What Matters Most
In Happy Tails, the animals take center stage while my husband, Bill, and I fade happily into the background where we take on more of a supportive role. As a writer attempting to reach out to young readers, this was a natural choice for me, because I’ve yet to know a child who didn’t respond favorably to a puppy’s kisses or a kitten’s purr.
Animals are simple. They are motivated by the basic need to find food and shelter while working to secure the love and affection of their families. Human beings on the other hand, are more complicated. Growing up, I’ve often found people can be motivated by any number of emotions and desires. For instance, I studied all the time, because it was important to me to make good grades. Other sports-minded students trained and practiced in an effort to perfect their game.
But not all motivations are pure of heart. Some people are unkind, because they don’t want to reveal their own insecurities. As a result, fear becomes the driving force behind everything they do. Another might play the class clown, because he or she has a dread of not being liked by their classmates. Oftentimes, when someone bullies others without considering the possible outcome, it’s because they want to control everyone and everything around them. Who knows why? Perhaps it’s because they live in an unhappy home. Should this happen to you, the best thing to do is confide in parents, teachers and friends who can protect you from harm. It’s never a good idea to try and go it alone.
What matters most is the basic understanding that everything we say and do has consequences. Our words and actions have the power to warm a cold heart and heal dampened spirits. But some who may feel wounded inside for one reason or another may act out in bad ways toward others. While their damaging behavior cannot be tolerated, it at least needs to be understood, because understanding opens the door to change.
Taking responsibility for your behavior has the power to raise you up as a human being making you important to all who know you. Plus, you will never have to apologize for saying and doing the right thing.
The story opens with a brand new litter of three long-haired, dapple dachshund pups, born in a modest cabin in the Ozarks owned by surrogate caretakers, Bill and Joy Munson, while the dog’s rightful owners are out of the country. Jitterbug, the runt of the litter, is mostly ignored by her two more physical, rambunctious siblings and she’s indifferent to her mother who she perceives as being cold. At odds with her surroundings, she cannot help fantasizing about a more glamorous life in the city where she dreams of making a name for herself.
Surrounded by a cast of eccentric characters, Jitterbug bides her time by making friends with Jetter, the family’s snarky but lovable feline who tomcats by night and lounges by day while watching out for the likes of Aunt Geneva and Uncle Ed, two noisy crows who make it their business to know it all. However, despite developing a real affection for the Munson’s, she can’t wait to leave for her real home in Chicago. Then one morning she is devastated to learn her canine family has been sent back to the city without her. Now sentenced to a life of mediocrity, Jitterbug sinks into a deep depression.
Concerned by their dog’s diminishing physical and emotional state, the Munson’s seek out a proper mate for Jitterbug by bringing Jasper into the fold. With his calm temperament, he immediately embraces his responsibility with the intent of sharing his passion for nature with his new partner. He introduces Jitterbug to numerous new woodland creatures including Dr. Steve, the wise old barred owl, the deer family, two hyper little squirrels and a one-eyed fox named Willis.
However, just as Jitterbug is about to resign herself to a simple life in the Ozarks, opportunity knocks when she is discovered performing along the sidelines during a lavish Christmas spectacle held annually in Branson. With an extravagant gift and an invitation to join the traveling show, she escapes her pet carrier at an opportune moment despite the Munson’s absolute refusal to place their beloved puppy in show business. Separated by a winter blast that produces record snowfall and massive power outages across the region, Jitterbug is swept out of town before the Munson’s can initiate a credible search.
Her impromptu adventure takes her across the country, introduces her to reality television and even lands her a starring role in a national ad campaign, but the constant demands of celebrity coupled with intermittent bouts of homesickness force Jitterbug to realize not every dream is worth pursuing when measured against the sacrifices necessary to achieve a goal. Forced to grow up without the loving support of her friends and family, she learns numerous lessons, including the grass is not always greener on the other side, and that it’s not okay to run from an uncomfortable situation. However, through sheer grit and determination, a new deal is eventually crafted between the Munson’s and Jitterbug’s new owner designed to make everyone happy and bring Jitterbug back home.
It’s the eve of Valentine’s Day, and I find myself hurrying to meet the demands of a deadline. With shopping done, it’s time to get gifts wrapped, cards signed and those that need to be mailed off sent. Caught up in the midst of all this activity, my mind can’t help but wander. I’ve got an elderly mom I care for, a husband, three children between us, each with spouses, and five grandchildren. For me, love takes on many forms. While Valentine’s Day is traditionally set aside for couples who fancy one another with images of hearts and cupid crowding store shelves and checkout counters, to only see it in such simple terms is somehow cheating love’s bounty.
Love revealed itself early in my life when my mother took me shopping downtown to select fabric and buttons for my clothes she tailor-made or when my dad taught me how to ride a bike while helping me to rest assured I was not to be afraid. It was shown by my older brother and sister who taught me how to read and write at a very young age, and by my maternal grandmother who spent hours in the kitchen baking me one of my favorite – always lopsided – chocolate cakes.
When I started school, love was further demonstrated by friends and flirtations that carried me throughout my youth while reminding me I was never alone. It was also demonstrated by countless teachers and administrators who gave guidance to a student who showed potential, even though I occasionally stumbled.
Throughout my life, I have been blessed to have been surrounded by good people who oftentimes placed my needs before their own, and I’ve tried to give back whenever I could. However, when I couldn’t, I paid it forward by showing kindness to a stranger perhaps by holding a door open or sharing an umbrella. The truth is, most of us are surrounded by love’s bounty even when we get so busy we fail to notice.
So on the day set aside to honor love, why not be a little kinder to one another? And when you see someone in need, why not offer them a helping hand? I’ve learned over the course of my life if there’s one thing you can count on it’s that there’s always somebody out there who needs a good hug, and sometimes that’s all it takes to make someone’s day.
About the Author
Joy Metzer worked as a professional interior designer for more than twenty-five years, spearheading projects both nationally and abroad, while cultivating an audience for her writing through several book publications and a successful online blog under her former name, Joyce M. Stacks. Though no stranger to real life portrayals intended to enrich the lives of her readers, this is her first effort at writing a children’s chapter book loosely based upon the private life she shares with her husband. She attended both the University of Utah and Texas Christian University and currently resides in Hot Springs, Arkansas, to be near her family, as well as in Lead Hill with her husband, Bill.