Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne - Times Gone By

New Years is a time for celebration, fresh starts, and an opportunity to remember cherished memories thus as this year winds down I find myself reflecting upon New Years Eves spent with Erin. Daylight gives way to darkness and we wander over to a friends house for the traditional neighborhood party; this is an event we attended for most of Erin's life and one most looked forward to for many reasons. Friends, family, and strangers alike gather to usher in another year but before that time comes there is much socializing to be done; Erin hovers near me as greetings and introductions are made and as the only dog she reaps the benefits of constant attention. Folks are huddled around a blazing fire pit upon which bushels of oysters are being steamed while the garage has been transformed into a place to graze upon an endless array of goodies. The garage is doggie heaven as ham, turkey, chicken nuggets, cheeses, breads, cookies, cakes, and other tantalizing foods sit unattended; Erin sniffs the air while ogling the tables. "Don't you even think about it" and with that her attention is directed elsewhere. When I believe no one is looking tasty morsels are tossed into the air which she snags with little effort and later when we're all alone she totally has her fill :)

Fireworks erupt overhead in a multitude of colors and patterns then the sky goes dark before another round of pyrotechnics fills the air. Whistles and screeches ring out without warning as streaks of light race across the sky before vanishing in a blink of the eye while others emit radiating heat on the ground before exploding with a startling bang. Boxes and boxes of fireworks are ignited and it's a joy for all to witness except for Erin whom is not nearly as impressed as by the abundance of food. We lie together on the ground to watch the aerial display before moving on to something more stimulating to a dog's senses and that came in the form of children...Kids of all ages show interest and entice her to play which she does without hesitation. I observe youngsters running around the dimly lighted backyard with Erin in pursuit before stopping to engage in a round of dog and child talk. Balls and sticks are thrown but she refuses to play fetch despite their passionate pleas; I keep watch over her for safety's sake and periodically she checks in with me before rejoining the fun. Impromptu games of kickball occur while Erin acts as a cheerleader for all who participate.

Playtime continues until I'm discovered eating then the kids are forced to entertain themselves. A mountain of steamed oysters lie on makeshift tables and folks crowd around to get their share; armed with a shucker I began the tedious task of cracking them open. Erin's intent stare bores a hole through me as she tries to get my attention but playfully she's ignored even as my leg is nudged then a paw touches my arm; I smirk and pretend to not notice her though a beaming smile and tail wag are clearly seen. Finally eye contact is made as an oyster is tossed onto the ground followed by another then another; a plastic bucket filled with discarded shells is evidence of our feast while Erin licks her lips in approval. With cup of coffee in hand I sit next to a roaring fire in an attempt to warm up; childhood friends fill me in on the details of the past year while inquiring about mine; inevitability Erin becomes a conversation topic and all are impressed as I sing her praises as a therapy dog, etc. Adolescent boys thrust marshmallows upon sticks into the fire while Erin takes it all in with a grin; she is offered one but as I suspected refuses to even consider it.

By the time midnight arrives we were usually sound asleep but that was quite alright as our bellies were full, hearts content, and bond strenghtened; these New Years Eve gatherings will always be remembered fondly as I brought in another year with my best friend. Happy New years to you and your loved ones!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

This Moment - Near my Heart

A Friday ritual. A single photo — no words — capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by the Wee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to others by Sarah-Jane, of Almost There.

Friday, December 23, 2011

This Moment - Past Meets Present

A Friday ritual. A single photo — no words — capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by the Wee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to others by Sarah-Jane, of Almost There.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's my Blogoversary

Today marks the one year anniversary of "Erin is Love" and it's truly been a labor of love. It's been my honor to share stories about my beloved friend, her adventures, achievements and our relationship over the years. This blog started from a place filled with much love but also sorrow and pain after the passing of Erin; when she died everything I cared about did too and when I state that nothing mattered I mean absolutely nothing. Stricken with grief I began writing nonstop and haven't stopped since; tribute articles to Erin were published by Savannah Morning News and Bark Magazine while poetry, children stories, etc were jotted in notebooks. Pouring my emotions onto paper helped to soothe the ache and offered hope while seemingly everything else failed me but life was still a daily struggle to survive until passion was found in the most unlikeliest of sources.

A few days before Christmas I sat in a local coffeeshop with my hat pulled down low in an attempt to hide the flowing tears from those in the holiday spirit; this was my first Xmas without Erin and I truly felt all alone in this world. The art of blogging was foreign to me but the lure of starting a tribute blog proved too strong thus I dove in head first and on that day "Erin is Love" was born. This blog was created to honor Erin and the many lifes she touched over the years; I've thrived to always be respectful as she deserves nothing less after what she did for so many. Every post about my friend brought us closer, filled me with immense pride, and helped to ease the grief that had taken its toll upon my life. My first blogging year has been rewarding on so many levels while exceeding my wildest dreams...Nothing makes me happier than to sing the praises of Erin and my little ole blog provided the platform for me to do just that while probably saving my life in the process.

Sharing treasured memories while freely expressing my emotions has brought sunshine into my world and much thanks goes to you...My fellow blogger and friend!! The support and positive feedback from folks who have experienced similar losses or gained inspiration from my years with Erin has been remarkable; it's a good feeling to know my words comfort those whom are suffering while others find our relationship anything but the normal dog/human bond. We all undergo setbacks in life and are presented with difficult circumstances but it's also an opportunity to grow as a person and I've certainly done that over the past year via "Erin is Love." My posts will continue for the foreseeable future as this journey is far from over and hopefully I can continue to entertain, inspire, and tug on the heart strings.Thanks to all for allowing me to unburden my heart and become a part of your blogging family...I'm eternally grateful for each and everyone of you!!

RIP Erin!! Daddy misses you very much!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

This Moment - Dog Oasis

A Friday ritual. A single photo — no words — capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by the Wee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to others by Sarah-Jane, of Almost There.

