Four Difficult Words. 

Last week, I said four words that I never imagined saying. Four of the most difficult words that I still have trouble comprehending. They entailed instant heartbreak and sorrow that visibly began to show and seeing this made it real, because everything else felt so numb. “I’ve lost my pet” is a phrase full of emotions that’s difficult to explain unless you’ve loved and cared for any animal that made your home and especially your life better for being in it but is no longer.

As hours turned into days and days into weeks, I’ve had time to reflect that if this is one of the worst things that has happened to me, I may be quite lucky and fortunate in life. However, that has not made the situation any easier.

It’s Friday and the window is slightly cracked on a chilly fall night in effort to hear any commotion. I lay upon my new makeshift bed, formally the couch, for the tenth straight night. Not only is it close to the scene where he went missing (due to a broken window screen), but it also feels like I’m no longer home. Everything is familiar but it shows signs of a very hectic lifestyle. What was once home, now feels like I’m involuntarily crashing on my second cousins couch somewhere out of town. It’s both as uncomfortable and unforeseen as it sounds. Flyers are scattered upon the kitchen table and the can opener in the sink has a strong smell of mackerel. There are flashlights in every coat pocket and a litter box sits prominently upon my porch. Sweatshirts and blankets are scattered around the outside of my house and my porch door is held slightly open by an old tie I once wore in a wedding. Life has been different as time circles slowly around me but has gone rather quickly in the real life. This, is a bad dream.

My back hurts and my arms are full of poison ivy. There is now a self-made walking path that circles around my house that now consists of compressed grass but mostly dirt. My head hurts from the unknown and guilt swarms my mind with the “what-ifs”. Back alleys are now my means of travel and the police know me as “the guy looking for his cat”. What I do know is that desperate effort, slowly turns into helpless silence and it’s another difficult transition that I am learning to deal with.

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’ve changed the cat traps yet again. Sardines no longer disgust me and the smell is tolerable because it assures me that I’m still trying. I see a woman walking towards me upon the sidewalk and realize it’s a familiar face. By familiar, I mean that I know her and like her but by no means would she be walking in front of my house under any other circumstances. She’s looking, I cry, and she consoles me. There will be a lot of this and when the sadness starts to slightly relinquish, you’ll appreciate these moments even more.

On the morning of October 18th, I had overslept and I haven’t done this in nearly six years. I knew instantly that something was wrong and panic set in. It was the first time that a paw had not touched my face with relentless persistence. This, among other simple routines and traits is what makes this adjustment even more painful. Every night, I wish to have them back. The first full day is the most difficult. Everything looks the same but feels so different. Life is not stopping, even though I want it to pause and desperately rewind.

I attend work after a few days and it helps to distract me but as I arrive home and open the door for the first time, reality sets in. He’s not here. Toys grace the floor, the water dish is full and the food sits untouched. I lay upon the couch both mentally and physically drained and he does not jump up. He’s not there. I sit up and bundle up and walk. I search. I know that doing something could be everything. Giving effort will become your new companion and distract you from those silent quirky attributes that you are now deprived of. So, you walk, look, walk and look. This becomes your new routine.

I said earlier that these were four of the most difficult words I’ve said and I ponder that daily. I try to justify that this wasn’t just a pet, it was family. He needed me but I wanted him even more. This was all I had and although noting that I was both unmarried and childless, may make others mutter “Oh, this makes sense now”, it’s far from the case. Sure, if my circumstances were different, my sorrow may vary but you can never measure the sadness of another human being. Thus, here I am.

Is he scared? Is he hurt? Hungry or thirsty? Close or far? The unknown is a cruel reminder of every worst case scenario that crosses my mind nearly every second. It’s 3am on Sunday and I Google everything I can about trying to find a cat. Within a week, I feel like I’m an expert. The “have you tried this” questions, begin to quickly end in “yes” and again, knowing you’re doing everything you can, gives you some peace and acceptance that you need. We have shared information, called every place, and looked under nearly every porch. My dad hands me the last flyer as I lay it upon a porch, blocks and blocks from my home. My mom posts one more missing photo online. Knowing that I care (we care), replaces the care I once gave to him.

