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Tanner 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."

Respectfully submitted,
Cousy Chick

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



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