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The Forum Annual Tree Lighting Set for November 18

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With the holidays fast approaching, The Forum has announced the return of its annual tree lighting, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 18, 6-9 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and will occur in a new format with Forum Drive closed off so guests can stroll along street. The Forum is located at 5155 Peachtree Pkwy. in Peachtree Corners.

Everyone is invited to enjoy the start of the holiday season with a family-friendly activity row that includes face painting, holiday crafts and retailer and restaurant pop-ups. There will also be musical performances on the main stage as well as the arrival of Santa.

Gwinnett County Media Relations Manager Deborah Tuff will serve as host for the evening. Deborah and Mr. Claus will help the crowd count down to the lighting of The Forum’s tree. Then a live band will return to the main stage and perform holiday classics.

More holiday events at The Forum

Following the tree lighting, holiday happenings continue throughout the month of December. They include:

Cookies & Milk with Santa

Thursdays, December 1 and 15, 4 and 5 p.m.

Spend time with St. Nick at Peterbrooke. Tickets are $12 and cover the cost for one child and one adult.

Christmas Crafts with Santa

Thursdays, December 8 and 22, 4 and 5 p.m.

Create a custom work of art alongside Santa Claus while enjoying treats inside Swoozies. Tickets are $12 and cover the cost for one child and one adult.

Storytime with Santa

Fridays, December 2, 9, 16 and 23, 4 and 5 p.m.

Holiday stories are read by Santa Claus inside Pottery Barn. Be sure to bring a camera for photo opportunities. Tickets are $12 and cover the cost for one child and one adult.

Pancakes with Santa

Saturday, December 10, 8:30 and 9:30 a.m.

Start the morning with a pancake breakfast with Mr. Claus inside Mojitos. Tickets are $15 and cover the cost for one child and one adult.

All experiences with Santa events require tickets purchased in advance. Tickets go on sale Thursday, Nov. 10 at 9 a.m.

Menorah Lighting at The Forum

Sunday, December 18, 4-6 p.m.

Celebrate the first night of Chanukah with the Chabad Enrichment Center of Gwinnett during a traditional Menorah lighting ceremony featuring activities for the whole family to enjoy. The event is free and open to the public.

Throughout the holidays, shoppers can also explore seasonal retailer pop-ups from Gifts We All Want and Go! Calendars at The Forum.

For more info on upcoming events at The Forum, visit theforumpeachtree.com/events. To stay up to date on the latest property news and happenings, follow The Forum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit theforumpeachtree.com.

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Community

Gwinnett Co. Commissioner Spreads Holiday Cheer with Toy Drive

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Join Team Kirkland for a special holiday toy drive for the Norcross Neighborhood Cooperative Ministries at Peachy Corners Cafe.

As the holiday season approaches, times can be challenging for those less fortunate. With this in mind, Gwinnett County Commissioner District 1 Kirkland Carden continues to find opportunities to give back to the community.

Join Team Kirkland for a special holiday toy drive for the Norcross Neighborhood Cooperative Ministries on Saturday, Dec. 16, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Peachy Corners Cafe off Spalding Dr in Peachtree Corners.

Neighborhood Cooperative Ministries (NCM) is a faith-based, non-profit, ecumenical ministry dedicated to providing emergency assistance to families in Norcross, Peachtree Corners, Doraville and Tucker, Georgia, since 1988.

NCM is supported by 23 local churches, numerous businesses, civic and social organizations, foundations and individuals. 

For this toy drive, Team Kirkland and the Norcross NCM are looking for new, unwrapped toys for local children in the Gwinnett community. Hear from your Commissioner and donate a toy to a family in need. 

To attend, RSVP here. For more information, reach out to Landen at 256-624-0669 or email landen@landenwatson.com.

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Community

Local Indie Author Day is Coming Back to Gwinnett County Public Library Branches

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Gwinnett County Public Library invites independent local authors to showcase their work with author talks, readings, book sales and signings.

Gwinnett County Public Library looks forward to celebrating Local Indie Author Day on Saturday, November 4, 2023.

The library invites independent local authors to showcase their works with author talks, readings, book sales and signings each year. This event aims to unite libraries, indie authors and readers throughout our community.

Multiple library branches are hosting author talks or author panels. Participating branches include:

  • Buford-Sugar Hill,
  • Centerville,
  • Dacula,
  • Duluth,
  • Five Forks,
  • Grayson,
  • Norcross and
  • Suwanee.