Time passes and the lost sign that hangs upon the telephone pole is fading. The colors are dripping down the paper as an awful reminder of how the weather has changed. It’s raining and cold and I once again feel guilty and helpless. The sound of cold rain drops, often feels like needles poking at my heart. I can no longer look at his sign when I pass by. It hurts. I never imagined this would happen to me but It has.

It’s 5am on Monday and everything is quiet. I put on some flip flops and sweatpants and check the cat traps. Nothing. I feel alone. I search the internet for stories about what this is like because I want to know I’m not alone. I want to relate to someone with this same unfortunate experience but all I find are stories with happy endings. These (at the moment) seemed like fairytale moments when all I wanted was honesty. This, is why I’m writing. To not only console myself, but to reach out to another because nothing is worse than feeling alone and that’s what I fear for both him and I.

This story isn’t all about loss though, it’s about gain and hope. Strangers will reach out to you, family will support you and friends will help you. Neighbors will look and co-workers will console. Perhaps even more than before, you’ll feel loved and desire to be around others at any available moment. You’ll get text messages and you’ll see effort. Mostly to show that they are there for your well-being and in time you’ll also begin to appreciate these gestures.

It’s Tuesday and I’m driving home. This is starting to become my moment of hope. The sadness of not seeing him as I open the door to my house, turns into sadness from seeing trap doors still open. I know that sitting on the couch is different and I know this all too well by now. Today, was the first time in six years that I left a cereal bowl filled with milk unattended and it still does not feel right. I walk down the street blocks and blocks away (far from the houses with flyers) and a lady is well aware of what I’m still looking for. She assures me that I’m not the only one keeping my eye out. This, brings me some comfort. I know how much of an impact animals leave on our lives and that puts us in the large majority of understanding. I head back home. As I do, I grab a screwdriver and unbolt a wooden panel on the outside of my house to check the crawl space one more time. Nothing. I walk inside and call his name even though I know the outcome. Still nothing.

My cat was adopted at the local humane society at an early age. He was ill and found abused. His front leg was amputated and I saw him laying in a small pale curled up. Immediately, I knew I wanted to rescue him but later in life, he was the one that saved me. He gave me responsibility and affection. He left me alone and yet wouldn’t leave me alone. He made my house a home and went from a pet to family. One of life’s greatest treasures and angst is love. I loved him and although the love transitioned from joy to sadness, knowing that something allows this in the first place makes life worth living.

I want you to know that this story will never be finished. I want you to know that a year from now every time I walk somewhere I will still be looking. It will stay with me forever. Hope will never fade even when you feel hopeless. Most importantly, you will never be alone. Trust me. This is my message to you. This is not about a cat, it’s about love and appreciating it when you have it. You see, I’m not missing him, I’m missing him and that makes more sense to me than anything else ever will because I’m the one that’s lost without him.

May you all find what’s missing from your heart. No matter what it is.




The frost bite is louder than the bark.

Growing up as a kid (like many others), I wanted nothing more than a dog in my life. I was raised in a small fence-less house, with an older sister that was allergic to animal hair (by no fault of her own). This just wasn’t possible. We settled for fish and birds for the first twelve years of my life. I vowed that if I was lucky enough to one day own my own home, I would get a dog. Immediately. I remember it like it was yesterday, as I reluctantly changed the newspaper in the bottom of our bird cage. Years down the road, when my sister decided to move out on her own, we somewhat hesitantly, started small and by small, I mean tiny, as we were the proud owners of a Chihuahua. Eventually leading to another and a couple cats. We were always animal lovers but we tried to live within our capabilities and their demands. It worked best with a bit of compromise.

