Dogs, Travel, and Reflections

January 7, 2017

I have started and stopped several times on an entry, since my last blog months ago. The fall semester, dare I say a year, seemed to long and continually busy. There were a lot of adventures, some frustrations, and a little sadness—as there is for everyone. Perhaps what I have been viewing as simply being too busy, are just opportunities blossoming that come with the realization of the hard work and dreams I nurtured quietly for so long.

Travel and Conferences

During the early summer 2016, I crossed off a major bucket list item. The NAISA conference was held in Hawaii. I had been to Alaska for another conference, and those were big bucket list places for me. I visited Austin too, again, due to a conference. Conferences, though are part of a professional obligation have long been a chance to visit with friends, reconnect with colleagues, and learn a lot of new information—plus visit so many places.

While I thought, I could be a professor as an undergraduate, I was certain I might not ever achieve that dream. During my freshman year of college, I flunked out. I wasn’t ready or even excited to be in college, but the consequences for not trying would drag my down my GPA throughout my undergrad years.

Start of my dreams

Yet, there was someone who took a gamble on me, and literally launched me into this career. Barry White and I had given a talk together a conference, and he encouraged me to apply to grad school at UB. That of course would lead to working with John Mohawk and Oren Lyons as their teaching assistant. I would go on to learn so much from the faculty at the University of Buffalo—that a lot of those lessons still guide me today. But it was Barry White that took a chance on me all those years ago. And John and Oren, among so many others would shape, mold, and inspire me a long this journey.

2016 marked the tenth year of some losses that were very personal and profound for me which has caused me to reflect a lot recently—as I prepare to start a new chapter in my life.

My grandmother’s sister, affectionately known as Aunt Betty, passed away in early 2006. My grandmother Shirley would pass away that summer in 2006. I adored my grandmother. And my mentor and friend John Mohawk would pass away days after a dinner we shared as I prepared to finish my dissertation.

Within eighteen months, I would lose both of my dogs too. Boomer a black lab who I had for ten years, and Belle a husky-Shepard mix who I rescued, but who was hilarious with the prettiest ice blue eyes. This would lead to some very dark days in my life.

A dog named Bodhi

But this would in turn lead to rescuing a pup I named Bodhi. Looking back now, I can see it was Bodhi who rescued me. He was the sweetest, gentlest dog that had a giant heart and was so patient. Bodhi and I would in turn take in another dog, a beagle named Copper. Copper’s owner had passed away and he needed a home. But like beagles can be, Copper was stubborn. But Copper was sweet too.

I still laugh at the day in the backyard that Bodhi was mischievous, and Copper was not amused by it. Copper was often frustrated by Bodhi’s long legs and thus speed. Bodhi was continually surprised that Copper took the angles and cut him off in games of chase anyways. But this one day stands out.

Bodhi loved to play fetch, but wasn’t the greatest about giving you the ball back so it could be thrown again. The trick was to keep two or three of the balls in play. But it was getting on towards dinner time, and Copper was simply sniffing around the backyard. I had thrown a toy, and told Bodhi to get his toy. So, Bodhi looked at his toy, then looked at me, and then looked at Copper. I told Bodhi to go get his toy again.

And with that, Bodhi ran over to Copper—who was minding his own business—and grabbed Copper by the head and tried to drag him towards me. Copper let out an indignant bark, and Bodhi just kept grinning ear to ear. It is one of my fondest memory of the two dogs.

Ten Years, a blink of an eye

Two years ago, on December 28, 2014, I took Bodhi to the emergency vet in North Syracuse. It would turn out that Bodhi most likely had an aggressive form of cancer, and his spleen had ruptured—the only humane thing to do was put him to sleep. But it broke my heart.

On December 28, 2016, just before I was to begin Sabbatical Leave and my Research Chair Fulbright Fellowship, I put Copper to sleep too. Copper was approximately ten years old, and struggling with his health. Copper had been a sweet dog too. Even in his stubbornness, he grew on me—a lot. Ten years has passed in the blink of an eye.

A New Chapter

So, while I have had a bit of a heavy heart the last couple of weeks, Chloe and I have ventured forth into Canada. In 2016, I was also awarded Visiting Research Chair in Trans-Border Studies at Brock University and Sabbatical Leave from SUNY Oswego. I will be teaching at Brock for their Spring term and working on research with the Creation Narratives of the Haudenosaunee at Six Nations; and likely in several other communities too. There are so many conversations to be had, so much to learn, and in turn so much to write—I suspect the next ten years will pass in the blink of an eye too.

I feel like I have found my voice and excitement to write again. I have had so many wonderful conversations in recent weeks, months, and years. I need to write to find out what I am thinking—it only makes sense. I have been inspired by all the books published by my friends and colleagues—I feel compelled to pick up the pace a little bit!

But none of this blog would be possible without the patience and talent of Zak Becker of 1BigWebDesign. (Get ahold of one of the most talented guys in the business!)

What are your hopes and dreams for 2017?

Kevin J. White
Toronto, CA