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Old dogs can teach you about love

Susan Estrich

Old dogs teach you the meaning of love.

Judy couldn't get up this morning. She's 14, my oldest, and she's named after my best friend, who died. A brilliant idea, it seemed, at the time. I was missing her, and this would be a way to talk to her every day. The first Judy taught me not to be afraid of dogs. It sounds silly, but my mother raised me to fear them. She couldn't bear the thought of losing a dog, so we never had one; my mother was so afraid of life that sometimes it seemed she hardly dared to live.

My friend Judy's dog, who rode in the car for two hours to go to the door in the hospital parking lot where Judy would meet her in her wheelchair, was named Molly. My 12-year-old dog is Molly. Irving, 10 years old and the baby of the bunch, is named for my father, who died 40 years ago.

Three old dogs. I try not to think about it. Rosie helped me raise my children and now helps me take care of my dogs. The children are grown. The dogs are old. Rosie's dog, Sunshine, is Judy's sister. She beat cancer. How do you freeze time?

Just days ago, so smug was I, telling the woman who put in my garden that of course I would cover the cost of surgery for her dog, younger than any of mine; that I was happy to pay, happy so long as it was not my dog. When she came by today to pick up the check, my son was carrying Judy outside. How foolish to feel smug. Rosie left for Rome today on a church trip, something she has dreamed of all her life. I pushed her out the door. My son came and is staying with me.

So I didn't practice law today. I don't know what anyone wanted. I didn't write a brief or read a case. I sat with Judy. Our appointment was at 4:30. She didn't get up at 6 a.m., but I did. I stroked her head until it was time to take her to the vet. A lot of hours. I fed her from my hand. I watched her breathe. I kissed her and told her how much I loved her. I reminded her how, back when she was a little puppy, I told her that she would be bigger than all the big dogs she hid from. And she is.

And she is the sweetest girl in the world. Molly thinks Judy is her mother. Molly was sick when we brought her home — abused, we assumed. Judy took her into her bed, and they have been together every night since. When we took Judy to the vet, Molly waited by the door. When we got home, she got in bed with her.

Our vet, Dr. Schlanger, is a wonderful man. I am a very good customer. My dogs get better care than most people on the planet: better care meaning more loving care, and not just more visits and pills. He just saw me a few weeks ago for Judy's arthritis. We talked about how well she was doing.

I was not supposed to be back today.

My son sat with me. They took an X-ray. "Not bad," Dr. Schlanger said. "She might get better." They found a harness, and we walked her outside. She went to the bathroom. I filled the prescriptions: some of the same meds I take.

By the time we left she was a little better — almost standing on her own. She rode home in my lap. No miracles promised. But maybe. I'll take maybe.

My mother was wrong. Loving Judy is the best of me, loving dogs, loving my children: This is the best I can be. Even if I cannot freeze time. Especially so.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Young people, too, need to be involved

American colleges have long been bastions of learning and growth, where thoughts and ideas are imparted, debated and strengthened. It's only natural that academia gets tied up with politics, where many of our philosophical ideals meet their practical applications.

Donald Trump is unpopular with young people and the college educated, so it is little surprise that supporters of our current president feel outnumbered in many classrooms and college greens. What is surprising and disappointing, however, is the anger and violence that have erupted against those who have professed their support.

Right-wing media gleefully runs video of the anarchists mobs that gathered in Berkeley and at Evergreen College to protest right-wing speakers (some, white supremacist and neo-Nazi, others merely conservative Republicans), offering it as proof that the left has gone loony. Recent polling data have shown that an increasing number of millennials — in a recent Pew Study it was 40 percent — believe that speech should be restricted to prevent people from saying offensive things about minority groups.

College presidents know the stakes. They know that their campus is always one incident away from online infamy. Or that an incident a thousand miles away, propelled by social media, may end up in protests on their doorstep in a matter of hours.

The presidents of Eastern Oregon University and Oregon State University, as well as University of Oregon vice president for student services Roger J. Thompson, gathered in Pendleton last month. It was purportedly for the Pendleton Round-Up, but we've always thought they come every September to chat with the East Oregonian editorial board.

This year, the conversation turned to issues of free speech, and how their campuses are supporting the foundation on which higher education is built.

Each said they have updated policies and procedures, and have tried to engage and challenge students during orientation — as soon as they arrive on campus.

"We all hear about how higher education is coddling," said Eastern Oregon University president Tom Insko. "At EOU we're not looking to coddle our students ... we want to create a safe environment for you to face these challenging issues head on."

Oregon State University President Ed Ray said his school has also increased discussion.

"You need to be able to engage in conversation that may make you uncomfortable," said Ray. "That's how you harden and develop your own ideas, and learn how to in fact speak up against things that are awful." He said it's worth remembering that "whoever is offended has a right to speak also. And they need to know how to do it, and they need to know how to do it in a civil way."

Thompson said the University of Oregon also has its eye on the free speech/hate speech spectrum. He believes that students — and young people in general — should get more credit than they do. He doesn't see coddled kids wanting protection, he sees young people that want to be involved, invested and committed to improving their lives and communities.

"I see kids that are connected, that want to make a difference ... and they've done it high school already," he said. "They're kind of questioning the gray-haired folks in the room, looking around and wondering 'What kind of world are you leaving us?'"

As newspaper editors, we are by definition supportive of First Amendment and free speech. We are also supportive of the kind of debate required to strengthen that support in others.

'There they go again'

To paraphrase the revered Ronnie Reagan, "There they go again."

The Republican "tax plan" is really a tax cut for the rich, the very wealthy, the extremely very wealthy, and the wealthiest corporations. These tax cuts allow them to avoid paying their fair share for the maintenance of the infrastructure and schools and fire departments and police departments and the government institutions, including the courts that make it possible for them to accumulate all their wealth. The Republican president and his billionaire and millionaire cabinet will benefit in the tens of millions while the rest might gain a couple thousand, but more likely merely hundreds.

The Republicans tell us that these tax cuts will stimulate the economy and create economic growth. This has NEVER been true of any of the other times they have tried it. The Republicans tell us that these tax cuts will benefit the working people that create all the wealth. This has NEVER been true. If you doubt my doubting, see what happened in Kansas when they tried this "tax plan".

The extremely wealthiest of us have billions of dollars that they are not now investing. What makes you think that allowing them to accumulate more wealth will benefit our country. How will these tax cuts enhance the well-being of those of us out here that are creating the wealth and making this a great country?

Think about it and let our senators and congressman know what you think.

Richard Kuznitsky

North Bend