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I’ve been away from home more in the past year and a half than ever before.  When I am here, I feel so grateful that we were able to find this hidden sanctuary after the years of living in what is touted as the most densely populated state in the country.  Moving away from Jeni was not easy.  Although my first, beloved grandchild has arrived, I still love west Michigan.  All I have to do is hop on a plane or get in the car and I am there to see baby Carlos.  My son and father’s sister and brother live in California. It is an easy plane ride there, too.  It was on a trip to see them last week that I ran into Sgt. Lopez and his bomb sniffing canine, Colli at the Minneapolis airport.

Maybe because Jim was in the Air Force and went to Vietnam or maybe because we lived next to both Maguire Air Force Base and Fort Dix when we owned our little  farm in New Jersey, I have a very strong reaction when I see a fellow American in a uniform.  It takes my breath away.  And to see a soldier with a dog, another passionate soft spot, I generally lose it.  When I saw Sgt. Lopez and Colli, I hesitated.  I gave myself a minute to catch my breath and let a few tears fall.  I didn’t want to embarrass him, but I had to connect with he and his dog on some level.  I wanted to thank him for his sacrifice.  And I wanted to see the dog up close.  So once I was somewhat in control, I called after him as I ran to where they were standing.  I just yelled ‘Sir and your dog!’  He stopped and turned toward me.  And he smiled at me.  I got the feeling right away that he had been through this before, maybe many times.  He was patient with me as I attempted to ask him questions with my hands over my face while I sobbed.  He let some slack out on Colli’s leash so she could come to me and comfort me.  She rubbed up against my legs with enough pressure to push me backwards, her head twisting around to look up at me.  All I could get out was ‘thank you’.  He was so gracious.  We said goodbye and then I remembered my iphone.  I could take pictures of him.  I ran after him again and he waited for me and submitted to photo taking.  We said goodbye.  When I got to my gate, I remembered I didn’t get his name, so I went looking for him again and there he was, walking with Colli. He was interested in giving me information; I told him I blogged, but I forgot about the notepad on my phone and didn’t have a pen or paper and forgot most of what he said.  I think his first name was Joseph and  remembered that he was going home to Colorado.

Once I got home from California, I began researching how the Army and Marines use dogs in combat and I came across Rebecca Frankel, a reporter, er, Canine Correspondent, for Foreign Policy magazine.  Her column is titled Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week.  Foreign Policy is supposed to be without bias, but I decided I don’t care if it is or isn’t. That it chooses to report on something so dear to my heart covers a multitude of sins.

We are so lucky in this country, so blessed.  How do we deserve it?  I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.  I am also saddened that not everyone has the same standard of living.  Not everyone has a job, or is able to keep their house, or has piles of Christmas presents under their tree.  But everyone benefited from Sgt. Lopez and Colli,  who went to Afghanistan and to risk their life.  Some of their colleagues made the ultimate sacrifice.  It reminded me that almost everything I complain about is ridiculous.  I am very, very lucky.