Wednesday, July 31, 2013

No Good Deed

It was late when Ken got home last night, well after midnight. I'd fallen asleep as I always do, on the couch watching Netflix, with one or more cats cuddling against me, and Duncan snoring softly from beneath the coffee table. The storm had departed but not before depositing a nice pocket of cool air above our corner of the world and I'd flung open the windows and patio doors and arranged our collection of tall and narrow or short and squat fans to pull that air inside and chase away the heat that had lulled me to sleep.

Duncan knows the sound of Ken's truck well and is quick to jump up, give me an excited kiss––more like a brush of his nose against my cheek, really––to wake me up, and then hurry to the door where he plops down, his rear end wiggling under him while he chirps and coos softly awaiting  the familiar sound of the key in the lock. Last night was no different, and while Ken took Dunc down for his last walk of the night, I readied his dinner and waited for them to return.

Fifteen minutes later the door opened and Ken asked, "There's a little dog––a collie puppy––just sitting outside our door. She seems to know Duncan. Do you know her?"

Apparently they'd gone downstairs and the puppy had appeared from out of the darkness, playing with Duncan and following them for a bit until she scampered away, her human companion never appearing. When Ken and Roo climbed the thirty-seven stairs to our door, she was sitting there patiently waiting for them.

When I opened the door and peeked out she was still sitting there. She jumped up and wiggled happily at the sight of me. "Joy!" I cried and opened the door. "What are you doing out so late?" She leapt past me, danced around Dunc then jumped up for a treat. I was very familiar with Joy, a miniature Border Collie who lives in the building across from us. And she knows me well, too. Each time I see her she drags her two-legged companion, Bridgett, across the way to visit with me and snap up the treats I'm more than willing to hand out. I'd never seen her off-leash and without Bridgett and was immediately worried.

"Do you know where she lives?" Ken asked.

"Somewhere in the next building," I told him as I moved out onto the patio to look for any signs of Bridgett. It wasn't long before I saw a car gliding slowly through the parking lot and knew it's occupant was looking for a lost dog.

I hurried into my shoes and socks and skipped down the stairs to intercept her as she passed. She was sitting behind the wheel of her car, sobbing hysterically but pulled over and hugged me when I told her we had Joy safe upstairs. It was quite obvious she was very drunk and it took awhile to follow her up the three flights of stairs to our apartment. She burst into a fresh round of tears when she saw Joy, who seemed far more interested in the treats Ken was still handing out, and Olive and Pip, who had gathered behind the couch to peer out at her, their bodies and faces concealed in the shadows but their eyes wide and curious at our unexpected guests.

It took some doing but eventually they departed, after more sobbing, some slight staggering, and more than a little careful negotiating of the stairs. If they lived any further than one-hundred feet away I would have driven the car for her, but she managed just fine. Joy was home safe, Bridgett was happy, and Ken and I didn't get to bed until after two in the morning. Duncan remained indifferent to the entire episode, more content with the company of people than dogs, and stayed under the coffee table out of the way of Joy's ecstatic energy.

The cats, however, took more convincing. They were a long time in coming out from behind the couch and needed to inspect every inch of the apartment before they were content that the adventure had passed them by safely. And by the time they came to bed they were more than convinced that it was time for breakfast.

Needless to say, it'll be an early night for me, and hopefully there won't be any more midnight surprises.

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Wisdom

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dark Clouds and Courage

The first crack of thunder came just after we stepped outside. When I'd leashed Duncan up the sun had been shining at the front of the apartment but once we'd stepped outside I discovered it was no longer doing so on the back side. The sky had turned dark, the clouds had swept in, some of them low while other stayed very high, and the wind was pulling the yellow Linden leaves from the trees and was making them dance haphazardly across the parking lot. Dunc stopped dead in his tracks at the low rumble and then turned to look at me. "It's your call," I told him. "But I want you to know you're safe. I'll whistle you a song to listen to while you ignore the sky and everything that's happening up there and look at the grass and the little bugs that dance above it. And that's how we'll keep you safe." He took a moment to decide what to do and then slowly took a step forward.

And that's how we found our way down to the patch of flowers at the end of the property. While a dark cloud formed and hovered over our building and the trees swayed sometimes violently across out path, Duncan kept his nose to the ground while I whistled a Nina Simone song I often find myself whistling on rainy days.

And each time the thunder shook the ground and the heavens I whistled louder for him. His footsteps picked up and even though we were trotting by the time we reached the bright pink and purple and yellow and orange flowers he seemed relieved to find them there waiting for him. Soon the first warm drops began to smatter the sidewalk but Duncan did not mind because his face was buried deep among their welcome and comforting hues. I smiled and thought, "That's what you do when you're afraid. You press on, you whistle a little song, and you keep your head low to the ground."

He made it through the walk and I'm still smiling, still marveling at his courage, loving him more than I did an hour ago.

