“Why Are There No Blue Dogs?”
Tuesday night, after the night shift nurses in the Hospice had dimmed the lights so everyone could settle in for the night, and after everyone left his side, my Uncle Joe quietly passed away.
I never really got why folks were so impatient with Joe. A lot of folks thought he was stupid – retarded was not an uncommon description.
In reality, he was just a goofy man.
His favorite question – to anyone who would listen – was “Why are there no Blue Dogs?”
We all have ways of sizing people up, and I think this question was just Joe’s way. If you took the bait, and genuinely enjoyed the “Blue Dog” bit, Joe would open up, laugh and joke around.
But if you had no time for such nonsense, Joe kept you at arm’s length: he was polite & civil, but never really open.
Joe was a hard worker: he diligently “punched the clock” for 30 years as a Federal employee.
I don’t know all the jobs he did. For a while he ran printing presses at the Government Printing Office. He spent his last few years “on the job” – first as worker and then as a volunteer – pruning the roses and helping to grow exotic plants at the National Arboretum. He loved gardens and plants: the tomato vines he grew stretched 15 feet in the air, ran over the top of Grandpa’s garage, and down the other side.
I never saw an insect or bird steal a single one of his tomatoes – how they resisted the biggest & juiciest & reddest tomatoes is a mystery to me.
Joe had a sense of humor, though most didn’t “get it”.
As a kid, I collected coins. One year, for my birthday, Joe wrapped up $50 worth of pennies in a handkerchief, tied it up with a bow made of garden twine, and dropped it in my lap. There were old pennies, new pennies, wheat pennies and clipped pennies, steel pennies & Indian-head pennies – thousands of pennies.
While some called that gift “stupid” and shamed Joe for giving it, it really made me think.
$50 is a lot of money to me now – as a 10 year old, it was a large fortune. I had to decide which I wanted more: THOUSANDS of coins for my collection, or the $50 I could get by counting them up, rolling them and taking them to the bank to cash them in. [Can you guess what my choice was? What choice would you make?]
Joe went to confession or church every day for 75+ years. Never once did he talk to a single person besides his dad and his priest about God, or religion; he never tried to push his beliefs on anyone else. God was something Joe wanted to experience on his own terms.
Joe was generous. He loaned me some money to help pay for food when I was a starving law student. After I passed the bar, he told me not to pay him back. A few years later, he gave me some money to start my law firm, asking only that I be a “good lawyer”.
He was a good guy.
Nobody ever knew what condition Joe “had” or what was “wrong” with him. If they did know, they never said.
We were told his umbilical cord had been wrapped around his neck at birth, and he had brain damage from the loss of oxygen.
Speech was very difficult for Joe. He spoke with perfect precision and enunciation, but had to contort his face into any number of shapes to turn thoughts into letters, letters into syllables, syllables into words, and words into sentences.
For all that work, Joe made sure each word counted.
He had an uncanny ability to remember things in excruciating detail. Some folks thought he might be autistic, although his brother (my dad) and his dad (my grandfather) both have the same “gift”.
When I packed up his house to move him into an apartment 20 years ago, I found 500 reprints of a single Readers’ Digest article wrapped up neatly in a box. On every copy of the article, Joe had underlined the same sentence in a red ballpoint pen – with remarkable free-hand precision.
Some folks thought he had an obsessive compulsive condition. If they stopped to read the sentence he underlined, they’d have known he was just overwhelmed by loneliness in the years after he retired, and after his Mom and Dad and big sister had passed away.
The folks that tried to put a label on Joe – or that tried to find a nice little box to tuck his personality into – never got to know him as a person. In some cases, they didn’t even know he was a person. To many of them, he was the guy with the intellectual disability. To some, he was the retard.
I haven’t seen Uncle Joe much over the past 20 years. The year he moved into an apartment in Maryland, I joined the Army, ultimately settling down 1,500 miles away, in Texas. Joe doesn’t use phones or computers, and I was just too damn busy or too damn important to write a letter.
I should have bought him a train ticket to come visit us in Texas. He loved riding trains. Why didn’t I do that.
This past April, I took the time to introduce Momma Bird and Little Bird to Uncle Joe. I was nervous when I went to see him – many layers of guilt had gimped me up. He didn’t look very good.
I wondered if it would be the last time I saw Uncle Joe. Turns out, it was.
Uncle Joe, I will miss you.
I hope like hell you find that Blue Dog.
153 thoughts on ““Why Are There No Blue Dogs?””
You can buy a white dog and pint it with blue ….
I actually thought about doing this more than once.
But the dogs always looked so scared. *wink*, just kidding.
