The Saga of Cement Sue

my christmas gift

This is the special wonderful gift that my Linda gave me

I’ve often waxed poetic (or at least posted prose) about my love, Linda Herman.  I’ve worn out my list of adjectives trying to describe how wonderful she is, and how good she is for me.  This Christmas, she demonstrated her love with the best material gift I have ever received.

What could this gift be?  It is a two-foot high concrete statue of an Irish Setter.  Yes, you all know that I love Irish Setters, but that wouldn’t make this the best gift ever.  So what would?  I hope you have a few minutes as this is a convoluted answer.

The story starts with my great-grandfather Hall.  I don’t know much about the man, I don’t even know his name.  The generation before me simply referred to him as “Grandpa Hall.”  By the time I was aware enough to ask his name, my father no longer remembered it.

My great-grandfather's property in Spring Lake

My great-grandfather’s property in Spring Lake

Here is what I do know about the man.  He owned a farm in Spring Lake, MI bordered on the south by modern-day M-104, on the west by Fruitport Road, on the north by the railroad tracks, and on the east by the swamp.  On this farm he raised pigs, which he smoked and sold as bacon & ham in the surrounding communities.

The other, more interesting thing, that he did on his property was breed and train what he called “Irish Bird Dogs.”  We would know them today as Irish Setters & Irish Red & White Setters.  Even then they were trying to breed the white out so that they could develop into the red dogs that we know today.

Great-grandfather Hall always kept three dogs for breeding – a male named Patrick and two bitches named Molly & Sue.  When one passed on, or retired from breeding, he would replace it with another dog with the same name.  So he always had Patrick, Sue, & Molly.  This allowed him to sell to returning satisfied clients another dog with the same parents as their previous dog.  And disgruntled customers could be offered a dog from the other mother.

John & I with Jojo

My brother John & I with our dog Jojo.

grampa and dog

My grandfather with a Sue or a Molly

This practice of Patrick, Sue, & Molly was carried on by my grandfather, Melvin Bristol Hall.  He didn’t do the dogs as a full time profession like his father did, but he kept the Patrick, Sue, & Molly tradition alive.

Now my father, Melvin Edward Hall, didn’t breed dogs.  We always had at least one dog in the house, most of them Irish Setters.  But in my little atomic family, my mother claimed naming rights for all pets.  So we had Duke, Jojo, Koof, Kerry, & Scarlet.

Then in 1992, Dad retired from teaching.  It turns out that there was an Irish Setter breeder near Coldwater, MI who had a bitch that was descended from one of my great-grandfather’s lines.  And he presented the dog to my father as a retirement gift.

This was one of the rare occasions where my father stood up to my mother.  He explained to her that the dog was a gift to him, the dog was part of his family history, and he would be naming her Molly!  My mother didn’t speak to him for weeks afterword.

grandma and a dog

My Grandmother Irene Vos Hall with a Sue or a Molly

My uncle Ken Hall (Mel’s younger brother) had a much more entertaining response.  Uncle Ken located a concrete, life-sized, concrete statue of an Irish Setter.  Since Mel had a Molly, Ken brought him a Sue – Cement Sue (you have to say it like Jed Clampett – See-Ment Sue).  And from that point on, we had Cement Sue stationed in our back yard.

The years were not kind to Cement Sue, as she stood sentry day and night in all kinds of weather.  She may have lost pieces of concrete, leaving just bits of rebar hanging out.  But she was always there, and Dad & I made a habit of saying hello to Cement Sue every time we came or went through the back door.  As time went by Dad did indeed add a Sue to go along with his Molly.  After many good years with Mel, Molly final had to go to the Rainbow Bridge.  Fortunately, he still had his Sue, who stayed by his side until his death – and Cement Sue was still on station in the backyard.

ken hall & family

My Uncle Ken and his family

Mel & Molly

Dad with a Molly from his grandfather’s line

When the bittersweet time came for me to leave 712 Winter St., Spring Lake, MI to join my lovely Linda in Durham, NC I discovered a sad, sorry truth.  Cement Sue was so damaged, and so sunken into the very ground of the backyard that it would be impossible to move her.  So with a very heavy heart, I left her behind at 712 Winter St.

In my heart, Cement Sue not only meant Molly & Dad but also 712 Winter St., Spring Lake, Uncle Ken & a grandfather & great-grandfather that I never met.  Of course, being so sensitive, loving, caring, and attuned to me – Linda knew all of that.  So she gave me not only a brand new Cement Sue – but also all of those important things left behind when I left Michigan.  I have never received a finer gift with more love behind it.  Thank you Linda – I love you.

