you will! So here goes with all the many "thank you's" that I need to say. The first one goes out to my dear friend Marilyn Smith. Many of you only know her for the lovely animals that she's bred. But Marilyn is much more than a friend to the German Shepherd Dog. She is a friend that goes out of her way more times than not when someone is in need. She has this calm demeanor but don't let that fool you, she knows how to get things done. I told her that I was very concerned for my three dogs when I go to the hospital and then when I come home for my recovery. I knew that I wouldn't have the money to have people come in to take care of my dogs. She told me that she didn't want me to worry about my dogs. She said "You get your operation and I'll take care of the rest." And true to her word, she did. First she gave me the number of a organization that helps dog people when they become ill. It's called "Take the Lead." I contacted them and filled out the papers that they asked me to only to be told that it was too expensive to pay these dog sitters and with a "pat on the back" wished me well and sent me on my way. In my opinion, their attitude was not very friendly and almost made you feel guilty for being sick at all. They depend on donations to help their cause. I'm sure other people that they helped would give them a favorable review. I'm sorry that I will not be counted as one of those people. In my opinion they need more friendly, sympathetic people that answer their phones and deal with ill people. While I understand that they can't help all that may come to them, they need to do some work on learning how to turn people down with more kindness than they do now. They may be dog friendly, but I didn't feel they were very people friendly!!!!
Marilyn reassured me that all was not lost. She said she was going to contact the "Sunshine Squad" from the German Shepherd Dog Show list. So she placed a call to Doc. Zoe and called me back to let me know she was waiting to hear back from her. Later that night, Marilyn and I were talking again and she was getting a call from Zoe and told me she would call me back. A little while later, she excitedly told me that I was approved and for me to call up those dog sitters and book them to come take care of my dogs. I cried with joy as my dogs were a major concern for me. Now I could go get my insides cut out of me with a smile on my face!!!! (Not)! My dogs were going to be taken care of!!! Doc Zoe was marvelous to talk with and so very supportive during my hardest times. She wrote to me and called me several times to make sure I was doing well. Think she's just one of the administrators and founding members of the Show Dog list? Then you don't really know one of the kindest people that I didn't really know either!!! The Sunshine Squad is a marvelous charitable organization that helps fellow German Shepherd enthusiasts that are in need during their trials and tribulations. The word "sunshine" is an appropriate name for this organization because that is just what they did for me...........brought a little sunshine during some of the blackest days of my life. I don't know all those that contribute to this wonderful organization but from the bottom of my "itty bittie" heart, thanking you and Marilyn seems so inadequate! God bless you all! Please check out the Sunshine Squad's link here. It offers so many different resources for those that are in need. And donations are gladly accepted for you never know when you too may need assistance! It's a great website for information. http://showgsd.org/sunshine.html
And then there's my good friend who makes me laugh more than most. You guys may only know her as that lady from "Last Hope, Safe Haven." Yup that's the one and only Dawn Restuccia! I asked her to take over my e-mail list (The GSD Showcase) in my absence and she graciously accepted. But more than supporting my e-mail list, it was that chicken soup of hers that most impressed me! Since the time that she knew that I was ill, she kept saying to me that she wished she lived closer so she could make me some homemade chicken soup. Then one day she gets this brainstorm (she's gets a lot of these) and tells me that she's going to send it me in the mail!!! I thought she was kidding and told her she was crazy and I just laughed it off knowing what a "joker" she is. Well no she wasn't kidding and yes she is crazy because "lo and behold" there's a big box waiting for me on my doorstep one morning! I look at the return address and it's from Massachusetts. Who do I know that lives up there? It could only be Dawn! I open up this overly taped up box that houses a big old bowl that she froze in her freezer. It's taped up with a gazillion wrappings that took me forever to remove. Sure enough there's the soup that she told me took three pounds of chicken to make! Can you believe it?! And "man of man"..........the woman can cook! My stomach loved every spoonful. Knowing Dawn has been a true pleasure in my life! Thank you dear friend. You are really special.....even if you are a little crazy!
