Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Dr. Bonne Doron has taken us through many of her thoughts and memories of the all to short life with her trusted companion, Hunter.  This is the final chapter so to speak.  We've read about his character and his loyalty, but there was also this very special piece too.....

"Hunter's most important role was to listen to the homeless shelter children read to him once a month. He was more than a pet therapy dog; he was their companion with that unconditional love that dogs give without reserve. They hugged on his hairy neck and talked to him and ran with him on a leash through the narrow halls of their building.
They talked about the hope of having their own dog someday when they lived in their own homes. Their mothers stopped by when they picked up their kids, for a hug or a pet or a lick talking about their memories of their dogs from a better life. The staff and volunteers came by for the same, always with the promise of beautiful red hair all over their black pants but always stopping by with a story of their love for dogs.
Perhaps the most poignant time was one night as we walked down the sidewalk to the building. Coming towards us was a young boy, 7 or 8 years old with a deep scowl and down-turned eyes.  Hunter came to attention and bounded towards the youth. Immediately, he buried his head in Hunter’s neck and hung on until he came up with a grin and a lighter load off his shoulders". 
The stately one.....Hunter 
 After Hunter's passing, Bonne received a card from the center signed by the staff and mothers of children Hunter had connected with.  All expressed their love and the magnitude of how they'd miss "their" Hunter.  It goes without saying, Hunter knew his role and he played it perfectly.  
"So how does one summarize Hunter's life?, expressed Bonne.  "There is so much more.  But you get the idea.  When Hunter passed away I couldn't let go and leave him.  I believe that he sent me a message:  I am there but that body is not me.  Don't you see me now?  The image that floated into my mind was his leaning down on front paws with his hind end in the air, full of life and energy, ready to play.....bounding towards someone, acting as if he would mow them down but avoiding them at the last minute".  Images she no doubt will never forget.   
It was hard, but finally I was able to leave....with the understanding that I will always be grateful to my God for such a friend but will never say goodbye". 
Back in 1981, legendary actor James “Jimmy” Stewart, the star of  “It's a Wonderful Life” and too many other classics to list here, went on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” to share his hobby: poetry. The piece that he read was titled "I’ll Never Forget a Dog Named Beau" about Stewart’s golden retriever. 
At first, the poem made Johnny and the audience laugh, but it had a very different effect in the end. Describing it can’t do it justice; it’s something you have to see — and feel — for yourself, so check out the video.
Yes, it's very easy to relate to the words Jimmy Stewart said that night.  They are praise worthy of a being who simply wanted to love and be loved.  And yes, it's also the story of something that is so much more deserving than a description as......PET.  I"ll leave that to you to best describe your experience with man's and woman's best friend.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


A Story Of Hunter...More Than Just A Pet

In one of my last posts I spoke about several unique dogs and their loyalty and dedication to their owners.  But....let's cut to the chase here.  It's more than that. It's a two way street in most cases.  And well it should be. 

If you didn't read my previous story, let's rewind to the end where Dr. Bonne Doron was relating the death of her Golden Retriever, Hunter.  Her words, spoken with such love and candor were directed to the volunteers of the Iowa Golden Retriever Rescue. 

"I just wanted to let you know that Hunter had to be put to sleep last week. He was failing badly: couldn't walk or stand without wobbling, coughing, etc.  At 12 1/2, he was entering the final parts of his life.  The vet and I had pulled him away from the brink several times, but he was really suffering recently".

"I wanted you to know how much having Hunter in my life meant to me. Admittedly, I am a cat person, so Hunter and I always had issues.  They eventually lessened as he wove his way into my life and heart. 

"He was a therapy dog at the homeless shelter where he was read to by the kids once a month.  They too LOVED him.  One time we were going down to the community building when a young boy was coming towards us, followed by an adult who was offering up discipline.  You could tell the boy was really upset.  I called out to him, "Hunter is coming to see you."  The boy hugged Hunter tightly and smiled.  Hunter had that effect on people.  He welcomed them with a bump to the leg (he knew I would pet him if he put his head on my leg).  No matter where he went or who was there, Hunter made them feel comfortable and welcomed.

