We have a new dog in the Shields family. I met him earlier today.
I was in Atlanta this past week both to attend the Sixth Sakai Conference and to visit my oldest daughter, Alison, the mother of my two grandchildren. Friday, December 8, was also special in that I and my youngest daughter, Jennifer, share that day as our birthday. 
But the most fun thing this week came during a visit to a Scholastic Warehouse Book Sale for educators early Saturday. We were there because Alison recently started working for Scholastic, a leading publisher of children’s books.
I bought a number of books for my grandchildren at the sale, including a collection of several of the books by Normal Bridwell about Clifford the Big Red Dog. Clifford, if you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him, is a red dog about twenty feet tall who is as gentle as he is immense.  I have fond memories of reading the books about him to all three of my children many years ago.
Part of Alison’s job is driving a truck to book fairs. She worked as a long-haul truck driver for a number of years, so she is well-suited for this job.
Imagine my pleasure when she showed me her truck. There was Clifford, at her side!
I don’t know about you, but that is one of the neatest trucks I have ever seen — life on the road with Clifford as your companion.
Alison really enjoys driving the truck — the kids call her the “book lady.”
Alison also told a touching story. When she was at a book fair recently, one of the children said that she was sorry the book fair was ending. Alison later learned that the child was in foster care and the the book fair was the only chance the child had to be with books. She and her husband gave a donation to buy some books for the child. Alison mentioned the child’s interest in books to her new manager, and he and his wife are have invited the child to come to their house for a family dinnner soon. That tells me all I need to know about Scholastic Publishing.
Her new job also means that all five of the Shields’s are now involved in education, either as part of their job or as a student who plans to be an educator.
I know some say education can be a dog’s life. But what life you have depends on you –and the dog.
1. As I was driving to Alison’s house Friday afternoon I heard on the local radio that the next piece would be Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, in honor of its first performance on December 8, 1813.
So for all you other folks out there whose birthday is December 8th , we have our own special symphony.
The wikipedia article notes this was the final piece conducted by Leonard Bernstein, and that for many years the Philadelphia Symphony played the 2nd movement during rehearsal on learning of the death of a famous musician or composer.
The computer Jean Sibelius was born on December 8.
2. Readers of my recent post Moving up the long tail will appreciate that this photo adds new meaning to the phrase “the long tail.” Will all the blog posts about this topic have to be revised to take Clifford into account?