Chaplain’s Corner: LXXXV

“Blessed to be a Blessing”

Carol Gartner was over a million dollars in debt from a failed real estate venture.  She was 52 years old,
divorced and heartbroken.  She had no job, no income and no prospects.  “My attorney just shook her head and said, “You need to get a therapist or get a dog.”

So she got a dog.

Carol responded to an ad for Zeida, a four-month-old-saggy-faced bulldog.  “As soon as I walked in, her face was just a mirror image of how I felt in my heart.  She needed love and I needed love.”  What they both really needed was a way to put food on the table and chow in the puppy dish.

Carol heard that a local pet store was sponsoring a Christmas card contest.  First prize was 40 pounds of
puppy chow a month for a year.  “Ok, Zeida, you get 20 pounds and I get 20 pounds, and with ketchup
maybe it’s not too bad.”  She put Zeida into a bubble bath and fashioned a “beard” around her canine
friend’s face.  Then she put a Santa cap on her head and took a picture.  Underneath she wrote a caption: “For Christmas. I got a dog for my husband…good trade, huh?”  She won the contest.  That meant almost 500 pounds of dog food for the coming year.  Not only that, she now had a funny Christmas card to share with her friends.

They loved it.  And that gave Gardner an idea.

Drawing on her background in marketing, she invited a highly regarded photographer to come to her house. “You mean you’re dressing up your dog, you want me to come over and take pictures, and you can’t pay me?  Yes, that was the long and short of it. “Trust me,” she pleaded.  Carol ended up with 24 images featuring Zeida in absurd outfits, each accompanied by a zinger or heart-touching caption.  A printer extended 90 days of credit.  When Hallmark jumped on board, the Zeida Wisdom line of greeting cards was born.  Six months later Carol sold her millionth card.

Today the Zeida line is Hallmark’s #1 seller.  There are more than a dozen Zeida Wisdom books, multiple
children’s stories, almost a thousand different greeting cards and an annual revenue for Carol and Zeida
that exceeds five million dollars.

Zeida is also involved in a partnership with the American Humane Association concerning its children’s
hospital initiative which supplies therapy dogs as companions in all of America’s children’s hospitals.  Carol has been incredibly blessed.  But not just for her own sake.  She knows she has been blessed to be a
blessing.  “Giving back is the true sign of success,” she says.  Now 72 years old, she resonates with the
slogan a media personality assigned to her earlier this summer: “72 and still not through.”  She’s currently launching another non-for-profit that will introduce kids to the healing power of pets.
It’s never too late to start over.  And it’s never too late for an all-about-me life to become focused on others.

You’re not too old, too weak, or too broken.  And it’s not too late.  So what is God calling you to do?
Carol Gartner is pretty sure she knows what Zeida would say:  THINK OUTSIDE YOUR CAGE.

Ron Naylor, Chaplain