The Rock: Finding Faith


Winter 2009.  Franklin, Kentucky

“You cannot have faith in the absence of doubt”.


Hudson Murphy and I were already almost a 1,000 miles into our journey when we set aside time to join a Sunday Bible study in the private home of the friends we were staying with in Franklin.  We had met spiritual leaders and pitched tent on sacred ground many, many times before Franklin but the two bald headed former priests that day spoke to me.  

Belton, TX 

Most kids grow up in a place.  I grew up between two. My father was a physician, and my mother a devout Christian who, aside from being a small business owner, raised me and my three brothers― Matthew, Mark, and Jon, The Gospels as we were known. Our Sundays were spent simply. My mom made sure our mornings were spent at Saint Francis Episcopal Church and my dad made sure our evenings were spent sitting around our kitchen television watching Nature on PBS.

Indeed, my upbringing was balanced between science and religion. Mom always made certain her boys had a quarter in our pockets to tithe with but it was Dad’s job to ensure our education extended well beyond both the pews and the classrooms. For him, erudition was everything. He came from humble yet decent beginnings, putting himself through medical school; when he wasn’t practicing twelve hours a day, seven days a week, he was reading his medical journals. Piles and piles of New England Journal of Medicine and Journal of the American Medical Association to name a few were stacked all about our home, and anyone who dared rearrange or relocate them would incur his wrath.

I experienced this firsthand. Solitude unsettled me as a child so I read and early on developed a habit of reading everything around me.  As I got a little older cartoons just weren’t cutting it for me anymore so I picked up anything around me and poured into it. In our home that was either the Wall Street Journal or medical magazines. I didn’t understand what “New Developments in Vascular Repair of Atherosclerotic Venal Blockage” meant but it sounded big or at least better than Family Circus or Hagar the Horrible anyway. One particular morning after an equal helping of Count Chocula and “Renal Failure and Long-Term Care of Dialysis Patients,” I neglected to return the journal to its original place and boy did I get the ‘what-for’ from my father that night.

My mother’s influence over the household was equally pervasive. She collected religious antiquities and curiosos with fervor and she filled just about every nook and cranny with them: statues of saints in the gardens and atrium, crucifixes hung on every wall in the house, an ancient pew from some church in Europe, and Milagros or Spanish charms representing religious stories like Santo Nino de Atocha. I cannot recall the total number of Bibles in various translations and versions.

Most of my youth was spent in Belton, which in retrospect seems important since it’s just about the midpoint between Waco and Austin on the I-35 corridor. Waco is considered the southernmost reach of the Bible Belt and home to Baylor University, one of the top ranked Christian schools in the country. Austin on the other hand, couldn’t be more its opposite. An artistic, liberal city known now as Silicon Hills because of its robust technology community, Austin is also reknown as a haven for hippies, has a slogan ‘Keep Austin Weird’, and has one of the lowest church attendance rates in the South.

It was between these two magnetic poles I was raised and both seemed to pull at me in a fight for my soul. I didn’t see it as a battle back then, religion versus science. Youth isn’t known for that kinda circumspection so I studied both with equal fervor and as I would later learn, the two are not mutually exclusive. Still it fucked me up pretty good.  But in a good way.  


YBD’s Notes 1:  Typographical errors tonight due to slicing the shit out of my left index finger down to the bone.  Or maybe I was watching Nathan Fillion on Castle.  
YBD’s Notes 2: I don’t like this chapter.  I never did.  Not even when Ed and I worked on it in 2010 and I’ve changed it vastly.

It’ll never say what I want or need it to convey.  But I could never get away from it as a part of this story and it must be told.  

2 Dogs 2,000 Miles

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HealthyPetNet listing renewed in

This listing has consistently provided very loyal customers who are interested in doing everything they can for their pets, including adding high quality fish oil to their diets. They provide stats and show that since Mar 31, 2007:

  • 1477 people viewed your listing.
  • 493 clicked through to your website.

To have 1/3 of the people who see an ad click through to it is really impressive.

What’s cool about this directory is that they’re for real. In order to list a pet food with them, you have to meet the following criteria, and of course, HealthyPetNet qualifies:

Disallowed ingredients include : Animal Grade Animals (too sick/diseased for Human Consumption), By-products (feet, bones and intestines, etc.), Fillers (weeds, hulls or chaff), Meat meal, Bone meal, Rendered fats, GMO ingredients, Chemical preservatives (BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin), Sugar, Propylene glycol, Ethylene glycol.
Product Ingredients :
Meat, Chicken, Eggs : Any meat, chicken or eggs must be organic or at least from free ranged animals.

  • GreenPeople averages over 11,000 visitors per day
  • shows Traffic Rank for 93,743 (1/06)
  • Google page ranks is a 6-7 out of 10 (and 1,110 sites link to us)
  • shows- AltaVista says 1018 sites link to GreenPeople.- HotBot says 1189 sites link to GreenPeople.