The Original Cement Sue (back) with Paladin

The Original Cement Sue (back) with Paladin


PEPPER’s Success

Our foster girl PEPPER is happy in her new forever home.  She has made huge strides (pun intended) since her surgery.

As a “Thank You” to everybody who contributed to her success, and to show the amazing results of her surgery, I made a quick video to show her new found four-legged walking skills.  Most of this was shot in her new backyard with her new family.

Thanks to everybody who contributed to her success and her new happy life!


Wow, have I ever neglected this thing. It’s been quite a while since my last post. There is a good reason for that – a cute little red-head named PEPPER.

This is PEPPER

This is PEPPER

I wish that I was a better photographer, because this little girl is just too cute for words and I have yet to take a picture that really captures her essence.

This poor little girl has had a tough row to hoe.  She was surrendered to Save Our Setters by her owners due to the fact that they could no longer afford the expensive special food she needs.  PEPPER has an allergy to grain proteins, and cannot eat any food containing grain.

Of course, when they surrendered her, they neglected to tell anybody at Save Our Setters that she had also been struck by a car!  When I picked her up from the transport volunteer, she was hobbling on three legs.

Anybody see a problem here?

Anybody see a problem here?

Her right hip was obviously dislocated.  Her previous owner did send along a handwritten note saying “Pepper was hit by a car.  The vet says that it is only cartilage damage and she will be O.K. with a couple weeks of rest.”

Well, I’m not a vet, but that sure looks like more than cartilage damage to me.  Here is a quick, raw video I shot of her when we arrived at home that first night.  This is not a polished video, it was a “quick & dirty” (and if you look at our living room carpet you can see the “dirty”) that I sent off to Save Our Setters so that they could see the situation.

I immediately scheduled her to see Dr. Moore at the Harborfront Hospital for Animals in Spring Lake.  Take a look at her x-ray for yourself.

Not Cartliage Damage

Not Cartliage Damage

Dr. Moore felt that if this had been treated immediately, the leg could have been popped back into the socket at a cost of approximately $200.  But by the time that I got her into the vet (at 9:00 AM the next morning after picking her up) there was just too much scar tissue built up.

So off PEPPER & I went – to see a variety of specialists, including the experts at the Michigan State University Vet School.  After a LOT of research, we boiled things down to four options:

1) Amputate the leg – cost (approximately) $1,000

2) Physical Therapy – cost (approximately) $1,400

3) Total Hip Replacement surgery – cost (approximately) $8,000

4) Femoral Head Ostectomy surger – cost $2,300

Nobody felt that Physical Therapy alone would be a good option.  It would leave her with significant pain and a high probability of future complications.  Amputation would be the least cost option, and many dogs adjust to the missing limb without issue.  It would relieve her of the burden of carrying around a mostly useless limb, but it seemed a shame to do that if another way could be found.  The Total Hip Replacement (THR) would be the Cadillac option, but the price tag was scary.

The experts at MSU, and our own Dr. Moore agreed that the Femoral Head Ostectomy (or FHO) would provide here with the same improvement as the THR with far less surgical trauma – and of course less cost.

Sometimes a girl just needs her Dad

Sometimes a girl just needs her Dad

While we were conducting all of this research, PEPPER continued on demonstrating to us that she was a wonderful little girl.  She ran and played with the nearly boundless energy that only puppies can generate.  At the end of the night, she would be sore and tired – and would seek out Dad’s lap as the best possible place to rest and recover.

Two weeks ago, PEPPER had her FHO done.  In layman’s terms this means that the removed the ball from the top of the long leg bone (the femur) and stuck the resulting end into the scar tissue that has filled her hip socket.  She is still confined to crate rest and leash walks while she heals.  In a couple of weeks, we will begin a program of Physical Therapy to help her learn to use that leg again.

I cannot say enough good things about the folks at Save Our Setters.  They immediately stepped up to the plate, determined to do whatever was best for PEPPER.  Of course, doing the right thing is not without cost.  And Save Our Setters is a non-profit organization, totally dependent on donations to cover the costs of doing right by the dogs.

I put together this little video for use on PEPPER‘s page on the Save Our Setters website.  Please take a couple of minutes and see our wonderful little girl in action.

