Chapter 9 of A Life Worth Living – The Wisdom of Your Family

Chapter 9 of “A Life Worth Living – The Story of Sassy”

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Chapter 9 – The Wisdom of Your Family

(Early 2003)

ChiChi would just as soon bite you as look at you — which was a lesson Anne learned the hard way.

As you may recall, ChiChi was a chihuahua that my family adopted when I was back in high school. As a cute little puppy with a fiery Mexican personality, ChiChi quickly learned how to rule the house with her charms — yet over the years her domineering personality (and voracious appetite) became a bit dangerous for herself and others. By this time in our story, ChiChi was now fifteen years old and she was such a little porker that her tiny back legs could barely support her weight — all too often ChiChi’s legs gave out on her when she walked and she’d wind up sitting on her rump after just a few steps, at which point she’d let out a series of <yips> to communicate her demands to be picked up. As a result, my parents usually just carried her around in a laundry basket piled high with soft towels; for her part ChiChi didn’t complain about this royal treatment — unless someone she didn’t like came too close — and then she’d try to rip their face off. Since The Someone ChiChi Didn’t Like list included everybody other than my mother, father, and sister Tara, this was a bit of a problem for anyone trying to visit my parent’s house. In years past ChiChi’s list had also included me, but since it had been some time since we’d last met, I wasn’t sure if I was still in her good graces — and since I knew first hand the painful implications of what being on ChiChi’s bad side meant, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was a little nervous about ChiChi’s visit.

It was early 2003 and since it was yet another dreadful winter in Pennsylvania, my family was all to happy to trade the dreary cold for the Florida sun. When my family first arrived, Anne and Sassy were both out shopping, so when my mother brought ChiChi through the door of our apartment and set her basket down, I was the only ‘new’ face in the crowd for ChiChi. We’d planned it like this on purpose so as not to agitate ChiChi — after all, she’d just travelled some eighteen hours by car with my family and we figured she’d already be ornery. After sharing hugs and kisses with my mother, father, and sister, I bent down to ChiChi’s level. It had been about four years since my last visit home and I could see how the years had begun to take their toll on the little dog — her eyesight didn’t appear to be all that good because at first she didn’t even seem to know I was there. My heart melted at the sight of her as she looked so frail in her basket and I remembered all the kisses she’d given me over the years. I wanted to pick her up and hold her, but I also knew her reputation — as did the rest of my family who were all watching with a mixture of fear and amusement to see how events would unfold for me.

Now you might think my caution was a bit overdone — after all we’re only talking about a little chihuahua, right? Well not quite. The fact is that I had first hand knowledge of just what ChiChi was capable of when she got mad — both as a witness and as a victim — and since I still wanted to keep my nose I knew it was better to be safe than sorry. While growing up with ChiChi, neither Tara nor myself could really have friends over to the house for any length of time — at least not if we wanted to have an enjoyable visit — because ChiChi simply would not allow it. Oh, she never bit any of our friends — although not for lack of trying — because for one they were too afraid of her and for another because we knew better than to let her get close to them. Nonetheless, ChiChi would literally go crazy whenever we had a visitor — incessantly barking and flying into a rage to try to chase them away. Most of my friends were initially amused to see a tiny chihuahua act so viciously — but even still they rarely got close enough to test her.

Tara or I would inevitably retreat to our bedrooms with our guests to try to find some solace, but it didn’t help — ChiChi would either claw at the door to try to get in or else she’d stand in the hallway barking non-stop. As a result, Tara and I rarely brought people home. Which was really what ChiChi wanted anyway, because as soon as she had successfully chased an unwanted guest away, ChiChi immediately returned to the sweet angel of a dog that she always was around just the family.

That is except for the time when I was playing with her and she bit me on the nose! I was eighteen at the time and Chichi was around three. We were playing on the living room floor with her toys as I often did with her back then before I went to work at my summer job that year. ChiChi had one end of a chew toy in her mouth and I actually had the other end in mine — I know this sounds gross but such was the case back then as I loved to play tug of war with her to get her riled up. The goal was always to playfully ‘steal’ away her toy, because whenever I did, ChiChi would get so excited that she’d go racing around the room in a terror — only to come flying back for more. It was hilarious. But on one occasion things didn’t quite work out — at least not for me — because when I stole her toy away in my teeth this time, ChiChi nipped me on the end of the nose! And since I had a rather large Italian nose, you can imagine my pain when ChiChi’s lower tooth got snagged in the hook of my nose!

