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Catching Up With a Few Old Friends

By John Kelly
Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The best part of this job is that it allows me to sleep late. Or it would allow me to sleep late if I didn't have to drive my groggy 15-year-old daughter to the bus stop every morning at 6:15.

What I mean is, when compared with many jobs, writing a daily column isn't very punishing. I'm not on my feet all day. I don't operate dangerous machinery. I'm not in harm's way.

And I get to meet interesting people, which really is the best part of the job. Almost as good, I get to introduce them to you. Here are some updates on people we met in 2006.

Our Finned Friends

One of the District's oddest, if most tarnished, gems sits in Denise Dawkins's classroom at Phoebe Hearst Elementary in Northwest. It's a large, art deco fish tank, a gift at the school's 1932 dedication from millionaire publisher William Randolph Hearst. The school was named in honor of his mother, an education reformer.

Over the years, the old bronze aquarium, as large as a baby grand piano, had fallen into disrepair, and Miss Dawkins was hoping to restore it to its former grandeur.

Many readers contacted me, among them former students from the school. About $2,500 was donated for the aquarium's repair. One of the people who saw the column was Phoebe Hearst's great-great-granddaughter, who, Miss Dawkins said, has offered to adopt the aquarium, funding its repair and maintenance.

Members of the Potomac Valley Aquarium Society have volunteered to oversee the complicated repair effort.

"It sounds like it's really going to be done the right way," Miss Dawkins told me last week. Her hope is that fish can once again swim in her classroom when the school celebrates its 75th anniversary in November.

Our Four-Legged Friends

Arlington's Diane Greenlee had not planned on falling in love with the black mystery dog, one of 39 puppies that an animal welfare group rescued during Israel's war with Lebanon and airlifted to the United States.

Diane thought she would simply be fostering the dog for the Alexandria-based Concern for Helping Animals in Israel.

But the more she looked at the dog, the more it reminded her of Bull, her beloved wolfhound mix who had died in May at the age of 10. Like Bull, her war refugee dog is black with a spot of white on the chest. She has a wolfhound's long tail and that breed's distinctive beard.

"After she drinks water, she's just drenched," Diane said. "You have to be a dog lover to appreciate the wet beard thing."

And she has Bull's mellow disposition. "She'll just sit and look into your eyes," said Diane.

All 39 of the dogs I wrote about in November were quickly adopted, said Nina Natelson, CHAI's director, including the one that Diane thought she'd be watching for just a few days.

Diane named the newest member of her family Sabra, which is Hebrew for a native-born Israeli.

"That seemed like the perfect name for her," she said.

A Fare Shake

Dave Mortlock is the former Marine from Alexandria who two years ago came up with a way to help homeless veterans: Trade in some of the thousands of unused Metro Farecards that tourists discard every year. Put the money onto SmarTrip cards and let vets use them to go to job interviews and training classes.

After I wrote about his FareShare program, Washington Post readers sent Dave 766 Farecards, worth more than $1,500. To find a location where you can drop unused cards, send a note to Dave at fareshare@gmail.com.

Dave's also eager to find people who can help with the time-consuming task of trading in the Farecards. A scout project, perhaps?

Another Way to Help

There's another group that can use your help this time of year, and that's Children's Hospital. Be a part of our annual fund drive for this vital Washington institution.

To donate, make a check or money order payable to "Children's Hospital" and mail it to Washington Post Campaign, P.O. Box 17390, Baltimore, Md., 21297-1390.

To donate online using a credit card, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/childrenshospital.

To contribute by phone using Visa or MasterCard, call 202-334-5100.

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