Kaiser's Pavilion

by Bensiamin

Chapter 12

It took less than ten minutes to clear the elements that had been used for the therapy dog rodeo and then run a couple of big dust mops over the floor and be ready for the exhibition basketball game. Fortunately for the team, all of the dogs had shown perfect bowel and bladder control!

Jackson announced that they were ready, and then said, "For those of you who are only familiar with traditional basketball played on the full court with two baskets, there's another version for half court. That's what our two teams will be playing tonight. Given the range in ages and ability and experience, we thought it the best and safest approach." He paused and heard a positive response from the audience, so he went on. "Playing on a half court means this end or that end, so that means it'll be far away from half of you in the audience. However, the players and their coaches talked about it and decided the best solution will be to play a twenty-minute game instead of just fifteen, and switch ends when they take a one minute break after the first ten minutes. How does that sound?"

Jackson got a rousing cheer, and then he said, "Terrific. A quick reminder that in half court ball there's no jump ball, it's just in bounded, the ball has to be taken back after missed shots, and possession changes after a basket is scored. Finally, there's no three-point shot. We have two volunteer coaches who have led both teams in two practices this week, and a volunteer referee, so let me introduce the players and coaches, and we'll start the game. I"ll remind you that this is an exhibition game, though I'm sure it'll get competitive, and I'm going to tell you right now that after the game itself, we have a special basketball event for you." He paused and looked at Jessica and Walt, who both were standing next to their teams, and they nodded at him, so he introduced them and their teams. It looked like Michael's team had two players that were sophomores while Nate's team likely had only one and two freshmen, one of which was Sean. The remainder of both teams looked to be in eighth grades. Jackson looked them all over and then said, "I'll be the timekeeper, and with that, let the game begin."

He held up a stopwatch and Jessica and Walt each motioned the four players that were their starters on to the floor. Jackson tossed a coin, and the Michael's team won the toss, and the ball was inbounded to them. Because Sean, Nate and Michael were playing, Jerrod didn't want to show favoritism, so they had put the dogs in the Cherokee and were sitting with David, JC, Matt, Eric and Kim. Matt and Nate's mom was sitting right behind them with Jessica's parents, Eric's parents and Kim's dad.

Jessica had told them not to have great expectations because most of the kids weren't on their school's basketball teams and didn't play basketball outside of physical education. That meant the ability ranges were substantial. It took a couple minutes and a few ball exchanges before Nate's team scored their first goal and as the cheering subsided, Jerrod leaned over to Matt and asked, "How come Michael and Nate haven't scored yet? They're the tallest and strongest ones out there."

Matt grinned at him. "That's exactly why. They made a pact that they're mainly there to help the other kids on their team do well, to move the ball down court and then feed it to open players so they get to shoot."

Jerrod's face went blank for just a moment and then a huge grin appeared. "I should have known. That is so cool."

They saw Jessica motion to Jackson who blew his whistle to pause for a substitution, and two players came in and two went out on both teams."

"Why are they doing that?" Roger asked. "No one can be tired yet."

"For sure, but Jessica and Walt want everyone to get to play and with two ten-minute halves and eight kids on each team, then every two or three minutes they have to substitute."

Roger smiled and nodded in agreement. Before the next substitution Michael's teams scored twice to Nate's once, and pulled ahead. Michael and Nate were both feeding the ball to the other three players on their teams, and each team had a player that looked to be a capable ball handler and decent shooter even if both teams were shooting less than fifty percent. The players on both teams that looked to be in junior high weren't scoring, and occasionally were missing the hoop entirely. No one seemed too concerned about it, everyone was just enjoying the game that was developing. With the relief players in, the ball was taken out of bounds and brought back in to the other team, and they kept on playing to great cheering and support from the audience. You could tell who the parents were even when a shot was missed.

Sean came in on the third substitution, and a noticeable hush went over the crowd as he came on court with a slow limping trot. But it was obvious to everyone that he was there to play, and when Nate brought the ball down court, Sean was standing near the corner with his hands up to receive a pass. Nate passed it perfectly and Sean dribbled once and went up for a jump shot with a defender in front of him. It was obvious he had trouble jumping up for the shot, but he gave it a valiant try and received a huge round of applause with the ball hit the hoop and then bounded off the back board.

