Without Tolerance, our World Turns to Hell – Frederick Durrenmatt

42.) And right into his arms
Sending love, hugs and healing light to the injured, their families, friends and the entire city of Orlando.
We will continue to Light up the Darkness.
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Regret, Learn and Move Forward Fearlessly

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Madonna states unequivocally at the end of one of her songs, “Absolutely. No. Regrets.”
Really.
I have regrets. Quite a few. Maybe a lot – depending on how you define ‘regrets’. I never really saw them as a bad thing – just things I learned from making a choice that could have been made differently, smarter. Now ‘bad’ would be if I repeated those same choices knowing I’d regretted them the first time. Or at least that’s my philosophy. Such as it is. And if you’ve read this blog you know THAT’S a work in progress so please don’t think about adopting any part of it for your own. Just Sayin’.
I had the great surprise and honor of being contacted by Anna Bellenger of the Diamond State American Pen Women’s Group (Delaware) to come speak and sign copies of ‘The Street Dog’ this March. I was invited to their luncheon hosted at the DuPont Country Club. THE DuPont Country Club. And Ca$h Money was issued his own personal invitation to the event as well.
Now I still feel embarrassed to a degree when I realize that someone values what I have to say enough to pay me to speak. Reading to the kids in the Parks of Wilmington during Summer is different, somehow. Maybe it’s the raucous coloring sessions at the end of the reading. I researched the Pen Women’s organization and realized we are talking nationally known authors and artists. I would not be bringing my coloring books and crayons.
But I would  be bringing The Pit Bull. By special request.
Maybe you have to be a Delaware native to completely appreciate the wonderfulness of this. Ca$h and I are both West Virginia transplants and we certainly get it. I feel confident in stating that he would be the first Pit Bull to ever cross the splendid DuPont Country Club’s perfectly coiffed lawns and massive stone façade to partake in cobb salad and plates of sweet confections.
I knew the moment had to be recorded and I knew exactly how to do it – Rodney Street Style. The last thing I planned to accomplish that day was a selfie for the ages. Me, Ca$h and the fantabulous DuPont Country Club sign looming large behind us.
 The event went very smoothly. The ladies were awesome! They fawned over Ca$h who accepted the adulation graciously. One asserted that he must be an exceptional service dog – he licked her hearing aide when she bent down to greet him. Books were signed, sold, exchanged and I spoke truthfully and pulled no punches during the question and answers session afterward. There were still hands raised when the moderator called a stop to the day. Ca$h and I had a blast. It felt like we’d known those ladies quite a bit longer than just a couple of hours.
We loaded the car up and said our goodbyes. It had been a drab day and it was starting to turn from a mist to raindrops. I’m always the last to go and this was no different. Ca$h and I accepted help loading books into the car, he and I hopped in as the raindrops got bigger and I thought Damn! The only thing I didn’t get was the pic of me and Ca$h in front of the club….oh well…
Absolutely. No. Regrets. Alright Madonna, you win this one.
I wheeled the car to the bottom of the enormous round driveway, put it in neutral, pulled the parking brake and grabbed  Ca$h’s leash. Always my partner in crime, he jumped out enthusiastically. I looked once over my shoulder to ensure a good shot. I did not have much time before my hair would look like Keanu Reeves’ in Point Break. We snapped a few frames and jumped back in the car. Then we headed home – exhausted and happy.
It would have been a regret – a small one, but a regret nonetheless. Now it’s a 5 x 7 on my office desk. A reminder of a beautiful day full of diversity and open-minds.
And I keep learning that it’s never to late to do what you might have done if only…..
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“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

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Dear Raleigh County Humane Society,

I don’t know if you remember me – I don’t expect you to. I’m just one of many who found exactly what I was looking for in your shelter in West Virginia – without even knowing I was looking for it.

 

You had a bedraggled pit bull there in June of 2012. Man! He was a mess! He had been found wandering the streets of Beckley getting into scraps with other stray dogs. He’d been maced by police, beaten until his bones were broken, bitten, punctured, infected and his prospects were not looking good. Oh heck, let’s admit it – his time had run out. You called him ‘Roosevelt’ after the street on which he was finally captured. I have to give your shelter credit – you folks had done all you possibly could to home him or find a rescue for him. I read that he was sweet natured (unless you were a cat) but that he would keep his back to the kennel door and duck his head low if  any visitor walked past. Not exactly a social butterfly.

