Story Submitted by Thomas J. Bostock

IS IT SUPPOSED TO BE PINK AND GOOEY AND SMELL SO BAD?

By seventy-five, I should probably be jaded. I’ve been a father, grandfather several times, and now a great grandfather. It’s official. I even have a shirt for it! Surprisingly, the wonder never dies as the cycle of life repeats itself, time after time. I see my two daughters with grown children of their own but still remember bouncing them and their children on my knee. If I tried it now, I probably wouldn’t be able to walk for a week! That’s the problem with us elder citizens, no matter how old and independent that they become, they will always be children in our eyes. I used to have an expression that I know my kids will remember: It’s not when your get up and go is gone, its where it’s been that counts. All I need to do is look at my family and I know where it went. Being a father is more than just giving in to a biological urge. It’s all those little things that accumulate over the years. It’s helping change diapers, bouncing a colicky baby on your chest until she falls asleep, kissing boo-boos, and eating biscuits that were made for you with baking powder substituted for baking soda making them the equivalent of hockey pucks…and liking them. It’s the late nights helping finish up last-minute assignments where they had two weeks to complete and then adding fluff when there weren’t the right number of words, and going to school to confront teachers who were so full of themselves that they couldn’t see that they were damaging your child. It is teaching your child to drive and not losing your mind when they hit the gas instead of the brake, almost running into your workplace. It’s comforting the heartaches and heartbreaks, knowing that there are many more to come and encouraging them to let their grasp outstretch their reach so that they are never bored and always challenged. It’s picking them up when they fall, knowing that they will fall again. It’s respecting their choices in life for careers and mates. It’s hoping that you taught the right values without being overly strict or restrictive and respecting their opinions and being glad that they are willing to think for themselves, not accepting everything at face value but questioning when things are not what they seem. It is a million smiles, tears, and kisses, in my case, Eskimo kisses (nose rubs). It is joys and laughter tempered with pain and sorrow. It is watching them as they learned to roll over, then pull themselves up in their cribs, and then teeter and crawl. The wobbly walk was a rite of passage. I see that in the cell phone videos that I receive from my granddaughter of my great-grandson. Suddenly, there was kindergarten and then grade school with indistinguishable animals that they drew for you. “Look, daddy, I made you a monkey.” You stared at the crooked lines and knew that if there wasn’t the likeness of a monkey, it should have been there; it was up to you to confirm it. Then middle school and high school with new relationships, hurts and rewards, being picked on and bullied. With the graduations came the college years and more boyfriends, advice, and relationships. With so many memories, it is hard to point to just a few things that represent fatherhood. In their own way, they all do. It was “the best of times, it was the worst of times and I wouldn’t have traded it for all the money in the world. It is “I love you to the moon and back,” wrapped up in my family.

Story Submitted by Miles Wesley Dittmar

At a young age I was fueled with entrepreneurship. Lemonade stands, knitting beanies and scarves, selling skateboards, and homemade duct-taped wallets led to my proudest accomplishment yet. My names Miles Dittmar, I’m 21 years old and I am the CEO and owner of, “Beaten Path Company”. To keep it simple, Beaten Path is not just a clothing brand, it’s a lifestyle. Mixing the niche based outdoor passions, such as, snowboarding, hiking, surfing rock-climbing and so on. Your passion, your path. It wasn’t till the start of 2020 that I created my campaign program called, “Be The Change”. Be The Change is any easy way for the community to give back. When you buy a “Be The Change” t-shirt, not only do you get a high quality tee, but 100% of the profits are being sent to a new organization every month. In January, I was so grateful to be able to send over $1,700 to the Australian Red Cross to help with the devastating wildfires going on in Australia. February was The Dolphin Project, to help protect dolphins worldwide, and end dolphin exploitation and slaughter. In March I decided it was only necessary to give to an organization helping with COVID-19 and that organization is called, “Direct Relief”. Their mission is to speed the process of production in medical supplies during the pandemic, while my mission is to spread awareness about my campaign. I later decided that it was only necessary to extend my COVID-19 campaign throughout the months of April and May. My biggest question with the campaign has been, “Why don’t you just tell people to donate the full $20 to the organization instead of buying a t-shirt from your company?” I have nothing against people doing that vs purchasing a t-shirt from me. However, by buying the shirt it is a quick and easy way to spread the word amongst others that are curious when the read the “Be The Change” designs out in public and on social media. It’s so important to me that I do whatever it takes to bring communities together and make an eco-conscious mark on Planet Earth. Not only a better planet for our children, but a better planet for our children’s children and so on. Not By Default – Beaten Path Company

