By Tim Henney
Having suffered through a year of COVID-19 and four years of national anguish and global disgrace, “the little things,” as the old song goes (vocals by Kitty Kallen, circa early ’50s), “mean a lot.” Little things like dogs returning to the White House. Champ and Major are German shepherds who help make our nation’s First Residence again livable and hospitable — they make Joe and Jill happier and healthier First Persons, too. Dogs just do that.
To have a president and first lady who love dogs is for my family and for dogster pals like Lynn Courville; Jill and Dan Murphy; Jean Courville and husband Tom; Mandy Evans; Courtney Wimmer; and neighbor Jim Armbruster, who misses walks with his canine best friend who lived to be 17, like being born again. “First Dogs’’ are as essential to the White House as peanut butter is to jelly. As tequila to a margarita. As Tom Brady to the Super Bowl.
When Tippy and I amble through Lakeview Park we meet people and dogs like Steve and his dog Charley; Ed and his dog Jessie; Frank and his dog Chester; Ed’s fishing pal Pete and Pete’s two Welsh corgis; track coach Matt Brass and his especially speedy companion, who appears to be part black lab, part greyhound, part cheetah. We visit with Deb, who brought her big lab to Sandpoint from Texas and claims he woofs with a drawl. Tippy and I meet Nick, a professor from Nebraska, whose four-legged best friend is named Nebraska! Cornhuskers are a lonely breed hereabouts, so I suggest Nick call upon Nate Harrell at Pend Oreille Vision Care, a fellow Nebraskan. (However, Nate doesn’t like football — the only Nebraskan in the world who doesn’t — so that might discourage a new bonding).
Lynn Bridges, another South Sandpoint neighbor, regularly walks Buddy down our road. And Tippy always wags to Darby Benner, a chocolate-flavored poodle who lives along our hiking route through the park to the lake. I wrote an article once urging Sandpoint dog lovers to haul their dogs to Oregon’s beaches for a romp because that’s where the dog action was. Well, we’ve caught up. So stay home. It rains more on the Oregon Coast, but dogs reign more in South Sandpoint — in the park and along our own wide winter beaches during the lake drawdown.
Community advocate Mary Toland, everybody’s favorite neighbor, knows Sandpoint dogsters who Tippy and I don’t know but wish we did. Retired Washington State University faculty Preston Andrews and wife Patty Ericsson have three rescue dogs. Retired Lutheran pastor Dave and wife Lois have a passel of Lilliputian-size dogs, the kind who like to boss big dogs around. And Mary has a loveable stuffed Snoopy dog companion she’s had for 50 years.
Another of the little things that mean a lot as we edge into a more hopeful era is the extraordinary professionalism of Sandpointians in the COVID-19 trenches who schedule, manage and administer vaccine shots at the fairgrounds. TV aerial photos show people standing and in cars by the hundreds all over the globe waiting in exasperating lines for vaccine jabs. Here, thanks to devoted experts like Kristina Gavin, her mom Donna Dougherty, Karianne Yarnell, Katherine Kolberg, countless other Panhandle Health colleagues and a barn full of good samaritan volunteers like Mike Fallon, wife Laurel Dovich and Idaho National Guard members who welcome arrivals at the door in “good guy” camo — Yay! — Sandpoint’s vaccination process is working like the proverbial well-oiled machine. The courtesy, the smiles, the grace, the caring so earnestly shown might be a little thing. But it means so much. It’s really why we live here.
A dramatic addendum to the above, just for the record: My 1957 bride, Jacquelynn, who recently turned 86, and I, nearing 90 (but would pass for 33 if not for neck wattles and ear hairs) and both with “underlying medical issues,” received our follow-up vaccines the other day. We should have left well enough alone. Now, feeling indestructible, she leaps about in skimpy, spangled, red white and blue underwear and tall red boots thinking she’s Wonder Woman. And I have become “more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” Those vaccines are amazing. I suspect they contain catnip. (Just joshin’, QAnon weirdos — don’t reach for your social media conspiracy gadgets).
One could go on ad infinitum about the little things that contribute so much to Sandpoint culture, friendships and life at large. Here’s one final example: A grateful doff of the snow beanie to those on-the-job Sandpoint Parks and Recreation people who keep the asphalt path through Lakeview Park (and other parks as well) free of ice and snow so that neighbors and dogs can stroll collegially and safely. Some of us are older than dirt, ice or snow. We no longer play tennis or volleyball, sail boats or ride horses, jog or cage fight. Instead, we walk with dogs on trails and through parks. Sometimes we stumble and grumble — but not about you, Parks and Recreation. You help make life safe and happy. Our thanks for your many good deeds.
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