Friday, December 9, 2011

This Moment - My Very First

A Friday ritual. A single photo — no words — capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by the Wee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to others by Sarah-Jane, of Almost There.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

In the Beginning

This photo is very special to me and brings back many fond memories as it's the first photo of us together. Erin had been with me for 2 months when this shot was taken at Mom's house and little did I know how special our relationship would ultimately become. While my heart was stolen in little time, the decision to get a puppy was not made in haste nor was there any aspect that wasn't researched to the utmost of my ability. Magazines on dog breeds and the internet were scoured for dog-related information as I generated a short list of breeds based on my required criteria. A female was preferred for several reasons and there would be no compromise on that issue nor that she be long-coated. Size, intelligence, attractiveness, temperament, trainability, health issues, etc were studied and three worthy finalists made the cut with the English Springer Spaniel being exactly what I sought. My future companion was awaiting me but first had to be found and on a chilly January day that event occurred and neither one of us would ever be the same.

A 45 minute drive from Savannah led me to a rural setting where dogs could be heard barking from behind the house; an enclosure with a litter of puppies and mom with sagging teats were spotted as the owners came out to greet me. The pups excitedly licked and nibbled upon my fingers through the fence while yelping for my undivided attention but one bundle of fur caught my eye...She showed genuine interest in me without the over exuberance of her siblings and that carried much sway but the process was far from over. Each of the adorable youngsters were held, examined, and scrutinized with the floppy-eared girl continuing to capture my attention until finally I decided she would make a great addition to my life. It was hard to not feel sorry for the mother as I clutched her baby; those soulful eyes expressed sadness as undoubtedly she knew another child was leaving forever and indeed that's what happened.

Towels were placed upon the passenger seat for the ride home but she refused to stay put and repeatedly climbed over the center console to be near me. Her determination was greater than mine thus I allowed her to remain on my lap where a finger was offered in an effort to quiet the whimpering and in due time she fell asleep suckling my index finger. Estastically a smile was plastered on my face as this innocent sweet creature was now part of the family and the next step was naming my new friend though that didn't take much thought as one had been chosen already. Erin was bestowed upon her and it seemed a good choice as the years went by; The name of Irish origin means "Peace" and she certainly brought that to my life. She was taken back to the apartment where every scent was repeatedly inhaled while that inquisitive puppy nature had her investigating everything within reach; Erin would dash off only to return a minute later to check on my whereabouts. Before days end we visited family members whom spoiled her rotten but the excitement wore the youngster out and with that it was time to return home for deserved sleep.

We survived our first day together and many many more; I look upon that day as the beginning of the best period in my life while giving my heart to Erin remains the wisest decision I ever made!! RIP Erin!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dairy Farm Adventures

An abandoned delivery truck, obsolete processing equipment, and stacks of milk crates inside a crumbling brick structure welcome visitors to a tract of land aptly known as The Dairy Farm. Dog-loving folks visit not for a glimpse into the past but for a chance to enjoy the company of their four-legged friend in an outdoors environment. The landscape is diverse with dense woodland and flowering shrubs near the front of the property while marshland and winding creeks are found at the farthest reaches but visitors are few as this hidden gem is known mainly to folks in the dog community and that's the way we like it. Erin's body language goes into overdrive as the defunct dairy is neared; the anticipation of the outing causes her tail to move in a blur while she prances about as if walking on hot coals. Once the car door is opened she leaps down without hesitation and takes in the first of a thousand scents while giving me a look that says "Hurry up already."

Erin chooses one of several routes and leads the way while I follow closely; if too much distance is put between us she is recalled immediately. Generally there's no need for a leash as threats and distractions found in the city are fewer so the leather leash is put away and she is free to explore at will. Lizards, birds, and fiddler crabs are more than happy to oblige her curious nature but it's the thriving squirrel population that keeps her active and happy. She lowers her profile like a lion stalking a gazelle while slowly approaching her prey and when the time is right breaks into a sprint towards the unsuspecting squirrel. She is fast but not fast enough thus Erin is left staring upwards at the mocking squirrel but a positive attitude is maintained and she moves on to the next great chase when the time is right.

The soaring temperature and humidity of summer affected humans and animals alike thus mud puddles were a welcome sight for Erin. Whenever possible I steered her clear of the disgusting pools of water but on occasions she ignored my pleas and plopped down in the muck to cool off after running in the searing heat. Thoughts of a poisonous snake lying in the puddle crossed my mind but thankfully one never appeared and after a soothing soak Erin exited dripping wet, hair matted, and paws caked in mud; she was one happy girl albeit filthy and in need of a liberal dousing with shampoo. Unfortunately shade options are limited on the dairy farm but a massive oak tree with overhanging branches does the trick nicely; this ancient marvel towers over everything else while making a nice reference point for anyone who becomes disoriented. This is arguably the largest oak tree in the area and its majestic arms cast a large patch of shade for those seeking refuge from the sun; Erin laid near me and together we watched the world slowly revolve.

While not an avid swimmer Erin loved being in the water especially if canine brethren joined in on the fun so on several occasion's she ended up wrestling near the muddy banks, chasing balls, and playing tug of war in the shallow end. She made a great cheerleader urging others to swim further out then to return for another round of playtime while I kept an eye out for alligators despite this not being a known swimming hole. The dairy farm is a special place for dogs while they are alive thus it's no surprise to see crosses with collars hanging upon them, burial markers inscribed with names, and flowers honoring them after they transition to the other side. Under a broad tree near the entrance one finds a collection of tributes to man's best friend while  simple crosses can be found scattered far and wide across the farm; any beloved friend would be lucky to be buried there and I find it very touching to read words of remembrance.

Low-lying areas of marshland is revealed to those who venture further ahead and it's worth the trek to reach this point; offshoots from the Savannah river casually snake through the area and extend outward for as far as the eye can see. Wading birds greet visitors but otherwise it's eerily quiet except for the clanging of Erin's metallic tags and a continuous breeze rustling the vegetation. Compact hard soil is replaced by mushy ground that sinks under the weight of any creature who trods upon it and wildlife prints along the pathway is a reminder that man and dog does not rule this tract of land. We continue along the route to our intended destination a few miles away and eventually reeds taller than humans are encountered; the imposing growth prohibits seeing anything other than what lies ahead but the brackish scent filling the air informs us that water lines both side of the pathway.