By the way your writing is awesome , waiting for others…
you may wana try a light blue hair spray 😉 on the dog
I hope your uncle will be fine ..all the best
thank you. he’s at peace now, his last 2 weeks were rough.
Uncle Joe seems to be a really nice person, and in this fraternity where there are no less number of people trying to peddle up their beliefs into your heads, Joe has been a wonderful person not to push his belongings to others. Great.
this is a lovely tribute. Every family has that one relative that no one “gets.” You’re lucky to have gotten him.
I’m sorry for your loss. It sounds like not only did you get him, but he got you. He knew you understood and appreciated him, regardless of his “gift”. That is something very dear to give someone and I’m sure he cherished it. Don’t beat yourself up over things you didn’t do. Instead, be grateful for the things you did.
Thanks for those kind words. 🙂
how many times in your life have you said “peace”
mewhoami, your comment is right on. LBD, I’m sure your uncle knew.
thanks for those kind words.
What was the one sentence that was underlined?
Mark – Knew someone would ask, but I’d like to keep it private.
The Readers Digest article talked about staying social as one got older.
I was going to ask the same thing.
Beautiful story, thank you for sharing it with us! Uncle Joe was lucky to have you as his nephew.
Thanks for that….I was pretty lucky to have him as an Uncle.
Great post and great drawing.
Btw…to all those following LBD Blog, if you aren’t following or subscribing to bloggerfather.com, you should be. This guy knows more Dad Bloggers than anyone I’ve met yet.
By the way, there’s a great museum in Baltimore, called The American Visionary Art Museum, and it’s full of great art from people who otherwise would have been stereotypically dismissed and compartmentalized.
We have blue dogs in Australia. We have the Australian Cattle Dog which has either a red tinge or a blue tinge to its fur. The ones that look blue are known as Blue Heelers. The Australian Cattle Dog has been bred with other working dogs and these are known as Texas Heelers. They don’t look as blue as the Blue Heeler but they have a slight tinge to them.
But maybe Uncle Joe wants to see a real Blue Heeler. I’m not a religious man, I don’t believe in the afterlife, but maybe, just maybe Uncle Joe has found himself now in Australia. This place can be pretty close to Heaven sometimes, so possibly Uncle Joe is here watching the blue dogs on a farm, rounding up the sheep and cattle.
And I hope he is here. Some of the traits you described are some of the traits I have, and I am nowhere near being called a retard. But he sounds like someone special, and not in that “he’s special” way, but as in he is something to behold.
I wish I knew Uncle Joe. Maybe I did…
Darrell, thanks for those thoughts. Means a lot to me to hear that there ARE blue dogs.
I am not a religious man, either, but hope like heck there is something after this life…there’s just too much in this world to have to cram it all into one lifetime. 😉
I hope he is “Down Under” as well.
Berry NSW is about as close to heaven as this man has ever been.
Aside from Date Night with Momma Bird, 😉
Berry NSW is a berry nice place.
You got an award!
Your uncle sounds like an amazing man, I’m sorry for you loss.
And at the same time: this is exactly why I love your blog so much! You speak with so much love and kindness about those people that so many of us would look down upon. And that makes me so happy.
Oh my gosh, this made me hope that, whatever else I may achieve, or fail at, in life, there might be someone who could talk about me the way you talk about your uncle Joe. I hope he has found his blue dog too. I think I might need to cry now, but thank you for writing this xx
Sounds like Uncle Joe was a treat. Savor the memories for unique people are good memories.
Great post LBD. Congratulations on your FP.
This is very close to home at this time in my life. Very well written…I bet one of the first things Uncle Joe saw when he got to the other side was the blue dog and a lot of smiles.
This is so beautifully written. Thanks for sharing your uncle with us.
What a lovely story. I hope your Uncle Joe finds his Blue Dog and Peace.
By the end of the piece, I felt like I knew your uncle. Maybe the rest of the family couldn’t figure him out but it sounds like you did. There’s a reason to look beyond the obvious. Great piece of writing.
Sending you lots of warm hugs. Its hard to watch a love one slipp away. one feels so helpless. My heart mourns with you as i know how it hurts.
A wonderful story and a wonderful man.
I hope you find that blue dog too, Joe. Rest in peace.
Your words resonated through me. So beautifully written, and lovingly remembered. Thank you.
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Thank you for sharing this story!
Love & Light,
First off I am sorry you lost your uncle he sounded like a great guy. It is never fun losing someone but nobody last forever. I also thought the thoughts you did after he passed when i had lost a loved one. Why didnt i do certain things to get to see them more? I am sorry again and hope he finds that blue dog!
