Tribute to a Goodwill Ambassador
In July of 2010, I got a call at work from my wife Clara. She asked me, "Are you ready for another dog?"
A year earlier Lance had died. Another dog? In truth, I had been enjoying the absence of those grueling hikes that Lance forced upon me daily up until the last several months of his life. I also was enjoying the peace, quiet and safety after living with the “devil dog” for seven years (those familiar with Lance will understand). But, despite all he put me through, I loved Lance and, as a result of that fact, another issue arose in my mind: Had I grieved the loss of Lance sufficiently? What constitutes a respectful amount of mourning? How long should you grieve the loss of one dog before getting another?
Clara had phoned me from the local grocery store. There was a man in the parking lot that was trying to give away a puppy he had in a crate. He said if someone didn't take the dog in the next half hour, he was going to take him to the pound. He had bought the dog as a peace offering to his estranged wife. She told him she still didn’t want him, and she didn’t want the dog either. Apparently, he felt the same way about the dog. He’d had the dog several months but hadn’t given it a name.
How could I say no? That night, when I got home I was greeted by Buddy, a four-month-old poodle/ beagle mix.
The following morning, I was sitting on the stoop with our new dog. I absent-mindedly began massaging his rump. Buddy whirled around and grabbed my hand with his teeth. I yanked my hand away and thought flashed through my head The last dog I had was a terror and now this one appears to be too! Have I been wrong about dogs all my life?. A few minutes later when I explained to Clara what happened, she laughed, “ I took Buddy right to the vet yesterday and he got a couple of shots in his butt. No doubt it’s still sensitive.” I had to laugh at how Lance had conditioned me. :)
Like Lance, Buddy was very intelligent (was that his “poodle” showing?) Unlike Lance, and to my great relief, Buddy was happy to take a walk of only a couple hundred yards. Temperamentally, Buddy proved to be a complete 180° turn from Lance. Sort of the calm after Lance’s storm. He was a total marshmallow. Buddy didn’t bite his rescuers, or anybody else, for that matter. He befriended complete strangers in a matter of seconds. Though Clara was clearly his favorite, Buddy would occasionally hop onto my lap, just to let me know I was OK in his book too. Sometimes I think of him as our reward for having endured Lance.
Buddy was an absolute sweetheart. I am reminded of the time, while I was walking him at dusk, when we came to within a few feet of a deer standing alongside the road. Buddy did not chase after or even bark at the deer. As for the deer, he stood calmly and watched us as we continued to walk by him. I would think that typically in such a situation a deer would have headed for the woods long before we had gotten near him. I can’t help but think that Buddy projected a mellow aura that other animals picked up on.
A few months later, we were out walking, and Buddy was spooked and suddenly did a sideways leap. I looked down and saw what had startled him—a cricket.
On another occasion, I was walking Buddy and he started chasing a butterfly. When he caught up to his prey he turned and looked at me as if to say, “What am I supposed to do now?” I said nothing and Buddy followed his instincts—he let the butterfly go on its merry way.
One day in January of 2020, I had just started walking with Buddy when he collapsed to the ground. At first, I thought he had become paralyzed. He lay on the ground and looked up at me. His face wore a human-like expression that cried out What’s happening to me? I’m scared! What do I do? Help me! all rolled into one. Buddy got back on his feet, and we immediately returned home.
That same day Buddy was diagnosed with congestive heart disease. That called to mind an incident that occurred several years earlier. During a walk, Buddy signaled to me he wanted(in hindsight, needed!) to be carried the rest of the way home. I thought What a spoiled pooch! Now I realized he had been trying to send a warning I didn’t picked up on.
Dog ownership suddenly morphed into a day-to-day, minute-to-minute, second–to-second experience. Buddy began a regular regimen of visits to the veterinarian and an assortment of medications. We spent about $400-$500 a month on visits to the clinic and another $270 a month on medications. This was money that—as the saying goes—we didn’t have to spend.
Lance had kept us on edge because of his biting tendencies. Buddy now had us on edge because of his fragile physical condition. He suffered sporadic wheezing spells, gasping for breath, even while sitting or lying down. Clara and I could only watch and hope our dog wasn’t dying right in front of us. We became nervous wrecks, fearing the moment the other shoe would drop.
At night, Buddy began sleeping by himself on the living room floor. The vet said that in Buddy’s condition, the cool hardwood floor provided a measure of relief. When I got up each morning and came out of the bedroom, I was never sure if I’d find him alive or dead. I was afraid to turn a light on and find out. In the dark, I’d go into the kitchen to make coffee, praying that Buddy would show some signs of life. When I heard his tail begin to thump on the floor, my immediate feeling was one of immense relief. Buddy had lived to see another day! We were spending thousands of dollars and living on an emotional roller coaster just to hear a tail thump. Dog lovers know that’s a worthwhile investment.
