verge (vʉrj)
the edge, brink, or margin (of something): also used figuratively the verge of the forest, on the verge of hysteria

to tend or incline (to or toward)
to be in the process of change or transition into something else; pass gradually (into) dawn verging into daylight

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dog Walker Tip #1

Avoid walking under oak trees in the fall.  Or (if unable to avoid oak trees) wear a helmet.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


It took a full year for me to be able to walk past another Golden without crying a little.  Stickers died in June, 2005.  The timing was terrible but that's how it was--she had cancer, and she was old.  In the foreground, too much was happening and the noise of our lives was very loud.  In the background, Sticks grew more lame and less bright-eyed.  It was a quiet retreat, hardly discernible at first. When we noticed, she was already full of cancer.  It wasn't very long after that--maybe only three months--when she stopped eating, stopped wagging her tail, stopped trying to live.  I tried to reconfigure her symptoms into some other Thing and to attempt a casual step to the right of what was actually happening.  It was time, but not right now. Later maybe. Some other day.  Some other year, maybe. The vet gently brought me back to the present Stickers.  The next afternoon, I held her face in my hands, our foreheads pressed to each other's, and I felt her leave us.  I still have a tuft of her fur and her collar in a drawer next to my bed.  Her ashes are there too.  They'll eventually go with me, whenever and wherever I go.

In the past, I always wanted a next dog, and I wanted it at once.  I love the anticipation that comes with swinging open the side door and knowing that I will be greeted with enthusiasm and warmth.  Anticipation. Such a hopeful and friendly feeling. A gift in itself, if you pay attention to it.  After Caleb, I had to have the next dog and right then, and so I launched an intense search  until I found Stickers, a 6 year old rescue living on a small farm in Western Massachusetts.  She had come from Arizona, the product of a divorce, and she needed a place where she could share her loving kindness.  When we met I knew instantly that we were a match.  She took to my side that day and never left it until that moment in the vet's office several years later.

After she left us, I needed to allow her echo to linger for as long as I could feel it. I couldn't make way for the next dog until her reverberations had grown silent.  It's hard to believe that it has now been four years.  Since then I have befriended many Goldens and I love the ways they remind me of her with their 'golden' kinks and quirks.  But I still do love her as if she never left.  I always will. It's effortless. Someday I'll have another dog, I'm sure. I entertain the idea, and that's where the next dog begins--with the idea. But love leaves an imprint that extends well beyond the physical.  All the memories and those unspoken understandings are still alive and still very nurturing.  Over time their intensities don't dull, but instead grow softer.

The reverberations....they still linger.  I love to listen for them and when they are felt, I savor the gift.  It helps me to remember that goodbye is simply a perspective.  I am learning to anticipate change with the same affection and peace that I anticipated in constancy.

Sticks and I still walk together.  Just not to the eye.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Jasper is Diane's cat.  A loyal companion, his way of tending to her is very dear.  The other day Diane was running a fever and had a hard time getting warm.  Despite the down comforter she had rolled around her, she still shivered within her cocoon.  Jasper knew to slip under the covers and position himself on her belly.  This seemed to help and they spent a quiet night together, sharing warmth and time.

The next day it was evident that Jasper's care had helped to improve Diane's appetite and she was able to enjoy some soup and really good, strong coffee.  As we sat at her kitchen table, we watched her backyard birds dancing from feeder to feeder.  The sun was bright and the sky was full of the impending fall. Jasper sat alongside of us, folding himself into a tidy and compact pillow of quiet assurance and support.  For a little while, he sat squarely in front of me looking right at me, his eyes a deep and restful green.  His gaze on me was so focused that I almost shied away from looking so directly into it, but as I allowed myself to meet him, I felt his trust and understanding.

We have someone in common.  Diane.  We share an affection for her and an enjoyment in hearing the stories she tells of her parents and her sons.  Jasper's an attentive listener and faithful dinner partner.  I'm glad to share my visits with him and I especially appreciate his steadfast presence and readiness to share his warmth.  Jasper sticks close by and knows his role.  I look forward to more visits and more stories with the two of them as fall arrives.  Friends for life, Jasper and Diane.

'Scape Goat

I know, I know.  This is a goat, not a dog.  But he's cute, right?  I think so, but then again I have a soft spot in my heart for goats.  That's because I'm a goat's milk soap person.  Not to reveal any idiosyncrasies (problematic or not), but it's the only kind of soap I'll buy or use.  But that's not why Buck's here in the blog.

