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walking-wisdom-and-you-e book


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walking-wisdom-and-you-e book

  1. 1. Wakn li g W id m so & YU O! A c le to o s o tso isa o tlf lso sla n d o lc i n f h r tre b u ie es n e r e wh l wa kn wih t ewo l b s lse e, o rd g ie li g t h rds et itn r y u o .C n rb td b t eS rb c mmu iy i sie b G t a o tiu e y h c id o n t ,n prd y oh m a d D e a C o r n w b o ,Wa kn Wid m. n e p k h p as e o k " li g s o "
  2. 2. WALKING WISDOM WITH YOUOne of the best parts of writing my latest book Walking Wisdom was reflecting on someof my fondest memories with my dogs, my infant son, and my father. Early on, to triggersome of my own recollections, I started seeking stories and anecdotes from people online.Almost from the moment I tweeted the solicit, I was getting bombarded with responses. Itwas fantastic and exciting. People had stories, both triumphant and tragic, and pictures,goofy and cuddly that they wanted to share.But there was a problem. I hadn’t quite thought through my plan. When people askedwhere they could send their stories, pictures, poems, and press clippings (yes – thereseemed to be a lot of local news stories about heroic dogs!), I didn’t have an answer. Ihad nowhere to direct them.Soon schedules and due dates, re-drafts and pub plans totally consumed me and I losttrack of that idea to get your stories because I was trying to make sense of my own. Thatis, until now. And this time, there’s an actual plan in place and a platform to welcomeyou to.When people ask me, I tell them that my book is about the beings most important in ourlives and the most precious, poignant, insightful, and irreverent lessons they teach us. Ihope you’ll read it, but more importantly I hope you’ll share some of your own storiesand insights, anecdotes and enlightenments so we all can learn from and laugh with oneanother. That’s where real wisdom resides.So, without further adieu…bring it on!Gotham Chopra
  3. 3. A d y u so y t " li gWid m a d Y u b f lo n t eese s d o r tr o Wa kn so n o " y o l wi g h s tp: Se 1 tp . U la y u so yt S r d po d o r tr o ci b Se 2 tp . Se 3 tp . A dy u d c me t otec l cin d o r o u n t h ol t e o Or. . . E iy u so yt: mal o r tr o
  4. 4. Duke of Windsor, The Worst Name For The Greatest Dog By: Kathleen FitzgeraldLet the record show: This is not a photo of my childhooddog, Duke of Windsor.Duke refused to pose for photographs. He was too busysniffing his own butt and rummaging through suburbantrashcans for that ... but when we’d catch him, he alwaysgave this exact “terrified squirrel” look:
  5. 5. I think Jay Z said it best with, “I got 99 problems but abich(on) ain’t one.” Duke was a purebred bichon frise butnot the brightest bulb in the discount store lamp. In fact,we’re pretty sure that he was part of an overbreeding ringand mildly retarded as a result.Luckily, the little guy’s abundance of cutenesscompensated for his idiocy. Every week, he managed todart past my Mom as she opened the front door and rundown the street. While “making a bolt for it” is a classicdog move, my furry Steven Hawking sucked at it. Withoutfail, Duke would get “lost” midway down our cul-de-sacand start running in circles like the anti-Lassie.I once joked that the guy was too dumb to hate anything(the aroma of his own butt included), but as I grew andwatched him respond to family crises, I realized that Dukewas smart about the important things. When I fell seriouslyill during freshman year of high school, Duke sat with mefor months, delicately placing his snout where it hurt mostas if to say that everything would be okay. When myyounger brother started getting college acceptance lettersdelivered, Duke skipped out to the mailbox with him andsat patiently while Sean nervously read the verdicts. Hewagged his tail at stressful situations, licked away tears,and never hurt anyone … something that the rest of uscouldn’t pretend to claim.
  6. 6. During my sophomore year of college, I flew to Romefor a semester studying abroad. Stressed until the lastminute, I threw my overpacked suitcases into our hip 1992Previa van (it was 2004) and worked through a mentalcheck list. As I looked back into the utility room to doublecheck that I’d grabbed everything, I saw Duke wagging histail goodbye.Duke died from cancer less than three months later.Looking back, it’s clear that Duke seemed sick even then;but we never suspected anything since his tail wagging andnuzzling kept pace. In the end, this was the greatest lessonthat I ever learned from our tiny, trash diving dog:“People will forget what you said, people will forgetwhat you did, but people will never forget how youmade them feel.”Duke made us feel something good every day.
  7. 7. The Syntax of Submissionwww.disasteronheels.comYou should know that last week my parents finally got thegrandchild theyve been waiting for. Theres anew cuddly object of affection in the house who is keepingmy parents up all night, and his name is Wilson.Wilson is some kind of gourmet dog--a golden poo, or adoodlecocker. Im not sure exactly, but I do knowthat my parents spent months on a waiting list to adopt thisminiature, hypoallergenic home-wrecker.Last night my sister and I received the following email:Dear Daughters,I thought I should send along the proper vocabulary to usewith Wilson before your next visit. Consistencyis everything and perhaps if I had practiced that principlethat with you both things might have turned outdifferently."Leave it"-- applies to untying shoelaces, pulling at therugs, taking things off tabletops, chewing shoes,eating the newspaper, emptying the wastebaskets, etc. Thisis to be said in a firm, no nonsense tone ofvoice.“ComeWilson” –this is used to get him out of the street, toget him into the house, to distract him fromdigging up the perennials, etc. Tone of voice is upbeat,excited, as in it is an exciting thing for him to dowhat you are asking. He gets a treat for this.“Go Potty”— I know, he doesn’t actually sit on the toilet,
  8. 8. but this term if better than “do-business”, “gopee”, “go poopy”, etc. The latter two require understandingof the difference between pee and poop, andfrankly I don’t give a damn as long as it isn’t done in thehouse. Tone of voice somewhat urgent here, likeyou don’t have all day to wait. Gets a treat every time, evenwhen he fakes it.“Sit" — an essential command to keep him from runningaway when you try to grab him. Always gets atreat for this.“No bite”—applies to nearly everything that comes withinhis range of sight right now, so master thiscommand before you set foot in the door. This includesyour hands, elbows, clothing, your bedding, allfurniture legs, rugs, and anything not tied down. Tone ofvoice here is sharp, quick, authoritative.I was also told that Wilson will be starting puppykindergarten next week. I can only assume this isbecause my mother senses hes on the verge of masteringall of her pedestrian commands, and that hisactive brain is hungry for more. My hope is that puppykindergarten will teach him the fundamentals thatwill give him the leg-up on an Ivy League canineeducation, where he will crack under the pressure, loseseveral years to pot, and eventually find himself and start avolunteer program to service displacedsquirrels.My mom also shared her plans to bring Wilson into Fetch(one of three local pet stores, but the one with themost caché) in the hopes that they will want to feature him
  9. 9. in some of their promotional materials. (Weonce had a golden retriever who, on one serendipitousmorning run, was "scouted" by L.L. Beanphotographers in the midst of a photo shoot. Our poochmade the catalog, catapulting its owners into aglorious anonymous fame, now immortalized in the full-page parka ad that hangs on our refrigerator.)When I asked for a photo of this prodigy puppy withstriking good looks who is cunning enough to "fakeit" for treats, she sent me this:I took one look at this doggy Baby Bjorn and I knew mymother had completely lost her mind. I washorrified until I realized that somehow, in his puppy-geniusway, Wilson has managed to hit "snooze" on
  10. 10. my mothers grandparental biological clock. To which Ireply in a calm, authoritative tone: "Sit,Mother...Stay."  
  11. 11. My Uncle Doesn’t Speak English By Ransom Stephens © 2001 Ransom Stephens 1300 words Rays of sunshine make a warm spot where Uncle Sherman likes to nap. He’s the six-year-old German wirehaired pointer who lives with me. When I get up from my desk and walk intoanother room, Uncle Sherman gets up from his sunny spot and follows me. I pause, look around,wonder why the hell I went into the bedroom, then recall I was going to turn the kettle on forsome afternoon tea. I look at Uncle Sherman and say, “Why did we pass right by the kitchen andcome in here?” He looks for a place to curl up. He likes the bed. He plops down looking at me. I walk out of the bedroom toward the kitchen. He gets up and follows me. I say, “You don’thave to follow me into every room.” I feel guilty about him getting up every time I do. He curlsup, all comfortable, then I go into another room and he feels obligated to get up and follow me.What makes it even worse is that most of the time I don’t even know where I’m going or whatI’m doing. Sherman responds to my comment with a wag of the tail: ‘Thump!’ into thecupboards. He’s got a huge tail (it’s very long for a German wirehaired pointer, they’re usuallycut off). He’s knocked over wine racks, floor lamps, and, one time a woman I was dating. I fill the kettle with water. He reaches his big nose up to the counter and sniffs around (he’skind of tall for a German wirehaired pointer).He never eats anything without permission, he justlicks them. I pull a mug down from the cupboard. He plops down exactly in my way. He nevermoves either. He’s a 75-pound obstacle on the floor between the stove and me. “Do you want acup?” I ask him. He stretches out. I pretend I’m going to step on his belly. His tail thumps on thetile floor – a little dust cloud forms from the demolished grout. I walk back into the office and sit at the computer. He follows me. I watch him and shakemy head – that guilt thing again. He drops to the warm floor with a vintage Sherman‘Harruuummppphh’ sound. I love my uncle’s harumph.