Reblogged this on Works By Anastasia and commented:
I really enjoyed this story for a multitude of reasons, and the writers perspective of this special person in his story is just awesome.
That’s a real sweet article. May the Lord bless you all.
Reblogged this on fredtroy.
what a great post and great tribute to your uncle.. Im almost bawling my eyes out here – for the record i think you kept the coins he gave you
I am always happy to see people willing to share their personal stories. It helps ground me and remind me that the world is not so bad. I hope your uncle gets to see all the blue dogs he wants now that he is at peace.
What was the sentence that he underlined?
Hey my friend in my lifetime I have known people like your uncle. They give more to the world then others. Don’t torture yourself over not seeing him or sending him a train ticket, you don’t have to do that. Just be happy he was in your life and gave to you and you learned from all he did. That’s what he wanted of life. Nice writing job and I really enjoyed your wonderful story. Congrats on being FP.
I don’t really know what to say. I felt the emotions that you intended me to feel which makes the article a success. To be honest as humans we have an instinct to give people a wide birth if they exhibit unusual tendencies.
Not me though. In fact, I usually make them my friends. Your uncle would have been one of them given a slight demographic/temporal change.
I’m sorry for your loss and I will pray for you tonight, and Joe. He deserves it.
nice tribute. as for blue dogs, lets hope they don’t start to try genetic experiments to get one.
Impressive ! Thank you for the amazing writing! Do you write professionally?
This was very moving. Makes me wish I had known your uncle. He sounds like a great man and i’m sorry for your loss.
If you are not familiar with it already, check out the Blue Dog story and art by Cajun artist George Rodrigue. It is a very touching story about a little dog who is an artist’s best friend. The dog dies eventually and begins to “haunt” the artist’s dreams, but comes back as the Blue Dog. This artist, Rodrigue, has painted hundreds of different pictures of this Blue Dog and they are all very unique, but all very much the same. The story is about loss and resurrection and love and life and death. I think it might speak to you. Condolences on your loss and congrats on being freshly pressed.
Love your story about someone you obviously loved so much.
I have had the same experience , but this is not about me , so I will end it there, except to say , I will be following you. Keep on , keeping on.
Never end a sentence with a preposition, unless you want to.
Beautiful story, from a relative that nobody ‘got’
Reblogged this on ajh59476's Blog and commented:
Made me tear up and smile at the same time. Very well written. And good on you for being one of the few who took time to see him as he was.
You got the guy that nobody else could get. Great tribute to a man I would have enjoyed.
Don’t beat yourself up with guilt and regret, LBD; these feelings are an intrinsic burden of being a survivor. No matter how much we extended ourselves on behalf of the departed, in our minds it will never seem to have been enough. You honoring Joe here, with your heart-felt tribute, setting the record straight, makes up for any real or perceived shortcomings that you might feel, anyway.
We could all use an Uncle Joe in our lives. This is a wonderful tribute.
I love this story and I am sorry for your loss. Sometime people are born to change other people’s lives. Your uncle joe seemed to be one of those people.
This was so moving for me. Thank you for inspiring me tonight.
Reblogged this on Robby's Games.
A wonderful tribute to a good man. From your description, it sounds like he had a pretty decent life and was a great relative for you to have. I’m glad for you that you had someone amazing like that in your life. 🙂
What a beautiful tribute to your Uncle and wonderful art to go with it. I bet he will find his “bluey” (what us Aussie’s call the Australian Cattle Dog) in heaven.
Your Uncle was an amazing man! Let go of your guilt and give in to the good memories you have of him. I think he found his blue dog in each person who would have the discussion with him – after all what place in our lives does a dog take but love and friendship. So to answer you question ‘Why are there no blue dogs?’ there are – they are just disguised as the closest people in our lives. Keep them close in your heart.
Very powerful writing.It makes me feel as though I wish I could have met your Uncle. You describe such a wonderful and multi-talented person. You most have loved him very much. I’m re-posting it on my blog, too, because I really like the narrative of it. I am sorry for your loss but I am grateful for your story-Thank you-Emily.
Good job, what was the sentence he underlined in the magazine?
This was a beautifully written, and very moving piece. I am sorry for your loss.
This is a beautiful tribute to your uncle. He sounds like he was an awesome guy.
Why are there no blue dogs?….Dogs are accessories, just like handbags, watches, earrings, etc. It is very difficult to accessorize in blue. Black and white work much better when choosing a large accessory as those colors go with more outfits.
It’s a great question as it challenges people to think of numerous possible answers.