 

Enter me.

 

You’re going to laugh, but the last thing I wanted was a dog – I know, right? Over the last 15 years I had gone from being a creative, social and animal-loving person to someone who just wanted to find a reason – any reason – to hang in one more day. And I was running out of reasons.

 

Then I saw his mug-shot online. I felt like a lightening bolt went through me.

 

Within five days he was in the back seat of my car and headed to his new home in Delaware. And we’ve never looked back or had a moment of doubt or regret. Only wondering thoughts like, “How the heck did I ever live without him?” And, “Was there really life before Ca$h?” ( his new moniker is Ca$h Money)

 

My New Normal Days are spent writing and illustrating children’s books inspired by Ca$h and his journey. Motivation and inspiration flood me like they never have – even before I started struggling mentally. I have a purpose, now, you see. I read my book in the local parks to children and hand out free coloring books and crayons. I speak in schools about the reading and writing process and the inspiration behind them. I attend pet expos and talk about pit bulls and the total nonsense of breed specific legislation. My life has a purpose!

 

I dreamed to one day be able to give back. To be in a position to present a deserving organization with a monetary gift (Ca$h Money, if you will) that I was able to collect as a direct result of the love and hard work that resulted from folks’ appreciation of something I created. I was not prepared for the feeling that fell over me when I took a moment to let that sink in. I felt like someone had given me a million dollars! I felt a little like how Oprah Winfrey must have felt when she gave all of those cars to her studio audience!

 

So enclosed you will find a check. It’s not a lot – heck it might not even be enough to buy a kuranda bed. But it can do something good. Thank you so much for allowing me to help out and to give my life purpose.

 

And thank you for Ca$h Money. He’s sleeping in his bed next to me in my home office right now . He’ll be going to the beach next week to eat seafood and jump in the waves. I’ll send you pictures.

 

Stay safe, and rescue on,

-Jill Carpenter-

 

 

 

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Dear Raleigh County Animal Shelter,

 

I bet you all remember me! Mom says I’m a hard one to forget.

 

A long time ago I stayed at your shelter for a while. I don’t know how you managed to catch me when I was running loose on the streets – I must have been temporarily blinded by that stinging stuff in my eyes or I’d still be running! You really made me feel welcome – and you helped me heal and feel good again. I thank you for that and apologize if I was less than cordial. You even named me ‘Roosevelt’ – a cool, tough name. I hope you don’t mind, but my Mom renamed me Ca$h Money. I like it – sort of street-wise and catchy.

 

Okay – I gotta ask it – it’s been on my mind every minute since I left the shelter.

 

How did you know? Do you have a crystal ball or something? How did you know that this one was supposed to me mine? She seemed nice, maybe a bit hard to read at first, but man! Was she a mess! Oh she seemed like she had it all together and was large and in charge, but bit by bit I saw that I had a lot of work on my paws. I hardly knew where to start. Good thing you gave me time to rest and heal at the shelter – I’d need the strength and patience in Delaware!

 

We’ve made a lot of progress since then. Mom really learns quickly – what else can you call someone who showers you with love, scratches your chest, sings to you and swaddles you in blankies when you’re chilly at night? She’s learned that I ride shot-gun. this gives me maximum ability to protect her and allows me to help with navigation. She’s learned that when I give my special bark, she needs to come running and check too see if the coast is clear in front of my house. She knows that when I raise my front leg and lean back I have a nagging itch on my chest or belly that requires attention. I could go on and on – you can tell I’m pretty proud of her.

 

And I’ll confess. After my time in various cages, on the street and in the shelter – I learned something. Most bulls would not even admit this but I’m secure like that. I need her. I survived the thug life. Even thrived at times. But man! Three yummy hots and a cot ( not really a cot – The Big Pack Bed), walks in parks, swims, treats, snuggles and my all-time favorite – our evening Pack Pile on the big couch where we all sit, lay and watch television and talk about our daily adventures. A bull can definitely get used to that life. And I have.

 

So that leads me to this. Mom said she’s sending something to you to try and help other dog, cats, whatever, to have the same life that I have now. So that you can help them find the person they need to help. Tell them it’s hard work but the rewards are many – just be patient. You know, I didn’t know it, but my life was sort of lame before you assigned me to Mom. Puppy stuff, really. I don’t know how to explain it but I know I am doing something important every day. She can’t do it without me. It’s a big responsibility, but I’ve been chosen for this one. Even I know that doesn’t happen every day.

