Hello Dolly

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

“Hello Dolly,……well, hello, Dolly

It’s so nice to have you [back] where you belong”

It’s high time to introduce our Dolly!

 

Dolly is a California girl who was picked up as a stray by animal control. According to someone who saw them pick her up, she had been fed by an entire neighborhood, but no one had actually adopted her. Sadly, the shelters in California are way past capacity, and dogs and cats that are picked up rarely last past 4 days. By law, they have to keep an animal 3 days for an owner to look for them. If no owner in 3 days, the animals can possibly last for another day or two in case they are adopted. Then, well… you know what happens then.
Luckily, the German Shepherd Dog community has reached out and there are several groups who routinely take dogs from California (and other state) shelters and send them to rescues around the country. Dolly, thank God, was one of the lucky ones who got rescued and sent to Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue.

The Face That Popped Up on Facebook

The Face That Popped Up on Facebook

I just happened to be reading posts on Facebook one evening in March when up popped Dolly’s photo. I fell in love instantly! Jim had always said he’d love to have a female, white German Shepherd Dog. We’d had so much fun with our boys – Blizzard and Chief – that we thought it would be fun to have another. Here was an adorable face looking out at me and I knew she had to come live with us.  (I want to thank Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue for taking such great photos! These are photos that I took of the computer screen with my phone. Isn’t technology amazing?)

Just LOOK at That Face!

Just LOOK at That Face! (Seen here with Kristin Bright of SWMGS Rescue)

Once I showed her photo to Jim, it was a done deal – in our minds. Now, we just had to convince the rescue that we were the home for Dolly. I must say that SMGSR has a rigorous program in determining who is a good fit for their dogs. I was very happy to see this as it helps them to determine which humans are a good for their dogs; but it also helps the humans determine if the dog is a good fit for them. The first part is a questionnaire which I immediately filled out.

Dolly With A SWMGS Rescue Playmate

Dolly With A SWMGS Rescue Playmate

I guess I probably was something of a pest, because I couldn’t just wait the 10 days they say – up front – it will minimally take to go over the questionnaires. I called and left a message that I had filled out the questionnaire and that I wanted to reiterate that we are experienced with German Shepherd Dog rescues. At that point, we had adopted 7 German Shepherd Dogs since 1995. I wanted to be sure they knew that we really wanted to meet and hopefully adopt Dolly.

Sweet Girl Playing at SWMGSD Rescue

Sweet Girl Playing at SWMGS Rescue

Did I stop and wait there? Do you know me? Of course I didn’t. I called again just as the 10 day period ended and left another message about how much we wanted to bring Dolly into our family. At that point, I got a call back telling me that the director of the rescue was out of town, but that they could do the required telephone interview prior to that. I was overjoyed. We set up a time for that afternoon to complete the phone interview. I guess we must have passed muster with the questionnaire, vet interview, and telephone interview because I heard back from the director as soon as she got back into town. Kristin (who I now call a miracle worker because of all she is able to do with so little in terms of financing and also human help) called and asked if we’d like to bring our current “kids” Bear and Sydney to meet Dolly the next weekend to see how they meshed.

Just LOOK at that Precious Little Dog!

Just LOOK at that Precious Little Dog!

I was certain that Bear would be welcoming and friendly, but our Sydney (God rest her sweet soul) was an alpha female. I wasn’t so certain that she would appreciate a much younger, also female family member. The travel to the rescue (which is near Battle Creek, Michigan) went well. Sydney was having a good day and didn’t appear to be in any pain, so the ride was uneventful. Bear and Syd couldn’t figure out, though, why there was a crate in the back of the car.
While we walked Syd and Bear around, the rescue got Dolly brushed and ready for her public. As soon as Kristin brought her out, I was determined that I wasn’t leaving without her. She was the absolute cutest, fluffiest, little (mostly) German Shepherd Dog I’d ever seen. Also, she was a wiggling mass of affection. It did take some work getting Sydney not to be put off by Dolly’s exuberance; but Dolly seemed to instinctively know not to push Syd’s alpha dog buttons.
After an extended “getting to know you” walk around with Bear and Sydney and with only a minimum of posturing, Dolly officially became part of the family. Final paperwork was signed and we loaded our new girl into the crate. The other two spent most of the ride home sniffing the crate and trying to figure out exactly who this new dog was and where she fit in the scheme of things.

 

(The following photos – for better or worse – are mine… WELL except for a few taken by the remarkable Paula TenBrink of Pawla’s Pantry (purveyor of the best puppy treats in the world).

Yep, She's Home

Yep, She’s Home

 

You Talking About Me?

You Talking About Me?

I must tell you that our Dolly has been a fabulous addition to our family. She seemed to immediately comprehend that Sydney was the “in charge” dog in the house. Right up until Sydney’s last days, Dolly was exceedingly sweet to her. The largest worry I’d had – that Sydney and Dolly wouldn’t like each other – never came to fruition. If anything, Syd looked after Dolly and vice versa. I’m so grateful that we didn’t let that concern dissuade us.

Dolly Meets Paula of Pawla's Pantry (fabulous dog treats) at the Howell Farmers' Market

Dolly Meets Paula of Pawla’s Pantry (fabulous dog treats) at the Howell Farmers’ Market

20140504_100940

Yes, The Treat Booth – That’s Where I’ll Settle

Did Someone Say Cookie?

Did Someone Say Cookie?

Yes! I'm SURE I Heard "Cookie!"

Yes! I’m SURE I Heard “Cookie!” Pay No Attention to the Funny Dog with No Tail!

Since bringing Dolly home to the family, we had her DNA run. In a few of the photos you can tell that her body looks like a typical German Shepherd Dog, but her legs are really short, her paws are quite large and fluffy on the bottom, and her head and ears look like perhaps another breed.  Something you can’t see from photos is the way she walks. She sashays! It’s almost like she’s hinged in the middle.  We decided we just really wanted to know what parentage made for such a cute, yet incongruous, dog. Turns out she’s a German Shepherd (White Swiss Shepherd), German Shepherd Dog, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Keeshond mix (along with possible Chinook, Irish Setter, and/or Alaskan Malamute).

