When was the last time you learned something new?

“When was the last time you learned something new?” was a question I used to ask candidates interviewing for positions when I was working in Human Resources. It was amazing to me how many people were stumped by this question. It was not my intention to stump anyone; rather, I was seeking out  people who have a zest for learning, are open-minded, can change their minds when presented with new information. The Vice Presidents and CEOs that I supported insisted on these qualities in the people we brought on board.

I  love learning new things and having my mind-set challenged by contrarian views. This week I was so challenged.


Prashna asked me if I could  provide transportation to West Springfield High School to one of her 4th grade classmates who is also in the band. The Elementary School band is performing at the West Springfield High School. Prashna is in the school band; she plays the trombone. “Sure, no problem”, I say.

I picked up the young girl at the house that Prashna directs me to. Her Mom comes outside. I get out of the car and introduce myself, assuming that the Mom must be concerned about the person who is driving her daughter to and from the school for the evening performance. I also give the Mom my business card so she knows my name and has my telephone numbers and somehow I think it makes me seem more legit.

She doesn’t give me her telephone number which would be more practical, should some situation emerge regarding her daughter. I don’t even know her last name.

She is Muslim, wearing the traditional dress and head covering. She is petite and quite beautiful. She seems stressed and explains that her husband works many hours and at night. He works at a restaurant. I ask if she has other children. Yes, an infant and a three year old, one of whom has Down’s Syndrome. She takes my hand and we say good-bye.

Zmrda is a lovely 10 year old girl. She is well-spoken and poised. She too wears the traditional head covering of Muslim women.


Later, Prashna asked if I can provide transportation for Zmrda, if she gets accepted in the GOTR program.

Girls On The Run is an after-school program for girls that focuses on fitness through educating them and preparing them for a lifetime of self respect and healthy living. The ultimate goal of GOTR  “is to provide the girls with tools and resources that develop their ability to think critically–a skill that will serve them well for a lifetime.”

Prashna gotr

Prashna let me know that Zmrda was accepted into the GOTR program. I contacted the school coordinator and let her know that I would be providing  Zmrda transportation from school to home and asked if the proper clearance was given by the parents so as to avoid any problems when I pick up Zmrda  later in the afternoon.

Ms. O’Brien returned my call and said “yes” the form had stated “Mrs. Susan” [that’s what Prashna and Zmrda call me] as the ‘responsible party’.  Ms. O’Brien wanted to be sure that meant me and she had confirmed it with Zmrda’s Dad by telephone.

I enjoy seeing the girls two afternoons a week. They have become friends and listening to their conversation is always enlivening.

This past Tuesday, I brought Freddy along for the ride as I would not be making any other stops along the way. [On Thursdays, I bring Prashna to Girl Scouts meetings, after we drop off Zrmrda.]  As Prashna is approaching my car, she sees Freddy and Freddy sees her and they both are very excited.

Freddy in the car

As the two girls tumble into the car, Prashna tells Zmrda Freddy’s name and says that he is a good dog and says how much she likes him. She is petting him and Freddy is wagging his tail uncontrollably. Zmrda sits back and says her Mother does not allow her to touch a dog. I ask why and she says “because dogs are dirty and they have germs.”

Uh-oh, did Freddy hear that?


“Say what?”

Islam forbids Muslims to keep dogs, and the punishment for that is that the one who does that loses one or two qiraats from his hasanaat (good deeds) each day. An exception has been made in the case of keeping dogs for hunting, guarding livestock, and guarding crops.

Most Muslim scholars agree that in Islam the saliva of a dog is ritually impure and that contact with a dog’s saliva requires one to wash seven times. This ruling comes from the hadith:

The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “If a dog licks the vessel of any one of you, let him throw away whatever was in it and wash it seven times.”

Prashna’s response to the situation was: “Zmrda, pet him and then you can wash your hands and your Mom won’t know what you did.”

Yes, she did say that and I did admonish her for it.

The Nepalis have their own rituals about cleanliness, washing, food and what one can and cannot do with their right and left hands.

