Tend the Garden

Charlie came to us from the streets of China at age one. Just a puppy, really. He was adopted and returned months later for being an overly exuberant adolescent. With time and training, he would have grown into a well-behaved and loved family member instead of finding himself homeless again. (He is homeless no more.)

A garden that is not tended can easily fall back into disrepair.
All hard work and effort will be lost – swallowed up in nature’s challenge: survival of the fittest.

You have to cherish and care for the things you love.
You have to protect the things you value.
Not just dogs and gardens – but ideals and principles.

Dogs don’t raise themselves. They learn boundaries and how to live well with humans from us.

Gardens don’t tend themselves. Without attention, they return to their wild and lawless ways.

And our democratic values, freedoms and national treasures don’t defend themselves – they depend upon our vigilance to ensure their survival.

Apathy and inaction are the enemy. I don’t care which side of the aisle you are on – there are certain ideals and norms that must bind us if we are to succeed in this great experiment. And even as I write this, I wonder if it is still possible.

I attended the memorial service of my neighbor recently – the human father of a special dog named Rush. You may remember his story.

As I listened to the tales recounted, I learned that this man I knew only as a good neighbor was a fifth generation Californian, a former cowboy, a Horatio Alger story, a community pillar, and to my surprise – a staunch conservative. We would have had real differences of opinion in our politics – had we ever discussed them. But we did not. The things that united us were greater than those divides: concern for family and community, a belief that people should look out for each other, and – of course – our love of dogs. Common values. Common decency. Common bonds.

I know that our country has been tested over time. We have made many mistakes and suffered dark times. But we have endured and, hopefully, learned from our failings. From this, I find strength. I also know that this endurance did not come from standing on the sidelines, but from standing up for the things we revere: truth, decency, civility, and compromise.

A good man passed yesterday. A leader named McCain. Someone I frequently disagreed with, but someone who embodied our values and stood up for them. In fact, I found myself writing to thank him on numerous occasions when he dared to stand for those ideals.

The enemy is not without; it is within.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Tend the garden.

Teach and love the dog.

Guard the principles we share.

15 comments

  1. You’ve moved me to tears, Ogee. I’m very touched by how beautifully you’ve expressed some thoughts and feelings and beliefs I’ve held a long time, but that have recently felt stressed and stretched. I didn’t often agree with John McCain, but I admired him greatly. No need for me to say more, your tribute in that direction was beautifully stated, and I agree with you about the need to tend our “gardens.” All of them! Maybe if we spent more time getting to know others, as you did your neighbor, we’d find commonalities to hold us together despite differences of opinion. I hope you have a wonderful fresh week.

    • Thanks for your lovely note, Debra. His voice will be missed – but hopefully, carried by the rest of us. What a way to honor his memory that would be.

  2. Elizabeth Constable

    Indeed, you’ve written a very powerful and moving post bringing together principles embodied by McCain and those we owe to each other and to our dog companions. Thank you.

  3. Corie Turner

    We so agree with your thoughts….yes you are correct, the garden must be tended or it will wither…..politics is not about which “party” is right or wrong, it is about our country and the values that we hold so dear….and yes, we must lovingly tend to the dogs in our care.

  4. Cindy Towne

    Thank you so much for writing what so many of us wish we had said. The dogs, the garden —-our country. They all deserve a chance and only we can make it happen – together.

  5. Lovely and heartfelt post. Besides his documented patriotism, I think one thing we all valued was that in many situations John McCain at least tried to compromise in order to seek a better solution on our behalf. It is quite concerning that we live in this fast food mentality society where an order is placed for a dog and when it isn’t perfect, we dispose of it. Thank heaven Charlie has you and all your fellow volunteers to tend and teach him. My best to Charlie. 🙂

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