CHEESE!!!

CHEESE!!!

Yes, Dolly does have some work to do. She’s wonderful with people – especially once she gets to know them. She’s vocal and loud with other dogs (rather like one of those annoying people who come right up into your face to talk to you – loudly), but she’s not really aggressive. Considering her past and life on the streets, it’s not at all surprising. We are working on her socialization skills and I’m certain that her sweet personality will dominate and allow her to be more comfortable around other dogs and in unusual situations. She’s an adorable work-in-progress that we’ll take great joy in helping along that path.

Are You Done With the Camera YET?

Are You Done With the Camera YET?

Spoiled? Who ME?

Spoiled? Who ME?

I Have NO Idea What  "Spoiled" Means, but If This Is It, I'm Fine With It

I Have NO Idea What “Spoiled” Means, but If This Is It, I’m Fine With It

Below is the link to the Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue. Kristin does amazing things with very short funding and assistance. If you are in Michigan or close state and are considering adopting a new family member, you might want to see who is available. If you are considering making a financial donation to a tax-deductible charity, you might want to consider SWMGS Rescue.

http://www.swmigermanshepherdrescue.com/

 

Up Next: Michigan Maple – Syrup That Is

 

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A Post I Don’t Want to Write – Tissue Alert!

This is a post I really don’t want to write. There’s no way to prepare for this, so I’m just going to tell you. Nitro passed away last night.

Nitro

Nitro

He crossed the Rainbow Bridge in his sleep. He was in his favorite place in Nichole and Tehya’s living room. His girls were safe in their beds. God called the old boy home.

 

Rather than focusing on the immediate sadness of this, I’d like to remember the joy and happiness Nitro brought us all. The mere fact that he made it home, and all the things that had to fall into place for him to do so, still dumbfounds me. In case you haven’t followed the story from the beginning, here’s something of a timeline that highlights the amazing intricacies that made his homecoming possible.

Nitro in the Orange County Animal Shelter

Nitro in the Orange County Animal Shelter

1.   Miracle #1: Jim got an email from “Home Again” telling us that Nitro had been found – in CALIFORNIA (we’re in Michigan). That, in itself, was something in that Nitro had only been with us a short time before he and our other dogs became totally incompatible. It was, however, long enough for us to get him micro-chipped and registered before he went to a home we thought would be forever.

 

2.   We talked to the shelter (Orange County) and they told us he’d been on the street for quite a long time from the look of him. His photo showed a shell of the dog who had once been so vibrant and beautiful. We needed to get him moved in a very short time, as his time there wasn’t going to be long.

 

What a GREAT DOG he was in his prime!

What a GREAT DOG he was in his prime!

3.   I gave it up to God and put a plea out on Facebook in every rescue and German Shepherd site I could find to see if there was any rescue or anyone who could help us save Nitro.

 

4.   Miracle #2: I got a Facebook message from California. Did I want Nitro to come home to Michigan or just find a rescue. I was completely gob-smacked! Was this really someone willing to help? Then the message went on to say that this angel was going to be leaving California to drive to Michigan for the holidays. She was leaving the VERY next day! She was willing to go get Nitro from the shelter and bring him home with her to Michigan. (I can’t help but marvel that if we’d gotten the first message ONE DAY later, none of this – or the rest – would have been possible.)

 

5.   Miracle #3: Our vet’s still had Nitro’s records on file so we could prove past ownership which was required for his release from the shelter. (That’s another thing that had very little time left. The vets would have purged the records after only a few more months.)

Leaving the Shelter

Leaving the Shelter

 6.   Miracle #4: Vinessa got to the shelter and, with her own funds, got Nitro released and to her vet for a physical, which he passed. There was grave concern as he was terribly mal-nourished and under-weight, but other than that his health appeared good. (Amazing considering that he had obviously been on the street for quite a long time.) 

Nitro's First Bath since?????

Nitro’s First Bath since?????

7.   Once Vinessa got Nitro home, he got his first bath in probably years and the first good night’s rest in equally long. All this time, Vinessa is packing up her car with her four VERY small children (oldest is 6), her young, German Shepherd puppy, and herself for the drive from California to Michigan.

 

First Good Night's Sleep

First Good Night’s Sleep

8.   The first part of the trip went quite well. The family headed to Montana for a Thanksgiving visit with friends. It would also be a reunion with Vinessa’s husband, David. David was already in Montana for work, so the voyage across country was a one-woman sojourn. After a pleasant stay, the crew headed off, once again. The destination was Michigan and Vinessa’s family here.

No time for gambling, Nitro! You've already hit the Jackpot!

No time for gambling, Nitro! You’ve already hit the Jackpot!

Is that SNOW?

Is that SNOW?

Why, YES, it IS Snow! I think I'm going HOME!

Why, YES, it IS Snow! I think I’m going HOME!

Almost HOME!

Almost HOME!

Here is the first video we saw of Nitro with Laela (Vinessa’s puppy) 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzJ6I5HfxJ4&feature=youtube_gdata_player

9.   Miracle #5: In South Dakota, the trip took a frightening turn. Somewhere in the dark, Vinessa encountered a patch of “black ice.” The Expedition made a series of six, 360-degree spins and ended up in a farmer’s field. By the grace of God, it didn’t flip (even though the whole load on the top shifted to one side). The children were all buckled in and asleep, but poor Laela ended up on Vinessa’s lap. Nitro, thankfully, was not thrown around too much. Vinessa said she saw her life and the lives of all in her car flash before her eyes.

After the Spins

After the Spins

Vinessa was able to get road service out in a reasonable amount of time. The repairman looked at her car and said that he didn’t see anything physically wrong with the car (other than that the tire lost air due to being rocked so hard). He put the spare on and helped them get the load redistributed back on the roof. If you check the photo below, you’ll see the angel. Yes, I do believe in angels and there was one looking over Vinessa and her little band that night. In the photo, I definitely see an angel peering in the back window. Vinessa took several other similar shots, and only in this one does the angel appear. It’s not a lens aberration.

