Thursday, May 31, 2012

Waiting it Out

On the far side of the park management office the grounds crew has discarded much of last year's run-down and discarded equipment, including old light poles, worn-out goal posts, rolls of chain-link fence and all manner of junk. Slowly but surely they've begun cleaning up the hillside, removing most of the heavier pieces but leaving a few odds and ends which has become the perfect playground for this year's batch of new bunnies. Duncan is obsessed with the spot and there's not a day we don't wander by at least once in the hopes of catching sight of them.

We went most of the Spring without seeing any rabbits at all and when I inquired it was as I feared: someone had given the order stop up and gas the warren. But Duncan was persistent and so every day we checked back to see if any rabbits had survived the assault. It wasn't until very recently that we spotted the first survivor, a big buck, dark in the face with a long, sandy back and a bright white tail. A week later he'd attracted the attention of several does, sleeker and more pointed in the face, and before we knew it baby bunnies started popping up everywhere.

Last night Duncan spotted one, unattended by his mother, who, catching sight of us, quickly darted into the hollow aluminum tubing of an old goal post. Duncan was on it, securing both ends of the tube in rapid succession. Once he was sure the bunny was trapped securely inside he went about the arduous task of attempting to squeeze himself into it.

He pushed and shoved, squeezed his eyes shut, opened them wide, licked the end, scraped his paws inside, grunted and pushed some more and finally, when nothing worked, he simply laid his belly down on the cool grass and pressed his face firmly against the opening. If he couldn't reach it he sure as heck wasn't going to let it get away. Twenty minutes passed before I finally grew tired and hungry and decided it was time to head back home (to a chance encounter with Florence and her Golden, Winston).

Before we left, however, I had to have one look at our little fugitive, so I knelt down at the opposite end and peered inside. The little fellow was as calm as could be. I wouldn't have been surprised to find him playing solitaire and waiting us out.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Buffalo Wings: Serendipity

It took far too long getting home tonight. A lane was closed which caused me to spend twenty minutes sitting in traffic when I was only five minutes away from home. I was impatient to take Duncan out, to spend an hour or so walking the park, enjoying the cool breeze, the fading smell of the Russian Olives drifting across the lake and the blue-turning-to-pink color of the sky above the still-green mountains. But, as I'm so often reminded on my walks with Roo, things happen for a reason.

After a particularly fun episode with one of the new bunnies we were on our way home when I spotted a woman sitting with her Golden not far from where we cross the street. We ventured over to say hello and make new friends and I'm happy I did. Florence was sitting with Winston, her nine-year-old dog whose beautiful face has turned almost completely white, but who still grinned like a puppy. While Florence and I chatted about his belly issues I gave Winston a treat or two, and then, as I often do, recommended Chelsea at Hero's Pets. We talked for a long time while she waited for her daughter to finish soccer practice. She was an incredibly nice and polite woman and as we were departing I asked where she was originally from, mistakenly guessing somewhere in the Midwest based on her accent.

"Buffalo," she said.

I couldn't help but grin and get excited about my impending trip. It has been on my mind a lot as I gear up for the inevitable anxiety of being away from home and Duncan. But meeting her was like The Universe saying, "There are good people waiting to meet you there. You have nothing to fear. Everything will be better than you can possibly imagine."

Thank you, Florence, for being the voice I needed to hear tonight. Thank you traffic, for delaying me long enough to have a chance encounter. And thank you, Duncan, for leading me across the fields in the direction I needed to go.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Buffalo Wings: A Magic Feather Update (2)

More feathers have found their way to me in preparation for my trip to Buffalo, New York in a few weeks. These came from Lisa, Denise, Frannie and all the other good folks at my doctor's office, as well as a beautiful dark blue one from Risa Buck, a friend I worked with several years ago. My father's oldest friend, Rick, who creates metal art, sent an incredible angel he made. Rick is a remarkable man and a talented artist and I can't urge you enough to visit him online. Please tell him Curt sent you!