Story Submitted by Amy C. Ragg

As a privileged white woman, I feel wholeheartedly unqualified to speak about the horrifying killings of George Floyd and of Ahmaud Arbery, but silence is not an option.

How is this still happening? How? How is it possible that men of color continue to put their lives on the line just by leaving their houses every, single day? How is it that still today, in 2020, every mother of a black boy has to teach him how to speak, how to stand, how to respond, in the event that he his stopped by law enforcement, to keep him from being killed?
We have to be better. We have to do better.

I want to write something profound and moving, but my words are stuck around the lump in my throat.
I look to my friends of color to help me learn how I can help. Please, tell me what I can do to help be part of the solution, not part of the silence.

We are all we have, my friends. We have to be better.
Please be kind to each other.
Stay safe and be well.

Peace & Love

Story Submitted by Alexandra Wright, The PIBA Foundation

The PIBA Foundation was founded September 2019 by a group of friends that had a passion to help animals and our local communities. After a few years of volunteering with various non-profits, Angel and I decided to start our own. This is the story of People Inspired by All.

The name PIBA, pronounced Pea-buh, was the name of my first dog. I told myself I didn’t want to name an organization after a dog (cliché), but everyone kept bringing her up! When I finally took their advice, I decided to turn it into an acronym. This way, we paid tribute to Piba and were not limited to helping one cause. We were excited to finally have the opportunity to be creative with our giveback efforts!

To date, our team has fed and provided care packages to over 100 individuals and their pets experiencing homelessness, partnered with 3 local non-profits to collect food and blankets for low-income and homeless families, partnered with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and have cleaned up approximately 50 pounds of trash in Ybor. We have also rescued 61 dogs and cats, which includes strays, owner surrenders, transferred 3 dogs from another rescue that came from a terrible hoarding situation, and 2 dogs who were at the shelter for over 500 days.

Included in our total are two very special dogs, Nala and Bo. Nala was an owner surrender due to her medical needs and Bo is a cancer survivor. Nala drags her back legs due to a possible spinal injury that occurred at 9 weeks and never received the proper medical attention. Bo had a mast cell tumor on his paw and hind end, and his family needed help raising funds to cover the cost of surgery. Through generous donations, we were able to raise enough funds to cover each of their medical exams and supplies, including Nala’s wheelchair.

Our efforts to give back will always continue. Whether it be rescuing 23 puppies and their moms (yes, we did that earlier this year), or fundraising and collecting supplies for a family and animal in need, we will continue to be people inspired to make a difference in our community.

You can find more information on how to help or volunteer at www.thepibafoundation.org/donate or www.facebook.com/thepibafoundation

Story Submitted by Ann Lehman

Twenty-three years ago, this holiday weekend, I fell in love. Her name was Heidi and she had been part of the foster care program at the local shelter. Friends had adopted her in February, but by May, the teenage boy had grown tired of this precious puppy. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to begin what was to be a 16-year love story. Heidi became my baby girl. She was a dachshund mix with the most loveable personality. She traveled with me from Colorado to Missouri and finally to Florida, never complaining. As she grew older, she developed a heart murmur, glaucoma, and though undiagnosed, doggie dementia. But she never wavered in her devotion to me. Nor I, her. When the time came to let her go, June 30, 2013, my heart was broken. A part will always be with her and forever grateful for the unconditional love she showed. She always knew when I was sad-be it a true sadness or just a Hallmark commercial. She knew I did not like thunderstorms and she would come to sit at my feet, look up at me with those soulful eyes of hers as if to say: It’s ok Mom, I’m here. She still is-her paw print is tattooed to my right wrist so that I may place it on my heart whenever I am missing her.

