A simple thought.

Content is king. Content gives you (or your company, or your product, or your service) attention. Attention gives you opportunity. Opportunity is not a guarantee for success, but it is the foundation.

There’s something missing.

As B2C interaction becomes increasingly digital, there’s something missing. Recapture a personal connection at any cost.

Grocery Store Parking Lot

There was a time (when I was much younger) that part of the grocery experience was having your cart pushed to your car and your bags loaded into your car.

That time has passed. Now, you’re in charge of your groceries all the way to your vehicle. And you’re in charge of the cart, too – all the way to the return area.

It’s now a high level of customer service if you’re met in the lot by a cart attendant and asked, “can I take that for you?” Turns out, high-level is relative.

You gotta have friends.

So, Aprill and I have to be out of town for a couple of days, off in two different directions. One thing has been on the calendar for months. The other came up quite unexpectedly.

Enter Lisa. Our good friend. Our pet sitter. Aprill’s co-pilot on many a foster transport. The little sister neither of our parents had for us. Our go-to. The only human present the day Henry caught his one and only rabbit and drug it around the backyard half dead. She knows the eccentricities of our house, our routine, our dog(s) and our life as well as anyone besides us.

So, after a long day of work as she assumed her role as surrogate Jones, she was as surprised as we would have been when foster setter #3 bolted out of his crate, out the back door and, within 30 seconds, did his best tasmanian devil right through the fence into complete and total freedom.

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It is not a big hole. And foster setter #3 is a pretty big dog. But setters aren’t like other dogs. They’re weird. Bags of bones. They contort and twist and get themselves into positions that lovers of other breeds would not recognize as doglike.

Back out the front door in a flash, leash in hand, Lisa was greeted by the sight of our neighbor, walking back across his lawn toward our house with foster setter #3 in tow.

Enter Stan. Stan and Lil are the neighbors everyone wants. (You can’t have them.) Stan and Lil are early retirees, and have assumed the role of bail the Joneses out without warning friends (we are not sure if reluctantly or not). This role includes being our during-the-day, let-the-foster-out-of-his-crate, put-the-dogs-in-if-it-starts-to-storm, make-sure-there-are-no-unauthorized-dog-parties-on-the-patio foster team members. Apparently, this isn’t the first time today that foster setter #3 has done his escape act.

Lisa has a plan to fix it, but she’s a prisoner in a hire-most-things-done house. Limited tools. No materials. Stan always has the tool that you need but don’t have. He always seems to have the right supplies – raw materials to accomplish tasks. He is like living next door to a mini-Home Depot.

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Within a few minutes, Stan and Lisa engineered and installed a quick fix. Crisis averted. For now.

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But it’s a big fence. And two more days. And there are thunderstorms in the forecast.

It’s Always a Little Tough

They come in, and they steal part of your heart. Foster dogs.

And even though it’s why you do it, it’s always a little tough when you see them appear in the Available Dogs section of the ACES website.

But Doki’s made it. When you read the bio and look at his pictures, they just can’t capture what a great dog he is. Last night, when man’s best friends the other setters had abandoned me for a place on the sofa with Aprill, Doki made his way over and, for the first time, climbed into my lap. Doki is big. Gangly. But like any setter, he rolled around for a minute or two, got comfortable and settled in.

He’s going to make some family a wonderful pet. If we had some way of doing it, we’d keep every one of them. We’d have 100 setters and truly be a setter nation.

But while that would be great for us, it wouldn’t for Doki and all the great dogs that will follow – because Doki will shine brightest when the lap belongs only to him.

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Doki arrives!

He’s here! From King George, VA to Charlotte in a day. Settling in. He is another testament to the greatness of this breed.

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Whatever Happened to Foster #2?

Well, Doki, foster setter #3 arrives today after a 5-stage transport from King George, VA. In fact, he is on his way as I write this. But, I haven’t written much about Liana, foster setter #2. Her story is compelling – rescued by the road next to her traveling companion who had been hit by a car. Loyal. Brave. The youthful guardian.

I haven’t written much about foster setter #2 because she did not remain a foster setter long enough. It may have been the minute I laid eyes on her. It may have been the second minute when Aprill got the picture I sent her in a text message. It’s even possible that it was later…like that evening when I returned to Charlotte from Fayetteville and she curled up on the rug in the family room to sleep off the rest of the anesthesia from surgery.

But it wasn’t long before we knew she would never leave the Jones home. She is one of the sweetest female setters ever. She has all of those characteristics that make a female setter lovable (sleeping on her back, howling at sirens, walking out the door in hunt position, crawling up in your lap to watch television), as well as those characteristics that, let’s just say, endear a female setter (digging for chipmunks in flower beds, rising with the first glimpse of sunlight, barking at ghosts). She loves Henry, and he loves her. She loves Boz, and he loves her. It was a perfect fit.

