Category Archives: dogs

Papillion Therapy


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Dean Koontz wrote: “Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as a deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.”

I do believe that Mr. Koonz is correct. We don’t have kids, not that we didn’t try, but we have always had dogs. Our first two dogs were Dachshunds, Frieda, a Wire Hair that we got in Germany, and Greta a smooth hair that we got in Texas. They were both great dogs and we still have a soft spot for Wiener Dogs. 


But today we are blessed to have the three best dogs in the world, Minnie Scule, Izzy Bella, and Pierre. They are all Papillons, a small breed of Spaniels from France. The breed is ranked in the top ten most intelligent breeds and they are in my view scary smart. But they are also incredibly sweet, sensitive, playful, decidedly quirky and sometimes obnoxious, in a good way.


I love spending Saturday and Sunday morning with Judy and our babies. Sometimes we sleep late and then after they have gone out to do their business just lay in bed with them, and let them play or cuddle. It is one of the most therapeutic things in the world for both of us since we both suffer from PTSD and have struggled with depression. They are so therapeutic that I often stay off the internet and social media just to enjoy them. 


Our Papillon experience began with Molly, a half-Papillon and half-Dachshund mix that we got as a rescue in September of 2001. We lost her at age 14 in May of 2015, but she was an amazing dog. Exceptionally sensitive and sweet, Judy nicknamed her “Nurse Molly” because if we were physically sick or depressed she would be there doing whatever she could to comfort us. In 2011 Molly decided that she wanted to live with me when I was stationed in North Carolina as our home in Virginia with Judy couldn’t compete with chasing deer off my lawn or running on the beach. So a few months later we got Minnie.



Now Minnie was only two and a half pounds when we got her and she became Judy’s baby. Until she got too big she would sit on Judy’s shoulder like a Parrot. Minnie is funny. She’s very smart, and sweet, but very quirky. She talks like Scooby Doo and has something to say about everything. She’s now five years old, when I walk her in the neighborhood she likes to chase the ducks, geese, and rabbits occasionally diving into the water after a duck. She’s also my drinking buddy. She loves to steal my beer and is an incorrigible thief, but we love her. She can be aloof at times and acts like she’s the Queen of the manor. Minnie grew up a bit. We thought she would be about 7-8 pounds but she topped out at 12 pounds, sometimes a bit more. She has the light bone structure of a classic Papillon and is a Black and White with the black ticking that looks like freckles and a crooked blaze that makes her almost look like a dwarf Australian Shepherd.


A couple of months before we lost Molly we got Izzy. Izzy is fascinating. She like Molly is our nurse and once when we had a friend over and he was mourning the loss of his parents, she glued herself to him trying to make him feel better. In fact it is my plan to get her certified as a therapy dog. We got Izzy at the same age we got Minnie but she was already four pounds and built like a tank. The first time our vet met her he picked her up during the examination and said “My, she’s sturdy!” Sturdy is not a word commonly associated with the breed, but Izzy is just that. Slightly smaller in height and length than Minnie she outweighs Minnie by a pound or a pound and a half. She’s built like a tank, not an ounce of fat on her, just solid muscle and bone. When she jumps on you, especially if you’re not expecting it can take the wind out of you, it’s like being blindsided by a linebacker. Izzy is a very distinctive looking Tricolor who is also incredible agile and loves to dance doing pirouettes when she wants attention.



Izzy and Minnie have been together now a bit over two years and in February we ended up getting our little boy Pierre unexpectedly. Some friends found that his owner could not afford surgery for a luxating patella. They helped arrange for us to get him and he is a joy. He’s a year old and at 4.5 pounds is about as big as he is going to get. He’s incredibly sweet, has a bit of a grumpy side when he doesn’t want to do something, and like Minnie he is talkative, and like Izzy he is incredibly playful. Despite their size difference he and Izzy play constantly and when they wrestle they grapple like MMA fighters with Pierre fighting a bit out of his weight category, but he gives as good as he gets. Sometimes when we go to bed it is time for them to launch their evening Pappy War.