Michael's team scored on the next attempt, and when Nate's team came down court next time, he saw that Sean was in the same place, but his defender was at least a step further away from him this time. He made the pass, and this time Sean didn't have to jump so high to make the shot, and it swooshed the net. The audience went wild, and Sean broke into a huge grin as he slowly followed his teammates back to half court. Michael's team scored on their next possession, and the next time Nate brought the ball down court he saw that Sean was being defended and passed to the freshman who was on the other side of the court, and who scored. It looked like Michael's team was suddenly worried about two shooters on Nate's team.

Matt leaned over and said, "I think Nate's figured out what he's got. Both Sean and the other kid can shoot if they get open. If Michael's guys try to double team one of them, the other's open, and Nate should be able to feed him the ball for a clear shot."

The next time Nate's team took the ball down court, they all watched two defenders on Michael's team paying too much attention to the freshman which opened up Sean. Nate fed him the ball, but the defender got close enough he couldn't jump over him, and his shot hit the rim and missed.

It wasn't a fast-paced game, and Michael's team was ahead by four points at the next substitution when the original four players were back on the court. Jerrod looked at Matt. "Are you seeing what I'm seeing?"

Matt smiled innocently. "What?"

"Nate and Michael haven't been substituted out, they're playing the whole game and neither one of them have taken a shot."

Matt's smiled widened and he said, "I told you they made a pact. This isn't about them."

Eric and Kim had crowded around to hear what was being said, and Eric added, "that's the coolest thing I've seen in a long time." Kim nodded, in full agreement and added, "All the defenders are playing so clean too. No one's crowding or pushing. It's like they're serious about this being a fair exhibition game."

By the time they reached half time, both teams had scored twice more each, but Michael's team was still ahead by four points. Jackson's whistle blew and Walt and Jessica pulled their teams into a huddle and gave them a pep talk and some pointers while they sipped water. They had a minute and then the whistle blew again to start the second half. Both teams began with the second substitution players they'd had in the first half, and most of the shots were missed. Still, everyone, players and audience, appeared to be having a great time.

On the third substitution, Sean and the freshman came in again and they watched Nate put his arm around both boy's shoulder and whisper something to them. They nodded and grinned, and then the ball was inbounded to Nate. While Nate dribbled across court, Sean and the freshman slowly moved toward the basket on opposite sides. Nate then came back to the center of the court and turned to move toward the basket. It suddenly looked like he was going to drive for that basket with a lay up, and the defenders all pulled toward him including Michael.

Nate saw it happen and passed the ball with a bounce between Michael and one of his defenders. Sean was just a step or two inside the three-point line on the outside, and the closest defender couldn't turn and get to him fast enough. He made a small jump shot, and with great glee watched the ball swoosh the net.

Matt was on his feet hooting and hollering, and looked at his friends as he sat down and said. "Perfect! Did you see that set up? That was great. I bet they try it again on the other side next time they get the ball 'cause Michael's team will be worried about Sean."

Michael's team scored on their next possession. When the ball was inbounded to Nate, he ran the same play but in reverse. This time Michael thought he'd figured out what was going to happen and was in front of Sean. He didn't defend him hard as if he was trying to swamp him like happens in college or pro basketball, but he wasn't going to give him an easy shot, either. Nate saw the situation develop and appreciated that Sean acted like he was waiting for the ball, but it went to the freshman who scored.

Michael's team scored on the next inbound, and then on the following inbound, as Nate received the ball to bring it down court, it was clear that Michael's team had figured out the pattern but just couldn't know which way Nate was going to pass. It looked like Sean was clearer since he only had Michael defending him and the freshman was being double teamed on the other side of the court. Nate passed Sean the ball and he took a jump shot, but Michael was close enough to defend and Sean missed the shot. Michael messed his hair and said, "Nice try, but you only get away with that once in this game."

Sean grinned at him before turning to limp trot down the court. The next substitution happened, and Michael's team kept their two point lead even though both teams scored twice more. In the last two minutes it was obvious that some of the players were slowing down, and when Jessica and Walt waved at Michael and Nate, they slowed down the pace to keep everyone playing comfortably. Each team scored once more, and then they heard Jackson's whistle blow to signal the end of the game.

The auditorium was full of applause and cheering as Jackson picked up his microphone and walked to mid-court and said, "Was that some kind of basketball game, or what?" His words were met with more applause and hooting and hollering, and then he added. "For the record, one team won by two points… but does it matter?"

In response he got more applause and a chorus of 'No's' from the crowd. He waved his arm at the two teams standing with their coaches and then said, "And here's to the best example of good will and sportsmanship I've seen in my entire life." He waited for the applause to die out and than added, "And these young men have just shown us that you can recover from the kinds of conditions that put you in a children's hospital, and still have an active life afterwards. How about one more round of applause for our players and coaches."