Please continue to send feathers, even if you sent one several years ago! As a reminder, anyone who sends a feather will be entered in a contest to win a care package for your pet (or for you, if you don't have one) from Duncan and me. The drawing closes June 15th but I'll accept feathers up until the 20th, when my family and I depart. Be sure to include the name of your pet and what kind they are. And if you're one of those unfortunate two-leggers who don't share their life with an animal companion, you're still eligible to win a prize! Simply email me for my address. My email is located in my profile, in case you're wondering.

As always, thank you for your support, your generosity and kindness! You have lifted me long before my feet even considered leaving the ground.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Of Dogs and Bunnies

"That's all you can ever remember is them rabbits." (John Steinbeck)

The bunnies have returned with a vengeance. Jeffrey's feral cat, Mama Kitty, pretty much decimated them last year, along with most of the squirrels that Duncan chased down The Run. Summers past it seemed that whole herds of the things lurked in the grass like little fuzzy stones, their ears pressed flat against their backs, their brown noses twitching as we approached. But after Jeffrey rescued Mama Kitty from a particularly nasty winter, the bunnies all but vanished, leaving Roo confused as to why he had nothing to hunt on our numerous daily walks. Unfortunately for Mama Kitty, but not so for the bunnies, a coyote got her some time last fall and the grounds around our apartment complex are now teeming with long-ears once again.

This morning saw the return of the first of the kits, tiny little things with stubby ears and heads too big for their bodies. They were on high alert and darted into the hedges the moment Dunc caught sight of them, but that hasn't stopped him from looking for them every moment since. It's hard to say we walked much at all today because it seemed that Duncan had only one thing on his mind. It was all I could do to get him to take his head out of the shrubs and actually move his feet.

It's so good to have them back but it's going to be a long couple of weeks.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Shot Across the Bow

Duncan sent a very clear message to Twinkie and Yumi this morning. There will be no more mistaken identity.

On our way back from the park, where we tossed the ball and Dunc spent a great deal of time rolling in the grass, collecting the cottonwood fluff until he was good and wet and so speckled with seedlings that he looked more like a mangy sheep than a Golden Retriever, we passed Yumi and Twinkie at the fenced in enclosure where people occasionally take their dogs to tend to business. Even though our apartment complex refers to it as a dog park I refuse to let Duncan set foot in the small, pebbled area because it reminds me of a giant kitty litter box, each tiny rock covered in urine. Yumi was standing on the outside of the fence still wearing her pajamas and a hoodie, watching Twinkie sniff out a good spot on which to leave her mark. We smiled and nodded at each other while Duncan stepped up and touched noses with Twinkie through the chain link. The moment Twinkie found her spot Dunc turned, lifted his leg and sprayed a straight line of pee right across Twinkie's flank, who, grinning, hardly noticed. I yelped and Yumi burst out laughing while I pulled on Roo's leash and apologized. Twinkie, who thought we wanted to play, leaned further forward as I pulled Dunc away, his stream, sure and solid, splashing all over her. Yumi couldn't contain herself and laughed even harder.

"I'm so sorry," I said, hoping she understood even though she doesn't speak English very well. "I'll pay to have her groomed."

Yumi shook her head, still laughing, and waved me away.

"Are you sure? I don't mind!" I insisted.

"No," she said. "Is very funny."

Twinkie didn't seem to mind either. She and Duncan touched noses again before Roo turned away with a humph, the matter settled. There would be no more mistaken identity. His point was made.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Daydream of the Cottonwoods

The cottonwoods are dancing and the air is filled with their joy. Only once in their life, when they are still new and dewy-eyed, when their roots are the stuff of dreams and the tethers of this world have not yet fastened them so firmly to the ground, they are carried aloft––mere seedlings, slight and delicate and as fragile as a puff of smoke––to relish the freedom of flight, to spin and careen as madly as the gnats and birds which will one day make a home of their boughs and branches and leaves, to learn all they can of movement and delight so that one day they can say to freer souls, "I, too, have flown, have traveled across the fields and villages, have known the freedom of the wind and the gift of options. But I chose this spot, for you, and for all the creatures who may come to know my shade and strength, my endurance and the shelter of my body."

Duncan and I joined them and watched, fascinated, as the seedlings leapt into the air and were carried wherever the breath of the sweet May breeze would take them. Glowing gold and silver in the afternoon sunshine, they seemed to flock to Roo, to hover around his brilliant running, red body, singing their secrets to him as they swept past his ears. And when they found their way to me, I did as I have always done, catching and cupping them in the palm of my hand, closing my eyes and whispering hushed and soft wishes to them before freeing them again.

