Oct 292019
 

boxer dog faceUntil Alex came along, I’d never once had the urge to put a dog in a dress. It’s neither dignified nor necessary. Too anthropomorphic for me. And besides, for more than two decades I have lived in places that don’t have trick-or-treaters.

Last year was different but, then again, so is Alex. A mellow, white, deaf dog sandwiched between two intense German Shepherd ladies, he provides relief. He’s funny. And calm. We need him around here. And sometimes we underestimate his depth. Last Halloween was a case in point.

It’s still hard to give context to a week of bomb threats through the mail, a shooting at a supermarket, and a massacre in a temple while people worshipped. I can’t. It’s still beyond my ability to comprehend. Grief. Sadness. Rage. Helplessness. I didn’t know how to feel, never mind what to do.

It’s still hard to give context to a week of such overwhelming violence. I can’t. Click To Tweet

Frenzy in the News, Red Sox & a Dog in a Dress

The week wore on and the news had folks in a frenzy. Despite doing much of my work online, I minimized time on social media. The world was far too crazy and I was making my best effort to close it out. To read. To meditate. To think things through. As a lifelong New Englander the world series of baseball provided a welcome distraction.

Of course watching the news wasn’t a great idea, either. Sometimes I’m still naive enough to think that information aides in understanding. It often does. But this time the news — regardless of the leanings of the outlet — bordered on hysterical. More guns. Less guns. Armed guards. Arm the teachers. Don’t leave the house. Politicians can’t fix it. Politicians all lie. Love is the answer. Fight back. F*ck it. Numb. Confused. Heart-broken for strangers. Worried about area first responders. Who’s got the answers?

For me, on this day, it turned out to be a dog in a dress.

F*ck it. Numb. Confused. Heart-broken. Who's got the answers? For me, on this day, it turned out to be a dog in a dress. Click To Tweet

Honey I Lost the Dog

The dogs love it when Favorite Husband and I settle in for a movie or a ballgame. They snooze and cuddle and cruise for snack remnants on the floor. Alex, my goofy little boxer boy, usually cuddles up with my feet — it helps him know when I leave the room. So looking around and not white dog on back smilingfinding him was a bit unsettling. Unfortunately, finding him did little to put my anxiety to rest.

To enjoy the newly cooler weather we had been leaving the front door open to the screen. There he was: nose to screen, wagging his entire little butt end like crazy. He was watching our usually quiet street like a movie. There were fire engines and multi-jurisdictional police departments represented by cars that lined the streets flashing bright strobes of various colors. There may even have been an ambulance or two. I don’t know. I didn’t go out. The police vehicles carefully blocking each neighborhood driveway were a clear enough message: stay put.

It felt as if the news had come way too close to home and I didn’t like it a bit.

Multi-jurisdictional police cars with their blinding strobes. It felt as if the news had come way too close to home and I didn't like it a bit. Click To Tweet

 

Welcome to the Neighborhood, It’s Not Always Like This

I know most of my neighbors but there were a few recent arrivals. We knew there were little kids in the house diagonally across and that nobody seemed speak English. At first I didn’t understand the feeling of urgency  attached to my need to meet them but chaos around the country made me want to do something special. Something welcoming.

Sometimes the internet is wonderful.

Have you heard of “booing”? Apparently it’s a cross between Secret Santa and reverse trick-or-treating. And while much of our neighborhood was not ready for the full “boo” experience, Favorite Husband and I decided to try some creative outreach to our newcomers. While he went out to buy a plastic a plastic pumpkin head and some goodies, I dressed Alex the boxer in his Halloween finest: a tutu left over from a year or two before.

Boo, a tutu, and a fine how do you do... Click To Tweet

Boo, a Tutu and How Do You Do

dog with pink tutu around his neck

When we headed off to deliver the goods, he somehow knew it was different from a regular walk. There was no sniffing or wandering. In a delightful contrast to his froufrou, Alex strutted, with head up and chest out, down the middle of our rarely-traveled street. He was a dog on a mission.

And his bravado was well received. Two preschoolers, a young teen, an infant and their surprised mother got quiet for a moment as we turned up their driveway. Then came the giggles. And the smiles. Some Spanish. Some English. A plastic pumpkin head full of candy.

And the most special part of all: love from a dog in a dress.

Mar 062019
 

All set to write a number of blog posts, I suddenly felt as if I’d run into a wall. And, I was going pretty fast when I hit that wall. The wind had been knocked out of me and everything felt like a tremendous effort to do something that normally brings me joy. If I were a person who believed in writers’ block, I imagine this is how it would feel.

If I were a person who believed in writers' block, I imagine this is how it would feel. Click To Tweet

But, since I’m not a big believer, I kept my fingers moving. The results were ugly. I was in a foul mood. Pissed off. Angry. Frustrated.  About what? Pretty much everything: child abuse and sexual assault and racism and prejudice toward the LGBTQ community.