Story Submitted by Darouny Bounsengsay

As a kid, I never had a pet. My mom was (and still is) allergic to dander, dust, pollen etc. and my childhood home had burnt orange 80s carpet original to the home my parents couldn’t afford to change. I had a pet rock for a science project in 7th grade and my aunt’s house had fish. It was as close as I got. I was never able to understand how people were so attached to their pets. My romantic relationships brought cats, dogs, birds, and even the occasional reptile or two into my life and I loved them all, but I still didn’t really get it on a deeply personal level.

One unassuming evening, I picked up the sweetest little black and tan puppy and fell in love. That’s it. One moment. I instantly understood. I was determined to bring her home and did so as soon as I could. It wasn’t even a week. Ellie Mae, you won me over, little lady. Hook, line, sinker.

At the time I was on the tail-end of a tough relationship, and having my girl there for me got me through one the toughest challenges I’ve faced yet. I sat with her for a number of nights bawling my eyes out and she just licked the tears away – loving me until I was crying over how much I loved her instead of what was hurting me.

We’ve been together a year and counting. She’s still the sweetest puppy and I’ve become that crazy dog mommy who posts constantly about her, cooks human food for her, and gives her anything her little heart desires. My parents finally re-did their floors and Ellie has won over grandma, who asks about her every phone call since there’s no carpet anymore to aggravate her allergies.

My love (and best doggy dad ever) likes to joke my separation anxiety from her is worse than her separation anxiety from me, (lol) but I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s my girl. I wake up every morning with her snuggled between us and I would do absolutely anything for this little ray of sunshine in my life. I get it now. I really, truly, get it.

Story Submitted by Deb Kelley

This is a story about a kitten who fixed three broken hearts and about another who led us to him.

Holly was a tiny solid black kitten that my husband, Ken found on Halloween – thus his name. The dogs were barking at this little guy curled up in a ball in their food bowl. We think the dogs scared his mama and she abandoned him. Ken brought this scrawny kitten into my office and sat him on my lap. I didn’t need another animal. We already had dogs, but Holly looked up at me and snuggled into my lap, and I was done for. But at our first visit to the vet, we learned Holly had feline leukemia but was asymptomatic. The veterinarian said that as long as he wasn’t showing signs of the disease and we didn’t have other cats, he’d make a fine pet. Holly, it appeared, was not a cat at all, but a sweet-tempered, needy human in the thickest black fur coat. This little malnourished kitten grew up to be a huge, part Maine Coon. When he wanted attention, he would mew, stretch his paws up to be lifted like a child, and wrap his paws around our necks and give us a nuzzle hug. We could not leave the house without giving Holly a hug. This routine lasted for 10 years. When Holly passed, I couldn’t think of replacing him. He left an empty spot and I’m tearing up now 20 years later thinking about him. That’s the indelible impact this cat made on my heart.

A couple of months after his passing, my daughter showed me a little white female puffball on the humane society’s adoption page on PetFinder. We decided this little girl would be exactly what we needed. We visited the humane society and she was at the bottom of three levels of cages. My daughter sat on the floor and tried to play with her, but she spat, growled, and glowered in the corner of the cage. Her temperament was definitely the opposite of her photo online. Directly above her cage on the first level, this chunky gold, black, and white kitten was doing everything in his power to get noticed. He meowed, literally slammed himself against the cage door, and reached out his paw as far as it would stretch to try to get my daughter’s attention. I read his name on the cage door: Fiz. Fiz was determined to not be ignored. We took him into the playroom and his personality matched his name: fizzy. He bounced around the playroom, darting after toys, cuddling in our laps, and giving head butts. It was at that moment, he adopted us. Whereas Holly gave hugs, Fiz (we kept his name because first, he knows it and second, there’s no better description for this crazy cat) gives kisses and head rubs. He also enjoys watching TV with us. If we put on animal videos on YouTube, he will sit and watch alert until the video ends. He’ll also come and stand in front of me and wait for me to rub my forehead on his forehead, then he’ll go kiss my husband’s bearded chin and lay in “his” designated spot on the top of the bed, centering himself between the two us with paws outstretched and kneading. Or on the pillow behind me. Or on top of my laptop. Pretty much our bedroom is his domain. He just lets us sleep and watch TV there. I am convinced Holly led us past the high-maintenance Persian and to our regal, gold-eyed vocal little boy who has been a never-ending source of nuzzles for over 10 years.