  12. 12. Stephens / “My Uncle Doesn’t Speak English” - 2 A few minutes later the kettle whistles. “Really, you don’t have to get up,” I tell him as Ihead back into the kitchen. He pauses in a sitting position when he catches the word ‘stay,’ but Ididn’t say it with any conviction, so he gets up and follows me back into the kitchen. I warm thecup with a splash of boiling water. He sniffs the corner next to the oven. I say, “Your supper dishhasn’t been there in five years!” He looks up, wags his tail, giving the oven a good whack andknocking off several potholders in the process, then sits down. He stares at me and yawns,making a whiny sound. I pat his head as I reach for a tea bag. “I’ll turn it off in a minute.” Hehates it when the kettle whistles too long, but I like rapidly boiling water to hit the tea bag. I pourthe water and turn off the kettle. Satisfied, he reclines in front of the counter where I keep thesugar bowl. I fix a lovely cup of tea. “You know, Uncle Sherman? This coffee-centric society is reallymissing the boat.” We walk side by side back into the office. This time, I sit down in the sunnyspot. “You go sit at the computer and finish debugging that code.” Sherman finds this veryfunny. He wags and gives me a big wet slurp across the face (he’s got kind of a big tongue for aGerman wirehaired pointer) and sits down so that his face is inches from mine. So there we are. I’m sitting cross-legged. He’s sitting doggy style. He thumps his tail; I’mpleased that the roof isn’t dislodged. He yawns with the whiny sound. He does this when he’s alittle frustrated. He gets up and walks back and forth. I have the only warm place. He walks overto the little couch opposite the desk. He looks over his shoulder at me, then climbs up on thecouch. He knows that he’s not officially allowed on the couch unless he’s invited. He settlesdown, but without a harumph. He peers at me expecting me to give the ‘off’ command. I don’t.I’ve got the sunny spot, after all. “Why don’t you speak English?” I ask him. He lifts his head, cocks it a bit to the side,looking very serious. I nearly expect an answer. I get one: He puts his head back down and letsout a ‘harumph,‘ stretching out a bit. I look around the room from Sherman’s point of view. Theceiling fan is dusty – he doesn’t care. There’s dog hair accumulating in a little pile over on thetile floor – he’s probably proud of that. On the couch, he rolls over on his back. He looks reallysilly like that. Those long legs sticking straight up, his ears flopping behind him.
  13. 13. Stephens / “My Uncle Doesn’t Speak English” - 3 In a flash, he flips off the couch and runs to the glass door. He looks back at me and whinesin excitement. I don’t budge. He runs over to me and then back to the door. An obvious barkingopportunity has occurred. He sits next to the door, ears perked with a look of concern and then heleans back his head and howls. A long, beautiful, deep-throated howl. This is what he does whenhe hears a siren. I listen to my uncle sing and eventually I hear the siren, too. I think I know why Uncle Sherman doesn’t speak English. If I could howl like that Iwouldn’t either. I wander around my world, a big bearded dog at my side, and realize thatknowing a language means I have to listen to people complain. I get bills in the mail that I canread. The company I work for sends annoying memos and I have to respond. But most of thegreat things in life don’t involve language, my daughter’s smile, a nice cup of tea, the thrill of asiren in the distance, a chance to chase a squirrel, a nap in a sunny spot or a fine sick on anautumn day. If Uncle Sherman could speak English, he wouldn’t just yawn and make that whiny soundwhen he’s frustrated. He wouldn’t just give a tail thump in response to, well, damn neareverything. If my Uncle could talk it would be an undogly burden. He’d have to pay attentionand offer something other than a big wet glorch across the face when I ask him tough questionslike “Why do you fart when I’m about to fall asleep?” or “Why do people blow each other up?” I get up and go back to the computer. Uncle Sherman comes over and sits next to me. Hemakes a little sound that means “Stop debugging software and rub my chest.” I ask him, “Do youwant to speak English?” He gives me a big wet glorch across the face.
  14. 14. THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY BY LAURA NOVAK Harry…was a leg guy. That way he had of sinking into the down comforter on those foggy San Francisco nightsand burrowing deeply between my legs, searching for warmth on three sides. No matter which way Iturned, Harry was there, lying on top of me, beside me, possessing me. I sported a primo pair of gams inthose days and the fact that this roguish red head would attack my husband’s feet if he got between usalways gave me a perverse chuckle. Harry, the leg lover. That is the way I would like to remember him. Ifit were only that simple.
  15. 15. Those were the waning days of the go-go 80’s in randy San Francisco. The earthquake brought myapartment building in the Marina down around my head. Mark, my then fiancé, rescued me, movingwhat little I could salvage into his bachelor bungalow above Ghirardelli Square.It was all about love in those days; aerobics and dinner à deux after work, weekend hikes in Marin,food shopping in North Beach. Like most young couples, our lives were charged with sex and secondrun films, with nary a thought to a complicated future.Fast forward twelve years when our six-year-old son, Max, poked me awake one morning beforedawn, unable to defeat jet lag from the previous night’s flight from Boston where we had beenvisiting family. Groggily, Max crawled under a blanket in the TV room while I rummaged through abox of videos in search of one to occupy him. I came upon an ancient relic marked “Mama, Harryand Sally.” This was the family of cats we rescued after the earthquake. It was a curious choice for atape to watch now because Harry had shockingly deteriorated during our weeks back east. It wouldtake the veterinarian another day to make a house call and terminal diagnosis. I must have sensedimpending doom as I pulled the video from its sleeve.“You look like a girl!” Max remarked as the video began. I leaned in closer, stunned at the sight ofmyself: nubile and thin, manicured with tousled curls wearing Mark’s nightshirt. In breathy tones Idirected Mark to pan the room, zoom in on Harry Cat and his sister, Sally, pull back to show MamaKitty nursing them.
  16. 16. “Why is dad’s beard so dark?” Max asked, sitting upright as if to better understand this encodedversion of his parents.How was I to explain to this child who had ransomed our hearts and enriched our souls that dad’sbeard was so dark because we had countless mornings to loll about and videotape three cats for 90uninterrupted minutes. Because we didn’t yet know what it was to have an intensely sick childundergo multiple surgeries, to not sleep for four consecutive years and feel our marriage worn to anub. Because back then, the world was our oyster, like the barbecued ones we’d slurp up in TomalesBay on weekends while playing footsie and drinking champagne.“We were so young then,” was all I said, kissing the back of Max’s head.Harry died peacefully three days later. Mark and I wrapped him in his favorite blanket and shared theonly quiet time with him we had known in years. Before the vet gave the final shot, we kissed ourfirst boy while he purred and we promised him a vast garden of lavender in Heaven. Harry’s heartceased beating beneath my hand, his fur inert for the first time since Max engulfed our lives.For days thereafter, I would sit in the garden just before dinner, the time Harry would habitually slinkhome from his daily bender, and I would provoke myself into inconsolable paroxysms of grief.One night, while packing for a business trip, Mark said, “I think Harry’s death is calling upsomething deeper for you. Maybe it represents the end of something else?” I knew he was right, yetdidn’t have the heart to remind Mark of the videotape, of just the two of us at the height of the rut,idle and carefree, not yet contemplating a child and not fearing the death of a child.