He was my companion through the hard times.  Always he stayed near me (which could be annoying as he followed me from room to room until I settled down . . . he made sure he was nearby).  He traveled with me in the car sitting tall in the back seat to catch the wind in his face.

And he loved camping and would whine until I let him run to the camper.  In reality, he taught my friend's granddaughter who often camped with us to learn to not be afraid of big dogs.  It took a summer trip or two, but she finally would walk the park with him on his leash and asked about him often.  The young kids who live next door would run to the fence and ask their parents to lift them over so they could throw sticks for Hunter to retrieve and chew up.  All of these friends will be sad to know Hunter will not be there again for them".

But I found a great book I will be reading to them about a land where an animal goes after it dies.  Within those pages are words that capture an  animals' specialness to us and even though it is fantasy, it helps with the healing.  I will miss my boy like no other animal I've ever had.  Thank you for letting me share such a special life".

Dr. Bonne Doron

How does one summarize the life of a family pet?   More of Bonne's words: 

I will try to keep this scenario short and sweet.  First,  Hunter was not a pet. He was the center of my family life and loved by many outside our circle.  In fact, he never met a human he didn’t like and want to be next to every minute of every hour of every day. He followed me from room to room and when outside, searched the window for my shadow for hours, with beseeching eyes. 

He loved my son most. I allowed him to take care of Hunter while I was visiting him in Texas one year. Because Hunter loved playing catch with a Frisbee and my son loved Frisbee golf, the two of them would play in the green areas until after dark. Once the Frisbee drifted into a nearby creek, complete with moccasins and who know what else. However, Hunter didn’t consider any of that...but bounded into the water with abandon and recovered the Frisbee in record time. My son was amazed as a drowned-looking dog lifted the prize up to him with pride of “a job well done.”

The groomers were especially happy to see Hunter because he never refused their washing, blow drying, and brushing but he was always the cooperative, willing client.   I always got the report that he was such a “good dog”.  Even for his regular anal gland cleaning at the vets, I could see his tolerant, yet reluctant, eyes patiently waiting until the humans were done when he would jump down from the huge sink, with a wide, long-tongued smile that it “was finally over.” And he forgave them in an instant.  Every time.

There was one little girl who was deathly afraid of dogs.  She was the granddaughter of a friend of mine who camps with me. She was scared of the “gentle giant” and would squeal with fearful surprise at his size and hugeness compared to her little 6 year old stature.  She would give him a lot of distance around the campfire with hand held high to avoid his touch....until he gave her time to learn of his sweetness. At our last camp out, she walked him on the leash by herself, let him insist on a pet from her with a nudge, and played “retrieve” with a ball, Frisbee, or fall leaves. He taught her so much in a few short years. 

Hunter in dress-up mode
Even with other animals, Hunter showed his loving ways. With five cats in the home, he thought at first that they were there for his personal play time. With some instruction, “NO CATS,” or “That’s GOOD cat,” Hunter realized they were part of the family although mostly for his healthy snoot full of their back ends but they were fine with that. Especially my fearful Starr, a black beauty who feared all other humans and outside noises which meant hiding for hours long after the danger passed. However, she absolutely loved her doggy buddy, crying for him to pay attention to her.  If that didn’t work, she wove herself around his legs and looked longingly into his jaw, waiting for a sniff. She still looks for him to come round the corner.
What Hunter did for me is difficult to explain. He taught me much about myself that needed improvement, But....he loved me in spite of those "learning moments".   He return after a scolding or a particularly difficult bath time with that smile and wag of his sweeping tail. “Am I forgiven?” he whined.  To which I answered, “It’s the other way around, buddy.   Do you forgive me?” “No problem,” he grinned as he waited for his treats. 

He also brought the best out in me as I learned patience and calmness in crisis, most of the time. When he mischievously ate cat litter (“Really they are treats, you know,”) or chewed on my new slippers, his eyes would plead for me to look the other way or he would slowly drop his treasure and pick up his green monkey as a substitute. “I’ll be good. Really, I will. Actually until you look away!” 