Erin and I continue towards the furthermost point of our journey when suddenly a clearing in the vegetation reveals all...Two strands of rope tied between trees with attached multicolored pieces of cloth flapping in the wind. These strips in various degrees of tatter from mother natures abuse are inscribed with personal thoughts, reflections, famous quotes and tributes to beloved animals; a waterproof bag with magic markers and blank clothes inside dangles from a tree if anyone wishes to make their thoughts known. Photos of deceased dogs with touching sentiments, miniature scrolls bound with ribbons, and other personal effects can be found as well and the atmosphere of this shrine is pure love and serenity. The dairy farm was a magical setting for Erin as it offered everything a dog could wish for while giving us so many memorable days together. Great times indeed! RIP Erin!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

One Trick and Many Treats

"Do you think this will fit her?"....I ask this of my mother while holding up a Georgia Bulldogs cheerleader outfit sized for young girls but in this case Erin would be the one sporting it. A doggie Halloween costume from the pet stores was too commonly seen thus thinking outside the box was required to ensure she stands out from the pack and I hoped my decision to dress her as a cheerleader would do just that. This was the final piece of the ensemble for Wag-O-Ween, an annual event held in historic Savannah to benefit The Humane Society for Greater Savannah but first a test fitting was needed to see if she'll tolerate the costume. Red, black, and white lace ribbons are placed in her long drooping ears thus she tries desperately to dislodge them but they remain firmly affixed much to her dismay. Next elastic bands that resemble pom poms are fastened above her front paws and like the ribbon she attempts to get them off but quickly realizes her efforts are futile so she plops down near Mom whom she believes will protect her from further abuse. Finally the red uniform is pulled down over her head while the front legs are awkwardly maneuvered though the arm openings but before long her scowl turns into a smile...."You look beautiful girl" and with that her outfit is removed (for a few days at least).

With Erin dressed as a cheerleader we arrive at the registration point to make the required donation, receive a map of nearly 100 businesses that will hand out doggie treats over a 5 hour span and then we began our trek through downtown Savannah to accumulate as many treats as possible. The route is plotted to visit the maximum number of participants in the shortest amount of time and we stroll along often in the company of other dogs dressed up as superheros, angels, dinosaurs, etc. There are many new scents throughout the historic district on this day so Erin stops constantly to inhale the lovely aromas and dogs being dogs she leaves her mark behind for those interested. In every direction there is a dog forced to wear a costume in order to score treats but the multitude of wagging tails reveals the canine world is willing to accept some humiliation for a bag full of delicious goodies. After a five minute walk the first orange sign signifying a participant is spotted and the first of several hundred biscuits is tossed into Erin's Wag-O-Ween bag.

A few establishments had employees outside handing out treats as dogs weren't permitted inside but the majority allowed them to wander in to collect their bounty and admiration before heading towards the next stop. Employees reached into bowls overflowing with goodies while Erin did everything in her power to charm them into giving her something extra and many times it worked as she received some biscuits on the spot. Those doling out treats remarked upon her beauty while wondering if she was capable of performing tricks..."Can you shake?" they ask of her thus the right paw springs upward in compliance. She would have gladly exchanged shakes for biscuits all day :) For hours we stroll along while the mound of treats in the bag steadily grows but this unusually hot and humid October day begins to takes its toll. Whenever possible we took sanctuary to escape the brutal heat and that wasn't too difficult as Erin befriended many folks along the route. A group of college students staffing a clothing store were totally smitten by Erin thus we hung out while they doted upon her and she in return followed them around the premises as if she owned the place. Eventually it was time to move on but not before she got her fill of attention and was told to return anytime.

Ocassionally I was put on edge as we entered art galleries, souvenir shops, and other places that had breakable objects; her sniffing nose got too close for my comfort but thankfully she never broke anything. There was much temptation for the dogs especially when the treat bowls were upon the ground and Erin shoved her snout into them for an extra biscuit whenever possible...Who can blame her?? The best was saved for last as we spent quality time at the bookstore and coffee shop with long time friends whom ensured Erin receive ample amounts of biscuits; costumed dogs that stopped by were met by a cheerleader whom was very tired but still displayed a broad smile. In time exhaustion overcame her to the point where she laid down next to a bookcase and drifted off to sleep dreaming of the bounty of collected treats; book browsing customers gingerly stepped over her sprawled body in an effort to avoid awakening her. She awoke after a brief nap and it was now time to head home after a fun-filled hectic day so we said goodbye to our marvelous hosts and made the short drive home.
I immediately removed her outfit after entering the house then she laid upon the couch with the intention of getting some well-deserved rest but before that happened I spread a portion of the goodies out before her and took a pic though she was now completely worn out. Within minutes she was in deep sleep and before long I fell asleep next to her as so many times before....A good ending to a fabulous day!!

The positive reaction for Erin exceeded my expectations for sure and she didn't mind one bit as attention was always welcomed with open paws. I felt a sense of pride upon seeing folks stop us in the streets to pay a compliment or ask to take a photo with her; she won many hearts on that day while our time together was very special and most memorable. The total treat count was near 300 with many of them gourmet or home-made variety, not too shabby for a few hours of going door to door.

RIP Erin!! May you always have biscuits!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pathway to Fun

The Old Bridge is a beautiful sight to behold with its numerous arches, twin white towers and elegant statues thus it is one of the most visited attractions in Heidelberg. Erin and I trod upon this German national treasure many times either while strolling along without a care or en route to a favorite destination on the other side of the river. Living a mere 15 minutes away provided us with the opportunity to visit this grand city whenever the mood struck and it usually did as the weather cooled and the hordes of tourists on buses thinned out. Before beginning our journey upwards we usually explored the narrow streets, parks, and squares of the city center where Erin greeted the locals, visitors, and fellow canines with a wag of the tail and much to her delight we always stopped to munch on tasty food from kiosks or one of many dog-friendly cafes.

On the northern bank of the river we begin our ascent to a magical place that has inspired countless philosophers, musicians, poets, and university professors for hundreds of years hence the name Philosophenweg or Philosophers Way. The cobblestone pathway is quite narrow in places while the green-tinted high walls gives the feel that one is navigating through an ancient maze designed for Heidelberg's intellectual elite. My legs burned as I made my way up the steep incline but any discomfort was well worth it for what laid ahead. Erin tugged at the leather leash in an effort to get me to pick up the pace; she would have gladly sprinted uphill to explore on her own but much to her chagrin she remained tethered for her own safety. Steadily we marched upwards towards our goal unless folks moving at a slower pace impeded our progress or someone wanted to lavish attention upon Erin then we became the ones who created a logjam for everyone else.

