Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Family Again

After ten long days apart, with Ken in Michigan visiting his family, and Duncan and me in Idaho visiting mine, last night our little family was finally reunited. Duncan and the cats met us at the door and gave Little Man the greeting he deserved.

And Olive was kind enough to find some special time with him. She's a Daddy's Girl.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

An Effortless Chord

This is one of those things I love about Pocatello:

It was just after six this morning. It was still very dark out, without even a faint glow of light spilling over the mountains behind my mother's home. The low, wispy clouds from last night had drifted away and the sky had the kind of clarity and depth that buckle my knees every time I see it. Mom had turned the Christmas lights on and their warmth, gold and red on the blue of the snow, cast a welcome glow through the trees and the empty flower beds. There were two kinds of wind, the big one roaring through the narrow valley of the Portneuf Gap not far from here, and the wind churning its way down the mountain behind us. The house shielded us from its bite but not the soft whine of its voice as it rolled through the washes on either side of us. And then, from the city five miles north of us, came the low bass hum of a train whistle. The trains used to be one of my favorite things when I lived here. You can hear them from anywhere in town, the loud clang as the cars lock together, the grind of their wheels on the track, and that groan of the whistle. On the rare occasions I stayed overnight at a friend's house, I would close my eyes and listen for the trains and imagine I was hearing them from the comfort of my own bed.

This morning, standing with Duncan in the silence of the far south side of town, the faraway wind and the nearby wind, and then the whine of the train, joined to form a nearly perfect harmony, a simple, effortless chord that caused Duncan to pause on the step, cock his head and listen into the darkness. I stepped away from the light of the house and turned my face up into the abyss of space and listened with my ears and body, and smiled as the memories of living here and the comfort of coming home, rolled over me.

I do love being home at Christmastime.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mr. Popular

There is not a dog on this property who doesn't know me, or rather the scent of the treats I carry in my pocket.

This is what it's like nearly every time Duncan and I venture out. If only I'd been this popular in high school!

*Thanks to Dee for being there to catch the feeding frenzy

Friday, December 14, 2012

Not Enough Kisses

While my day typically begins around 6 AM, Duncan's doesn't start until an hour and a half later. I get up, check the internet news, scroll through Facebook, shower, prepare my breakfast and lunch, feed Olive and Pip, and then start Duncan's breakfast, which needs to rehydrate for thirty or so minutes before it's ready. Only when he hears the jingle of food in his bowl does he amble down the hall, the hair on the top of his head mussed up, a grin on his face. We hug, he stretches and bows, and then we venture outside.

It was a nice morning, a little grey but not as cold as it has been and the sun was trying its hardest to peek out from behind the clouds. The geese had collected themselves across the golf course and another enormous flock was swooping in from the south, their calls echoing between the frozen, yellowed earth and the misty sky above. Everything in our corner of the world was exactly as it should have been: quiet, serene, safe.

At 7:30 we reached The Glen where Duncan ran wide circles along the rim of the bowl in the earth, careening between the trees, stopping every once in a while to sniff the patches along their trunks where other dogs had stopped. His ears were high, as was his tail and the smile never once left his face. I knelt in the grass and watched as he sped toward me, his tongue lolling from the corner of his mouth.

"What?" I asked him as he danced to a stop in front of me, his front paws jogging up and down in the frosted grass.

And then he lunged forward and kissed me. Not a sloppy, wet swipe of his tongue, but a quick brush of his lips against mine. I laughed and repeated my question. "What?" He did it again, and then again, and then once more, slowly forcing me backward until I was sitting on my butt amid the brown pine needles on the cold ground. I laughed again as he moved forward and planted another kiss on my face. When I held up my hands he did it again and again and before I knew it I was laying on my back, his gorgeous face obscuring my vision. For a moment the clouds broke and I could see blue sky above him and golden light until they were once again blocked by the ferocity of his affection. His tail wagged back and forth against my leg as he climbed right up onto my chest, laid down and kissed and kissed.

"You're drowning me, Roo," I cried as he persisted, relishing the sound of my laughter in the safe silence of the morning.

At that moment, eighteen-hundred miles away the world was no longer silent nor safe. Twenty small children and six of their adult protectors were being murdered and it will be a very long time until silence returns to that community. My heart has been slowly breaking today as the magnitude of what has happened sinks in, at the knowledge that there are presents under trees that will never be opened, that people will be outraged and horrified but that ultimately nothing will come of this tragedy. This country cares more about its guns than its children, than health care, than the kisses of loved ones. I am cynical and bitter tonight and only Roo, laying next to me with his head on my arm, can offer any sort of solace.

I would not trade a single moment with my dog for anything, but I would gladly trade every one of the kisses he gave me this morning for the lives of the people in Newtown, Connecticut. I would do anything to undo the pain of that community, to make it all go away.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

For Madi

Last night on Facebook I learned that our former neighbors and good friends Denise and Martin had to say farewell to their beloved Black Lab, Madi. It has been a very long time since we have seen them and much has changed in all our lives, but Denise, who was such a very good friend to me, especially during the early days of my anxiety, has always held a special place in my heart and is never far from my thoughts. 

Madi was Duncan's first friend. I'd been terribly nervous about socializing him as a puppy and it wasn't until we built our house and moved to Stapleton, befriending Denise and Martin, that his socialization really began. I didn't have much say in it actually. Denise is one of those magnificent people with a vibrant, take-no-prisoners spirit, and it was her confidence and good nature that allowed me to relax and let Duncan do what he was so supposed to do, which, apparently, meant racing tight circles around Denise's small front yard, chasing after and wrestling with Madi, who was patient and kind to him. She taught him everything he needed to know, and even took him swimming for the first time, and even after we moved all I had to do was say her name to send him, tail wagging, to the front door where he waited to be taken for a visit.

When I learned of Madi's journey across the Rainbow Bridge last night I went to Dunc, who was laying on the edge of the couch. I leaned down and whispered softly in his ear, "Roo, I'm sorry, but Madi is gone. She's no longer with us but maybe tonight on our walk we can watch for the new star in the sky where she is shining down on us." He listened to me, dropped his chin down low between his paws and sighed heavily, which made me tear up. A few minutes later he climbed down off the couch and ambled to his toy box where he dug through the contents until he found the toy he and Madi played with on their last adventure together, jumping in and out of the pool while Denise and I laughed and encouraged him to chase after the geese. It has been a long time since they have played together but I know he understood what had happened and needed time to grieve her loss in whatever way dogs do. We cuddled a long time, touching noses and crying, his paw resting atop mine.

We miss you, Denise. We miss Martin and Avery, too. And we will miss Madi. I am sorry for your loss but so thankful for the hours she spent with Duncan and the way their friendship cultivated our own.