On July 23, 2020, the other shoe dropped. Buddy was euthanized at the vet’s office. We have his ashes and will always remember Buddy, our goodwill ambassador.
If there is a Rainbow Bridge I expect Buddy has met up with Lance there. Hopefully by now, Lance has learned how to play well with others! If not, Buddy is the perfect goodwill ambassador to show him the way. Here’s how I picture that meeting of Lance and Buddy : Lance's Dog Patch Blog - Lance: A Spirit Unbroken (lanceaspiritunbroken.com)
Stream of Consciousness
Had a great time not long ago at a local vendor’s event in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. My spot was next to a Greyhound rescue organization. That turned out to be serendipitous because two of their volunteers purchased a copy of Lance: A Spirit Unbroken. My wife Clara returned the favor by donating to their cause.
While the event was going on, I was contacted via the Internet by-among many other folks- Patricia in the United Kingdom, Nicole in Australia, Chuck in Kentucky, U.S.A., and Elizabeth in Norway. People from all over the world are expressing interest in Lance’s saga.
What makes this so special is that for ten years, Lance’s life was headed nowhere. On a narrow patch in the backyard of a homeowner in a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania (USA), Lance languished and suffered in obscurity for over a decade, doomed to die in that same obscurity. Now, because of the twists and turns of fate, a dog that had existed in life’s shadows is getting the recognition he deserves. Chrissie Hall, an early reader of Lance: A Spirit Unbroken, said she could tell I put my heart and soul into writing this book. She’s right. What makes that effort gratifying is seeing readers react so strongly with their hearts and souls, too.
When prospective readers ask me how Lance’s story will make them feel, I answer that different parts of the book can make a person sad, happy, angry, laugh til the cows come home or, perhaps, inspired. When recalling Lance’s reaction to the death of Clara’s brother, I myself am still brought to tears—and not just of sadness. That was as emotional an event as I’ve had with any living creature. On the flipside, car rides with Lance (I can laugh now) were both ill-advised and a hoot! Lance was a lot of things but never boring.
Thanks for following this stream of consciousness to its end. Because you did here's a little something extra! https://binged.it/3AxLnvp
No, I’m not talking about Lance this time. I’m referring to Quincy, a good-natured terrier mix I met back in the early 1980s while living on Long Island. Fate had thrown me into the house where he lived with his neglectful (abusive?) owners.
Quincy and I hit it off and I took over responsibility for his care. That included giving him his fair share of exercise, something he hadn’t gotten at all up to then. Whenever I could, I drove him to a nearby high school where I put in mileage on a quarter-mile track. At times, Quincy would run right alongside me as we completed lap after lap together. Then, most likely bored, he’d wander off to do dog research inside the large, fenced school property. He often came back to join me as I continued to run.
One day, Quincy and I were in my car heading for a workout. The day was hot and sunny. I was driving a VW beetle complete with open window air-conditioning :-) We were traveling on Nassau Boulevard near its intersection with Southern State Parkway. It was noontime and the two-lane(in each direction) road was loaded with traffic. I glanced over to see how my canine passenger was doing only to see he’d climbed halfway out of the car! Before I could grab what remained of him inside the car, Quincy squeezed through the partially open front passenger window and flew the coop! I slammed on the brakes, only to hear other drivers slam on theirs behind me. Then began a serenade of blaring horns.
I jumped out of my car, certain to find a dead dog—the guilt immediately set in. To my relief, I saw no dog carcass on the road. I spotted Quincy on the opposite side of Nassau Boulevard. He had been in pursuit of who-knows-what and had reached a grassy area on the other side of the street . How he had gotten across four lanes of heavy traffic unscathed defied logic. I yelled ”Quincy, stay!” and prepared to negotiate traffic on foot to get to him. Just to make things more interesting, quite a few vehicles weren’t slowing down at all, either oblivious to or unconcerned about a loose dog—or me, for that matter.
Quincy interpreted “Stay” as “Come.” He lost all interest in whatever he’d been chasing. Instead, completely ignoring traffic, he came running back towards me as if we were long lost friends. I held my breath as several cars swerved to avoid him while others sped by, undeterred by a jaywalking canine. Miraculously, Quincy made it to my car which I’d left standing in one of the two northbound lanes. I corralled the wayward dog by the collar and ushered him back into my vehicle. Immediately, the window on his side was rolled up tight.
To cross those four lanes and then do the return trip gives new meaning to the phrase pushing the envelope. I thanked my lucky stars—and Quincy’s—that, on a road teeming with cars, not one vehicle had struck him. I was extremely grateful but I’m guessing Quincy never knew what didn’t hit him. We drove on to the high school as if nothing had happened—and, in a sense it hadn’t.
