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, November 27, 2009

A Poem About Turning 50

Woof woof woof.
Bark bark bark.
Howl, Howl.

Woof woof woof.
Bark bark bark.
Howl, Howl.

Woof bark howl
Howl bark woof.




Oh, Sniff....

Maeve Hits Her Mark (et al.)

Thanksgiving Day is the Magnum Opus of Corgi-hood.  Maeve, like Twyla Tharpe, choreographed the day with stunning success, bringing forth various textures, themes, tastes and tales with unparalleled artistry and verve.   A good corgi does this instinctively, but Maeve is a virtuoso, the Yo-Yo Maeve of her breed.  As her flock gathered for the day, Maeve whirled with poetic grace, greeting each new arrival with euphoric expectation while simultaneously managing more acrobatic maneuvers such as supervising the lifting of the turkey from its pan and onto the carving board, and catching crumbs before they hit the floor.  But Maeve's real magic took place beneath the surface, transcending the technical demands of the day and lasting well beyond.

Maeve's magic comes from knowing her charges and tending to the uniqueness of each one.   This flock is a diverse cast of flock-ees, a cacophony of rather contumaciously-infused characters (and that's putting it lightly).  There's Dave, who glides in on a blues riff, all jammin' and jivin' to the sound of ssssound. We have babes Molly and Nell, quiet, clever, and like, wickedly cool.  And then there's Genilson.  HelloGenilson (liquid in leather) whose warmth makes you believe he would hold your hand forever. Avery weaves time into gold and gold into a stunning web of silky loominosity while ever-generous Mark flew from Turkey (for turkey),  bringing exquisitely beautiful Mark-like soaps to his fellow flock-ees.

Maeve is most attentive to the senior members of the flock, the Nana and the Gramp, who require the most supervision and guidance.  While Nana has perfected the Art of Detail, it's hard to imagine where she would be without Maeve's steadfast presence in the kitchen at critical times.  Maeve watches ever so closely, studying each nuance of Nana's tone or gait and then with artistic genius she sets the stage for Nana and Gramp to tango (and tangle) in their own dance with the stars.   Maeve hovers over Gramp--he is her primary charge-- and only when she is sure he is safely settled in for his dinner or nap does she lean against him to admire her work. You know all is well when Maeve wraps around Gramp's feet.  That's how we know.

So the day unfolded and the magic happened.  We were all well fed and well heard.  We each turned a little older and a little better.  We took our time and we noticed each other. And as we all stood to leave, Maeve started her usual clamor, circling us and calling us each by name, shouting thank you for being here, thank you for coming!  And her spirited cheers were silently echoed deep in our hearts and memories, quietly woven into the fold.

Thank you, she says.  Thank you...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dog Walker Tip #5: Hunters Versus Divas

Tired of walking in the woods and dodging bullets?  Do your dogs pretend they don't know you when you put on your orange hunter-repellant vest and sweat pants?  Do the kids hide your favorite dog-walker-hunting-season cowbell?  Wishing you didn't have to walk commando-style against buildings and backyard fences?  I might have just the solution for you!

All too often I encounter weapon-wielding characters (in poorly styled and fitted camouflage, I might add) while I'm out there trying to just do my job.  Though I do limit my time in the woods during this annual shoot-fest, there are still times that the woods call to me just a bit persistently and I can't overcome the urge to go.  This causes a great dilemma:  how to walk the trails while maintaing Diva standards of style, and also live to tell about it?

The issue has caused great controversy over the years.  Hunters love to hunt.  Dog Walkers love to dog walk.  But neither group is all too happy to see each other out there on the same playground.  Last week I cheerfully chirped hello to a man-shaped silhouette standing in a tree over my head.  I took it from his silent-treatment of me that he was a little irked by my presence.

The issue at hand is how to walk safely while maintaining fashion dignity.  For some reason, Day-Glow orange seems to bring out the worst in designers.  From New York to Paris, it's hard to find anything that is capable of alerting hunters while also speaking to your inner Diva.  In an effort to uphold high fashion standards for my profession, I have resorted to designing my own little number (from my 2009 Fall Dog Walker Hunting Season Collection).  This lovely swing-style reversible cape drapes well and clasps with velcro tabs.  It can double as a saari and is machine washable.  Although not completely bullet-proof, hunters will see you coming and notice the good fit and freedom of movement this garment offers.  Even better, deer, ducks, and pheasants will love seeing you arrive and will cheer your visibility.