I am uncomfortable with beliefs, superstitions, traditions, and rituals that have no basis in what is True. I know I am wandering into dangerous territory here. It just doesn’t sit well with me that parents let their child get into a car with a woman they do not know, yet the same child cannot pet the women’s dog. Which, the stranger woman or the dog, poses the gravest potential danger?

I heard a commentator on television the other day say that “it’s not that Trump doesn’t know anything, it’s that he doesn’t learn anything new and he is not open to learning anything new.”

Religions need to question and revise their man-made interpretations of Truth as new knowledge and insight unfold. Religious dogma cannot remain steeped in the past with all of its cultural backlog and baggage, if it is to be meaningful and relevant to today’s generation.

“Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy, the mad daughter of a wise mother. These daughters have too long dominated the earth.” Voltaire

Jesus, the Nazarene, reminded the Pharisees and the high priests of the day that their religious practices on cleanliness missed the mark when he was asked “Why do your disciples break the traditions of the elders?  They don’t wash their hands before they eat.”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?”

Jesus then taught the people, saying “it is not what you touch or put in your body that defiles it; for what you put in your mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body. Rather it is “the emissions of your hearts, your thoughts, words and deeds that cause you to be unclean. But eating with unwashed hands does not make you unclean.” Matthew 15

Petting, touching or kissing a dog does not make you unclean.


To read about Prashna and my involvement with a Nepali family, read a previous story:







An Up Close and Personal Interview with Freddy

So how did you come to live with Susan and Bruce?

Susan had wanted a dog for so long after she put down Casey. However, her aging parents were no longer able to watch a new puppy  as she was still working. And, she is not the type to leave a dog alone or in a crate all day. She worked very long hours and did a fair amount of business travel. She also enjoyed personal travel.

She was diligent about praying to God for a dog to come into her life-“the right dog at the right time who needed her care and attention.” You don’t need to include this if you don’t want to, but I know that she was praying for the right man to come into her life, too. Whew, it’s a good thing those 2 prayers didn’t get mixed up.

So, go on.

Well, Susan kept looking on dog search sites and she would visit local shelters. The shelters only had pit bull dogs which Susan did not want and the search sites seemed a little risky for her. By this time, her prayers for a man were answered and she and Bruce started living together with Bruce’s cat, Nadine.

nadine wicker basket

The desire for a dog subsided a bit as she adjusted to her wonderful new life, living with Bruce. But, when Bruce’s daughter and son-in-law got a Goldendoodle puppy, Bella, the desire for a dog reared its puppy head again, so to speak. Danielle and Mike had visited with Bella a couple of days after Christmas 2012 and Susan was smitten. She wanted a dog, NOW.

This is Bella, Danielle and Mike’s Goldendoodle.


She went online and searched, mistakenly for Labradoodles. Well, lo and behold, she found a breeder of Labradoodles in East Otis, MA. and she called. She spoke with my breeder and learned that a litter had just been born but all the puppies were called for already, except one. It was me! Because of a recessive gene from my grandfather I turned out to be a mini Labradoodle. Well, that suited Susan even better as she preferred a smaller dog.

She told Bruce what she found and that they had an appointment to visit me at the breeder’s home. They visited me and I could tell they wanted me!  They wrote a check, signed the contract, and picked me up on January 4, 2013. I was 8 weeks old. It was a cold, snow-covered afternoon when we drove home. Bruce drove and I sat on Susan’s lap, covered up with an afghan that Mare had crocheted.

day one with Freddy010413First day home with Susan And Bruce.

Once we arrived home, Susan got down on the floor with me and I crawled around and sat on her lap. Bruce went out for grinders as he didn’t want to take time away from me by cooking. They made me feel so safe and warm, even though I was missing my Mom and my puppy mates. They had a special cushioned pillow that they placed me in, with the crocheted blanket and that’s where I slept during the day when I wasn’t roaming around throughout the house. At night, I slept in their bedroom in a crate with a soft bed. I did this for 6 months per the veterinarian’s instructions. Doctor said I needed my privacy and they needed theirs. Without a hitch at six months, my crate was moved to the Sitting Room where Bruce and Susan spend time watching television and reading.