There's An Angel Watching Over them

There’s An Angel Watching Over them

After all that, Vinessa and her little band made it home to Michigan with no other scares or drama. We made plans to finally meet this angel to bring Nitro back to where he would be loved and cared for for the rest of his days..

Nitro with his "Angel" Vinessa

Nitro with his “Angel” Vinessa

10. Miracle #6: Our friend and coworker, Nichole, recently had moved back to our area. She and her daughter, Tehya, had been wanting a dog, but with work and Tehya in school, a puppy was out of the question. Nichole had been very involved in all of our struggles to bring Nitro home. I really don’t remember who brought up the subject first, but we quickly realized that Nitro was supposed to come home to join Nichole and Tehya.

Nitro with Jim, Vinessa, and me

Nitro with Jim, Vinessa, and me

Tehya went to visit her friend the weekend we went to meet Vinessa and pick Nitro up. It might easily be considered another “miracle” that Nichole was able to keep the secret from Tehya as long as she did. From the moment Nitro and Tehya set eyes on each other, it was love.

Tehya Meets Nitro

Tehya Meets Nitro

 

He' MY Doggie, Now!

He’ MY Doggie, Now!

 

Fast Friends!

Fast Friends!

 

Nitro Says, "Are You Taking Me Away?"

Nitro Says, “Are You Taking Me Away?”

After a very short while, Nitro settled into his new home and Nichole, Tehya and he were a happy family. I have to reiterate that Nitro was an old dog. He had been a full adult dog when he’d been with our family for that short while all those years ago. Since he was a rescue, there’s no way to be absolute, but he had to be at the very least 12 years old, and more likely 13 or more. He’d also been on the street in California for such a long time. He still showed signs of his old, noble self on so many occasions.

 

Nitro & His Girl

Nitro & His Girl

Gradually, through much love and care, Nitro gained back healthy weight and strength. Maybe even more than that, he brought people from many diverse backgrounds and all over the world together with his story. Nitro’s Journey Home on Facebook was begun, with love, by Vinessa. She, Nichole, and I have tried to tell this miraculous and happy story throughout our all too short time with Nitro. People from other countries even donated to help defray all the costs associated with the expense of bringing our boy home. Everyone who hears his astonishing story, are astounded that so many things had to fall into place so intricately for it all to work. Surely, there was a greater plan at work than we could even guess.

 

Nitro Put on Weight

Nitro Put on Weight

 

Not Takin' The Frisbee Away!

Not Takin’ The Frisbee Away!

Here in Michigan, Nitro brought us new, close, dear friends in Vinessa and her family. One very happy outcome of the trials of the journey is that Vinessa and her family have, since, moved back to Michigan. He also brought us closer to Nichole and Tehya. For the time that Nitro was with us all, Nitro brought laughter, smiles and joy.

My dear, dear friend Caz in England asked me to include this poem with this post. I’m so glad she did. So, farewell, noble Nitro. Run free at the Rainbow Bridge. Farewell.

 

            Those we love don’t go away

            They walk beside us every day

            Remembrance is a golden chain

            That links us ‘til we meet again

Hodgpodge

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

I know that I’ve been away awhile. No, I didn’t drink too many Hot Bourbon Balls. Work can be very cyclical, and this has been our heaviest season. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back to a more “normal” blogging schedule.

 

Christmas

The Tree is Up!

Our Tree

We had a nice, quiet Christmas day. That is, until we started getting ready for the family dinner. I got a little smarter this year (amazing, huh?) and started cooking and preparing several days in advance. Our meal was like the title of this post – a hodgepodge. Although there were a few dishes that nodded to our present area (Michigan – land of ice and snow), most of the menu had a distinctly southern bent.

Our Christmas Village

Our Christmas Village

We had Turduckhen (yes, they actually can stuff a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey). We had both Cajun rice and cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes (real potatoes), squash casserole (thanks to my sister-in-law, Deb), cranberry/pineapple/walnut salad, crescents, and pecan pie. While it was a lot of work and I was really bushed by the time it was over, dinner was a great success. Do you like my “tablescape?”

Christmas Table

Christmas Table

 

Some Sad News

Sydney with Her Dad & His Dad

Sydney with Her Dad & His Dad

Sadly, our girl, Sydney, has been diagnosed with DM (Degenerative Myelopathy). Without getting real technical, it’s a condition in which dogs (mainly seen in German Shepherd Dogs) lose the use of their hind quarters. There is no cure.

Sydney in Her Prime

Sydney in Her Prime

At present, we are doing our best to keep Sydney up and active as much as possible. We are using some holistic herbs and vitamins that have helped others who have had this diagnosis for their dogs. It’s not a “fix,” but if it can keep Syd up and moving longer, we’ll try it. There’s absolutely nothing in it that could possibly hurt her, so we’re hopeful that it will help her to be happy and mobile longer.

 

The GREAT News!

Nitro & His Girl

Nitro & His Girl

Now that I’ve given you the sad news, I want to update you on Nitro. He’s a happy boy. He and his girl, Tehya, are best friends. It’s like he’s been meant for her and Nichole his whole life. It’s just sad that he had to go through so much bad to get to his forever home.

Nitro's Put on Weight

Nitro’s Put on Weight

If you haven’t been following Nitro’s story on my blog (newcomer? WELCOME!), you can page back through my posts and find his amazing, miraculous story. Nitro also has a page on Facebook “Nitro’s Journey Home.” It’s a truly unique story – one with a happy ending.

Doesn't He Look Great

Doesn’t He Look Great

Nitro and Nichole went to his new vet a short time ago. They already knew his story and were very much looking forward to meeting this stalwart animal who had been through so much only to find his purpose with two ladies who love him. His weight was up to within only about 10 or 15 pounds from where it should be. His bloodwork came back with all normal levels. He was a perfect gentleman and allowed everyone to fuss over him to their hearts’ content. He even got his PAWdicure without protest. His demeanor, after the years of a neglect, completely amazes me.