Our life is better for having our puppies, they are amazing therapy. So I guess when I get home from work I’ll get greeted by the three pups and when we get back from our time out with friends we’ll have our evening play and snuggle time with Minnie, Izzy, and Pierre.

Life is good. Have a great day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Papillon Gambit

Izzy and Minnie on the Hunt

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I love my two Papillons, Minnie and Izzy. Minnie is coming up on five years old while Izzy is coming up on two. They are from different breeders and have completely different personalities but they are a perfect pair and a great team.

They both are sweet and incredibly intelligent; in fact they are scary smart and they continue to surprise us with their scheming and attitude.

I try to walk them around the lake near our home two to three times a day. There are a lot of ducks as well as geese, not to mention other birds, squirrels, and rabbits for them to track and chase. I know that is nothing unusual for anyone with a dog, most dogs love to chase and to hunt. However, lately these two have pulled something new that none of our other dogs have ever done and which we have not taught them to do, though I wish I had. I hate to admit it but I do encourage their bad habits.

Recent they have adopted a classic military strategy to outflank and surround the ducks and geese. One will go down the bank of the lake and chase them toward the other who goes higher and then comes down to cut off their retreat. It is amazing to watch. They both have different methods of the hunt. Most of the time Izzy plunges headlong to the attack, but Minnie, she quietly sneaks up, almost crouching and tiptoeing as she stalks her prey. 

When they perform what I now call the Papillon Gambit, it is Izzy who goes down the bank to flush out the prey, while Minnie sneaks around the flank, but last night they switched roles. It was amazing to watch. Yesterday, during their morning walk Izzy took the low road on some Muscovy ducks while Minnie went high and dove down. This time the ducks didn’t realize it until the last second and for the first time I actually saw them take to flight in order to avoid being trapped. But this time they barely escaped. In a near panic the ducks turned and flew away from Minnie and a large drake barely avoided being snatched out of the air by Izzy. Had she got him it would have been really interesting. 


Minnie and Izzy 

Now mind you, Minnie and Izzy are not very big, even though they are large for Papillons, Minnie is 12 pounds while Izzy weighs in at 13 pounds. Papillons do vary in size, some as small as 3 pounds and some up to twenty, but most fall into the 6 to 8 pound range. Minnie is actually a bit taller and longer than Izzy, but Izzy is built like a tank. She doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her, but as our vet said when he first saw her as a puppy, she is sturdy. The ducks in question are bigger than either of them, the males (drakes) average 10 to 18 pounds in weight while the females are a bit smaller. It is really funny to see such little dogs stalking such big prey. The one Izzy almost caught was large, probably in the 15-16 pound range. 

For those that don’t know much about the breed, they are Spaniels. Like other bigger breeds of Spaniels they are not afraid of water, or mud and occasionally will dive into the water to go after ducks or geese. They are also considered to be among the top dog breeds in terms of intelligence. They are incredibly sweet, loyal, and unfortunately sometimes they are a bit headstrong, with an attitude that you wouldn’t believe. That being said I have never seen two dogs work in tandem as these two girls do. They execute perfect flanking movements in order to trap their prey, you’d think that they were foxes or wolves, but they are Pappies.


Back in the 17th and 18th Centuries Papillons were a favorite among French royalty, in addition to being great lap dogs they doubled as great ratters, keeping the royal palaces free of vermin. It is written that Queen Marie Antoinette carried her pet papillon with her to the guillotine;  nothing is written as to whether the dog shared her fate, but I can imagine that the Papillon took a bite out of the executioner’s leg. Likewise, Madame Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV, cherished a papillon called Inez. Despite being small, they are tough little dogs, and while incredibly sweet and friendly they are fearless. I find that quality quite endearing. 

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The papillon also appeared regularly in paintings featuring the 17th and 18th century royal children and ladies at court done by such old masters as Rubens, Titian and Van Dyck.Since we haven’t had problems with rats, Izzy tries to catch any flies or other insects that might come into view. It is fun to watch her trap and kill flies. 

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I have to say, that these two girls bring me a lot of joy and are exceptional therapy dogs for my continued struggle with the ongoing effects of PTSD. God I do enjoy them and how can I not?