It was not a pretty sight — blood was everywhere as I struggled to unhook ChiChi’s tooth (and the rest of her) from my nose. After a few loooooong moments, my mom helped me to get ChiChi free. Obviously we all knew that ChiChi didn’t do it on purpose (at least I hope she didn’t) and since I was the one who ever ‘stole’ her toys nobody in the family blamed ChiChi —  in fact, as I recall now, it was ChiChi that everybody went to console, not me. In the end, the ordeal left me with a small scar on the underside of my nose — and newfound respect for the damage a small dog can do. Needless to say I didn’t steal any more of ChiChi toys again. Oh I still played with her without worry for the rest of the time I lived at home — but always with a bit more… caution.

Since then I knew that my mother and sister had also been victims of apparent ‘mishaps’ with ChiChi. And while I think my father had always escaped unscathed, we were all keenly aware that ChiChi’s bite was actually worse than her bark — and that’s saying a lot since her bark was so incessant.

It was with all this in mind that I cautiously moved closer to ChiChi’s basket as it was placed on the floor of Anne and I ‘s apartment. “Hello, girl.” I said softly as I leaned in. When ChiChi looked up at me and did not bark I took that as a hopeful sign. “I missed you.” I laid a hand in the basket next to her, all the while thinking Please don’t bite!

Seconds ticked by as everybody watched to see what would happen next.

But when ChiChi kissed my hand (much like a queen would do to her subject) that was all the sign I needed to lavish her with love. I’m pretty sure I heard my mother let out a sigh of relief, while I showered ChiChi with kisses, and when she rolled over to let me pet her belly, I knew I was still on her special list. Praise the Lord!

Unfortunately Anne’s first encounter (or fifth or tenth, etc) did not go as smoothly — to this day I don’t believe Anne was ever able to get within a few feet of ChiChi’s basket before causing ChiChi to go insane with anger. As for Sassy, well her experience with ChiChi a bit…complicated.

*****

When Anne arrived back home with Sassy she naturally spent some time mingling with my family, whilst my mother and I deftly managed to maneuver ChiChi’s basket throne away from both Sassy and Anne — for their own protection. And while Sassy was easily distracted by the love which Tara and my father were giving her, eventually Anne caught on to our game.

“So this is the famous ChiChi — Queen of House Stoppa, eh?” Anne laughed as she sat beside me on the couch. “You really don’t think she’ll let me pet her? Surely she must know I’m a dog person. That has to count for something, right?”

Now I should probably point out that while ChiChi had been very calm during her visit so far, despite these new surroundings, as soon as Anne and Sassy came through the door she’d started barking…and had not stopped yet. As Anne approached her, ChiChi’s hackles rose further, as did her barking.

“Are you sure you want to do that?” I cautioned, as Anne extended a hand.

My mother didn’t know what to do — since it wasn’t her home she was at a bit of a loss as she sat on the couch next to ChiChi’s basket. A kind of half-smile was plastered on her face, but it was clear to me that behind that false grin was a bit of terror. “Ah, now ChiChi, you be good.” She managed to eek out.

In the end, Anne did lay her hand on ChiChi’s head — and Anne’s hand was promptly bitten!

“Oh my!” Anne gasped as she pulled her hand back, even as ChiChi flew at her over the side of the basket.

Both my mother and I were anticipating just such a move so we managed to stop ChiChi from falling out and hurting herself. As for Anne — her hand escaped without a visible mark. I was amazed to see Anne so unscathed at first, but we later learned that (luckily for Anne) most of ChiChi’s teeth had been removed over the years due to cavities and old age.

“Bad girl!” My mother half-heartedly admonished ChiChi, although it was clear to all that she was really coddling her. “I’m so sorry, dear.” She said to Anne. “I hope you were not hurt by ChiChi – unless one of her back teeth got you she’s really only a gummer now.”

“Well thank God for that.” Anne laughed it off as she continued to examine her hand. “Gee, Chich, and here I thought we were gonna be friends.”

Throughout the remainder of my family’s visit, Anne tried a few more times to befriend ChiChi — but she never got closer than a couple feet before Chichi detected her approach and scared her away. To this day, I honestly don’t believe Anne ever did get a chance to pet her again.

