Friday, November 3, 2017

"Those who teach the most about humanity aren't always humans." - Donald L. Hicks

I am not always sure of what my topic will be each week; events present themselves to me that I deem worthwhile, and then I have my subject.  I warn you that this week's subject is a sad one, especially if you are a dog lover.

My next-door neighbor, Barb, has been a great friend since I moved to my condo 5 years ago, after my husband died.  Barb is also a widow, and she moved here 2 years before I did.  I would love to have a pet, but I am just too busy and I travel too much to take care of a pet, so I have been very lucky to have Barb's dog, Abby, as my adopted dog for these 5 years. Abby was at my house during Barb's vacations, she spent evenings with me when Barb was out and I was home, and she loved to ride in the car- even in my convertible.  Abby sat upright and tall in the back seat of Barb's SUV (as Barb's co-pilot) on short and long trips around town and to Barb's camp. Abby asked for her yummy treat of homemade "ice cream" (plain vanilla yogurt, a few tablespoons of peanut butter, and some honey, frozen in little lickable containers)  every day before 4 p.m.  She positioned herself in front of Barb (or me, if she happened to be at my house), and gave the "dog stare" with the tilted head that asked, "Aren't you going to give me my treat?"  She was bright and fun and loving, and she just wanted to be petted and loved.  Although she was not mine, I loved that dog, but probably not as much as Barb did.

Abby died on Halloween, and Barb and I are both heartbroken.  Abby was a little over 14 years old, and had a full and wonderful life, but neither one of us was ready for her departure, even though we recognized that she has been failing for the past several months.  Abby lost 15 pounds, her arthritis was debilitating, and she could no longer hear. We had to resort to sign language to get her up - she was such a smart dog.  Yet, throughout her physical problems and loss of agility,  she never lost her gentleness, her smile (yes, Abby smiled when she first saw you- followed by a sneeze from smiling!), her wagging tail, and her enjoyment of seeing people. She was really a people dog, and she loved sitting out front watching the walkers and joggers go past, meeting their eyes with hers so they would stop to give her a pet and a hug.  Even at the end, when she was too weak to lift her head, her tail still gave some little wags and she was still the loving dog she had always been.

This sadness over losing Abby has made me think about pets, and more specifically, about dogs.  Dogs are such loving creatures, and they have so much to teach us. Dogs are so patient, as they wait for their humans to get dressed, to arrive home, to make them food.  Dogs are so trusting, as they come when called, acquiesce to their masters, and rely on their humans for every basic need. Dogs are so compassionate, as they crowd their humans with love and kisses and tail wags when their human is crying, and they just seem to know when a human just might need a dog on their lap.  Dogs are so protective, as they throw themselves between their humans and possible threats, like intruders, or other dogs.  Dogs are so loyal, that even when scolded, they come inching back, tail between their back legs, trying to regain their human's good graces.  Dogs are so joyful that they teach us to live in the moment, and to enjoy the wind rushing through our hair (fur.)  Dogs are so adventurous that they don't even mind sniffing a pile of poo in order to experience all the rich smells out there!  Dogs teach us that life holds so many possibilities:  a ride in the car, a nap in the sun, a walk on or off a leash, and the delicious possibility that one might meet and chase a cat.  Dogs teach us that love is always the answer, regardless of the question. Indeed, dogs are great teachers.

When a human friend passes, I reflect on the many moments I had with that friend, and I think about how much they enriched my life, as I hope that I enriched theirs.  Today, I am thinking about a friend with four paws who gave me so much happiness, and she wasn't even my dog!   

Barb and Abby had almost 15 years together, years that both enjoyed.  Abby was there for Barb when Barb's husband, Tony, passed away unexpectedly, and she helped Barb to keep a sense of normalcy in her life.  Abby was a true and faithful companion, and our lives are both richer because of Abby and all the lessons this wonderful dog taught us.  RIP, sweet Abby. You were so much more than a dog - you were a friend.  

Abby in her prime

The last photo of Barb and Abby, October 31, 2017.  Abby was too weak to walk. 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

Please invite Grady Gets Glasses (and me) into your school.  if you are not in the Pittsburgh area, we do virtual field trips with a group called Field Trip Zoom.  GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 from The Authors' Zone. For more information about The Authors' Zone, please visit  

Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required readingSigned copies are available Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom.  Check them out! 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at  The website now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!

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