Have a great weekend,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Ghost Dog Central

mollgrin

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Time for something a little less serious. People that have read my writings on this site over the past year know that I love dogs, and that my wife and I have had some very interesting furry babies throughout our thirty-two yearlong marriage.

We have two Papillions now, Minnie Scule and Izzy Bella. We had two dachshunds who both lived over 15 years, one of which, our Wire Hair Dachshund, Frieda, paid my wife and I visits after she had to be put down. Frieda, God love her was a total pain in the ass and fought us for sixteen years because she was the alpha dog and we were just the incompetent help. We figured that after that that she had a job helping to run Purgatory.

A few months after we lost Frieda, and we still had our fat smooth hair dachshund Greta, and Judy was at the vet and a lady had a small puppy in her arms that looked to Judy to be a red long hair dachshund. The puppy was a rescue that had been found covered in tar alongside North Carolina Highway 24 near Cape Carteret. Judy told the lady that we had lots of experience with dachshunds and that they could be quirky and gave the lady our number. A few days later the lady called and said she could not keep the puppy as her older dog could not handle her.

We went out and we met the lady and met Molly. Molly was not a full blooded dachshund, but a beautiful mix. When her fur grew out we figured that she was a Papillion-Dachshund mix, and according to many people appeared to be a designer dog. She was beautiful, and had a wonderful personality. It was love at first sight for me, she became “daddy’s baby.”

She, like Judy had to deal with long separations from me as a military pup, and when Greta passed away in 2003 she became an only dog. After I came home from Iraq terribly goofed up, often depressed, hyper-vigilant and sometimes nearly suicidal from Iraq, Molly helped keep me alive. When I was stationed as a geographic bachelor in Camp LeJeune, Judy had a partial Achilles tendon resection, and for about a month had to come down to my place in North Carolina because our home has far too many stairs and she could not navigate them. Of course Molly came with her, and Molly decided that she did not want to go home. Home could not compete with being able to go to the beach, or chase deer and other wildlife which existed right outside my door.

This did not impress Judy and so because we loved Molly’s Papillion temperament we got Minnie. But while I was in North Carolina Molly had to have surgery to remove a painful, but benign tumor from her right shoulder. The surgery was done at the same vet where Judy had Frieda put down when Frieda’s renal failure became acute. I got home with Molly who made a fast recovery and that night I sensed something odd. I sensed Frieda, and I began to see small dog sized shadow figures. Frieda had come back. When Molly and I returned to Virginia, Frieda came with us. I have occasionally felt her presence and seen the same shadow figure. When we came back from North Carolina Molly began to show the effects of Kidney disease as well. In February, knowing that Molly’s condition was getting worse we got our other Papillion, Izzy, a little dog who is very much like Molly, laid back, playful and exceptionally sweet. Though she was blind and sick, Molly was good to Izzy, and Izzy was always sweet to Molly.

We lost Molly on May 11th and it was very difficult, but Minnie and Izzy have been great. Since we lost Molly I have felt Molly’s presence in the house and in the car where we spent so much time together. However, something happened Monday which was fascinating. Molly returned in an unusual way.

Judy goes to help a friend’s little boy get to the bus stop a couple of days a week. To do so she gets up earlier than me and then I get up. I have terrible insomnia and all sorts of weird crazy dreams, and night terrors as a result of my time in Iraq and my battle with PTSD, and mornings are difficult. I was never a morning person, but now I’m really not one. When I was in Carolina, Molly would get up on the bed and if I hit the snooze alarm too many times would either nudge me, kiss me, or bark at me to get me up. Monday I had hit the snooze alarm and as I rolled back over I felt a dog walking on the bed. I thought that either Minnie or Izzy was up so I looked up and there was no dog. So I rolled back over. The alarm went off again and I hit the snooze. A couple of minutes later I felt dog steps on the bed, and then had a nudge in my back. I got up, and since no dogs were there I realized that Molly was back. I thanked her, and got up.

I miss Molly, but it seems that she is going to remain a part of my life, anytime that I hit the snooze too often. 

