Dog Tale

“Outside of a dog, man’s best friend is a book,

Inside of a dog its too dark to read.”

Groucho Marx, comedian


I was a Marine. Just a Marine. Not a hero. Not even close. You won’t find my name in the history books. But I did serve. And fifty years later, I’m still moved when I hear the Marine Corps Hymn or see someone in their dress blue uniform. And the older I get it seems my tears come a little faster and the pain goes a little deeper when I hear about a fallen warrior.

“Semper Fidelis” is Latin for always faithful. And it’s the Marine Corps motto. Their mascot is a bulldog named “Chesty” named after the bigger than life Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated Marine in American History. And just how big of a bad ass was Chesty Puller? Surrounded by the Chinese and North Koreans, out numbered 8 to 1 – this was his assessment of the situation,  “All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time.”

During the first world war the Marines were given the name “Devil Dogs” by the German Soldiers they were fighting. The newspapers in the United States started printing stories about this event in early 1918 and guess what. Today, because of the Marines fierce fighting and the writers good reporting, the Marines are still Devil Dogs.


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The unofficial Postal Service motto is, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Many years ago I took a test to become a postal worker. And guess what. I failed big time. But that setback did not diminish my passion for receiving mail. It started in the marines, long before Skype. All these years later, I still look forward to “mail call.”

Whenever I have the pleasure of meeting a mail carrier, I like to ask, “How many times have you been bitten by a dog?” I read that on an average day in America, twenty-eight mailmen are bitten by dogs. I’m happy to report that our letter carrier, Brian, is still bite free.

In all my years of running it wasn’t until a short time ago that I was actually attacked by a dog. It didn’t look very big until it started chasing me. But it seemed to get bigger every time I looked back to see if it was gaining on me. In time, I was able to outrun the hungry animal. But before I got away he managed to snap off a patch of my sweatpants. I figure better my pants than my leg. Now like Brain our mail carrier, I’m armed with a can of pepper spray. Look out, Fido!

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight,

It’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Mark Twain, author



“You are the hero of your own journey.”

Joesph Campbell, author

The year was 1961, I was ten years old. And Jerry Lucas was my hero. He played center on The Ohio State University Basketball Team. I practiced basketball sunup till sundown. I wanted to be a super sports star like Mr. Lucas. He was 6 feet 8 inches tall. I wanted to be that tall too, so I ask my mother to pull on my legs as I held on to the staircase banister in the hope that it would stretch my legs and make me taller.

Many years later I had the honor of meeting Jerry Lucas and telling him about my quest to be a sports legend like him. When I explained what I had ask my Mother to do, I looked up at his 6 foot eight inch height as he looked down at my 5 foot ten inch height.

“I see it It didn’t work,” he said.

We both laughed. I shook his hand and thanked him for his inspiration and a head full of happy memories.

Author and speaker Steve Chandler has this advice, “Don’t look at your heroes, look inside your heroes.”

Even more important than talent is the quality of passion. As gifted as he was at the game, if Jerry Lucas didn’t like playing basketball no one would have ever heard of him. And if you don’t have that same kind of passion for what you’re doing then it’s time for some soul searching. What you want to be doing is what you ought to be doing. And you should be doing it with all your heart and soul fueling that passion with determination.

That brings me to another hero from my childhood. Before there was Jerry Lucas in the 60s, there was Chief Don Eagle in the 50s. He a wrestler, an Indian with a genuine Mohawk Haircut. One of his arch rivals was the infamous Gorgeous George. The chief was very clever and fun to watch. But sometimes the villain he was wrestling would appear to be getting the best of him. Now came the part of the match I had been waiting for since the start.

Chief Don Eagle would get mad. And I do mean mad. With the fans cheering him on, including me with a ringside seat in front of the television, he would perform a war dance. At this time, If his opponent had any sense at all, he would jump out of the ring. When the chief caught up with him, it was game over for the villain.

Whether it’s running a marathon race, baking a prize winning cake, or playing the violin, you have to have what the pundits call, “A Fire In The Belly.” And with that fire you give your chosen endeavor your best and leave nothing in the locker room – you’re still a winner no matter what the scoreboard or the judges say.





“There are only two ways to live your life.

One is though nothing is a miracle.

The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein, Theoretical Physicist


Thank you. Nice of you to notice my new tee-shirt. And yes, that’s a picture of Albert Einstein on the front. My pal Al was a very smart man. He won the Nobel Prize for physics. When the legendary funny man Charlie Chaplin invited Al to the premiere of his new movie, City Lights, the public cheered for both of them. Later Chaplin said to Einstein, “They cheer me because they all understand me, and they cheer you because no one understands you.”

I will admit when you and I decide to talk science, it won’t be much of a discussion. Science was never be my best subject. Even so, Mr. Einstein did get through to me with some amazing words of wisdom.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

It took me two years to make it through the 4th grade, two attempts to earn my driver’s license, two shots to graduate from college, and two adventures in marriage to finally get it right. Most world champions rarely get it right on the first try. So if it’s Olympic gold or making the perfect omelet, expect a few blunders and flubs. The secret is to enjoy the journey and remember even Einstein went through a bunch of letters before he landed on E = mc2.