Hunting season need not be so controversial.  With a little fashion make-over, dog walkers might not  own the woods, but compared to our camouflaged counterparts, we set your sights.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dogtorate Degree: The Art of the Paws

I am a card-carrying, licensed dog walker.  Most people probably could have grabbed a leash, fetched a dog, and slapped a business card on the cafe bulletin board to earn the same credentials.  But I'm a slower learner, and I have a tendency to take the most indirect route possible, usually landing far off from where I intended.  If I had a dime for each time I've wondered how I got here, I'd be walking with dogs in Ipanema, Taormina, Costa Rica or Argentina.

For whatever reason, I was born with only 2 buttons: Stop and Fast Forward.  I lack the standard-issue Pause button which turns out to be an essential tool for dog walkers.  [And, as a side note, I can't quite prioritize tasks either.  When I first get home at night, I (still) chaotically shout hello, drill through the mail, start the rice, check Facebook updates while texting my boss, and go piddle (dog walker-ese for pee) all at the same time, creating quite the spectacular frenzy. This is where a Pause button would come in handy.]  Instead, I've had to manually install my own button which I've created with the leftover spare parts from other projects of mine over the years.

A Pause button initiates listening. And I mean really listening. Here's how to listen: get yourself a cello and play some chamber music. With the help of Brahms or Schumann, you'll pull your head out of your own busy sounds to listen with curiosity to what the first violinist is saying, responding with a contrasting idea, or maybe an echo, and in the most sincere way. And if you listen really closely, you'll hear that it isn't always your turn to respond. It might be someone else's. This requires patience and waiting for others. It also sometimes requires jumping in and then jumping back out. The uniqueness of your contribution is built, paradoxically, on your very careful and attentive listening to others.  Listen as if all that existed was that sound. Get so curious about what you're hearing that you vanish into its center.  You'll need to apply this kind of curiosity when you play with your dog. He'll need you to listen that closely.

And after you've started listening, go back to school (yes, again) to study learning. Dive into human development so you can understand your maturity or, as in my case, immaturity.  Study the essence of your confusion and find it's correlation to understanding.  Learn to teach so that you can be taught.  Your dog needs you to not know everything.  Your dog has much to teach you.   Paws to understand (Forgive me for that sentence. I couldn't help myself).

And finally, now that you're listening and learning, throw everything you think you understand into mid-air, let it scatter and step out of the way, letting someone else (like your dog) catch it. Notice what this understanding looks like to him.   Hold his understanding as absolute truth, and meet your dog right where he is, as he is.  Hold his true nature, while helping him to soften his rough edges and allowing his best traits to emerge.  As therapists, we call this unconditional positive regard. We strut around like we invented it (but we didn't).

With a little listening, some understanding, and an ability to meet your dog right as he is, you have all the components of a Pause button.  Mine is firmly attached although I have not yet found a way to set it on autopilot.  Each walk still requires a manual reset on my part.  But without this Pause button, I wouldn't be dog-walking, I'd be just walking--with a dog.  And when I'm actually dog-walking, then I see that he instinctively pauses (yes, instinctively!) and sniffs a lot. He pays such attention to scents and sounds that don't begin to register with my senses.  Apparently, there is much more happening on the surface of the earth than my senses and skills can discern.  He's pointing me there.

And I'm kind of getting curious about that...

Perhaps there's a dogtoral program out there for me.  Of course for such an undertaking I'd have to learn to prioritize tasks and my side-tracks.  Maybe I'll have to start by practicing my nightly entrance home a few more times. But just maybe these dogs can teach old me new tricks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Priorities vs. Demands

This is Boo when I first arrive for his walk.

You can see that he's not exactly springing to his feet.