Call me crazy, but I can live with ghost dogs.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Friends, Puppies & Laughter: the Cure for the Celtic Funk 

  

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Last week really sucked and I do want to thank those of you who have been so kind to offer words of encouragement on the site or on other social media platforms. Last night was a contuation of the funk. I did not sleep well, had very strange dreams and nightmares and when I got up this morning I was in a deeper funk than I was anytime during the past week. So I just want to say thank you for the love, concern, support and prayers. 

For those that don’t know my family background, we are mostly Scotish, Irish and English with a little bit of French Hugenot and a smidgen of Scandnavian mixed in. Thus I am predominately of Celtic stock which can take a melancholy mood and make it worse, the only fixes for such a foul temper is some irreverent humor and beer. The humor I have enjoyed and I will enjoy the beer in not too long. 

Without reciting the litany of all the events that happened last week, including some that we will still have to face that could make last week look good, I have to say that I am in a far better state of mind that I was just a few hours ago. There are three things for this. First are the friends, many who have known me for years who have offered uncouragement and did not preach at me. Likewise there are my friends that I am getting to know who follow and comment on what I write here, as well as those on Twitter. It would take so much time to mention everyone who has been so kind and I fear that I would leave someone out. But you all know who you are and I have responded individually to all of you. God bless you and thank you. 

  

That being said last week I felt like my life was a bad country and western song and kind of reminded me of the opening scene of the movie “Stripes” starring Bill Murray. After losing his job, his car, his girlfriend and having dropped his pizza on the ground he simply said “and then depression set in.” I have been so depressed this past week, and I am sure that when I see her next that my shrink will note in my chart that I am officially suffering from clinical depression. But my friends I digress…

Today started out as crappy as any of the past week. I got in to work early, checked my e-mail and then went down to my empty chapel having locked my keys in my office. I had to get security to get the master key to let me in so I could open up the chapel for the throngs of people who do not show up. Then I had to get an external hard drive to take to the Apple Store as my old MacBook Pro went crazy and crapped out on me yesterday. I can either spend big bucks to have it repaired or pay a couple of hundred buck more for the new and improved model. 

  

I got to the mall where the Apple Store is located and found out that it did not open until eleven a.m. I mean that they don’t even unlock the doors until eleven. So I am standing in Barnes and Noble, which by the way is open wondering just why the hell I can’t walk the mall even if no stores are open. So in frustration I go to the Starbucks inside Barnes and Noble to get a cup of coffee. In front of me is a couple who looked far older than me though I am sure they were probably about my age. The difference is that they were dressed like grown ups, something that to Judy’s consternation I am incapable of doing. This couple were either on their way to or on their way from church and the wife was agonizing over what type of tea to purchase, maybe it was for a gift or for their own consumption by the woman was deeply serious about what would be a key decision in life. 

So the girl behind the counter, the barista, I think that is what we call them now asks me what I would like. 

I responded with my standard line, “plain black coffee.” When she asked if I wanted her to leave room for creame or sugar I responded “no I drink it dark and bitter like my life.” That was more true than usual this morning, usually I mean it as a joke, but today I was quite serious. When I said it the church lady looked up from her quest for the perfect tea and almost in shock said “you poor man.” Somehow that cheered me up a bit. I attempted to assuage her obviously genuine concern by giving her a big smile and a wink. gave her a big smile and wink. 

I sat down and had my dark and bitter coffee and as I did so my Facebook and Twtter friends were offering words of encouragement. Finally the mall open its doors and I was able to go to the Apple Store and drop off the external hard drive to get all my data from the old computer. 

When I got home I was treated by Minnie and Izzy. There is nothing like the greeting of sweet puppies to melt one’s heart and to cheer one up. That was nice. Of course Judy and I were able to talk about the week, reflect on Molly and our concerns about what she might face. We had some good laughs and then I saw a quote that made me laugh harder than I have all week. It is from Stephen King.

“When his life was ruined, his family killed, his farm destroyed, Job knelt down on the ground and yelled up to the heavens, ‘Why God? Why me?’ And the thundering voice of God answered ‘There’s just something about you that pisses me off.’

I about hurt myself laughing and now I feel so much better. I’m sure I will quote it the next time Job is in the lectionary readings for a Sunday. Perhaps a tiny bit of blasphemy is the best medicine after all. 

