Dog, Tanner Bear and my Cuzin' Sally
I never had the pleasure of meeting Tanner Dog. By the time I got
to know Sally he had already gone to that special place reserved for
those extraordinary canine companions who share our lives and then
pass on. I do feel like I got to know him, at least a little bit,
through Sally's stories.
We're not actually cousins but since we have the same last name
(I married into mine), we decided we must be related somehow. I tell
folks, "She's my long lost distant Cuzin' by marriage." In
addition to being a wonderful author and poet, Sally is also an avid
angler, a nationally certified casting instructor and a fly fishing
teacher with the "Becoming an Outdoors-Woman" (BOW)
program here in California.
She has been featured on ESPN and is
currently involved in a wonderful television project called
"Women in the Stream". In her beautiful book, "Shared
Treasures, A Journal of Friendship and Fly Fishing," she tells
many delightful stories about relationships both on and off the
river. Some of her best stories include Tanner, her black cocker
spaniel. Tanner was Sally's fishing companion for 17 years and the
special bond they shared rings through her stories loud and clear.
A few months ago, I had dinner with my friend Monica, a
talented Physical Therapist, who helped me through nine long months
of rehab after I had a nasty knee injury. Due in part to her healing
spirit, we have remained friends for several years. Monica surprised
me at the restaurant that night with a present. Inside the gift bag
was a Brass Button Collectable Teddy Bear, dressed in a khaki
fishing vest and hat. The tag said his name was "Tanner"
and that he was "The Bear of Health." He was adorable and
I was thrilled, but I couldn't help but think of Sally. I shared
with Monica some stories about my Cuz' and her faithful companion
Tanner the dog. Suddenly this teddy bear connected two of my friends
who had never met in a very unique way. Little did I know then how
much the connection would deepen.
A few weeks later, Sally e-mailed me with heartbreaking news. She
had been diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma of the right
breast and she would need a mastectomy. I was devastated, not Sally,
not her "casting" side. I responded back with a supportive
email, but wondered what else I could do. Then I saw Tanner Bear
sitting on the bookshelf and I knew. I knew he had an important job
to do. Tanner Bear was going on a mission.
I packaged him up and sent him to Sally, just before I sealed the
box I created a little paper scroll and slipped it under his arm.
The scroll read,
This is a loan not a gift. My friend
Monica gave this little guy to me. Look at his nametag, his name is
"Tanner" and he is "the Bear of Health." Since I
can't be there to watch over you after your surgery, I'm sending
Tanner in my place. Whenever you see his sweet face or cute little
fishing hat, I want you to remember that I'm thinking about you and
praying for your full and speedy recovery.
I saw Monica again shortly after putting Tanner Bear in the mail.
I told her the whole story and she was thrilled that he was going on
such an important mission.
In Sally's thank you note to me she wrote, "Tanner Bear
arrived at the exact right moment and will be returned with
reluctance and gratitude." Sally and I have talked on the phone
several times since her surgery and she is healing, and yes, she's
been out fishing a few times already, but in her words, " The
mend is steady but way too slow for my way of thinking..."
In the meantime, Tanner Bear is still there, faithfully watching
over my friend, "Cuzin' Sally."
If you'd like to learn more about Women in the Stream or the
Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, check out the following links:
Women in the Stream: www.womeninthestream.com
BOW in California: www.dfg.ca.gov/bow/owoman.html
International BOW Webpage: www.uwsp.edu/cnr/bow/index.htm