Hunter was my protector when I camped.  He was always the first one to the camper   driving companion with the windows open for breathing in the fresh air..... my walking buddy bounding ahead or sniffing out everything along the trail......and most importantly, my friend to hug and cry with.  His looks often exhibited, "I am so sorry! What can I do?”  when times were tough.  AAAHHHH, for the memories. 

Those are images that will never be replaced.  Are they unique?  To Bonne they most likely are.  And for many others, probably not because it's all too relatable.  We've been there.  Done that.  Lived that and LOVED that.  Because each dog, has it's own treasure, waiting to be unleashed.  But wait.  There's more to come....

Check back soon.  When the Story of Hunter, Continues.



Friday, December 12, 2014


It's terribly difficult to sum up a person's life in a reflection or eulogy.  For gosh sakes, it's only a microcosm of the time they spent on earth.....the people they affected.....and how they lived their lives.  But.....let's attempt to put a few words down.  Something that will be there for the ages.  After all, in this instance, once it hits the internet, it will be there for eternity.  And for Wayne Blythe, that's the least we can do to pay back what he did for so, so many.

Since his passing Wednesday, I've seen Facebook post after post listing condolences, reciting memories and in some instances....shock.....that this day came.  I mean, how could it.  It was Wayne's World.  And now, it was no more. 

If you ever had an opportunity to meet Wayne Blythe, you know what I mean.  He was, in so many respects a "Pillar".  A pillar to his friends, to his church, to his family and to his friends. And when I say friends, he had lots of them.  Lots.  Encountering Wayne was something you never forgot. There was no facade.  He was an open book.

My first meeting with Wayne came during a mission trip to the Dominican Republic in February of 2012.  It was apparent Wayne had a special interest with the island and it's people. He connected, not so much through language...but with a smile, a wave and a hug.  This was my first trip to the Dominican.  I'm not really sure what number it was for him.  Regardless, we spent many mornings sipping a cup of coffee together.  We were the early risers in our group.  That's where I got to know him and love him.

We'd talk about all sorts of things.  I knew he had lost his grandson, Treye, several years ago.  Wayne told me Treye had been murdered in Cedar Falls, Iowa just prior to entering his freshman year of college at the University of Northern Iowa.  The trip we were on was an offshoot of that tragic event.  Project 52, a non-profit organization, honoring Treye was formed.  A gymnasium was built in Los Alcarrizos at the Lighthouse  School in Treye's honor.  Yes, this place was special to Wayne.  He talked alot.  I listened alot.  I asked alot.  And I choked back tears alot.  The stories he told me about getting a phone call that Treye had been stabbed......having to endure the loss of his he had to tell his son Dustin, who was returning from a mission trip, that his son had been killed (via a phone call when his plane landed in Omaha) .....and the trial for Treye's murderer were so, so moving.

I could say that it was the loss of Treye that changed Wayne....that made him into a man wanting to give back more and serve more....making him more giving. more appreciative of life.  But something tells me he had "his" style down, long before then. 

As we tipped our cups each morning we talked about other things with our world.  But most importantly, no matter where our conversations went, we always came back our God.  "You know Wayne", I said.  "My wife, Joane, talks about how fortunate we are to have been born where we were.  And that out of all the possibilities where God could have placed us, he chose the United States, to be our home.  How amazing is that?  But how little do we appreciate it.  And even more disturbing, is do we even stop to think about it". 

Wayne looked at me with his little smirk and said, "you know John, I talk about that alot.  And it's painful to see people with blank looks on their faces when I do.  I've thought those same thoughts and said those same things. Wow".  Those conversations, those memories gave me a peek into Wayne's World.....               