Thursday, July 25, 2013



I was on the patio last night, Duncan curled at my feet, when the wind picked up. It began without even a breeze. The Lindens did not rustle and stir and the chimes hanging above us did not sway softly and release their few precious notes in preparation. One moment the world was quiet and warm; the next the trees were bending and bowing to the voice of a cold wind that frightened away the clear sky and turned our peaceful patio into a clanging discordant symphony of bamboo and aluminum bars. Duncan jumped up to see what was happening, whining at the sight of the bunnies below scattered among the tall grass, scampering across the parking lot, dodging bouncing leaves and twigs as they sought shelter under the shrubs. But then you were home and Duncan chirped and danced and we took him for a walk, the three of us navigating the night, safe and happy, together.

This morning, with you still sleeping, the blankets pulled up around your chin, the fan in the window blowing cold air into the bedroom, I slipped on my sneakers and a hoodie and took Duncan to the park to play. The parking lot was wet from a night of steady rain and the puddles reflected the cloudy sky above. The world was sweet-smelling, like pea pods plucked from the vine, and as quiet as a December night. We crossed Bowles and walked the wet grass at the park. I'd brought Dunc's squeaky ball but he seemed far more interested in the branches that had fallen from the elms and cottonwoods during last night's storm. But he stayed close and nuzzled my hand for the treats he knows I hold there whenever we venture out.

It was a lovely morning and I wished I'd coaxed you from bed to join us but you were breathing so deeply and your eyes were moving slowly back and forth under your closed lids so I kissed your warm cheek instead and left you to your dreams, hoping they were as lovely as the day.

The sky was sparingly blue but the clouds, rolling in on stripes of grey and darker grey, didn't seem in the least bit ominous. No, they were like a blanket, the kind you were smiling into when I kissed you, and they were kind enough to allow the sun to peek out and turn the cold morning suddenly hot, forcing me to take off my hoodie and tie it around my waist while Duncan sought relief by rolling in the wet grass until his hair was matted and dark. And then the rain started. Not a rain like last night, not loud and steady, but lazy and quiet, and each drop, illuminated by the sun, was pure gold. Duncan and I stood a long time at the edge of a cracked sidewalk that had been swallowed by a large puddle and watched the infrequent honeyed drops strike the surface, sending up golden ripples that barely shook the reflection of the sky above. The sidewalk, wet and silver, spread out before us and wound away in the distance and I felt like this day contained every possibility imaginable. Warm sun and golden rain all at once. It was like walking in a dream and I thought, "You are dreaming and perhaps in that dream you are walking a resplendent sterling sidewalk when up ahead you spot a golden dog and his friend, both smiling at you and waiting for you, and the music of the rain's patter in the quiet of the world is the sweetest sound you've heard."

I hope your dream was as lovely as this morning. I'm sure it was.

We have a long journey ahead of us, and there will be as many cracks and puddles as there will be glorious clear skies and sunny afternoons. And that's okay. I wouldn't have it any other way. The journey is where the magic happens.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Monsoon Season

It has not been an easy couple of weeks, for Duncan or for me, and I now understand more than ever why he prefers Winter to Summer.

In addition to the Independence Day holiday, which dragged on for five miserable days, the monsoon season has returned to the Front Range in full force. When Ken and I first moved here we scoffed at the idea of a "monsoon season" but summer soon proved to be a far wetter season than we anticipated. Each day dawned bright and clear, sweet-smelling and warm, with fat drops of dew bending each and every blade of grass, but by mid-afternoon the skies in the north would turn treacherously dark and ominous and bleed southward, and the thunder would echo off the mountains, reverberating across the plains. Soon the wind would pick up and the tornado watches and warnings would start, and we'd find ourselves in a torrential downpour that rivaled the storms we'd experienced in the green Shire-like Midwest. It was a blessing because the clouds shielded us from the brightest sun of the day and by evening, at dinner time, the birds would resume their flutterings and the mourning doves would reclaim their lookout on the eves, lowing softly as the sky swept clear and the cool of a perfect evening returned.

It has been several years since the monsoon season has been as severe as this year. I used to look forward to afternoon storms but in the past couple of years Duncan's anxiety at loud noises has increased and I find myself tending to and reassuring him more than anything else. The Fourth was loud and explosive and sent him running to the bathroom to seek shelter in the tub. The following four days traumatized him with the remainder of the bottle rockets and firecrackers and then the nightly storms. It has been so terrible that he's refused to go out at all. Where he used to jump and dance and chirp at the mention of the word "walk" he now cowers under the table, and when I do manage to get his leash on him he refuses to walk, except in the mornings, when the world is at its most quiet. Walking down The Run has turned into a frustrating exercise as he continuously attempts to seek shelter in each of the breezeways of the buildings we pass and the things that used to bring him great pleasure, like chasing Ziggy and the squirrels, visiting with Jeffrey, dancing below Soldier's patio, are now ignored in favor of staying right by my side, startling and stopping at the sound of a golf ball being hit on the course behind us. He is miserable and it's all I can do to keep him calm. His Thundershirt and CS Drops, which I also take for my own anxiety, help, but he is not himself and I am beginning to miss him terribly.

So I lay with him under the coffee table, my head resting on his belly, one paw cradled in my hand, and whisper to him, stroke his ear, slip him treats and tell him how brave he's being, how safe he is. And together we wait for the storms to pass, for the mourning doves to resume their tranquil song.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Humans on Board: While Driving Duncan

And now, I present Duncan's big summer adventure: Humans on Board.