The auditorium was filled with a thunderous mix of applause, hooting and hollering and foot stomping. Then Jessica and Walt had their teams shake hands with each of their opponents and they began to head for the sideline. Jackson said into the microphone, "Before you players leave the court, I want to introduce you to someone."

There was a minute of confusion as players walking off court bumped into the ones ahead of them who had stopped. When they'd all turned to look at Jackson, he continued, "You all played wonderful basketball, and as I said, exemplified good will and sportsmanship. Now I want to introduce you to someone." He waved at a person on the sideline who started walking over towards him, followed by another person carrying a large mesh bag. When Warren got to Jackson, he went on, "I want you to meet a man who is now a good friend of mine, the parent of a Doernbecher patient, and a person who was part of making this whole event happen." He paused and put his arm around Warren's shoulder and then said, "This is Warren Moncrief, and he has something to say to our players and coaches."

He handed Warren the microphone, and after he'd looked over the players with a wide smile, he began by saying, "I want to echo what Jackson just said about the game that you young men just played being a fine example of goodwill and sportsmanship. Some of you know that I work for a certain shoe company out in Beaverton, and while they're not an official sponsor of this event, I want you the players and coaches," and here he paused and looked out over the crowd and then continued, "and all of you in the audience, to know that this is the kind of amateur sport that we fully endorse. What you did here tonight and what your showed us about what sport can be was amazing." He paused knowing what the crowd would do, and sure enough a huge round of applause rose off the bleachers.

Warren continued, "So, as an affirmation of what a magnificent thing you've done here tonight for the purpose of raising funds for the therapy dog program at the hospital and the patients who benefit from it, I have something for you." The young man next to him who was holding the cloth bag reached inside and handed him a basketball. "For each of you players and coaches, I am happy to present a Michael Jordan autographed basketball." With that he bounced the first ball at the closest player, and as he was handed another and then another, bounced one to each player and coach, accompanied by round after round of applause.

The players were too stunned for words, and Jessica and Walt, as stand ins for them, walked over and shook his hand. Warren waved to the players and then the crowd, handed the mic back to Jackson, and walked back to the bleachers.

Jackson then said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, that was pretty special. However, I promised you another something special after the game and here we are. I know you saw what I did. Sixteen young men playing their hearts out in spite of their size and age and condition. And I'm guessing you saw those two older guys on the teams who curiously didn't take a single shot themselves, but kept feeding the ball to the other players on their team." Another round of applause met his words. "So, now we're going to have a free throw competition. Eleven of our sixteen players have chosen to participate. Each player gets ten attempts, and the highest score wins."

Jessica had lined up the eleven shooters on the mid-court line, and then she and Walt trotted down below the basket. Walt had the basketball from the game and bounced it to the first shooter when he'd positioned himself at the free throw line.

Jerrod leaned over to Matt and said, "How's this going to go down?"

Matt grinned conspiratorially and then said, "All I'm going to say is that you don't have to dribble the ball or jump high to shoot free throws, and that practice pays off."


"Meaning, just watch and see. I'm betting our boy has a better shot than the rest of them 'cause he's more committed. You know how much he practices."

Jerrod grinned and turned back to watch the competition. Sean was the last shooter to go, and the performance had been spotty before him, with one shooter sinking five, and Nate sinking six. Sean limped to the line, but this time none of the players or anyone in the audience were deceived. They'd seen how he could shoot when he had a clear shot and could adjust for his disability.

He bounced the ball twice before Jerrod heard Matt say softly, "Focus, Sean. Just like in your back yard."

Sean bounced the ball a third time, looked up, cocked back and swooshed the first shot through the net. The auditorium gave a collective sigh, but otherwise was respectfully silent.

Jessica bounced the ball back to him and he repeated the performance. Then when Walt bounced the ball back to him, he did it again. He sank six in a row before the seventh shot hit the rim and bounced up off the glass and missed.

The audience groaned, and Matt said, "Fuck! Focus, Sean, focus."

They watched Sean intently as he received the ball from Walt, and then saw him look down court at Jessica who was standing next to Walt under the basket. She raised her hand to hip level with her thumbs up, and then moved both hands into a kind of horizontal sweeping yoga motion that implied relax. Sean smiled at her and nodded.

Then he bounced the ball three times and shot again. Another swoosh. And another, and then another. Sean had made nine out of ten, clearly the highest score. The audience, who had diligently restrained themselves during the competition, went wild. It was hard to figure out if Sean's blush was because he'd made nine out of ten or because of the acclamation he received from the crowd.

