I Lost a Dog

By: Janice Lane Palko 

Around 10 years ago, I wrote a piece for this column called I Love a Dog. The article told of taking care of my daughter and son-in-law’s dog, new puppy Penny, and about how I, as someone who have never had a pet before, was clueless when it came to dogs. As I stated in that article, I did not have pets as a kid because my brother was severely allergic to them, and while I liked dogs, I had never spent much time with them.  

Penny, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, was the first dog I ever cared for. I went from someone who gagged when picking up her “presents” left in the yard to poop-picker-upper pro. I learned to sense what she wanted and knew where to look for her if it thundered—hiding in the bathroom behind the toilet. I marveled at how she could collapse her stubby legs and scoot under a bed that had less than a foot clearance. She was such a sweet, gentle pooch, she paved the way for our family getting our first dog, Mickey, three years later.  

There was something else I was clueless about when it came to dogs—and that was how sad it is when you lose one.  

After 11 years of furry love, Penny left us on June 28. Nearly two years ago, she was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her paw and had surgery to remove it. Although she was advancing in age, she was still the same loveable dog as ever. During the last six months, however, she began to experience these distressing episodes where she got severely sick, falling over and ceasing to eat. Thinking that the cancer had spread, we were warned several times that she may be dying, but she always seemed to rally. However, in June she declined rapidly, and her vet advised that the merciful option was to put dear Penny to sleep.  

Fortunately, this allowed everyone who loved her to say goodbye to her, petting her, telling her how much we loved her and giving her belly rubs. I don’t know if she sensed this was the end and wanted to leave us with even more good memories, but on her last day Penny seemed to be infused with energy and spent her waning hours with my daughter’s family doing all the things she loved, fetching balls with the enthusiasm she had when she was younger, snuggling with my daughter during my granddaughters’ nap time, and having a last dinner of her favorite, roast turkey, before my daughter and son-in-law lay on the floor with her as the vet administered the shots and she passed on. 

I like to believe that “all dogs go to heaven,” but liking to believe something does not make it so. I am no theologian, so I did a little research about on what various faiths believe about what happens to pets after death. A cursory search on the internet, shows that all the major world faiths have no conclusive dogma on what happens to pets when they die.  

The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6, however, gives me hope:  

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” 

God doesn’t do things randomly or haphazardly. He doesn’t create something and then abandon it. He cares for it. If God is love and cares for the birds on earth, the creator of all, in my humble and unlearned opinion, will surely want to be surrounded and glorified by all his creation in heaven.  

Penny was pure love in a fur coat, and I’m sure God would enjoy her nuzzles in heaven as much as we did here on earth.  

Just a Thought—Viva la Difference



By Janice Lane Palko

During the Christmas holidays, my husband, 25 and 20-year-old sons and I went to see Les Misérable at the movie theater.  It was the only movie that all four of us had not seen so that’s why we chose it.  While I enjoyed it, I could tell after 10 minutes, that my male counterparts were less than enthralled.  My hubby nodded off every here and there while my 20-year-old began to surreptitiously text, and I noticed a scowl periodically creeping crossing the 25-year-old’s face. 

 As the credits rolled by, I asked for their critiques.  The hubby said it was a good story, but had way too much singing.  The 25 year-old, who has a master’s degree in Political Science, said he wished they’d delved more into the history of the time instead of all that “fluff,” and the 20-year-old said he knew why they named it “miserable.” Although he did relate how during an architecture class last year he learned how the Parisians redid the lay out of the streets of  Paris after this time so that barricades could not be constructed by rebels.  Clearly, they are not uneducated bores, but boys.      [Read more…]

Just a Thought: A Christmas Collage By Janice Lane Palko

This year I will celebrate my 53rd Christmas, and I guess I have enough years under my belt to wax a little nostalgic on Christmases past.  It has happened gradually, but Christmas has changed a lot over the decades.  When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, the month of December was a magical time of preparation leading up to the big day on December 25.  Each morning during Advent at St. Athanasius in West View, where I attended grade school, a different homeroom went to the office and sang over the scratchy loudspeaker, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  Every time I hear that song now, (my favorite is B. E. Taylor’s version) I’m transported back to my desk, counting down the days until Christmas.  In first grade, Sr. Lois putting up a manger and handed us slips of yellow paper.  We were to write a good deed  we had done each day on these slips of “straw”  that were placed in the manger as the bedding on which baby Jesus would rest. 

 The mothers of the children there took turns cooking our lunches in the cafeteria, and for Christmas they always served us a complete turkey dinner.  As I got older, my circle of friends and I began to exchange gifts.  Hot ones were Love’s Baby Soft Cologne and Lipsmacker lip-gloss.  One year I got a frankincense and myrrh candle—it smelled terrible.  At my class party in 1972, we played records, and that was where I first heard John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is Over).  Forty years later, I still love that song. 