Fast forward to a few years ago, I was finally the proud owner of my first ever house. Located just a half mile from a Metropark and with a fenced in backyard. I still had not unpacked before thoughts of being an owner of a dog had crossed my mind. After sleeping on it for several nights, getting advice and doing my “homework”, I was incapable in my own mind and heart. It destroyed me to be brutally honest with my true potential to take on these responsibilities. Everyone has the right to their own opinion on what it takes to become a pet owner, but mine simply started with the fact that this animal may be home by itself for far longer than it should be as a single homeowner. Not to mention leaving out of town and finding someone to tend to the responsibilities that I felt were of my own. So, as it may be, I am currently the owner of a cat. A single man with a cat. (Let the stereotypes begin).

Even as the owner of a pet that requires less attention than a dog, I was beyond reluctant. Just a year prior, I was in the midst of helping an old girlfriend move. She was living thirty minutes away but still had her belongings elsewhere, including her cat. As she dumped enough food in bowls for a week, out walked the most unhealthy looking, tangled hair cat I’ve seen. The entire time saying to myself “don’t judge, don’t do it”. I had visited the humane society a month later to just see the animals and support the cause. After being begged by my girlfriend to get a kitten, I ended up with the one much older, sneezing at the very bottom of sand pale that was missing it’s front leg. I knew that I was capable of giving this animal a home that I thought it desperately needed.

I’m not an animal activist, I know nothing about PETA, and I can’t stand Sara Mclachlan’s music. I’m not here to preach or give advice. Sometimes, I even find myself turning a blind eye to how others tend to their family pets. How can you possibly measure what is needed to maintain and give an animal love and shelter in the basic sense, against someone who has a dog purse and six cat perches? I’m also not here to judge.

Over the past year, and during the most brutal winter in the history of Toledo, I have a stray cat that chose to destroy a grate and live under my house during these unheard of temperatures. A cat that my neighbors no longer wanted but I could never reach. I could not bare take away perhaps it’s only hope for shelter and to this day, he lays beneath my bedroom floor as I hear cries during the cold nights. I see the stories and I hear them as well. It seems as if these cases of leaving animals outside are almost becoming a habit for a small percentage of owners. I do not want to go into details of animal cruelty, or point fingers. This is not why I am writing. I am not capable of rescuing any animal that is currently living in unacceptable living conditions. However, I want to prevent it.

I want people to really think before they take on the responsibility of initially becoming a pet owner. I want your then twelve year old self to think about what animals truly need and if you are willing to go beyond that to assure it lives a happy and healthy life for the ENTIRE duration of it’s existence. Far too often we think we are capable of doing something we are not. I want to believe that this comes with good intentions and perhaps life takes a turn where this changes. If this is the case, you still have a responsibility to make sure this animal will be in good care, even under another’s supervision or home. Animals can’t be disregarded and unattended to. If so, you are failing at humanity. So please, next time you see an irresistible animal that you want to call your own, think it over and over again if you are capable of being a proper pet owner. You owe that to them and yourself. Far too many animals need homes and to be adopted, but you’re not doing them a favor if you are incapable of doing it the proper way.


One Story Apart.


There’s an old local legend regarding apt. 26C (The bottom window with the light). Over fifty years ago, there was a man who lived in this room. Every afternoon he wrote a love letter and sat it on his windowsill for the winds to carry it away. He believed in chance and was a romantic at heart. Throughout his entire life, he never lived beyond his means. A box spring mattress, tea cup candles, a worn out record player, and a typewriter passed down to him from generations passed.

Every night he waited and every day he started over. You see, he believed that fate was merely out of his hands and conceded in the hope that his best chance at finding true love was measured greatly by destiny and another’s curiosity. For years he believed that the chemistry between the two would somehow, someday be powerful enough to gently land at the feet of another. She would open his letter and also understand that this was meant for her.

Over these fifty odd years, he wrote over 18,000 pages. All different, and yet all with the same purpose. As the days grew into weeks, weeks into months, and finally months into years, he received a knock on his door forty-nine years after his first letter took flight.