So many wishes, all of them waiting to come true.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Early Bloom

It seems Spring is over and we've jumped right into Summer, so much so that our Russian Olive trees have been blooming for the past week, nearly a month before they regularly appear.

I hadn't been paying attention and then one evening, after the sun dropped low and the air cooled, Ken and I took Duncan out for a slow walk down The Run, quiet, transparent clouds of gnats and other hovering motes dancing in the air before our eyes while a lazy breeze drifted across the golf course, the tall grass that grows along the fence line rolling under its touch. Dunc ambled ahead and Ken and I were doing what partners do on slow evening walks, talking about the unimportant things like the shape of the clouds or the falling snow of the cottonwood seedlings, when suddenly it caught me, that familiar buttery mint sweetness of my youth on the foothills of Pocatello. It stopped me dead and I caught Ken's arm and squeezed, startling him.

"There," I exclaimed. "Do you smell it? Close your eyes and smell it."

He did as I asked and nodded. "The Russian Olives?"

I could hardly speak, standing as I was, inhaling the sweet air, feeling the gold veins of the fragrance course through my lungs and into every inch of my body.

"Yes," I said finally, a smile spreading across my face. "The Russian Olives. They're here."

And everything will be good because normally they don't come until the middle and end of June, when I plan on flying east with my family. I'd feared missing them but Nature found a way. I will take a clipping of a branch, wrap those precious yellow blooms in a bag and carry them with me. Flowers for flight.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Buffalo Wings: A Magic Feather Update (1)

The feathers have began to arrive, first from Mary, a wonderful woman I work with, who brought me two feathers from a hawk that perched in her patio during our last snowfall three weeks ago. Then Eileen, my boss, brought me two feathers her children, Jenna and Michael, found while walking home from school. And finally we received a beautiful feather from Vickie and Bert, whose blog, Four-Legged Views, we visit and enjoy daily. Vickie is one of those people the internet led me to, and I have been thankful for her presence out there ever since.

As a reminder, I'm collecting feathers for my trip to Buffalo in June. Anyone interested should email me for my address. To sweeten the deal I'm putting everyone's names into a hat and one lucky winner will receive a gift from Duncan and me. Please remember to include your pet's name and what kind of pet he or she is. All entries must be received by June 15th. I don't depart until the 20th, but I'd like to have the entries early enough so that I can get the prize mailed out before I depart.

Thank you, again, for your help and support.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


We turned our backs on the world, Duncan and I, ignored the phone, cleared a space for ourselves and went out for a long walk just as the moon was slipping across the globe of the sun. It did not matter that the clouds were slipping across them both. I had faith that by creating the moment, making room for it in our lives, that nothing else would matter.

And I was right. The unpleasantness of the day slipped further behind with each step we took and as we laid on the grass, both looking and not looking at the sun, poised as it was above the craggy, dark line of the mountains, the clouds trying their best to come between us, the air cooled, the park silenced and a golden hued shadow settled over the land.

Duncan cooled his belly on the grass and let me lay my head against his chest, the slow rising and falling of his breathing as soothing as a lullaby. It was our moment and it did not matter that so much had tried to come between us and the silence of it. It mattered only that we shared it together.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mistaken Identity

There are a couple of Goldens here but most of them are either much lighter in color or far fatter than Duncan. But one of them, a spunky, playful thing named Twinkie is almost identical in color and weight. They're so close that several dogs, including a Bloodhound and Pepper, the work dog we visit several times a day, constantly mistake her for Duncan. The only trouble is that Twinkie only likes Roo. While she's not mean she barks loudly and won't come near them. Many mornings I've been told that Pepper dragged Cindy, her person, halfway across the complex after what she perceived to be Dunc and me, in hopes of getting a treat, only to get a very loud and very cold shoulder from Twinkie. Now when Pepper sees us, even if we come up to her patio, she's a little wary until she smells the treats on my hand and in my pocket.

