Facing The Monster

Accusers and accused. There are many of these both in the news lately. Whose stories are true? What side do we choose to believe? And why do the stories seem to play out the same way each time?

At least that how it seems to me, but could we change the ending somehow? A woman comes forward to accuse a man of some kind of sexual assault from their past. The man is a high-profile figure so the story hits the news, but we all know that these stories have struck a chord because so many women have had similar experiences in their lives (including me).

Once the man stands accused, he usually claims he didn’t do it–in a very loud voice–until it turns out that we learn he did because other women come forward, or investigation into his past concludes it was true. So why then do these men say they didn’t do it?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, especially with the most recent allegations which are particularly disturbing to me, and I came up with this conclusion.

Many of us hold parts of our past we would rather forget (me included); ones that when we dare look back on them produce feelings of shame and regret. So rather than look at them, we compartmentalize them or even pretend they didn’t happen. We may actually believe they didn’t. Some folks are particularly good at this skill and humans are quite resilient and can learn to adapt to their dirty deeds and go on quite well.

What happens, though, when someone comes along and opens the door to the shame that has been hidden away and it shows its nasty head. The obvious reaction would be to say: no, no–of course I didn’t do that thing! It wasn’t me. That beast has been hiding so long it has become unfamiliar, a part of ourselves we have chosen to forget.

But, as this creature stands before us a while, I feel it should begin to take shape and start to become more visible. Letting it out of the box to stand out in the open and taking a good look at it instead of denying it, can actually help defuse its power. Because ultimately it is a part of us, no matter how bad it was, it was something we did. The first part of letting go is admitting to something.

At this point, if the accused could then face the accuser and simply say: yes, I did it, it was bad and I’m sorry I hurt you–how would that change the story? Would we all feel differently? Could then the accuser introduce forgiveness into the equation? Maybe. Hopefully.

And then maybe the healing could really begin: for everyone.



Poem: Speak Sweet

His words then

ring ring

true today

the voice that

speaks sweet

only time can solve race injustice

some said to him

It has not

Black ghost

talking before us



in winters of delay

When will The Dream come true?

destinies of Negro and White man tied together

Rip the bonds of inequality

and weave nets strong enough

to catch us all

as we come together

through time


Note: I am spending today listening to Martin Luther King Jr speeches, especially some I have never heard before. The words in italics are his.

Honey, I’m Home!

Recently I was watching a video (a funny one) that was on one of the late night shows about how there are these Robots with AI that are being used for certain ‘relationships’ I won’t really get into here. I’m not sure if it was real or humor in response to all the out pouring of sexual harassment allegations that have hit the news lately. In any case, it was a moment’s pause where laughing was medicine in an otherwise very un-funny situation.

But the whole idea made me think. Having been a single woman for a very long time, I wondered about the concept of Robot companions–not at all in the way that this particular video mentioned, but maybe more like an R2D2 sort of way. Could this be a possibility for the future? Our own home companions or partners?

I mean, let’s face it: I’ve “been there, done that” and bought every possible T-shirt for trying to date and find the right person for me. Over the course of years I’ve been single (and I’ve actually lost count now of the years), and the stories I could tell about the weirdos I’ve come across on the websites would make hanging out with a machine seem like heaven. Humans are scary and/or boring.

Picture it: instead of pouring through 100’s of  old photos and fake profiles of humans, you could simply pick out which Robot best suits your needs; short, tall; human looking (creepy) or not; male voice, female voice; appendages or just lights. Then, you could have the AI programmed to whatever things you enjoy or are interested in–think of all the data that could go in there. No more dates with someone who is clueless! Ah the dinner discussions!

Honestly, I’m not so interested in much of an emotional attachment anymore, although some of these Robots you see in movies are pretty darn cute, way cuter than some of the people I’ve tried to date! It’s all about communication anyway at my age, or maybe even helping out around the place. So if you read a good book together, you could discuss it. Or maybe go to a movie together. There could be special all terrain Robots built for hiking too.

The possibilities are really endless here. Robots are filling in so many areas of our lives anyway, why not becoming part of our family? Yes, I understand there is a bit of a spooky part of it; the whole bit of them taking over the world, infiltrating our homes and getting smarter than we are (which isn’t a stretch really). Sure, this could certainly happen…

But before they do decide to take over, having a companion that’s smart, reliable, predictable, neat, sympatico and maybe even agreeable would be such a nice change. And maybe having one on your side might just be an advantage when push comes to shove and Robots gain power over us.

Because, if there are bad ones, then there will be good ones, and they will be the ones we shared our homes with and loved.

Zoo Musings: Ernie

This is an old article written over 20 years ago. It was written when I was a docent at the Burnett Park Zoo in Syracuse NY and writing for “The Inside Track”–the newsletter especially for the volunteers.



