History, History Column

Read Across America

A Bit of History

Read Across America

Written by Parker A. Poodle ™ a.k.a. Sarah Becker
Copyright ©2020 Sarah Becker

Let’s Celebrate Read Across America

On December 21, 2019, my mistress’ brother unexpectedly passed away.  His children were sad and needed to snuggle.  I, Parker A. Poodle, a Reading Education Dog, love to snuggle.  I do it well—or so I suppose.  What they really wanted was a better understanding of love.


“Mama, do you love me?” children’s author Barbara M. Joosse asked.  “Yes I do…I love you more than the raven loves his treasure, more than the dog loves his tail, more than the whale loves his spout…Mama, what if I carried our eggs—our ptarmigan eggs!…and I tried to be careful, and I tried to walk slowly, but I fell and the eggs broke?  Then I would be sorry.  But still, I would love you.”

If my mistress accidentally fell down the stairs I would run, from wherever I am immediately to her side.  Even if it meant that I hurt myself similarly.  My love, a dog’s love is unconditional.  As is a grandmother’s love, the grandmother who reportedly reentered a burning building to rescue her grandson.

March 2 is Read Across America Day.  Share your love of reading—not only with me—but also those you dearly love.  Love: “deep affection or fondness.”  Unconditional: “not subject to conditions, stipulations or terms; complete as in unconditional surrender.”

Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who followed his beloved State surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 8, 1865.  “As President Lincoln requested, the terms were generous: the Confederate officers and men were free to go home with their own horses.”  Lee’s lesson: reconciliation (1865-1870).  “All should unite in honest efforts…to resolve the blessings of peace,” he said.

According to the NIV Archaeological Study Bible “dogs were first domesticated in prehistoric times.  A site called Ein Mallaha in northern Israel yields the earliest uncontested archaeological evidence for domesticated dogs (9,000 B.C.).”   We dogs were “revered.”  That said the Biblical references are not always kind.

Proverbs 26.11:  “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”  Or Proverbs 26.17:  “Like one who seizes a dog by his ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own.”  Nowhere is doggie heaven described, only “pits filled with carefully buried puppies.”

“When dogs go to heaven, they don’t need wings because God knows that dogs love running best,” Cynthia Rylant wrote in Dog Heaven.  “He gives them fields [and] the dogs each find a cloud bed for sleeping.  They turn around and around in the cloud until it feels just right, and then they curl up and they sleep.”  At my arthritic age I slide more often than I run, especially when heading downstairs.

“I’ve always felt almost human,” Garth Stein’s yellow Labrador said in The Art of Racing in the Rain.  “Sure I’m stuffed into a dog’s body, but that’s just the shell.  It’s what’s inside that’s important.  The soul.”  Soul, as defined by The Oxford American Dictionary: the moral, emotional or intellectual nature of a person or animal.”


Psalm 95.18-19: “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

“Astrid and Eli had many things in common,” Kate Klise wrote in Stay: A Girl, A Dog, A Bucket List.  “They lived in the same house, ate at the same table, and slept in the same bed.  There was only one difference: Astrid was a girl and Eli was a boy.  And a dog…For every birthday Astrid celebrated, Eli had the equivalent of six or seven birthdays.  When Astrid was six, she was still a young girl, but Eli was an old dog.  ‘You walk so slowly now,’ Astrid told Eli one day.”

“I’m old,” Stein’s yellow Labrador continued.  “And while I’m very capable of growing older, that’s not the way I want to go out.  Shot full of pain medication and steroids to reduce the swelling of my joints.  Vision fogged with cataracts.”

“Think about…someone who loves you,” Pat Zeitlow Miller suggested in When You Are Brave.  “Once you find your courage, it’s easy to [do so] again.”

“Several general officers have brought their wives to camp, and I am very envious, not of their wives (who are rather dull), but in the pleasure they have of being able to see them,” The Marquis de LaFayette wrote wife Adrienne in January 1778.  “George Washington has also just decided to send for his wife, a modest and respectable person, who loves her husband madly….”

“I wanted you more than you will ever know, so I sent love to follow wherever you go,” Nancy Tillman wrote in Wherever You Are.  “It’s high as you wish it.  It’s quick as an elf.  You’ll never outgrow it, it stretches itself!  So climb any mountain, climb up to the sky!  My love will find you.  My love can fly!…It never gets lost, never fades, never ends…There’s no place, not one, that my love can’t find you.”

George Washington, father of the Foxhound, died on December 14, 1799.  “Washington was a more respectful than a tender husband certainly, yet we found this excellent Woman [wife Martha] grieving incessantly,” Mrs. Henrietta Liston, wife of the British Ambassador wrote in August 1800.  “She repeatedly told me that all comfort had fled with her Husband, and that she waited anxiously her dissolution.  And indeed it was evident that her health was fast declining and her heart breaking…[In 1802] a few months after our departure, we heard of her death.”

I Corinthians 13.1, 4-8: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal…Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes; always perseveres.”

“Give all to love; obey thy heart,” Ralph Waldo Emerson penned.  “Friends, kindred, days,/ Estate, good-fame,/ Plans, credit and the Muse,—Nothing refuse./ It is a brave master;/ Let it have scope; Follow it utterly,/ Hope beyond hope;/…It will reward.”

I will love my lady always.  And she will always love me.  Especially, when we huddle up and read a book.

Read America!  Open a book; and your heart.   

Parker A. Poodle™ is the significant companion of columnist Sarah Becker.  She started writing for The Economist while a graduate student in England.  Similar publications followed.  Sarah joined the Crier in 1996 while serving on the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association Board.  Her interest in antiquities began as a World Bank hire, with Indonesia’s need to generate hard currency.  Balinese history, i.e. tourism provided the means.  The New York Times describes Becker’s book, Off Your Duffs & Up the Assets, as “a blueprint for thousands of nonprofit managers.”  A former museum director, SLAM’s saving grace Sarah received Alexandria’s Salute to Women Award in 2007.

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