It was  a bitter cold snowy winter. Bruce shoveled a path out back for me to walk and run and do my business. I was house broken within a couple of weeks as Bruce was so consistent in taking me out regularly. I did have a few accidents in the house. I was embarrassed, but they said it was their fault. That’s the kind of people they are.


What are they like to live with?

They are totally focused on me.  The important thing is that they love me unconditionally.  Susan tells me that God loves me, too. I don’t know who that is. But, I do know that GOD is DOG spelled backwards.


Wherever they are, I am. If they are at their desks, I am under their feet. When they are sitting on the sofa, I sit on their laps or beside them. They put a rug under the kitchen table, so that I can be comfortable when they are eating. We go out in the back yard several times a day. There is agility equipment, toys, balls, and Frisbees for me to play with and I have my own pool. They usually always take me with them wherever they go in their car.


Are you ever alone?

Rarely. Susan and Bruce don’t leave me alone longer than an hour or two. They take me to places that allow dogs, like The Home Depot, outdoor festivals, the local farm stand.

freddyatearthdayfairAt The Earth Day Fair

I have the full reign of the house so I cuddle up in my bed, or the sofa, or my crate. I don’t shed which is a bonus.


When they come home, I go to the door and bark my head off. I am so happy to see them again.


I was The Best Man at their wedding.


Any guilty pleasures?

I tease Nadine and that gives me a rush.

freddy and nadine

I love taking afternoon naps with Susan because it is the only time I get to sleep on their bed.


I like digging holes.


Any fears?

Flies in the house freak me out!

Whenever I feel fearful or unsafe, I retreat between the end table and the sofa and stay there until I feel okay to come out. I don’t like being brushed, so when Susan goes to the drawer where the brush is kept, I run to my safe place. She is usually just getting a pen to do the crossword puzzle, but you never know.

I see you have lots of toys.

Yes and I know them all by name. There’s:

Hedgehog and Squirrel-my favorites.  Blue.  Dyno-which I played with at Mare’s house.  Froggie. Trick. Chomper. Bone-from Uncle Dennis and Aunt Debbie. Stripey. Sock Monkey-I have 3 little ones and one big one.  Red Bull and more.



You seem like the type of dog who has regular habits.

Yes. Yes, I do. I go to bed at 7p.m. every evening and Bruce gives me a treat. I wake at 7 a.m. each morning. I give a call to Bruce and he opens up the crate door. We both do downward dog position.

I go for several walks during the day with Bruce. I make my mark about every 5 feet and my bowel movements are regular.

I eat 3 meals a day. Bruce mixes organic beef, chicken, or cheese into my regular dog food. For breakfast, I usually have organic, range free scrambled eggs. Bruce gives me a variety of small treats during the day. My weight is stable at 16 pounds.

Freddy, what’s ahead for you?

I am presently enrolled in Advance Beginner Agility classes. Susan takes me each week and we practice on the equipment for one hour at it’s pawsible dog training center in Westhampton.

I have so much fun and Susan does, too! I have agility equipment at home, too. They say I am fast and smart and that I have the potential to be a champion.  We’ll decide whether to compete once I am more experienced. In the meantime, I am enjoying the classes and practicing at home. Susan and Bruce tell me they are proud of me and they want me to be the happy little dog God, whoever that is, wants me to be.


Thank you Freddy.

Thank you.


Growing up with Dogs

We always had dogs as pets when I was growing up. On the cover of the Springfield Republican paper one Sunday morning was a photo of a litter of puppies at the animal shelter in Springfield.


My father got my brothers and me in the car and we went and picked out a dog. We named this one Skunky; the mutt we had before was called Yogi, probably named for Yogi Berra, by my brothers.

Here’s Skunky as a puppy with my brother and me holding Fido.


Skunky was a big, fat mutt, as you can see.


Very lovable. Not very energetic. As a child, I remember Skunky as just “being there”, wagging her tail, soaking up all the attention and affection we gave her.


