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In the winter of 2006, my family was still reeling from a number of losses. We had made the difficult decision to sell a world-famous family bar/restaurant and had experienced three deaths from cancer within a fairly short period of time. Our family dynamic had forever changed.
My niece, Kendra, was twelve at the time and had lost her dad, her nonnie, and her very best friend, a golden retriever named Irish. These losses were overwhelming for a sensitive child her age and we were doing our best to comfort her. Looking back, I don’t think we were of much help to Kendra. We simply didn’t have the tools to initiate a conversation that didn’t end fairly quickly with her saying, “I’m good.”
Soon, Kendra was able to turn her grief into something quite miraculous.
We encouraged Kendra to talk about her feelings and would remind her how her nonnie would help her pick herself up and dust herself off and how much she was loved. Nonnie taught Kendra about resilience from a very young age. Soon, Kendra was able to turn her grief into something quite miraculous.
One evening while doodling at my coffee table, Kendra turned to see that the St. Jude Telethon had just come on the TV. I tried to change the channel but wasn’t quick enough. She looked up and said, “I have to help those kids with cancer.” She then instantly drew a little grey stray dog. She named him Trouble. It was a divinely inspired moment I will never forget.
Kendra wrote a comic strip about this abandoned dog. He found a home with a kind nonnie who ultimately sold her restaurant to spend more time with Trouble and his posse of pups. This story mirrored Kendra’s own family experience in such an amazing, positive way.
Quite naturally, together Kendra and I came up with slogans for this new Trouble character: “Where There’s Trouble, There’s Hope”; “When Trouble Comes, You’re Never Alone”; and “Trouble Says … Be Tough.”
Since that time, Trouble the Dog has gone on to become a plush American-made comfort toy. He has traveled all over the world consoling children, soldiers, and others going through tough times … be their “troubles” big or small. He one day will be a cartoon character teaching children about the bumps in the road of life gently and with humor.
Trouble has an energy about him that children tell me they can feel. Why? I believe because Trouble was created by an innocent child who had experienced profound loss and deep in her soul wanted to help other children feel love, comfort, and hope. And they do.