Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An Open Letter to Jon Katz


Until recently, I have never been a blog follower of anyone I did not
personally know, I have never written a letter to someone who did not
know me (but Santa). Yet I have been thinking about writing you for
some time. I was moved when you wrote that you would read all the mail
that came your way. And so I hope my words find you well.

Your name first entered my home in Bellingham, Washington when The
Dogs of Bedland Farm was given to my then one and half year old twin
daughters Morgan and Addy Baye. It was the first book they had with
photographs rather than illustrations and instantly became a family
favorite. We have all the read the book so many times the binding is
bent and the pages have been taped together—several times.

At the time our family had two dogs Laverne and Scout. Laverne was my
fourteen year old Springer Spaniel. I had gotten her when I was twenty
and my husband and I know her age had caught up with her. There is so
much I could tell you about Vern (if you are truly interested her
eulogy is on my blog
but all you really need to know is that she was my first dog and my
best friend.

On November 9th Vern died. Her death was quick, but not unexpected.
None-the-less it was so hard.  My husband and I had rushed her to the
vet when her body opened up. We left our girls with a friend and with
the heaviest hearts we returned to the enviably questioning of two
year olds “Vern home?.”
How was I going to explain to two year olds what I did not understand
myself? How was I to hide the stabbing pain I felt? How was I going to
tell them my closest friend of fourteen years was gone? Yet, how could
I hide my hurt? I could not and if I tried they would see right
through me. So I held them and cried reading All Dogs go to Heaven (a
book my thoughtful Mother had hid in the closet, knowing I would need
it sooner than later). “Vernie has gone to play with friends in
heaven” was the explanation I offered them, and the one I hoped was
true. “Play with Rose?” Morgan asked. And without thinking I answered

A few days after Vern died I left on a trip for work with a library
edition of your recent book in my carry on. As I traveled from one
coast to another I read it cover to cover through my tears. I am a
university professor often writing and reading thick theory but the
simplicity of your type and depth of your teaching nurtured my heart.
Through your words I believe I understand Vern’s purpose and will
always be grateful for her gifts.

To this day the questions of my twin two year olds keep coming “Vernie
home?” “Vern play?” “ I draw Vern?” and the my mantra continues “Vern
is in heaven playing with Rose.” Yesterday I heard the girls
whispering to one another in the early dawn. Addy Baye asked Morgan
“Vernie home?” “No” Morgie replied “Vern run and play with Rose. .
.Vern in heaven.”

I am sorry for your recent lose, thankful for your words, and hopeful
Rose and Vern find one another on their journey.

Rae Lynn Schwartz-DuPre
Bellingham, WA