I was in a foul mood -- about too many things. Click To Tweet

One way to deal with such an honest but ugly picture is to step away from the project so I decided that reading might be a better option. I picked up one of the many books I’d purchased at recent book festival trips. Unfortunately, that moved the mood meter even further down: my heart broke for the authors who had gone through the joy and hard work of publishing a book but appeared to have cut corners on the use editors and proofreaders. While these writers might have great stories and experiences to share, their credibility is gone. In the first three pages.

While these writers might have great stories and experiences to share, their credibility is gone in the first three pages. Click To Tweet

At that point, I was tempted to call it a day but had an in-person appointment in my home office: it’s not easy to get away from those.

There was a knock on the office door. Actually, it was more like a loud “thud.” A thud that was strong enough to open the door and let the puppy roll in. Literally, roll. She’s not too good on her feet yet.

The sun had come out and I wanted her to be able to come in and out without having to bang on the door so I got up to prop it open.

She shot past me, back into the yard. The big dogs were waiting and so started a vigorous game of bounce, pounce, and zoom. Rolling in the herbs, digging in the sandpit, playing “kill me.” Then they’d all drop down, take a breather, and start racing again. I was witnessing pure joy. It touched my heart and lifted my spirit.

The big dogs were waiting and so started a vigorous game of bounce, pounce, and zoom. Click To Tweet

And, in the face of pure joy, nothing else matters.

 

Nov 212018
 

Hi, my name is Lazarus Jones, and I’m a dog. Actually, I used to be a dog. Now I’m a dead dog. And, yes, I’m talking to you from the other side.

Apparently, some people don’t like to read books about dogs because in the book we always die. Well, duh. Newsflash: our species doesn’t live as long as yours. Sorry. I don’t mean to sound rude, but I don’t like hearing that. After all, if that’s logical then so is the idea that people shouldn’t “get” dogs. Or, that we shouldn’t eat cookies because, unless you’re a labberdog, at some point you gotta stop. There are lots of things in humanish that still baffle me… that’s why I decided to write this book.

What? A dead dog writing a book? How can that be?

Actually, it’s pretty simple. In my case, once I got here, I got turned into a moose. Oh, wait… that’s not the right word. Muse. That’s it. That means I can put stories into humans, or at least into one particular human. Cool, huh?

Here’s the thing. It is true that humans outlive their dogs and, believe you me, we are deeply sorry for that. In fact, several of us are circulating a petition to Dog Almighty to see if we can get that clause changed. In the meantime, we’re all stuck with the way it is.

Those of you who are very fluent in doggish know this: that the one-way trip to the veterinarian is not always the end. Some of us have figured out how to stay with you and a few of you are learning how to notice the messages we send. You need to find out more about this. But first? People keep asking how I got here.

Those of you who are very fluent in doggish know this: that the one-way trip to the veterinarian is not always the end. Click To Tweet

At first, when the police and the lady with the papers came to save my baby human from the drug house, I was happy all over… until I realized they weren’t going to let me go with her. When they said “animal control”… I took a deep breath, pushed past them and bolted as fast as I could, directly into the path of a fast moving vehicle. I knew the driver wouldn’t be able to stop and I’d be on my way back to my baby much sooner this way.

Remember those churches that did all that hateful stuff and said Dog Almighty told them to do it? Ever since then, it has been against the rules for us to give out too many details but, I’ll do my best.

When I got to the other side, the first order of business was to meet with one of the Minder Dogs to get sorted.

Oh. I forgot. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a human, and you might be worried about sorting. Don’t. There’s no wrong way to connect with Dog Almighty, and there’s no hot, torture place that’s any worse than a Florida theme park in July. Sorting puts us in the right classes so we can be more effective if we’re lucky enough to get another ride on the earthy-go-round.

The Minder Dog looked at my record and sighed.

“Wow. Advanced Decision-Making and Intermediate Impulse Control. It looks like you had decent grades in both of those courses — until the final exam.”

So she paired me up with Mally. The last time he had a body he was working as a police dog. Maybe that’s why he asked so many questions.

“Do you think humans can picture themselves here?” he asked.

“I think they spend a lot of time pondering about it,” I replied, “Especially as they get older.” I stretched, taking up more space on the couch. “I wonder what they’d think of this part.”

“You mean the Watching of the Loved Ones? I’ll bet even if they can imagine it, they would think about looking in on birthdays and holidays. Especially the Meat Holidays,” he said. A bubble formed on his lip. It shimmered briefly before turning into a full-blown stream of drool.

I knew that different breeds of people had different Meat Holidays, but I think Mallie and I had only incarnated in North America. He sometimes kidded me that being a retriever was responsible for my choice of the Turkey Day as my favorite.

I knew that different breeds of people had different Meat Holidays, but I think Mallie and I had only incarnated in North America. Click To Tweet

My mind drifted from the Meat Holidays to my favorite episodes. I would watch them again and again if I could. And, camped out here in Eternity, this was not such a far-fetched idea, was it?

