The crisp March air streaked with sunshine and outlined with a blue sky can only mean one thing: muddy paws.
This week and weekend I am watching my sister’s puppy, Sir Barka Kacey Kelev McGinsburg. If you love puns as much as my brother-in-law while happening to speak Russian and Hebrew, then this mouthful of a name is quite clever if not a tad redundant (Dog Kacey Dog). Of course, his moniker carries more meaning once you know that Kacey is Gaelic for watchful and a reference to Kansas City, the city where Kelsey and Lev got married in 2017.
Bandit was a patient dog, who would let me do just about anything without much complaining. I’d brush his teeth, wash his face, and come every snowmelt wash his feet after he’d been outside. Bandit was a digger and knew where he was allowed to sink his claws. On those days where each toe was thick caked in mud, he’d occasionally whine and maybe yank a foot away, but after these muddy March days with Kacey, let me tell you, he was no wiggling puppy.
Wrangling Kacey to wash his feet, I thought about the nature of service. Sure, washing paws is for the dogs. No dried mud pulling hair and irritating that sensitive skin between toes. But also, I don’t want a bed full of the dirt that flaked off his pads. If you have ever tried to lay down in a muddy bed, you know I stand to benefit the most from taking the time to wash some paws.
With my OLLI class fast approaching, my days have been filled with cleaning muddy paws and parsing some meaning out of Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard’s life. According to one flattering life-sketch in the archives, Dr. Hebard’s mother, Margaret Dominick Marven Hebard, instilled in her the “value and dignity of service.” [Box 61, Folder 15]
Dr. Hebard heeded her mother and spent her life in service to her university, local community, state, and nation. She preserved the history and first-person reminiscences of early Wyoming and western expansion. The fight for woman’s suffrage and equality was shaped by her promotion of Wyoming leading the nation and rousing orations. Students sought Dr. Hebard’s aid for problems ranging from financial to homesickness. Dr. Hebard’s money streamed out in constant donations to struggling students; memorials for friends, relatives, and historic people; and honorary gifts from her various organizations. She raised money for the war effort during WWI and organized speakers. She wrote letters trying to increase the wages of university librarians and organized clubs around hobbies like photography. She even helped to organize her 50th college reunion. Yes, Dr. Hebard led a life full of service. While her university, community, state, and nation benefited– so did she. Her most cherished friendships and accomplishments blossomed out of her service to others.
Kelsey and Lev are off to visit friends and run in Kelsey’s favorite 10k, The Leprechaun Chase. Sure, they benefit from not having to take Kacey to the kennel. Kacey benefits from a bath, even if he doesn’t want one. And me? I benefit from having his company in the absence of Bandit, some small furry comfort in the contrasts. Even at this most basic familial exchange, service has the potential to fill our lives with joy and satisfaction. Service to my family has long been a comfort of mine. As I move forward on my business ventures, furthering my investment in the WY flag, putting the finishing touches on my OLLI class and public presentations, and taking some time to write every day– I embrace this dual nature of service, striving to serve my home state and also carve out some sort of happy, fulfilled living.