“THERE IS A VERY fine line between ‘hobby’ and ‘mental illness’,” according to humorist Dave Barry.
Some years ago, we had a weekend place—a cabin on acreage—which we greatly enjoyed, even if it did come with challenges. One thing I especially enjoyed: taking the kids on nighttime walks to see how many critters we could spot. That led to an interest in flashlights, and I collected a bunch of them. That, in turn, led to a keen interest in pocketknives.
Believe it or not, there’s a strong overlap between flashaholics and knifeaholics. In recent years, I’ve amassed a sizable collection of knives, sharpening equipment and so on, plus a goodly number of shiny new flashlights as the ongoing advances in LED technology continue to impress me.
But even more than pocketknives or flashlights, I love dogs. In fact, every member of our family shares this affection for our canine friends. Maybe there’s a gene? Over the years, my wife and I have contributed—regularly, if modestly—to a variety of animal welfare organizations that help the pups. But I’ve always wanted to do more.
Nine years ago, I hit upon a way to combine two of my great loves—an annual pocketknife benefit sale. I’m active on a large online knife forum where I regularly discuss—as well as buy and sell—knives. Typical collector that I am, I always have too many knives. I decided to sell a portion and donate the proceeds to worthy organizations that help dogs.
If I’m honest, I have to admit that another purpose was served. During most of my career, I worked long hours with no spare time for much else. In recent years, I gradually slowed down my work, allowing me to take on a hobby. Now I’m retired, I have the luxury of even more available time. But I confess that, through it all, I’ve suffered from an overactive work ethic. I felt a little guilty about spending time and money on a mere hobby. Selling off a chunk of my collection to benefit a worthy cause has done wonders for assuaging my guilt.
Happily, the benefit sale has grown substantially over the years. I’ve even had good luck lining up matching donations for whatever sum I could raise. It turns out that lots of “knife people” are also “dog people.” Many good-hearted folks have bought knives during the benefit sale, kicked in extra cash contributions, and generally offered moral support and encouragement.
Moreover, a number of really remarkable gentlemen every year donate a bunch of their own knives for me to sell for the cause. This has resulted in yet another collateral benefit of the sale. I have a host of great friends from the knife forum who I enjoy keeping up with throughout the year.
I know my experience isn’t unique. There are countless other people who have combined a hobby with a good cause. One of my favorite examples: A retired doctor used his love of flying to start a transport service for shelter dogs. The pilots fly dogs from areas of the country with overcrowded shelters—where the dogs are doomed to euthanasia—to parts of the country where shelters are less crowded, so the dogs can be placed in loving homes. The name of the charity: Dog is My CoPilot.
Andrew Forsythe retired in 2017 after almost four decades practicing criminal law in Austin, Texas, first as a prosecutor and then as a defense attorney. His wife Rosalinda and he, along with their dogs, live outside Austin, at the edge of the Texas Hill Country. Their four kids are now grown, independent and successful. They’re also blessed with four beautiful grandkids. Andrew loves dogs, and enjoys collecting pocketknives and flashlights. Check out his earlier articles.