Story Submitted by Julie Ravelo

She came into our lives during a difficult time in the life of a parent. Glenn and I have 3 children; Nikki, Chris, and Ryan. In 2012, Ryan went off to college. We were officially empty nesters. What else is a parent to do during such times full of mixed emotions? We picked Abby out of a litter of Cavachons from a breeder in Zephyrhills. Her mother was a Bichon and her father was a Cavalier King Charles. She was an adorable, ball of fluff; weighing in at 3 pounds. We brought her home and were immediately in love! Lucky, our 8-year-old lab mix was not quite as enamored with her. Abby wanted to play ALL the time and Lucky was tired and just wanted to lay around. I can imagine Lucky saying, “I’ve been your loyal companion all these years, and now in my retirement years this is what you do to me?” Lucky immediately established her alpha status and Abby seemed happy with that. It took a while, but eventually they coexisted in peace. However, it was not a mutual love affair. Lucky never did forgive us for bringing Abby home. We thought we had re-established peace in our home once Lucky accepted Abby. Well, we were in for a big surprise. Ryan came home for Thanksgiving break. Of course, we had told him about Abby and even sent him pictures, but when he actually met her, he was affected by the big green monster called jealousy! It was funny to witness this big, 19-year-old man say things like, “I thought I was the baby of the house?” and “Why did you just call her your baby?” Ryan went back to school after his break still feeling skeptical of his loss of baby status. By the time he came back for Christmas, he couldn’t help but fall in love with this adorable, playful pup. Lucky, on the other hand, just tolerated her. One day, we were sitting in the den watching TV, and, suddenly Abby starts barking incessantly and running up and down the dock. She continued in this manner until we went out to investigate. It turns out that Lucky, now 13 years old and with bad hips, had fallen off the dock and into the canal. It was 10 pm and dark. We could not see her. We called and called for her and when she heard Glenn’s voice, she turned around and swam back to our dock. We had to put a ladder into the canal and I pulled while Glenn pushed her out. Abby had saved her life! Animals bring such joy into our lives and I can’t imagine my life without them!

Story Submitted by Afsaneh Noori

When I was growing up, I loved the summer and played in the sun all day. My skin would tan, the color of mocha. On day, when I was around 5 years old, I overheard a relative say, “Afsaneh, just like her father, is as black as a cockroach.” That made me feel ugly and I believed that I was ugly. That year, my father traveled to the US and brought the larger doll back (the small one was from a later trip). When I saw it, I asked if it was for me. He said, “No it is not. This is a black doll and you said that black skin is not pretty.” I said, “but she is pretty.” Then my dad asked, “so are you pretty too?” I said, “yes” and he gave me the doll. She’s been with me for 60 years, reminding me of my father teaching me to value myself.

Story and Video Submitted by Raquel Giorgio

Almost two years ago, I was inspired to start a mini-movement in my hometown of Orlando, FL called #LoveForAll. My goal was to blanket my neighborhood with signs in windows of shops that welcomed people of all nationalities, ethnicities, religions, gender and sexual preference into these places of business. The mini-movement grew and grew and now tens of thousands of these signs are all over the country displayed in homes, classrooms, shops, restaurants and offices. Occasionally, I would be met with resistance by people who felt this was a political movement. It isn’t. It’s simply a movement of LOVE. And in this time of crisis when everyone on this planet is affected by this virus, love is needed more than ever. We’re all equal. We’re all one. The virus doesn’t discriminate. And neither should we. Now is the time for #LoveForAll to spread around this world. And if I can help in my own small way with a sign that makes everyone feel welcome wherever they go in this world, I am more than happy to oblige. For more information on how you can help or to request a sign, please visit InsistOnLoveForAll.com.