I don’t remember how she passed; that’s kind of weird to me as I am sure I was grief-stricken for losing her. I do remember my best fiend, Sue Cipriani, had the same kind of dog, a mutt, named Dutchess, and she was killed by a car on Westfield Street. We were heart-broken.

bathroom w pets

During the time my father owned the bar, he bought a black, male toy poodle and he named him Clancy.  How he came to choose a poodle, I do not know. As you probably know by now, there wasn’t a lot of discussion about matters between my parents and there  was  no “family discussion”.


By the way, here’s my favorite dog cartoon from The New Yorker:


I remember Clancy having a lot of energy and his favorite toy was a stuffed sock. Clancy had epilepsy, probably due to close in breeding and died one day after being hit by a car. That was back in the day when you just let your dog roam.

Joe bought another poodle–a gray female that he named Candy. Candy was very attached to Mare. Mare would take Candy with her in the car and Candy just loved that.She was sweet and very smart. I was in high school at the time when Joe got her and I left home shortly after I graduated high school. Even though I loved Candy, I wasn’t that attached to her.

Joe had Candy mated with a stud dog so that she would have a litter. He was so nervous and concerned about Candy and he kept telling my mother what to do when the time came for the delivery. Joe was working that evening, the 3p.m. to 11p.m. shift, and Mare was at home. Candy jumped into Mare’s wicker laundry basket and delivered 3 healthy puppies. Joe was very happy. He gave one puppy to his mother and brother who lived across the street and the 2 other puppies were sold.

The thing about dogs is that they just make life better. Liz Taylor knew that.


One time, after I had already left home, I took Candy to the veterinarian’s office for a check up. She had an ear infection, as many small dogs often get. As the Doctor was cleaning out her ear with a piece of gauze, she whimpered, and I saw the yucky output on the gauze pad.  I could feel myself getting woozy and I fell right down as I fainted. The next thing you know, I was stretched out, laying down on the Doctor’s sofa in his living room, in his attached house.


Candy eventually was put down and it was Mare who took her to the veterinarian’s office. Mare always got stuck doing the hard jobs.

animal hospital.jpg

Mare once told me that Joe had hunting beagles that he kept in the back yard in an enclosed area. She claimed Joe did not take care of them properly. One day she decided to get rid of the dogs and gave them up at the animal shelter. I am sure Joe had a fit.

Lesson learned~ A home is not a home without a dog.

Coming up: Interview with Freddy


Casey, My Dog


After I completed graduate school at UCONN in May of 1984 and before I started my new job on July 1st, I got an 8 week old puppy named Casey.  Casey was on her way to the dog pound with her litter mates to be given up and I took her from the owner. It had been 11 years since I left my parents home and didn’t have a dog. What a gift to myself!


For the 13 years that I had Casey, I brought her to Mare and Joe’s house and they took care of her while I worked or any time I was away from my home for more than 4 hours.


Each morning, she was eager to get in the car and to go to their home. And each evening, she would be so happy when I returned. It was back in the day when dogs just went outside on their own and were not leashed or tied up. Mare went for a short walk each day with Casey, just down the street. Joe said Casey would sit on a neighbor’s yard and keep a watch-full eye on both houses.


At around 5p.m., Casey would sit on the front step, waiting for me to return. I did a lot of business and personal travel in those years and Casey would be disappointed when I didn’t show up as anticipated. Mare would get upset because Casey would repeatedly go in and out. Sometimes, when I telephoned home, Mare would hold the telephone out so Casey could hear my voice.


She was a sweet girl with a gentle disposition. She was my most devoted companion for 13 beautiful years. When it came time for me to put her down, it was saddest thing for me to do. I had  prayed that I would have the courage to do the right thing at the right time for Casey. I cried and cried and Mare and Joe did, too.  I didn’t think my world would ever be good or right again.


Lesson Learned~Never give up the opportunity to rescue or save a dog from the pound.  Love and care for your dog and you will be rewarded a hundred times over.

P.S. One of the best lines in cinematic history, in my opinion, is from the movie “The War of the Roses”. Danny Devito, the sage, weathered, older lawyer replies to the young inexperienced lawyer when asked about a relationship gone sour: “There are cat people and there are dog people.”