As for Sassy — well that’s a different story.

At the time of my family’s visit, Sassy was just over two years old and she was thus quite energetic and curious about new things — ChiChi was just such a thing. Sassy was downright fascinated by everything about ChiChi — from the laundry basket that served as her throne, to her gigantic appearance (made all the more impressive by said basket), to her ornery attitude — all of it intrigued Sassy and she made countless attempts to get closer to ChiChi. For her part Sassy had also quickly figured out something else that was rather important when it came to her relationship with her new friend — from Sassy’s perspective it appeared that ChiChi had no desire to leave her basket — therefore Sassy was free to approach her from all angles. Yet Sassy was no dummy, either she was able to sense danger when it came to ChiChi, or else perhaps she’d gotten too close when none of us were looking and ChiChi nipped at her, but either way, while it was evident to all that Sassy enjoyed approaching ChiChi to see how the chihuahua would react, it was also clear that Sassy smart enough not to try to touch ChiChi.

Unfortunately for the rest of us there was an unexpected consequence to all this doggie interplay — the barking! Whether it was ChiChi barking if Anne or Sassy got too close or Sassy barking in frustration at this strange visitor who refused to get down and play at her level, either way one or both of them was usually barking – and these weren’t cute little dog barks but instead short, sharp, and generally pissed off yapping that got old quickly. Worse yet, there was no apparent solution in sight — it wasn’t like we wanted to risk putting ChiChi down and letting the dogs ‘work it out’ on their own — the risks were just too great. And so we just lived with it. Over the course of my parents’ visit, we tried separating them (distracting them by petting and loving on them while they were located on separate couches, relegating them to their bedrooms, and having them eat at different times). It worked as well as could be expected but the dogs continually let us know they were aware of what we were doing and were also still aware of each other — barking whenever they spied each other.

This went on for the majority of the visit — until when day when Anne discovered something that would change both Sassy and ChiChi’s lives forever — and it had to do with the calming of savage beasts.

*****

Speaking of savage beasts, before I get to Anne’s big discovery, there was another interesting tidbit that involved some rather larger beasts. One of the activities I invited my family to do while visiting was to spend a lazy afternoon canoeing down the Hillsborough River. It’s something I’d done with Anne and other friends on a number of occasions and it’s a great way to see the local wildlife and experience some of what Old Florida has to offer. My mother declined the opportunity and instead roped Anne into going shopping, but my dad readily agreed (I think the opportunity to drink beer on the river was rather appealing to him). That left only my sister Tara undecided — yet it was no easy decision for her. To say that the prospect of canoeing and/or the outdoors was foreign to Tara would be an understatement. My sister was seven years younger than me and at this time was in the middle of pursuing her a doctorate in Psychology. Although she’d played soccer in junior high, early on Tara had discovered that the life of an academic was her passion and we were all very proud of her for what she was accomplishing. At the same time I honestly thought she would enjoy a day in the canoe and I sold the idea to her on the premise that it would be rather like a visit to Thoreau’s Walden Pond. I’d like to think that my sales pitch won her over, but to be honest I think that the canoe was really the lesser of two evils for her — as much as Tara may have wanted to avoid the outdoors, the prospect of shopping with my mother was likely ten times more frightening to her. And so Tara ended up in our boat (literally).

Now when you canoe down the Hillsborough River you get the opportunity to see lots of wildlife — or shall we say ‘savage beasts’ — that includes some of the creatures Florida is most famous for — Alligators. I fully expected as much (although I didn’t necessarily trumpet this to my Dad or Tara) and since the gators had never bothered me in the past (and generally didn’t do anything but sun themselves along the river banks if you saw them at all) I didn’t think much of it. Unfortunately what I did not know at the time was that we were about to go canoeing during alligator mating season — when there would not only be more gators around, but they would be more active. When the driver from the canoe rental place told us as much while shuttling us up to the river, it wasn’t so much to scare us or even as a warning — it was actually portrayed as something positive because it meant we’d have the chance to see more gators than normal — which is generally what most people want to see. That being said, I could tell the thought of all those gators made Tara nervous and I was all to happy to tease her a bit about it — because hey, that’s what big brothers do, right?