Reaching Philosophers Way it's easy to see why this beautiful serene location has provided inspiration to centuries of thinking men; high above the Neckar River the site provides amazing views of the old town and a river valley that stretches seemingly forever. It's difficult to not be affected in a positive way; there's no sense of urgency, no modern world influences just a deep connection to God, nature, and whatever else one holds sacred. There are many benches to relax upon thus we usually plopped down for awhile after the trek uphill; an endless sea of red roofs, a massive church that dominates the skyline and an imposing castle that looms over the city beckon for attention. Barges loaded with cargo plying the river, sculling crews practicing their sport, and boats of leisure cruising by were of interest and provided a much welcome distraction from the daily grind. My worries and stress were certainly shed upon visiting this revered place; given the chance I would've relaxed upon a bench for hours on end but ensuring Erin had a great time took priority as always.

While I embraced the moment Erin laid near my feet ready for something more stimulating to a dog thus she stared me down in an effort to make me feel guilty and it worked as usual. "Go see good girl"... She doesn't have to be told twice thus she springs into action and races further ahead on the winding pathway oblivious to the lovely scenery around her. Following her active nose she moves briskly with head slightly above the ground then suddenly stops to inhale the most wonderful of scents before continuing onward. Trails jutting off the main pathway are perfect for doggie exploration and Erin finds suitable furry critters to pursue from tree to tree until exhaustion gets the best of her then she plops down for a breather. Joining her on the ground we sit together in silence surrounded by a wall of trees; not a sound is heard except for sporadic chirping of birds in the trees above and it feels very surreal to find peace and bliss when society lies so close.

The pathway winds its way uphill like a snake slithering where around every corner lies another pleasant surprise; when it appears that all is seen another piece of natures puzzle is revealed. Views of magnificent homes perched hillside, manicured gardens and plots of land littered with gnomes are on display for those who venture further ahead and we certainly did our fair share of venturing. Exotic flowers, shrubs, and trees made the perfect canine playground while I took advantage of our surroundings to initiate hide-and-seek, a game we both enjoyed and played in many many countries. My fur angel always had a great time on Philosophers Way as there was plenty to explore, wildlife to stalk, and admirers willing to pay attention to her in addition to the quality time spent together. I have many fond memories of those outings in the hills above Heidelberg but Erin smiling beside me remains the most cherished. RIP Erin!!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A New Chapter Begins...

A visit to the Savannah Humane Society was the last thing I expected to occur on a recent Saturday afternoon but fate, destiny or a higher power had other other plans for me that day. Pulling into the parking lot a chorus of barks inside the complex rang out to greet me while second thoughts entered my mind and for a minute I considered driving far far away. The staff warmly greeted me and asked what type of pet I was seeking; a long-haired female was my preference but unfortunately there were none but they had some long-coated males for me to check out. Individual chain link enclosures contained dogs of every breed, size, color, and sex but my mind was made up as to what I was seeking for the next phase of my life. A Great Pyrenees puppy of five months captured my attention and after spending some time with him I decided to have my mother come see the youngster before I completed the adoption paperwork. While waiting for Mom to arrive I decided that the gorgeous puppy wasn't the right dog for me at this moment so back into the cage he went.

I was prepared to go home alone which really wasn't a bad thing as far as I was concerned then a family strolled by with a cute friendly dog that peaked my interest. The family and red/white dog went to a visitation area outdoors while I watched them through a window and there was no indication if the dog was going to be adopted but as it turns out the answer was no. When my turn came to meet this dog there was an instant bond between us while Mom found him incredibly sweet thus I decided to make this special creature of 6 years a part of my life. One year and 18 days after saying goodbye to Erin I welcomed Cody into my home and heart; it was not an easy decision to move forward without my beloved friend but it was time for me to live again and continue along the path of healing. The past several weeks have been filled with much fun and excitement as there is life again in the house and I'm very content with the decision to bring a fur friend into my life but there's always two sides to a coin which I've discovered.

I've come to love Cody very much as he does me and there's no way that I'd ever give him up but sometimes his presence reiterates the fact that my beloved angel is gone. Watching him fetch balls, beg for treats, or simply sleep makes me very happy and I've worn a near constant smile but it also saddens me to think that Erin made the journey much too soon and it should be her at my side instead of another dog. That said I look forward to a wonderful future with Cody but at the same time I'll always remember my years with Erin as that was the greatest period of my life. The timing to open my heart was right and it feels so good to share my friendship and love with another fur friend; laughter and smiles are a near constant these days and that's how like it.

Family and friends alike adore Cody while welcoming him with open arms as he's such a loving sweet boy and I feel incredibly lucky to have another wonderful dog by my side. 13 years ago Erin and I began a fairy tale relationship and now I sense something very special again; I couldn't ask for anything else at this stage of my life. During our second day together I was laying on the floor near Cody as he stared into my eyes while I asked different questions of him; I got no response til he was asked "Did Erin send you?" then he sprung up with tail wagging a million miles a hour and a huge smile across his face as if he was saying " Yes Yes!! She sent me to guide you." There will always be somber moments in remembrance of my departed angel but I know that Cody will be near to comfort me and that's a great feeling. There will never be another Erin but I've learned that I can love again thanks to Cody!! RIP Erin!!

P.S...I tried to upload pics of Cody but had issues :(

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Children and Teddy Bears

Hundreds of children wander in clutching teddy bears, giraffes, floppy-eared bunnies, and every other type of stuffed animal one can imagine. This is not a stuffed animal convention though it often appears so but the aptly titled Teddy Bear Clinic aka TBC; this annual event helps youngsters overcome their fear of going to the doctor and everything associated with it. Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel man dozens of stations where they warmly greet the children and their stuffed animals who will be receiving the best medical attention available. The young attendees are exposed to many aspects of medical care from vaccinations to x-rays in a gentle manner thus the child will be less afraid when a real doctor visit is needed. Fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, helicopters, horses, food vendors, etc plus a handful of selected therapy dogs are on hand which is how Erin and myself became involved in this wonderful event.

