Dog Stories

I recently met a big dog while at a craft fair when he broke loose from his home to come join the party. He roamed freely through people and booths, happily slobbering and shedding on everyone. When he reached us, he leaned heavily onto my lap, tongue hanging, full of dog joy in all its no-manners-no-shame-no-guilt glory. He obviously cared nothing for the fact that he wasn’t obeying leash laws.

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Luke, the worrier of the family

When the owners found him, he didn’t want to leave the party. He flopped, boneless, to the ground, refusing to move. They tugged, they pleaded, they lifted portions. Nothing worked. He was a limp rag. Until someone came with treats. Then he agreed to go home. Since I wasn’t the dog owner, I found it hilarious. I hope to meet him again.

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Canine soul-mate aka Strider

He reminded me of an old dog named Jack who freely roamed the town. If someone was walking their dog on a leash, he went along. If kids were out on recess, he joined them in the playground. If there was something interesting going on at the town hall, he’d show up to watch. And if there was traffic, he’d lay in the middle of the road to keep an eye on who was going where. He was also the dog who sat in the woods and rain with me when our own dog was lost; a story some of you have heard.

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Jack and his kids

This past weekend I watched an older lady making her way down the road with a daschund mix draped over her shoulders. She struggled with balancing him and as I watched, he began to slide. I caught him just as he was hanging, suspended by his collar and leash, down her back. Once on the ground he was full of energy, dancing around and getting attention.

She told me he’d been exhausted moments earlier and she’d had to carry him in order to make it home. As she walked away I heard her say ‘If you’re so full of piss and vinegar, you can just walk, mister.’

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Escaped the fence and then didn’t know what to do

That reminded me of two very old, fat dogs my parents had. I would take Jello and Moose for walks and they did fine going, but as soon as I turned around and they realized the walk was over, they would collapse. I’d end up walking home with one sausage under each arm. They never did lose weight.

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Jello before he grew up and got fat

There was the terrified dog in the woods that several of us spent weeks hiking food to before it trusted us enough to follow us out.

There were the two Border Collies sitting on the side of the road in the pouring rain, next to a fifty-pound bag of dog food, patiently waiting for someone, anyone, to explain why their person had just dumped them in the middle of the woods. We found a home for them.

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Sorka – who broke the rescue agency’s record for how long a dog needed a behavioral therapist

There was the terrified dog hiding under our cabin. When we showed up, she charged out with full body wiggles, and you could almost hear her shouting ‘Hello! I’m yours!’. She joyfully lived with friends for many years.

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The puppy, Maggie, sitting on Sorka. Yes, a puppy. Maybe 6 months.

I remember an ancient, fossilized Yorkie with no teeth and collapsed joints so it walked on its elbows rather than paws. His owner was an elderly woman who had been in a car accident. We were on the fire department and the old thing was under the car when we arrived. He went home with us until the family came to get him, and in spite of being old and smelly and decrepit, he was happy and sweet. He was so well-preserved he’s probably still around.

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Goofy Vaila with her big ears

So many, many dogs have been in our lives. Some staying, some just passing through. I could easily continue on with these stories. Dogs uncouth, misbehaving, disobedient, peeing on stuff, shedding on everything, barking, pulling on leashes, rolling in dead salmon, eating nasty stuff, farting with blissful disregard, scratching, licking themselves in private areas in public places…I keep saying ‘no more!’.

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Strider again, not quite a year old

But…life would be so dull without them.

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Luke and Arthur…photo chewed by Luke

The Balm of Time

I’m waiting for snow to melt so I can go foraging for cottonwood buds with a friend. The plan is to then let them steep for eight-to-twelve months, to make Balm of Gilead. Yep, almost a year. There’s a faster way where a crock pot can be used, but I like the idea of letting time do its thing.

Kind of like I write. Year three and just finishing revising the first draft.

I’m not normally slow in all things. But some things need time. Or at least patience.

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Time flows like a river…with a big happy dog splashing in it

It took me thirty years to make it back to Scotland, to friends I love and places I also love. Yes, that’s a bit extreme, but hey, those thirty years actually went pretty fast. Twenty-three of them were spent completely enamored watching a little lump of baby grow to a nice young man.