Now, I’m not one to beg – but this time I am more than willing to beg.  If you’ve got a dollar or two to spare, please go to the Save Our Setters site and make whatever contribution you can.  I would consider it a personal favor, and PEPPER will certainly appreciate it.

Thank you!
Prop It Up!

CODIE JOE Is Waiting For His New Family

Dont you just love this face?

Don't you just love this face?

Our special little foster boy, CODIE JOE is waiting for his new forever family to find him.  CODIE has been with us since mid-October.  He is an amazing little fellow with a glistening coat that looks like well-oiled mahogany.  He is crate-trained and housebroken.

He loves to play, but only if you initiate it.  He enjoys being outside in all kinds of weather, just playing by himself and checking out the world at large.  When he plays, he bounces like Tigger in the Winnie the Pooh cartoons.  He bounces circles around SUE when they are playing together.

When he isn’t playing, he is either in his crate napping or looking for somebody to snuggle with.  I made a little adoption video for him, based on a poetry reading I did on my old WGHN radio show for Thanksgiving Day, 2007.

If you’ve got room in your home and your heart for this special little guy, you can adopt CODIE from Save Our Setters.  He is patiently waiting for the perfect forever family to find him.

CODIE is waiting - for you?

CODIE is waiting - for you?

Prop it up…

What I Want For Christmas

Sue tells Santa her Christmas Wish

Sue tells Santa her Christmas Wish

Another year is coming to a close, and it actually finds me in a pretty good situation.  Dad & I are together – taking care of each other and our Irish Setter, Sweet Sue.  And I don’t dare forget the cat, who is doing well but would punish me in the middle of the night if I forgot to mention her.

For those very few of you out there who are wondering what to get me for Christmas this year, I have only one suggestion or request.  Since I have pretty much everything I need or want; I’m asking you instead of buying me a gift to make a donation to Save Our Setters.

We have been fostering dogs for them since the fall.  We are on our third one.

Foster Girl Danni

Foster Girl Danni

Danni, the little girl who had been used as bait in a dog fighting ring came out of her shell and found a perfect forever home in Wisconsin.

Foster Boy Hunter

Foster Boy Hunter

Hunter, the very handsome Irish Red and White Setter who was a stray in the U.P. found a perfect home (and a new name – Conner) on the eastern side of Michigan.  And little Codie Joe, who’s family had to surrender him when they lost their home in the mortgage crisis is still here with us.  Hopefully once the holiday activities settle down somebody will turn up who wants this

Foster Boy Codie Joe

Foster Boy Codie Joe

beautiful boy to brighten their lives.

Save Our Setters is an amazing all volunteer organization that absolutely performs miracles for the dogs.  If you haven’t checked out the story

Cloud learns to use a cart

Cloud learns to use a cart

of Cloud – the Dog that Could you really should.  It will warm your heart.

Save Our Setters has placed nearly 150 Setters into their forever homes in 2008.  That in itself is an amazing and heartwarming fact.  But the sad part is that they have received in excess of 500 intake requests from Setters in need.


Cloud stands on his own

Cloud stands on his own

boggles my little mind.  Somewhere out there in the past year 500 families decided that they either couldn’t, or worse – wouldn’t, continue to care for one of these beautiful animals.  Thank goodness that organizations like Save Our Setters exist to help.  Sue and I would both appreciate it if you could do something to help them help the animals.  Financial contributions are tax deductible and will make you feel good about yourself.  The link to make a donation via PayPal as well as the address to mail a check (and a list of other ways you can help) are all available here.

Even if you don’t know me or like me enough to want to give me a gift, you can of course still contribute to Save Our Setters.  And if for some unfathomable reason you don’t like Irish Setters – please Google up the name of a breed that you do like along with

Sue wishes you a Merry Christmas

Sue wishes you a Merry Christmas

the word “rescue” and you will find a number of other breed specific rescues that also need your help.  Or you could just donate money, time, or other resources to your local Humane Society or animal shelter.

That would make my Christmas very merry indeed.  Thank you.

The HUNTER Experience


Hunter is our latest foster dog.

Hunter is our latest foster dog.

I haven’t been able to blog, or do much of anything, lately.  HUNTER is the reason why.  HUNTER is our latest foster dog for Save Our Setters.

He is an extremely handsome Irish Red & White Setter.  He has been neutered comes to us extremely well educated.  HUNTER is housebroken.  He has mastered “Sit,” “Down,” “Stay,” “No,” and “Heel.”  He is absolutely beautiful at heel and he is just a joy to walk with.

keep reading…