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Summer 2018: What’s your funniest, weirdest, or most heart-warming story about your four-legged friend?

It was 2001 and our daughter was about to turn 8 years old. We are firm believers in a house with children and animals! So Saturday, the day after her birthday, my husband and daughter went in search of a puppy. I advised her not to fall in love with the first one, knowing full well that she would. They came home with a very rambunctious, adorable, what we would later learn was one of the most stubborn breads ever! We named her Mandy.

Mandy had so many names, and she knew them all. Mandy, Mandy-Girl, The Man-den-ator, and with one of the boyfriends that came in the teen years, Manfred!

Puppyhood was adventurous, to say the least. Mandy did NOT like her crate. While house training, we came home after work to find Mandy in her crate, the tray below pushed out, and a huge hole chewed in the carpet!!! Smart though, Mandy was so smart. Our daughter taught her to sit, stay, lay down, high five, roll-over (a story in itself), and kiss the bride. Our daughter would hold her hand out and Mandy would “kiss it” by touching her nose to it.

Roll-over. Mandy was not a fan of roll-over, but she was a fan of “cookies!” So, her smart self, tried everything she could think of. She would spin in circles, lay down and lean on her back, get up, want the cookie, we would say “no, you have to roll-over first” again with the spinning, until she finally relented and rolled-over, the whole time barking, snarling, and growling. It was all in good fun on her part as well as ours. It ended up almost as the Mandy show!

Scratch your butt. Mandy’s favorite thing was to get her “butt” scratched. This is the area that most dogs love, just above the tail, on the back. The way she let us know she wanted it was, she would walk up to you, back up her hind end, stand there with her body curled around so she could look at you, telling you she was ready. If you said “No Mandy, I don’t want to scratch your butt,” she would just go on to the next person. Company, was not left out. Any scratch was a good scratch.

Changes. Mandy was not good with changes, as many doggies aren’t. We bought a company 90 miles from home and decided she might like staying with hubby during the week. No. She didn’t. Came home to a hole ripped from the front door, along with the door-jam torn off on one side.

Swimming. Mandy loved to go swimming. Swimming was walking in the water about mid-leg deep, and putting her face in the water, just enough so she could see! That was it!

Our daughter grown and gone, hubby working all the time, Mandy and I became very close. As she grew older, we settled in to a routine. Every morning, I would get my coffee, go to my home office desk, when she woke up, Mandy would slowly walk in and let me know she was ready for her cookie. I would give her a cookie. One day, she decided, she needed another one. I was busy, she came up and nudged my arm with her nose. I asked her what she wanted and finally guessed it was another cookie. Every day after, for the rest of her life she got two cookies. We would make a game of it some days, I would pretend to ignore her, she would cold-nose me.

Mandy’s decline was fast. One day she started not being able to hold her bladder. Literally she would stand up and empty. Through a friend, an incredible vet and one of her staff, came to our house, and we were able to say goodbye and help her cross over in her own home. Something unusual, our cat, who she and Mandy never paid much attention to each other, well, she was rubbing all over Mandy and laying down with her. We were all with her to the end. In the first few weeks that followed, I felt Mandy with me a lot. It’s been a little over a year and I still, occasionally feel her. I know she’s here.
We loved her.

By Robin Delaney Hanning

Spring 2018: “What was the moment that you knew you were in love with your significant other?”

I knew the moment I saw him, his picture – that I’d love him for the rest of my life, a true moment of “koi no yokan” – I knew nothing about this man other than the fact that in time, if I allowed myself to speak to him, our love would be inevitable.

August, 2013… we were becoming close over Facebook, he lived a thousand miles away but he’d begun to make talk of seeing one another, after so many fun phone calls and letters written… about a month into our sweet courtship, our inevitable and undeniable fondness and pull to one another, tragedy struck his home.

Having just experienced several great losses myself, I knew all too well, and related strongly to his pain… but in that moment, in his loss.. I looked at this beautiful, hurting, sweet and strong man, and I knew that I wanted to struggle with him. I knew that I wanted every pain in his life to be a part of mine as well… I wanted to ease his burdens, to have him by my side during my own hard times, and more than anything – I knew that I wanted to get through all those things, to celebrate joy with him, to survive and thrive and laugh with him, for the rest of my life.

His period of grieving, of pain – hit me so strongly, reassuring the feelings that I had upon that first sight. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was the man I wanted to walk and traverse the paths of life with, both in the valleys and in the gardens… today, we are happily married, despite distance, hardship, and time… our hearts led us home. ❤️

By Caledonia Brown Bull

Winter 2018: “Has anything ever happened to you that you can’t seem to explain?”

For one week prior to Christmas, when my twin and I were in elementary school, I spent part of every day in quiet thought. My sister had asked for something unfathomable: snow on Christmas. Snow in Alabama. So I prayed. I prayed hard and long. I prayed as hard as the tree trunks and as long as the wind. And I kept praying. On Christmas Day, my doubt spiked hard. No snow outside. Still, when we had finished opening presents, something happened: chunks of ice fell from the sky. Hard chunks of ice hitting the cars, littering the ground. Incredible: hard chunks of ice. My sister and I were both quiet. Then she smiled. I was never able to give her a Christmas present to equal this one again, but for one day ice fell out of the sky in Alabama. And I was pleased.

By Alicia Cole

Fall 2017: “Have you ever laughed so hard it made you cry?”

My eight year old son, Cruz, thinks he’s a real elf. The night before Christmas Eve he said, “Mom I don’t know why, but I think I might be an elf.” “Well you, you might be. You went to elf school. You even got a certificate.” I pulled out his certificate and gave it to him. His eyes moved around reading the yellow ticket from NPX. “I don’t remember. How old was I?” “You were about four. That was the time you and Charisma got in a fight with that elf. Remember?” His eyes lit up. “Oh yeah, now I remember.” I walked off to the kitchen to fix me a cup of coco. I was stirring my packet of coco into the cup of warm water when Cruz walked in and intervened. “Mom, I am ready now!” I put the spoon down, picked my cup up, turned around to see his expression and leaned back. I could see that he had something serious to tell me. “Mom I’m ready to be an elf. I know I’m an elf!” He put his hand on his chest. I took a sip from my cup trying not to reveal that I was surprised because he was indeed an elf. He put his hand down. “I am ready to help wrap presents.” I put my cup of coco down on the counter that I was leaning my back on. “This is great! You are so ready to be an elf. Get the wrapping paper. Get the tape. Get the presents. Cruz is an elf.” He signed his name as Jolly Sugar Gem.

By JoJo Martinez

Summer 2017: “What’s your favorite story, memory, or dream?”

Dream by Edwin Green: Come at me with all the weapons you want from every angle. Do you think it will pierce my talents? As artists our great defense and offense is the infinite imagination we have, and right now I can image an impenetrable force field turning your own weapon against you.

By Cyantai Woods