Thank you for sharing this story. Uncle Joe sounds like a wonderful person.
Reblogged this on acss13's Blog.
I lost my uncle Joe last year, I never met him face to face, only written and the phone, he lived on the other side of Canada, offered to fly me out to see him but I declined. He grew tomatoes and was a quiet man,worked in an office all his life, your story parallels mine & his.
I would of kept the Coins. Thank you, your story made me cry/morn.
Reblogged this on From The Hen Coop.
Lovely tribute to what sounds like a wonderful man. I am sorry for your loss. I am also looking forward to reading more of your post.
I love this tribute to your Uncle Joe, and it makes me wonder how many people I have dismissed. I shudder to think of how many wonderful people like Joe I may have overlooked or missed out on. Thank you for sharing him with us.
A beautiful tribute to your Uncle. It left tears in my eyes. Thanks for sharing his/your story with us.
We live in a world of different people; yet many of them think who they are IS the norm..I believe God created us just as we were meant to BE..The one & only version of ourselves…Many people miss out on the beautiful things shared by those who are “different”..I’m sure we’re very different to them also! Beautiful sentiment about the beauty of family..Nothing else on earth replaces it…2 thumbs UP on your write
Defiantly a good read and very heartfelt. He sounds like an amazing person. I believe that some dogs have blue skin under their coats. One could argue that if you look at a dog for just it’s coat you may never realize that the skin is blue… Metaphors haha.
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This was a joy to read. I’m sorry for your loss.
God knew they would never look smart with the blue
I’m not sure god had anything to do with that decision. But blue is a pretty smart color if you ask me.
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i think i was blessed to have found this post. i loved it and i wish you all the best. and i hope uncle Joe rests in peace <3
Reblogged this on ljunin88's Blog.
Good job. I think a lot of us have had (or do have) an Uncle Joe, in one form or another that we have maybe neglected a bit. Never to late. Sorry for your loss and thanks for sharing.
It is never too late. More and more, I think of Uncle Joe when I meet someone that others tend to disregard.
Beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing. I am sure your uncle loved you very much.
That was a beautiful post. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂
A beautiful piece, thank you for sharing. I know I will be thinking about your Uncle Joe for the rest of the day, now.
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Thanks for the reblog.
I wish I could have met your uncle Joe. He sounds like he was pretty awesome.
Mad love for you and your uncle. Just stumbled on your blog today. Will keeping reading.
How many times can I ‘like’ this? Wonderful!
I think Uncle Joe was quite a wise man.The gift of the pennies showed much insight.
What a wonderful, touching piece. Your Uncle Joe sounds like a dear, sweet man. I love your writing style and look forward to reading more of your work. This story is more than worthy of being Freshly Pressed! Your words put a smile on my heart.
Thanks for the kind words. The site is undergoing a transition as I shift my “Vision” for what I want to do with the blog, but I will be back with more writing like this in no time at all. 🙂
Beautiful, he sounds like a very intelligent man that no one would find the time to sit down and listen to him. He would be proud of this piece of writing! Rip joe<3
I won’t say “no one” found the time, but very few took the time. Thanks for the kind words!
Reblogged this on luvsiesous and commented:
You might enjoy the story in this blog.
nema ni plavih mačaka….
Reblogged this on elizetgc.
Curiosity has the best of me… If you don’t mind my asking, what sentence did he underline? Great post. Special people are ones who can see just beyond the cover, and realize the beauty of another within.
This is a remarkable tribute to an obviously remarkable man! Thank you for sharing this.
Great article, beautifully written.
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What a lovely story<3!
Thanks for the reblog!
From your heartfelt description, I’d say Joe always had that blue dog.
Beautiful. Thaank you.
Very well said. Thank you.
I actually got a bit emotional reading this. Too often we dont take the time, or find so many other things to fill our days that we forget about little things that would mean the world to someone we love
I agree. Recently I reflected on the death of 2 people that I was close to: my grandmother, and Uncle Joe. There was one big difference in how I experienced their deaths. A few hours before my gram passed, I had the chance to tell her on the phone that I loved her and would miss her every day. Thinking of her passing leaves me feeling much more warm and okay with death than did Joe’s passing.
That brought tears to my eyes, beautifully written eulogy.
thanks for the kind words.
best wishes for your uncle
Such a beautiful reflection on your relationship with Uncle Joe. We all get caught up in our lives, but even so, you did get out to see him that final time. And regardless of that, I’m sure he would have been so appreciative of the time that he spent with you when you were younger.
Thanks for sharing.