In case you missed it, for the rest of Quincy’s story please go to A Story within a Story (walterstoffelauthor.com)
Lance's greatest Tweets(up to now!)
I have a soft spot for dogs like me—the rescued kind.
My spirit remains unbroken. I hope yours does too!
I wanted to be Man’s Best Friend, but my abusers wouldn’t let me.
Give me one good reason not to adopt a dog…I said good reason!
Please adopt a dog right now. Don’t make him wait ten years like I did.
I have a bone to pick with abusers.
A rescued dog can do anything a purchased dog can—and just may be even more appreciative.
Dogs are sanity in an insane world.
I don’t like images of animal abuse on Twitter. It’s a personal thing, my friend.
On hikes, my rescuer got dog-tired, not me.
A dog is smart enough to know sitting on command is nothing special; he’s also smart enough to know humans think it is, so he graciously humors them.
My rescuer had no idea what he was getting into. I did.
Do you leave your dog outside 24/7? Shame on you!
If you took it on the chin for ten years like I did, you’d have issues too.
The veterinarian said I’d been to hell and back. If I can make it, so can you!
Don’t let people crush you; I didn’t.
Dogs can be many things. I, for one, am inspirational.
PLEASE VISIT ME ON TWITTER: LANCE@LANCEUNBROKEN
You know you're a dog lover if...
You relax because you see your dog is relaxed.
Just about anything your dog does you find entertaining.
When talking to your dog, you keep the conversation going no matter what your dog’s response is.
You happily anticipate your dog’s greeting when you come home.
You read labels on dog food more diligently than you do on human food.
You feel guilty if you fail to walk your dog.
You feel a sense of accomplishment when your dog pees or poops (outside the house, of course!).
You feed your dog before you feed yourself.
You spend more attention (and money) tending to your dog’s health than you do to your own well-being.
You don’t mind the fact that the floors in your house are littered with dog toys.
You have a dog despite the fact you’re allergic to canines.
You excuse your dog’s bad behavior more easily than you do any human’s.
When your dog destroys furniture, you keep the dog whether or not you get rid of the furniture.
You don't worry about where their tongue might have been immediately prior to slobbering all over your face.
You don't kick your dog off the bed; you make room for them.
I’m sure I missed other tell-tail (misspelling intentional!) signs. Can you add to the list?
Bittersweet but Beautiful!
The Rainbow Bridge
A year after losing Lance, my wife and I rescued a poodle/beagle we named Buddy. And that's just what he turned out to be. Please go here for my essay on Buddy: Lance's Dog Patch Blog - Lance: A Spirit Unbroken (lanceaspiritunbroken.com)
The following is a description of how I imagine a meeting between Lance and Buddy might go:
For a brief moment, everything went dark. Then, Buddy opened his eyes and was immediately dazzled by incredibly bright light. Coming from a short distance away, he heard barking. Buddy sprang to his feet and ran in the direction of the canine crooning. In a matter of seconds, he reached one end of a huge bridge that was surrounded by the largest rainbow he’d ever seen. There was a black and white border collie waiting to greet him and escort him into the world that began at the other end of the bridge. This was Buddy’s new home. His final home.
“Hi, Buddy! I’m Lance.”
“So, you’re Lance! Mom and dad used to talk about you a lot. Boy, did you make an impression on them!”
“I hope they said good things about me.”
“Oh, they did. They said you were a handful, but they’d do it all over again if they had to.”
“That’s great to hear. What a relief! The way I grew up I was never sure if anybody really cared about me. I mean Anna was nice to me, but she’d always come and then go. As for the Schmidts…Grr! Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot. Up here, there’s never any need to growl.”
Buddy had a question. "What does everybody do around here? Down on earth, I spent the whole day getting spoiled by mom and dad. “
“They spoiled me too, or at least as much as I’d let them. I just could never quite get my act together to fully enjoy the good life. You were lucky.”
“I realized that after I heard mom and dad talking about how you lived before they got you. Wow, you went through a lot!”
“Well, it finally did get better, but it took some doing. You know, I wonder what dad was thinking about when he walked me from my owners’ property and then stuck me back on that darn run again. I mean, I broke loose and showed up at dad’s place not once, but twice and he still didn’t get it! I’d say he was a little thick between the ears, but then again, he’s only a human, not a border collie.”
“Believe me, he regrets that a lot.”
“Well, that was then, and this is now. I’ve been waiting for you because the word was out that you’d be “coming home” any day now. It’s a pretty good set up. They’ve got the largest field you’ve ever seen and there’s a river, a pond and even a gentle stream for the less adventurous dogs. Whenever you get thirsty running around a fresh bowl of water magically appears right in front of you. Nobody gets sick here either. “
“So, Lance, how long have you been here?”