For several years we showed up on a spring morning with the purpose of allowing kids the opportunity to socialize and/or overcome a fear or leeriness regarding dogs. Straight from Mrs Lori's house to the hospital after being bathed and groomed Erin is in her element at events involving children and when the therapy dog vest is slipped over her head she knows it's time to melt some hearts. In the parking lot her long flowing coat is brushed one last time while I plant kisses on her freckled nose and offer words of encouragement then it's showtime. Arriving early allows Erin to garner attention from familiar faces wearing scrubs of every shade; remembered from our time tending to kids on the pediatric ward they greet their ole four-legged friend with kind words and affection. Events involving children were the most personally rewarding for me while Erin's body language told me that she loved them as well and the multitude of youngsters at the TBC always made the day very special.

The children ranging in age from infants in strollers to 10 years old stop at The Coastal Therapy Dog table where they have the opportunity to interact with the dogs of their choosing. The youth of the Savannah area visit Erin where they hug her neck, exchange kisses, gently stroke the flowing soft coat, or sit beside her for a more intimate extended encounter while some repeatedly ask her to "shake" as if she's a circus performer. Stuffed animals with bandages affixed on limbs are thrust in Erin's face in an effort to entice her to play but she's much more interested in socializing or the treats being consumed. Kids munching upon popcorn or pretzels clumsily drop morsels which are quickly vacuumed by the nearest dog while some kids find it amusing to toss treats on the ground where the four-legged garbage disposals are waiting. Erin was always more than happy to oblige and gobbled whatever came her way; while these actions were publicly discouraged I was secretly urging them on as I knew this brought my girl happiness :)

Though most kids were respectful of Erin, unknowingly some were heavy-handed or acted in a reckless manner as they invaded her personal space, shoved fingers into the mouth area, smacked her snout or tugged on an ear as if it were a toy but there's a reason one is a therapy dog and that is tolerance. Erin maintained a smile and took everything in stride while parents offered apologizes to whomever would listen. Education is a function of any therapy dog group and I certainly did that with these naive youngsters as they were shown the correct way to approach and interact with a strange dog to minimize getting bit in the process. They ball up their tiny hand and a fist is held under her snout..."Good. Let her sniff you and get to know you." Only after a bond was established are the children allowed to stroke her back prior to petting the head which Erin shows she approves of via a huge smile and rapidly twitching tail. It was a valuable lesson for uneducated parents as many dogs would snap thus sending their youngster to the emergency room for medical attention while hopefully the kids would remember to approach a dog with respect and gentleness.

Erin received so much attention whenever we left the therapy dog area to walk among the crowd; arms were extended while hands were clapped in an attempt to get her attention. Mingling with the public as they went from booth to booth allowed my fur kid to get the maximum amount of loving in the shortest span of time; it was very endearing to watch Erin with the children as everyone had a smile on their faces. Earlier this year I was invited to the TBC by members of the therapy dog group and while it was great to see familiar faces again it didn't feel quite right without Erin. After a hour of having people whisper "he lost his dog" and casting sympathetic looks in my direction I excused myself. The TBC was special to both of us and I have many fond memories of sweet kids being charmed and educated while we strengthened our bond though helping others. Good days indeed. RIP Erin!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

At home in Belgium

The opportunity to work in Antwerp Belgium for 10 days sounded too good to be true and excitement overcame me as I thought about visiting such a beautiful historic city but first I had to ensure there would be no issues with Erin accompanying me. If she was not allowed to tag along then I would remain in Germany but after placing a call to the hotel all of my fears were erased as they informed me of their dog friendly policies. On a Friday morning with my furry co-pilot in the backseat we headed west towards our destination of Antwerp and with relative ease the hotel was located; we arrived several hours ahead of schedule but that would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Check-in was accomplished, belongings were tossed into the room then we milled about the lobby in anticipation of the arrival of my co-workers over the course of the afternoon and into the evening. We had made it to Belgium safely and though it was the heart of winter there was no doubt this would be a memorable time for Erin and myself.

Many employees of the hotel took a keen interest in Erin after spotting her in the lobby area; from management to a janitor they warmly greeted the newest four-legged guest and lavished attention upon her. A pair of bartenders were arguably her biggest admirers as they repeatedly made trips to socialize then returned to the adjacent bar from where they came. The hotel staff was completely smitten by her charm, ability to follow commands and within the span of a few hours they urged me to allow Erin off-leash to explore the property. I reluctantly agreed thus she was free to roam the vicinity where everyone could keep tabs on her; she kept the servers company as they prepared the tables for dinner service, lounged on the floor behind the check-in counter, and wandered into the manager's office where a garbage can was too tempting to not topple over in search of goodies.Of course she wandered into the bar area where shrieks of "Erin Erin" were hollered in her direction and excitedly she ran towards the voices with a huge grin and wagging tail. As she bonded with the staff and visited anyone who displayed the slightest of interest in her, I played the role of overprotective parent to ensure her safety while making sure she wasn't being a nuisance.

We ventured outside in hopes of finding something to keep Erin occupied and that would be discovered behind a dormant covered swimming pool and maintenance sheds. The rear of the hotel property consisted of a wide plot of land surrounded on three sides by dense trees and as we strolled along the forest perimeter I eyed movement ahead in the distance. Continuing to move forward my eyes were focused on the vague outlines while Erin was inhaling the rich scents found on the ground; finally I recognized the shapes as a group of hares minding their own business. Kneeling down I quietly called Erin to my side and she promptly sat beside me as I whispered "Rabbit" into her floppy ear. Her head jerked upwards while the hazel eyes intently peered into the distance and I knew she had spotted them when she started to shake in anticipation of the chase but I told her to wait until we were closer. Oblivious to our presence the hares continued to forage as we moved nearer and nearer until finally Erin heard the magic phrase "go get em"; she chased her prey in every direction and repeatedly pursued them into the woods until daylight faded away. It became obvious that play time was over as we stood all alone in the bitter cold with no prey in sight but there would many more days of outdoor fun.

