Based in Pittsburgh, PA, Cancer Experience Expressions is an online space for the sharing of cancer stories. 

Hart's Lawn Care

After returning to life at Thiel College and all the growing pains in between it was time for the summer of 2012 in Franklin. So I decided to get entrepreneurial and enroll some clients for a little lawn care operation!

Turns out, I knew some people willing to be my two substantial “clients.” The one woman had an impressive estate in many ways. There was all kinds of sensitivities to the land with important crops and pets all over the place, especially the rather intimidating dogs. It meant a lot to have her trust in me to care for this protected property.

At this point, I still had some degree of energy limitations from chemo and surgery, so tending these jobs was no small lift. That said, every now and then Cody Trinch came along with me to help out. He worked quick and smart; same way he played shortstop. Plus I always enjoyed the light air of his company.

One afternoon we made our way to the property to knock out some work so she could come home the next day with her yard lookin’ sharp. With the two of us, this would only take a couple hours then we could get to the ball field and get some hitting in. No big deal.

As we pulled up “Booker”, my Ford Ranger, the gang of half-dozen hounds came roaring to the gate in the August heat, letting us know what’s up. I’ll never forget how while all the others carried on all willy-nilly, one in particular cast a piercing gaze that cut into your soul. I remembered back when the owner introduced all the dogs’ disposition and character, she introduced this one with particular reference. Apparently he was left to her after her grandfather whom had Nazi connections passed away. This particular dog was actually named Hitler, and looking back, when we arrived, he seemed to be reading our cavalier mien while plotting his revenge.

So we made our way into the dogs’ gated area with our equipment and got to work. Once you get to it, acting like you belong there, the dogs report to the porch and let you be. After we finished the mowing, it was time to rake up all the loose grass and wheelbarrow it to the compost pile. This required several trips in and out of the gate.

After quite some time of in and out, back and forth; we’re about to wrap up. I go to lock up the gate and my attention went to the dogs, five of them. But wait. Hitler.

“Cody, where’s Hitler?”


“Hitler, that’s the smaller, dark and grey one. I don’t see him.”


So I checked around the corner of the house, under the porch, but nothing. With no other option in mind, I called the owner to figure out what to do.

“Hey, sorry to bother you but we’re just about done, but Hitler is missing. I looked under the porch, everywhere, but he’s nowhere to be found.”

“Was the gate locked the whole time?”


Turns out, I left it latched but not locked and the little devil bust right through the damn thing so discrete that we cut the rest of the lawn without even noticing! The other dogs were sitting there staring at us probably laughing and calling us morons also thinking, “Ole’ Hitler’s at it again, let’s see how this plays out.”

“Oh no, this is very bad. That is the dog left to me from my grandfather.  The dog is obsessed with that Rottweiler chained up in the barn up the street. That beast will tear him to shreds if he gets close.”

“Uhhh. Okay, I we will go see if he’s there. I’m so sorry.”

“Just get him back in that gate and be sure not to let any more dogs out.”

So I frantically tell Cody the story about the importance of the dog and the possibly horrific scene we may find up the street on account of….the beast. Feeling like Smalls after losing his stepdad’s lucky baseball, we took off sprinting up the street.

So there we were, wandering a gated dirt road yelling “Hitler!!?” at the top of our lungs. As we approached the barn, all we saw was the chain; no carnage. Not dead meet just yet. We decided to split up; I went to grab the truck. Maybe he likes car rides.

As I return, Cody’s got Hitler by the collar with his belt as a leash! Words cannot explain the relief of seeing him there, petting Hitler. I drove beside them real slow as Cody hunched over escorting Hitler back to the house. After this terrifying excitation, I was delighted to report to the owner that Hitler has been returned, the gate was locked, and we were on our way. We drove away laughing hysterically while recounting this absurd scene to continue with our day of baseball and swimming. Close one.

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Tides of change