This is Boo after the walk and just before I give him his biscuit.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Love Life

Seems like now is just as good of a time as any to talk about my love life.  It might appear to some that I don't have one, or whatever one I have is a mystery. I can tell this by the way people address me. I got an invitation last week addressed to Alice and Guest.  Use of the word Guest implies an unknown.  It comes off as a subtle question mark. Depending on my mood, I wince or preen as I translate it:

a) Alice and (probably can't find a) Guest:  you poor, old, lonely, aging 50-ish thing
b) Alice and (skip the) Guest: hot tickets don't need any embellishment
c)Alice and (who's her lucky) Guest: picked from the throngs of admirers
d) Alice and (please bring a) Guest(so the place settings will be balanced): we're looking for balance

So at the risk of breaking all kinds of hearts, I'm going to share all about my love life right here and right now.  Uncensored and in graphic detail. Send the kids out to play.  Probably going to earn myself an R rating.

I have a sizzling love life. Well, I sort of have a love life. Ok, it's not exactly a love life. It's a life, and it has love.  But....

Here's the thing.  I got to thinking about things today because I had a date with my DBF (dog boyfriend) Tucker. We wandered down to Mayfield where we spent much of August, and we sat on our favorite bench overlooking Gibbet Hill.  We like to sit on this bench together, he and I, and we whisper things to each other.  He takes everything I say so seriously.  And he sits very close to me, as if together we make up the whole entire universe.  He's a very manly guy, but he also has this very sensitive side.  If Goldens could play the guitar, he'd be playing it and singing words that he wrote, wrote just for me. He always loves to dance as we head home. I hadn't seen him in a few days and it was like summer again as we wandered down Mayfield.  There's no expiration date here.

But as much as I love him, later that day I had a thought about our relationship.  Tucker's always going to be my DBF.  Forever and ever. But I, I am a G. Tucker's a D.  G=girl.  D=dog. Do you see where I'm going with this? It doesn't quite work out, does it?  And more to the point, while I know he loves me back, it's not as his GF (gasp).  All I'll ever be is his DWGF (dog walker girl friend).  What I'm trying to break to you is that it's never going to be any more than it already is.  I had to say it out loud to him.  He knew it too, and after silent but accepting nods, it became a poignant moment for us both.

But I have all kinds of other dawgs who put the love in my life--my student dawgs, my family dawgs, my college dawgs, my dog dawgs, and my Tuesday night dawgs.  And the love flows in all these places.  I have an abundance of love in my life and it comes gushing like a river.  Each day, I get to ride its current, and I know it. It is indeed a love life.

But I am also still a G.  And I am in need of a Guest of the a) 50-ish and single, b) independent, c) admiring, and d) balanced type (see a through d above).  Manly two-leggeds who perhaps play the guitar, love to walk and dance, listen very closely, and can speak with their eyes will be invited.


Do Go

I waited for the next inhale.  I waited even though I knew there wouldn't be one.  And for an eternity, my own next inhale hung over her, waiting.  I knew this moment was inevitable, and I never saw it coming. As the seconds turned into minutes, uncertainty gave way to finality and I could only rest my forehead on hers and let the weight of the moment wrap us in quiet.

It was just three weeks ago today.  Only three weeks.  I've had so many inhales and exhales in that time, most going effortlessly and unnoticed.  I've laughed until I've cried, and I've cried until I've laughed.  Today it's raining just as it was that day.  I hear her voice.

"I want the popsicle in a tastes better that way".

"I just want to get healthy".

"How much longer do I have to breath this way..."

"I know it's ok.  But I don't like it".

"I'm so tired".

"But I can't make plans".

"Go do go do go do go do go do go do go do go".
(What did she mean? Do go?  Or go do? I urgently needed to know.)

"Yeah, I'm still alive..."

And here, three weeks later, Reilly is curled in my lap and I feel the rhythm of her breathing against me, and its warm reassurance has volume. I pause on the verge of the rest of this day.  Urgency has given way to calm.  I know what to do with this day.  Do go, and go do, because yeah, I'm still alive...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dog Walker Tip# 4: Walkaholism

Walking dogs can make you feel really good, especially if we're talking about a day like today.  It's early November and it's clear, sunny, and the air temperature is very friendly for this time of year.  Everyone is outside, and feeling good is coming easy.

Even on the days when the weather is more challenging, there is something quite pleasing about coming in out of the cold, with the smell of cold air clinging to your clothes and hair.  You and your dog look at each other with a nod of approval and mutual adoration.  "That felt good. What a good walk", he says with his gaze. You have your own little private club with this walking routine, the two of you.