“I’m not sure exactly. Anyway, time is unimportant up here. All I know is that I got some treatment before they let me go across the bridge. You know, since I was a problem dog, they had to make some adjustments to my thinking. No medication and no operation were needed. It’s like everything else around here—a miracle. I had to come here to finally find peace of mind.”
“It seems like a nice place, but I miss mom and dad, especially mom.”
“Buddy, on the other side of the bridge you’ll see lots of doggy parents. The same thing that happened to you and me and all the other dogs here, happened to them and they came here to reunite with their pets. This time it’s forever. Only the good dog owners, of course. I’ll never have to fear the Schmidts again—not ever!”
“But when are mommy and daddy going to get here?”
“You and I will have to wait for a while. They still have work to do down on earth. You know, like finding another dog in need like you and I were. Enough of this small talk. What do you want to do—take a walk, go swimming, meet and greet all your furever friends forever…and I do mean forever! I guarantee you no one here will ever leave you or turn against you. That’s an unwritten but hard and fast rule.”
“Well Lance, I’d like to go for a walk, but you know I wasn’t allowed to for my last six months down there because of my heart condition.”
“Let me ask you this—are you feeling any pain?”
“Come to think of it, no.”
“See? Buddy, I’m telling you. It’s a whole different ballgame up here.”
“So, what’s next?”
“Let’s cross the bridge and I’ll introduce you to some of my pals. Of course, we’re all pals around here. C’mon! Last one into Rainbow Land is a doggy’s uncle!”
Lance took off at full speed with Buddy doing his best to keep up.
Help! No, I’m not asking for financial assistance, although all contributions would be gratefully accepted. You know, that starving artist thing.
The assistance I am asking for pertains to Lance’s blog. One of Lance’s followers regularly provides me with great videos like the one you’ll see here: https://bit.ly/3DYwW65 The material she sends helps me cut down on the research time required to prepare for each month’s new post and, even better, the videos are so entertaining for us fellow dog lovers! If you have any videos regarding dogs, whether taken from the Internet or from your own personal collection, please consider sharing them on Lance’s Dog Patch.
Even more importantly, if you know of a special pooch — either from the past or in your present — please get in touch with me. Scanning through Lance’s blog, you’ll see personal stories that are touching and even dramatic. We can certainly put something together to memorialize any dog you consider extra special. We’re talking everything from an expensive purebred to the most woe begotten rescue. Had a special dog growing up? Have fond memories of a special dog no longer with you? Have a unique dog right now? Know anyone else with a good dog story? Please let me know. Your assistance in making Lance’s page the best it can be is greatly appreciated.
P.S. In keeping with this month's Thanksgiving theme, I'd like to take you back in time a bit. I never get tired of this video and hopefully you don't either. If you've never seen it, you're in for a surprise! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IhqE8IIzUA
Lance for Congress!
As November 8th approaches, Lance's opponents beat around the bush while Lance makes no bones about where he stands on the issues. If elected, he promises to sink his teeth into the country’s problems:
Once in Congress, he’ll take a bite out of crime.
Safety for the nation’s most vulnerable is a major issue for Lance. He has a bone to pick with abusers.
If elected, Lance will insist on stricter enforcement of leash laws in public places. He’s tired of seeing dogs accompanied by unrestrained humans.
(In the photo above) Lance reacts to his opponent’s attack ad in the newspaper.
Lance will listen to his constituents. He’s all ears.
Illegal immigration? Who better to resolve that issue than a border collie?
Lance will help the homeless because he’s been there himself.
This country’s adversaries will learn to take Lance seriously. Lance’s bite is far worse than his bark.
Lance will tackle the nation's problems with dogged determination.
Is Lance qualified to serve in Congress? Let’s just say he’s never bitten off more than he can chew.
Lance promises not to run for reelection. After his first term, he’ll be dog gone.
Having lived in uncertainty for the first ten years of his life, Lance knows the importance of protecting Social Security.
Lance will fight discrimination. Intolerance really ticks him off.
Jobs going overseas? If elected, Lance will retrieve them.
Lance would never lead this country down the wrong path.
(In the photo below) Here’s Lance with a potential constituent. Even felines fancy Lance—he’s the cat’s meow.
Vote Lance in 2022!
A home without a dog is like…
Day without night
Bells without whistles
Tom without Jerry
Salt without pepper
A bride without a groom
Abbott without Costello
Scotch without soda
Pork without beans
Thunder without lightning
A joke without a punchline
Pie ala mode without ice cream
Government without taxes
Rimsky without Korsakov (okay, I’m stretching it a bit!)
In other words, in a home without a dog, something is missing.
Can you add any examples to this list?
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).
All About Dogpatch Blog Dogs And Convicts Dogs As Therapy Lance: A Spirit Unbroken Book
Lance: A Spirit Unbroken ©2017-19 Walter Stoffel.
Home | Author Bio | Chapter One | Reviews | Buy the Book | Contact