Dear Hope Nation: Missives from Hope for NH Recovery Director Keith Howard

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Lucy: As even-tempered a dog as I’ve ever known.

Dear Hope Nation,

Since the pandemic began, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the universe, humanity’s place in it and other highfalutin topics. I’ve also been thinking about more mundane things like whatever happened to all the junior-high girls I had unspoken crushes on. Because I’m in recovery, I haven’t followed up and tried to search for them online. I know a bad idea when I see one. I guess navigating the space that encompasses both the transcendent and immanent is the human condition.

One topic I’ve not written about is the canine condition, or at least the condition of the one dog I know intimately, Lucy. Many of you know Lucy from Hope, where she’s been a fixture since I started. Lucy was brought into my life a little over eight years ago, placed with me by a close friend who has, alas, died of the disease of alcoholism. Lucy had apparently been rescued by my friend’s dog adoption agency from living in a truck with a man with end-stage alcoholism. Whatever demons he may have faced, he apparently didn’t take them out on Lucy, who is as even-tempered a dog as I’ve ever known.


When Lucy and I found each other, she was about three or five — who can tell, really? — and still had a lot of puppy in her. For instance, she had some very strong ideas about where various animals belonged in the universe. When she saw a bird on the ground, a squirrel out of a tree or a woodchuck above the earth, Lucy would make damn sure they got back to their rightful habitats.

Lucy is, according to my daughters, a Dutch Shepherd, a noble working breed first bred in the early 1800s. Dutch Shepherds are noted for their intelligence and work ethic. Although both Dutch and German Shepherds began as herding dogs, the Dutch is a medium-sized dog, always with a brindle coat.

For me, Lucy is the best dog I’ve ever shared my life with. She is a better dog than I had any right to expect and her presence in my life is purely an act of grace.  From conversations with Hope members, and from observing the way some of you enjoy getting to know Lucy, I know how important she is to the community, and I want to give you an update on how she’s doing, and a few pictures of her to show she’s not been taken captive.

Lucy appears happy overall. We no longer live in the Tiny White Box, having bought a log cabin in the woods with a pond across the road and a large forest behind us. Even on the rainiest and coldest days, she loves to explore, although she hasn’t gone swimming yet.

The pandemic has been hard on Lucy. She doesn’t get to hang out with large numbers of people at Hope. Although you may not notice it, Lucy seems to think she has a job to do, a function, a purpose. That job is more than shaking down members for snacks. If you watch her, Lucy roams up and down the hallway, making sure people are inside rooms, much like her ancestors did in the sheepfold. Once meetings have begun, she can then curl up and sleep lightly, waking up when any human wanders into the hallway. Without her job, Lucy’s time at home is, like many Americans, lacking structure and purpose.

You and I are luckier than Lucy on that last count. Although we may be trapped inside, physically isolated from others, we can still reach out to others, connect with them and find purpose in helping and accepting help, loving and being loved, encouraging and being encouraged.

You matter. I matter.  We matter.


Keith Howard is Executive Director of Hope for NH Recovery. Catch up on his Daily Hope Nation messages here.

About this Author

Keith Howard

Executive DirectorHope Recovery

Keith Howard is Executive Director of Hope for NH Recovery and author of Tiny White Box