You can post free ads or you can post a variety of paid ads and banners. I usually pay for an annual Premier Green Star listing which includes a clickable URL ($ 29.95 per year).

A day in the life of a HealthyPetNet Rep

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What kind of food do you recommend feeding a dog with skin allergies?

Question by HammyHam: What kind of food do you recommend feeding a dog with skin allergies?
My friend’s poodle has major skin problems… They have medication for her but they want to feed her the best kind of food that will help her with the issue. What kind of dog food is really good for dogs with skin allergies?

Best answer:

Answer by We Come Out at Night
Two of my dogs have allergies and they do very well on Blue Buffalo Wilderness: Duck recipe. My vet told me that they needed a higher quality protein, IE. Duck, Salmon, Veal and Lamb. Salmon would probably be better for a dog with skin allergies because it’s already been known to help improve the skin and coat of dogs.

Give your answer to this question below!

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The Old Adage

When it comes to blogging, I try to keep in mind the old adage – “When you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I haven’t been miserable this past month, but let’s just say, I haven’t been happy.  I’ve been working.  A LOT.  I’ve had no time for Marlin, the dogs, friends, family, housework, paperwork and anything else that has been silently screaming my name.  I think (and pray) that I am starting to see a tiny pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel.  I actually took almost the entire day off yesterday – which was the first time since some time in May!  I went in early to work to get some weeding done before the heat hit but then I just stayed home in air conditioned bliss. I read a great book, I snuggled with the dogs, I watched some taped TV shows and I just relaxed.  It was wonderful.

Today I don’t need to be at work until noon and it is supposed to be incredibly hot, so I took the dogs out early.  I’ve been looking for a canola field to take pictures in. I took some a few years ago and have been dying to try again. This year though, most of the fields seem to be way too tall. This one isn’t nearly as bad as the one I tried the other day but it was still too tall for what I wanted.  In the field the other day, I couldn’t see Coulee at all – the only way I could tell where she was, was by the rustling of the plants.  It was pretty funny to watch the plants moving around but it wasn’t going to make a decent picture.

But I found a spot today that the canola wasn’t doing so great (the main part of the field was, but I think this area may have stayed damp for too long) and it was perfect.  I was recently assured by a farmer that canola is a very hardy plant that a dog isn’t going to damage it, so I didn’t feel too guilty letting Coulee run around for a minute.  Although I still felt rushed and worried as we are trespassing.  It definitely wasn’t a place where I felt I could just hang out and wait for the right moment so I threw the toy a few times, snapped a few pictures and got out of there and headed to the lake.

I didn’t bring the camera to the lake but Coulee had a great time and swam for about 45 minutes straight.  Lacey and I were bored to tears as it is only a good swimming place, not a good walking place , so we just stood around waiting for her.  I threw little sticks for Lacey but the moment it required swimming, she gave up.  :)  She prefers to splash, not swim.  The iPhone photo makes the stick look like it is miles out there, but it isn’t more than a few feet!  Sticks aren’t really in big supply in the prairies so it didn’t take long to exhaust our small supply.  ;)

If I had been sure there weren’t leeches in the lake, I would have waded in there with them today.  It was only 8:30 a.m. but it was already hot and muggy and the lake looked so calm and peaceful.  I really wished I had one of those inflatable chairs to lounge on.

Saw this little guy on the way home and for some reason, the tiny bird on the giant bale struck me as amusing.  I can just imagine her thinking that she’s found the motherlode of all nest supplies.  :)

Crazy Coulee and Little Lacey

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Holistic Treatment of Pets: Veterinary Medicine is Changing

How veterinary medicine has changed! Most of the medication and equipment I use today, I never learned about in school! Our pharmacy has ten times the variety of flea control products, antibiotics, and pain relievers than when I started, thirty years ago.

X rays from our digital machine only take seconds to view after exposure and can be emailed to a specialist for a “second opinion”. Their report is often received within a few hours. It used to take days to mail the “films” and receive a report.  You can alter the quality of the digital films by right clicking the mouse, just as we do when we edit pictures.

Our ultrasound can peer into the organs and workings of the heart, just as x rays have always assessed the bones and shapes of the organs. Our in-house laboratory can give an organ “report card” assessing the health of the red and white blood cells, liver, kidneys, thyroid gland, and pancreas. After taking blood, those results can be ready in an hour.

The term “holistic” used to infer natural healing practices. These days, the holistic treatment of a patient really means that we consider the animal as an individual.  Each pet may need a different approach to solve medical problems. In the “holistic” approach, we consider exercise, obesity, vaccinations, flea control, ingredients in the diet, and medication of each pet. A pet may need to lose weight, eat differently, need medication, or a different schedule of flea control or vaccinations to feel their best.

