Friday, May 30, 2014


A hobo traveling the country in search of work would use a piece of coal or chalk to mark the fencepost at a house he was leaving. Through a language of simple signs, he passed warnings and tips to the next man who might happen along.

I mention this because years ago, over a span of about six months, we were visited by a series of canines, each in some type of trouble. Though I couldn't spot it, I had a hunch there was a mark scratched into the gravel of our driveway by some dog who had been shown a kindness at our place:


One of the most memorable walk-ins during those doggie-hobo days was this lovely lady (apologies for the blurry photo).

She must have left her dog tags and microchip in her other pants, so we had no idea what her name might be. She was thin, and judging by her poo, had been most recently living on raw corn.

I'm of the mind that a dog in a tough situation needs a fortifying name to help elevate her, so I decided she would be called--"Glory."

Glory was alert and gentle, and made you want to do right by her. We posted signs in all the usual bars, and placed calls to veterinarians around these parts, but didn't hear anything for a couple of days.

In the meantime, a dear friend of mine had found Glory a wonderful home in St. Paul with a person who had recently lost her dog. We were just finalizing the logistics of the hand-off, when a car pulled into our driveway.

I don't mean to be unkind, so I will describe these humans in scant detail. But suffice to say, when I realized they were Glory's people, I felt a strong flight-or-fight sensation. My Spidey-sense told me that they were not the nurturing family I had wished for her.

She didn't readily move toward the car (though it was clear she knew them), so one of the sullen teenagers in the back seat came out to grab her collar.

I needed to stall, giving my brain time to pore through a host of illegal options. (Snatch her back and bolt away? Dognap her a few days down the road?) 

I blurted out the first thought to come to mind (that wasn't a shaming admonishment). I told him we had named her Glory. The kid looked at me oddly, saying--and I'll never forget this--

"Her name is Gravedigger."

Have you ever burst into tears on the inside, without telling your face?

As I watched their car with its precious passenger head out of our lives, I made a decision. If Glory ever walked up our driveway again... there would be no signs posted in bars or calls to local vets. There would be only a celebratory car ride by dead of night to St. Paul.

Today I'll spend a few minutes remembering that I am not the Queen of the Universe who gets everything she wants, and try for the skillionth time to come to better terms with that.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A dog walks into a saloon, and the bartender says, "Hey, Sidewinder, what can I get ya?" and the dog says...

"...I'm lookin' for the man who shot my Paw."

No one shot dear Rose, of course. Years ago, she'd been hurtling through the woods in her youthful, non-watchful way, and must have caught her foot in a hole, or in a pile of brush--and kept on running. She broke her leg that time, which was incredibly sad, because hauling a cast through the woods was much less fun.

She got lots of babying, though, and I would like to say she learned a valuable lesson... but Rose will always be the clown in the family. And with clowning comes vet bills. And skunk spray remover bills. And--well--I'd better reserve some of her antics for future blog fodder.

Suffice to say, Rose makes us laugh every day. It's one of her great many gifts to us.

This morning I'm going to think about a human in my life who cracks me up on a regular basis. And I'll try to remember a particular time that this person got me to guffaw, so I can laugh about it all over again today. (I find that memories of laughs are almost as funny--and rarely get you kicked out of the library.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


         Gracie at 4 months old                                                     Gracie at (almost) 11 years old

You're digging through a drawer and you spot it--or your sister emails it to you--or you open an old book and it slips to the floor. 

A photo of your dog from a much earlier time.

I don't know if this makes me an oddball, but my reaction is unwaveringly consistent: I get punched with the big Double-Oh

First, I see the sweet photo of my dog in her youth, and my whole body curves in on itself as my face crinkles up in a high-pitched Ohhhhhh... I'm washed in not just the memories--but the feelings--of her bouncier days and silly puppy choices.

And then, before I can finish pronouncing all of those Hs, my brain yanks me hard into Oh Number Two. This Ohhhhhh (octaves lower) is the reflexive moan from the cosmic ice cream scoop scraping along my insides, emptying me of everything but the sense of loss and impending grief that's been trying to get my attention for years, as I've watched her face get whiter and her steps grow slower. 

Rose at 2 years old                                                     Rose at (almost) 11 years old

When the Ohhhhhhs finally release me, I'm back to where I was, freshly reminded to squeeze in more snout-kissing and stick-throwing today, because it's better for my soul than the project I'm trying to finish for work. 

I'm doing my best to remember that there is joy in a dog's aging, too. I look into the eyes of both of our girls in their earlier photos, and compare them to their eyes now, and see that they've traded their puppyish view of the world for a greater wisdom. 

They've had enough experience to know that falling asleep in your water dish can lead to rude awakenings and should be avoided.

They've lived long enough to realize that when you look out the kitchen window and see a squirrel at the bird feeder... once you're let out the front door, you've got to run all the way around the house to get back to where the squirrel is. (Was.) 

And they've figured out that plowing through the woods without worrying where you put your feet can lead to very painful outcomes, and it's best not to do that.

I'm trying to remind myself that though the span of time I have with these creatures feels way too short--this is my dog's whole history. So it's a noble effort to avoid wallowing in my own sorrow, and spend those brain cells making it a rich history, for whatever time I am granted. (See: stick-throwing / snout-kissing, above.)

And P.S.--I need to get better at accepting the things I cannot change.

In the spirit of enriching history... I think I'll try to do one thing in the next 24 hours that improves the day of an older person in my life.