Lamarr and Tahija took us out for Kwanzaa. Tahija said we're always taking them out and they wanted to take us out this time. That seemed fitting on the fourth night of this "celebration of family, culture and community." The fourth day is Ujamaa (Swahili for cooperative economics).

Of course the culture and community celebrated in Kwanzaa is African-American, but few economies are insular, and we had moved into the village when Tahija moved in with us. We weren't African-American, but we were family.

That night we heard the whole story of their first dog Spike, who died during a frantic day of seizures. Tahija's mom drove them from vet to vet but no vet would treat him because they said Tahija wouldn't be able to afford the anti-seizure medications anyway.

Finally one vet did help but by then it was too late. (She keeps that vet's number in her phone. She gave it to us in case we wanted to switch.)

"I still miss Spike," said little Lamarr, pausing over his steak. They have Tank now and Kayla, a cat and assorted reptiles, but Spike was the first. Big-headed Spike, beloved. I had heard about him and his death, but not in such detail. Good thing Applebees wasn't too crowded that night.

Dad has a new (used) station wagon, the old sort with wood-like panels running down the sides. When the boys were rowed up in the back seat about to drive away I remembered the National Geographic with the story about elephant populations increasing that I wanted to give Mahad. He'd been so bothered by a zoo display that graphically showed their steep drop over the last century. I want him to have hope, and to see that people with hope, and hard work, can make a difference.