Sunday, March 23, 2014

For the love of a dog

One thing I know for certain in this uncertain life is that there’s a tight bond between a man and his dog.

My two dogs are Michael Jackson (a bichon) and Little Joe (a sheltie). Those are the two loveable four-legged bundles of fur in the photo accompanying this blog post.

Someone once said that dog spelled backwards is God. I don't mean to wax spiritual, but how can we NOT deeply cherish our dogs? Because life is hard, even under the best of circumstances, but with the love of a dog, it's richer, more meaningful.

Think of it:

1. We learn to communicate with our dogs and they talk back to us. By that, I mean they wag their tails, bark or otherwise respond in dog speak.
2. Our dogs take us for a good, healthy walk every day--if we only make time for them.
3. When we walk our dog (or they walk us), others, admiring our pet, will stop and ask us questions about breed, age, personality. We completely understand why WE are not the focus of their curiosity and affection. These strangers, who seldom give us eye contact, are taken almost completely by our dog, and that’s as it should be.
4. We find ultimate, wonderful contentment and happiness and peace of mind with our dogs. When I'm depressed or am sad or feeling alone, my dog is always there for me. He cheers me up, makes me smile...
5. Our dogs make us better, more caring and more selfless human beings. That's because they ask for our love and return it faithfully and unconditionally to us.

And I recently came across this--which says a lot about people and their dogs:

"People who really love their dogs are the most kind and giving people. We are the ones who don't freak out because our dogs gave us a kiss or ate off our plate. We don't leave our dogs out in the heat or cold and when we lay down at night our dogs are on the bed or at least snuggled close by safe from the dark and dangers that roam in the night. We love our dogs despite their stinky breath and dog slobber. We love all dogs we have had in the past and especially the ones we have now."

I’ve been living, the past several months, in Johnson City, Tenn. And guess where I love to hang out. It's not any of the usual places that town leaders boast of. It's not ETSU. It's not the glitzy mall. It’s not the sporting venues—baseball fields, football or soccer fields, basketball palaces. It's not Olive Garden, Ruby Tuesdays, Panera Bread, and it’s not even Chick-Fil-A (my all-time favorite fast food eatery).

I'm drawn, instead to the Johnson City Dog Park. I go there often to pass the time with Michael Jackson and Little Joe. And I’ve met some good folks there. It’s about 3-4 acres of fenced in grass, trees, benches and fountains (where our dogs can romp and play and get a cool drink). And I’ve met some nice people there as well—gals like Bridgitt and Holly and Valerie and men like Bill, Bob, Chuck and Marvin.

Dog lovers all of them.

Good-hearted people all of them.

They have to be. Because their dogs help make them that way.

Arf, arf!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Some newspapers don't get it...

Like tens of millions of people in America and around the world, I've become entranced with the practically round-the-clock cable news coverage of missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370.

This is the biggest and most befuddling mystery in the history of aviation.

So many false leads. So many experts with their theories. Very few shreds of hard evidence.

How in tarnation does a Boeing 777 airliner with 239 souls aboard vanish into nothingness? No sign of crash wreckage unless those most recent fuzzy satellite images a couple of days ago will finally prove that the plane is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. As I write this now, however, spotters aboard ships and planes have scoured that region (where the satellites supposedly snapped the images) about 1,500 miles west of Perth, Australia. And the spotters have found nothing.

I worked in aircraft control and warning (radar) eons ago in the U.S. Air Force. Because of that, my sister asked me about four days after the Boeing 777 disappeared what I thought may have happened. I responded that I was just guessing, like everyone else, but it appeared to me that the Triple 7 had been hijacked. At the time I shared that with her, hardly anyone else had that theory. Now it's on the front burner of what may have happened to one of the world's safest and most technologically sophisticated passenger jets.

Putting on my journalism education hat, I continue, here in day 13 or 14 of the search for the jetliner to be amazed at why so many newspapers seem to give the BIGGEST STORY ON THE PLANET RIGHT NOW such scant coverage.

Note the photos of front pages that accompany this blog. One is from yesterday's edition of the Johnson City (Tenn.) Press. The other is today's online front page of The (Rock Hill, S.C.) Herald. Neither one of these front pages has one single word about the missing jet.

Hey, folks in journalism, this blog post is a wakeup call: the story of missing flight 370 is what people right now all over the world, in small towns and large ones, are talking about. They are devouring it. Don't believe me? Ask a few random people eating in restaurants or shopping in malls for what news they're most closely following. It's not Ukraine or Crimea. No one much cares about the shirtless horseback riding Russian President Putin (although that WAS intriguing how he rode that animal.)

What they DO care about is missing flight 370. What's happened to it? What's become of all those "souls" (cable TV news' words) on board?

Come on newspapers! Key into what readers REALLY want to know about, and do it on your showcase front pages--while the story of flight 370 is red hot gripping.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Kicking "corpse" in body bag shocks funeral home

What if they thought you were dead--so dead they had zipped you up in a body bag and carted you to a funeral home for embalming--but you were still alive?

Growing up, I remember as a boy all those Edgar Allan Poe movies about premature burial (meaning interment of people they thought had died, but they hadn't really). Instead those supposedly dead men and women still had beating hearts, but for some reason coroners or whoever couldn't detect them. So the poor unfortunate souls were put in coffins and laid to rest in graves.

In the Poe movies, you'd get a ghastly inside glimpse of those buried-alive folks scratching and clawing at the inside of their coffins, breathing what little precious air they had left to breathe, screaming and crying--all to no avail.

Horror upon grisly horrors.

And now a 78-year-old man in Lexington, Mississippi came "within a pea" (as my grandmother used to say) of suffering the same unthinkable fate.

After a coroner pronounced Walter Williams dead a few nights ago, his nephew told ABC affiliate WAPT that he stood there and watched the funeral home people zip Williams up in a body bag.

Whereupon a thought-to-be-dead Mr. Williams was taken to a place that specializes in taking care of the dead.

But just before they began embalming him, someone detected a kicking inside the body bag.

Imagine what the embalmers thought!

"He was not dead, long story short," the funeral home manager said.

So why was the man (shown in the picture accompanying this blog post) pronounced dead in the first place? A coroner surmises that his pacemaker may have shut down temporarily (stopping his heart) when he examined Williams and made the call.

So they put Mr. Williams in that body bag, and somewhere between where he "died" and the funeral home, the pacemaker restarted.

"It was a miraculous moment," said the coroner, who is an elected official and not a medical doctor. "Never in my life have I seen anything like it."

Williams' family members rejoiced, of course, and his story made national news.

Nagging, haunting question: How many others (still alive) have been embalmed and buried?

By the way, click here for a narrator's reading of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Premature Burial."