He's Still a Frisbee Dog

He’s Still a Frisbee Dog

Wanna Play?

Wanna Play?

Not Takin' it Away!

Not Takin’ it Away!

Here are photos of Nitro with his new Frisbee. If you look back at earlier Nitro posts, you’ll see that Nitro used to be a fabulous Frisbee player. He obviously never lost his love of playing with the flying disk. He’s not capable of the running as fast, nor jumping high, but he can still play. Most importantly, he enjoys the activity.

Happy New Year

 

It’s hard to believe that it’s 2013.

 

This is a “major” year for me. I can’t believe that this much time has gone under my bridge. In retrospect, I’m happy to say that my regrets are few (cue Frank Sinatra and “My Way). I’ve filled a little of my “bucket list,” but there are so many more things I want to see and do. I guess I’m going to have to live as long as my wonderful, great-aunt, Ruth, who lived to be 104.

I hope you will come along with me as I post them on my blog! Until then…

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

 

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

A Little of This and A Little of That (of course, a Nitro Update)

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I seriously doubt that I’ll get another blog out before the big day, so I want to make absolutely certain that I wish all of you the happiest of holidays!

 

The Tree is Up!

The Tree is Up!

This year, I vowed that I would have all my decorating and package wrapping done at least a week before Christmas. Uh, no, it just didn’t happen. I did get my house decorated somewhat for Christmas the weekend following Thanksgiving; but this year my baking, package wrapping, and prep for Christmas dinner is WAY behind! I don’t know where the time went at all! I do work, so my time is fractured, but that really doesn’t explain it. I’ve worked ever since I was a kid (starting in high school and college), and time has never gotten away from me like it has now. Maybe the organizational skills reduce as the silver hairs increase…

 

Progress!

 

For those of you who are wondering how I’m doing with my diet, I’m pretty pleased with myself. I’ve lost just a little over 20 pounds. I really feel like I’ve turned the corner with my new plan. In case you haven’t read that post, I’m keeping track of every morsel I eat. I found myfitnesspal.com , and it’s working for me. I have to admit, though, that I absolutely do not intend to track a single thing I eat during our group Christmas party at work or for Christmas Eve or Christmas day. This is a program that I will have to live by for the rest of my days. Depriving myself of all goodies at all times is a recipe for failure. A wise man (a doctor) once told me, “It’s not what you eat between Thanksgiving and Christmas that hurts you. It’s what you eat from Christmas to Thanksgiving.”

 

Another real plus for us is that there are several, top-of-the-line exercise machines in our hangar. This has been a real benefit for me. Every morning before I start work, I use the elliptical trainer for about seven minutes and an exercycle for another five to seven minutes. There are also weights and toning machines that really make a difference. I truly haven’t felt this healthy in a number of years.

 

A Terrific Addition!

 

Vinessa with Nitro

Vinessa with Nitro

I am giddy with joy! Vinessa – our angel – has decided that she and her family are staying in Michigan! She’s a Michigan girl to begin with. Ever since that terribly frightening accident on the way to Michigan from Montana, Vinessa has known that she wanted to live in her native state with all her family around her.

 

She and her family used to make the amazing trek from California to Michigan (and back) four times a year. What kind of toll would that take on anyone? I just can’t imagine it. This decision makes complete sense for her and her little ones.

 

At present, Vinessa is considering starting her own German Shepherd Dog rescue. They’ve already located a house and she’s got a line on a shepherd in need of a foster home. I have to hand it to this gal, when she puts her mind to something, it’s done. If you want to watch, don’t blink!

 

Nitro!

 

Nitro is doing absolutely fabulously! He is absolute proof that miracles DO happen and that there is a plan. I certainly can’t explain all the myriad of things that had to fall into place, perfectly, to save him and bring him home to Nichole, Teyha, Jack, and us any other way. There had to be a “plan.”

 

Here are some photos just a short six days since we met Vinessa and brought Nitro to his furever home. He’s put on weight and he’s getting very strong.

 

This photo is Nitro showing how much weight he’s put on and that his ribs are no longer standing out.

 

Nitro getting STRONGER!

Nitro getting STRONGER!

Here he is almost pulling Jack’s arm out of the socket.

 

Hang on Jack!

Hang on Jack!

One of the most remarkable things about Nitro (and there are so many) is that he’s still a very friendly boy. One would expect that he would be a little shy around strangers. Since he, somehow, ended up on the street, you would think that someone didn’t treat him very well. He also shows signs that he wasn’t well cared for for quite some time. This is why it completely amazes me that he is so happy to meet new people. The photo below shows one of my coworkers right after getting a complete “face wash” from a quick Nitro tongue.

 

Her face tasted GOOD!

Her face tasted GOOD!

Nitro has completely adopted his new family. He is completely smitten with “his girl.” He welcomes her home with joyous yodels and dancing. A happier dog I’ve never seen.

 

Like They Should Be

Like They Should Be

Once again, I want to thank all of you who have been praying for our boy and us. I can’t imagine a happier outcome for him (and for his family).

 

Keep believing!

 

Up Next: We Made It!

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

 

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

Nitro – The Story of a True Survival Miracle – Part 4: Home At Last

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

NITRO IS HOME!!!! That’s the important part. If you’ve been following this improbable story on Facebook (Nitro’s Journey Home), you know most of the story already, but let me fill you in on the details. (If you HAVEN’T been following on Facebook, let me invite you to join us by “Liking” the page. We plan to keep it current so that our friends can follow Nitro’s progress.)

 

On December 1, Vinessa, her four small children, her dog and Nitro left Montana for the trip to Michigan. She started out a day later than expected due to one of the little ones running a fever. Once she started feeling better the final leg of the journey began.