Yesterday morning we ran into Twinkie and Yumi, her human, at the park. Yumi doesn't speak much English, but she's a very friendly woman who loves Dunc and grins, shaking her head as she marvels at how similar they are. We took them both off their leashes and tossed the ball around for ten or fifteen minutes, not talking but smiling and laughing in that way that people who don't share a language often do. And when it was time to go, Yumi called to Twinkie but Twink was too caught up in wrestling Dunc for control of the ball. Yumi called again and when she still didn't get a response she stepped up to them, snapped the leash onto Duncan and began to walk away. Roo looked at me like, "What the heck is this," while Twinkie, finally in control of the ball, rolled over and showed her blonde belly to the sky.

"Wait," I called. "You've got my dog!" Yumi stopped, looked from Duncan to Twinkie then back again, smiled a very big, embarrassed smile then laughed hysterically while we traded dogs, much to Duncan's relief. We chuckled all the way back across the street and home.

And that is why when I saw the picture of Mister Clooney yesterday, filming a commercial on a beach somewhere in California, with a dog who looked exactly like Duncan, I posted the picture.

All questions answered.

Monday, May 14, 2012

After All That

Sometimes as Duncan and I make our way down The Run it feels as though we're our own parade, plodding as we do down the path, under the low boughs and the high grass that grows along the fence line, past an audience of cats and dogs and people standing on their patios or rushing out to meet us. I'd like to think it's me they like, or even the company of Roo, who's really mostly indifferent to other dogs, preferring the company of people instead, but the truth is, they're really mostly interested in the bag of treats I carry in my pocket.

This afternoon, after a day spent alternately caring for Ken, who hurt himself at work last night, and teleconferencing interviews for a position open at work, we ventured out. First there was Bandit, whose people I don't like, then came Jeffrey, who has spent a lot of time on his patio watching his two new cats discover the thickets and long grass while gazing up at the birds and squirrels in the crab trees that shade his apartment. He's a talkative fellow who's been quite upset since losing Mama Kitty, the feral cat he adopted last year, so we spent a great amount of time talking with him while Cleo, the little Bijon in the next building yapped at us to hurry her way. She was on her patio with Mark, her papa, Leilani, her mother, Mallory, her sister, and some kid I can only assume is Mallory's boyfriend. The assumption comes because he's young, tousle-headed and wears his jeans far too low. We visited while Pepper, the work dog in the next building howled for our attention. She was on her patio with Cindy, another talkative person but who's wonderful and is always good for some conspiracy theories. From there we ran into a kid scouring The Run for stray golf balls. A few weeks ago I'd given him the collection Duncan and I have been collecting for the past two years, nearly three hundred in total. We chatted for a bit until Roo pulled me into The Glen and then across the street to the park where we ran into Stoner Dave and his dogs, Spirit and Chance. He's in his fifties but looks far older, probably from the very thing that earned him the nickname I gave him a few years ago. After a walk around the park, past countless baseball and kickball players, through the Soccer Hoard and numerous others we returned home to find Jennifer, her daughter Jordan and a gathered throng of kids gathered around their new puppy, Jewels.

Finally, after all that, after all those people, we climbed the stairs and came into the apartment only to be told by Ken, who was lounging on the couch, that my fly was wide open and my shirt was hanging out of it.

It is a glamorous life I lead indeed.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Feathers for Flight

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.  (Emily Dickinson)

Several years ago, when this outpost here on the internet was still new, I wrote at length about my anxiety disorder. I've done so numerous times since, but I thought I'd take a moment to explain it again so that the request I'm about to make doesn't seem quite so strange.

A little over seven years ago, when Duncan was still a puppy, I was prescribed Wellbutrin to help quit smoking. Unfortunately I was one of those extremely unlucky souls who suffered very serious side-effects because of it. My chances were somewhere along the lines of one in a million and not a day has gone by since that I haven't wished I'd spent a thousand dollars on lottery tickets instead. After six weeks of taking that wretched drug I began having strange episodes that at first seemed like extreme vertigo but quickly turned into all-out manic episodes that sent me to the hospital three times. I was forced to take an extended leave-of-absence from work and my life was turned completely upside-down. My doctors finally diagnosed a severe anxiety disorder that was either unmasked or triggered by the Wellbutrin. Unfortunately, though, it seemed that my body couldn't handle the drugs that are commonly prescribed to help control such an illness. Instead I turned to acupuncture, a change of diet, lots of rest, and a very intense dose of cognitive behavioral therapy, which continues to this day. I was forced to rebuild my life completely. 