I’d better go now – close to dinner time!

Thank you for finding me my home

and steady employment,

 

Ca$h Money Carpenter

 

 

 

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‘Father! — to God himself we cannot give a holier name.’ – William Wordsworth –

With Papaw

Somewhere around 2 years ago, I was walking my pit bull, Ca$h Money through a park a block from my house. Art had always been a passion of mine, but for years inspiration had eluded me completely. As Ca$h and I cut across the park my long-absent imagination went from zero to ninety in three seconds. I wanted to write a children’s book. And illustrate it.

The plot, characters, settings and visions of pictures went by in a mental slideshow. But what to call my Pit Bull protagonist? Obviously he would be the manifestation of Ca$h. But I did not feel that name would be appropriate for a children’s book. Especially with that corny dollar sign… The names for the other characters were easy – names from family and friends’ dogs I wanted to honor and memorialize. But the protagonist was really special! What name could do him justice, please a child, characterize my hero and just fit perfectly? I only had to look as far as my own Father to find that answer. My Daddy, Walter Reid Perry. Walt the Street Dog was born.
My Father passed over on May 1st . His life was 84 years of orneriness, energy, passion for athletics and raising his four daughters and walking his own path without hesitation.
Daddy, I hope Walt does you proud.
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I’m not Crazy, I’m just a Little Unwell…..

Service Dog

‘The guilt I felt for having a mental illness was horrible. I prayed for a broken bone that would heal in six weeks. But that never happened. I was cursed with an illness that nobody could see and nobody knew much about.’

-Andy Behrman-

It started almost 15 years ago with the feeling that I was living apart from the general public and my friends, on some other planet. I did not try to explain the way I felt to anyone because I did not understand it and even if I did I could find no coherent way to vocalize it.

We believe the earth is not flat, we believe space travel is possible, we believe in psychics and mediums and most believe in some sort of afterlife. But virtually every week I experience the resistance of someone believing that mental illness is not “all in your head”.

I am advised that I ‘just need to fight harder’. That I just need to read the right book. That I just need to make my mind up to be happy. That I need to compare my wonderful life to those who are really suffering. And occasionally I am told to ‘just deal’.

I have voluntarily entered myself into mental facilities, spoken to countless psychologists and psychiatrists, tried various cocktails of medications, journaled, exercised, self-affirmed, volunteered and tried dozens of other therapies I have been advised to try.

I have been stigmatized at work (confidentiality is a fairy-tale), had my work ethic questioned, been turned down for financial assistance, lost friends who could not understand my fear of leaving my house and kept my mouth shut when my poor, beloved Momma says she can tell I am finally ‘back to my old self’. I don’t even notice the ubiquitous eye-rolls that much anymore. I have stopped trying to convince people that my dog is not a Service Dog simply because I want to take him into hotels, banks, post offices and other public places that scare the crap out of me. They have not seen me crawl down to the foot of my bed, wrap my arms around Ca$h burying my face in his wrinkly neck and implore him to make it all better and keep me safe.

But you know what else I do? I over-celebrate.

New follower to my blog? Party! Straight 8 hour plus workday with no nap? National Holiday! Address a classroom of dozens of youngsters? I am the bravest person I know. And when someone tells me they love what I have drawn, written or said to them? Why the HELL am I not running for President?

Newsflash: this post is not for you folks who do not understand mental illness. If modern day science and the proof of current research has not convinced you  – I sure as heck can’t.

No, this post is for those of you who found yourselves reading these humble words and nodding your head. Those who feel that inner lift whenever you realize that you are not the only one feeling what you feel. I hope it helped.

And now please excuse me – my Service Dog is grumping at me to take him out for a Walkie. Small price to pay.

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Today’s Accomplishments were Yesterday’s Impossibilities

Jill Perry Carpenter

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After months (well actually 2 years) the project is completed and The Street Dog is a reality!

So please indulge me while I brag shamelessly about my first effort at authoring and illustrating a children’s book.

Most of you that have followed this blog have a real soft spot for pit bulls. And you must know by now that I do too – and hopefully you recognize the tremendous impact my boy, Ca$h Money, has had on my life since adopting him over two years ago. So of course the protagonist of The Street Dog is a pit bull modelled after Ca$h. It is my way of thanking him for all that he has given me. In addition to providing me with courage (how can one not be brave with a 73 pound bundle of muscle by their side?) he single-handedly restored my ability to become inspired artistically and opened up a new…

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Today’s Accomplishments were Yesterday’s Impossibilities

IMG_1210_1

After months (well actually 2 years) the project is completed and The Street Dog is a reality!