“Jones?”

Apparently, I’d missed a question from my bestie.

“Huh?”

“Remember the time we watched your girl Bethany bite that kid on the playground? I forget… Why’d she do that?”

He knew. He was just trying to help me focus.

“It was right after she got ‘dopted, wasn’t it?” Mally asked, bonking me with his muzzle.

“Yeah. She was so excited about being furever with her Grandma that she bounced and yapped like a terrier, didn’t she?”

We both grinned. I continued.

“Then Connor Bienemann from the 3rd grade made fun of her. Said Grandma wasn’t a real parent and that her ‘doption was just a longer foster placement.”

“She shoulda bit him harder. And maybe on the neck,” said the former K-9. “I still can’t believe they quarantined her for such a small bite.”

“I know, I know. We sporting dogs are soft on crime.” I laughed a little. “Besides, it wasn’t quarantine, silly. I think it’s called the pal’s office.”

Remembering the connection to my person was helping me feel a little less homesick. Mal had one more question for me.

“Which time is your favorite?” he asked softly. “Which one made you most grateful we have the Watching of the Loved Ones?”

I was lucky. Our bond was strong, and I had seen many moments of her life. I watched her flash her girlie parts while she pointed and stared at the south pole of her favorite boy. I knew she always stood up for smaller kids, tried to help stray animals, liked vanilla ice cream and wasn’t quite right unless there was a dog nearby. But my favorite moment? Mally knew, and he wanted me to keep it firmly in mind.

“Tell it again, “ he insisted.

As much as Bethany loved her Grandma, her first reaction to moving in was much as it had been each time she’d gone into a stranger’s house. Quiet. Cooperative but wary. She didn’t sleep much but, unlike other little ones her age, didn’t complain about it either. She watched the world around her. I always thought she was looking for me, so I was grateful to have a collie… a colleague on the ground with her. I saw my girl make friends with Grandma’s dog and sneak extra food to share. I was a little jealous but happy to see a fellow dog do a good job. And my girl? She was better off with him there.

“It was a regular day in the middle of the week,” I started.

Mal looked at me expectantly, vibrating like he was about to go for a ride in a cop car.

“Bethany, her Grand, and The Collie had just finished dinner…”

“And???”

“And Bethany went to her room to play with a book,” I said.

“And why is that your favorite?” my dear friend asked.

“Because she didn’t take food from the table to hide in her room,” I said softly. “She had started to believe she would be fed every single day. She felt a little safer and, soon after? She stopped crying into The Collie.”

Mallie and I were quiet, appreciating the enormity of the event.

“That Collie’s a good one… but still I think I could have stopped her from biting that Bienemann kid.”

Sep 252018
 

Not long ago, I was chatting with a friend online and mentioned that I was getting ready to take Bella (my German Shepherd senior citizen) on an adventure. When asked what sort of an adventure I planned to enjoy with my dog, I told her we were either headed for Starbucks’ patio or the Pet Supermarket. If memory serves, that’s when she changed the subject.

I understand that a trip to the patio at a coffee shop or a place that sells gerbils and dog toys is not everyone’s idea of an adventure. Then again, not everyone gets to go to these places with Ms. Bella, Princessa of German Shepherdness. (That’s her official, royal title.)

A trip to the patio at a coffee shop or a place that sells gerbils and dog toys is not everyone's idea of an adventure Click To Tweet

An Affinity for Animals

My social media feeds are often over-loaded with animal videos. The vast majority of those are dogs. A lifelong animal lover, I’ve never questioned the intensity of that connection, but lately, I’ve given a bit of thought to what I get from that affinity.

I appreciate animals doing animal things and having animal adventures– housecats hunting, dogs guarding, and spiders wrapping up their unsuspecting prey. (As long as they do it outside. Apparently, I’ve not evolved enough to appreciate insects in the house. I don’t plan to.) As a newcomer to the South, I’ve discovered cicadas and am in love with their song. I want to learn everything there is to know about them.

I want to learn about the cicadas' song. Click To Tweet

Tiny Creatures, Big Responsibility

We don’t keep honey hives — I’ve never learned how — but have installed mason bee houses in the backyard. I was delighted to learn that our new home state is home to more than 300 varieties of bee and love watching their visits to the masses of wildish flowering plants scattered around the property.

You see, I’ve come to believe that adventures don’t have to be big, frightening and dramatic to be wonderful. Watching those spiders quickly disable and wrap their sometimes-larger prey fills me with a sense of awe. So does the work of the pollinators — and the fact that the future of our ability to feed our planet depends on these tiny creatures.

And outings with the Princess? She is curious about everything. Fearless. Enthusiastic. Joyful about new sights and sounds. She shows me — every single time — that the adventure is in the attitude.

 

 

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