After the Spins

After the Spins

Late that night, in South Dakota, Vinessa encountered a patch of “black ice.” The Expedition made a series of six, 360-degree spins and ended up in a farmer’s field. By the grace of God, it didn’t flip (even though the whole load on the top shifted to one side). The children were all buckled in and asleep, but poor Laela ended up on Vinessa’s lap. Nitro, thankfully, was not thrown around too much. Vinessa said she saw her life and the lives of all in her car flash before her eyes.

 

She was able to get road service out in a reasonable amount of time. The repairman looked at her car and said that he didn’t see anything physically wrong with the car (other than that the tire lost air due to being rocked so hard). He put the spare on and helped them get the load redistributed back on the roof. If you check the photo below, you’ll see the angel. Yes, I do believe in angels and there was one looking over Vinessa and her little band that night. In the photo, I definitely see an angel peering in the back window. Vinessa took several other similar shots, and only in this one does the angel appear. It’s not a lens aberration.

There's An Angel Watching Over them

There’s An Angel Watching Over them

Since they were out in the middle of nowhere, Vinessa sucked it up and drove to Illinois where she took a long break to get some rest, try to soothe her aching body, and get her nerves calmed. From there, it was a reasonable drive to her family in Michigan. She got in on December 3.

After five days of rest at home with family, Vinessa and Nitro got back on the road. With her this time was her sister, Stephanie. They were heading to Grand Rapids. Also heading for the same destination was a car from Brighton. In that car were four people aching to see Nitro. It was Jim and I and Nitro’s new “parents,” Nichole and Jack.

 

If you are wondering why Nitro wasn’t coming home with us to live, remember back to “Part 1,” where I talked about Nitro not getting along with other dogs – especially other male dogs. We have our older, female, GSD – Sydney – and Bear, who is a young (just past 2 years) male GSD. It was fairly obvious that Nitro would not be happy, long-term, with us.

 

Early on, when we were first talking about bringing Nitro home, our co-worker and friend, Nichole, told us that she would absolutely LOVE to have him. She and her children previously had a rescued German Shepherd named Lady. After Lady went to the Rainbow Bridge, they’d always said that they would love to have another rescue dog, but there had never been the right circumstance for them. On top of that, Nichole was diagnosed with a life-altering medical condition. A puppy would be out of the question, yet her daughter, Tehya, still longed for a dog. They also have the patience and love to share with our Nitro. He’s still got a long way to go before he’s up to optimum weight and health. He has already gained almost 15 pounds under Vinessa’s loving care, but he has another 25 or more to go. He also has some joint issues from sleeping where and when he could find a place on the street. His fortitude has gotten him this far. I know that loving care, time and patience will help take him the rest of the way.

 

I couldn’t tell y’all this part of the story before, because it was quickly determined that Nitro would be going to become a member of Jack, Nichole and Tehya’s family, but it was to be a huge surprise for Tehya. As soon as Nichole said she would love to have Nitro join her family, I knew that THIS was the whole reason for everything. Nitro was meant to be their dog and Tehya’s best friend.

 

After all Nitro had been through, he had persevered, and “miraculously” continued on. He could also be amazing encouragement for Nichole on the more difficult days. Tehya is thirteen – an age when having a non-judgmental best friend is so incredibly important. This was the match that Nitro had waited his whole life for. I walked around with a silly grin from the very moment I knew that this was, indeed, the whole reason everything had happened as it had. It was meant to be.

 

One More Obstacle to Overcome

One More Obstacle to Overcome

The seven of us (Nichole, Jack, Vinessa, Stephanie, Jim, I, and (of COURSE) Nitro) finally met around noon on December 8. After coming all the way across country, it was rather amusing that the last hours were a comedy of errors (the snow had started and we showed up at two different meeting places); but it was finally time for us all to meet. We hadn’t seen Nitro in years. His time on the streets showed on his body, but Vinessa had done a marvelous job of putting 15 pounds on him in the short weeks she’d had him. The most amazing thing, though, was that he is still an amazingly friendly, people-oriented, happy dog. Even after the years where his life had, obviously, been very tough, he was still a wonderful, loving dog.

Our Angel - At Last!

Our Angel – At Last!

I was thrilled to finally get to hug our angel, Vinessa! I am – and will always be – so incredibly grateful to her for all she went through to bring our boy home. We were total strangers, yet she trusted us enough to change all her plans to help us. From here on, I consider her family. I am proud to know someone who is so generous of spirit.

 

Here are several photos of our initial meeting. Lots and lots of happy tears were being shed.

Hugs All Around

Hugs All Around

 

Jim gets His Hug

Jim gets His Hug

Jack gets a Hug, too!

Jack gets a Hug, too!

It’s NITRO!!!!

It's Been a LONG Time, Old Friend!

It’s Been a LONG Time, Old Friend!

I'm SO Happy to See You, Buddy!

I’m SO Happy to See You, Buddy!

During our lengthy text conversations, I found out that Vinessa feels as though she has now found her “calling.” She wants to foster rescue dogs. I think she’ll be phenomenal! When talking about her past when she fostered kittens, she actually said, “I refuse to be a crazy cat lady. Although I wouldn’t mind being a crazy dog lady. LOL!” Imagine how tickled I was when I found THIS shirt advertised on line.

The PERFECT Shirt!

The PERFECT Shirt!

The Back of the PERFECT Shirt

We also bought her this shirt. The reason is obvious.

DSC_0003It was time for farewells. We weren’t saying goodbye because, after the terrifying accident, Vinessa realized that she really wanted to move back to Michigan to be near her family. Her husband, David, travels extensively for work, so he can live anywhere as long as there is an airport nearby. This brings me great joy because that means that I will be able to see her often. It also warms my heart that she and her family will also be able to see Nitro occasionally. They formed quite a bond and I think it will be wonderful for them all.

Forever Friends

Forever Friends

Here’s Nitro, in the back of our car. It wasn’t long before he was sound asleep on his bed.

 

Are We Going Home?

Are We Going Home?

Can We Go Home Soon?

Can We Go Home Soon?

DSC_0082

Rest Well, Old Buddy!

Rest Well, Old Buddy!