Home isn’t always as far away as it seems. For Liana, it was one car ride away from Fayetteville.

Now, let’s see how three dogs fit!

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This is service!

(Recently posted on Facebook by my friend, Ty Thornhill of Erwin-Penland Advertising.)

“The best service experience I’ve ever had: I checked into the Intercontinental Hotel in Tampa very late after an awful travel day. I asked the check-in clerk (Andrew) if any local restaurants were open–I’d even take Taco Bell. He said there was one on the corner. I thanked him and said I’d love a couple Doritos Tacos. But Taco Bell wouldn’t serve me because I wasn’t in a car (another long story). I walked back to the hotel with a Lunchable from a 24hr Walgreens. Andrew asked what happened. I told him. 30 min later, Andrew knocks on my door…with two Doritos Tacos. If you travel, stay at Intercontinental.”

I am impressed.

Youthful Guardian

There was no YouTube video posted. No eyewitnesses on the evening news. No great outpouring of community support. There was only the email that came into Aprill’s inbox with these lines:

Someone had called the shelter regarding two dogs: one had gotten hit by a car (German pointer) and the other dog wouldn’t leave its side (this girl). They had to euthanize the pointer due to its injuries.

And so began our part in the story of Liana, foster setter #2.

When I arrived at the animal hospital in Fayetteville, I didn’t know what to expect. The place was chaotic, more like an emergency room at midnight than Mallard Creek, the best, most professional veterinary practice in the world. (I’m not biased.) What I was introduced to was an extremely malnourished little dog – about 29 lbs. on a frame that should carry 45. She came into the room on a leash, and immediately into my arms. A leaner. She had matted hair behind her ears and back legs, and smelled of flea dip. “She was covered with fleas and ticks – so we had to dip her” I was told. She had been spayed earlier in the day, too – so she was a groggy, stinky, skinny little mess.

And she was without her friend – the friend who’d been my her side, and whose side she would not leave.

I don’t know what it’s like to be on the run. I’ve never been there. I’ve always thought it was the result of choices. Poor choices. On the run was the place for miscreants. Troublemakers. Wrongdoers. I don’t know what it’s like to have no food, and to not be able to find any. I don’t know what the separation of night and day looks like when there are no anchors like place or benchmarks like meals.

But maybe not. Maybe sometimes on the run is the result of circumstances out of one’s control. In a dog’s case, it just got lost. Wandered off. Or was abandoned, or taken somewhere and let go. I am sure of this. Liana is not a miscreant, troublemaker or wrongdoer. (Well, she does like to jump up on the bed sometimes – so there’s a little miscreant in her). She is pure sweetness. All good. No bad.

Aprill gave her her foster name. Liana. Youthful guardian.

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When Success Leaves You A Little Empty

Eight weeks ago, we welcomed a very frightened, foster setter into our home. We didn’t know for how long. For all we knew, she might have come to stay forever.

Tomorrow, we’ll pile into the car (with Henry along for moral support), drive to Savannah, Georgia, and hand Lanie off for a trip to Daytona Beach, Florida and to her forever home with a fenced back yard, and a woman who loves setters so much that Lanie will be one of three, all rescues. Her new master has even had dogs, like Lanie, who were part of cruel hunting camps. She loves caring for the ones who need constant love to overcome years of isolation. It’s the perfect home for her.

Still, it will be bittersweet. On the one hand, we made it! We didn’t foster flunk. And she made it! She was a dog that our vet estimated, for the first 3 years of her life, spent 23 hours a day in a crate with no human kindness, only to end up in a kill-shelter in south Georgia. We gave her a ride to Charlotte, good food, clean water, a warm, dry place to sleep, belly rubs and head scratches (through the door of her kennel), vitamins and baths, a backyard in which to romp alongside the kindest of foster-setter-brothers, a cat to give her clawless pats on the head, and patience, even when she had accidents on the floor.

Most of all, we gave her love. We loved her, and we love her. Two different things, loved and love.

And now we arrive at today. If everything goes as planned tomorrow, we will have fulfilled our role in this process. The safe harbor. She will have come from horrible conditions, passed through a death sentence and finally arrived at a forever home where all the bad stuff will be in her rearview mirror and only good things will lie ahead.

But it won’t come without its tolls – on her as she adjusts, once again, to a new place with more new faces and smells. And on us as we adjust to an empty crate that was a temporary home for a sweet spirit that deserved her chance.

It was Roger Caras, long-time voice of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show who said, “dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

Enjoy your new home, Lanie. And don’t look back.

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