Over the course of a lifetime most people receive many presents but this is one of the nicest that ever came my way.
I like to savor all the memories surrounding this wonderful present, so forgive me if I begin with comments that seem to have little connection with this beautiful wreath.
I've always been fascinated with computers. In 1994 I got my first Internet connection to replace the dial-in accounts that I had previously had with Compuserve and a few local BBS systems. After that switch, I discovered a whole new world of information resources. Although the Web had not yet come into widespread usage, Gopher, Veronica, Telnet and other text-based tools were available for data sharing. When the Web arrived in full public bloom in 1995, I began to wonder how I could use the richness of this new electronic medium to constructively help others while simultaneously enjoying my computer hobby.
Besides computers, another great love of my life had always been animals; especially dogs, and even more especially, my Irish Wolfhound, Sean Paddy O'Shea. Combining these two loves seemed like a reasonable idea, so I did a search of the Web to find if anyone had already created an Irish Wolfhound FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions list). Lo and behold, I found nothing. This may seem surprising in the context of today's vast web-based resources but back then there were relatively few websites and apparently no Wolfhound lovers had yet moved into cyberspace. I decided to be the first of them to do so.
I began by creating a website called the "Irish Wolfhound FAQ". It was mostly a case of "fools rush in where angels..." I say this because I had no real knowledge of the breed other than what I had learned from sharing nine years of my life with Sean, who had died long ago. Nonetheless, I began adding small pieces of information to the FAQ and the number of web site visitors grew quickly. A lady named "Mary" (I'll not use her last name here because she was never one for public attention) was one of the earliest and most important visitors. She lived in Venice, Florida and shared her house and life with several Wolfhounds. More importantly, however, she was well-connected with Wolfhound circles and directed me towards many important sources of information. Each new source led to others and soon the volume of useful information on the FAQ grew to the point that it surprised even me.
The next big step was my decision to create the Irish Wolfhound Mailing List. In the context of today's Internet, a mailing list may seem pretty passé but back then it was quite a novel idea. I was living in Logy Bay, Newfoundland, (and still am) so a man from St. John's (Steve Clarke), offered to host the mailing list for free on his company's servers. (Incidentally, Steve is now Chief Technology Officer at Info-Tech Canada.) I had no idea how quickly the mailing list would grow. Before long it had over 200 subscribers from all over the world. My approach to the list was pretty much 'hands-off'. There was occasional interpersonal quibbling, much like on many of today's mailing lists, but for the most part, the IW List members were helpful and respectful of one another. I can recall several incidents that amazed me. On one occasion I received an email from someone in Australia asking if I could point them to a breeder in his area and I was able to do so. I knew an Australian that I had 'met' through the IW FAQ web site and it just so happened that the two people did not live far apart in Australia.. Much the same thing happened with a pairing in South Africa.
None of these incidents can compare with the Irish Wolfhound wreath, however. In the spring of 1996 I mentioned to Mary that I was going to be getting married in late June. Unbeknownst to me, she passed this information along to others on the IW List. Shortly before the wedding, a large box was delivered to our house. It was postmarked Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. This puzzled me because I could not think of anyone that I knew in Nova Scotia. Upon opening the box I found a large wreath, a sheet of paper describing the wreath, several individual congratulatory cards, a larger card with the names and email addresses of several IW List members, a small quantity of herbal oil and several photographs. I was amazed. It seems that Carla Allen had coordinated with the List members to mail clumps of canine hair to her that they had brushed from their Wolfhounds. Carla then spun this hair into a 'rope' braid that was carefully woven throughout the wreath. The wreath was sprinkled with herbal oils to impart various good qualities and mailed to me. To this day I treasure the wreath. It was the most unexpected and unique present that I have ever received. The image of the wreath at the top of this page was taken in March 2005. The colours have faded somewhat over time and some brittleness of the vegetation has occurred but the wreath is no less appreciated today (March 2005) than it was when I received it in 1996.
If you're wondering what happened to the FAQ and mailing list, let me explain. In 1997 I was appointed to the position of CEO at Canadian Niagara Power. My wife and I moved to Ontario and my spare time disappeared. I had to discontinue my involvement in the list but others carried on with it. In 2002 I retired and returned to my home in Logy Bay, Newfoundland. Since then I've been putting some family history on the web and decided that this story deserved a place on my web site. Carla Allen has also written about the wreath from her perspective.
Here is the description of the wreath that accompanied the present:
Your Herbal "Wolfhound Wedding Wreath"
contains many flowers and herbs which have special meaning according to the Floral language.
Memories, a cure
Also contained – Sweet Annie for fragrance
Love-in-the-Mist for interest and Statice for color
Natural fading will occur over time. Hang your wreath out of direct sunlight if possible. Dust lightly as required with a feather duster.
Also enclosed is a small bottle of essential oil and paintbrush. You can dab a bit of oil onto the wreath when the scent begins to fade, or you can add a bit more now if you wish.
Here are some pictures related to the wreath:
Mardon Erbland & Sean Paddy O'Shea, abt 1976
My father, Donald Erbland, & Sean, abt 1973
Wolfhound hair being woven for the wreath.
The outside of the card that came with the wreath.
For additional information or to email me, visit the JustUs.ca web site.