We saw our first gator before we even got our canoe in the water.

“You are sure this is safe?” Tara’s blue eyes went wide as she pointed out the prehistoric looking monster to the canoe rental assistant who was helping us unload our boat.

With only a glance the boy smiled, “Him? That’s just one of the babies. But don’t worry, they won’t bite — so long as you don’t bite them first.”

It took a bit of coaxing but eventually we got Tara into the boat with my father and I. Having taken this route before, I knew that ultimately we had to go down river to the left, however I initially turned our boat right because the guide had pointed out that there was a large enclosed estuary where we could see some great wildlife — including more gators.

“Trust me,” I said to my dad and sister as I used my paddle to steer us, “the guide was right. I’ve been this way before and we’ll see some cool stuff.”

But what we saw next surprised even me — as we emerged into the circular estuary, all three of us gasped to see the river banks overloaded with gators — there were so many that some were laying on top of each other because there wasn’t enough room! (Although now that I write those words, and think about the fact that this was ‘mating’ season, perhaps they were laying on top of each other for a reason).

“Wow.” My dad gave a nervous laugh. “Mike, you really sure this is safe?”

“I want to go home.” Tara demanded. “Not cool. Let’s go.”

“Calm down, people. ” I replied, trying to maintain control of the situation. “I’ve made this trip a number of times and we’ve never had a problem. I doubt any of those gators will even move. So long as we don’t trouble them, they won’t even go in the water.” Even still I made a point of quickly steering us back around and heading back down the river, where presumably it would be less crowded…and safer.

Things calmed down considerably after that and for a time the three of us settled into our thoughts as we glided down the relatively tight waterway. We say lots of birds, spied an occasional critter in the bush, and saw our fair share of additional alligators along the banks. After a couple beers I know my dad was rather enjoying himself and while I don’t think Tara ever reached that stage of satisfaction with the experience, I think for a time she was ok with the process of moving down river — that is until we came to a massive tree that had fallen across the stream and blocked our progress.

“Looks like we’ll have to go to that river bank on the left and carry our canoe around the tree.” I steered us towards shore.

“You mean we have to get out of the boat?” Tara went white as a ghost as she scanned the shores for gators and was clearly wondering what else might be lurking in the shadows of the woods.

“I don’t think we have much choice.” My dad tried to laugh it off, although it was clear that he too was nervous about the idea.

Although I had never had to do this on any of my past canoe trips, there were footprints in the mud that seemed to indicate that at least one other party of canoers had undertaken this task earlier in the day so that gave me a bit of confidence, “Don’t worry, Tara, dad and I will carry the canoe, you just relax…and watch out for the wild boar.”

“You’ve got to be kidding?” Tara was on the verge of tears as she began searching the mud for tracks, and when she nearly lost a shoe in the deep mud, this only added to her misery. When we finally made it around the tree and got back in the boat, Tara was quite a mess (actually we all were because the ordeal was harder than expected), and she was not happy. “Michael, I swear you will pay for this.”

For my part, I was rather amused by it all, and after having successfully navigated that fallen tree I was feeling more confident than ever — that’s when we saw the biggest gator of the day.

Big Willy — as we later learned his name to be — was sunning himself on the shore like all the other gators we had seen that day. The only difference was that Willy was apparently a solitary fellow because unlike all his friends, there was not another gator anywhere close to him.

“Look at the size of him.” I admired.

“Want to get a closer look?” My dad snickered, clearly feeling gutsy from the beer.

“Absolutely not!” Tara shrieked. “I want to go home.”

 

“Oh, Tara, don’t worry. Nothing will happen.” And I steered the canoe closer.

That’s when Willy turned his head towards us…and deftly sank into the water.

Yikes, was all I could think, I’ve never seen them do that before! And I immediately began to turn our boat around.

“All righty then.” My dad chuckled nervously and began to paddle faster. “Perhaps we got a bit too close?”

Meanwhile Tara let loose a string of profanities that would have made Joe Pesci proud — including a handful of curse words that I’m certain she coined that day. And as Tara continued to speak in tongues, my father and I padded for all we were worth — down river, away from Willy, and towards the pickup point.