As he opened the door, footsteps quickly exited the hallway but he found thousands of his letters bound together with a note on top. It simply read: “You have changed my life. For the first time ever, I believe in love. Not physical and without judgement. You made me dream and understand that humanity and compassion truly do exist. Although this may be hard to believe, this is as real as anything I’ve ever touched or held in my entire life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” 26B.

What makes this story unique is that everyday for almost fifty years, he had passed the lady in 26B. They never once spoke. The book in which was read and written was never opened or typed until fate presented the pages in a new light. Rumor has it they went on to marry and live happily ever after and to this day, the typewriter and a letter still grace the room in apt 26C with what was apparently the last letter he wrote before he heard that one infamous knock that day. It read: This is my last letter, if fate isn’t capable of reaching my love, I am going to finally ask the beautiful lady in 26B. The one woman who I had admired from a far. Chance had it’s opportunity and now is the time for love..

Photographing Compassion.


Every day is a photo walk.

As I awake, I envision where my travels will take me. What I will be able to see, capture, and embrace in my heart. Organizing this photo walk has very little to do with photography. Our goal is to bring people together with common interests and compassion. We are working extremely hard to do something incredible for a very young woman during an extremely tough time in her life. How easy is it and compelled are you to help out a family member, friend, or neighbor in need? What I want to know, is where the line lies with you between extending your compassion to someone you know and someone you’ve never met. How will our impact affect her life and more importantly, how will it impact ours? I wake up every morning at 6am and do something (as little as it may be) to make this day special for someone I’ve never spoke with. We are not expecting recognition, we are expecting greatness. I need to fill my soul with possibility and leave footprints behind that have left an impact on others, especially within my hometown. In some form or another, everyone is in need; just on different levels. As much as my goal is to convince you to be a part of this event and in return make an impact on Tori’s life, I want you to please take a moment and reflect what legacy you wish to leave on your community. Do you believe in karma? Fate? I want you to know that nothing here is a handout. We want what you are capable of offering. The ability to volunteer, walk, donate, or to give a hug. My promise to you, is that I will offer something to anyone for the rest of my entire life if asked or welcomed. Making an effort is all we are asking for. Sharing my sentiments, or our event is more than the effort we seek. Time is everything and we can no longer take that for granted. If we can capture this compassion and pay it forward, our lives with be filled with meaning and inspiration.
Thank you for your time. God Bless.

Welcome to Tori’s journey. It all began around March 10. Tori started in with a bad cough, congestion and feeling very tired. We went to the doctors and he said she had some sinus issues and put her an on antibiotic. She felt a little better on some days, but then got worse. Her days were full of wanting to do nothing but lay around, her cough got worse and her chest began to hurt. She lost her appetite and began losing some weight. She kept the positive attitude, continued to work and manage her school load, but struggled. We took her back to the doctors, who put her on a stronger antibiotic and told us to get a chest X-Ray if it wasn’t better by Monday.Her chest got better at first, but then got bad again. She began having shortness of breath, lost a few more pounds, her back began to hurt (we assumed it was from coughing so much), she was still very tired. Some days she felt pretty good and other days it was difficult to breathe. She began experiencing extreme night sweats and some numbness and discoloration in her left arm when she was actively using it.We had a chest X-ray done which showed some fluid in her left lung. So back to the doctors we went. The doctor noticed a large swelling around the left side of her neck, almost looking like a football players neck. The doctor then told us that the chest X-ray also showed a large thickening down the middle of the chest. He said that these were all sign of lymphoma – which is a form of blood cancer…and thus it all began.

The Purest Form of Art.


