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As long as I have worked as a teacher, I have maintained that, before parents send children off to their very first day of school, they ought to make sure that the little ones have mastered "basic German Shepherd."  Which is to say that, by the time your youngster hits the classroom, they should have a clear understanding of those one-word commands that nearly any dog can grasp:  Come.  Sit.  No.  Go.  Stay.

It is that "Stay" that I seem to be contemplating these days.  Just stay.  Of all the things that I have done in the service of this relationship, and in service to this Man, it seems that, for now, the best I can do; the only thing that is wanted; the only thing left to offer is the act and choice of staying.  Here.  In this place.  Without demand and without expectation.  Keeping the long ago promise of always, and all ways.

Which all seems to bring me back to another dog metaphor.  There is a lyric, penned by a singer/songwriter that I met years ago at Glacier National Park in Montana.  Jack Gladstone wrote these lyrics to commemorate a herding dog named Old Shep (lessons in loyalty, patience, and honor), and I love the story, but am particularly moved by that "how many nights, how many days..." question:

Not so long ago outside of Fort Benton
Was a tale born of a faithful friend
As the train pulled away from the station
With the body of an old shepherd man
Through his final years on these Montana plains
Over pasture and highland, through hard summer rains.

Old Shep, ran beside him
Tending the flocks, patrolling the range
Old Shep, slept beside him
Ever alert if the silence did change
A thousand sunrises were met
With Old Shep.

The fall came, the light grew dimmer
For the Shepherd man when he reached the town
And Old Shep could sense there would be a long journey
To a meadow space where peace is found.
Down in a bed in Fort Benton he lay
His spirit departed but his body stayed.

Old Shep, walked beside him
As they carried his casket up to the train
Old Shep, tried to climb on board
But they pushed him away to the station platform.
Here a separate trail was met
By Old Shep

How many nights, how many days
Would your partner wait for you?
How many seasons would you weather the storm
If your companion was long overdue?
For over six snows Old Shep waited
And through five springs, there was no return
He met each train that rolled into the station
His faith remained, his candle burned.
Then, on a cold, dark, winter day
Our hero rejoined his best friend.

Now, Old Shep is beside him
Tending the heavens, patrolling the range
Old Shep stays beside him
As the seasons revolve this Big Sky of change
A faithful friend we won’t forget

Old Shep, runs beside him
Tending the heavens, patrolling the range
Old Shep, sleeps beside him
As the seasons revolve this Big Sky of change

A friend we won’t forget
Old Shep
   Old Shep

I'm not sure that I believe that anything will be better than it is this day.  Not in a day or a week or a month or a year.  I am not sure that we will ever do anything more than live quietly together until we reach the end someday.  I have good memories.  I got to live the life I dreamed of for awhile.  I took a chance on this, and I do not regret that.  I've explored the possibilities of not staying.  I know I could go off and find a place, some little studio somewhere, and live on my own.  A quiet life that would be...  But the promise?  I made that promise.  




  1. This is very powerful. I know my biggest struggle in a previous relationship had to do with honoring the vow I had made, although the other party continually broke their vow to me. I wasn't this strong, to stay. I did for a long time.......a breakdown led me to self preserve.

    I often wonder how many of us would make promises if we could have all the information about that which we are truly getting into......


  2. Thank you, Sarah. I don't know if I stay through strength. Maybe it is just stubborn. Maybe I am simply not ready to give up altogether. I don't know that there is any positive character trait here. It really might be just the same conditioning that keeps that German Shepherd in place...


  3. I find taking promises to heart to be a positive trait. To have that kind of expectation of yourself, to not toss about promises unless we intend to keep them. I think sometimes it is a perfectionist thing, do you? Almost like......does this make me a liar? A hypocrite? Even tho we know others will totally understand and agree if we break, our own integrity berates us for not living up to our own standards?

    Perhaps our promises should not include "forever" or "no matter what" or even "til death do us part". While a noble concept, it's almost impossible to uphold unless all parties view their promises with the same seriousness.

    Maybe I'm rambling.

    I wish peace, not resignation, for you.


    Ps you still in Cincinnati?

    1. Yes, sarah... We are still in the Cincinnati metro area.

  4. Life does make changes in one, doesn't it. I believe it's best if one never makes promises, because change is a constant in life. They do seem to be demanded of one, though. You never know what the future may bring.

    But if you have made a promise, should you keep it regardless? I think it depends on how you see yourself. Breaking a promise will only destroy your self-image if that image is made a certain way; but it doesn't have to be made that way. It seems to me self images are changeable - basically completely unimportant, serving mainly as a handle for others to manipulate you. There's nothing except conventional habits of thought that says you must be someone who never breaks her promises. Cynical? Maybe; but why not?

    Best to say to yourself, I'll do what I feel is right at the time. You can't regret that. Making promises is something like not having faith in life, not having faith that you will know what is right when a decision seems to be required. Dragging the past into the present with you.

    Dog stories like that always make me cry. I'm a terrible softy with dogs.

  5. Hugs. Perhaps its like contentment. Life has ups and down, sorry and joy.. and then.. even if one is not always really happy, if they are content most of the time, then I don't think that's a bad place to be. You must live with you, no one else. We each make our own stand for ourselves. Sometime that stand will evolve and change too. Go with your heart, you seem to have a very good one.


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