Thursday, January 1, 2009

Michael Dennis' take on Nobel

So, I told a friend a few months back that I would gladly 'dog sit' for he and his wife and three young children, while they traveled back to Texas for the Christmas Holiday. This is the first time in my life that I have dog sat for anyone. I did not know what to expect. The case was exceptional for me. Nobel is a huge black German Shepard that is so well behaved. Its really hard to imagine a dog being so large and so gentle at the same time. I met Clay & Heather Combs, Noble's owners, earlier this year and we became friends easily. My regard for those who serve our nation in the military is immense. Clay is a Caption in the military and is soon to be promoted to Major (a major congratulations Clay, no pun intended :) Clay was featured in a recent book published in 2008 entitled: Moment of Truth in Iraq by Michael Yon ( The book has some really good reviews from papers as diverse as the Washington Post and New York Times). You may see a picture of Clay, from that book, while so bravely serving our great nation and his beautiful dog, Nobel, attached. Both pictures are of Noble sitting on my front porch.

Nonetheless, this email is really about Noble, serendipity, and the coming year.

Noble and I got along the first time we met. As soon as I realized he was not going to try to eat me. :) When Clay dropped Noble off earlier in December we quickly bonded and went for a walk down by the Ashley River that is so close to my house. Nobel just had a way of making everything fun. I had much work to do over the Holidays and to be honest I was about '50/50' on weather I was really looking forward to having him. In the end, I could not have enjoyed him more and so many of my neighbors too. That's funny! Actually, is serendipitous. Here is a little history on that word. Two gentlemen by the name of Horace were exchanging hand written letters in the year 1754. Horace Walpole wrote longtime friend Horace Mann. Walpole had reached a point in his life where everything looked all-too familiar. Actually, the drab winter weather on the grim England days had caused him depression. Life for Walpole was not something to be enjoyed anymore. It had been a longtime since he "smiled..." he wrote Mann. THEN, he picked up a book (imagine that! I'm jabbing our over entertained, TV saturated culture :) The book was entitled The Three Princes of Serendip . It was a Persian fairly tale that told of three princes that sailed around the world looking for great treasures. The princes never found what they were looking for but continually found greater delight by what they were looking for intentionally. Serendipity happens, likewise, when something 'beautiful breaks into the monotonous and mundane.' Oh yea! Warpole coined the wonderful word we use so often: Serendipity from that book. I tried to find/buy a copy of this book a couple of years ago and the cost was in the thousands of dollars. Copies are very rare. I did not buy a copy. Maybe some day.

Back to Noble.

This is just a partial list of what Noble and I did.

~ We went running in the pre-dawn in Hampton Park. He always would be my rear-gaurd or point man (dog) ever looking for anyone or anything that might not be good for me. He once stopped a bunch of ducks walking towards me. I think he thought they were going to harm me. I laughed so hard I had to quit running for a minute. He did not want to hurt them but there was no way I was going to be harmed while he was on 'point'.

~ He would sleep in my room. When he would slide down to rest for the evening it sounded like small pony was landing on my bedroom floor. Once, he heard something outside in the middle of the night. I think a raccoon or something and he BARKED loud and would not settle down so I just went to the door and let him gallop out into the dark for a half an hour and he returned as proud as a returning Roman general from a victorious battle. Additionally, around 2:00 am Noble would toss a red and white toy on my bed to play. I typically would say to him, " Noble, humans sleep at this hour, go to bed!" Yet, I would make the mistake of throwing his toy back at him and the thought that meant "play time". And, if I did not return his toy he would jump in my bed to retrieve his toy. There was no winning this game. I laughed.

~ My yard became his yard and my house became his 'fort' to protect. I tried to explain to Noble that you can't eat the mailman and expect to get mail. :) SO, I introduces him to "Ray the Mailman". We all love Ray in Wagner Terrace. He's the best!!! Noble and him got along well. I forgot though that Ray told me he was taking some time off. SO, there was a replacement mailman that Noble did not know and I actually had to sit on Noble in the yard one day. Noble thought his yard was under attack. I laughed, Noble growled and the replacement mailman reached for his dog spray and looked scared to death. Actually, Noble would not have bitten him. Noble just stands at the yards edge and barks.

~ A friend came by to drop a gift off for the Holidays and rang the doorbell. MISTAKE! I was in my office in the rear of the house and you would have thought a bomb was dropped. Noble nearly knocked the Christmas tree over. Actually, he did onto the chase lounge to see who would "dare" ring the doorbell. When I came to the front door to greet my friend he said, "what do you have in there?!?" I typically said, " a small pony" and smiled.

~Clay had typed out two pages of 'helpful hints' and commands for Noble. As stated, he minded so well. I once said, "Noble, sit and stay" on the front porch. I went to do some things around the house and realized two hours later he was just sitting on the front porch looking on the Ashley River and watching people walk past the house. There was only one time he did not obey. Clay had typed in his directions " He LOVES pizza!" One day were were playing in the front yard and all of a sudden Noble walked through the hedges to a neighbors house and came back with a HUGE piece of some food on his mouth. As he got closer I realized someone had dropped a whole piece of pizza and Noble smelt it and picked it up and brought it back to eat. I did not think it best for Noble to eat, but Noble disagreed. I said, " Noble, DROP THAT PIZZA!" He just starred at me as he continued to chew that pizza till it was all gone. Oh, well. I was laughing so hard he probably did not even think I was serious anyways.

Ok, enough of Noble, even though I missed him on my run this morning.

Its combining Noble and the serendipity and the New Year, that is pregnant with so much penitential, that I write my last email this year, to so many of my friends. I think life can be like that. We limit ourselves. Initially I was "50/50" on Noble spending two weeks with me during the Holidays. I had cancelled some travel plans because I have such a heart for our men and women in uniform. It turned out to be just a great time! All my neighbors fell in love with Noble and would stop by to see him. We see situations and circumstances, in life, and it evokes fear or other emotions and we stop expanding and growing. We don't want to do or try them because they might require more than we want to give, initially, I love children's stories. In the The Wind in the Willows there is a beautiful exchange between Rat and Mole as they approached a scary situation. It reads,

"Rat," he found breath to whisper, shaking, "Are you afraid?" "Afraid?" murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. "Afraid? of Him? O, never, never. And yet - and yet - O Mole, I am afraid.'"

That's where most of life's greatest treasures lie, just beyond the safe and sure. That's serendipity. That's life. That's risk. I hope you try some things this year and in the words of one of my treasured authors who states, " its not the world, it the lens through which you see the world...clean it continually..." I hope we all clean it and we will see more Truth, Beauty and Goodness ( ideas we judge by) and work for more Liberty, Equality and Justice ( Ideas we act on) than we can possibly imagine. Its there!

Happy New Years, to you, one, and all!

Very Fond Thoughts,

Michael D. Dennis

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