After a quick stop at Ed Bock Feeds in Pinckney, Michigan to visit our friends who have been closely following Nitro’s progress, we got home. It was a good time to give Nitro a little time to stretch his legs before the final leg of his journey – travel to his new home. It didn’t appear that he recognized our front yard as the one he had played in. Of course, that’s not all that surprising considering how many years had passed.

Nitro Makes Himself at Home

Nitro Makes Himself at Home

Nichole and Jack took Nitro home – for the first time. He seemed to realize right away that this was where he was supposed to be. God knows, it’s been a long, circuitous, and difficult journey; He made himself right at home jumping up on the couch with Nichole and promptly going to sleep. Little did he know that the very next day he would meet “his” girl.

Tehya had been at a birthday sleepover out of town with her BFF. How we’d all been able to keep the surprise this long is still a mystery. I know it had to be driving her mom and Jack crazy, but the secret was still intact.

Nitro Says, "Are You Taking Me Away?"

Nitro Says, “Are You Taking Me Away?”

Nitro – ever the intrepid traveler – jumped into the car with Nichole and Jack and away they went. I wish I could have seen the look on Tehya’s face. Now, I have to tell you, Tehya knew the story about Nitro. She had been following the Facebook page. She’d also been begging her mom to buy him presents and to come visit him. She was under the assumption that he would be coming home to live with us. She’d already grown a strong attachment to the dog behind the story – long before she’d ever met him.

Tehya Meets Nitro

Tehya Meets Nitro

He' MY Doggie, Now!

He’ MY Doggie, Now!

Her mom tells me that she told Tehya that she had an early Christmas present. She asked what it was and then, just then, saw Nitro. Her eyes got as big as saucers and she started jumping and squealing, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Then all she could do was hug Nitro’s neck.

Fast Friends!

Fast Friends!

Not long after that, Tehya sent Jim and me a very sweet thank you video. If I can get it to attach to this blog post, I will. The emotion in her voice took our breath away. It brought tears springing out of our eyes. It felt so very right for such a lovely young lady to have a dog who needs her so badly.

 

I’m going to attach several photos that Nichole has shared of Nitro with his girl. It’s evident that this was a match made in Heaven.

Nitro, Tehya, and her BFF

Nitro, Tehya, and her BFF

Like They Should Be

Like They Should Be

This last photo was just this morning. Looks to me like they are inseparable. It just looks right.

Sweet Dreams! Don't Want to Get Outta Bed

Sweet Dreams! Don’t Want to Get Outta Bed

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who sent along their prayers and best wishes. This has been an amazing journey for all of us. I hope that this story has brought you some smiles. I think my biggest “take-away” from all of this is the generosity and general good in people.

 

A huge thank you goes out to wonderful old and new friends in the United Kingdom who have been following Nitro’s story on this blog and on his Facebook page. Their generosity to put together a contribution to help offset the costs incurred in bringing Nitro home were a complete and wonderful surprise. To each of you, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

Nitro with his "Angel" Vinessa

Nitro with his “Angel” Vinessa

Vinessa is an angel – pure and simple. How many people would be willing to drop everything while readying for a trip to go get a complete stranger’s dog out of a shelter? How many would be willing to spend their own money for the fees for the release and then take the dog to their own vet – again, at their own expense – to be sure the dog was healthy enough to travel and know what she would have to do to properly care for him? Sure, we told her we would reimburse her, but there was never a question from her in that regard. She just kept saying that she was thrilled to be able to do this. You can’t tell me that there aren’t angels living among us.

 

Up Next: Catching Up – A Little of This and A Little of That (of course, including a Nitro update)

 

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Nitro – The Story of a True Survival Miracle – Part 3: The Journey

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

On the Road!

In the last installment of this story, Nitro was hitting the road with his angel, Vinessa, her puppy, Laela, and Vinessa’s four small children. The drive was from Orange County California to Shelby (northern), Montana. This sounds like a long drive even without the crew. I couldn’t imagine doing it by myself with all those little faces on board. With all her free time (getting four children and two dogs packed and settled in the car, clothing for the trip, all kinds of assorted dog food, crates, beds etc.), Vinessa started a Facebook page “Nitro’s Journey Home.” Please feel free to check it out, and be sure to “Like” it!

 

Vinessa told me that she makes this trip – Huntington Beach, CA to Michigan four times a year. FOUR TIMES A YEAR?!?! Holy smoke! That’s a lot of miles. She told me that she has a big Ford Expedition, so there’s plenty of room for all the kids and Nitro would get a double seat in the passenger area. Her young pup, Laela, would have to learn to ride shot-gun. She cranked up the DVD player and off they went.

 

No time for gambling, Nitro! You’ve already hit the Jackpot!

 

The first stop was in Las Vegas. It was completely dark, but the dogs needed to stretch their legs, take a potty break, and the kids all needed to eat. The photo is of Nitro at the Las Vegas stop. He already looks better. He must know that he is now with friends and safe. He was driving along with his head out the window enjoying the ride. Apparently, he taught his new friend, Laela, to do the same. I can imagine the looks on passers-by. With two German Shepherd Dogs in attendance, no one would mess with that car.

 

There was one moment that really startled poor Vinessa. She thought she’d “lost him” for a few tense moments. She stopped for a short nap, and when she woke up and turned around she didn’t see his head. She felt for his body and lifted his head. Poor Nitro was stiff as a board. She panicked and jumped into the back and shook his hind-end. Old Nitro just looked up at her like “I am SLEEPING! What is your PROBLEM!!!?” Poor Vinessa! After everything, she feared old Nitro had passed away while she slept. It took her a walk and several minutes to get her heart rate back to normal.

 

While I was laughing at her story, I started realizing that the reason he was so soundly asleep was probably because this was the first time in a very long time that he could just relax and sleep. This wasn’t concrete or asphalt; it was a soft back seat. He didn’t have to worry about being chased by anyone or anything. He could just sleep and totally relax. He was with people who truly cared about him.