  

Have a great Sunday, and thank you for everything.

Peace

Padre Steve+ 


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The Legacy of Molly

mollybag

Molly is now with us in spirit. As I wrote yesterday I feel her presence whenever I get in the car, where she and I spent countless hours. But her influence remains because if it was not for the happy, sweet and cheerful Papillon side of her we probably would never had considered getting a Papillon. Molly was a rescue, what some might say an “accident” in our lives. However, if she was an accident, she was the most wonderful accident that one could encounter. As we found out with Molly, these little babies are tough and have an attitude to match. They are sweet, but when they want they can be defiant as hell, something that I find most endearing.

pappy puppies

When Molly abandoned Judy to keep me alive we ended up getting Minnie, or her as she is known by her full name “Minnie Scule.” Minnie has been wonderful. She is sweet, smart and compared to Molly a bit on the serious side. In February, with Molly showing the effects of age and Minnie needing a play-mate we got Izzy, or “Izzy Bella.” Of course like all of our dogs we don’t always go by those names. Minnie is sometimes just known as “the Scule” while Izzy has a number of nicknames including “Bella, Belle, Izzy and Bellaisama”  which in a way almost sound like Mafia nicknames. Molly had her own share of nicknames being Molly Fur, Fur Puppy, the Moll, or just plain Fur. In the past few months these two little dogs have become inseparable buddies and partners in crime, this has led to us simply calling out “Pappies!” when we want their attention.  The two little brats respond to that very well.

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They play incessantly with each other and us. Those who have pappies know that when they start playing that they can get are known as the “zoomies” where they run like little bats out of hell and make you chase them. When we first got Molly we lived in places without fences, which meant when she got the zoomies she made us chase her around the neighborhood and through the woods behind the house until she was tired and we were angry. Thankfully we have a fenced back yard and when Minnie and Izzy get the zoomies it is a bit safer for all concerned.

pappy puppies 2

We miss our Molly but we are blessed. Again thank you all for your wonderful expressions of sympathy and condolence this week. Those words have meant so much to both of us.

Tomorrow I am going to publish, or possibly begin a short series on Armed Forces Day which occurs this weekend.

Have a great night,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Presence of Molly

 

wherewegoingdad

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”  Milan Kundera

Molly Fur is still with me. Though we had to have her put down Monday I have felt her presence, especially as I drive too and from work. You see Molly was my constant companion and that wonderful furry baby spent innumerable hours traveling with me in North Carolina and on what seemed were our endless treks between Emerald Isle and Virginia Beach.

Molly loved riding with me and it did not matter how long or short the the trip was she had developed her own rituals for the rides. She would take a drink from her water dish before leaving the house, ensure that she had peed before hopping into the car and then take her place either in the front seat next to me of the back seat, centered so she could look over my shoulder. She was a comforting presence on those long trips and she savored every moment of them, especially when we would stop at a drive through for lunch and she would get her “Molly Burger.” When we got to our destination she was always happy, if coming home to Virginia she would joyfully run to Judy at the front door, and if heading back to Emerald Isle demand that I walk her to the beach, all the while hunting for deer.

I have never seen a dog savor life as much as Molly and thus I am not surprised that I still feel her presence in the car. Yesterday was funny because I thought I saw her shadow in the seat next to me and I reached over to pet her. She wasn’t there, but I could feel her spirit. That may sound weird to some of you, even religious people who believe in an afterlife, but somehow exclude everything but we contemptible human beings from it. I think that one of my favorite passages in the Bible is the one in Romans chapter eight which talks about the creation awaits its redemption, even groans for its redemption, and having heard Molly groan I know that this means dogs and other furry friends too. Personally I don’t give a flying fuck if any supposedly Christian leader condemns me as a heretic, for believing this.  But as Mark Twain said: “The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s.”  Since I am already stoking the fires of Hell that according to some await me let me echo the words of Will Rogers who said “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went,”   even as I totally agree with the late curmudgeon Andy Rooney  who said “The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”   I can feel the flames heating up, can’t you?

