This week, there has been a lot of argument and discussion in the US about about rights and symbols and meanings of things. I don’t know about any of you reading, but I’m tired of all the arguing. The truth is, no matter how hard people argue, minds and hearts are rarely changed that way. But, if you’re a reader of this blog, one thing that I think we can all agree on, wherever we live or who we are, is that we share the right to love dogs.
Today, all of those issues are weighing on me, and instead of talking about those things, I want to share with you one of the reasons that I love dogs. I call him Dad. When I was a little girl, my dad never read me fairy tales. I was raised on stories of Tippy, The Greatest Dog Ever and adventures on the farm where my dad grew up. Sometimes he read me stories from the newspaper, but by far most of what I was raised on were the exploits of a little Border Collie mix who saved my dad from a lonely childhood.
My dad grew up on a farm in a different era where farm dogs were kept to protect livestock and earned their keep by being good dogs. There were a lot of jobs and responsibilities that my dad had growing up, but it seems like Tippy was always there, either helping or watching. A lot of the things they used to do would probably be frowned upon now, but they were considered necessary then. In my heart, though, I think that Tippy’s main job was to listen to my dad when he shared the burdens of his world. My dad was the second child in the family, and my grandparents had been hoping for a girl. They didn’t even have a boy’s name picked out and when my dad arrived, they asked a nurse to name him. I don’t think it was that my grandparents didn’t love my dad, but I don’t think they showed it much.
I remember my dad telling me that when he came home from serving in Viet Nam that it was the first time he remembered ever kissing my grandmother. He said that he decided he didn’t care if anyone liked it or not, he’d survived and he was going to kiss his mother. My dad has rarely talked to me about the things he saw when he was in the war, but I know that he saw and experienced a lot of horrible things.
Growing up, it was rare that we didn’t have a dog on the farm where we grew up with my dad. When I was young, I thought that we had dogs because my sister and I liked dogs. As I look back, though, I realize that having dogs around might not have been as much for us as it was for my dad. These days, we see a lot of veterans leaning on dogs, but back then, that wasn’t any sort of common practice. Veterans were expected to rejoin civilian life and move on. We’ve certainly come a long way from those days and I’m glad for that. I think our dogs growing up served as confidantes and silent counselors at times, not just for me but for my dad, too.
Parkinson’s is taking its toll on my dad. It’s hard to see a man who always lived life to the fullest by grabbing it by the tail with both hands struggle with his body. I know that it’s frustrating for him, but I admire the courage and determination that he has to get up every day and still do as much as he can. Even now, as tough as it is, my dad still stands for the national anthem, takes off his hat and puts his hand on his heart. It’s incredibly important to him to do so, even if one of his daughters has to help him to stand up.
So, as all the controversy swirls about your rights, my rights and our rights together, let me simply say what’s in my heart on the subject. I believe that the players who are protesting by taking the knee have every right to protest and I think that their cause is important and worthy. I am not always proud of things that happen in our country or that our nation does. My dad and I have often disagreed on politics and current events, but he raised me to think for myself, as well as to see the other side of the argument. I’m thankful for that.
And so as much as I understand what’s behind the protest, I also understand that there’s a lot more behind our flag and anthem than stars and stripes. There are people who fought for it, sacrificed for it and gave their lives for it. People like my dad went to war and saw and did terrible things so that the rest of us wouldn’t have to, and so that people could continue to have the rights that we enjoy here, including the right to protest. Even if I disagree with some of the things our country has done, I’m still here to be a part of it, and a part of the solution. I will stand for the flag and the anthem because there are some people in our country who only have a flag and photos left to remind them of loved ones who have served our country. They didn’t fight for just one group of people, they fought for all of us. I have the right to love dogs, to write a blog, to say what I feel is right because of their sacrifice. I will stand in honor of a man who gave me everything in this world and who taught me that standing for the flag is the right thing to do. I have the right to do that, too, and I’ll always be respectful and thankful for that. People who want to take the knee have that right, but I hope they remember what’s behind that right.
My apologies for how long this is, and that it’s different from our usual fare. But I make no apologies for how I feel about this or for sharing it. Tomorrow, we’ll be back with something more lighthearted and fun, but today, this was on my heart and needed to be said.