As I lay on my living room floor frantically grasping on to the final hours of what can arguable be one of the best weeks of my life, I’ve captured something in these finally moments that genuinely reveals my true intentions and love for simplistic purity. I ended a humbling, yet frantic week by myself. The cameras have turned off, my phone is no longer ringing, and the newspaper clippings have been safely tucked away. My door is slightly cracked with the cool breeze brushing against my tired eyes. My three-legged cat is glued to the porch light. His curiosity astonishes me and his ears perk every moment, as they are laced with sensory overload. He knows there’s another world out there but loves the comfort of the familiarity and security that lies within my tiny home. I finished the day up by walking throughout Uptown Maumee and Sidecut Metropark in order to once again regain the mundane, repetitious grind in which I love and lost this past week. It’s my indescribable version of “Honey, I’m home.” And I could not be any happier.

I can not thank everyone enough for making this all a possibility. You know who you are, and without you, none of this was possible. You took my corny hobby and made it into a small art form (your words, not mine). I went from hopping out of my truck to take a photo (on my phone) in my muddy sneakers in Swanton, to selling a framed version next to a wine truck in Sylvania. I was truly out of my element. Last Friday, I was beyond nervous and full of unanswered promises that would comfort me with assurances. I was twelve years old, lying awake in the wee hours of the night before the big dance. I was kissing my arm and trying to convince myself that I was nearing perfection by doing something that I had absolutely no idea how to do properly. I was the four foot nothing kid with the bowl cut and hand me down clothes. I didn’t want to be prom king. I wanted to make it through the night without having any parsley stuck in my teeth. I didn’t want to trip and fall flat on my face. I was here to be noticed in a positive light. A small night light that would allow me to escape unharmed and more prepared.

Within the first half hour, I hid in the far corner. I would randomly peak through my fingers to see if I was even being noticed. It was a very uncomfortably curiosity that I could not periodically avoid. Nervously doodling nonsense on a scrap piece of paper, I tried to overcome any reluctant thoughts that were now crossing my mind. Eventually, time cures all anguish and I dealt with my current predicament with the assumption that this may be an experience that I will never have ever again. I needed to step out of my comfort zone to enjoy this amazing opportunity in which I was given.

Several people passed without even glancing in my direction. However, I soon made my first sale within a matter of minutes. Someone wanted something I made? This stranger reached into his pocket to pay me for doing something I love? Something I would pay to do? He thanked me, for my “great work”, and I sat back down in awe thinking about how my photo may be in another’s home. There isn’t a price on that.

I did not have one negative experience my entire two days at the Maple and Main art show. I spoke with a WWII Veteran about abandoned trains. I met the ceramic art teacher at the 577 Foundation and we spoke about door frames and simple beauty. The art teacher at Northview High School purchased several photos to show her class the possibilities of creating something with photography. The Sylvania Art commissioner purchased one of my framed photos. The gentleman who owns an art gallery down the road talked to me about new age photography. The gentleman who wrote an article about me came out to purchase a card (as did his proofreader) I had a woman come up to me and ecstatically say “You have no idea who I am, but I follow you on Photos of NW Ohio and I love your work.” Work? Art? What is going on?

I had friends, family and neighbors make the trip to Sylvania. I spoke with several people that were truly intrigued with seeing my work solely because of a recent newspaper article, thus making the trip. I met a ten year old girl, Leia, who kept coming back with her own money to purchase my photo cards. I never saw that much genuine excitement in anything I’ve ever done my entire life from anyone during my entire life, thus far. I gave her my only canvas print because of her honest sincerity and curiosity with my passion and she said “Thank you, so much”, as she ran away saying “Mom, mom… guess what!!” I knew that I was doing something right. Can you imagine doing something you love, quite possibly every day, that can inspire someone else? Doing something that can make an impact on another’s life by bringing joy from what I aspire to do in life is my ultimate dream. This weekend, that came true; if only for a short time.