As we paddled, I continued looking behind us often for any signs of Big Willy, but luckily we didn’t see him again. We made it to shore safely and were all happy to get out of the canoe (none more so than Tara). After we got back to the canoe rental house we learned a couple things. For one, they were not aware of the fallen tree before they took us out, so it apparently happened sometime that morning. But more interestingly still, there was also a recent report of a canoe being tipped over by a large gator!

“We have one gator on the river whose a bit larger than the rest.” One of the guides joked. “We call him Big Willy. He’s always been harmless but I guess today he was submerged in the water and just coming up for air right as one of our canoes was passing over that spot. Obviously just a coincidence and thankfully nobody was hurt.”

“What happened to the people?” Tara eeked out.

“Oh I’m sure they were scared.” The man replied. “Willy tipped over their canoe — for you see he was scared too. But don’t worry, the water is shallow at that point and they couple made it to shore pretty easy. They said Willy immediately swam away so they were able to retrieve their canoe and get down to the pickup point pretty easy. Some story, huh?”

“Yeah, some story.” Tara’s baby blue eyes were ice as she looked at me.

(Ok, I will admit, had we known those things beforehand, we probably wouldn’t have taken the trip, but sometimes life’s greatest adventures are had when there’s an element of danger involved, right?)

Even still both my dad and I felt bad about the experience, because it was clear that Tara did NOT enjoy it — or so her continued cursing all the way home led us to believe; that and the fact that when we got home she immediately went into the bedroom and refused to talk to us.

But leave it to my father to save the day.

Throughout my life my dad, like his father before him, always enjoyed coming up with a good tale. He was also full of a million inventions. Tara’s displeasure after the canoe trip gave him the opportunity to use both his talents.

“It’s a Merit Badge.” My dad explained to the family at dinner after we’d finally managed to get Tara to come out and join the rest of us now that Anne and my mother were back from shopping.

Despite her annoyance, Tara eyed the strange piece of plywood my father had just given her — it was about 4 inches wide by 8 inches long and was decorated with little scenes depicting her trip — including one rather prominent drawing involving a the three of us in a canoe… with a large gator lurking in the water below. Tara couldn’t help but laugh as she passed it around the table.

“You’ve earned it.” My dad continued, as he explained the scenes. “And look there’s room for more. After all we still have Busch Gardens tomorrow.”

“Ah, I think that’s quite enough.” Tara took the Merit Badge back. “I’ve had my fill of gators and snakes for a lifetime.”

[As a side note to this story, I’ve learned over the years that Tara has often used personal stories from my family’s sometimes dysfunctional life in many of her psychology classes — I’m told that the story of how she earned her Merit Badge is always a class favorite!]

*****

From one set of savage beasts to another — that brings us back to Sassy and ChiChi. While my mother, father, Tara, and myself all went to Busch Gardens the following day (I assured Tara that all the animals at this amusement park would be safely locked away behind the glass), Anne kindly excused herself from our little foray and opted to stay at home. Given what she ended up having to deal with, I think she later regretted that decision.

As I said before, Sassy was infatuated with everything about ChiChi and throughout the course of my family’s visit that fascination only grew. Once Sassy figured out that ChiChi was not going to leave her laundry basket, Sassy devised a little game — and played it at ChiChi’s expense. As far as we could gather the rules were simple — Sassy would wait until ChiChi was either dozing off or involved in a licking session (ChiChi had a habit of either licking her paws or even the sheet/blanket next to her paws and doing it so long that she would put herself into a trancelike state), and once Sassy was certain that ChiChi was not paying attention, Sassy would silently approach her from behind. She’d creep up right next to ChiChi’s basket and once she was there Sassy would let loose a single, sharp bark — this inevitably scared the you-know-what out of ChiChi, who for her part would then go nuts — barking and spinning in all directions, yet always staying in her basket. Of course by this time Sassy was already long gone — watching from a safe distance. Yet funnier still was the fact that as soon as ChiChi began to calm down, Sassy would throw herself down on the ground in a fit and start rolling around and barking on the floor — which would then get ChiChi riled up again.

It was hilarious — at least the first ten times I saw it. But for Anne, who was home alone on the day my family and I went to Busch Gardens, and who was trying to study for a continuing education class regarding her insurance license, Sassy and ChiChi’s little game got old quick. Luckily for Anne, she was born with street smarts.

