And we think they’re so smart

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I don’t mind being controversial. I’ll say it clearly. Dogs just aren’t that smart. There, I said it.

Here I was — in the thick of a pandemic. “Get a dog,” my kids said. “He’ll keep you company. Before you know it, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one.”

So luck being on my side, I snagged a sweet mutt in no time flat. Those in the know said he was a “Heinz 57,” meaning he packed a lot of breeds in one 35 pound dog. …


And the discoveries they share

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Coach left Alfred with the toughest assignment yet: Discover why Hannah seems irritable. Alfred considered asking, “What’s bugging you” but decides the odds of a meaningful answer were slim, so he’s opted for a different approach.

Alfred: Yay, Hannah! We get to take a walk. We never do that. We’re always so busy — homework, chess club, Popposites.

Hannah: Yep. That’s us. I had to think about whether I had time for a walk, but then you’ve been so helpful with Popposites, I couldn’t say no.

Alfred: Does this mean our walk is more about returning a favor than doing…


Did the pandemic take that away too?

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Imagine this. You and your spouse, fully vaccinated, invite another fully-vaccinated couple for dinner. You’re excited. You haven’t had an evening like this in over a year. You plan your menu, you shop for groceries, you pick out your wine. All is set. “We’re back in business,” your spouse says — meaning you are on the road to normal.

Company arrives. There is glee all around. She, your guest, says, “I never thought I’d be so happy to have dinner with friends.” You say, with utmost sincerity, “I know. Who would have thunk?” Now you are all sitting around the…


Where to begin?

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Alfred was given the week off with no assignment. He sought out Granny to learn a few things. Now it’s time to update Coach and see what’s next.

Coach: Hello Alfred! You look rested — dare I say content?

Alfred: Well, I’ve been walking Calvin, which really does make me happy. I understand why there are so many dogs and dog lovers in the world. You think dogs are just slobbery, smelly creatures who like to lick you, but the more you understand them, you realize a lot is going on in that brain of theirs. …


Alfred’s curiosity goes into high gear

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Coach gave Alfred a “7th-inning stretch,” by which he meant that Alfred should just relax. With time on his hands and untamed curiosity, Alfred headed straight to Grandma. One-on-one conversations are now becoming his thing.

Alfred: Grandma, I am so glad to see you. I’ve realized recently there is a lot that I don’t know about you. We should know about the things we love. So prepare to hear a lot of questions.

Grandma: Sure. I actually feel flattered that you want to know more about me.

Alfred: Well, you say that now, but we will see if you say…


Complex, imperfect, and deserving of our gratitude

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On April 9th this year, Britain celebrated Winston Churchill Day — an annual affair to pay homage to the man who led the allies through the harrowing days of World War II. Having read Mein Kampf in its entirety, Churchill took Adolf Hitler at his word during a time when leaders were in a state of denial. Churchill’s refusal to concede to his many doubters, and forge ahead not only in leading the European response but in building a “Big-three” alliance with the U.S. and Russia, saved the free world.

Still, for some, celebrating Churchill yields complex emotions because along…


Alfred rethinks his truths

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Coach had asked Alfred to challenge a few deeply-held assumptions and consider what having an “open mind” would offer. When Alfred talks with his mom and his friend, Joey, he understands that assumptions should not be written in stone.

Alfred: I think I’d better be in charge again. Sorry Coach. By the way, how are you?

Coach: I’m well — not as focused as you though — so let’s just start. Sometimes social amenities — the hi’s and how are you’s — don’t fit the mood.

Alfred: Ok. So I had two conversations that made me challenge some assumptions, and…


Alfred struggles with style

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Alfred has “a bee in his bonnet.” After taking a walk with Joey, he can’t shake his desire to add a dog to his life. He has decided to broach the topic with his mom. He is working with Coach on keeping an open mind and challenging assumptions, and “dogs” is where he has landed.

Alfred: Mom, I think it’s time we had another chat.

Mom: Somehow, when you say that, it makes me nervous. What’s up?

Alfred: No worries. Whatever you imagine is much worse than anything I could share.

Mom: Ok, so what’s today’s topic?

Alfred: Did Coach…

Lessons of life and love and loss

Author’s photo of Nemo and Teddy

Fourteen years ago I succumbed to family pressure and added a dog to our family. I wasn’t sure why because as I repeatedly said, “I can’t even consistently get dinner on the table.” But they wore me down, and so I reluctantly said “ok” and counted on my husband to carry the load.

Last week we said goodbye to Nemo. Adding Nemo to our family will remain one of my best life decisions — on par with picking my mate. …


Joey teaches Alfred a few things

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Alfred left his last meeting with Coach, intent on learning more about dogs. This will help Alfred challenge some assumptions and understand why Calvin seems so important to Joey. Alfred has asked Joey if he can join him after school to walk Calvin.

Alfred: Joey, thanks for letting me come along. I’ve never walked a dog before — well, technically, I am not walking the dog. You are.

Joey: I do this every day. Actually, I do this twice a day — once in the morning before I go to school and later when I get home.

Alfred: So first…

Jill Ebstein

Mom, consultant, tennis and dog lover. My focus is intersection of business/family/modern day peculiarities. Created AtMyPace series

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