Stories like these can go on and on. I’m flattered by the kind words, messages, and emails. I’m speechless that this weather went from predictions of 90% thunderstorms, to near perfection as the only rain I had witnessed was from behind my truck window on my journey home. During that short trip south, a rainbow had literally stretched across the skyline as if almost visually appearing to end at my final destination. As I gracefully bowed out, and get back to the basics of everyday life, I wanted you to know that I will never forget these moments. It really made an impact on my life that will stay in my heart forever. However, don’t feel sorry for me, this dance isn’t over. I’m hesitant to ever use this platform again, or sell any items, but you’ve given me the renewed energy to capitalize on my dreams. That perhaps, life is too short to only dream at night. I’m ecstatic to see where this may go, and if it only goes as far as my walk alone throughout a local metro park, then I’ll gladly take it and hold onto it forever. You’ve assured me that life no longer has to be a daunting grind. Every day I have an opportunity to do and be something special. Thank you for this! Thank you so so much..

Eric Shanteau

Tori Jennings


Welcome to Tori’s journey. It all began around March 10. Tori started in with a bad cough, congestion and feeling very tired. We went to the doctors and he said she had some sinus issues and put her an on antibiotic. She felt a little better on some days, but then got worse. Her days were full of wanting to do nothing but lay around, her cough got worse and her chest began to hurt. She lost her appetite and began losing some weight. She kept the positive attitude, continued to work and manage her school load, but struggled. We took her back to the doctors, who put her on a stronger antibiotic and told us to get a chest X-Ray if it wasn’t better by Monday.Her chest got better at first, but then got bad again. She began having shortness of breath, lost a few more pounds, her back began to hurt (we assumed it was from coughing so much), she was still very tired. Some days she felt pretty good and other days it was difficult to breathe. She began experiencing extreme night sweats and some numbness and discoloration in her left arm when she was actively using it.We had a chest X-ray done which showed some fluid in her left lung. So back to the doctors we went. The doctor noticed a large swelling around the left side of her neck, almost looking like a football players neck. The doctor then told us that the chest X-ray also showed a large thickening down the middle of the chest. He said that these were all sign of lymphoma – which is a form of blood cancer…and thus it all began.

Thanks, Coach.


For several years, I occasionally saw an older gentleman subtly enter my place of employment and exit just as quietly, if not more so, than when I initially noticed his presence. From afar, he seemed humble, if not authoritative and this instantly caught my attention and respect. It was something you could feel and something that I felt was earned and well deserved. I never truly questioned who he was at first or why he was exactly there. As time had passed, I learned that this gentleman was the father of two of my co-workers. Due to one married name change and my lack of correlation, I never knew his true impact on others outside of the confines of my employment. This is exactly why I believe my aspect may shed a different light on a man and a father, that perhaps lacks the true headlines of accomplishment.

Less than a few years ago, I realized this man was a Toledo legend. He held the most coaching wins in the history of the men’s basketball program at the University of Toledo. His name graces the basketball court and his coaching stats are impeccable. The records, stories, and his ability to mentor kids and young people alike are all stories that appear to be endless. I can not even begin to touch upon this side of Coach Nichols’ life, nor should I. I met him briefly in a car ride to a University of Michigan football game. For some strange reason, I was nervous. Not because of his name, but because I could feel my admiration build for someone I knew deserved honor and courteous acknowledgement. I served in the military for several years and used the word “sir” on a daily basis. I can honestly say, I had not said it in a long time; until that car ride.

I can not truly speak for the people that really knew him. I know very little and I am not trying to represent otherwise. What I do know, is that my co-workers, his children (two of them) speak volumes for what kind of man he was. Very few people in this world can be legendary coaches, teachers, and mentors, let alone loving fathers. He was both. I know thoughtful, genuine human beings when I see them and I can only imagine the life lessons that were passed down to them from their father. This is just a small portion of Mr. Nichols that will live on forever, through them. I can’t fathom the impact his life has left on others and what it will leave on our futures. I’m just a small leaf on the end of the tree and I feel it. Every day, I see the impact that his children leave on those around us. Someday, somehow, I wish to be the man Mr. Nichols was. Not necessarily the coach, but the loving father and human that far surpasses any championships or trophies. Thank you for your strong impact on our community and even on those you may have never even known existed. May you rest in peace and live forever in the hearts of your loved ones.

Eric Shanteau