“They just wouldn’t shut up.” She later explained to us when we arrived home. She’d met us at the door and continued,  “That barking was driving me nuts. I had to do something. Please be very quiet as you come in. I don’t want to get them started again. ”

My family and I looked at either other and then at Anne as we entered the apartment — not understanding her words. “I’m confused,” I said, surveying the scene and seeing a room of complete serenity — Sassy was laying on her back with her paws in the air and her head twisted to the side next to one of the speakers, listening to some new age music, while ChiChi appeared to be sleeping in her basket in the bedroom. “They look pretty quiet to me.”

“Well that wasn’t the case for most of the day.” Anne replied. “They were literally barking non-stop for nearly two hours! I tried separating them to different rooms, sitting with Sassy and petting her to keep her quiet at least, offering them treats, and anything else I could think of. It didn’t help. Always with the teasing and barking. I even reprimanded Sassy multiple times to stop teasing ChiChi but she wouldn’t listen. I even tried closing the door to ChiChi’s bedroom but Sassy would just paw at the door and bark — which of course would start ChiChi barking too. It was insane.”

“Did you get any work done?” I asked, knowing her study was important for her job.

“Not for most of the day. But then Enya came and saved the day.”

“Who?” Tara asked. “Did you say Enya — the new age singer?”

“I did indeed.” Anne smiled. “What you see now is a direct result of Enya’s work. But don’t take my word for it, let me show you.” And Anne pulled out the new Sony Handycam we’d purchased recently and plugged it into the TV input. “It was so amazing I had to get it on film. Watch.”

The scene on the TV was not the peaceful room that we were in now, but instead one of chaos. Doggie toys and treats were strewn about the room, pillows were knocked off the couch, ChiChi was visible in the bedroom — barking from her basket — while Sassy was running around the living room and carrying on herself — and also barking.

Once the real life Sassy heard the barking on the TV, and realized that her music had stopped, she immediately began barking again. “Oh stop it, missy.” Anne admonished her and picked her up. “Be quiet and watch with us.” Then to the rest of us. “This is how it was all day — until I finally decided to try to put some music on to drown out the girls’ barking. At first I tried some Country.” And here we heard some Shania Twain playing in the background on the tv. “As you can see it didn’t work. They just barked louder and I couldn’t get anything done.” Anne skipped ahead on the tape. “Then Classic Rock.” Anne showed us a scene in which we heard a tune from The Eagles — again to no avail. “Disco? Nothing. However I did begin to notice that when I changed the music the girls did tilt their heads and seemed to listen to what it was for a few seconds before ignoring it again. This gave me an idea.”

“Which was?” Tara’s academic curiosity was now peaked.

“Why that music calms the savage beast.” Anne smiled proudly. “Watch this.” The next scene turned out to be quite different. When the camera came on again, it was now like the room we witnessed when we first returned home — Sassy was laying on her back with her head next to a speaker and ChiChi was relaxing her in basket — and nobody was making a peep. Anne explained, “Once I saw that they were paying attention to the music — at least when I first turned it on — I decided to try something calming. I started with Classical music and it helped a little. Piano music was even better. But what you see here is the result of Enya — her cd worked best of all.”

“Amazing.” My mom was in awe. She already gone to pick up ChiChi and love on her once we arrived home. As she stood holding her now, with the ethereal vocals of Enya in the background, ChiChi was like a little angel in her arms. “I’ve never seen her this calm.”

“Same goes for Sassy.” I laughed, picking her up and stroking her on the belly. “She’s like a little rag doll she’s so relaxed.”

Teahouse Moon.” Anne advised.

“No thanks, I’m not hungry.” I replied, not understanding what she meant.

“No, silly. That’s the name of their favorite Enya song — Teahouse Moon. What you see here is largely the result of that song. It puts them into some kind of trance. Eventually I just set the cd to play repeat on that over and over — it got them to shut up and also allowed me to do my homework.”

“I’m in awe.” Tara praised Anne. “This is quite incredible.”

“Well I knew nobody would believe it. That’s why I recorded it for you.” Anne laughed. “Pretty cool, huh?”

Pretty cool indeed — and proof positive that music really does calm the savage beast. Although my family left the next day, the lesson we all learned about the power of Enya and other new age music was one that we would both separately employ for our girls for the remainder of their lives. I can attest with all the certainty in my heart that Sassy truly loved listening to this style of music — it set her heart completely at peace. And I know my parents always said the same for ChiChi. To that end I owe a debt to Enya and a few other musicians of this genre — they enriched the lives of our girls and I am eternally grateful for their music.