Therapies like acupuncture and chiropractic are now more commonly used on animals to relieve muscle strain and the pain of arthritis. In fact, our clinic has invested in a “cold laser” to help animals with pain and other medical conditions. The K-laser uses focused infrared light waves to increase circulation and healing in inflamed areas. Like acupuncture, it helps the body do its job with less or no medication! This therapy is excellent for dogs and cats that are sensitive to pain medication, are older, or for those owners that would like to try a “drug free” pain treatment.

There are tons of articles on the effects of diet on health. The overwhelming number of choices in the pet store is proof of changing ideas about nutrition for our pets. I used to treat bowel problems, skin problems, and ear infections in dogs with some mention of diet, medication, and flea control. Now I make sure that owners receive nutritional counseling for almost every medical issue. Changing the diet may not always help, but when it does; it helps prevent needless suffering and endless medication for itching, sore ears, chronic diarrhea, and other medical problems. I’ll give you a couple nutritional tips. Wheat gluten is commercial food and treats may cause itching, ear problems, and diarrhea. However, it isn’t uncommon for an owner to buy a decent commercial “grain free” food, then to feed biscuits, dental chews, or even “pill pockets” filled with wheat. Changing the food won’t help, unless all food, biscuits, and treats are considered. If you change to a “grain free” diet to help with chronic medical , issues, you need to know the ingredients of everything the patient eats! Salmon and sweet potato commercial food has helped me clear up many ear, skin, and diarrhea problems in dogs.

 If you are interested in learning more about nutrition or even home cooking for your dog or cat, check out my website. 

Dr. Greg’s Dog Dish Diet

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Tutorial – How to teach your dog to scratch your back

This is the first step-by-step tutorial video that I have made on how to teach your dog to scratch your back. 1. Put a treat/a few treats under a container. …

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The Biggest Loser’s Dolvett Quince Creates Pet Workout Plan

As pet parents our pup’s poundage can weigh heavy on our minds. According to Banfield Pet Hospital, extra lbs. and obesity have increased by 37 percent in dogs in just the past five years, and…

[[ This is a summary only. Click the title for the full post, photos, videos, giveaways, and more! ]]


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Little pink blankie

That thing? That Tuesday thing I’ve been fretting over for weeks/my whole life? Is now a Wednesday thing. No one in the universe is more anxious about this than me, but in case you were wondering why I haven’t posted any pictures of me popping a cork yet….yeah. But in this case, a one day delay is fine and I PROMISE I will explain everything then.

And in the meantime, a story.

On Friday, I told my colleague Dr. B, for whom I am now working once a week, that I would go to appointments with her to get a feel for how one manages the flow of a day when you are going into people’s homes, putting their beloved pet to sleep, then taking that pet away. It’s a little different than how one does it in the office; you’re not in an environment you have control over, you have no techs in the back to help you if you can’t hit a vein, and the owners are standing right next to you the entire time. I am convinced this is better for owners but, as you can imagine, the first few times doing this alone is a wee bit nerve wracking.

I thought the day would be mostly about the technical aspects of the process- which vein is best? What is your sedation protocol? How do you bring up the subject of payment? And while all of that was necessary and good, I also watched Dr. B and how she interacted with families. She is very, very good at this. After doing it for as long as she has, she doesn’t need to concentrate on the mechanics of where to put the tourniquet or the best angle for placing a butterfly catheter in the lateral saphenous. Muscle memory will come with time for me as well. But compassion memory is a combination of instinct and observation.

Uncharted territory

There are things you learn in school and things you do not. As I tried to explain to my husband when he looked at me with utter bewilderment as to why I was so nervous the night before, this is different. I have minimal training in grief counseling. Some people hate the Rainbow Bridge poem. Some people want to pray and others want to leave the room. And no matter what happens, I need to remain ever the buoy as the tempest of an awful event swirls around me.

Everyone is so very different in how they want to have the event happen; most of the time they don’t even know themselves what they are going to want. So you follow cues: talk a little first. Hurry up and get it over with. Give me a minute. I want a hug. I want a handshake. I want you to get out of here asap.

So you observe for those minute cues and hope you’re doing it right, and just kind of trust your instinct when it comes to how to respond to certain events, things that don’t go exactly the way you want, or questions you’re not certain you should say the answer to. This particular job is as much an art as it is a science. Obviously some people are more adept at this than others. I’m trying my best.

Towards the end of my day with Dr. B, as we were talking over her protocol, she paused thoughtfully and said, “You know, I’m wondering if I should bring a little drape to put over my hand so they don’t have to see the catheter.” Little things like that can be very nice.

I liked the idea, so before I had my first day on call by myself, I went through my linen closet trying to find a suitably sized cloth. All I could find were dishtowels or hand towels or facecloths. I didn’t like any of them. Better luck next time, I thought.