  17. 17. Shopping holds no allure for me, but in the days following Harry’s death, I began searchingdesperately for a garden talisman, a ceramic way to grasp and hold time. I packed Max in the car anddrove to every nursery imaginable. Over hills, through the tunnel, weaving through traffic, snifflingand dabbing my eyes until Max finally stated: “This grief thing is driving me nuts.”“Please, just help me find one nice thing for Harry?” I asked meekly, suspecting Mark was right, thatI was really in pursuit of innocence forever gone. At each stop we pondered rust silhouettes of kittensprancing after butterflies and garish stone cats set in unattractive positions.“There’s another great nursery down San Pablo,” I pitched to Max, promising a new Hardy Boy’sbook and his favorite taqueria if he’d just hang in there with me.“What about this green gazing ball?” Max said at our final stop. “It’s the color of Harry’s eyes.”I tentatively circled the reflective garden sphere. Whose hips were those anyway? I wondered, takenaback at my spheroid image. The dancer’s legs Harry loved so innocently where disguised in wide-legged Capri’s and my belly bulged no matter which way I turned. The truth was now evidentthrough a new lens and I could finally mourn the parts of ourselves we had sacrificed in order to keepMax – and our marriage – alive. The miraculous journey we embarked upon from those love-sweptyears had taken its toll. No regrets, just a poignancy I barely recognized.We purchased a wind chime of Indian bells and turquoise beads, strung with a metallic cat holding afish and mouse and hung it by a bench in the front yard. We brought Mama and Sally out to the
  18. 18. garden and stood together as a family – worn, but intact - in Harry’s late afternoon sunshine. Max sprinkled catnip underneath the chimes, while the pet sitter read an Indian prayer and lit sage leaves to lift the words to Heaven. We then untied a cluster of three balloons – an orange tiger striped, a yellow smile face and, my choice, a red heart – and kissed them. On the count of three, we let go. The hot colors dotted the flawless, azure sky, floating toward infinity. As we turned to go inside, I gazed upward a final time and noticed the heart lagged far behind, the last to disappear. Laura Novak has worked every which way in the news business, from being awarded The DavidJayne Fellowship at ABC News London, to reporting for The New York Times from San Francisco. Her firstnovel is set in Berkeley and she is at work on a mystery series. You can also find her on Twitter@LaNovakAuthor. (Harry & Sally Novak circa 1990) Copyright: Laura A. Novak 2010
  19. 19.  A  Long  Walk  with  a  Short  Dog  Along  a  Lost  Coast      By  Whimsical  Doggo      There  is  a  place  on  the  northern  California  coastline  that  is  so  steep  and  so  unstable  and  so  rainy  that  no  one  has  ever  attempted  to  build  a  highway  there.  It  is  one  of  the  most  lightly  populated  parts  of  the  state  that  isn’t  desert  or  mountaintop.  Even  as  the  state’s  population  climbs  toward  the  forty  million  mark,  no  one  seriously  suggests  that  the  State  Department  of  Transportation  attempt  to  punch  a  road  through  the  area  -­‐  the  cost  of  doing  so  would  be  prohibitive  and  few  people  would  live  there  even  if  they  had  vehicle  access  to  it.      The  beauty  of  this  situation  is  that,  as  is  often  the  case  with  hostile  environments,  it  has  become  a  protected  wilderness  area,  a  state  park.  As  such,  it  is  the  one  place  where  one  can  backpack  along  the  California  coastline  and  legally  camp  on  its  beaches.      And  dogs  are  allowed  there,  too.    I  broached  the  subject  of  the  “Lost  Coast,”  as  it  is  known  among  hikers,  to  my  little  rat  terrier  mix,  Higgons.  Would  he  be  interested  in  a  three-­‐day  stroll  through  a  very  wild  
  20. 20. and  crazy  place?    He  stared  back  at  me.  I  had  overlooked  the  fact  that  he  doesn’t  speak  English.  Never  has.    Higgons’  philosophy  in  life,  I  should  point  out,  coils  around  a  certain  bristly  assertiveness.  As  a  terrier,  he  plunges  through  life  with  the  understanding  that  he  doesn’t  need  to  establish  much  that  hasn’t  already  been  demonstrated  as  true  already.  He  also  holds  by  the  wisdom  that  he  doesn’t  have  to  complicate  life  by  contemplating  it  much.  Maybe  Aristotle  was  the  human  version  of  a  terrier,  since  it  was  Aristotle  from  whom  we  obtained  the  expression,  “It  is  what  it  is.”  Certainly  Higgons  lives  the  most  Aristotelian  of  existences.      If  he  did  speak  English,  he  might  have  said,  “I  dunno.”    The  decision  was  all  mine,  so  I  packed  dog  chow  along  with  the  usual  freeze-­‐dried  human  chow,  and  pointed  the  car  toward  Shelter  Cove  and  the  south  end  of  the  Lost  Coast  walk.  I  had  decided  to  walk  from  south  to  north  so  as  to  keep  the  sun  out  of  my  eyes,  which  is  my  usual  habit  when  hiking  in  the  Northern  Hemisphere.      Most  hikers  walk  this  route  from  north  to  south  (as  to  why,  we  would  find  out  in  about  two  and  a  half  days),  so  we  met  southbound  hikers  frequently.  Many  of  them  had  dogs,  and  the  people  with  dogs  had:  put  improvised  or  
  21. 21. specialized  booties  on  their  dog’s  paws,  bandaged  their  paws,    or  were  even  forced  to  carry  their  dogs.  I  was  warned  time  and  again  that  the  way  ahead  would  abrade  Higg’s  delicate  paws  well  before  we  reached  the  Mattole  River  twenty-­‐four  miles  later.    “At  least  he’s  a  little  guy,”  one  fellow  wheezed  as  he  set  his  Labrador  retriever  down  for  a  moment  of  respite.      A  luxury  that  this  hike  had  afforded  both  of  us  was  that  there  was  no  need  for  a  leash.  Between  the  rowdy  Pacific  and  the  steep  cliffs,  keeping  track  of  Higgons  (and  Higgons  keeping  track  of  me)  was  literally  very  straightforward.    If  he  did  speak  English,  he  might  have  said,  “I  know  exactly  where  you  are.  Cool.”    An  extra  factor  of  difficulty  we  would  face  was  that  sometimes,  like  twice  a  day,  high  tides  would  inhibit  the  progress  of  all  travelers  who  weren’t  seabirds  or  fish,  so  we  had  to  carry  a  tide  table  in  addition  to  our  usual  gear.      Certainly,  our  perspectives  on  this  trip  would  diverge.  While  I  craved  the  long  views,  the  salt  air,  the  cacophonous  waves,  and  the  high  cliffs,  Higgons  sought  upright  objects  on  which  to  urinate.  We  had  different  priorities,  but  Higg’s  abiding  obsession  with  urinating  on  almost  anything  vertical  (which,  when  one  is  walking  along  a  steep  coastline,  is  a  lot),  was  perhaps  better  served.    
  22. 22.  Asked  to  comment  on  this,  Higgons  might  have  said,  “Just  checking  my  pee-­‐mail,  guys.”    Of  course,  we  both  understood  that  we  had  not  embarked  on  a  cakewalk.  Rocky  beaches,  sea  lions,  rogue  waves,  poison  oak,  bears,  and  raccoons  all  lurked  along  the  trail,  and  given  Higg’s  predilection  to  territoriality,  whether  he  owned  the  territory  or  not,  the  opportunities  for  harm  (to  us)  were  rife.    What  neither  of  us  had  factored  into  the  trip  planning  was  Higg’s  total  disregard  for  the  passage  of  time.  Again,  this  was  the  Aristotelian  in  him.  The  human  half  of  our  entourage  strode  forth,  tide  table  and  walking  stick  in  hand.  The  canine  half  of  our  party  lowered  his  sharp  little  nose  to  the  sand  and  began  inhaling.  I  wanted  to  camp  somewhere  north  of  Buck  Creek.  Higg’s  idea  of  an  ideal  campsite  was  wherever  he  was  right  now.  He  had  the  urgency  of  limpet.      If  he  deigned  to  discuss  this  with  me,  he  might  have  said,  “Hey,  check  this  out:  bear  shit!”    Combining  the  warnings  of  the  southbound  hikers  with  Higg’s  tendency  towards  inertia,  I  decided  that  I  needed  a  method  of  hastening  the  little  guy  over  grumpy  terrain  at  a  reasonable  pace.  Faced  with  our  first  field  of  tire-­‐sized  boulders  at  the  north  end  of  Black  Sands  Beach,  we  took  a  
