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a picture of Watchy, my old black lab, who i miss terribly

A Dog's Contribution title

A few months before I had to put my dog to sleep, I was having new concrete poured just outside my office window. It was a pretty big slab leading to the garage and office door where, on occasion, I hoped to sit and watch storms come out of the west.

The workers were nearly finished smoothing the final section when I heard this vulgar, tirade of accusations and assumptions about my dog’s intelligence and mother. Rolling to the window I found my 11-year-old black lab, Watchy, standing square in the middle of the pad with this “What did I do?” look on her face. As the men tried to coax her off with an impressive repertoire of gestures and waves (the likes of which are usually reserved for overly animated little league base coaches), my eyes followed her trail back across three of the six sections to the corner of the house, the same path she had taken as part of her daily routine for nearly a decade.

Not realizing the history here, the men clattered and coaxed until I opened the window (at which point I was completely, yet humbly, impressed by the way man and dog stopped everything and simultaneously turned their heads toward me as if hoping I had something worthwhile to contribute). I told Watchy, in a much more loving tone, that everything was all right and that she hadn’t done anything wrong, and could she please work her way over to the grass. Thank you. I also told the concrete guys not to touch the path; that its reason for being would likely become evident someday.

This statement had two effects on the men. First, it bewildered the hell out of them. How could anyone in their right mind settle for a concrete pad with dog tracks in it? Second, it somehow acted as a catalyst for something invisible. It caused all of the pent-up, concrete-pouring testosterone in their bodies to just go away. Realizing the amount of work they would not now have to do they each appeared to feel much better about the whole situation. A couple of them even went over to Watchy to apologize for the comments about her mother.

But this isn’t really what I want to talk to you about. I want to share with you instead what I call “Watchy’s Posthumous Postulate on Awareness in Human Beings”, a descriptive reference to the various levels of awareness that exist within each of us with regard to our recognition of the world, people, et al, around us and, I will add, the real reason for Watchy’s U-shaped stroll through the concrete.

Sitting on the pad out back, my friend Kate and I were taking a break from putting this catalog together. We were watching a spring storm rumble toward us, still about ten miles off. Suddenly, Kate asked what the story was with the tracks in the concrete. I shared the story of old habits, disgruntled workers and the hidden meaning.

Her observation caused me to think about the many others who had sat here since then and how no one, (including myself until that moment) had seemed to notice Watchy’s awareness lesson molded in stone.

Like Watchy, I believe that some of us in this world, because of where we are on our journey, will not see the tracks looking straight at them. Then, as our desire for awareness and understanding grow, some will notice one track but not the trail, followed by those who recognize the trail but not the story. Near the end of the spectrum, some of us will see the trail, have some understanding of the pouring of concrete, and come close to guessing the disgruntled worker scenario. Finally, there will be those, like my friend Kate, who will see the trail and, rather than assume any conclusion, will seek out someone who was there to ascertain the closest thing to the truth.

This is really what The Nth Degree is all about: increasing awareness; promoting a larger truth through shared stories, experiences and talents. Our search for culture is our search for common ground; common history, common humanity, common voice. This catalog is about taking our disabilities seriously when our rights are violated and not so seriously the rest of the time. You will see that this catalog is not just about disability. It is more about diversity. It is about overcoming “Psychoschlerosis”, or, hardening of the attitudes. There is no “Us and Them” folks, just one big us.

The Nth Degree is about Ramping Minds; about helping folks to work up the levels of awareness that Watchy referred to, until there is recognition and celebration of not only the differences that make us unique and important but the commonalities that make us family.

In Peace, Love and Light,

Dan, Patt, Beth and Taylor Wilkins

(and, of course, Watchy)