Either way, it didn't matter because all of the players from both teams swarmed him on the court, overwhelmed with his success. When things had quieted down after a couple of minutes, Jackson appeared with the microphone and got everyone's attention.

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I trust you are as impressed with what you just witnessed as I am. A living testimony to the fact that with the right treatment, the right therapy, the right training and commitment, it is possible to overcome major obstacles in life."

A huge round of applause filled the auditorium, accompanied by equally animated foot stomping. When it had quieted down and Sean had limped over to Jackson when he waved him over, he continued. "The winner of our free throw competition tonight is Sean Philips. Now, I want to call my good friend Warren back up here, who has something for Sean."

Warren walked back up and took the microphone. He had a cardboard box under his arm, and looked the audience over before he said, "Are you as impressed as I am?"

A roar of approval filled the auditorium.

"And do you agree that a performance like that deserves a special recognition?"

Another roar.

"Well, you know where I work, and what we agreed to provide for the winner of this free throw competition is a pair of Air Jordans."

There was an audible gasp from the crowd, and then it turned into applause. Sean looked dumbfounded, but Jackson gave him a huge hug and turned him to face Warren who said, "This is in recognition of your outstanding free throw performance." He paused, and then continued, "for the record, Michael Jordan still holds the all-time record for free throws made in the NBA playoffs." He paused again, then added, "But even he didn't hit ninety percent. So, wear these with pride in a job well done and a game well played!"

He handed Sean the shoe box to another round of applause. When it quieted down, Jessica trotted down to Sean and gave him a big embrace, and then walked him over to the sideline where his mom pulled him into a massive hug.

Jackson had turned back to the audience. "Is everyone having a good time?" He was met with a huge round of applause.

"Are you impressed with these Doernbecher patients and former patients?" More applause, this time accompanied by hooting and hollering.

"Great. That's what I want to hear because next comes the auction, and you all know that the reason for tonight is to raise money to supplement a certain construction project up at the hospital. So, I hope you'll be generous knowing where the money is going."

With that he introduced the auctioneer and handed over the microphone. The auction could have seemed anti-climactic, except everyone in the auditorium understood how important it was, and the enthusiasm was high. Alice's auctioneer friend was very good, and did a great job of describing the products, tying them to funds that would be used for the dog therapy program and working active bidders against each other to get a higher price. Just as Alice had predicted, all it took was two people seriously interested in each item and the bidding price would take care of itself.

The team who had solicited the items for the auction watched in excitement and wonder as almost every item went higher than they could possible have expected. The case of Oregon Pinot Noir went for $575. "Geez," Jerrod said to Roger, "that's like $50 per bottle." Roger just grinned at him.

The rose garden design and installation went for $750. Alice had donated a double bed sized quilt, and it went for $300. The new skis and boots donated by Dick's Sporting Goods went for $475, and the Nokia phone went for $300. They were even amazed with the the more mundane items, like the house paint that went for $250 and the string trimmer that went for $275. David won the bidding for the gift certificate for four at the Sellwood Grill, paying $250.

Positioned at next to last was the Pendleton Round Up belt buckle. The auctioneer was a rodeo fan and knew what he had, and when Jackson told him a little about one of the event team being from Pendleton, and two of them working at the rodeo the previous summer, and then the highlights of how Kaiser and the boys had fended off the bucking bull from the little girl, he knew just what to do. He worked the crowd almost into a frenzy. The belt buckle went for $600. Held for last was the weekend stay at Dieter and Robert's beach house, and the auctioneer did an amazing job of working it for all it was worth, finally getting $1,200 for it.

To the team's amazement, they'd raised over $5,000! That was on top of showing the parents of patients how cool and important the therapy dogs were, and organizing an amazing sports performance.

After Michael and Nate had changed, they brought Sean and his mom, along with Jessica, to join the group to watch the auction. When the auction concluded and as the audience began to disperse, they all collected together down on the basketball floor. Jackson was telling the team what a great job they had done and what an event they had pulled off when the PR person from the hospital came over and caught Jackson's eye. He observed Sean's mom walking her son to the exit as he excused himself from the group and walked over to the PR people with a smile on his face.

"And how do you think this evening's event went off?"

"It was an amazing success. I'm totally impressed with what you put together and were able to achieve."

Jackson pointed at the group standing not too far away on the basketball court. It was made up of excited and animated teenagers and an equal number of adults. "See that group? Leave out the adults , and that's the team that organized this whole thing and pulled it off."