  23. 23. break  (well,  I  took  a  break.  Higgons  kept  sniffing  the  ground).  Rummaging  in  my  pack  for  some  appropriate  technology,  I  discovered  a  spare  belt,  an  old  T-­‐shirt,  and,  an  oddity  at  sea  level,  a  crampon  strap.      Ten  minutes  later,  Higgons  was  slung,  like  a  seventeen-­‐pound  baby,  across  my  narrow  writer’s  chest,  and  we  commenced  up  and  over  the  boulder  field.  I  had  stripped  away  some  of  his  dignity,  but  I  had  preserved  his  paws  and  we  were  making  better  headway  against  the  eventual  setting  of  the  sun.    Assessing  the  situation,  Higgons  might  have  said,  “Is  this  really  necessary?”    Using  this  new  arrangement  whenever  we  encountered  rough  ground,  sea  lions  colonies,  or  patches  of  poison  oak,  Higgons  and  I  reached  an  absolutely  stunning  campsite  -­‐  quaint  waterfall  trickling  down  a  glistening  cliff  face,  dry  mound  of  flat  rock  above  the  tideline,  gorgeous  kelp  beds  just  offshore  -­‐  by  four  in  the  afternoon.  I  laid  out  a  few  simple  items  (No  tent.  The  satellite  reports  were  for  zero  chance  of  rain  over  the  next  five  days),  fed  the  two  of  us,  wrote  in  the  journal  for  a  bit,  crawled  into  the  sleeping  bag,  attached  a  spool  of  clothesline  to  Higg’s  harness,  and  fell  asleep  at  10:58  PM.    At  11:13  PM,  I  awoke  to  the  treble  yell  of  Higg’s  battle  cry.  Coming  to  my  senses  groggily,  I  slapped  out  at  the  
  24. 24. dwindling  coil  of  clothesline,  and  missed  the  last  yard  of  it  as  it  paid  out  behind  my  speeding  mongrel  shooting  into  the  darkness.      “Higg-­‐ONS!”  I  yelled,  “Get  back  here!”      Strangely  enough,  he  trotted  right  back.  Docile.  Subdued.  Apologetic.  Redolent  of  skunk.    If  he  did  speak  English,  he  might  have  said,  “Perimeter  secured,  sir.  Cough-­‐cough!”    Our  beautiful  campsite  came  with  a  contingent  of  roosting  cormorants  raining  fish  bones  down  on  us  from  the  bluff  just  behind  us.  Evidently  skunks  came  out  at  night  and  ate  the  cormorants’  piscine  leftovers.      Which  brings  us  to  the  availability  of  food  in  the  area,  which  is  to  say  that  there  is  a  lot  of  it.  Whether  it  drifts  in  from  the  ocean,  grows  on  the  rain-­‐soaked  hills,  or  wanders  out  of  the  forest,  the  region  simply  drips  with  nutrition.  When  the  Sinkyone  people  were  the  climax  community  of  what  would  eventually  become  California,  the  Lost  Coast  was  the  most  populous  part  of  it.  And  now  the  Lost  Coast  is  arguably  the  least  populous.      Higg  and  I  blame  the  skunks.      Now  that  he  had  a  facefull  of  skunk  juice,  Higgons  sought  
  25. 25. comfort,  preferably  in  my  sleeping  bag.  I  shivered  into  some  clothes,  started  some  water  heating  over  the  mini-­‐stove,  and  went  about  the  business  of  washing  skunk  propellant  out  of  a  dog’s  face  at  midnight.  I  found  myself  fantasizing  about  an  emergency  helicopter  drop  of  enzyme-­‐based  skunk  odor  remover.  As  a  friend  of  mine  once  said,  “Skunk  incidents  are  always  inconvenient.  They  never  happen  in  the  early  afternoon.”      Higgons  might  have  said,  “That  squirrel  violated  the  Geneva  convention.  He  was  using  chemical  weapons.”    So  much  for  a  good  night’s  sleep.      Smelling  and  feeling  something  other  than  our  best,  Higgons  and  I  set  forth  on  Day  Two.  At  least  one  of  us  would  have  liked  to  have  slept  in,  but  for  once  smells  were  motivating  me  more  than  they  were  motivating  Higgons.  And  we  had  only  paced  off  the  first  eight  of  our  twenty-­‐four  miles  (Well,  I  paced  off  eight  miles.  I  think  Higgons  had  walked  no  more  than  three  and  three-­‐quarters).  If  we  moved  steadily,  we  might  be  able  to  reach  Punta  Gorda,  some  ten  miles  north  of  us,  before  the  late  afternoon  tide  came  in  -­‐  a  worthwhile  goal.      But  the  beautiful  surroundings  were  also  treacherous.  This  was  anything  but  a  placid  walk  along  a  sandy  beach.  Almost  nothing  was  smooth  or  easy.  Every  step  was  either  up  or  down,  and  a  good  many  of  them  were  also  lateral,  
  26. 26. with  short  beaches  giving  way  to  long,  tall  talus  piles  that  stretched  down  into  lashing  surf  and  jagged  tide  pools.  I  now  proceeded  with  two  walking  sticks  in  my  hands,  one  a  driftwood  pole  and  one  an  old  fishing  rod  that  had  retired  from  its  day  job,  and  my  dog  was  dangling  from  my  pack  straps.  Higgons  would  have  liked  to  have  explored  everything,  but  we  only  had  enough  kibble  for  four  days,  and  I  needed  to  get  back  to  work  in  the  big  city.    A  lunch  stop  inspection  of  the  map  showed  that  we  had  only  progressed  as  far  as  a  place  called  Big  Flat,  sitting  at  the  foot  of  King  Peak,  whose  summit  is  less  than  a  mile  inland,  and,  at  4,088  feet  above  sea  level,  is  one  of  the  steepest  coastal  escarpments  in  the  world.  Higgons  wanted  to  urinate  on  the  very  top  of  King  Peak;  he  might  have  said,  “After  giant  redwood  trees,  King  Peak  is  the  Holy  Fire  Hydrant  of  pissing,”  but  I  had  more  pedestrian  aspirations.  I  loaded  him  back  into  his  T-­‐shirt  howdah  and  clambered  up  the  next  pile  of  seaside  stones.  We  saved  King  Peak  for  some  other  time.  Punta  Gorda  awaited  us.    Swaying  in  his  sling,  Higgons  grunted  with  disapproval  from  time  to  time,  but  the  progress  we  made  over  ruddy  poison  oak  patches  and  then  through  a  surprisingly  deep  (considering  that  it  was  late  summer)  Randall  Creek,  made  his  disgruntlement  worth  it.  The  chilly  threat  of  water  dancing  just  beneath  his  seat  in  business  class  did  not  impress  Higgons  favorably.        
  27. 27. He  might  have  said,  “Have  you  thought  about  simply  turning  about  and  walking  back  to  Shelter  Cove?”    We  were  theoretically  past  the  midpoint  of  the  Lost  Coast  Trail,  but  the  sun  had  run  out  of  patience  with  us,  as  had  the  moon,  which  began  to  tug  gently  on  the  eastern  edge  of  the  Pacific,  and  wet,  tired,  and  thirsty,  we  pushed  on  toward  an  area  known  as  Spanish  Ridge.  On  the  map,  the  beaches  north  of  Spanish  Ridge  were  labeled  “Trail  Impassable  During  High  Tide,”  and  it  was  my  desire,  if  not  Higg’s,  to  clear  the  “impassable”  beach  before  we  made  our  second  camp.  For  speed’s  sake,  I  relegated  Higgons  to  his  mobile  hammock.    Not  long  thereafter,  as  we  approached  Cooksie  Creek,  we  were  surprised  to  hear  a  woman’s  voice  call  out  “Awww...  How  cute!  Ooh,  do  I  smell  skunk?”      To  which  Higgons  might  have  replied,  “I’m  not  ‘cute.’  I’m  ‘dashing’.  And  you  needn’t  worry  about  any  skunks.  I  have  secured  the  perimeter.”    We  stopped,  briefly,  to  converse  with  a  young  couple  camped  on  a  rocky  overlook  next  to  the  creek.  They  were  walking  south,  and  had  elected  to  get  past  the  rising  tide  and  then  end  their  day  here.      “That  area  north  of  here  is  danged  windy,”  the  young  man  said,  “she’s  a  sandblaster.  If  you’re  walking  north,  you’re  
  28. 28. guaranteed  to  get  it  in  the  face,  sorry  to  say.”    We  expressed  interest  in  getting  much  of  the  impassable  sandblaster  over  and  done  with  that  afternoon.    “Good  luck!”  they  both  said,  as  we  hurried  down  through  the  massive  boulders  towards  the  way  north.    And  Higgons  might  have  said,  “Luck  is  for  the  poorly  prepared.”    A  long,  flat  beach  greeted  us  as  we  dropped  down  from  the  rocks.  Higgons  struggled  to  be  let  down  onto  the  sand,  and  I  was  in  a  mood  to  let  him  do  so  -­‐  lightening  my  load  by  one-­‐third  had  a  definite  appeal.  And  perhaps  by  now  he  had  come  around  to  the  notion  that  making  tracks  toward  a  specific  destination  wasn’t  such  a  bad  idea.      Just  then,  a  set  of  waves  shot  up  the  beach,  which  was  rather  narrow,  and  slapped  at  the  base  of  the  cliff.  The  tide,  heretofore  not  a  factor  in  our  journey,  was  in.      Higgons  might  have  said,  “How  are  you  at  walking  on  water?  Surf,  no  less?”    Defeated,  we  retreated  back  up  into  the  boulders  astride  Cooksie  Creek  and  made  camp.  Wading  into  a  dangerous  tide  in  diminishing  light  didn’t  strike  either  of  us  as  prudent.  For  once,  we  were  unified  in  our  goal.  Punta  