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A rose between two thorns? My husband’s sister took this photo which is why he’s sticking his tongue out…somethings you never outgrow.

I’ve spent ten years messing around with a couple little cancer bouts, taking my time to radiate and barf and then recuperate. The oncologist last week was thrilled with the latest blood work but not so thrilled, apparently, with other things we talked about.

Like grief.

You know, one of those things that people mistakenly say ‘takes time’ when in reality it’s there forever. She suggested I see a counselor and said that people who have been through cancer can have PTSD, and that maybe current grief is a trigger for deeper grief from those angry, sad, post-radiation years.

No thanks. Cancer treatments weren’t that bad, didn’t take that long, and were probably harder on my family than on me. I can see how they might have PTSD from putting up with me slamming doors and joyfully learning how to cuss.

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She used to think her name was G*d-d*mn-it and would happily come running whenever I said it.

Think I’ll try acupuncture instead. I’ve done that before and it’s wonderful. And it takes time. And it’s something that’s been around a long, long, long time. When I did it before, I had time to step away from the rush of the day, to float with stories, to let go.

But in the meantime, here we are, watching life fly by way too fast. Trees were just dropping their leaves yesterday and now they are budding. Where did winter go? Now we move into spring and growing and renewing. Until tomorrow when it will be hot summer days, and the next day when it will be cool fall. That’s what it seems like anyway.

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Time flies, even when it moves slowly.

And so many things never change. When you realize how fast years have gone, you wonder what you’ve done to fill all that time. You wonder if you’ve wasted time. You wonder how to slow it down. You wonder how to fill the time left with meaning.

And then you realize time has flown while you ponder those things.

So you heave a big sigh, get your basket, and wander out into the woods for cottonwood buds.

And for that moment at least, life will slow down until it becomes just you and the tiny buds of a new spring in your hands.

Time between your fingers.

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Sun dogs taken by my husband where he works.

Dog Dreams In Clouds

I have an active imagination that translates to dreams. I can even control them. I’ll think about a story I want to have a part in, and dream it. If I have a nightmare, I’ll lay there and think, ‘but if this happened, and that happened…’, go back to sleep and have a great story.

But one night I had an extremely vivid dream, even for me. Just a scene, really. I sat on our couch, squished against one end because my Irish Wolfhound, Strider, was also there. Wolfhounds take up couches. And beds. And floor space. And block the television and steal food from counters.

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And look you right in the eye. After all, I’m short and they’re tall.

In the dream, Strider’s head was on my lap and I was running my hand over and over his rough-coated fur, crying. Hard. Because he’d been gone for a few years and I missed him, but also because I knew it was a dream. I wasn’t going to wake up with my dog soul-mate back in my life.

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The dream stayed with me, just as vivid. His fur under my hand had been so real. The weight of his head on my lap. Those copper penny eyes looking up at me. Even now I get teary remembering the dream.

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Then came the hot summer day when I’d been working outside. That evening I knew I’d be sore the next day so I went out to the hot tub. While soaking, clouds moved in over the mountains. And there he was. This huge cloud shaped like a wolfhound. Like he leaped from the top of the mountain into the sky where the stars were coming out, his tail streaming behind him.

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I’ve never been one to see shapes in clouds. Someone will say ‘oh look, it’s a dragon!’ and I’ll think ‘looks like a cumulus cloud to me’.

A friend pointed out later that I was probably dehydrated. Hot day, sweating, sitting in a hot tub. Seeing things. I suppose she was right. But it reminded me of that dream.

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So I mentioned the dream to another friend. She said it sounded like Strider was finally ready to transition and had come to tell me goodbye. Well, that made me cry. Still makes me teary.

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Anyway, I’m pragmatic. I don’t believe in life after death. If anything, I think we’re bags of energy that dissipate wherever energy goes. I don’t believe in religions. I think they were man’s first attempts at creating a moral code.

But here’s the thing.

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That dream was so vivid.

And since then, I always see faces and creatures in the clouds. Lots of them. Even when I’m not in the hot tub, dehydrated. I find myself looking for them, silently telling them hello.

I think Strider is out there with them, running free.

 

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