Pawsing to Wonder

We saw him running, head down, zig zagging back and forth from yard to yard. House to house.That lost dog dance that occurs when an animal searches for familiarity. A scent. A trail. A dog lover recognizes this immediately. I pull over and my friend and I corner him. He’s a sweet, black male with a gray muzzle, who gladly allows my friend to hug him around the chest, to contain him, while I search for a collar and a leash.  We take him back to my house and release him in my fenced yard. Then we start the search. We make flyers, call shelters, call vets. We are committed to assisting this helpless creature. Eventually, we found a home for this sweet boy, who I named, Dudley, but it took a village. Well, a kennel owner, a church group and two determined dog lovers.

This occurred before you came into my life, Dwight.  Maybe all the times you have been “rescued” after following your nose and running away from here, is just Karma for my efforts with Dudley.

Yesterday, I had an encounter that gave me pause. There was a young man ahead of me in the checkout at the grocery store. He had a lost look in his eyes. His clothes were baggy and dirty. His stretched out t-shirt revealed sunburned shoulders and a blistered, peeling neck. He wore flip flops and his toes were caked with mud. He smelled as dirty as he looked. He wasn’t zig zagging or dancing. He was standing there with his bag of grapes, 2 peaches and a candy bar. He handed the cashier a gift card and a twenty dollar bill. Looking hopeful, he asked her to check the balance on the gift card. She told him she wasn’t sure how to do that. The young man’s gaze dropped to the twenty as he reached out to hand it to her.

I interrupted, “I’ll pay for his.” He looked up, once again hopeful. “Thank you. Thank you so much.” She rang him up. He thanked me again as he left.  A lost young man. Probably in his early 20’s. What’s his story? Why didn’t I chase after him, put my arms around his chest and keep him secure, until he was found again. I didn’t make “Lost Boy” signs or call around to try and help him. All I did was pay $6.21 for a bag of grapes, 2 peaches and a candy bar. Shame on me. I hope my simple gesture made as much of an impact on him as his kind face made on me.

All who wander are not lost. You’ve taught me that, Dwight. But, I think we could all use a little help sometimes, to find our way.

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Borders

We have a fence around our yard, Dwight. A border to keep you from following your nose and wandering off. The enclosure allows  untethered freedom to run, chase and explore. You spend a good part of the day out there, basking in the sun or digging a hole under a shade tree. Watching. Not a watch dog, but a mindful dog. Ears twitching to catch all the bird song, leaf crunching and wind crescendos. Jowls sucking  scents in and out as your nose turns skyward to pull in more air, taking you into the woods beyond the fence.  Sightings of deer, heron and foxes and the enticing  fragrances of the unseen intrigue you.

You are so curious, aware, and accepting of all. I wish I didn’t have to fence you in. But you have shown us, when given the chance, Dwight,  you run. Far and without boundaries. In the 2 years you’ve lived with us, you have escaped at least 14 times. Thankfully, we always get a phone call…I’ve got your dog. Perhaps if  you had come to us as a puppy, I could have created invisible boundaries by teaching you through consistent, love, food and shelter, that this is your home. A safe haven where your needs are met. A place to stay.

I wish I could let you roam free. That’s how it was where I grew up. There were no leash laws. Back when the world wasn’t so afraid of itself. Dogs could roam the neighborhood, but mostly stayed in their own yards…without borders.

At least once a day, most of the time twice, I take you out to explore the world. Although tethered to a leash, I give you as much freedom as I can, allowing  you to take the lead, pausing when you pause. Sometimes we watch water. Clouds floating reflectively on the pond’s surface, ducks cutting the stillness. You stand, stoic, gazing. Many mornings we hear the geese, both of us looking skyward as they honk their arrival. We watch them circle the pond, lower their black leathery feet and skim across the water. Wow! Thanks for showing me this, Dwight.

Recently , on our walk, we encountered a broken picket on a fence. On the outside looking in, you insisted on crossing the border. I let you go as far as you could squeeze, so you could see the other side. I’m not sure if the grass was truly greener, but after a moment, seeming satisfied, you backed out and we continued on our walk.

IMG_2874There are two sides to every fence, Dwight. On one side it can be viewed as protection. A barrier to keep “things” out, like predators and annoyances. Some find comfort in exclusion. Staying inside the lines.  However, this can create a fear of the outside.

And sometimes a boundary is used to keep “things” in, like dogs and children. To keep them safe. Protected.  Some find comfort in keeping their loved ones close. Hovering. This too, can create a fear of the outside.