  29. 29. Gorda  would  have  to  wait.  I  found  myself  fantasizing  about  a  helicopter  delivery  of  a  chantrelle-­‐and-­‐Gruyere  pizza.      There  was  no  repeat  performance  by  either  Higgons  or  skunks  that  second  night,  and  both  of  us  slept  deeply.  We  could  also  agree  on  the  wisdom  of  rest.      When  we  woke  the  next  morning,  one  of  us  checked  the  tide  chart  (and  the  tide,  you  betcha’),  fixed  a  speedy  breakfast,  and  set  us  out  onto  what  we  now  thought  of  as  Impassable  Beach.  Almost  immediately,  despite  the  early  hour,  heavy  winds  came  at  us  from  the  north,  so  the  sun  stayed  out  of  my  eyes  but  the  wind,  and  its  accompanying  sand,  did  not.  Higgons  and  I  were  beginning  to  understand  why  the  bulk  of  the  Lost  Coast  hikers  had  walked  in  the  other  direction.  We  both  sighed,  Higgons  clambered  into  his  cotton  cockpit,  and  we  (or  rather  I)  leaned  into  the  wind.    What  if  the  treadmill  in  your  local  fitness  club  came  with  a  set  of  mechanical  demons  who  would  grab  at  your  ankles  as  you  tried  to  stride  off  into  your  cardio  workout?  And  what  if  that  treadmill  stretched  all  the  way  to  the  horizon?  Finally,  what  if  other,  nastier,  automated  demons  fired  a  leaf  blower  filled  with  sand  into  your  face?    Well,  probably  you  would  choose  to  be  a  scrawny  terrier  who  could  curl  up  in  a  shelter  raised  out  of  the  bulk  of  the  sandblasting.  At  least,  I  like  to  think  that  Higgons  
  30. 30. appreciated  his  circumstances.  A  second  T-­‐shirt  pulled  over  my  head  with  a  couple  of  eyeholes  torn  in  it  for  my  sunglasses  improved  the  situation,  but  did  not  obviate  the  fact  that  I  had  to  walk  through  all  this  stuff  for  no  short  while.  Glancing  at  my  watch  every  hour  or  so  would  reveal  that  actually  only  three  or  four  minutes  had  passed  -­‐  this  was  the  absolute  corollary  to  the  axiom  “time  flies  when  you’re  having  fun.”  Higg  groaned  in  sympathy  and  burrowed  deeper  into  his  T-­‐shirt  divan  chair.      If  he  wanted  to  say  something,  Higgons  might  have  said,  “Good  luck  with  the  wind  and  the  sand.”    Eventually,  a  tiny,  man-­‐made  object  began  to  wink  at  us  in  the  distance.  It  looked  like  a  damaged  paper  cup  set  upside  down  on  the  beach,  but  was,  in  fact,  the  Punta  Gorda  (“Fat  Point,”  if  this  has  been  nagging  you)  lighthouse,  an  old  ruin,  but  now  a  useful  and  semi-­‐encouraging  landmark  along  the  Lost  Coast  Trail.  It  made  us  feel  just  a  little  less  “lost.”      But  it  stubbornly  refused  to  draw  any  nearer  to  us.  Somehow,  the  wind  that  was  pushing  us  to  the  south  was  also  simultaneously  moving  the  lighthouse  farther  north.  After  an  eternity  of  struggling  into  the  wind,  the  lighthouse  remained  the  size  of  a  paper  cup,  perhaps  now  it  was  one  of  those  paper  cups  that  your  dentist  offers  you  prior  to  spitting.  It  was  maddening,  unless  you  were  a  small  brown  dog  who  had  been  rocked  to  sleep  by  now.    
  31. 31.  Hikers  deal  with  this  kind  of  challenge  by  hypnotizing  themselves,  in  a  way.  Lower  your  head,  set  a  rhythm,  don’t  stop  to  whine,  don’t  look  at  your  watch,  don’t  look  at  the  sun,  don’t  look  up  at  your  far  off  objective,  just  trudge.      And  eventually  you  almost  break  your  nose  on  the  side  of  an  abandoned  lighthouse.  Higgons  and  I  heaved  ourselves  inside  the  lighthouse  and  out  of  the  sandstorm.  I  set  him  down  to  sniff  around  and  leave  a  pee-­‐mail  or  two,  we  drank  some  water,  ate  a  small  snack,  looked  at  each  other,  sighed,  and  returned  to  the  beefy  breeze  sweeping  down  the  coastline.      Higgons  might  have  said,  “Just  a  few  more  miles  of  this  crap.  We’ll  laugh  about  it  later.”    Soon,  however,  the  route  turned  more  toward  true  north,  and  the  wind,  if  not  abating,  at  least  had  the  courtesy  to  cease  pounding  directly  into  our  faces,  choosing  instead  to  shear  across  our  bodies  in  an  annoying  fashion.  I  set  Higgons  back  on  the  shingled  beach  and  we  continued  on  our  way.  More  southbound  hikers,  several  who  said  encouraging  things  about  how  close  we  were  to  the  northern  terminus  of  the  Lost  Coast  walk,  and,  of  greater  importance  to  us,  the  parking  lot  and  the  potential  for  a  ride  back  to  our  car  -­‐  Higgons,  you  might  have  already  guessed,  is  a  most  beguiling  hitchhiker.      
  32. 32. Up  over  more  solid  ground,  we  now  veered  away  from  the  ocean  and  toward  the  weirdly  appealing  glint  of  windshields  in  the  distance.  Onto  an  old  dirt  road,  across  a  small  footbridge,  then  we  ambled  into  the  parking  lot.  Higgons  graciously  accepted  a  bowl  of  water,  I  hooked  his  leash  onto  his  harness,  and  we  arranged  ourselves  at  the  exit  to  the  parking  lot  with  a  hand-­‐lettered  cardboard  sign  that  read,  “Shelter  Cove.”      As  a  small  brown  dog  of  limited  imagination  and  limitless  character,  Higgons  constantly  puts  me  in  mind  of  the  old  Elwood  P.  Dowd  line  about,  “In  this  world,  you  must  be  oh  so  smart,  or  oh  so  pleasant.  Well,  for  years  I  was  smart.  I  recommend  pleasant.”  Higgons,  please  note,  is  unhesitatingly  pleasant.    If  he  did  speak  English,  Higgons  might  say,  “I  don’t  talk,  and  I’m  a  lot  happier  than  you  are.”    -­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐      Whimsical  Doggo  lives  and  writes  in  various  places,  such  as  Wellington,  New  Zealand,  but  most  of  the  time  he  works  in  San  Francisco.  He  is  the  author  of  the  forthcoming  humor  memoir,  A  Yank  in  Godzone:  Special  Times  for  a  Newcomer  in  New  Zealand.      Higgons  sleeps  under  Whimsical’s  desk  to  this  day.  And  he  still  doesn’t  speak  English.  
  33. 33. 7 Lessons My Grand-Dogger Taught Me About Aging Cheng 1 Creative Commons
  34. 34. 7 Lessons My Grand-Dogger Taught Me About AgingJed Diamond, Ph.D. has been a health-care professional for the last 45 years.He is the author of 9 books, including Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places,Male Menopause, The Irritable Male Syndrome, and Mr. Mean: Saving YourRelationship from the Irritable Male Syndrome . He offers counseling to men,women, and couples in his office in California or by phone with people throughoutthe U.S. and around the world. To receive a Free E-book on Men’s Health and afree subscription to Jed’s e-newsletter go to If you enjoy myarticles, please subscribe. I write to everyone who joins my Scribd team. Raider was my Grand-dogger, which is an unusual and complicatedrelationship, so let me explain. Shortly after my wife, Carlin, and I moved fromthe “Big City” to the country, our god-daughter, Antonia bought the property nextto ours and built her own yurt. To keep her company she brought her dogRaider. When she arrived, Raider was a playful pup. Over the years, shematured into a playful and fun-loving adult, got old, and finally died at age 15. Carlin and I enjoyed the wild animals that lived in and around our property—deer, bobcats, bears, mountain lions, and a host of other characters. Unlikemost of our neighbors, we decided not to have dogs, which would scare away thewild life. We put up with the bears knocking down our fences periodically to getat our fruit trees and we enjoyed getting glimpses of the other animals. However, we enjoyed “baby-sitting” for Raider when Antonia wanted to getaway for a few days and we became grandparents to this very special being.She became our grand-dogger. Over the years I learned a lot from Raider.Since she passed away last year, I’ve been thinking about her more often. Hereare some of the lessons she has taught me about aging. 1. Don’t worry. Everyone gets older. I often find myself worrying about getting older. I notice new aches and painsand watch my sex drive go up and down like a roller-coaster. Performance of allkinds is more difficult and I worry about losing everything. Raider, on the other hand, does not seem to worry about aging. She clearlynotices that she is getting on in years, but “hey,” she seems to say, “that’s justlife, nothing to worry about.”