"As serious as a heart attack. It was their idea, their plan, their execution. That's what I've been trying to convey to hospital administration."

"Well count on us to pass back the same message. I know we got some great photos tonight, and the entire event was great. The dog competition really profiled the dogs in the therapy program and the basketball exhibition did the same for the patients, and then the auction to top it off. I'm totally impressed."

Jackson was saying, "Like I told you about who organized this…" when he was cut off.

"Looks like you've got company," the PR person said with a grin, pointing over Jackson's shoulder at a reporter with a microphone standing next to a guy holding a video camera. "Looks like the local TV station wants to talk to you."

Jackson turned to greet a smiling reporter holding a microphone, closely followed by the video cameraman. "Since you were the MC tonight, it appears you are in charge?"

"No," Jackson replied, "I just manned the microphone. See those young people over there? The one's talking to their parents"" He pointed at the event team who were still excitedly talking with the parents.

The reporter nodded and Jackson went on. "That's the group that organized this. I just got tapped to be the MC for the event."

"Well, that's something. Can I ask you a question or two?"

"Only if you talk to them afterwards." Jackson smiled conspiratorially.

The reporter nodded and then continued, "I understand this event was to raise money for Doernbecher Children's Hospital. How could a hospital of that size with its fundraising capacity need help from a group of teenagers?"

"Like life, it's not as simple as it appears on the surface," Jackson replied. "The teenagers who organized this are therapy dog handlers at the hospital and plus their friends, a couple of whom were patients themselves, and other friends who know the dogs and the patients. That gave them some inside insight into something the administration had missed in the current construction project. Their goal was simply to raise visibility and some money to try and correct the oversight."

"I'm not sure I follow."

"It's as simple as the fact that there used to be a wood framed pavilion in the hospital courtyard that the therapists used as a place to rest the dogs and let them chill out when they were working. It had to be removed for the construction project."

The reporter's eyes widened, and then he said, "And let me guess… it's not being replaced."

"That is a question you'll need to ask the event team," Jackson said with a smile. He then made a throat slitting motion under his throat to kill the camera and mic.

The reporter nodded and motioned to the cameraman and said, "Okay, its off."

"Great. So, off the record, you're right. Replacing the pavilion didn't seem important because it just looked like something you'd find in someone's backyard. But it's important for the dogs, and matters enough to the handlers and the patients that you've seen for yourself the results tonight. What you haven't seen is the petitions signed by hundreds of patients and their parents." He paused to let the reporter take it all in.

"I'll get those teenagers over here to talk to you, but we need to agree on something. I'm in marketing and I've done PR and those young people haven't. You get me? The hospital is going along with this even if they're not sponsoring it. Our goal here is a win/win. We're not dissing the hospital, okay. We're just trying to help them come to the realization that they missed an important little detail when they were planning the construction project. Don't ask any questions that set those young people up to dump on the hospital or blame them." Jackson paused maintaining eye contact with the reporter. "Are we agreed."

"Yeah, I see where you're coming from. We're here because it's a newsworthy story. It's probably too late to make the 10:00 o'clock news tonight, but I'll talk to my editor and see if we can frame it up the way you're suggesting, as a human-interest story instead of just a news event. Doernbecher is an important part of our community, and I can see what you're saying about no blame and helping them correct what you're referring to as a little oversight."

"Great. I think we're on the same page. I'll go get the event team. Two of them are therapy dog handlers. If you want, I can get their dogs for you."

The reporter's face lit up with a big smile. "That'd be fabulous. Dogs are pretty photogenic and, I mean, like everyone loves dogs, right?"

Jackson walked over to the group and quickly explained what was happening. He looked at the adults and said, "I've set some ground rules for the reporter, namely no questions that put blame on the hospital or make them look stupid or callous." He looked at the teenagers and added, "I'll be standing right there with you in case the reporter goes too far, but this is your event, and you should do the explaining." Then he looked at David and added, "He'd like Kaiser and Chloe to be part of it. Would you go get them?"

David grinned, nodded, and turned for the entrance as Jackson led the event team over to the reporter. He introduced each one and explained their role. Then he turned and nodded to the reporter who said, "Hi, you guys. My name's Steve and I'm not here to grill you, okay? What you organized tonight was wonderful and I know our viewers will want to know more about how you did it and your motivation. Is that okay with you?"

