PAWSING FOR VETERANS

Ken Hoffman highlights a special group that unites four-legged friends with American heroes

Patriot Paws/Facebook

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

It's that time of year: Houston Ballet's packed and popular Nutcracker Market will be held Thursday, November 14, through Sunday, November 17, at NRG Center with more than 100,000 shoppers expected to scoop up everything "Christmasy" that can fit under a tree, down a chimney, on a dinner table or you can put a bow on it.

About 260 merchants, including 23 rookie booths, will kick back 11 percent of their sales toward the Houston Ballet Foundation. When you add in all the admission money, thousands of Houston area students will get a valuable lesson in the arts.

As always, all roads will lead to booth 920, to the back and to the right in NRG Center, where the Donne Di Domani ladies will be selling their legendary marinara sauce for the 28th year. Donne Di Domani means "Women of Tomorrow" in Italian, or "Spaghetti Sauce Ladies" in plain English.

The sauce is still $10 a bottle, credit cards accepted. If you buy a 12-bottle case for $120, they'll throw in a dozen recipe cards guaranteed to please the family, including your uncle who comes to your house each Christmas and does nothing but complain about your cooking.

Here's why I love writing about these ladies. Sure their sauce is amazing. Consider this a warning: If you wait till Sunday to buy the sauce, you'll be the little piggy who had none. But the real story is what Donne Di Domani does with their profits — we're talking millions here. Yeah, they sell a lot of sauce.

Each year, after the market closes and they total up the profits, the ladies decide which charities they'll support. It's a long list of organizations such as Shelter for Cancer Families, Casa Juan Diego, Triumph Over Kid Cancer, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Carmelite Nuns of New Caney, and many more.

One year, when I was in the hospital getting my X-rays touched up, I heard that Sister Angel and the Carmelite Nuns said a prayer for me. Wrong church, wrong pew, but I'll take it.

Pawsing for our heroes
The charities may change, but the ladies will always support an organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families. Last year the charity was Folded Flag, which lends a hand to widows and children of soldiers killed in the line of duty.

In recent years, Donne Di Domani sponsored service dogs trained by Patriot Paws in Rockwell, Texas. I've been to Rockwell and seen how these remarkable dogs help wounded veterans get through their day. It costs $30,000 to train a dog, and the dogs are given free to vets who need them. Donne Di Domani so far has sponsored four Patriot Paws dogs:

"Hoffy," who was named after me (best honor I ever received), didn't make the grade. His mind wandered and he didn't concentrate on his studies. (The acorn sure didn't fall far from the tree.)

Continue on CultureMap to find out what happened to "Hoffy."

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans outmatched when it counts against Steelers

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Another game, another loss for the Texans. This time it was only a seven point loss to the Steelers as they fell 28-21 in Pittsburgh. This time around, Bill O'Brien looked to be on his game as far as decision-making was concerned. However, there is still room for improvement.

One thing that I did appreciate that O'Brien did was have trust in the offensive line. The Steelers pass rush could be problematic, but their defense overall is very stout. That's how they were able to nearly make the playoffs last year with a Duck at quarterback. While the Texans did give up five sacks, they weren't all due to poor offensive line play. The Texans lost 33 yards on those five sacks. Tytus Howard and Zach Fulton handled themselves fairly well after looking like turnstiles the first two games. O'Brien called longer developing pass plays and play action in spite of this and it paid off with Deshaun Watson and his receivers putting up 264 yards in the air.

There also wasn't an instance of Bumbling Bill this game. At the end of the first half, there was a minute and fourteen seconds left. The Texans were down 17-14 and had all three timeouts with the ball on their 25-yard line. Classic Bumbling Bill situation right? Wrong! Not only was the play-calling on point, but the players executed and the timeout situation was handled perfectly. First timeout was used after getting to midfield with 47 seconds left. Timeout number two was used after a 20 yard gain after the previous play. A 15 yard gain later to the Steeler 14-yard line and timeout number three was used with 28 seconds left. This set up perfectly for them to call a multitude of plays. They only needed one as Watson found Will Fuller in the end zone on a jump ball in which Fuller rose up and was physical enough to grab the ball over the defender. They went up 21-17 at the half.

Bill O'Brien's teams were 37-3 when leading at halftime. I say "were" because they lost this one after not scoring a single point in the second half. This was more on the defense not being able to fight its way out of a wet paper bag, and a lack of execution by the offense. Specifically, the run defense has been atrocious and Watson either needs quicker reads or to stop holding onto the ball so long by making quicker decisions. That's on coaching to put players in positions to succeed, but also the players to execute.

Ultimately, this was on O'Brien the general manager more than O'Brien the coach. This roster is woefully outmatched. The only time an outmatched roster can compete consistently is in college football with a wacky offense. It just doesn't happen in the NFL. Hey, at least Bumbling Bill didn't rear his butt chin today. Today's Culture Map play call menu was brought to you by Pour Behavior. I suggest getting over there and checking out their daily specials.

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