 At home, the arrival of the Sears Christmas Wishbook catalog was one of the best days of the year.  My brothers, sister and I would fight over who would get it first.  I remember lying on my stomach for hours paging through it circling things I wanted—everything from Snoopy Sno-Cone Makers to cowgirl suits.  My paternal grandmother, Grandma Aggie, worked at Sears and one year she got me one.  It was robin’s egg blue and had white fringe on the skirt’s bottom and across the shirt’s yoke.  Pearl snaps finished off the Western look.     [Read more…]

Just a Thought Parenting — A Moving Experience By Janice Lane Palko

I have not read the best-selling book What to Expect When You’re Expecting nor have I seen the movie based on the book, which was released this year.  From its description on Wikipedia, this book is regarded as “the Bible of American pregnancy.” However comprehensive the book may have intended to be, it fails to alert soon-to-be parents of one side effect of parenthood.  That whether you want to be or not, you will become a mover.  Not a mover in the sense of mover and shaker, but as in Mayflower or United Van Lines.


Mercifully, parents’ induction into the life as a stevedore is gradual, beginning with toting a diaper bag everywhere you go with your baby, and when the situation warrants,  the ever-essential portable bed, infant seat or stroller.  I had twins so our load was multiplied.  


When the children became a little older and more mobile, they were able to help with the toting and hauling somewhat, but no matter how I tried to train them, they always seemed to leave their backpacks lying around.  I don’t know about you, but when I went to school, maybe I brought home a book or two a night.  Now students carry backpacks that seem as punishing as Sisyphus’ boulder.  Unlike moving baby items, moving backpacks requires brute strength.  But I think that is God’s way of preparing you for the next chapter in your adventure in childrearing—full parental pack mule status.  


Since 2005 when my twins graduated from high school and headed off to college, my husband and I calculated that in those intervening years we have moved our three children 23 times.  Fortunately, by this time in our lives, we had the right equipment for our lot in life—the proverbial mini van.  With our red Caravan, we have moved children in and out of houses, dorms, apartments, acquiring along the way scuffed knuckles, wrenched knees and frazzled nerves.  Some moves stand out more than others.  The year my daughter moved into an  apartment in an old home with an impossible staircase that necessitated precise geometric calculations to get the mattress around a tight corner tested our spatial analytical skills.  The 20-minute time allotment at the dorms at Penn State for parents and students to unload their contents was a study in time and motion efficiency. 


While all the moves have posed challenges—from hauling boxes in sweltering Georgia heat to removing an enormous bureau so that my son could spend his summer in D.C. living with friends before grad school—where his quarters were defined as living behind the couch.   (I’ve heard of the movie People Under the Stairs, but never the Boy Behind the Couch.)


However, by far the worst was couch boy’s move to an apartment in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, when he acquired his first job in July 2011.  In addition to our faithful van, we borrowed my father’s truck to haul all of his belongings there.  If you have never been to Old Town, it is the area around Washington, D.C. near where George Washington lived.  It’s quite charming but quite congested.  To move, we had to pay for a $35 parking pass that would reserve a parking space on the street for us in front of his building on busy King Street.  By this time, our trusted van had lost its air-conditioner.  The least affected by heat, I volunteered to drive the van whose main content was a new queen-sized mattress.  Everything went smoothly until we hit Old Town on Sunday afternoon, where I was required to parallel park the van.  Well,  I can’t remember the last time I paralleled park—probably because it was so traumatic, I’d blotted it from my memory.  I am a pull-in, mall-shopper kind of parker and now here I was faced with the worst parking situation ever—a tiny spot on a busy city street where I must hold up traffic to  situate the van whose visibility is inhibited by the giant mattress in the back. 


While my husband and son guided me in and sweat poured from me, I somehow negotiated the van into the spot.  After that chaotic episode, moving all his furniture and belongings up two-flights and driving back to Pittsburgh in the same day seemed like a breeze.


My youngest will graduate from Penn State this spring, and we were hoping to hold on to the van, which was 12 years old, for one last college move, but alas, fate intervened.  The van’s transmission went several weeks ago, and we were forced to get a new vehicle.  We selected a Honda CR-V.  The bells and whistles on my new ride are amazing—it has a rearview back-up mirror, Bluetooth ,and I can even customize the wallpaper on the dashboard screen—and this isn’t even the deluxe model.  But if Honda really wants to attract buyers, they need to develop an accessory that will moves children without the assistance of parents.  

Just a Thought—Yolo is the Only Way to Go

By Janice Lane Palko 

I just celebrated my 30th wedding anniversary, and to commemorate the occasion, my husband and I headed back to where we honeymooned three decades ago, Bermuda.  One of the things we did on this trip, in addition to journeying back to the places we visited as newlyweds, was try to a new water sport—stand-up paddleboarding.  If you aren’t familiar with paddleboarding, you probably will be soon.  Our fun and lovely guides, Stephon and Shianne, told us that it had only come to Bermuda in the last few months and has already become quite popular.  It’s starting to catch on in various places in the U.S as well.  If you haven’t seen one, visualize a Venetian gondolier on a surfboard. 

As I’ve written before, I’ve kayaked so I was eager to try this new water sport, but as with any new experience, I was a bit nervous when our guides picked our group up outside our cruise ship. Would I be able to do it?  Would I fall off?  Would I make a fool of myself? [Read more…]