Anyone who suffers from anxiety knows that it's a truly horrific experiece that changes your entire perception of the world. Nothing is safe and even when there doesn't appear to be any anxiety the fear of it returning becomes even worse than the anxiety itself. The world becomes your enemy. Tasks that most people take for granted, things I'd done daily, like drive to work, or watch television, go to movies, visit friends, walk Duncan, become impossible. I spent three miserable months holed up, hardly venturing outside, watching as Ken struggled to be brave and patient and comprehend what was happening.

Since then, though, I have worked very hard to reclaim my life but there is not a moment the fear––or rather, the fear of the fear––is not there. It took a long time but eventually I started going to movies again, hiking, venturing downtown to visit friends, all the things I'd once done with little or no thought. They are such silly and minor things, but to someone like me, each of them is a momentous and life-changing event.

And then Christmas of 2007 happened. Ken was unable to drive home to Idaho with me that Christmas and I was forced to make the trip on my own. I did a lot of soul-searching and mustering of courage, and just when I thought I'd have to spend that holiday alone I remembered Dumbo.

Yes, Dumbo. As in the flying elephant who carries a magic feather in his trunk. I remembered that as long as Dumbo had the feather he could fly and perform tremendous feats of magic and courage. But then there's that fateful evening when he loses the feather and is unable to perform until Timothy, his mouse friend, tells him that the feather wasn't magical at all, that he had the power all along. Eureka! I knew exactly what I'd do!

So I turned to my blog and asked my readers to send me a feather, an ordinary feather that contained the magic of their support and encouragement, something I didn't need for the trip but would help remind me that I was strong enough to do anything I set my heart to. I received countless responses, many in forms I hadn't anticipated, from peacock and hawk feathers, to geese and doves, paintings of feathers, photos, news clippings, music, ceramics, dream catchers, smudge kits, all of them magical and wonderful and remarkable in the power they contained.

In January, my step-father Kevin lost his father, Bob Spencer, a remarkable, adventurous man, who touched and changed many lives and has been sorely missed since he embarked on his latest journey. I did not get to spend a lot of time with Bob and his wife Mary, but they occasionally visited Idaho, sent Christmas cards, attended my college graduation and engaged me in some of the most incredible and inspiring conversations I've had. And even though he's no longer with us,  Bob is inspiring me again. Kevin's family, most of whom my sister and I have not met, have been kind enough to invite us to attend Bob's memorial service this summer in Buffalo, New York. I am incredibly honored and touched by their generosity and look forward to spending time with them and getting to meet all the people I've heard so much about for the past twenty-six years.

And so, as I did seven years ago when I needed that little bit of extra courage to travel home, I'm turning to my faithful readers once again. I need your feathers. I need feathers enough to make me a pair of wings that will help me fly––the final really big test of courage I need to face––all the way across the country. I'll be taking the ones sent to me all those years ago, but I'd like more. I have worked hard at steeling my courage and I know this is the final bit of preparation that needs to be done before I embark. If you'd like to send me a feather, please do so. They must be received by June 20th when I'll be trading these walking feet of mine in for a pair of wings, which I quietly alluded to back in February when my eyes began to turn from the ground and toward the bright blue sky.

To sweeten the deal, I'll be putting all the feathers into my feather bag and keeping track of who sent them so that I can draw one lucky feather out of the bag. The winner will receive a dog-approved prize from Duncan and me. Be sure to include your name, the name of your pets, if you have them, your address, and get your feather to me no later than June 15th. I plan on sending the prize the following Monday, so all contest entries must be received by the 15th. To get my address you can email me at Please put "Feathers for Flight" in the subject field. It's not the most important of charities to contribute to, but I can't tell you how much it would mean to me.

Thank you all, once again, for your kindness and support over the years. We may not have walked together, Duncan tugging on his leash, but you have certainly been in my heart and thoughts on all the adventures Roo and I have been on.