  35. 35. 2. When you can, play like a youngster. When you can’t, relax in the sun. I used to play all the time. I loved sports and got great pleasure out of a hotand heavy game of basketball, football, or baseball. I can still play, but it makesme mad that I can’t play like I used to play. I often feel slow, fat, and clumsy. Raider spends a lot more time relaxing in the sun. I try to get her to walk andchase balls like she used to do so often. But lately, she just wants to sleep a lot.I must say, she looks very content and doesn’t seem to chastise herself for herlack of “game.” But, out of the blue, on some days she seems like a pup again. She boundsaround, races through the forest. I can’t keep up with her. Where does she getthat energy? Who knows? But when it’s there, it’s there. When its not, whocares? 3. Kisses and touches are forever. OK, I admit it, as I’ve gotten older, I seem to need to be touched and kissedmore often. Sometimes I feel like a little kid chasing my wife around, wagging mytail, hoping for a pat on the head. She thinks I want sex (OK, I usually do), butwhat I really want is to be touched, kissed, and appreciated. But, I feel a littlefoolish. Should I really be this needy at age 66? Raider has no such problem. She snuggles up for touches anytime,anywhere. She kisses my hands and anything else she can wrap her tonguearound. She understands that we never outgrow the need to be touched andkissed. 4. There’s no shame in asking for help. As I’ve gotten older, there are things I can’t do by myself. I need help splittingwood and hefting equipment into my car to get fixed in town. There are ahundred things, big and small, that I could use help with. But I have troubleasking. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve strained my back because I insistedI could do it myself. “Hey, I’m not that old. I can do this. No sweat,” I would sayto myself, just before I scream obscenities when the pain grabs me. Raider has no problem asking for help. When her hips were giving out andshe needed help getting into the car, she would look over her shoulder and giveme that look. “I could use a hand here. Could you give me a boost?” No shameat all. Help is expected and appreciated.
  36. 36. 5. There’s no reason to get irritable, aging is a privilege. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten grumpier, more grouchy, and irritable. Littleand big things bother me more. There are days that it seems that everyone isout to make my life more stressful. “Do you really have to get on my very lastnerve?” I fight aging and the infirmities it brings. I’ve even written a book calledThe Irritable Male Syndrome. Raider does not fight aging. I’ve never seen her get irritable (though I’m sureshe has her days). She lives every day, every minute, right here and right now.“Hey, look, I’m alive. I have another day to see the sunshine.” She doesn’tcomplain. She doesn’t bitch. She doesn’t moan (OK she does moan now andagain, but she’s either moaning out of pleasure or when something really hurts). 6. Whenever possible, go for a walk in nature with a friend. I grew up in big cities. I was born in New York, raised in Los Angeles, andspent most of my adult life in and around San Francisco. A walk in natureusually meant a quick ten minute race through a park. When I was diagnosedwith a rare adrenal tumor (adrenal, adrenaline, slow down, I get it), we moved toWillits, a small town in Northern California, and bought a house on 22 acres ofland. For a city kid, everything about living in the country scared me. I worriedabout bugs, bears, and birds (yes, really! I still had visions of Hitchcock’s birdsattacking me out of the blue). Raider taught me the joys of walking in nature. She was never afraid and shegave me the courage to get out see the world. The biologist, Paul Shepard, saidthere is something unhealthy about being surrounded by things made byhumans. He said, it’s a kind of intra-species incest, and produces “geneticgoofies.” When Raider and I take walks around here, 95% of everything we see, hear,and touch; are nature made, not man made. Believe me, Raider will neverbecome a “genetic goofy” and every day she teaches me to be the kind of manwho is comfortable in nature. 7. In the beginning and in the end, it’s all about love. In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to forget about what is truly important.I think a lot about earning enough money to pay the bills. I wonder about thestate of the world and whether global warming is going to melt all the icebergs,change the climate, and make living on Earth more and more challenging foreveryone. I’m concerned about “peak everything,” as author Richard Heinberg
  37. 37. describes the peaking of fossil fuels, the loss of bio-diversity, and decreasingwater and food supplies. I sense that Raider is also aware of the changes going on with theenvironment, but she doesn’t worry about them. She is much more attuned tonature than I will ever be and her ecological footprint is light and playful, eventhough she’s got 4 compared to my 2. She came into the world full of love, expressed it throughout her life, and keptit flowing as she got older. Raider taught me that love is really all that lasts and itwill last forever. She was, is, and always will be my hero. I miss her a lot. I willdo my best to age as gracefully as she did and love right up to the end and as farbeyond as memories last.
  38. 38. Missing Morgan by Hyla Molander With black Dumbo-sized ears and half his white whiskers missing, 12-week-old Morganlooked more like a rat than a tuxedo kitten. The animal shelter tech said, “They found him in a garbage can. Threw the poor kitty outwith the trash.” She squeezed the metal release latch, took a step back, and let me scoop himout of his cage. The entirety of his lackluster fur fit into my right hand, but as he shimmied hisway around my neck, through my long, brown hair, I knew he was mine.
  39. 39. “I haven’t stopped thinking about him all day.” So what if a malnourished pet was thelast thing I needed as a 19-year-old Florida State University writing major? So what if I hadn’tasked my two other roommates if I could adopt a cat? I signed the paperwork, shoved his bag of medications in my red leather purse, and tookhim home anyway. Captain Morgan seemed a fitting name, given that three of my best friends and I had alldecided that each of our new cats should be called by the various booze labels we consumed,though I never referred to him by anything other than “Morgan.” He entertained us by wrapping his sharp teeth around pencils and delivering them intoavailable shoes across the living room. “Good fetching, buddy.” He rolled on his back—all foursspread—to bask in tummy rubs. Morgan thought he was a dog. I’m sure of it. A dexterousfeline, he opened bedroom doors, kitchen drawers, and skillfully played soccer with the dried-up feces he occasionally heisted from his litter box. At night, after he licked his mostly black coat clean, he held my neck with his white-footed paws and purred like a helicopter. We slept as lovers—without the perverse animal sex. Morgan became my happiness gauge. When my first car—an Oldsmobile Calais—wasrear-ended into four other vehicles, chronic back pain introduced to me to depression, whichtold me to keep the lights low and my head under the covers.
  40. 40. “You’re too loud, Morgan. I need to get some sleep.” I tossed him onto the floor, nolonger wanting him in my bed. Some people claimed he sounded exactly like he was meowing“Hy-la,” but even that annoyed me. “Not now.” But Morgan never held a grudge. No, he still sat alongside me as I tapped at thekeyboard, attempting to reconcile my relationship with my dad through short stories. When medication and therapy finally lifted some of my physical and emotional pain,Morgan happily took his place again next to me in bed. “Sorry, little man, let’s give you somemore love.” *** Two years later, I started dating Erik, who immediately let Morgan kneed his clawsthrough his own black hair. “Ooh, is he hurting you?” Erik laughed. “It actually feels really good.” My previous boyfriend had wanted nothing to do with Morgan, but Erik took to himright away.Soon Erik and I were officially engaged. We were also officially sick of living in Florida. “You sure about this?” I asked Erik, as we packed our remaining clothes in massive UPSboxes. We’d already sold our furniture, dishes, and Erik’s red Honda CRX. “We’re together, so I’m sure.”
  41. 41. I’d never been with someone so sure of me. We were both 21, so we knew we couldeasily turn back around if we didn’t like California. My totaled Oldsmobile had been replaced by a silver, two-seater, RX7—which left uslittle room for anything other than Morgan’s litter box and some toiletries. We didn’t havemuch money, so expecting to pay extra for motels that allowed pets wasn’t an option. After we checked in to our first forty-dollar, cockroach-infested motel, we snuck back tothe car for Morgan. “You have to stay quiet,” I whispered. Then, when we were certain no onewas watching us, Erik and I gently tucked him inside a king-sized, grey pillowcase. Bent over the passenger seat, I peeked into the opening of the fabric. “You okay inthere?” Morgan’s light green eyes glowed back at me. “Meow.” Like a newborn baby curled upin his mommy’s sling, he submitted to the protection of the surrounding cotton. I smiled as Eriksauntered towards our room, carrying a bag of dirty laundry over his shoulder. The drive took five days—most of which Morgan quietly spent in my lap. But five days ofconfinement can make anyone crazy, so I couldn’t blame Morgan for bolting away from the carby the time we reached Texas. In a dark, sketchy parking lot, Erik and I squatted between beat-up old trucks until I captured our AWOL kitty. *** On Easter Sunday, 2003, Erik and I were seven months pregnant with our seconddaughter. Between my children’s photography business, Erik’s management position at
  42. 42. Industrial Light and Magic, and taking care of 17-month-old Tatiana, we made jokes about ourchaotic bliss. Even Morgan celebrated his California life by swatting the bubbles I blew for Tatiana inthe backyard. “Cat. Bub-bu,” Tatiana squealed, as her blonde curls flew up and down. But later that same day, there were no more squeals. As many times as I’ve replayed the event in my mind, I don’t remember where Morganwas when Erik slid down the kitchen counter and lay motionless on our white-tiled floor. Did hewitness the blood dripping down Erik’s mouth? Did he hear me scream “Pick up the damnphone” when 911 put me on hold? Did he scurry off for help when he saw Tatiana, still in hergreen high chair, watching her daddy’s cheeks turn blue? Does he see me now? Does Erik see me? One minute laughing; thirty-five minutes later, proclaimed dead. Heart attack. At 29 years old.