 

One of our main concerns was what to feed Nitro. Goodness only knows when his last decent meal was. He was more than 40 pounds underweight. We were concerned that feeding him high-quality puppy food (higher fat content and high vitamin/mineral values) might give him diarrhea. Luckily, he didn’t suffer any of that. He was thriving and growing stronger with every hour and mile.

 

Is that SNOW?

The next stop was in the snow! It appeared that Nitro hadn’t seen snow in a very long time. He sure saw plenty in his life in Michigan, but he had apparently been in California for some time. From the photo here, you can see he was certainly enjoying the cooler weather and the snow.

 

Why, YES, it IS Snow!
I think I’m going HOME!

One thing that really made me sad was that people were giving poor Vinessa really nasty looks. Yes, Nitro was in horrible condition. He had fly-bitten ears, he was completely emaciated, and was just a shell of his former self; but he was being cared for for the first time in way too long. People didn’t bother to ask. They just assumed that Vinessa was the person responsible for his terrible condition. Nothing could be further from the truth. If it weren’t for her, Nitro’s days would have been very few and very sad. I learned a thing or two, myself. Don’t prejudge. Don’t assume. The story could be quite different from what you are thinking.

 

Can you help a guy?

Once the troop finally got to Montana, Nitro wanted quite badly.to jump up on the bed and cuddle with the family. (That’s one of the more endearing memories I have of the time Nitro was with us. He dearly loved to be on the bed with us.) Poor guy, he still was too weak to jump. This sad photo shows Nitro when he realized he couldn’t make it onto the bed – yet.

 

We learned, further, that Nitro’s life, after leaving us, must have been pretty rough – especially the last few years. His emaciated appearance wasn’t the only evidence. He has terrible calluses from sleeping on concrete and a leg that became quite swollen and made him limp pretty badly. Of course, this really worried Vinessa. This is something that will have to be looked into once he gets to an area with good veterinary care. We were able to talk to our niece who is a veterinarian in Colorado. Her educated opinion was that this was probably an old injury that was swelling and arthritis. If it had been new, he would have been very vocal and unable to walk at all on it. We will have it checked with our vets once he’s home, but after a long rest, Nitro seemed to be doing much better. The swelling went down quite a bit. He even felt well enough to “play” with Laela a little.

 

Nitro with his “Angel” Vinessa

Another thing we learned about Nitro during his journey home is that he’s VERY protective. When the 3-month-old baby cries, Nitro will run, check the baby, and then look at Vinessa as if to say, “What did you DO?!? The baby is CRYING!” Of course, that is very endearing. There’s a whole lot to be said about a dog, who – while still not in the best of condition – will be the protector of his “pack.” It’s also important to keep that behavior within acceptable levels. This may be something worth watching for. We do know that Nitro’s person must the alpha-being. He needs to have a strong, yet calm, leader.

 

After only a few days
Left Day 1 – Right Day 5

After only eleven days, Nitro got weighed again. He had gained 10 pounds. This is an amazing feat. Yes, there’s a long way to go, but he’s taken such huge steps so far. At each turn, I’m reminded that God surely has a plan for him. Now it’s been two weeks since he left the shelter and he’s a stronger, happier, healthier dog. All of that in such a short time!

Almost HOME!

As of this release, plans are underway to get Nitro home by December 8. The family will be leaving Montana and heading for Michigan. I hope everyone who reads this will think warm, happy thoughts for the family on their drive. They will go straight to family and rest for a week or so before getting back in the car to bring Nitro to us. I know it will be hard for them to say good-bye to him. They have given so much of their time, energy and hearts into saving this amazing dog. Their sacrifices have been so selfless. Every time I think of all they went through, for total strangers and a completely unknown dog, it renews my faith in human beings. The world would be such a better place if more of us followed their examples.

 

 

Up Next: Nitro – The Story of a True Survival Miracle – Part 4: Home At Last

 

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Nitro – The Story of a True Survival Miracle – Part 2: Salvation?!?!

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

As I continue the story, I am reminded that only a week prior to getting the notification from Home Again about Nitro, a coworker asked me if I thought micro-chipping was a good idea. I emphatically told her that I did and that we would always be certain that our dogs had “chips.” How ironic is that?

 

At the end of the last post, we had tried to get some sleep knowing that poor Nitro was in the Orange County Animal Shelter with only a week until euthanasia would be all but assured. I had gone to every Facebook page for rescues and German Shepherd Dogs that I was aware of. My plan for the morning was to check on-line for rescues in the Orange County area.

 

After a very fitful night, we were heading for work. My mind was consumed with trying to come up with a plan to rescue poor Nitro. I almost didn’t hear the message tone on my phone telling me that I had a private message on Facebook. When I opened the message I almost screamed.

 

I had a message from a young woman named Vinessa. She was asking if we wanted Nitro to come home to us or if we were just looking for a rescue. She said that she lives in Orange County, but would be coming to Michigan for Christmas!

 

My voice was cracking and tears were spurting out of my eyes as I read this to Jim. Could this be true? Could Nitro’s salvation have come – and so quickly? I wrote back asking if this were really true and possible. I hardly allowed myself to believe it could be. I didn’t expect to hear anything for a while due to the fact that there’s a 3-hour difference in time between Michigan and California. When I saw the message it wasn’t yet 6 am, eastern time.

 

I didn’t have to wait long. It was barely 8 a.m. when I heard back that, yes, she was entirely serious and would be willing to get Nitro from the shelter and bring him with her to Michigan. She had also been willing to rescue him and find him a home. Any wonder I call her Nitro’s “angel?” We moved the discussion to private messaging and I told her that I would contact the shelter to find out what was necessary to “spring” Nitro and allow for her to take possession.

 

It wasn’t all that easy. The shelter required proof of ownership to pick Nitro up. Of course, we are over a thousand miles away. I’m glad the shelter is thorough, though. It protects the true owners from someone who isn’t authorized walking away with their dog. The staff was very helpful. They told me that the email from Home Again would be considered part of the proof. What else could we provide? We hadn’t had Nitro in over 6 years! I immediately thought of our veterinarian. Would they still have records? I made the call.