Before retiring for the evening I asked the desk clerk to inform the housemaids that a dog would be in my room during the days; it would be unfortunate if the employees were startled upon opening the door or worse yet somehow allow Erin to escape the room. To my amazement it was suggested that the hotel staff pet-sit her during the days I'm working and I was hesitant to accept such an offer for several reasons but finally agreed after they ensured her safety and reiterated she would have plenty of companionship. Erin certainly enjoyed the company of the staff and likewise they liked having her around but I would be overly worrisome just the same. As I returned to the hotel in the evenings Erin would run to greet me with a rapidly wagging tail and her trademark leaning against the legs where I can conveniently stoop down to dispense kisses and hugs. A manager or desk clerk would give me summary of the day's activities which usually consisted of napping in the manager's office or loitering behind the check-in counter where she acted as the hotel mascot greeting newly arrived guests.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Death Of An Angel

Today marks the one year anniversary of Erin's passing and to say I miss my dear friend is an understatement. She was never just a dog to me but the reason the sun rose and set thus her absence in my life has been extremely difficult. Our special bond was established early in the relationship and continued to grow throughtout the years in a way that made our connection very unique from most human-dog relationships. As a novice dog owner I had alot to learn about raising a puppy and most certainly I made mistakes along the way but her loyalty and patience never wavered even when I started to doubt myself. Upon entering my life she captured my heart, mind, and soul and gave me a reason to live when often I believed there was none; Erin was my beacon in the storm and when I called her "Daddy's Angel" she would give me a coy look that said "Uh oh, Are my wings showing?" I thought of her as my angel in fur as she possessed the traits necessary for inclusion into that exclusive group and over the years her actions proved my suspicions were correct!!

Erin opened my eyes to the world while teaching me life lessons that I never would have learned without her guidance but learn and grow as a person I did. Her positive influence upon me increased my capacity to love while teaching me the value of friendship and not ever wanting to disappoint her I thrived to be the friend she truly deserved. It was my sincere intention to give Erin the most amazing life a dog can have and in that regard I feel contentment as her journey was filled with many years of love, friendship, and adventure. At my side she led a most wonderful life that would make any dog envious; she trekked across a dozen countries, served the community as a therapy dog, attended church, and performed onstage in a local production. Beaches, parks, forests, lakes and so many other locations were explored with the sole purpose of injecting happiness into her life; nothing brought me more joy than seeing her beaming smile and rapid tail wag. My life revolved around making her happy hence if Erin was happy then I was happy!!

While Erin's journey was filled with adventure and excitement it's what was inside that really separated her from the pack; she had the ability to touch everyone that crossed her path and rare was the heart that was not affected. People fell in love with her soulful gentle nature, felt complete ease in her company while her friendly personality made it easy for folks to become instant friends. It's these attributes that led Erin to be so popular wherever we ventured and the affection felt for her was clearly demonstrated by the show of grief and love at the time of her death. I feel so blessed to have received her love and friendship for nearly 12 years while sharing so many smiles and I'll cherish those memories for the remainder of my days. My love was certainly not a one-way street as Erin's passion matched mine in intensity and her display of affection always filled me with warmth; she was often referred to as a "Daddy's Girl" due to her desire to be near me and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm prouder of my relationship with Erin and the wonderful life I laid at her paws than anything else I've achieved; our years together are the highlight of my existence. Everyday with her was a true blessing and words can't describe the sorrow and pain I've suffered upon the loss of my beloved friend. If I was to amputate a limb there would be less ache ravaging my body as it certainly feels that my heart has been fractured beyond repair. Given the opportunity I would have gladly sacrificed my life to have one more day with Erin; just one more day of stalking squirrels, another day of frolicking at the dog park and just another day of being best friends. In a state of shock and oblivious to the world around me I told Erin how much she meant to me, how everybody loved her and how we would miss her dearly. It was very important for me to let her know that she was the best friend I could ever ask for and how incredibly proud she made me. During that timeframe I witnessed the most incredible act of devotion as Erin suddenly pushed herself up in respond to my words but I eased her back down and continued to provide comfort. Thinking of that scene brings tears to my eyes as she was minutes from death and in obvious distress yet she loved me so much she still tried to please me.... That defines love and devotion!!

Our final photo. Erin would pass away a few hours later.

Her passing came suddenly after the onset of an illness and was a complete surprise to all including the veternarians who oversaw her treatment. Within 36 hours of taking ill she was pronounced dead and despite an unbreakable spirit her body could not continue the journey any further. I'm so thankful I was able to hold her paw while lovingly looking into her eyes so she could make the journey with a friend; there was no way that my beloved Angel was exiting this world without me comforting her as she did for me on so many occasions. The medical staff left me alone as tears ran down my cheeks onto her lifeless body, knowing our time together was limited I stroked her coat and smothered her with kisses for the final time. A pair of scissors was located then I proceeded to snip off a handful of her beautiful flowing coat and before long a vet tech returned to ask if she could remove the collar; I shook my head and muttered no. It was my responsibility and honor as Erin's Daddy to remove it myself so the leather collar was unbuckled then I reluctantly walked into the waiting room where family members were sobbing. The outpouring of love for Erin in the days after her passing was remarkable while the support of friends and family kept me from being totally consumed with grief and to them I'll be eternally grateful.

One year later it's still hard to believe that she's gone and while I miss my Angel beyond words I'm comforted by the fact that she led an incredible life and was loved by so many people. Thanks to everyone for keeping the memory of Erin alive!!

RIP Erin!! October 20 1998 - August 16 2010

"I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there in Heaven, I believe he'll be there" ~ Rev. Billy Graham

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

And The Tony Award Goes To....

This photo was taken during a production of The Miracle Worker in which Erin played Belle the Keller family dog and in this scene a young Helen Keller is attempting to teach sign language to Belle.

"Would you be interested in allowing your dog onstage in a play?" That was the question presented to me by a member of the drama department before morning service at a major Savannah Church and one which didn't involve much arm-twisting on their part. The staff's search for an "obedient hunting dog” had been unsuccessful until they heard of  Erin through the grapevine thus I was approached with details about the dog's scenes and the drama department director was to be called if there was further interest on my part. This was an opportunity that couldn't be passed over so a call was placed the following morning to Wayne and Erin's therapy dog service, obedience training, friendly demeanor, etc was discussed at length and mutually we decided she would be perfect for the role of Belle.