So, since I have already been condemned as a heretic to Hell even by some Christian “friends”  who have had the nerve to do so on social media, this matters not.  For I know that Molly is with me any time I get in my car. She is now like a guardian angel and I can feel her presence and frankly I would rather have her spiritual presence and the presence of my Papillon Pack of Minnie Scule and Izzy Bella around me than most people. A friend of mine noted that I have to start training up Izzy in “the way of the dog” not to replace Molly, but to be my next guardian angel. Thankfully, the little girl is already working on that.

So until tomorrow, thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers and love.

I wish you all the greatest love and joy possible. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Memories of Molly & Thanks to Friends

 

molly and orioles hat

Dean Koontz wrote:

“No matter how close we are to another person, few human relationships are as free from strife, disagreement, and frustration as is the relationship you have with a good dog. Few human beings give of themselves to another as a dog gives of itself. I also suspect that we cherish dogs because their unblemished souls make us wish – consciously or unconsciously – that we were as innocent as they are, and make us yearn for a place where innocence is universal and where the meanness, the betrayals, and the cruelties of this world are unknown.”  

As most of you know from what I posted yesterday we had to have Molly Fur, the wonderful dog who saved my life after Iraq put down at the age of fourteen. I knew her loss would hit me hard, however I have always tried to conduct myself in such situations as would Mr. Spock on Star Trek, or Commander Data in Star Trek the Next Generation before he got the emotion chip implanted. That being said I knew that I would cry, however, little did I expect that every time I turned around that I be crying.

Honestly I feel a lot like Robert De Niro playing the mobster Paul Viti in the movie Analyze This, where he tells his shrink played by Billy Crystal: “The other day, I was watching a commercial with a kid playing with a couple of puppies, I cried for forty five minutes! You slap a pair of tits on me, I’m a woman!” But I digress…

Molly meant more to me than almost anything in life. I am convinced that had she not come to live with me when I was stationed in Camp Lejeune away from Judy, that I would have succumbed to despair and found a way to die without making it look like suicide. I probably would have driven off the bridge to Emerald Isle or driven into the trees lining one of the state highways on the way to or from work.

However, having Molly there kept me from this because I wondered what the effect would have been on Molly. Stanley Coren wrote:“The greatest fear dogs know is the fear that you will not come back when you go out the door without them.”  I couldn’t do that to her, she loved me too much and would not have understood.

Having Molly with me in North Carolina gave me someone to come home to, and her cheerfulness and devotion kept me going through some of the darkest times of my life. Just having her waiting for me when I came home made all the difference and today for the first time I came home from work and Molly was not there to great me. It really hit me again, that she was gone .

mollybag

Molly was so irresistibly funny, sweet and beautiful and she lived her whole life that way, caring for Judy as much as she cared for me. Molly would sit with me on a huge bean bag chair and watch baseball, sometimes she would be looking at the television so intently I thought she had to be watching the games at least as much as she was comforting me, especially during the 2012 season when the San Francisco Giants won their second World Series title. She hardly left my side during those games.

mollgrin

Thankfully, Molly never developed the taste for beer that our now Senior Dog on Deck, Minnie has, otherwise I would have probably had to pour her out of the beanbag to chase the deer around the house.

Over the past couple of days Judy and I have been showed such care and love by family and friends, in person as well as on Facebook. Likewise I have received so many kind words and thoughts from people who follow me here or on Twitter.

I know that sometimes social media can be poisonous and filled with vitriol. However, that being said such is not always the case. There are a lot of wonderful people out there on Twitter, Facebook and in the blogosphere.  The kindness shown by people people that I have never met in person who follow me on this site and Twitter has been amazing.

editormolly

I think Molly will always be with Me

Your kindness  reduces me to tears, just like Paul Viti, and just like is happening to me right now as I wipe the tears from my eyes. But those tears are not tears of sadness. They are tears of appreciation and thanksgiving, to Molly who saved my life, and for all who have taken just a few moments of time to offer a word of kindness. Those words have enabled me to remember all those times that Molly made my life better, helped keep me alive, and in the process probably made me a better person in spite of myself.

Thank you all so much.

Blessings, Love and Peace

Padre Steve+

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