  43. 43. When I gave birth to Keira, Morgan let her grasp his full-grown whiskers with her tiny,flailing fingers, as he continued to do with Tatiana. They were his babies. He slept near them,kept guard over them. Mostly I withdrew from Morgan while I submersed in Post TraumaticStress therapy, but he licked the salty water off of my eyelids any chance he could get. Only six months after Erik’s death, as I struggled to adjust to my existence as a 30-year-old widow with two babies, Morgan’s health deteriorated. He stopped twisting doorknobs. Hestopped pouncing on stray mice. “Kidney failure. Weekly fluid injections,” the veterinarian said. “Best to put him to sleep.It’s his time.” But I hadn’t had enough time. I couldn’t do it. Instead, I wrapped him in my soft bluesweater, kissed him on his forehead, and let my friend take him to receive that fatal injection. I couldn’t hold Morgan—my beloved cat who had been with me through depression,love, anger, death, and birth—because I never got the chance to hold my Erik as he took his lastbreath. Copyright 2010 Hyla Molander
  44. 44. About Hyla Molander Widowed at 29, during her second pregnancy, Hyla Molander knew she had to make meaningout of her tragedy. She now does this through speaking engagements, writing for blogs and magazines,moderating a widowed forum on Facebook, and embracing each moment with her new husband andfour young children in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find Hyla’s writing in The Good Men Project Magazine, Writing Mamas, Life360, Scribd,Marin Magazine, and her own popular Drop Dead Life blog. Currently, she is working on her forthcoming memoir, Drop Dead Life: A Pregnant Widow’sHeartfelt and Often Comic Journey through Death, Birth, and Rebirth.
  45. 45. I Didn’t Know But I Knew by David Lee NutterSome people do not believe in what I call “woo-woo stuff.”Neither did I until...It was mid summer 1986. I was driving from southernMichigan toward Detroit. Just cruising along in my car withnothing specific on my mind. I didn’t even have the radioturned on. Just the routine sounds of tires on asphalt and notanything else that I can recall.A strangeness began overcoming me in the form of what cannot be described as a form other than what it was becoming.As I drove along, the form began to become a “presence.” A“presence” that for a while had no explanationuntil I realized it was my dog. I was near Detroit, MI and thedog was at my home west of Denver, CO. The “presence”grew stronger. Stronger to a point that I reached over towardthe passenger seat to pet it ... or to just touch it. Whether Iphysically touched it I can not actually confirm. But I know itwas in the car with me. I can not deny that. As the“presence” grew in my knowing it was definitely present Ibegan to cry. I am not a man that tends to cry easily.Upon returning to where I was staying I called my wife. Wegreeted each other and I asked, “Did you have a good day?”She replied, “No, it has not been a good day.”Rather than asking her what was the matter I responded,“Pupup died, didn’t he?”Silence on the phone ... then “How did you know?”I answered, “I don’t know but I knew.”I told her about my experience earlier in the car. I told herthe approximate time that it happened.Her reply, “That was the very time she had taken the dog to
  46. 46. the vet and he was euthanized.”Someone later commented to me that Pupup surely musthave missed me and loved me enough to make that journeyat that time to be with me.
  47. 47. Toppy at 2 months just after arriving at his new home.Picking ParentsMy name is Top although my humans sometimes call me Toppy which iskind of a childish name for an Alpha male like me. I have three sisters and abrother but have long since lost contact with them since we were all put upfor adoption at the tender age of two months.Adoption was an ordeal since the five of us were taken to a Pet Smart storein Gilroy, California where a variety of potential adoptive parents wereparaded before us. Each of the prospects hoping that one of us would decidethey would be ideal parents and somehow signal our interest and affection.As the smartest and most attractive of the litter I pretty much had my choiceof the humans that came in to look at us. Several potential parents lookedquite nice but had small children. That would not have been an idealsituation since I would have to compete for my parent’s affection. One ofthose couples seemed particularly interested in me so I had to nip at their
  48. 48. little boy. One nip and the boy started crying which was all it took toconvince them that I was a bit too active for their taste.Finally an older couple came in to look. I could see in their eyes that theywere affectionate and caring and would make ideal parents. Strangely thewoman immediately picked up one of my sisters and said to the man: “Ohlook how cute this one is. She’s just perfect.” Naturally my sister decidedthis was a good family for her and began licking the woman’s face. As shedid this I had a sickening feeling that this was a lost cause, the family that Ihad picked was instead going to take my sister home with them and I’d getstuck with another family. How unfair since, as I said, I’m clearly thesmartest and most attractive.Sensing that time was quickly running out I decided to make a move to tryand get attention and change the inevitable. I started whining andwhimpering as I gave the man the most pleading look imaginable. At first itdidn’t seem to work as the man was talking with the woman and seemed toignore me. Then when it was least expected fortune seemed to turn my way.I clearly heard the man say to the woman, “Are you sure you want afemale?” My little heart beat faster when I heard these words since it seemedthat all was not lost.Then I saw the woman nod her head and say, “Sure, why not?”“Why not?” I thought, “Can’t you see that I’m by far the best choice?”Despite my confidence in myself I was truly fearful that I was going to losethis battle until I heard the man say, “Let’s ask and see which is easier totrain, males or females.”The woman put my sister back in the crate next to me. Then I waitedanxiously as the man and woman walked over to the representative of theBorder Collie Rescue Team and engaged in a long conversation with her.Finally, they returned to the crate and the man reached down and picked meup in his hands and held his nose next to mine saying, “I like this cute littleguy.” I couldn’t control my tongue as it rapidly licked his face or my eyes asthe opened wide with joy.Then he handed me to the woman and I squealed with joy and licked herface profusely as I could sense her heart warming to the idea of sharing her
  49. 49. home with the cute little bundle of joy that was me. “Ok,” she said, “If thisis the one you want its ok with me.”On the way home they kept talking about ‘their decision’ and how they hadpicked me. Somehow it never occurred to them that I was the one who didthe picking and that they were my choice. Oh well, I suppose it’s best to letthem think they are the ones in charge.
  50. 50. Buddy Knows BestIn 2004 my sons were persistent in theirrequests for a dog. My family was Blessed byour dog Snuggles as I grew up and reminiscingInspired me to give finding a dog for my ownchildren consideration. I was feeling spreadthin so the thoughts of adding another familymember were generally fleeting. I asked Spiritto guide me on the subject.One day I kept feeling a strong urge to look atthe pet section of the newspaper. By the endof the day, we had a Heavenly new familymember, a peekapoo named Buddy. A youngcollege student was forced to find Buddy a newhome because Buddy howled pitifully when leftin the apartment bathroom while his masterattended work and classes, disturbing thepeace.Buddy fell into our familys routine withremarkable ease. He learned very quickly andwas given free reign when we were home andaway. Buddy must have experienced thetransition as an upgrade as evidenced by theabsence of pitiful howling.
