Tag Archive: Dog


Most mornings I wake up to the muted sound of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ filtering down from my housemate’s bedroom. It is such an iconic song, especially for my generation. Even after hearing it so frequently, I find myself thinking about the song’s message as I sleepwalk into the kitchen for my first cup of  tea of the day. For some reason, now lost to my faltering memory, I seem to recall taking issue with some of his words when I was younger. I can’t for the life of me recall what my reasoning was. I’ll just chalk it up to youth.

Actually, I think it was the idea of there being no heaven that struck a wrong note for me.

My grandfather died when I was 13. I was there in the hospital when he died and still remember hearing the words, “he’s gone.” In an instant my heart broke into pieces. I felt it. Pain beyond my understanding or experience. I did not think I would survive it. I almost didn’t.

The one faint hope I held onto to get through that horrible time was the idea of life after death — that I would see my grandfather (and others I have lost) once more. That he was truly gone for good was beyond my ability to process.

Is my belief in heaven an emotional crutch of some sort for me? Sure. I have no problem with identifying it as such. If I’m wrong and this is it, well, it’ll be a moot point by then. If I’m right…

I remember when a dog of mine that I loved very much had to be euthanized. She was 17 years old and in bad shape and I had probably delayed a little too long. But the day finally came when it felt like it was time. As I carried her into the vet’s office she turned to me and pressed her face against mine. For a moment we stayed like that, deeply connected. I have always felt that she knew what was happening and in that moment let me know it was okay. I held her as the drugs took effect and then like that her heart just stopped. One second it was beating, the next it was stilled.

It is a difficult concept to grasp that life exists one moment and then blinks out the next. That the sense, the unique quality, of a person or animal is there in all its complexity and then…it’s just gone. Where does it go, that individualized energy? Out into the universe? Transported to an afterlife existence beyond comprehension? The specifics seem to matter less as I grow older.

More and more I try to keep the focus on the moment, to live mindfully, to show up and be present in my own life. Although I was raised Catholic, I have questioned my faith for many years, moving towards a more inclusive, less judgemental mindset. I am intrigued by Buddhism. I don’t know much about its doctrine but I find great comfort in the practice of meditation.

Meanwhile, I continue to search, to question my beliefs, my assumptions, trying to find the answers that work for me.

I still believe in heaven and that my grandfather and my dog are there, sitting together in the sunshine.




Gazing out the window this morning I spotted two deer making their way through a neighbor’s yard. I wasn’t sure what deer clan they were part of. Generally I get to know the little groups that hang out around the house. But unless this is the remnants of the trio (Mom and two youngsters) that were around all summer I’ve no clue.

photo by amjwriter

The deer walked around the neighbor’s house, peered in a few windows and looked remarkably like they were casing the joint …watching them through binoculars I began to feel like a member of the local town watch. Finally they found what they had been looking for, a great spot protected by overhanging bushes and warmed by the sun. I’ve seen deer lying down in nearby yards before, though admittedly the first few times I was surprised and intrigued by how comfortable and safe they must feel here. No real dog threat to worry them, not at least on this side of the creek. Our dogs, I’m sure, annoy them no end, piling out the backdoor as they do, racing down the fence line, barking all the way. But they are not vicious dogs and are small enough that the deer seem to view them with amusement at times. At one point this summer there was a casual get together of a number of deer under the apple tree. One of the dogs was snugged up to the fence quietly watching them when a young fawn started over to her. We watched absolutely spellbound as the fawn hesitated, retreated and then approached again. This particular dog is very friendly and was quite likely to lick the fawn if it got close enough. In the meantime the matriarch of the group was keeping a vigilant eye on all this and was also aware of us sitting on the deck watching quietly. She apparently had our number as she paid us little mind. She  finally stepped in and intervened when the fawn got a little too close for her comfort. The group gathered round and moved up the hill. Cocktail hour was over.

Today, the two deer settled into their first-class accommodations for some quiet time. The smaller deer was curled up in a ball with head buried in its fur while the bigger one watched the surroundings for a while, ears pricked forward, listening…Gradually the ears eased back, the deer’s eyes relaxed to half-mast then closed. It was a beautiful and peaceful scene.

A short while later I glanced out the window to check on them and they were gone.

photo by amjwriter


The dog wakes me out of a sound sleep at 4 am. Stumbling, grumbling, definitely up there on the cranky meter, I yank on coat, boots and grab a flashlight. We clump down the stairs and into the night. I sweep the flashlight hoping to avoid skunks and other creatures on the prowl. Quietly but forcefully, I suggest to the dog that she ‘just do it.’ Is that where Nike people got the idea for their iconic campaign? From some poor schlub standing outside in the middle of the night, sleepy, shivering, hissing at their dog who is blissfully nosing about in the grass ‘Do it! Just do it!’

Success. She pees and poops, a double-header. We turn to go in and finally, finally I look up.

The sky is breathtaking. I stand there awestruck at the sight. So many stars…I look for my favorite constellations (the only ones I actually know) and feel comforted when I spot them. They orient me to this time and place.