Local Indie Author Day will begin at the Duluth Library branch at 2:30 p.m. and features authors Stella Beaver, Chere’ Coen, Tamara Anderson and Cassandra Kempe-Ho.

The Norcross Library branch will host its showcase at 3:30 p.m. with authors Linda Sands and M.W. McKinley.

Check the library’s event calendar for author information and times. All events are free and open to the public. For questions or comments, contact Duffie Dixon, Director of Marketing and Communications for Gwinnett County Public Library at ddixon@gwinnettpl.org.

Click here to explore more public library events happening in November.

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Community

Good Grief: Life After Loss, Part 3 

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Losing Our Furry Friends

The conclusion of my “Good Grief” series seemed ideal in this issue featuring pets and their people. Paris Hilton lost her beloved chihuahua this year. In a farewell tribute on Instagram, the socialite wrote, “In 23 amazing years, she brought endless love, loyalty, and unforgettable moments to my life.” 

Some may not understand — eye rolls may ensue — but fellow pet people know all too well that losing a companion animal is just as heartbreaking as losing a human loved one. 

“The pain I feel right now is indescribable,” Hilton posted.

Yet our cultural playbook is devoid of any protocols for those mourning pets. There are no pet obituaries, no official rituals or religious ceremonies to support us through the loss of a fur baby. When such perfectly normal and deep emotions can be considered a mere overreaction by some people in our own tribe, one could argue that losing a pet is even more difficult. 

The ultimate interspecies bond

Though domestic companions can be scale or feather-covered too, I spoke to the bereaved owners of the furry variety.

Thousands of years of evolution have led to dogs morphing from the wild wolves they once were into man’s best friend, able to read our emotions and willing to sit, bark, roll over and play dead on command – all to please us. If you’re not a pet owner yourself, you’re sure to have friends with pets.

Max, tennis ball chaser extraordinaire 

Long before Matt and Faith Harding had children, they had their dogs, Jazzy and Max, who were part of their lives for over 11 years. Losing them was hard.

Matt Harding’s handsome boy, Max, who has crossed over the rainbow bridge.

“We lost Max and Jazzy within a year of each other. We had to put Jazzy down because she was older and suffering. It was the right thing to do. What made it more difficult with Max was that it was so unexpected,” Matt said.

The Hardings had been treating Max, who suffered from seizures common to Belgian Malinois. They were able to keep the seizures under control for years. 

What makes a grown man cry

It was a week like any other. Faith had gone out of town. The kids and Max were left in Matt’s care. Max chased tennis balls in the backyard. There were no warning signs that something was about to go terribly wrong. 

Man’s best friend – Matt Harding with his beloved pal, Maximus. Photo courtesy of Matt Harding.

Matt found Max in his kennel when he came home one evening. It looked as though he’d had a seizure — like those he’d recovered from many times before. Matt rinsed him off and brought him back inside.

When Matt came downstairs after putting his daughter down for a nap, Max drew his last couple of breaths and passed away. “He waited for me to come back,” Matt said.

Having to call Faith to share the sad news while she was traveling was heartbreaking. “After the initial shock and plenty of tears, you’re stuck with trying to figure out what to do next,” Matt said.

With their baby on one arm and their wailing toddler holding his hand, Matt walked the kids over to the neighbors’ house. The only thing he could utter was, “Please watch them.” Seeing his tear-streaked face, his neighbor took the children without hesitation. 

“I had to text her and let her know what was happening. I could not even get words out of my mouth. They were a huge help and very sympathetic to what was happening,” Matt shared.

Max

Maximize the memories

What helped the Hardings most was looking at pictures and reminiscing about their “incredible dog,” Max.

“He loved people. Plenty of people reached out to tell me some of their favorite memories with him and I couldn’t help but smile and laugh at how he left an impression on so many,” Matt said. 

Conversely, Matt viewed the act of putting away the dog beds, bowls and toys as an admission that Max was now just a memory. “I couldn’t bring myself to do it,” Matt confided.

“The loss of Max is still hard to think about. Faith and I budget. We have a line item for Max. We were doing the budget a couple of nights ago and couldn’t bring ourselves to remove him as a line item,” Matt said. “Thank you for letting me share our story.”

Triple grief

Before Sandra Hutto and her siblings could spread their parents’ ashes, she was faced with the sudden death of her 11-year-old Doberman, Rio.

Rio

Three losses in rapid succession were a hard knock-back for Hutto. She is grateful for supportive friends and being able to process her grief with the help of her husband Mark, a psychiatrist.