I was walking Artemis and Biscuit a few weeks ago and we were on our usual route.  Groton is a suburban town and our idea of a main road is a two-laner that has a stop sign every third or fourth mile and very few side streets that aren't dead ends or unpaved.  But the speed limit on this particular route is 35 miles per hour which makes it one of our bigger main roads.  We don't stay on this road for long before we veer off onto the trails because every seven or eight minutes a car (or two!) may zoom by going 40 mph and for two dogs and a walker also sharing the pavement, well, all kinds of unpleasant things could happen.

As we were heading down the main route for the trails, out of nowhere came Buck the Goat, running at full throttle straight from a short paved dead end towards the big road.  The dogs and I were stopped dead in our tracks in a collective stupor as we watched this goat running in 36 directions at once, looking both exhilarated and utterly freaked out with his freedom.  As he went running towards the Really Big Road ('really big' signifies a road with double yellow lines down the center), he seemed to be shouting "I'm free, I'm free" yet answering himself with "What in the hell?  What in the hell?" clearly not know whether he was coming or going, and way in over his own um, horns.

The dogs and I knew this goat was a gonner if he wasn't stopped and immediately returned to his home.  Having never been involved with escaped goats I figured I should call the police to let them know Buck's whereabouts and the direction in which he was headed.

"Hi Police, It's Alice over here on Big Road.  Just thought you'd be interested in knowing that there's a goat running right down the middle of Big Road (and not in a straight line, I might add) towards Really Big Road.  Just thought you'd want to know".

"Uh-huh.  Who's this again?"

"Alice.  Alice, Artemis and Biscuit."


"So, that's all.  Just thought you should know."


"Just in case you're looking for him".


"Or if anyone calls you looking for him".


"So now you know his location."

"Yup.  Thanks for calling."

"Yeah, wasn't sure if that's the kind of thing you guys like to know about but anyway, [click] just thought I should call".


"Hello?  Hello???"

They must already be on it, I told Artemis and Biscuit.  Artemis gave me a doubtful look but I assured her that you always call the police to let them know about escaped goats.  "Just listen.  Any minute you'll hear sirens", I promised.

Well, minutes went by, followed by more minutes.  No sirens, no blue lights. Assuming they were sending out their undercover agents and using unmarked cars, I decided help their efforts by posting this news on the local listserv, alerting surrounding neighbors of Buck's break out.  Sure enough, the posts began to follow for the rest of the night. "Yup! There's a goat on the Smith's front steps", was one report. "I just saw a goat running towards the golf course", said another.  Eventually a post was sent from Lisa proclaiming herself as Buck's farmer and caretaker, imploring folks to keep her posted on his whereabouts.  She also stressed that this was Buck's very first experience off the farm and that he may not know what to do exactly (understatement...).

According to the listserv the next morning, Buck spent the night in someone's yard and was returned home to his pen that morning, unharmed and with no visible signs of traumatic stress, thankfully.  The whole adventure was fun and quite suspensful for us, and we were very glad that the listserv was helpful in his safe return. It does takes a village.

I have decided to designate myself as Chief of 'Scape Goats" for the Police Department since I believe they may still be trying to solve the case.  I get the importance of undercover work and all, but sometimes it helps to use your media resources.

Say-- if you ever find yourself in Lisa's shoes and chasing a fella like Buck, just call me. Chances are,  I've got your goat.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Dogs of Provincetown

I spent the weekend in Provincetown recently.  If you've ever been there, you know the thrill of standing at the very tippy edge of Massachusetts.  I love that awareness.  All the rest of Massachusetts is that-a-way while the entire Atlantic is this-a-way. Such a thrill. It's also the tippy edge of all kinds of other things and you have to be the kind of person who enjoys living on the edge to fully appreciate its juxtaposition.  I love its outrageousness as much as I love its paradoxical non-chalance.  And if you're looking for tolerance and freedom, then go to P-town.  It's what the Pilgrims had in mind, I'm sure.

