I won’t forget

October 12, 2011

I took for granted your paws clattering across the wood floor. Your wet nose pressed against the window pane and your eyes furtively darting for a glimpse of your family.
Knowing that when I cried, the first one to kindly nudge me would be you; the first to sit with me in sympathy would always be you, saying in the silence that you would be there.
I won’t forget that.
But now you’ve left me.
I know you didn’t want to go.
And even as the end came nearer and nearer, your loyalty never wavered. Your breaths grew staggered, your eyes grew dim, but there you lay, ever aware of your family. And in the final moments, I knew that you were content. Your masters were there; there was nothing more you could want.
How does it feel to lose my best friend?–to listen expectantly for your soft breathing, your barks of protection, your loving whimpers when your masters were near.
Words fail me.
Instead, I’m left with silence. And my thoughts.
Thoughts that meld into memories that right now only bring sorrow. But will one day hold joy and love.
A love so true that it warms my heart, and takes me back to that time. A love so deep that I know it was real.
I won’t forget that.
Humans can love, but I believe that animals love deeper.
Some call it instinct, as if to devalue it.
But at the end of the day, your love was always waiting for me when I came home and pulling at my pant leg when I left in the morning. Your stubby tail wagging so fiercely that your whole back side had no choice but to follow.
I won’t forget that.
In the end, I think I will miss the quiet moments the most. When all three of your masters were together, you lying contentedly in between us, serene and confident that nothing could possibly be better than that moment.
And nothing will be.


paws of devotion

November 26, 2010

We humans think we are pretty smart. We create new technology; minimize our impact on our planet; buy local; feed the hungry; give money to a stranger; make safer vehicles.

But we don’t know it all, yet.

Everything around us can teach us something, if we let it. Including animals.

Any pet owner will attest to his/her pet’s undying loyalty.

My 11-year-old Schnauzer would take a bullet for me and my family, I’m sure of it.

But it’s not just loyalty to their human owners that makes them so worthy of praise but also their loyalty to each other. Even those outside of their kind.

I witnessed this intense connection once, between a Doberman and a tabby cat.

Simon the cat was displaying signs of increasing illness over the course of a few days. I could hear his meows of discomfort before I even entered his home for my daily pet-care visits.

Doby, the intimidating yet lovable Doberman, always met me at the door, thrilled to see a human face and even more ecstatic when we hit the pavement for a brisk walk.

As Simon’s pain continued, we decided to visit the vet.

Doby watched us go out the front door, Simon curled in my arms.

I can only imagine his mind confusedly wondering where his pal was headed. As I returned to the house, visit after visit, each time without Simon, Doby became increasingly agitated. And with me being the last one he saw with his missing buddy, he began to view me as less of a friend and more of a traitor.

Doby made his distaste clear by regularly tackling me during my visits. His agile body and powerful paws landing on my back–and sometimes my front–though with no intention of hurting me, I know. If he wanted to harm me, I had determined, there wasn’t much standing in his way. No, he was simply protesting his feelings in the only way he knew how.

I couldn’t tell him that Simon was not coming home, nor did I want to. This was something he would have to realize on his own. And if it meant I had to endure a few powerful pounces from a heavy-hearted, 80-pound wrestler, I was resolved to take it.

Doby’s affection for and loyalty to Simon ran deep and was not quickly tossed aside.

I can only hope that my bonds of friendship and family hold so tightly. How much happier the world would be if we all lived like Doby.

In my continual search for mind-opening experiences to expand my knowledge (solely for writing purposes, of course!), I have turned my attention to horses.

Like most children, I stayed busy with plenty of after-school lessons–jazz and ballet, piano, horseback riding, singing, gymnastics. And also like most youngsters, I didn’t yet understand or appreciate the sacrifices my parents made to allow me those opportunities nor did I realize the ways in which these activities would help to grow my mind and equip me for future challenges.

So, with riding as one of my early exposures, when I recently took a friend up on her offer to help at her boarding stables, I felt like I was somewhat up to the challenge.

I mean, I wasn’t one of those “green” beginners who’d never stepped foot in a barn or seen a saddle before. Now, granted, it has been almost ten years since I’ve sat on a horse and even longer since I’ve been instructed as to proper riding techniques; however, I still felt confident in entering a barn, petting a horse and stepping out into the ring with him.

My outing proved me slightly correct. Fortunately, I didn’t feel the anxiety that many new riders might feel. I didn’t fear the horse’s intimidating strength. I never worried that he was going to suddenly turn on me. Nevertheless, I did maintain my distance from his hind legs, for obvious reasons–probably more than was necessary.

Still, I learned that my knowledge, of course, is abundantly lacking.

In one area is my view of horses as intelligent, emotive beings.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I love dogs. Can’t get enough of them–well, most of them.

But, as I was petting my horse’s nose the other day, I couldn’t help feel like I would never feel the affection for them that I feel for dogs. I’m talking that instant love, that immediate concern for their well being and that strong desire to be near them that I always feel for canines.

Horses don’t conjure up that feeling in me.


I must admit that I am determined to change that.