I wish we could all learn to create and  respect our own boundaries. Just take care of our corner of the world. Maybe then, we wouldn’t be so afraid and need barriers. For now, my wish is for us all to find a few broken pickets, to allow a kind, curious exploration of the other side.

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Hoarding Hound

Dwight, you’re a hoarder. It appears to be new learning, as you came here with no possessions. Only a harness, a short lead and a bag of food. A few days after your arrival, we gave you Little Dino. You adored him, taking him with you everywhere. It was sweet to watch you care for him. This Christmas, a treasure trove of toys descended upon you by well meaning family and friends. You pile them on your bed and fret over their care.

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Life was much simpler when there was only Little Dino. You could scoop him up in your mouth, run around the yard, bury him, dig him up, re-bury and dig up to the cadence of our days. Let dog in, let dog out. Now your toy collection seems overwhelming. You have even started stockpiling items on our walks. So far, you have found and fretted over an unidentifiable piece of black plastic, a hairband and a glove. These treasures have been stashed in various spots in the neighborhood. You check on them frequently, and many times relocate them. But today was over the top, D Man. You found a plastic Coke bottle. A big ticket item to bury, which you managed to do. Pretty impressive.

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You’ve got an issue Dwight. Too much stuff is weighing you down, getting in the way of life. I can relate. I have my own clutter issues. What to do with all this stuff that sneaks into drawers and closets. A golf ball found on a walk, a box of chalk, dry rotted rubber bands, safety pins and paper clips that reproduce and move on to live in an adjacent drawer. I bought a book, took a class, and started my de-cluttering adventure.

Then I had to stop to take care of life for awhile. And then, loss. And then, Christmas came. But its a new year now, so, no excuses. Let’s make 2019 the year to de-clutter and reclaim joy and freedom from stuff, Dwight. We can help each other. With every bag of impedimenta I take to Goodwill, I’ll squirrel away one of your toys for a needy dog. I’ll dissuade you from collecting more things on our walks and try my best to keep us mindful and grateful for what we have.

There are emotions attached to possessions. The trappings of things. That’s why its hard for us sensitive types to let go. Memories can be messy, but they don’t clutter. Fond ones warm the soul and inspire us forward. Sad ones overwhelm, encouraging us to hang onto more stuff in order to stay anchored to the past.

Let’s bury our sadness under the Birch tree in the backyard. If we need it, we’ll know where to find it. We will be respectful and remember its location. Don’t look back, Dwight. Were not going that way. Happy New Year.

 

Fall Walk

Rain drops and leaves float to the ground carpeting the path in a fall tweed.  Yellow, red, orange, ocher,  a welcome contrast against grey sky.  The evergreens remain loyal to their colors, while the hardwoods surrender theirs. Birch trees reveal mottled curls on variegated bark. Sycamores show smooth, white coats freckled with brown spots, while oaks display deep creviced mazes of bark and branches slick with moss.

You don’t seem to mind the rain today. The scents of the season cling to the moisture of the cool heavy air. Hunting season. Does it bring back memories Dwight? You were a hunting dog…right? I don’t mean to pigeon-hole you, but you look like one. Tail up. Nose to the ground. Focused, following the scent. Jowls puffing air in and out, as you pull me along today. We are tracking something. It’s your instinct, what you were bred for. Do you miss it? Do you long for the way life used to be?

You wander off the path, deeper into the woods, blending  seamlessly into the brown fall scene. Only your white chest, boots and snout reveal your location.
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I wish I could let you off leash. I’d love to watch you really track and hunt, Dwight.  But, I’m afraid you’d follow your nose and not return. I’ll let you lead me off the path.  We can explore together, living  in the moment.  Don’t look back…were not going that way my friend. Now…for just a little while.

 

Howloween Magic

Frost paints the edges of the yard. Nights are longer, daylight treasured. The sun sneaks up in the morning, silhouetting trees against a grey sky. Leaves paint the path as branches begin to bare their winter beauty. Fall battles summer, tossing acorns and walnuts at the naysayers. Magic.

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I love this time of year. I think you do too, Dwight. You start your morning nudge, ready to go out, at my first sip of coffee. You leap like a gazelle as we wander through the woods, eager to explore. Our walks are longer. Fall change is good. It’s time to cut the spent blooms of summer. Embrace nature’s autumn displays. Crisp morning air invites sweatshirts, but warm sunshine keeps them unzipped. Aromas of warm soups, apples and baking wrap around the kitchen table, inviting us to linger a little longer.