I went to cheer on Genilson who was to swim the Harbor for charity.  It was a chilly morning with a drizzle that felt more like late October than mid-September.  Genilson jumped into his wet-suit and very cheerfully said goodbye as he hopped the ferry to the lighthouse starting point.  [Genilson is perfect].  The rest of us huddled together on the beach trying to stay warm and dry, although not really succeeding at either.  While we very, very, very anxiously waited, a crowd grew (see foot note).  Not just a people crowd, but a dog crowd.  Big ones, little ones, short ones, tall ones.  Dogs with hoodies, dogs with bandanas, dogs in tote bags, dogs in buggies.  There were dogs who had no interest in the drumming or festivities and took naps, and there were others who barked in stern protest anytime anyone got a little too excited (speaking of Maeve...).  There was a Golden who stood in tail-deep water to cheer the racers as they made their way to shore.  Back and forth he went, greeting each swimmer with a high five and a wag of the tail.

There was one dog who stole the show and that was a small dachshund who showed everyone, including the swimmers, what determination is all about.  This little might-mite was going to show Massachusetts what erosion protection is supposed to look like, if it took him forever to do it.  'Big Digger' had found a rock that was half the size of his body on the water's edge and he knew that if he could get it moved to just the right spot, he could begin to redirect the damaging tides that routinely threaten Commercial Street.  Hell, not just Commercial street, but the entire Cape and probably the North and South Shores as well.  This little guy dug without rest for the entire morning.  The more he dug, the more the rock travelled.  Up the beach, down the beach, inlets here, inlets there.  Dams go up, dams come down. The rock gets buried, the rock gets lifted. Trenches to the east, trenches to the west.  Bite the rock, lick the rock, wrap it in sand, rinse it of sand.  Such a multi-layered project. While to laypeople like us it wasn't quite clear where exactly he was trying to direct this rock, what was clear was that he had a very detailed plan and method.  We become so engrossed in this project that we nearly missed Genilson as he hauled himself onto shore.  Fortunately, the Golden waved him in and we hustled to the finish line to welcome him home.  We were awfully glad to see him and to hear of his very cold and jellyfish-laden journey.

As the day went on, we met all kinds of dog-folk.  There were the tourist dogs who mostly stared and took pictures of the resident dogs, there were the shop-keeper dogs who lay on the floor and looked warily at you as they silently tick off the days until the season ends. There were the bull dogs with boas and pit-bulls with lipstick who chortled as we went by.  But my favorites were the two dogs on Conant Street who dance, laugh, and swim, and make the tippy edge seem so effortless and safe.

Think:  high seas, great white sharks, jellyfish, rip tides, Genilson non-chalantly not training for this....) No kidding.  Thus very x 3.

Otis, Making a Joyful Noise

Otis the kind of guy who cries during commercials.  You know the type.  Sensitive and thoughtful. In touch with his feelings.  And, he's big and strong.  Very strong. He's an Olympian ball fetcher who never tires, even when the ball is kaput and the thrower's arm has turned to mush.  When the ball comes out of the bag, Otis sounds his trumpet and sings his joyful song from the bottom of his toes to the top of his lungs.  His joy knows no limits--he sings for all to hear, whether it's 6am or 10 pm, and so the thrower learns to quickly get that ball launched to echo (or redirect) his happiness.

His athletic skills qualify him for the Majors.  If I were looking to win the Series, he'd be my shortstop.  No matter where you try to send the ball, he always finds a way to get under it and then rips it home.  Nothing gets past Otis.  In fact, he renders outfielders unnecessary.  And catchers, come to think of it.  He makes home deliveries--and for free.  After he delivers a fetch, he does a bit of a Papelbon-Riverdance-type victory dance.  The greats have their superstitions and rituals, and this is his.

Otis is with me this weekend and I must note that his manners are exceptional.  I would prefer to dine with Otis than some of the two-leggeds I know.  If he could, he would hold the door open for me but instead, he simply nods to say "After you", before we head outside.  This of course earns big points with me.  Other delightful quirks:  he oversleeps in the morning, he leans on my leg, he lays on his belly with his hind legs straight out behind him, he's afraid of the dishwasher, he carries his own leash.

He watched a movie with me last night.  While we watched, he snacked on a sweet potato chip made especially for dogs.  Sara, the daughter Poet in Residence/movie companion, and I both got curious about it--we love anything having to do with sweet potato--so we sniffed it and were seriously (and brazenly) tempted to split it with each other.  Otis patiently waited until we came to our senses and decided to give it back.  But it's so like him to be willing to share it with us.  Sweet Otis. We resumed the movie, Otis leaning against us both, the two of us wrapped in blankets to ward off the fall chill.  The house was still, the kitchen tidy, and the balls were tucked away for next morning's backyard drills.  The movie went very late and was a tear jerker.