Thank you to all my other many friends in the breed for your many phone calls and e-mails. They all meant so much to me. It's true, you really don't know who your friends are until you are in need of their friendship. It's so easy to be a "friend" to someone when their life is good. It's those people that hang around when your life stinks that are true friends! Those that impressed me the most were those that I never met who reached out to me. Thank you very much. There was Steve up in Maine that offered to take care of my dogs for me. There was Bruce who had prayers said for me in his church as many others did as well. There was a special e-mail group of German Shepherd people who say prayers for the sick and dying and Deb would send me prayer updates all the time. The list goes on and on. I never really appreciated how truly blessed I am until I became ill. I never felt sorry for myself and asked, "Why did this happen to me dear Lord?" I just accepted it and knew I was in God's hands and he already knew what was going to happen to me anyway! Life is what it is............not always easy, not always fun, and certainly not what you may want it to be, but it is what it is. You can either accept it or fall down and crumble, moan, groan and complain or "get up" and go on! Well I'm still here for as long as God wants me here because I know he has work for me to do yet in whatever way he chooses to use me. All I know is that I am blessed.
I also want to thank my family that has been here for me. You already read about my youngest brother, but my other brother Jedd has been a God send to me as well. He was with me after my first operation and waited with me in the recovery room and listened to my endless drug induced chatter for what must have seemed like hours on end! He has the patience of a saint for that one. I was no better in his immaculate car when I threatened to get sick in it from the triple morphine running through my veins. He got me home just in time because what I threatened to do in his car, I did in the kitchen sink. Yucky! Sorry for the visual, but I'm telling my story as it was! Then he also took me down for my follow up at Sloan Kettering which ended up being an all day event because of more testing. We left at 9 in the morning and returned at 9 in the evening!
Then there's my sister who commissioned the dog sitters to stay a few weeks longer. Thank God because I just couldn't do the physical work needed to take care of them! Then there's my cousins that called me all the time and my best friend Brenda who has been "too kind for words!" She's like a second sister to me!
I have to say something here about my faith. I have very strong feelings about it. But there are times when you wonder what you are going to do about something that you see no way through. I experienced this many times during my trials. I wondered how I was going to do this or that. One day I was walking through the kitchen talking to myself and asking myself these exact questions. I felt my blood pressure elevated and through my "self talk", I heard a silent voice say in answer to my questions........"Ye of little faith!" You have no idea of how enlightening that was to me! I had to remind myself........"Let go and let God!" And because my faith is strong (although tested many times), God was there for me once again.................he worked his miracle through all of you guys that were there for me! So next time you go to a show, say hello to a stranger. Help out a newbie that is looking for a friend. You just never know if he was sent to you as your "Guiding Angel" for sometime in the future!
So this has been my journey. I am still recovering and it's a slow process. I live my life one day at a time. For all those that reached out to me in this breed.............you are so much more than just a breeder or exhibitor. You are special human beings above anything else. Some of you may never own a champion and some of you own more than your share of them, but to me, you are champions among people!!! You may not have a title just yet, but your crown is reserved by a judge far better suited to judge than any AKC licensed judge on this earth!!!
From the book: A SECOND HELPING OF CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: The runaway bestseller Chicken Soup for the Soul captured the imagination of millions of readers with its uplifting message of hope and inspiration. With a nation still hungering for more good news, Canfield and Hansen went back to work and cooked up another batch of life-affirming stories to warm your heart and soothe your soul.
Through the experiences of others, readers from all walks of life can learn the gift of love, the power of perseverance, the joy of parenting and the vital energy of dreaming. Share the magic that will change forever how you look at yourself and the world around you.
My rating: "Sunshine Squad": (4), Chicken Soup for the Soul books: (4), most German Shepherd Dog people: (4)!