When I heard of Wayne's death, I immediately placed myself at the picnic table outside the little kitchen in Los Alcarrizos.  And I could recall one paragraph that has always stuck with me.  One little nugget, so to speak.  And it went like this.  "No one is perfect.  We should spend our days giving to others and not keeping score. That's so hard to do. We should try to reflect on all of the times in our lives that we are completely selfless.  But it's hard to think of those times, isn't it?
Wayne at work serving at Lighthouse Schools  

I've taken some words from the obituary via the Abels Funeral Home website for further information: 

"Wayne Lee Blythe, 66, passed away on Wednesday, December 10, 2014, at his home in Wellsburg while under Care Initiatives Hospice after a brave battle with cancer. A funeral service will be held on Saturday, December 13th at 10:00 AM at the AGWSR Middle School, 609 S. Monroe St., Wellsburg, Iowa. Visitation will be held on Friday, December 12th from 4 to 8 PM at the middle school and one hour prior to the service at the school. Burial will follow the funeral service at the Faith Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Ackley. Memorials may be made in Wayne's name to Project 52, P.O. Box 3681, Urbandale, Iowa 50323. He is survived by his loving wife, Joyce and two sons, Dustin and Vaughn".

Wayne Blythe
In a last thought,  we should take great solace that Wayne has joined his grandson, Treye.  That is the most awesome part of his passing.  Wayne wanted that alot.  And....

Even though we say Goodbye to Wayne's World there could very well be something on the horizon.  That is.  Wayne.  Waiting for those he MENTORED with that smile of his.  And spreading his arms wide open for his HUG.

Isn't that out of this world?



And Jesus came and said to them,  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of  all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”-Matthew 28:18-20

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


I'm a sucker for a good dog story.  And if you're not....... then you don't know what you're missing.  And that's about all I have to say on the subject in trying to convince you otherwise.  Unless, that is, you want to read the rest of the story.

Several days ago, I ran across a news clip of a strong little dog from across the pond.  Here's a little of what I read:

"At a hospital in southwestern Siberia, a loyal dog named Masha has appeared everyday for two years looking for her owner.

Masha's owner passed away last year after being taken to the hospital two years ago, and ever since then, the dog has shown up everyday. Staff members at the hospital reportedly feed the dog and make sure she has somewhere warm to sleep.

One family tried to adopt the dog, but Masha ran away and came back to the hospital hours later. When the owner was still alive and being treated at the hospital, Masha was his only visitor".

The waiting game has been a long one for Masha
One of the doctors from the hospital is quoted as saying: "You see her eyes, how sad they are -- it's not the usual shiny eyes for when a dog is happy. You can see this in animals in the same way as with people."

Perhaps you remember the dog, Hachi, whose story became known world-wide when the film entitled, "Hachi: A Dog's Tale". was released in 2009.   This stubborn Akita patiently waited at the train station for the return of his faithful friend....the place where he'd last seen him off.  For over nine years he waited and waited and waited.....loyally and lovingly.  Yet there was no return.  Hachi died waiting.  Those who saw the story first-hand were amazed by the tenacity the Akita exhibited.  He was like clockwork.  Arriving at the same time each day, hoping for the reunion that never came.  Today, there is a statue erected outside the train station in Shibuya, Japan.

Hachi in the patient pose he spent for over nine years
 The significance of the two tails I've shared with you is just a warm-up for another one of man's best friend.  A couple of weeks ago, I was pouring over my emails and I ran across one with a subject line that caught my eye.  The IGRR, known as the Iowa Golden Retriever Rescue Group, shares stories from time to time about dogs they've adopted.  And this one was entitled "Hunter Doron".  I opened the email and started to read.

"I just wanted to let you know that Hunter had to be put to sleep last week. He was failing badly: couldn't walk or stand without wobbling, coughing, etc.  At 12 1/2, he was entering the final parts of his life.  The vet and I had pulled him away from the brink several times, but he was really suffering recently.

I wanted you to know how much having Hunter in my life meant to me. Admittingly, I am a cat person, so Hunter and I always had issues.  They eventually lessened as he wove his way into my life and heart".

I had to stop right there.  Perhaps because we have a Golden named Mason that some day in the future will travel that same path.  That pain....the one I felt in 2007 when we put down our first Retriever, Nala, was one I didn't want to relive.  But as minutes turned to hours, I came to the realizaion I had to reach out to the owner of Hunter.  Dr. Bonne Doron.  Her of great love will be shared over the next few weeks.  I hope you come back for the next post.