(That being said, because of some later events in the lives of both Sassy and ChiChi, to this day I cannot listen to Enya — and especially not to Teahouse Moon — without tears coming to my eyes. That song now brings me back to a place I am not strong enough to think about yet — a scene that still breaks my heart to the core).

Meanwhile, let’s get back to some happy stuff! Just to put a bow on the story of my family’s visit and the Sassy-ChiChi battle Royale, I think we played that Enya cd about fifty times over the remainder of the day and a half they were still with us — it effectively stopped all further barking between the girls. (Although not all ‘barking’ in the household — Tara, my dad, and I played a friendly game of Monopoly later that day and it didn’t end well because of a bit of controversy — but that’s a story for another time).

As it turned out, this was the last time that Sassy and ChiChi were ever together. ChiChi was already advanced in years at the time of this visit and she was not around when my parents visited years later. I saw her again a couple more times when I travelled to Pennsylvania for visits with family and friends but Sassy didn’t travel with us and ChiChi never came to Florida again.

Nonetheless, I’ve always been convinced that Sassy’s personality changed after her encounter with ChiChi; it was ever so slight at first — as if she now had some impish little knowledge she didn’t have before, some piece of queen-bee type mentality that she picked up from watching ChiChi — but over time it became more apparent. Anne and I have often joked about it over the years. My theory here was rather odd — there was a Denzel Washington movie from the late 1990’s called Fallen and in that movie one of the characters was able to transfer its spirit to another character in order to avoid death. I’ve always felt that ChiChi transferred a part of her spirit to Sassy when they met — certainly not so much as to displace Sassy’s but just a small portion, as a sign of friendship. It sounds strange even writing that, but Anne and I both know that Sassy definitely developed a more ‘serve-me’ personality after ChiChi’s visit, so perhaps there is something to it? If nothing else it’s an interesting idea.

In any case, there was another important event that occurred in the summer of 2003 and it’s high time we got to that tale too…

 

Sassy’s Life Lesson #9 – The Wisdom of Your Family

We saw numerous examples in this chapter of wisdom being shared within a family: from Anne teaching us about the power of music to calm a couple of savage beasts, to my father turning my sister’s harrowing river adventure into a positive life lesson she now uses to teach her psychology students, to ChiChi showing Sassy how to become a Queen Bee — each of these is a great example of home grown wisdom.

So why is it that we go through life always searching for new sources to find wisdom from and yet all too often we overlook one of the easiest places to acquire knowledge from that could make our lives easier – your family! After all, nobody loves you more than your family. Nobody wants to see you excel in life more than your family. And nobody is around you as much as your family. The people in your family are filled with wisdom – and the older they get, the more knowledge they acquire from their life experiences. So why not tap into this storehouse of great information and use it to your advantage? This wisdom is right there waiting for you, if you’ll only be open to it.

I will admit that for most of my life, I chose to ignore the wisdom that was available from my family – I was too stubborn to accept their advice, I thought I knew it all myself, and what I didn’t know I wanted to learn on my own. As I look back now I can see that having such a mindset was really pretty stupid. I paid the price of not accepting the wisdom of my family by having to learn everything the hard way, by having to pay others for help, and by taking longer to acquire all these life lessons. Had I simply been open to learning from my family early on, my life could have been a lot easier — and with all the time I would have saved by accepting that ‘baseline’ knowledge from my family, I could have focused on learning higher level wisdom and been much further down the road. But that’s the price I paid for being stubborn.

Thankfully I learned the error of my ways and have recognized that the people of my family really do know a lot and I’m now eager to learn from them. I’m hopeful that you too will realize that your family can teach you a lot – if you only listen.

And finally, don’t take my word for it – check out what King Solomon had to say in Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is older he will not turn from that wisdom.”

 

Points to Ponder

The people in your family each have special skills that they’ve built up through a lifetime of learning. Gaining access to that knowledge is as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Think of a challenge you are facing in life right now.
  2. Next think of someone in your family who might be able to help you.
  3. Finally, do yourself a favor and ASK for help.

How much easier could your life be, if you simply followed this advice today?

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