First of all, they’re animals. Animals are all beautiful and intelligent. Horses are no different, of course. They are sensitive, tender giants who only aim to please their master.

But this is not all coming from my mouth. This is coming from lifetime horse owners, trainers and riders who have spent their lives around these creatures.

After all, they are the ones who would truly know.

To read articles about how they create deep communicative attachments with their horses; how they read their body language; how the horses respond in an effort to be closer to their human.

It’s beautiful. And I want that.

So it is my quest, my determination to achieve it.

And it will happen. I’m sure of it. 🙂

The Moo part 2

August 17, 2010

I turned to view the glistening lake as the sun began to set, heard the grouchy acknowledgement of the goats as our group traipsed past, gazed upon the rows of tomato plants and corn stalks, leaned down to pet Sparky–the resident lamb being groomed to father the next generation of workers.

From this, I drew the conclusion that we city folk don’t really understand and almost can’t comprehend what we’re missing. And admittedly, maybe for some of us, that’s for the better. (Need I remind anyone of The Simple Life?)

But it’s experiences like these, opportunities to see real farms and enjoy a true from-ground-to-table meal that make it possible for us to truly cherish and understand how the earth works and the extreme effort involved in transferring it onto our dinner plates.

It still remains somewhat of a conundrum to me as to whether we’ve really come that far as an “improved” society.

As I sat on the screened-in, un-air conditioned porch, listening to the insects chirping in the warm summer darkness and peering into the vast forest, I couldn’t shake my deeply envious feelings toward those that enjoy the privilege of living this way every day.

And I concluded that maybe I didn’t want to shake it.

A Moo Point

August 13, 2010

The obscure dirt road with no street sign signaled the end to our search and the beginning of a lavender-themed, all-natural, from-ground-to-table dinner experience that has been the object of our anticipation for many previous weeks.

The dinner began with thirty minutes of discovery of the raw realism of living on and operating a farm—the planting, maintaining, uprooting and renewal of crops, interacting with and caring for the sheep, goats, cows, chickens that inhabit the land; add to that the constant sweat and strain of the hot summer days, and my hunch was confirmed—that my dream of living in the country would most likely always remain just that: a dream.

Ticks, mosquitoes, insect bites, sweat, cultivation of land, milking goats, butchering lambs, cooling down with the help of a fan instead of an air conditioner—these may be welcome realities for some, beatable obstacles to others, tortuous nightmares for yet others.

While I have dreamed about being a country convert for most of my life, when I ponder what is really involved, my feelings become much less pleasant.

Up till yesterday, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the difference between a goat and a sheep or a kid and a lamb. But after last night, I can not only tell you the difference but can also proudly proclaim that a true, working farm is a wonderful place to visit but my hair can’t sustain more than a yearly jaunt.

I’m strong enough to own that.

Returning to my story, after tooling through the town of Depew, which took all of thirty seconds, we found our unmarked street. After losing our way and growing increasingly confounded by the amount of absent street signs, seeing cars at the end of the correct road brought sighs of relief to everyone in the car.

The modest country home and squawking hens welcomed us to The Living Kitchen farm: a humble establishment boasting four employees—the owner: professional farmer and chef, a part-time helper and marketer, with two interns pulling up the rear and undoubtedly carrying their bulk of the work.

The farm is home to goats, for cheese and milk, lambs, for healthy, non-hormone injected meat, and chickens, for eggs. Add to that a number of cows that roam unseen and unheard until they ramble through the woods, arriving home for dinner, leaping, exuberant dogs for companionship, and the many snakes and other critters nesting in the woods, and Owner Lisa Becklund has more than a full house.

Becklund came to Oklahoma five years ago from Seattle. Born and raised in Washington by parents in the food industry, Becklund’s career choice was obvious. She eventually owned and operated a successful restaurant in Seattle and served as head chef for many years. However, she commented, while she knew how to cook food, she knew nothing about food.

Then, when an opportunity for a complete lifestyle turnaround came up in Oklahoma, she felt the move would be just right for her.

As listeners of her story, most of us would probably share the same wonderment as to her decision to leave Seattle. I know I did.

And then I turned around.

Check back on Tuesday to read the rest of the story.

cat rules

June 3, 2010

Cats have a way of making a person feel either very special or entirely nonexistent.

Over the centuries, they have fought the beast of friendliness and won with the aid of withering stares, fear-inciting hisses, hermit-like isolation. Felines have cemented their solitary place in history and the present day. They have lived their lives through listless observation, content to view from the sidelines atop their lofty throne, be it a bed or coffee table—seemingly immune to adoration or more tasty rewards.

It is of note, however, that some cats have chosen to divert from their heritage. These so-called rebels have adopted somewhat canine characteristics. Rubbing against legs, pleading for a caress or scratch from a kind stranger. Throwing themselves to the floor, tummy to the ceiling, flashing those magnificent eyes.

Many feline owners have found that once they penetrate their pet’s disinterested exterior, they are quite surprised as to what lay beneath the surface. It all becomes a game of chance. Has my cat already bared his soul? Or will a secretive need for companionship suddenly arise? Are the dog-like tendencies feared by all cat-lovers about to appear once my cat discovers that I am hopelessly wrapped around his tiny, fluffy paw?