How often over the years have I been transfixed by the beauty of the night sky? My earliest memories of stargazing come from when I was a small child visiting relatives in the Adirondacks…with no ambient light from nearby cities, the number and brilliance of stars overhead was a revelation.

In adolescence, I looked up at the stars seeking answers, escape…yearning for a more peaceful, more fulfilling life. Wanting…more…just more.

During college I often used to sit outside at night, usually after the breakup of one relationship or another and soothe myself with thoughts of constancy and ‘this too shall pass.’ I imagined all the people throughout the ages who looked for comfort, for direction, under these very same stars.

There are those who feel that knowing too much about the world around us diminishes the experience, takes away from the wonder. The idea that there can a downside to knowledge or the quest for knowledge baffles me. The images from the Hubble for instance did not detract from my appreciation of the universe. Just the opposite. I was amazed and excited at those glimpses of a life far beyond what we now know.

Understanding how a natural process works isn’t akin to revealing the man behind the curtain. It isn’t like dialing down the colors of the universe from hundreds to just a few. It is, in the end, an act of love to want to learn all we can about our world.

The true magic, the authentic wonder, is in the knowing.

The groundhog (Marmota monax) is a rodent of t...

Image via Wikipedia

Time for me to stop talking to the wild animals I encounter in and around my backyard. I’ve had a couple of weird encounters recently that have led me to believe that they are becoming entirely too comfortable with me.

There was the baby bunny who sat noshing on weeds just a few feet from me as I trimmed some bushes. I did talk to the bunny as I worked. I think I may have commented on the weather and what a nice bunny he is…you know, the usual. Every once in a while he would get a pensive look on his face and I thought that he was about to critique my pruning job. But no… We spent a few peaceful minutes in each other’s company as I worked, basking in the autumnal sunshine.

Then there was the groundhog. If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know that this creature has created problems for us before, choosing, as he has, to make his home base under the shed. Of course that drives the dogs crazy. A few months ago we had a bad incident when they chased him and then got stuck under there. Frantically I tried to get them out. I was especially scared as it was a very hot day and I only heard one dog whimpering, then…silence. I couldn’t reach them and was pulling off sideboards and digging with all my might. My fear, aside from how hot it might be in the burrow, was that the groundhog was in there with them and there had been a terrible battle. I really thought I might have lost them. Thank God I was able to corral a neighbor to help out and he did a masterful job of breaking through the shed floor. The dogs were in there alone, dusty, scared and shell-shocked. But safe and unharmed.

So you can see why spotting a groundhog in the backyard was not a thrill for me. I left the dogs inside and approached it hoping to scare it out of the yard. He watched me get closer and I admit my steps slowed as I realized he wasn’t going to go easily.  A few yards from him he did finally make a run for it…actually more of a slow, ambling mosey. I followed him around the yard urging him to leave, wanting to see if he was headed back under the shed. I felt more than a little foolish as it was a very, very  slow pursuit on my part.  Finally he found a hole in the fence he could squeeze his considerable girth through. After a final frenzied look back at me he kind of just tumbled out of the yard. Unfortunately there is no doubt in my mind that he will be back.

 And then there is the deer family who hangs out next door. They are becoming just a little too familiar and jaded for    my liking. I don’t want them thinking humans are safe…I don’t want any of our wilder visitors to feel that way. On    the other hand I do tend to talk to the deer when I see them by the apple tree. Especially when there are fawns with    them.

Anyway, late one afternoon I was doing dishes when I spotted the parent deer in our backyard. As I slipped quietly  outside I realized that there were actually 4 deer in our yard and two fawns lying down in the next yard.

The fawns’  presence was what made this encounter take a  different  turn. Instead of running away as usual the parent deer  faced  me full on and stamped her foot. I was a little taken aback. Could she hurt me? She didn’t have any antlers but still if she ran over me or knocked me down…I wasn’t sure. I mean deer are  prey animals right? She should have been long gone before I even got close. But no, here she was stamping her foot at me again, for emphasis. I told her I meant no harm but  she wasn’t  buying it. I eventually backed down since I didn’t want any of the deer family to get hurt in a panicked rush for safety. Let me clarify, that would be their panicked rush, not mine. However, I did retreat back into the house  and was greeted at the door by the dogs who clearly though I was a wuss of the highest order. I thought about explaining to them, but nah…

This evening I leashed the dogs and started to take them into the backyard when I spotted one of the neighborhood deer wandering around next door. This particular deer is usually alone and has a perpetually worried look about him. I imagine his inner dialog to sound a bit like Woody Allen (the earlier comedic genius version). So I thought I would give him a few minutes to feast on the neighbor’s apple tree without being disturbed by canines making rude comments.

I led the now protesting dogs (who had been awakened from their daylong naps and were cranky) through the house and opened the front door. A small bunny was sitting on the sidewalk chewing away on some foliage.

Right  there on the sidewalk, not ten feet from where I stood. For a brief moment I felt trapped by good intentions. Then I closed the door leaving the bunny in peace and pulled the now seriously pissed dogs through the garage and out onto the driveway — mercifully free of wildlife.