It was one long, hot, busy, and nostalgic weekend. As usual my weekends are as busy as my weeks, and this weekend seemed no different. My mind was focused on all I had to do, while my heart and spirit was struggling…
Stiggys Dogs participated in our first Dog Bowl, a street fair dedicated to dog lovers and owner’s. It draws a big crowd and our Volunteer Of The Month, Lynda Gibson reserved Stiggys a booth. Both Lynda and Kim Saks worked hard on this, and I was so surprised when I arrived. It was Saturday afternoon, the show had been open for a few hours, the day was full of sun, the park was full of people and dogs. I roamed the isles, desperately looking for our booth….however, it wasn’t hard to find. There we were, a red white and Blue tent, sticking out patriotically from the other white ones. (which Lynda donated to us!- THANK YOU) My mouth hung open as it took a few minutes to take it all in…. The tent (where did it come from?), the Stiggys Dogs Banner proudly hanging, Camo bandanna’s with ‘I Love Stiggys Dogs’ printed on them, para-cord bracelets donated by Whimsical Cauldron, pens with our name on them…..it was like Christmas!!! Tears were filling up in my eyes, then my eyes stopped at the billboard, the picture of Ben staring at me. A harsh reality check. Tears full flow….
The day was great! There were so many people, so many cute dogs and puppies of all breeds. Our next Veteran, Mike and his family made the drive over to meet us. It was so good to see them, have some time to get to know each other, and even got to look at a few dogs!! Carrie, Ben Mother, joined us for the day to help. I was happy to have her there as she was a great force behind the people who would stop to talk. I distinctly remember talking to someone and overhearing Carrie say “Ben, who this is in honor of, was my son, Killed in Action….” her voice trailing off as the tears started again. Another harsh reality. Never, as parents do we ever think we will be one day standing at a street fair, talking about a organization that is in honor of our child…..I walked over to Carrie, we hugged, no words needed. I want to take this time to personally Thank You Carrie, I know that day was hard, and I am so proud of you!
I feel asleep that night exhausted, mentally and physically. Hives all over my body from the sun, head dizzy. I woke to the sound of thunder. I arrived by myself to set up, having it all under control. It took a few to get things all set up, just as the sun was coming out. That did not last long however as a storm was brewing in the distance. “Perfect tornado weather” I said to my husband on the phone, minutes before. Out of now where, the sky turned dark, the wind whipped up, and when the dogs started to howl and bark…..I knew we were in danger. The tent blew up and off, the paper, signs, business cards went everywhere. People were scrambling, and for a moment, I really thought I was in serious trouble. The hail came down, followed by rain then lightning. Here we all were, in the middle of a field with no cover! The *storm* lasted 1o minutes, but the damage was done. I looked up, everything a mess, and in the distance I see Lynda coming towards me bearing towels!!! I was never so happy!! The sky’s turned blue again, Lynda stayed and helped me…and anyone who came after 12:00 had no idea of the morning we had. What a great event this turned out to be. We got to meet so many of Stiggsy fans and supporters. Random people I did not know saw the signs and would say “Stiggys Dogs, I am a fan on Facebook”. One person even noticed our Vote for Honor sign, and said, “I vote for her everyday!” Not to mention the many people who stopped to talk and learned something about PTSD, Service dogs, and Doc Stiggy.
Monday, Memorial Day, we were invited to attend the Parade in Howell. This was such an honor to walk and represent Ben, and all our Veterans. (It was last minute-but next year we will be able to have most our guys there!) . This year, it was me, Donna Fournier (our Director of Training) and Veteran Jeremiah Pedro with his Service Dog in training, Bentley. Pedro (as he likes to be called) is here training with and we invited him to join. This was his decision to do so, we knew it would be a tough day- full of crowds, being on the spot light, just newly paired, plus the meaning of the day itself. We were quiet as we waited in line, Donna, Pedro and myslef. I had Gunny with me, who was sitting on my foot, head on my leg, eyes on me. He could feel my stress, the emotions building inside that I was trying to control. I rubbed his ears, grateful he was there for me. The Marching Band started to play, the bagpipes, and the yellow and green uniforms….the colors of Ben High School. When Taps started playing the tears started pouring. I was glad it was so hot that day, people probably thought I was walking and wiping the sweat off from my sunglasses, not tears. I was grateful Donna was there, running *FBI special agent* for Pedro. Since this was his first big event and outing with Bentley, Donna was near by, watching...both Perdo and Bentley. I was so self absorbed with thoughts, memories and emotion that it wasn’t until half way thru that I looked over and saw Bentley and Pedro…..Bentley right next to Pedro, tight fit, looking cautiously, prancing proudly. They were pace by pace, the perfect team. The tears flowed again, this time out of pride, accomplishment and pure enjoyment of the vision. This was a lot for both of them to do, Thank you Pedro! The day ended with a big reward that they deserved….Bentley and Pedro had their first night alone together, at a hotel.
It was a long weekend. It was the perfect weekend. It was exactly what it was supposed to be…..in honor of and remembering our heroes.
“The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.”