We are ALL ‘retarded’ in that our brains don’t function anywhere near our design capacity. It’s unfortunate that most people cannot take the time or effort to ‘get’ people who see and communicate things differently than the ‘normal’ people.
Ok, so you won’t tell us what UJ underlined . . . . will you tell us what he said when someone responded, “I’m not sure, Joe. Do YOU know why there are no blue dogs?” ?
S m i l e !
Firstly thank you for sharing this post. Uncle Joe would be proud of you for making him reach so many people with his question.
I would have loved to meet him. Like what the girl I love once said, being normal is overrated.
Keep writing my friend.
You saw the true spirit of a lovely man and not the broken person some only noticed. Thank you for sharing. Peace be with you and Joe xx
Wow, I really like your uncle Jo! What a great piece of writing and an interesting insight into the guy… feel he’d make a great character in a book/ tv show … imagining all his secret internal worlds! Look forward to following your blog. FS x
I think your uncle’s question about the colour of dogs was his way of saying: life’s a mystery, don’t you find? Had I met your uncle we would of laughed together. Oh, but there are blue dogs, I would have exclaimed. I have one. And I do. Barclay is a Kerry Blue Terrier. He’s not so blue, but you should his mother with her flowing hair of sliver and truly, truly light blue. You have to see the breed in person, they don’t photograph. But none of this would have made a jot of difference to the relevance of your uncle’s question.
Of course you kept the coins. Your uncle understood that collecting the coins was more important than the value of the coins. Perhaps your uncle was the reverse of that old adage: he knew the price of nothing and the value of everything. All the best, J.
I did keep the coins. 🙂
Im sorry for you loss. Thanks for sharing.
Im sorry for your loss, this was a beautiful piece.
Reblogged this on awesome and commented:
That is in a book right
Not sure what you mean by being in a book….
… I will say that about a week after Joe passed, we got a children’s book for Little Bird that talked about Blue Dogs. The sender had no idea about Joe or this post, which made it very unusual.
This is such a heart-warming, though somewhat sad and unfortunate, memoir.
Blue dogs … 🙂 The Native Americans speak of the Kachina, a race highly evolved loving, spiritual blue beings, not of this world. Perhaps Joe was searching for his own kind.
Thanks for your comment – I’m going to read about the Kachina. Are they unique to a particular Native-American tribe/culture?
Nicely done. A great tribute.
love this post! I love Joe and his wacky ways, such as the gift of pennies, and Im dying to know what the line was that he underlined in all those Reader’s Digests..?
p.s. i would have told him I had a blue dog!! His name was Jordon, a pound mutt that was the best dog I ever had. He was beautiful and he was “blue” or gray.
There are blue dogs. Purple dogs, too.
Beautiful story, well written. Thank you for taking the time to share your uncle with us.
I bet he found his blue dog. What was the sentence he underlined? He sounds like an amazing man.
I bet he did find that blue dog. I am not going to mention the underlined passage…it’s a little piece of Joe I’m keeping for myself.
I lost my mom and have the same regrets of not spending enough time with her . Good read .
“There are no blue dogs because blue paint is too expensive.” <- I am not sure why I wanted to say this… maybe I am just trying to be funny… but I suppose it is about hardship… we dream of blue dogs but we can never be with or pet them, because they are unobtainable… but it doesn't mean that we should forget about them, just because they don't exist.
Oh, thanks for writing, for a warm eulogy befitting the (not so) “average joe.” We let live on those we love by tendering their memory, by talking about their passge thru life and their impact on us.
Reblogged this on bakenekogenbei.
Wow. That packed quite a punch. Heart-warming and intimate, but hard-hitting too. I enjoyed the read. Thank you for sharing. Please accept my condolences.
If you want, you can check out some things I wrote about my Grandpa, his life and passing. I couldn’t help but think of him as I read about your uncle Joe.
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thanks for the mention of my tribute to my Uncle Joe!
Joe reminds me of my uncle, who sort of acts like a kid. When I was little we played video games together constantly and I helped him build lego and do puzzles. I think some people just don’t want to bother with someone who is so-called “different” and so they just label them and go away, but when I was little I never even noticed that about him, because it didn’t matter, and it still doesn’t matter.
I’m really sorry about your uncle, it sounds like he was a cool guy in the same way that my uncle is. That painting is beautiful, too.
He was a very cool guy – and sounds a lot like your uncle. Joe let us play with markers one time while baby-sitting us, and we colored the couch, the walls, you name it. Mom and Dad weren’t happy, but we kids were ecstatic!!
What a lovely post! Sounds like Uncle Joe lived and died on his own terms, which to me is a life well lived! Thanks for sharing 🙂