Over the next several weeks Erin took part in rehearsals with her fellow co-stars and it's an understatement to say she had a great time. It took little time for Wayne to express complete confidence in my stage performer thus her scenes were rehearsed the bare minimum but that was okay as that decision allowed more time to bond with fellow co-stars. It was called rehearsal but in reality it was a chance for Erin to receive as much attention as possible and everyone treated their four-legged star with the utmost respect and affection. The cast and crew loved having her around and heaped praise upon her; children and adults alike doted on her and were constantly calling her name so she could wander over for a round of socialization. She often wandered around the auditorium exploring every inch that was made available to her while in pursuit was a gaggle of kids longing for a hug or a kiss on the cheek but without fail she always returned to lay near my feet. Another perk of rehearsals was the delicious catered food and we especially enjoyed the lasagna from Olive Garden; Erin never took her eyes off the fork as she knew I'd give her a portion and I most certainly did.

Erin was taken backstage as the auditorium overflowed with hundreds of paying customers while beaming lights, sound checks, racks of costumes and props told me it was almost show time. Reluctantly she was handed over to a teenage actor who would be her backstage guardian then I headed to a table near the stage where family members and loyal friends were sitting in anticipation of this once in a lifetime event. I was a nervous wreck waiting for the play to began and all I could think about was Erin backstage with strangers wondering why I deserted her. On cue she was led onto the stage by two youngsters holding the leash and they hit their mark where the scene unfolded around them; she did very well but I could tell she was searching for me in the crowd so that really stressed me out as I knew she missed me. The crowd buzzed upon seeing a dog onstage and murmurs could be heard at nearby tables about the doggie actor; I was beyond proud of my girl. At intermission I promptly went backstage to comfort her and the cast said she was very anxious due to my absence so I decided to remain backstage with her for the rest of the evening and future performances.

It was calming for both of us to be together backstage and when the time came for her scenes I reassured her "It's okay. Go on. Daddy will be right here" then she walked out into the blinding light.  From the shadows I watched with a huge smile as Erin did remarkably well and when she was brought backstage I smothered her with affection and praise while her tail wagged a million miles a hour. Erin’s scenes went very well including a pivotal scene where a young Helen Keller tries to teach Belle (Erin) sign language, it was so awesome to see just the two of them onstage with the spotlight shining upon them. Helen was sitting down with Belle’s paw in her hand instructing her in the art of signing while Belle looked lovingly into Helen's eyes, it was so touching and endearing to everyone in attendance. A standing ovation took place after each performance with Erin joining her human co-stars in soaking up the love of the audience; it was a special time for her indeed. After the audience retook their seats the cast lined up outside the door for a meet and greet with the spectators who streamed by to pay their respects to whomever they desired. So many people stopped to pay Erin a compliment, pet her on the head, and many praised me for raising a wonderful dog; it was an amazing experience for us in every aspect.

It was sad when the production ended as we made so many friends and shared many laughs along the way. Erin had an incredible time, touched many hearts and I’ve never been prouder of her than at that moment; as always she never disappointed me. Everything she attempted was achieved with the highest results and her stint as a stage performer was no different; despite my worrying as a concerned father she was amazing every night and gave me many more great memories. After Erin’s passing I received a letter of condolence from Wayne on behalf of the drama department and a phone call during which he said everyone was saddened to hear of her sudden death; it meant alot to know she lived on in their hearts but that demonstrates how special my angel was.

And the Tony award goes to Erin Smith....

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Strike A Pose

This picture was taken in June 2010 while on an early morning stroll through Chippewa Square in Savannah Ga. There were very few tourists around the monument so the opportunity presented itself for a impromptu shoot. Erin was hoisted up and instinctively she snuggled up to one of the four marble lions while General Oglethorpe's statue looked down with respect upon the regal canine. She sat there for several minutes while I snapped a few pics and this is one of my all-time favorite photos of her. Erin's face shows complete happiness and contentment with life. Beautiful girl in a beautiful locale!!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Day Along The Rhine

As the sun was making its appearance on the horizon, Erin and I were already cruising along the autobahn towards the Rhine River valley for a day of exploration. The region is celebrated for some of the loveliest villages in Germany, breathtaking scenery, and fertile soil that produces world renowned wines. Winter days in Europe are often gloomy with frigid temperatures, heavy snowfall, and limited sunlight but on this day of fun and adventure the weather gods would show mercy and bless us with ideal conditions. Lying down in the back seat Erin springs to life as the car slows down on entry into a rest stop; we're the only brave souls up at this time of the day or maybe everyone else was smart enough to remain asleep but nevertheless we had this oasis to ourselves. There's no restrooms or vending machines hawking food just a spectacular view of the valley to admire and that's exactly what I did while my travel companion wandered off to do what dogs do. I beckoned Erin for a photo op with the valley as a backdrop but suddenly her progress is halted as she sinks in snow up to her belly thus I'm given the "Woe is me" look; as fate would have it I would later sink to my knees in a snowbank; misery loves company.

The narrow winding roads lining both sides of the river provided access to imposing castles atop steep cliffs, marvelous bridges and charming towns that magically appear out of nowhere but it's the vineyards that would hold the most appeal. Erin's head is permanently affixed out the rear window as we trudge along; her broad smile and happy disposition reveals she is impervious to the cold biting blast of air unlike myself who has the heater and seat warmer on. The quaint town of Bingen calls our name so we wander the streets as nomads until a cafe with outdoor seating is located; I get my daily allowance of caffeine while my shadow greets the local population with a wag of the tail then we're on the road again. At a leisurely pace we continue northwest with the Rhine River guiding the way; vineyards stretched as far as the eye could see and instinctively I knew this would be a special place for Erin.

The car is parked near a spot where a quick getaway can occur if needed and anxiously the area is scanned for an irate landowner with a gun meanwhile a liver/white dog is heading uphill without me.
"Erin Erin get over here!!" Due to my sense of urgency she returns with her head down, tail tucked under and a submissive demeanor but quickly she's reassured that everything is okay thus the toothy grin reappears. Together we cautiously strolled uphill and when it became apparent that neither one of us was going to get shot she was allowed to run like the wind. She scampers off then suddenly veers in another direction then another as instincts dictate; without warning she stops to sniff a random grape vine rising upward and there were many to select from. Rows upon rows of grape vines rose out of the thick layer of snow and extend up towards heaven: these dormant upshoots provided the perfect winter playground. Vehicles occasionally used vineyard access roads but no one gave us a second glance while dogs with their owners were spotted and likewise they continued on without concern.

