dog training, prose

In Praise of Goldsboro and Wayne Community College

Like the military community that serves this county out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Wayne Community College (WCC) is a quiet, formidable treasure at the pulse of Goldsboro’s heart. My experiences at WCC since coming to Goldsboro from Virginia four years ago have expanded my knowledge base, given me access to invaluable resources and mentors, and instilled in me a passion and commitment to contribute to this vibrant town.

If I could sing the praises of what Goldsboro and WCC have done for me, it would be a combination of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” This is not hyperbole, although when people ask me what credentials I have, I say, “I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a poetic license, the latter of which I use liberally and often.”

The classes I took at WCC were funded by the Foundation of Wayne Community College, run by Jack Kannan and his remarkable staff. The Counseling Center has guided me into my re-entry into academia fifteen years out of my undergraduate degree from Temple University and continues to be a source of support and coaching as I transition into the services of the NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

The Academic Skills Center, directed by Chris Denise and powered by a stalwart, genuine , and infectiously friendly team of staff and student tutors, has given me a place to volunteer my time and engage with students and faculty at all ages and stages of their careers. The Budo Club of Goldsboro, founded by sensei Coe Smith, found a home at WCC and has been integral in grounding me emotionally and training me physically after a very stressful divorce.

The friendships I have forged with the Goldsboro Writers Group have enabled me to continue to pursue a passion for writing poetry, a passion that I have nurtured since the age of seven.

At this point in my life, the Small Business Center of WCC is the crown jewel that is teaching me and mentoring me forward towards an independent, self-sustaining career and out of the Disability System in which I became entrenched at the age of seventeen. Charles Gaylor IV runs the Small Business Center with a combination of professionalism and encouragement. He fosters a friendly learning environment based in the realities of starting a small business. He does his homework and insists that all potential small business owners do theirs as well. His information is cogent, timely, and peppered with pithy bon mots.

In the past three months I have taken two classes on leadership across the generations, writing a business plan, and common mistakes that small business owners need to avoid in order to succeed. Other classes include fundraising and grant writing and the use of social media to market one’s business.

My goal, with the help of the NC Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, is to open a dog training business. I have a passion for animals and see an opportunity to work with local shelters to assess dogs for aptitude to do therapy, medical assistance, and protection work. I would love to partner with the police and assist with K9 and rescue dog training.

My heart has a special interest in training dogs to assist veterans and other folks with PTSD. I am honored that Perry Champion, who runs the nonprofit Rescues 4 Rescues, has offered me an internship to benefit from his decades of experience with assistance dogs. Perry and I share the vision that shelter dogs can be trained to help people in various ways; if the dog does not show an interest in being a working dog, the obedience training we can provide will increase the likelihood of placing it in a forever home.

Finding homes for shelter dogs, training them to do meaningful work, and encouraging them to share their loyalty with a loving family is just my first step in giving back to the community that has given me a place to call home.

ASC Nov 14 1


Dissolution of a Nightmare

sunset 1

No longer my trauma

yet symptoms of anxiety persist

palpitations from a past

from which I ran

Unsure of the next step

Perception is relative

fears rumble through heart

I check myself, take breaths

Choose different metaphors:

swap deer in headlights

for stallion racing

towards a better life.

Shari Elizabeth Berk

Goldsboro, NC

December 6, 2014


Waking on a Rainy Morning

-in loving honor of HLB, DDS.

Night terrors filled my four year old dreams

At bedtime, I’d repeat the mantra to my mother:

“Keep the kitchen light on, keep it all the way on

have Daddy kiss me goodnight.”

When I awoke from a bad dream

the kitchen light was always off,

but Dad never failed to tuck me in at 10 o’clock

home late from his office, he read to me in silly voices

The Little Engine that Could and Pat the Bunny


I think I can I think I can

see myself in the mirror of his eyes

wish I could reverse the metastatic replication

that rampages my father’s bones.

I find him at the computer at 4 am

tell him our story. He smiles

finishes his game and goes back to bed.

Thank you for being the one who helped me back to sleep.

Shari Elizabeth Berk

Goldsboro, NC

November 25, 2014sunrise nov 22


The Best Value in Managed Care

Each time I visit my primary care physician,

he tries to save my Jewish soul.

He humbly suggests I ask myself

which one of us will be eternally condemned?

I suggest God has room for both of us in Heaven.


His God disapproves of my Gay Bingo t-shirt

which I have stopped wearing now that I

live in an intolerant yet friendly small southern town.

I used to study on a Quaker campus

near one of the most diverse U.S. cities.

Our discussion is one of faith, values, and trust.

He excises the dark mole from my left shoulder.


It is numb and I feel nothing.

The pathology report will be back in a week.

He’d make a great Talmudic scholar.

When he demurs as a man of Christ, I explain

I respect his wisdom and his gentle teaching.

Stitches should come out in a week;

by then we’ll know malignant or benign.

The fate of our souls will still be up in the air.


Shari Elizabeth Berk

Louisa, Virginia

June 24, 2004


On Turning 50, October 9, 2014

In the early morning of my fifth decade I reflect

upon well wishes written on my cyberspace wall

friends and family whom I dearly love and miss.

I am kept apart not simply by lack of money

nor fear of aviation across the miles but rather

impatient hostility of TSA workers that suggests to me

terrorists are truly winning.


Or at least battling personal demons has become

more problematic as I get older, more anxious

now less afraid of random acts of violence then entrenched bureaucracy

social ennui. A month before the State primary election

a young pollster calls: I have been selected from a database.

She doesn’t want to hear what I have to say

unless it’s that I have decided to put her candidates in office.


I think I crested The Hill at 33

marriage being a defining mistake in my life.

As I strongly support the rights of others to love equally

under the Law’s protection, I realize how little

I was protected from a depressed man, his angry family

my apparent failure as a partner. The Blood Moon rose

yesterday. I hang on to auspicious hope.

Shari Elizabeth Berk/Goldsboro, NCfall 5


Heidi Comes Home

Fewer than 48 hours after a pale golden German Shepherd dog

met her forever mom, quiet brown eyes cautious

with disbelief and timid trepidation

because a sweet, honest, gentle girl

doesn’t often get a second chance to prove loyalty and love

On a crisp Saturday morning

Heidi jaunts on leash to the left

obediently stealing glances at her new mom

looking for approval, acceptance, a kind smile

until an irresistible smell wafts from off to the right

tangles dog and woman into each others’ legs and lives

leads to lilting laughter, renewed belief in mutual rescue

Evening ends with a backyard romp

sniffing opportunities for adventure while the grill heats

for company dinner, the prospect of years to explore

suspended while Heidi the golden Shepherd mix

chases rabbits in her dreams

resting on an old dog bed from another poem

her terrier sister asleep at my feet

Heidi’s forever mom and I bask in the peace of days to come.

Shari Elizabeth Berk/September 24, 2014/ Goldsboro, NCheidi on bed 1