The dog days of summer are here, and in more ways than one. To get you through these hot summer days are four stories of compassion, unconditional love, and how our furry friends stay with us through it all.
A Call to Arms
In March I learned about a remarkable man, Brady Atherton from the Lake Minnetonka area. Brady, a young father to his son Joey and best friend to his two dogs Otis and Archie, made a life-altering decision to put everything on hold and fly nearly 10,000 miles from his home to Ukraine.
Brady made this decision after watching footage of a Russian missile hitting an apartment building in Ukraine and hearing the horrifying sounds of a child scream in terror, which still resonates in his mind today. As a new father, Brady felt an urgency to do something and immediately began to raise money to bring humanitarian food supplies to Ukraine. Brady left his job, his family, got his affairs in order, and left for Ukraine on the 20th of March.
Bringing food was only the beginning. Brady experienced the true horrors of war, and after six weeks abroad, one night as Brady was returning to his post, a Russian missile hit the train tracks just 100 yards in front of them. “This shook us to the core,” Brady tells me. The very next morning he made the decision to return home earlier than originally planned.
Since he’s been home, Brady reconnected with each of his family members and began to unpack his unimaginable experience. Helping him through are his two lovable dogs who proved to be a source of unconditional comfort.
“I can’t help but notice how in touch with my feelings of despair, or moments of PTSD at times, Otis is. He just gets me and seems to sense when I am experiencing these flashbacks,” says Brady. Just as Brady once rescued Otis from a shelter years ago, Otis is now returning the favor and in a very true sense, rescuing Brady.
Building a Family
I recently sat down with Bill Naegele, owner of Lord Fletcher's Old Lake Lodge, a favorite local eatery on Lake Minnetonka. Bill was excited to speak about one of his favorite causes, the Children’s Home Society. This organization specializes in the adoptions of children from other countries, and it was through them that Bill and his wife Stephanie adopted their two children.
It wasn’t long thereafter that Bill began to donate his time to the Children’s Home Society, overseeing construction details of their new building and still helping to get the word out 25 years later.
But, the Naegele family isn’t complete without mentioning one very fluffy member. Bill smiles, “‘Twas the night before Christmas, our first Christmas together and my brother Bob and his wife stopped by with a gift. We gathered around the big box with great anticipation. All at once, out jumped an exuberant golden retriever puppy! After a short time, we knew there was only one perfect name for that special dog. And so we named him ‘Twas!”
Getting Your Paws Dirty
Armed with gardening tools and donned in bright orange shirts, you’ll find the “Uncommon Gardeners” toiling away in the soil around Excelsior Commons. Once a month on Saturday mornings, this group of volunteers, along with their furry companions, head to the Excelsior Commons to beautify and improve the area for all residents to enjoy.
This group of nearly 20 begins with a quick cup of coffee and treats as the daily tasks are gone over. After the last sips of coffee are consumed, it’s all hands (and paws) on deck!
This hard-working group plants and weeds the area with a little digging help from their four-legged volunteers. The next project for the Uncommon Gardeners is raising funds to purchase several hundred bulbs before September 1st. And come fall, additional volunteers will be needed to plant the hundreds of tulip bulbs. To either volunteer your time, or donate proceeds, simply drop an email to Jule at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lending a Helping Paw
At his beautiful home in Tonka Bay, I joined meteorologist Paul Douglas and his cavalier King Charles spaniel, Leo, to learn more about two charities close to his heart.
Paul tells me, “I have lost too many friends and family members to suicide over the years. The two charities at the top of my list are Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) and Union Gospel Mission in St. Paul (UGM).” Based in Bloomington, SAVE has an international reach with depression and suicide counseling. UGM rehabilitates men and women who need help through education and spiritual counseling.
Closer to home, Paul’s pup Leo also lends a helping paw. Paul explains, “He doesn't judge. Leo accepts me for who I am, warts and all.” He adds, “Funny story, I broke my ankle walking Leo a few years back. But rather than taking off as I lay there in the driveway, Leo didn't abandon me. I hobbled back to the house on five feet, one was mine and four belonged to Leo. It was at that moment I knew Leo was my guardian.”
2020 was “the year of the dog.” America found itself “grrrounded,” which resulted in record dog adoptions everywhere. I, too, looked to adopt two Rat Terriers that I eventually found in Mississippi. These two dogs were wild and had never had a conventional home. Nor did they have a chance to experience a human touch. After a few weeks of calming them down, we brought Arabella and Louis to the Victoria Veterinary Hospital for their first exam, which doesn’t charge for first time exams for all rescue dogs.
Each of these stories show the love and joy a dog can bring. The question is “who is needing to be rescued? The dog, or you, or both?” For many, it’s a win-win for you and for Rin Tin-Tin!
These dog days of summer might just be the perfect time to invite a new best friend into your life.