So please indulge me while I brag shamelessly about my first effort at authoring and illustrating a children’s book.

Most of you that have followed this blog have a real soft spot for pit bulls. And you must know by now that I do too – and hopefully you recognize the tremendous impact my boy, Ca$h Money, has had on my life since adopting him over two years ago. So of course the protagonist of The Street Dog is a pit bull modelled after Ca$h. It is my way of thanking him for all that he has given me. In addition to providing me with courage (how can one not be brave with a 73 pound bundle of muscle by their side?) he single-handedly restored my ability to become inspired artistically and opened up a new world of creativity for me. After having closing my sketch pad for over ten years, I reopened it in January of 2013 and attempted my first simple effort. You can probably guess who my subject was. Very shortly after that I was walking Ca$h in a local park and the idea for a book lodged in my mind and refused to leave. By the end of that walk I had characters, personalities and a plot for The Street Dog.

I wrote in my entry ‘How it all Began’ that when I left work on leave of absence in November of 2011 I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD and almost full-blown agoraphobia. I wrote that I was terrified to touch my fingers to the keyboard of my computer. This is not an exaggeration. Three years later I have taught myself over eight different graphics applications and have become fairly proficient with my (really cool) Wacom Tablet.

The result is a beautiful children’s book that weighs in at a hefty 54 pages-almost twice the number of pages for the industry standard. It is divided into four grown-up chapters that I feel will make a child feel that sense of accomplishment in conquering something that resembles a real grown-up book. The Street Dog even has its own Table of Contents! The text itself, however, is not complex. It is appropriate for the early-reader age group with some ‘reach words’ sprinkled here and there to encourage vocabulary expansion. The ending of each chapter is a cliff-hanger. I want the reader to want to turn the page to find out what happens next! The dimensions of the book are a generous 8.5 x 11 inches. Every page has at least one illustrations and some have up to three. The larger-than -average size is ideal for read-alongs. I pictured an adult sitting down with a child and reading the book to them initially, giving them the confidence to pick the book up by themselves and enjoy the challenge of reading it solo. The size also makes The Street Dog ideal for group reading. No one is going to have any problem seeing the illustrations in a gathering.

The canine characters in the book are all an homage to dogs that have passed through my life or are still in it, and have belonged to family and friends. Folks in my area in Delaware may recognize the alley behind Ciao Pizza where Dog is bottoms-up in the dumpster foraging for a meal. Some will recognize the steps of the Westminster Presbyterian Church steps where Dog seeks refuge, shivering in a snowstorm. A street corner in Trolley Square opens the first chapter. Even my own husband is not safe – a bald guy at the shelter was inspired by him!

Behind the fun and colorful images are powerful and multiple messages. Embracing one’s own individuality, diversity, self-esteem and the importance of adopting needy animals are all issues I wanted to address. There are two more manuscripts in the editing process that deal with sibling rivalry and bullying. And there is an outline for another installment that encourages neighborhood care and cleanliness. All of these topics are dealt with in a practical and (of course) humorous manner. It was important to me that children understand they are not alone-everyone goes through a myriad of trials throughout their life-and there are good solutions to all of them.

The Street Dog is currently being sold on the Balboa Publishing website, Barnes and Noble website, Amazon, in Kindle and Nook form and on our own website, http://www.waltthestreetdog.com. I invite you to check the website out. It is colorful, easy to navigate and offers opportunities for readings, visits and signings. If you order the book through our website we will send you an autographed copy (autographed!) and will make every effort to get it there before Christmas. I cannot think of an animal-loving child or adult that will not enjoy this heartwarming story.

I could write thousands of words on The Street Dog, but I’ll spare you that. What I do want to leave you with is this: three years ago I sat immobile all day on a couch, wrapped in a quilt, with the meager comfort of a heating pad-too frightened to join in life. I wondered if all of the fear and pain was worth living for the slim hope that things might change. I am here to tell you that it is. Things do change – minute to minute. The path you are following keeps moving forward. If you are in pain, gut it out. Hang tough. Your pain is temporary and you are braver than you know. I know that great things await you.

You are meant to help change this world.

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