 

Not only did our vets still have records with Nitro’s name on it, they actually could provide a copy of the receipt for when we had them micro-chip him. It had his name, our names, address and the micro-chip number. They could, if necessary, confirm the chip number against our records.

Nitro in the Orange County Animal Shelter

In the meantime, Vinessa was busy getting a temporary tag, collar, bed, bowl, etc. She also called her vet to make sure she could bring Nitro in to make sure he was healthy enough for the trip. After seeing the photo above, we all knew he wasn’t in the best of shape.

 

As she lived only about 15 minutes from the shelter, Vinessa was ready to go get Nitro once all the paperwork was faxed to them. We had moved our conversation directly to texting each other to make our communication quicker and more private. Although I could scarcely believe it, everything seemed to be in place. Her next text told me she was at the shelter and that they had accepted all the material we had sent and that they were releasing Nitro to her. SALVATION!

Salvation! Nitro safely in Vinessa’s Truck

From this point, though, we knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. Nitro was so thin and weak that he couldn’t get into Vinessa’s vehicle by himself. Poor guy. He was in really sad shape.

Nothing but Skin & Bone (and heart)

He made the trip to Vinessa’s veterinarian. The vet was appalled. She had never seen such a bad case of malnourishment and he was severely emaciated. This is a boy who should weigh over 100 pounds and he only weighed 62. The photo shows how badly his bones were showing through. He had absolutely NO meat on his bones at all. Things were looking pretty grim. The vet said she would run a full blood work-up and let us know.

 

By this time, not only were we praying that Nitro would be able to make the journey, but so was Vinessa. She’d already fallen in love with the big boy and wanted nothing more than to help him come to his forever home. It was one of the longest waits I can remember, but by 5 p.m. our time, we got the amazing news that Nitro didn’t have any illnesses (or even fleas)! He was going to require tender care and lots of food to get him healthy, but he wasn’t fighting heartworms or any kind of parasite that would make it impossible for him to travel and, eventually, thrive.

Poor, exhausted Nitro. First kindness in probably years

Through all of this communication, I learned so much about Nitro’s angel. This young woman was actually leaving on Thursday to drive to Montana and then on to Michigan to visit with her family for the holidays. That was quite a feat in itself, and for her to be willing to bring along a “strange” dog who needed lots of care was remarkable. What made it miraculous was that she wasn’t driving alone. In the car with her would be her 10-month-old, female, German Shepherd puppy and her FOUR small children (the oldest is 6 and the youngest is 3-months). Who does this?

Nitro’s First Bath since?????

In less than 24-hours, Nitro had found salvation and was with an amazing human being who was ready to bathe and care for a thoroughly rough-looking dog. Nitro’s resolve helped us all. His nobility shone through – even in his terribly misused state. His first night with a good bath, decent food, and a soft place to sleep were probably the first he’d had in many, many years. The photos sent were both sad and triumphant.

Clean and exhausted

Here’s a quick timeline of the amazing, “miraculous” things that had to fall into place to be able to save Nitro.

 

  1. Nitro was picked up as a stray and chip read on Monday, Nov. 12.
  2. Tuesday, Nov 13 (around 2:30 pm) – We received the email from Home Again saying Nitro had been found. As we never transferred the micro-chip to another person and never took our names off the records, we were still considered his owners. (If we had made either change, we never would have been notified that Nitro was in the Orange County Animal Shelter.)
  3. Tuesday, Nov. 13 (around 5 pm) – I got in touch with the Orange County Animal Shelter and they gave me Nitro’s ID number and crate number so that I could look at his photo on the web to reassure myself that the dog they had was, indeed, Nitro. After getting over the initial shock of seeing him in such poor shape, I realized it was Nitro. It was an older, sadder, and scared version of the dog we had played Frisbee with, but it was Nitro.
  4. Tuesday, Nov. 13 (starting around 6 pm) – I thought to post his photo and story to several groups and locations on Facebook.
  5. Tuesday, Nov. 13 (night-time in California) – Vinessa happened to go to one of those group pages. What makes this even more amazing is that this is a page she very rarely visits. She sends a message to us via the group asking if we want her help with Nitro’s rescue.
  6. Wednesday, Nov. 14 (5:50 a.m. in Michigan) – I get Vinessa’s message. I immediately respond and the wheels start in motion.
  7. Wednesday, Nov. 14 – Vinessa and I are able to get in touch and we agree that she will attempt to get Nitro out of the shelter.
  8. Wednesday, Nov. 14 – We are able to get all the information required for the shelter and fax it to them. They accept it and allow Vinessa to take Nitro with her.
  9. Wednesday, Nov. 14 – Vinessa is able to get Nitro in to see her vet who gives him the okay to travel.
  10. Thursday, Nov. 15 – Vinessa and crew leave for Montana.

Ready to Go! A much cleaner, happier boy after less than 24 hours

When I consider how many things had to come together, it just completely amazes me. If Nitro had been picked up one day later… What if Vinessa didn’t live only 15 minutes from the shelter? What if she’d never looked at that particular Facebook page?

 

By the way, every dollar required (and there were MANY, MANY dollars) to pay for getting Nitro from the shelter, vetted, and all the tags, collar, food, bedding, etc. had been paid for by Vinessa. It’s amazing enough that she was willing to do all of this for complete strangers and a dog she’d never met. To be willing to cover all the costs? Again, who does that? Who is that trusting?

 

We have, since, been able to reimburse Vinessa for most of the costs. There will be more, but she’s more than happy to take care of them until we can pay her back. Pay her back? How will we EVER be able to pay her back for all she has done? It’s not just the money. This brave, unselfish, young woman has single-handedly become a glittering example of what is right and good in humans. My friends, family, and we are astounded! We didn’t know that there were still people out there like this. There is at least one. She is Nitro’s (and our) angel.

Up Next: Nitro – The Story of a True Survival Miracle – Part 3: The Journey

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

 

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!