Her name is repeatedly called thus she looks back but doesn't spot me as an impromptu game of hide and seek is underway. Remaining motionless several rows over I see Erin scanning the area for any sign of movement then moving downhill with a purpose towards the spot where she believes I'm hiding but I'm nowhere to be found. Unable to locate me an expression of worry is displayed upon her face so a familiar whistle goes out to comfort her while providing a clue as to where I'm at and promptly she heads in my direction where I'm seen crouching down. "You found daddy. You found me. Good girl" and she leans against my legs as I kiss her head while hugging her tightly then she's urged back uphill with me closely behind. After awhile Erin lets her guard down so another round of hide and seek begins with similar results and again I smother her with love for a valiant effort. The lack of cloud cover and relentless sun make the early January day feel more like springtime and as noontime approached we were both ready for a break and something to eat so northward along the Rhine we continued.

A butcher shop and bakery are found in the next town so before long we're munching on salami, ham, cheese and bread in the car; she stares me down from the backseat as I eat a sandwich and when the mood strikes I toss a slice of goodness in her direction. Erin is fanatical about meats and cheese as are most dogs and her portions are quickly devoured then she goes back to staring me down and licking her lips but the remainder is saved for later. We visit another vineyard further north and head uphill as before though this one was more challenging as it extended much further and had a steeper incline. I do my best to keep up with Erin as her enthusiasm and youth serve her well, she reaches the summit while I'm not far behind then it was time to relax for a spell. My jacket is removed from the backpack I'm lugging around and used as a makeshift blanket; she lays next to me on that snow covered hill and we look out upon the beauty of the world. The remainder of lunch is consumed with canine eagerness then we lazily stroll downhill before heading home. It was a simple day but so special as were many days spent together and it brought much happiness to her so I'll always cherish our time roaming the vineyards along the Rhine. RIP Erin!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Erin and Nana....Kindred Spirits

My grandmother affectionately called Nana by all family members was the matriarch of the family; she was loved and held in high esteem by all who met her and the closest thing to a living saint as one could ever hope to meet. She adored Erin from the very beginning and considered her another granddaughter albeit this one had a continuous shedding coat and a keen interest in her cats. They enjoyed spending time with each other and Erin especially liked the fact that Nana was very generous with whatever food was in the pantry. Growing up during the great depression Nana believed all food whether human or animal grade was not to be wasted but given to some deserving creature thus my girl reaped the rewards of many edible treats. The majority of visits to Nana's house resulted in Erin receiving some type of goodie and "Go see Nana" always elicited an enthusiastic rapid tail wag and a sprint to the car for a short ride.

We routinely visited Nana's house where Erin considered herself the boss despite being a mere adolescent and numerous cats roaming the premises. By nature she was very curious and loved to investigate every nook and cranny that was available in the aging structure and during these visits an occasional encounter with a feline would take place. Erin would corner the cats who didn't appreciate quality canine company and tried in vain to avoid the intruder but she never got the hint until a hiss and swipe of the paw across the snout shocked her. She would glance at me with an expression that said "I just want to play with them" then promptly she went back to wagging her tail and staring them down as if that would entice them into an impromptu game of chase but they never gave in to the tomfoolery and believe me...Nana never allowed Erin to harass her babies for very long!! When not cornering cats she loved to roam outdoors where Nana's many acres, blooming garden and thriving squirrel population provided an outlet to release pent-up energy; exhausted she would later sleep between us on the sofa.

Unfortunately Nana broke a hip and her health rapidly deteriorated to the point where she was admitted to a senior care facility to receive the medical care she desperately needed. Despite Nana being in a nursing home Erin was granted access to visit her without limitations, it was a good situation for everyone involved. Several times a week we loaded into the car for the commute across town to visit Nana whom was always expecting us to visit and before long "the hunting dog " was recognizable to members of the medical staff, many patients, and their family members. We shared a passion for reading so often I brought along some reading material to read aloud or snuck in a bag of her favorite candy while my girl waited patiently on the floor for her turn at some attention. Nana would dangle her hand over the edge of the bed for some quality petting or encourage Erin to stand upon her hind legs for eye to eye contact and more intimate bonding. Nana often wanted to hold the leather leash or stroke her head and there was never any protest from Erin who craved physical contact as much as one of those stashed cookies. If I visited alone, there were inquiries into the status of the “grand dog” and the latest doggie adventures had to be told while often a biscuit was stuck into my pocket for safe delivery.

Nana's love and adoration continued for Erin despite her living situation and declining health; food was often stashed from her dining room tray in the overflowing top drawer of her night stand. A peanut butter cookie, hamburger patty, or other delicacy could be found wrapped inside a napkin and stored for that special day when we visited; Erin devoured the food in record time and never was there enough to satisfy her craving. It was a testament to their friendship that Nana still felt the urge to spoil Erin when she herself was in a less than desirable position in life but that says so much about her as a person and their relationship. She was often urged to stop hiding food items but the pleas fell on deaf ears as she insisted on spoiling Erin so items designated for dog consumption continued for several more years. Being a devout animal lover Nana was always proud of my relationship with Erin and the life we shared; she thought it was the most amazing thing that a dog could live and travel across Europe. Nothing happens by accident as it was during this period of frequenting the nursing home that I became aware of the healing power of animals thus we became involved with a therapy dog group soon after Nana's passing; it was my honor to get Erin certified in tribute to Nana and to become an active therapy dog team in the community for 7 years.

It was a devastating loss when Nana suddenly passed away as I lost my best friend and I'll always remember coming home from the hospital bawling uncontrollably unaware of the world around me.
Soon after I felt Erin's head nudging my hand repeatedly until I began to stroke her then she climbed onto the couch beside me to offer emotional support and while holding her tightly I buried my head in her flank to cry like a baby. It was a difficult period made easier by the presence of Erin whom I wonder if was aware of the death of her beloved friend and kindred spirit; they were both full of love, embraced life to its fullest, and never encountered a stranger. They both touched and impacted my life in ways that are immeasurable and I'll always cherish the memories forged during our years together. It's endearing as I recall them expressing their love for one another and something tells me Nana is still sneaking Erin yummy treats as they watch over me from above. RIP Nana and Erin!!