  51. 51. The more we grew to know our Beloved furryfriend, the more we noticed his ability tocommunicate, even lessons of a Spiritualnature...Buddy has a small water bowl and a food dishwith two compartments. We would generallykeep a small amount of kibble in onecompartment of the food bowl and refresh hiswater and food regularly. Once in a while wewould fail to notice that Buddy needed a refillof food or water. Buddy soon learned toscratch the empty food or water bowl to let usknow what he needed. Clever doggy!Soon Buddy kicked it up a notch. I noticedBuddy scratching the empty compartment ofhis food bowl even when he had kibble andwater. Buddy did not want kibble or water. Hewanted treats. Buddy would look earnestlywhere the treats are stored or towards scrapsstill on the kitchen counter, then back at melike “Hook me up Mom!”. Clever doggy!More often than not, Buddys efforts wererewarded with a dog treat or a bit of tablescraps. The Spiritual lesson is this: Decidewhat you want, ask for it and keep scratchingaway at it. We have to decide what we want
  52. 52. and take action towards manifesting it toincreasingly expand Heaven in our lives. Buddyis a genius! : )    
  53. 53. Everybody knows the famous story of a thirsty crow lookingfor water in a desert but it happened again in modern timeswhen a thirsty crow looking for water, found very little amountof water in a container so as per experience transferred to himfrom family, he brought some stones covered with sand to dropin the water and raise water level so he can drink the water butunfortunately he died because dry stones sucked all the waterin container and water never came up to serve the crow!Here are some lessons of self improvement derived from the story: 1. Never be a blind follower. 2. Solution may differ even though the problem is the same. 3. Be innovative and analytical even for a simple problem.20-04-2010Al-Ain
  54. 54. Sam By Shana Mahaffey In 1990, a bull terrier mix with a pirate s patch over her right eye, and aninky black wonder dog cape covering her white body, ran along a lonely roadoutside San Luis Obispo, California. A passerby rescued the running dog and broughther to the local animal shelter. And once there, she earned a reputation as anunfriendly dog, intimidating all those who passed by her kennel. But not my friendJohn who said, The first time I saw her, she stood straight and serious, her bodyforming an H. Rather than fearing this somber dog, John brought her home to hisgirlfriend Anne who lived in Santa Barbara, California. And so began a journey ofmy cherished friend, Sam, the dog who taught me how to face and overcome mygreatest fear. I first heard about Sam when Anne called me and said, I got a dog. Sufferingfrom a debilitating illness, Anne often had a tough time getting through the day. So when she uttered the words, dog, my immediate thought, which I kept to myself, was I hope this is one of those old, mellow, sleep all day, cat-like dogs, because Anne didn t have the energy for much more. Then I met Sam, the canine version of Eliza Doolittle. She had the will and the friendly, aim to please personality you only findin dogs, but she definitely needed some work. 1
  55. 55. I ll admit my skepticism over the decision to keep a dog who barked toomuch, chewed everything in sight, didn t listen, and needed hours of exercise towear her out. But my uncertainty reversed itself when I saw how quickly Anne slove and attention, supplemented by the love and attention of her new, extendedfamily helped Sam transform her frenetic behavior into the intuitive, considerate,and affectionate dog I knew for almost ten years. Now don t get me wrong, Sam didn tturn into the Zen master who spent her days inmeditation. The turbo dog with a singularfocus on tennis balls, birds, and whose favoritedestination was the beach remained. In fact,Sam loved the beach so much it got to be thatnobody could say beach in her presencewithout igniting a frenzied reaction of barking,high jumping, tail chasing, scatteringeverything and anyone in the near vicinity. To avoid this, the codeword for beachbecame Sea. But Sam, figured that one out quickly, demonstrating her knowledgeby reenacting her Beach, did you say beach? performance. No matter the route, Sam always knew the way to the ocean. And when thefootpath or car went in that direction, she d go crazy. Upon arrival, the entire beachbecame her playground. She once chased a bird so far out to sea, a boat with anoutboard motor had to be dispatched to rescue her. Another time, on a mission tocatch a tennis ball, she knocked the wind out of me with a blindside as she shot 2
  56. 56. forward to snatch the flying ball in her jaws. But she was also the dog who ran like athief whenever her friends called out, Sammy! Who passed out slobbery kisses likecandy. Who welcomed you anytime, day or night, with a wagging tail and a friendlybark. So, what are a fall and a little shortness of breath for a friend like that? A couple of years after Sam moved in with Anne and became part of my life, I moved to New York City. Even though we saw each other far less frequently, Sam knew I was her friend, the cat lady, who took her for runs, shared my muffin, and who liked to be greeted the helicoptoring tail accompanied by a gleeful bark. And many years later when life found all three of us in the Bay Area, abridge separating me from Anne and Sam, our routine remained the same, just morefrequent. Not long after Anne and Sam moved to the Bay Area, Sam s health took adownward turn. When I saw her after a couple of weeks of battling her illness, Inoticed the toll of it had dimmed her black eye patch and wonder dog cape, but itdidn t diminish the twinkle in her eye or the mirth in her doggie smile. Thefollowing week, after many tests, the vet was ready to present the results. Annescheduled the visit to the vet for early evening so Sam s posse could all attend. Asshe lay on the cold metal table, Sam shifted her gaze back and forth between Anneand the rest of us, wiggling her tail as if to say, Don t worry, it will all right. A thick fear washed over the half dozen of us standing in the examining roomawaiting the prognosis. More people waited by the phone. When the vet entered, a 3
  57. 57. momentary flash of surprise cross his face as he squeezed into the room. All ofyou? he asked. Many yes s and nodding heads answered in response. Once he reached Sam, the vet turned to Anne. I don t remember his exactwords, but they were something along the lines of, It s not good . Sam has a largetumor on her heart. Some folks let out gasps. Those closest to Anne reached out to her as shereached out to Sam. I remember squeezing my toes to save off the pain thatprecedes tears. Someone, maybe Anne or another person who managed to find hervoice said, What can we do? We can do nothing, said the vet. Or we can operate, but when we get inthere if the tumor is too large, we would let her go on the table. So there we had it. Neither option offered any comfort. A lot of talking ensued and the only decision we made was to go get Sam sfavorite meal hamburger and go back to Anne and Sam s home and cook it forher. Even I, the staunch vegetarian, didn t object to this. Later after the hamburger had been cooked and devoured, we all sat in acircle in the living room while Sam flipped the switch on our collective mood, takingus from dark to light by running to and fro, wagging her tail, and occasionallybarking. And after she finished with this, Sam started passing out kisses. Now Sam loved to kiss her family and friends. And her kisses consisted of abig slobbery tongue wash all over the face. Nobody could doubt my love for Sam, butshe d only gotten in a few kisses over the years of our friendship, when she caughtme unaware. I didn t go for the wet tongue on the face and she very well knew it. 4
  58. 58. That night Sam walked the circle, planting big wet kisses on each face. Whenmy turn came, she sat down in front of me and gave me the Sam stare the regal,wise, you know you re going to let me so keep the protesting to a minimum look. Sheclicked her tongue signaling she was ready. I demurred. She clicked again. I held hergaze for a few seconds and noticed a change. Oh, all right, I said. Then I leaned forward and she slathered my face, bothsides, temple to jaw line, crossing my nose in between. If I close my eyes and clearmy mind, I can still feel the velvety roughness of her tongue passing across mycheeks. I wouldn t admit it at the time, and couldn t admit it for years later, but whenshe stared at me, what passed between us was an understanding that this was mylast chance for a kiss from her. After she d finished licking all the faces, Sam lay stretched on her side in themiddle of our circle, spent, her breathing fast and a bit labored. Before departing, Iremember gently placing my hand on her ribcage, hoping my touch would slow herbreathing, provide some comfort. I didn t have it in me to say goodbye. Early the next morning, I got the call from Anne. She didn t need to say it, thetears in her voice told me Sam had died. In between her tears, Anne managed to say,She just got up, went outside and died. In life, we all have the family we re born into and the family we choose. Whenthis family includes pets, its members are all the more fortunate, because animalsare sentient beings who s purpose is to enrich the lives of human beings and teachus lessons if we re willing to learn them. Rescue animals in particular have a specialpurpose because they hail from difficult beginnings. The lucky ones get to break out 5
  59. 59. and choose their path, their purpose, and the people they want to teach. It is safe tosay that Sam was one of the lucky ones, and even safer to say that we were theluckier for knowing her. Since childhood, I ve had what can only be described as an existential fear ofdeath. Sleep offered no respite, because I equated it with oblivion. I fought sleep likeI was fighting for my life every night leaving the light on so I d wake up, setting myalarm for two hour intervals so I could confirm I was still alive and conscious.Because of my own fears, I d always thought I understood what Sam was runningfrom all those years earlier when the passerby found her on that San Luis Obisporoad. After her last night, I realized that day Sam wasn t running from something,she was running to someone in particular, and by extension, many someones. Shewas running because she had a job to do, she had people to teach, people to heal. In my case Sam did her job by showing me that death is nothing to fear. Itdoesn t matter that you don t know what comes after, what matters is you face it onyour own terms. That you do not go quietly into that good night. You face your fatewith a bark and a wag. Focus on your friends and family the people you hold close.Make sure your last words and/or gesture is the one you want to leave them with.That it s unforgettable no matter how many years have passed. Her last night, Sam didn t cower. She stood tall, this time instead of a straightand serious H, she exuded a relaxed and playful demeanor. She fearlessly faced herfate with a bark and a wag, focusing on her friends and family, making sure her lastgesture to each of us was lasting. Even though I am a cat person, there are a fewdogs that have a special place in my heart Sam definitely has the biggest room in 6
  60. 60. the doghouse. She may be gone, but she s certainly not forgotten by the manypeople who knew and loved her. I thought about Sam s last night for several days afterward, trying to find themessage she wanted to convey in her last kiss. Then finally, late one night as myeyelids struggled to stay open while I read, I had a moment of clarity. I closed mybook and set it on the nightstand. Then I reached up and turned off the lamp. As Ishut my eyes for sleep, I whispered, Thank you, Sammy. 7
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