Fall is a gift with Halloween smack in the middle. This time of year rakes up fond childhood memories of picking out costumes at the Dime Store. Plastic masks with eye and nose holes that never matched up with my own, and an elastic strap that pulled at the back of my hair. Wendy Witch from Casper. Huckleberry Hound. Homemade Hobo costumes, with a bandana on a stick. Black grease under my eyes. A ghost with eye holes cut into a sheet, that ghoulishly wandered above and below my real eyes.

Pretending. Not hiding behind a mask, but embracing being something else for just one night. Walking in the dark with a group of friends, filling pillow case sacks with sweet treasures as we ran from house to house. Dumping our loot on the kitchen table at the end of the night, assessing our bounty. Pure decadence.

I’m too old to trick or treat, Dwight, but I still enjoy opening the door to squeals of “trick or treat”, coming from pretend super heroes, princesses, and ghouls. I thought I’d share my love of the season with you. I found a bandana and a small cowboy hat, thinking you would make an adorable Deputy Dog. Perfect costume for my best dog friend.

You graciously allowed the donning of the bandana,

IMG_1572_but you weren’t feeling the hat.

IMG_1573You kept in on  long enough for a photo op. I passed the costume on to your BFF, Frasier. I guess you don’t need to dress up to feel the magic D Man. Me neither. Happy Howloween buddy.IMG_1575

Hound Walk

Walking you today was a challenge. What was in that Jughead of yours? I say that with the utmost endearment, Dwight. You were quite obstinate today, randomly stopping, wide stance, feet firmly planted, looking right at me, as if saying, “done.” I felt like a tug boat pulling a barge. I had to lean forward with all my weight and pull the leash taught. The gentle harness tugging  at your chest didn’t faze you.

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The give and take on this stroll was measurable. Had a stampeding herd of buffalo just gone ahead of us and marked this as their territory? Did you sense an imminent earthquake or tornado? Perhaps you’ve been down this road a few too many times and you longed for a new path. Dwight, this walk in the woods is all shade. I was determined to avoid the heat of the sun. I can be just as stubborn as you.

I’d almost go flying when you released from the pull and stepped forward. You seemed to enjoy this game . Leash yo-yo. Bungee walking.  You surprise me every single day, Dwight. Sometimes you can be puppy playful. Very unhound like.  Dwight, the rascal, appears at the oddest times. You love to take  socks from the laundry basket, clean or dirty, and run through the house. If I don’t offer a chase, game over. The socks are abandoned. If I say “leave it”, the chase is on. You jerk your head, front paws slap the floor, and you’re off. You really do look cute with a pair of socks in your mouth. I can’t play the sock game, D Man.  I have enough trouble matching socks on laundry day.  At least now  I have a scape goat, or dog, for the missing ones.

I’ll make you a deal. I’ll give you a pair of socks if you “walk nice.” Sounds like a fair trade to me. Can I trust the paw shake and those brown eyes?

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Word by Word

 

 

 

 

My mom passed away May 21. She was an amazing woman who lived a beautiful life. A  well-loved lady, she was appreciated for her fine cooking and kind heart. She taught me compassion, sharing and resiliency. It’s difficult to move forward without her, but it’s time. Dwight, you have been my champion; keeping me mindful of routine, exercise, napping and sometimes just playing or letting out a melodic howl. Despite my best attempts; memories, longings and regrets find their way into my being. The past spills and I sop it up with my heart. I’m not sure how to stop it. Some days I don’t want to.  My words struggle to surface through the past and breathe life into the present.

Grief sits in my writing chair, blocking me from the table. He seems aware that the words in my head  will begin  the healing process, banishing him from the room. Grief is clever. He hides in the corner behind the plant, always in the shadows, growing larger as he feeds on past despairs. Sometimes, a short grief visit keeps me grateful for the here and now. Sometimes the melancholy drowns me.

You soften the sadness, Dwight. Your brown eyes soothe my soul. Your cold, wet nose pushes my arm, encouraging pen to paper, knowing this is what I need. So we start again. One breath, one word at a time. I wrote this poem at the beach a few weeks ago.

Words

The ocean is noisy today. Her waves crash and rip at the shore. I close my eyes as my thoughts drown in the surf. She spits out a winter coat, studded with barnacles, lying abandoned on the beach, its story buried by blowing sand. What’s my story? I need to start again. My words, like waves, tumble in my head, ever reaching and retreating. Rinsed and pulled under, some never surfacing again.

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Photo by Emiliano Arano on Pexels.com

We still have lots of stories to share, Dwight. Thanks for listening.