“Never lose a holy curiosity.”

When was the last time you took a different route to work? How about listening to a different radio station today? What do you think about trying a Chinese restaurant this weekend instead of pizza?

Check with the librarian and see if the two of you can figure out why the sky is blue. Make a visit to a travel agent and plan an exotic vacation to someplace whose name you can’t pronounce. Pretend you’re Christopher Columbus and go discover something new. You just might end up having a good time.

“Everybody is a genius.

But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

I don’t think God put us on this earth to just take up space. Everyone, I believe, has a gift or a talent that needs to be shared with the world. It is up to each individual to find it for him or herself. A tip of the stetson to those folks who seem to come out of the womb knowing they want to be a plumber, guitar player, truck driver, dancer, or brain surgeon and then make it happen. For some the journey may be a bit more complicated. And there is no disgrace in being called a late bloomer.

Have fun learning why you’re a passenger on spaceship Earth. And above all, please be kind to your fellow travelers.






“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I don’t know.”

Groucho Marx, comedian

You never know what you’re going to discover when you start looking through the branches of your family tree. I found some elephants in mine.

Yes, elephants.

You see actor Wallace Berry is my cousin. He won an Academy award for his role in the 1931 movie, The Champ. For a time, he was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. But his show business career didn’t start in front of the cameras. Along with his brother, young Wallace ran away from home and joined Ringling Brothers Circus. He became an elephant tender. In fact, he came up with the idea for the elephants to march in line trunk to tail.

Not long ago, after battling animal rights protesters for years,  Ringling took the elephants out of their show. And soon after that they called it quits all together.

So the elephants may be gone from the circus but they are still part of my DNA and have a very important role in the way I conduct my life.

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“The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”

Robert Schuller, minister

I’m a marathon runner. A marathon race is 26.2 miles long. Running since 1986, I’ve completed over forty marathons in cities all over the country. But I’ve never run all 26.2 miles at once. No, I’ve run 1 mile 26 times in a row. And then another 365 yards for a grand total of 26.2 miles.

And so it goes with any goal – break it down into bite size chunks and in time, with determination and grit, you’ve eaten the whole elephant and crossed the finish line.

“When you have an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run.”

Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States

There are things you can do something about and some things you can never do anything about. So the sooner you figure out which is which, the better off you and whatever elephant you have by the hind legs will be.

We can’t do anything about our age so rather than complain about wrinkles change their name to twinkles and move on. We can’t do anything about the weather because no matter what you say about it, it does what it wants to do. Put on your snowshoes, grab your umbrella, adapt and keep smiling.

And if someone chooses not to love you, it hurts. But you won’t find someone who will love you if you let that elephant drag you and your heart down the road.

“When elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.”

African proverb

There is no guarantee how long my life or yours is going to be. So let’s be friends. I’ll bet we’re more alike than different. Peace is a whole lot more fun than war.

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“No matter how you feel…Get up. Dress up. Show up. And never give up.”

Regina Brett, newspaper columnist


How do you start your day?

Let me tell you how I start mine.

The alarm clock goes off at 5AM. Feet hit the floor and I head to the bathroom.  After a short visit to the commode, it’s time to face the mirror. A splash of cold water, fully awake now –  it’s show time! From the pocket of my bathrobe, I pull out a red clown nose.

This is the magic.

Looking into the mirror, the clown looking back at me now, I say out loud.

“Today I’m going to make someone glad they met me.”

It’s only a few minutes after five and I’m about to make what could be the most important decision of the day. In the words of author George Eliot, “Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles.”

Yes, this may sound a bit silly. I’ll even admit to weird. But think about it. I’m 65, most likely I have less years in front of me than I do behind. So how do I want to leave the world stage that Shakespeare wrote about. I’ll take my cue from the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet. He said, “My religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.”

I won’t really be wearing that red nose the rest of the day, except in my imagination, where it’s still there and I’m in the center ring at the circus.

Now I will confess, there are some days when this little ritual is harder to perform than others. And I’ll also admit it can sometimes be a bit challenging to choose kindness over telling someone where the nearest lake is you want them to jump in. It comes down to a question, “Do I want to be a cranky old geezer or a zany clown who leaves them laughing?”

My wife and our cat are the first to receive my positive vibrations. And how important is that? What do you want your last words to be to the person and animal you love the most? After all, we’re never certain when we’ll be speaking those last words. Years ago there was a television commercial telling us to never leave home without a certain credit card. I say never leave home without leaving some kind words behind.

Out the door on the way to the car, if I spot a neighbor or two, “Good morning”

On the way to work, if someone makes eye contact at a traffic light they get a smile.

At the preschool where I work the kids and staff get an enthusiastic greeting.

Store clerks, bank tellers and the person who delivers our mail are fair game.

Watch out! You may be next.

At the end of the day, kindness may not have made my bank account any bigger. But for some reason, I feel very rich.


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