One can only wait. And discover.

Canine Conundrum

May 1, 2010

I recently witnessed another act of canine loyalty that made me chuckle at humans’ gaping inadequacy to measure up to our four-legged friends.

I was sitting in a van in Bolivia. One of my fellow passengers owned a dog that unendingly followed her wherever she went. It didn’t matter that on that specific day we were driving up the side of a mountain for countless miles.

No, that loyal companion tirelessly ran, panting, tongue hanging, behind our vehicle for at least three miles before finally realizing that we wouldn’t be stopping any time soon. Maybe the humid, hard-to-breathe weather brought him to that realization sooner than normal. It’s hard to say. I wasn’t able to ask him; though I sure wanted to.

Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that in his eyes, his owner is the most important thing. And he would follow her and protect her for as long as he was physically able.

Is there anything more beautiful?

It’s a good thing animals are not created with the capacity to understand human stupidity and how undeserved we are of their love.

I feel like there’s a lesson to be had here.

One could argue that because human brains are far more advanced than animals’ that we should be able to display a much higher level of affection and love. And yet many times, we don’t.

And one could counter argue that with this added brain power comes added understanding of the world’s evils and the ability not only to do good but also to do evil.

I would take this query to my faithful companion at home, but she’s a little preoccupied right now licking herself.

Dog Ownership for Dummies

January 18, 2010

My favorite way to start any given morning is getting in the middle of a dog fight. What an excellent way to say, Good morning sunshine! Relax, have a seat. Just watch out for the blood on the curb.

As I stood inside the circle of action occurring on the front lawn today, I couldn’t help but reflect momentarily on delusional dog owners everywhere.

So, I wondered, what were the owners of these dogs thinking about last night before falling asleep?

Were they even remotely concerned with the fact that their dogs were consuming and trashing everything owned by the neighbors next door? Or how about the fact that their adorable pooches barked all night? Or maybe they were praying that no young children strayed out of their house so as to get mauled down by their ferocious beasts.

News flash to ignorant unthinking humans everywhere: what you do affects others.

You know those cigarette laws recently passed? Smokers can’t even stand by buildings and smoke. They have to go away from any place where non-smokers might be. Why? Because the second-hand cigarette smoke that they are producing harms people.

And car insurance? Why do we have that? Oh yeah, to protect innocent people who may be injured due to erratic, unconcerned drivers.

I think the movie Bubble Boy was incredibly ahead of its time but absolutely on point. What I wouldn’t give to put myself and everything I own in a bubble.

Dogs do not speak; they do not reason; they do not worry; they are oblivious to and therefore do not conform to societal norms or expectations. So, why, I ask, do people treat them as such?

Do they naively believe that their dog will think twice before lifting his leg on the neighbor’s mailbox? That he will leave an apologetic note after he tramples their vegetable garden? That instead of fighting tooth and nail, he will arrange for a calm mediation with the neighbor dog when he invades his territory?

No, if you stupidly think that, you should not own a dog. (And quite possibly, should be committed.)

Dogs operate on instinct. A dog steals their food, they endeavor to tear him to shreds. No reasoning involved there. Just pure unadulterated survival-of-the-fittest mentality.

Dogs live in a domesticated society. They rely on humans to domesticate them. Some need more help than others. But no matter what their level of improvement is, it’s your responsibility once you lay claim on him. Your dog is relying on you. When did that become such a challenge for people?

Oh yes, I forgot. We live in a society of lazy, non-working complainers who would rather weigh 500 pounds than lift a barbell. Much less take their poor crying puppy for a walk around the block.

I’m thinking about writing a book. Dog Ownership for Dog Unrealists. It would be one page long with one sentence. “You cannot own a dog.” Then I would rescue their poor mutt and slash their tires.

Where’d all the People go?

February 18, 2009

Driving around town, I noticed that in every car, behind each passing window, pacing in all back seats were grinning, panting, licking, lovable canines.

I can say with all certainty that I would take a dog over a human any day. They’re eternally happy, loving, non-complaining (unless you count the barking), easy to please. Certainly the most easy-going passenger that will ever grace my automobile.

However, I admit, I never realized how many other people felt the same.

This has been a long time comin for dogs and cats alike. From the farmhouse days of stalking mice in the barn and traipsing through the woods in the evenings with hopes of food and companionship once daylight appears. Dogs and cats have earned and endured their way into our hearts. Nowadays, it’s quite a foreign thought to leave animals outside at night. Almost considered animal abuse, depending on who you talk to.

No, dogs and cats are now formidable members of the human family. Just ask most animal owners. You get them talking about their pet–it won’t be long before you hear phrases like “he prefers to eat when I eat” and “she always sleeps with me.”

What is it about our pets that tug at our heart strings? Is it that they are everything we wish we could be? Or everything we wish we could find in another person? Loyal, caring, unconcerned with faults, good listeners, always in a good mood, always ready to play, never holding grudges. They are that constant companion who greets us at the door. The reliable friend who waits up after a late work night.

What we all wouldn’t give for human companions like that.