According to Hutto, sharing stories about her parents was as helpful in dealing with her loss as it was funny. “There were things I didn’t know. It was fascinating,” she said. “Family stories are important. Apparently, my mother was kind of a floozy,” she laughed.

Her aunt had shared about her mother misleading a boy to spend a day at the lake. When he asked her out, she claimed to have gotten a headache from all the sun. But later, she called another boy about going to a movie.  

Hutto advised, “You have shared stories and individual stories. You can let that isolate you or bring you closer. You could say, “That wasn’t my experience, I’m shutting it out,” but it lets you know more about your parents. They have stories from before you were born.”

Sandra Hutto’s late parents

Dad and the Doberman Pinscher

Before her father’s passing, Hutto and her husband took her dad on a road trip to Wyoming, along with Rio, in their 1993 Bluebird Wanderlodge to visit her sister. Unsure how her father would take to such a big dog, she was pleased when they bonded.

“He fell in love with her. Rio would get up in the middle of the night to lay down next to him. I joked with dad, “You know daddy, we do keep the dog.””

After he died, people said, “That trip was great for him. He never stopped talking about how much fun he had.” That was heartwarming,” Hutto said.

She danced on the sand

An American Kennel Club purebred dog, Rio’s registered name is, She Dances on the Sand, after the Duran Duran song.

Bred in Germany to be the intimidating protectors of tax collectors, Dobermans are strong, intelligent dogs, able to attack on command. Rio didn’t exactly fit the bill. Terrified of a neighborhood Yorkie, she’d watch him as she cowered behind Hutto.

Her tail was docked but she had natural, floppy ears. She wasn’t steely-looking, but she did have a big bark. “Mostly she would try to convince people that she was neglected. She was a drama queen; such a good, funny dog,” Hutto said. 

Rio and Sandra Hutto’s father bonding on a roadtrip

Déjà vu

Rio passed almost exactly the same way their previous Doberman, Jet had. (Jet was named after the Paul McCartney and Wings song.) Though Rio had a longer life, Hutto expressed the common sentiment among pet-owners: it’s never long enough. 

Rio had received a clean bill of health and a rabies shot that day. By the evening, she was restless and wouldn’t settle in her bed. Mark had gone out.  

“She got up and started walking around. She walked into our dining room, went around the table, her back feet collapsed from under her. She struggled to get up. She howled a couple of times and she was gone,” Hutto said.

Hutto believes cardiac arrhythmia killed both Jet and Rio. Heart issues are common in Dobermans, partly because of breeding and because they’re deep-chested dogs.

“Not again!” Hutto remembers shrieking as she witnessed Rio’s passing. Jet had passed away in the same manner, but she was with Mark. The swift but horrible departure allows for the only consolation, “at least she didn’t suffer.”  

Sandra Hutto

A Dobie’s departure

After the ordeal of burying 70-pound Jet in the rain, the Huttos decided to have Rio cremated. They were pleased with Deceased Pet Care, Inc. in Chamblee.

“They were kind, empathetic and respectful. They knew we were in pain. They took good care of her, made a point to tell us that they cremate each dog individually, and gave us her paw print in clay,” Hutto recounted. 

Walk alone

“Peachtree Forest is the neighborhood to live in if you want to come back as a dog. People here love their dogs. They’ll greet your dog — and then they’ll say hi to you,” Hutto chuckled. When neighbors learned about Rio’s passing, some sent sympathy cards. 

Hutto was almost thankful for a sprained knee shielding her for a while from the inevitable moment she takes her first walk alone and people will ask, “Where’s Rio?”

“I’ll probably bawl in the street,” she predicted.

Able to better prepare for losing her parents, Hutto remarked that her grief journey is different for Rio because it was so sudden. “It was a shock and harder in some ways. It’s important to talk about it so people see you can get through it,” she said. 

When they’re ready, the Huttos plan to get another Doberman. “I’m going to name her Roxanne. You’re not going to be able to help yourself when you call her. You’re going to have to do the song,” she said. 

Paw prints on our hearts

Pets are not “just animals,” as some may be tempted to say when we lose them. For those who form strong bonds with our four-legged friends, they become part of our favorite routines, our protégés, our sweetest companions, delighting us daily with joy and unconditional affection; they become family.

If the emotional connections we can form with pets are virtually indistinguishable from those we form with people, it stands to reason that pet bereavement can be on par with the grief we experience for our cherished, human loved ones. Let’s remember to be kind to those grieving the loss of their pets.

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