Everyone nodded and Jackson stepped back, and Steve began asking his questions. They'd covered the pavilion part and Steve kept it neutral as promised. Then he asked a few questions about organizing the event when David returned with the dogs. All eyes went to them, and Steve said, "Whose dogs are they?" Roger and Jerrod said almost together, "They're ours," and then bent over to stroke their heads as David handed over the leashes.

Jerrod knelt down next to Kaiser and said, "This is Kaiser, and he's the oldest." He looked at Kaiser and added, "Kaiser, this is Steve." Steve knew a thing or two about dogs and wisely knelt as well, and stroked Kaiser's head and got his wrist licked in return. Roger knelt down next to Chloe and said, "This is Chloe. She's almost a year old and has been doing therapy dog work for almost six months." Steve said, "Wow!" And turned his attention to her. As he was stroking Chloe's head, Roger added, "We met Michael and Nate because of Kaiser. He was one of their therapy dogs when they were patients."

When they all stood up, the ice had been broken and the direction set for what became a conversation about therapy dog work and the important role it played in patient care and recovery. Jackson saw Warren joining the group of adults and understood he wouldn't want to be on camera. He nodded at him with a smile, and kept his attention on Steve's interview, being happy with the way the questions were going.

Thirty minutes later Steve wrapped up and turned to Jackson, "How'd I do? Did I keep my agreement?"

"You exceeded me expectations, Steve, and I thank you for that." Jackson gave him one of his business cards and added, "If you'd call me tomorrow on my mobile once you know what your editor says and if it's going on the air, I'd appreciate it. You can guess this bunch of teenagers and their parents are going to want to watch it!"

"Will do." He turned back to the event group and added, "You all pulled off a wonderful thing tonight. And if these two dogs are representative of the dogs that do therapy work at the hospital, then the patients are very lucky people!"

It was after nine o'clock before everyone got home, and that included Roger's parents stopping at David and Jackson's home for a celebratory drink before heading to their own. The adults were full of praise for what Jerrod and Roger had pulled off, but they demurred, acknowledging that they'd done a lot of the organizing and footwork, but that it had been a team effort and that Jackson and David had more involvement than they gave themselves credit for. After talking about the dog rodeo and how it had shown off the dogs, it had moved to how amazing the basketball game and then the free throw competition had shown off recovering and recovered patients.

JC made a comment about not just how hard the players on both teams had played, but how they'd done so in spite of their limitations.

"Yeah, Sean sure shined, didn't he?" Roger looked around with an inquisitive grin.

"He more than shined," Roger's dad replied. "During the game he demonstrated that even though he couldn't play on the same level as the others, he did some things well and he had determination and commitment. Then when he won the free throw competition, that was simply amazing!"

Jerrod smiled and said, "Matt and Jessica kept telling us that he was serious and regular about practicing, but they said nothing about how he'd become a killer free throw shooter."

"I guess it's all about focus," Jackson added, "assuming you have the underlying talent. Which he clearly does."

"That's for sure. We didn't get to spend more than a minute with him and his mom after the event tonight. The forecast for tomorrow is high clouds and maybe a little rain, so we're going to meet them at the park after lunch and talk about it. He was pretty excited tonight, but by tomorrow and at the park with the dogs he should have chilled out and be able to talk better."

Roger's mom had been quiet, but at that comment she looked from Jerrod to her son and back and said, "You two really love that boy, don't you?"

With no hesitation Jerrod said, "Absolutely. He's so innocent and sweet, and committed and hard working. It's hard not to."

"And we think he likes us," Roger added slyly, "but we know for certain that he loves Kaiser and Chloe. That pretty much seals the deal, don't you think?"

Roger's mom smiled and then said, "You boys are impossible, you know. I'm trying to pay you a compliment. Can't I do that?"

"Of course, you can," Jerrod replied. "Your son didn't mean to be disrespectful. It's just that kids with CP and other conditions like that get so much sympathy that even they think it's too much. They really want to be treated normally as much as possible."

"I understand that," Roger's mom said, "but that's not what I'm trying to say. I try to treat Sean as normally as I can. I'm trying to tell you and Roger that your relationship with that boy is above and beyond normal. I find it very commendable. Can you accept that?"

Jerrod looked at Roger who, in turn, looked at his mom and said, "Yes, Mom. We can. Thank you. I wasn't trying to be a smart ass or disrespectful. He's a great kid and a good friend, and like Jerrod said, both dogs totally love him and so do we."

Jerrod yawned and tried to cover it up, but Jackson was right there. "You too, eh? It's been a full day, so I suggest we all call it a night. I assume I'll hear from the reporter tomorrow and will call everyone with whatever info he provides."

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