New Year

The New Year Tree

img_0731Welcome to the New Year. And welcome to the New Year Tree.

There is an old proverb that says the tree is known by its fruit. Well, the branches of our New Year Tree are full with the wonderful fruits of our friendships from all around the world.

We have received messages full of wishes and whimsy, wonders and wisdoms, and some very special memories of loved ones. It has been a privilege to receive all these beautiful messages and to bring the Tree to life with our friendships … the speaking tree.

Trees have been bringing people together for a very long time.

Way back in 1699, Peter the Great (not to be confused with Great Uncle Bulgaria, who is also a great Peter) saw the beautiful trees at Christmastime in Europe and decided that this would be a wonderful tradition to bring to Russia. He declared that the New Year would be 1 January and that everyone should celebrate the season by decorating with trees. But with World War I the tradition was banned, along with any Christmas celebrations. Such celebrations were seen to be imported customs of the enemy, Germany, and so were prohibited. But despite this, the tree traversed political differences, and the people created a new custom of the New Year Tree instead. And in fact it was even encouraged as something that should be for everyone, not just the privileged. Trees really do bring us together.

They also have New Year Trees in Turkey, where Muslims celebrate the season and decorate the tree as a celebration of the New Year. And in Vietnam they celebrate the New Year with a tree, decorated for love and friendship and good luck for the New Year.

So a tree can bring us all together. Which make us think of those famously wise words of that intrepid adventurer, Commander Spock, which Leona dedicates to the Tree: “Live long and prosper.” With friendship the Tree is prospering, it is flourishing – the New Year Tree. May our friendships live long and prosper.

They say you can’t judge a tree by its bark. But you can judge a dog by its bark, and our Tree is raucous with messages! As in the favourite saying of Fiona, in her message to the Tree, “All you need is love. And a dog.”

Great Uncle Bulgaria has sent an Emily Dickinson poem, “To Make a Prairie,” in his message for the Tree and especially for Huw,

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee. –

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do

If bees are few.

But so many bees have come to pollinate our New Year Tree.

The past year has been a challenging one for many and indeed for the world. Our friend Meg says, “Looking forward to the New Year’s Friendship Tree. Thank you for all you have done for our beautiful animals,” and gives a special prayer for the Tree, “May our beautiful planet be restored to serenity, may all our beings be respected, loved and cherished, may our wild ones be allowed to roam freely, and all illness, pain and sadness be eradicated. This is my prayer for Mother Earth in 2017.” Jacqueline sends a famous and important wisdom from Albert Schweitzer, “Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living beings, humanity will not find peace.” And our friendships have grown out of our love and compassion for animals. As in one of the favourite sayings of our friend, Eileen, in her message to the Tree, “Friends are Angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.” So it is a comfort and an honour to bring our friends together for the New Year in the messages to the Tree.

We have lost some very special individuals this year. They are remembered by Tom and Ursula, who have chosen to dedicate to the Tree an Eric Clapton song, “River of Tears,” with a message to cherished friends, “I wish that I could hold you one more time to ease the pain.” Dear Chris, who was part of the awesome team that rescued our darling Aubrey, we know your pooches miss you every day. Our beloved Claire, we met you through books and writing and cuddles and words … from darling Debbie, “Claire, my one and only favourite #MissYouPlenty”. And “a message of love,” from Julie, “for my beloved Salty, who lives in heaven with Finny.” Sian sends a special message to Sara, letting her know that her pal Dexter will be well cared for, “For Sara, I know Dexter was your life. You must have been in so much pain to have had to leave him. I hope you are at peace now. Please rest easy knowing he is fine. He is in the care of Friends of the Animals Wales and will stay until his perfect home arises. Sarah I promise you I will always make sure I know where he is and how he is. For you.” Helen and Shangool send a special message to all, “Love and kisses for all of the dogs and cats in the world. You are all loved, do not despair. Eventually we all meet over the Rainbow Bridge.”

This past January we lost Leo, not long after Finnegan had lost his nine-month battle with lymphoma in September 2015. We love the special message from Kayleigh for Finnegan and Leo, “The unconditional love of Leo and Finn will always be in all of our hearts. The bond of Rocky and Bullwinkle will never be broken and will live on. The important life lessons Finn and Leo have taught us, and the treasured memories we have will never be lost, they will be cherished.”

And we have welcomed some new spirits. As our own Auntie Simba says, in her message to the Tree, “Never underestimate the difference you can make rescuing just one dog. From the bottom of my heart.” First the kitties, Lora Logic and Poly Styrene, and then Jefferson Airplane, and then Howard Spring, all joined our family this year. Mariah says, “It’s been lovely to see the arrival of new pals this year.” And from Kayleigh, “I can’t wait to see more tweets of Jeff and Howard discovering new things. I look forward to seeing the kitties cosy in their baskets in Kitty Towers.” Our own Grand Human has a family of three rescue dogs, with Benny joining the family this past year. And Grand Human says, “I look forward to our cuddles every night and couldn’t imagine facing the day without you. Love from Grand Human to Simba, Yum Yum, and Benny.”

And with all these new faces there have been a lot of new adventures. Mariah has sent us a lovely message for the Tree, “It’s been wonderful following your tweets this year. I’ve really enjoyed reading the Be That Dog posts. I’ve learned lots! From the latest fashion trends, literature reviews and awareness of rescue charities. Can’t wait to see what you have planned for 2017! Happy New Year!” Kayleigh has put some big smiles on our faces with her sweet message, “This year your tweets have taught me so much about friendship, happiness, kindness and cherishing moments. I loved the birthday tweet that you sent us with Aubrey and Huwie dressed up as superheroes. I’ve saved it. Your tweets have taught me that inspiration and happiness can be found in everything around us if you look hard enough. You have also taught me that in life the smallest things shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially in the moment. I’ve enjoyed reading your columns on Be That Dog about fashion, Howard and Jeff’s daily discoveries, and your weekly photo summary. For the New Year I can’t wait to see more of your adventures and Aubrey’s signature smile to cheer me up! I’m sure Huwie will keep his title of the cutest for 2017.” It seems our pal Kathy is right when she says in her message to the Tree, “Attitude is everything!”

And so to the resolutions and good wishes that have been sent to the Tree … Holly, Buck, and their Human, “Happy New Year, everybody! Hoping for more peaceful times, shelter and home for people in distress”; Cindy wishes us all a Happy New Year, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!”; Melissa is drawing upon the strength and friendships of the New Year Tree and resolves, “I am going to work on me in the coming year. Health, education and job-wise. I need a reboot!”; and a fabulous New Year from Helen and Martin, “To the marvellous menagerie! Wishing you a very jolly, woofy, bouncy, purry, zoomy, happy, merry Christmas and New Year! We love you!” And finally, Kathy says it is summed up in two words, “Aubrey rocks!” Well, you can’t argue with that! Ha ha! So, “Till the season comes ‘round again” … Bobbi has dedicated these lyrics from the Goodrum and Jarvis country classic, in her message to the Tree:

Come and gather around at the table

In the spirit of family and friends

And we’ll all join hands and remember this moment

‘Til the season comes ‘round again.

So it has been a busy year. And, in fact, all of this, and all our friendships, really started because of one very special hound, “The Christmas Hound,” as our dear pal, Wilson, likes to remember him. We miss him every day. But he is with us every day. The bee in this story. Finnegan Otterhound, who had to hurry on his way. But he waved goodbye saying, “Don’t you cry, I’ll be back again some day.”

Happy New Year everyone! And let our friendships embrace our distances and differences in 2017. Thank you for celebrating the New Year with us. And remember …

Be That Dog!

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