So the feel-good feeling sticks.  So you walk again.  And then again. And yet again.  After all, this is what dogs need and want, and a walked dog is a contented dog, and a contented dog is a calm and quiet dog, and a calm and quiet dog is a calm and quiet dog walker. And so the routine is established and depending on certain factors such as time availability, family history, and frequency and duration of the walks, a bit of dependency can develop.  In no time at all, dog and walker are out there everyday thinking about nothing except the next chance to walk.  Dog and Walker become so focused on getting to that next walk that no weather situation, no backlog of unfinished housework, and no amount of fatigue will deter them. It's subtle and easy to confuse, but there's a fine distinction between walking a straight line, and walking into trouble.

Signs of a walkaholism include:

  • sneaking out to walk alone with your dog
  • lying and saying the dog made you go
  • telling the boss you're at a meeting and then dashing home to walk your dog
  • silently wondering if you need to cut back on walking
  • craving a walk
  • walking early in the morning in your pajamas, your daughter's zip-up, and your cowboy boots, and not caring who sees you

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a walking problem.  Withdrawal symptoms range from muscle stiffness to moodiness and headaches.   Fortunately, symptoms are temporary and don't require medical supervision.

But don't let this happen to you.  While walking your dog is a good way to feel good, and feeling good just plain old feels good, too much walking and too much feeling good leads to the inability to tolerate anything that isn't about feeling good.  This is called walkaholism and as they say, once a walkaholic, always a walkaholic. It is therefore suggested by old time dog walkers that a day of rest be taken every few days.  That's right.  Lay on the couch, read the funnies, scratch your belly, read catalogues.  Waste time.  Do nothing and do it with all earnestness. This will vastly improve the quality of your next walk and curb your walkaholism one day at a time. This practice will not only rest your dog and give him a day to snooze and dream chipmunk dreams, but it will allow you to replenish your energy levels and reflect on your progress.

Most importantly, it will just plain old feel good.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Reilly: Plays Games, All Sorts

How cute is this?  I mean, just how cute is this? And Reilly is not only melt-in-your-mouth cute, but she's just so dang happy!  And while I've joined the ranks of thousands who are sneezing, coughing, whining and whimpering, Reilly has donned her charm and become my very own personal Mary Poppins, being ever so cheerful and attentive, and pulling all kinds of magical remedies out of her tapestry bag.  I couldn't be in better hands, er, paws.

For example, to help me out, Reilly has eagerly taken charge of waking Meredith each morning and--very funny thing--Reilly doesn't discriminate between weekdays and weekends, showing Meredith how to make the most of the early daylight hours this weekend.  Thanks to Miss Rise and Shine, Meredith has discovered sections of the day she never knew existed!  This is a very good thing when college applications are due, like, now. As Mere exclaimed Sunday in her early morning fog, "Reilly's just so, so, so cute".  Meredith is smitten. And--the bonus--she's up early!

Reilly has not only taken over certain chores here at the house, but she has also asserted herself as nurse-maid, turning herself into a live 'n kicking hot water bottle, keeping me warm wherever I am.  If I need warmth on my lap, she perches on my lap.  If I need warmth on my belly, she lays on my belly.  She's got that dog-sense that tells her right where my hurt is, and she goes there. I'm also smitten.

And then also in her bag of tricks is her sense of humor and lots of indoor games, for days just like these.  Yesterday we played our own version of America's Next Top Dog Model.  Deftly going from doting nurse-maid to sex-i-licious siren, Reilly wrapped herself in a faux cheetah throw and proceeded to wow us all by steaming up Meredith's camera, showing just what a seductress and flirt she can be.  She showed us coy.  She showed us fierce.  She showed us pouty. The camera pulsed, the room sizzled, and Reilly smoked.

Alors....When the winds change, Reilly will be packing her tapestry bag and donning the magic parrot umbrella, I know.  Up, up, and away she'll go to lands far away, spreading her warmth and cheer and cuteness.  How we will miss her, and yet how lucky we are to have this time with her! When that day comes, we'll blow her a kiss, and that will be lucky, too.