I forgot how soft these are.

And as I turned back to the washer, I saw a little pink blankie neatly folded, by itself, peeking out from under a box of cleaning supplies. It was my daughter’s baby blanket, one of those little waffle weave ones with satin piping. She lived in it for 6 months, swaddled tight.

I thought I had gotten rid of all of them months ago; I’m not sure how this one managed to stick around or why it was randomly on top of my washer- we’ve only been in this house since December, so it worked its way there somehow. I put it in the car, just in case I thought it would be helpful.

At the end of a visit yesterday, I put it on my lap and then tucked in the little pup, like I had done to my daughter for so many years. And the words just came out: ‘This was my daughter’s baby blanket. It’s filled with a lot of love.’ I don’t know if they needed to know that, or if it mattered, but I hope it did.

I hope when the dust settles and her owners look back on an awful day, what will remain is not the memory of a syringe, but the image of their dog bundled up by someone who knows how much they loved her.

It only works because it’s not cynical. If it ever becomes that, there’s my cue to stop.


Pawcurious: With Pet Lifestyle Expert and Veterinarian Dr. V.

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Living With and Training Assistance Dogs

NEADS Graduation celebration

Graduation at NEADS!

I don’t need to tell you that dogs and humans share a special bond. Many species work alongside us, and many species live with us, but dogs occupy both of those roles like no other animal on earth.

Assistance dogs take that role to an entirely new level though. These dogs help people with a wide range of disabilities while quite naturally becoming their companions too.

In Another Language, Portraits of Assistance Dogs and Their People author Jeanne Braham, along with photographer Robert Floyd, present twelve oral histories from people that work with or are partners with assistance dogs. These deeply personal stories provide you with a unique window into the bonds that form between the dogs and the people working and living with them.

Bob Swain and Waldo

Bob Swain and Waldo

The combination of Mr. Floyd’s photos with first person stories bring you right "into the room" with the book’s subjects as they tell you their story. I was initially (as in before I started actually reading) a little put-off at the idea of oral histories since I have read books in the past where that format didn’t really work for me, but in this book it really is perfect. I have read plenty of descriptions of the work that assistance dogs but these individual stories, told in the first person, convey the impact these dogs have on the storyteller’s lives in a uniquely personal way.

The book centers around National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS). NEADS trains assistance dogs for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, people with balance and stability issues, people with a physical disabilities, combat veterans in need of assistance dogs, teachers, ministers and therapists, and children on the autism spectrum and or with physical disabilities. The majority of their dogs are also initially trained by inmates in New England prisons. (How cool is that?)

Puppies from NEADS

Suzanne Goodwin with her puppies.

Most of the interviews are with people who have dogs from NEADS, but several of the people in the book are also employees and volunteers, including a great chapter from a breeder of Labradoodles who is donating a dog (the first of her line) to NEADS at the time of the interview. As well as interviews with trainers and program administrators.

Beth Lewis, a psychologist who both teaches and also still does therapy, works with Grace. Grace was bred for assistance, but orthopedic issues made her unsuitable for service. However, NEADS staff was able to find her a very productive role in help Beth in her work. Grace’s story of how she has undergone multiple surgeries while still helping Beth in her practice is both fascinating and truly inspirational.

Jake Liptak is an inmate handler and has raised three puppies as of his interview. He explains how inmates are able to enter the program and then provides us with an interesting rundown of what behaviors the puppies are trained for.

NEADS program has had to change the past few years with the very large number of veterans returning to the U.S with serious injuries. Sheila O’Brien, who joined NEADS in 1978, worked her way to CEO in 2009, and then left that role to work as a director with America’s VetDogs explains some of the history of NEADS’ assistance program for combat veterans and how their program had to adjust to the veteran’s different needs. In that same chapter there is also an interview with veteran Kevin Lambert.

Another Language, Portraits of Assistance Dogs and Their People is more than just a book about assistance dogs. It's book of stories about the dogs, the people, and the programs that make up NEADS. Together these stories come together to reveal a larger story of how these dogs bring different people together to help each other, whether they came to NEADS for a dog or to work with a dog.

This is a book that belongs on the shelf of any dog enthusiast. Go get it!

Living With and Training Assistance Dogs is a post written by . You can see the actual post at Dog Training in Bergen County New Jersey


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Dog Spelled Forward Website and Blog

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Nice Pet Scratch photos

Some cool Pet Scratch images:

The cat scratching log
Pet Scratch

Image by photogirl7.1
This is the universal scratching log for Casey and Whitey.

Sleeping on the scratching post
Pet Scratch

Image by rfduck
He’s far too big now for his scratching post, yet he still sleeps on it. I don’t know how he finds it comfortable

Scratching Post
Pet Scratch

Image by Hey Paul
Hey Paul

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