Guess who cried.....

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Blog Paws

Recently the computers died here.  I was told they all needed a restore.  Ok, so, let's restore 'em, I thought.  Be nice to them, give them whatever they want, make them happy, just keep them going, I said to the guy.  I've got a blog to write, a Facebook page to maintain, you tubes to watch, a checking account to nurse, and weather to watch, after all. I had an inner panic that, through years of Red Sox 'situations', I've learned to ignore as a way of controlling the outcome, and to then ignore 'The Ignore' as a way to actually control 'The Ignore'. Amazingly, this often works, and this seemed like a worthwhile enough thing to ignore.


I had the Computer Guy come and do his thing.  As he sat with my laptop, he began to say things like:


"That's not good"

"Oh boy...oh boy."

"Not good.  Not good."

"Maybe this will work.  Let me try this.....nope, that's not gonna do it."

"Wow.  I hate computers"

"This isn't looking too good."

"Wow.  I've never seen a computer do this"

At which point I burst into tears and implored him to stop saying such evil things out loud.  The poor guy looked up and blinked, and when he saw I was really and truly crying, he got apologetic and sorry and all, and begged me not to worry.  He spoke in a kind of "Please slowly back away from that ledge, ma'am" voice and so I abruptly turned and went out to the porch where I just sat and sobbed.

It's just that I was already in full swing with another major Ignore Project--the close of summer, the letting go of beloved rituals, and the encroaching start of the academic year, and now here I was--on the verge of losing my whole entire network.  It was just suddenly too much.

And then indeed, my worst fears came true; everything was lost.  Gonzo.  Fried.  Sizzled.  Burned up and out.  DOA. No amount of Restore was going to fix anything.  No amount of Ignore would fix the unfixable.  I don't know why exactly, but right then and there, I just gave up. Just gave up. But I had no choice really.  And, in giving up, along came some new ideas, and some new help.  In short time, I acquired a new and fancy system that runs like a dream and practically changes my oil for me, and while I was settling in with this shiny new machine, I discovered that some of items on my previous Ignore Project have worked themselves out.  School has now started, I am resuming my blog, summer is fading but in a gentle way, the past rituals are replaced with periods of friendly quiet and open space, and thankfully, I am finding new ways of doing old things.

All it took was a little restore.

Mon Petit Choux

My Directors of Boarding are pleased to announce the appointment of Reilly as US Ambassador for Euro-Canine Harmony.  A winning personality compacted into a single boule de feu, Reilly will be heading to Paris this winter to charm our European partners and help nurture our growing trans-Atlantic relations.

Reilly has a personality that's almost human.  Many times she greets me at the door on her two back legs with her arms outstretched to welcome me.  With that she races to the back door so that we can salute the morning, punctuated by her little barques of bonjours et ca va-s to the birds and backyard flowers.

But Reilly isn't just happy.  That doesn't quite cover it.  She's organized.  I've looked and though I can't prove it, I'm sure she has a day planner--perhaps a blackberry--and she plans her day with order and accuracy.  We are always right on time.  Always.  I can count on her routine, and I do.  In fact, she's usually a step ahead, leading the way, but with such enthusiasm.  Sometimes I'm jealous of this!  Everything--every thing--is new and exciting, even the stuff that, in my eyes, is the same as it was yesterday.  The balls, the squeaky thing, the yard, my clothes, my same old greeting.  She never tires or rolls her eyes at me. If you're having a bad day, go home to Reilly.  She'll fix it.  You are already on her agenda.  You are her agenda.  She's waiting for you.

I was sitting with her this past week. It was an exceptionally beautiful morning and so we decided to do a couple downward dogs together near the flower bed.  Reilly being Reilly knew that this was a break in our usual routine but she did a quick switch-a-roo in her agenda and went with the flow to accommodate this little sidetrack.  On our third or fourth stretch, she decided it was time to wash my face (she did) and so we collapsed for a little belly rub and laugh.  That's when I knew that she would make a fine spokesperson in our Paris office.  She can join the club without taking herself too seriously.  And she will win over the hearts of France.

Vous me manquerez.