Wednesday, September 24, 2014


I am up at 5:45 am, earlier than I need to be, unable to sleep. I put the kettle on, and it’s still dark out, and the little dogs don’t move. But then Atticus goes upstairs to check on Sue, waking all, since the bed is chihua territory and the snapping at his face begins. It’s a pleasant way to start your day, for sure. Sue says, Thanks, buddy. He’s now curled up asleep in a chair in the kitchen. Job done.

I woke, head reeling. I had to tell a friend terrible news about her beloved lab yesterday, and after the pathology report was laid out, there was little to say. Grief can rise like a flash flood and then stay around, sweeping everything away.

I am drinking black tea, watching the sky out the sliding glass door. The clouds are lit from behind, wispy and vertical. The colors change every minute. It’s like witnessing a dream reel. I am thinking about when I got home last night, my pups seemed all the more wonderful, but I felt bruised, their lives apt to be altogether unfairly brief.

How we love, though. And I got many usual kisses on my return home after a long work day. My sadness felt like a film covering my skin, and they licked from my face. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The lake, the night

Every so often, our household goes through greater and greater intolerance of city noise. It usually coincides with summer and my neighbors: car stereo baselines, motorcycle engines, fireworks, verbal escalations in the street, and the overhead flight landing pattern three blocks away.

We have an escape valve, though, for which I am forever grateful. My father has a cabin six hours away, and we packed the dogs in the car with food and fall gear, and we drove north.

Two of the four pups got wound up: why are we not stopping this car to explore? The constant whining, winding up to barking and pacing, was hard to deal with. I am a vet and used the tools I had: I gave them meds to calm them down. They slept, and we did not poke our eyes out.

Once arrived, the lake was its usual blue and huge self, calming us, but it turned out the neighbors were building a large house and the workman had the stereo on to terrible, cliché and loud rock.

Go over there, you say, and ask them to turn it down. I, though, hate conflict, hate confrontation, so I did what many Midwesterners would do, I went inside and read a book. I had to pull Sue, a Texan, back from the brink. But we both agreed—it would be soon the weekend, and they would be gone.

And gone indeed. It got so quiet in the house when the refridgerator motor switched off that you could hear your ears ringing. On Sunday the wind picked up and the house pulsed with a slight thrum of the waves hitting the rocks, sound traveling through the soil. The water was red from the rainy runoff of clay mud and the white chop picked up, spraying the beach, soaking you if you stood too close to the edge.

It's a moody one, the lake.

It only takes a day to wear the dogs out up there. We’re mostly off leash, unless a neighbor has a dog out as well. The three run down the dead end dirt road and I carry Tiny Dog. She insists—the gravel is too much for her pretty small feet.

I unwound, in my usual pattern: eat, read, walk, nap, eat. Then a cocktail to watch the sunset over the Minnesota coast 20 miles away, ridge of red over ridge of black hills.

The night before we had to leave, life started to spill back in. I lay in bed, eyes open, my pulse and breath starting to rev. My mind tumbled with the encroaching: the return to work, my lists of procrastinations, an eat-better to-do list. But this outwardly quiet place is also teeming inside with nebulous worries and terrors, things that creep and grow and fester and rise, so that it is impossible to sleep. And I start to get scared, right there, in the dark, next to Sue and my four dogs, all the doors locked, my health intact, a belly full of a good supper.

What the mind does to create its own monsters.

Wren came in from the living room couch, and like always, to my side of the bed, standing on her hind legs so that I would lean over and pick her up. She has preferred from the start to sleep on the pillow next to your head, and I oblige. My heart cannot fully calculate or contemplate her years of suffering in a puppy mill, so plush bed it is, all night in the crook of my arm, m’dear.

I picked her up and she curled in, and my heart settled, my breath slowed and the world pushed back a little. Wren pushed it back. 

Wren's first fall season in our house, new sweater. Let the smitten fest begin!

When I was home for five months in 2009 for breast cancer treatment, Wren was my raft. She was the first small dog in the house, the only at the time, and she held me here, so my thoughts were less likely to go to that dark island of fear and disappearance. One can get very lost in her own mind. One needs a dog to help her back. With my doctors and my dogs, and the love of those around me, I came back. I’m back. Here we go, Wren, my hero of the black night.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bed, or dinghy?

Once again this is them, thwarting my attempts to make the bed. I am trying to tidy, so that I can go out of town tomorrow with less psychic and literal clutter to deal with when I get back.

They cluster on the old sheet as I bunch up one corner and then another, following it like a square of safety. I learned to take off half the old sheet, and put on half the new one, so they could have a bridge of sorts, during the process. Otherwise taking one chihua off the bed and the next, with the previous jumping back up there, is a lesson in futility.

I suppose I could close them all out into the hallway, with the door shut, but well, they look so concerned, and desperate, to not touch the floor, but be on the throne of all dog beds.

Here they are again; I just changed the bed. See how they look ruffled, worried about the whole thing?

I know how they feel, though. It's like when I have been looking forward to a comfy and deep nap when I get home and someone outside, down the street, decided instead that this is the exact hour that they need to use a chain saw or a lawn mower or work on their decrepit car. The bed sits there, as always, ready for those ready for slumber, and I am denied. And it hurts. How could I do this to my beloveds, as well? Oh, Universe, they implore, Oh!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The heart demands a walk

I live in a city blessed with four lakes, bike paths, food carts and dog parks. The dog parks come in many flavors: an eighth-acre spot downtown, expansive prairie, river edge with docks. At some you can see the capitol mid-isthmus, at some rocks left by the Ice Age, at others sandhill cranes flying over to a marsh. We have startled an adult deer mid-park who then launched himself into the lake, at a brisk swim. And if we are lucky, there are dead fish or scat to roll in.

Today we went to the park with the capitol view. It’s actually on an old dump, buried below, scent free (to me) and with ample breeze, songbirds and tall grasses. It has shaded picnic tables and a small dog section. 

That's pure joy in this smile.

I often see the same folks at this park, round and round we go. Some are clients, some just regulars. Tiny Dog panics a bit when a pack approaches, clawing my left calf, so she often rides around the park perched in my arm, her front paws wrapped around my wrist, her back legs loose along my side. She’s relaxed, loves the good view from above, and I am guessing, feels protected. The other two, at 12 pounds are on their own, and like it this way. They act more like typical dogs, interacting and smelling and sometimes chasing. If the approaching dogs are too big and too close, George has a lot to say. She’s very bossy. 

Running at full tilt down the path.

I have been to this park, the closest to my house, in rain, in snow, in cloudless summer skies. You can hear traffic from all sides, but then there’s a meadowlark declaring its territory in song. People say hello or nod, and we go back to our circular paths, worn to dirt from all the walking. The scent of fall is subtle but a hint under our feet.