I would guess the main reason many of us are zoo volunteers is because we love animals. We have our favorites and become attached to them. We all seem to share feelings of sadness when an animal dies, even when we may not know that animal personally. How often have we heard of an animal’s death at a meeting and all sigh and groan together sharing the loss? It touches our hearts more than it might most people. And so, many of you out there will understand how my life has been effected by the recent loss of my dog Ernie.

Of the volunteers that I know, many of you share your lives and homes with pets. You all know that I do too: my pony, my goats, my four cats and until recently, my dog. All my animals are wonderful and contribute in a special way to my life, but I have to say that none touched me like my pup.

Ernie was about five years old and came to live with us as a puppy from the Humane Center. He was about 11 weeks old, had been there a while and was pretty goofy looking. I fell instantly in love and told my husband he was the dog for me. We knew he might get big being a German Shepard/terrier mix and he ended up tipping the scale at 70 pounds.

He was my constant friend, sticking by me through an extremely difficult pregnancy. I was home all the time (throwing up mostly) and ol’ Ern was by my side despite my unpleasant behaviors. We shared that first year together pretty much alone and that attachment was to remain permanent.

I said he turned out the be a big dog, and his goofy puppy appearance transformed into a mature goofiness (still the floppy ear and a full-blown beard that become home to many a grossness). Hannah (my daughter) arrived and Ernie accepted her happily despite my Mother-In-Law’s warnings of the dog who chewed off the baby’s milk-laden fingers. Not my pup–he was one of the family.

A day came when I realized that his big galutedness needed some taming–I might have thought it was cute that a 70 pound dog jumped up to greet me, but my Mother-In-Law most definitely did not. So off we went to obedience class. Others didn’t have faith in Ernie, thinking him big AND dumb, but I knew he would rise to the occasion and show everyone how wrong they were. He was a comparatively old pupil, but I was undaunted because I knew of Ernie’s desire to please. And show ’em we did. He was a star pupil, learning everything put before him, not bothering with the other dogs and not peeing in class. He always knew when we were going to class and would get all juiced up–it was our time together and we loved it.

I still say we got robbed.  He only came away with second in his class. The judge had her eye on him when he did his one wrong thing and missed the wrong doings of the dog who took first. The whole class was shocked Ernie didn’t win and I was disappointed. But it didn’t seem to bother Ernie in the least.

He came to be my running buddy. When we moved to Otisco my dream came true and he and I were able to jog together in the woods. He would get off his leash and be able to experience the ancient feelings of his ancestors as we romped through meadows and woods. He’d always answer my call, even when face to face with a deer because this was the part of him that was bonded with me. I loved to be able to let him run free in safe territory and always believed it wasn’t fair to let an animal roam where they could get hurt.

But I got lazy… The quiet of Dutch Hill Road lured me into a false sense of security. Very little traffic, barely any pedestrians to follow and only an occasional fellow canine traveler. The winter up here has been brutal with wind chills of 20 below, snow almost waist deep, so I got complacent. I began to let Ernie out to do this thing by himself. Only for minutes at a time–he was never one to like to be out by himself–even in warm weather he’d whimper to come in to be with us. He’d stick around…..

On the last day I saw him alive, I had just let him out for a pee. I was on the phone and was looking out the window at him. He was in the driveway looking toward the road with ears perked (even the floppy one). I chatted a couple more minutes, but I must have sensed something because I rung off so I could call him in. I did–he didn’t answer. I got my coat on and started outside. I stepped out into the driveway and looked toward the road and in an instant took in the scene: a scene I can’t forget and wouldn’t wish on anyone who has a dog they love.

A truck, my neighbor and my dog lying in the road. He was in his death throes by the time I got to him. I was hysterical and consumed with grief. My pup was gone. No chance to say goodbye, to hug him, to love him one more time. My road is quiet, but not quiet enough.

My neighbor offered to take him (he owns a farm) and without thinking, wrapped in my sorrow, I said OK. Now I wish I hadn’t. I almost went that night, learning he was still on the truck, to wrap him in his favorite blanket and say goodbye. Friends talked me out of it, but I wish I gone. I do have his ashes now and ordered a dogwood bush to plant when warmer weather arrives, but the emptiness I feel is vast and my guilt lurks close to the surface.

For awhile all I could picture when I thought of Ernie was that last scene of the road. Some nights ago though, I was coming home late at night. I turned onto Dutch Hill and a winter fog was rolling in. I had a tape in, a new one bought to help calm my nerves. I reached the top of the mountain, the place where he had been hit. I stopped and closed my eyes. When I opened them, I saw the fog rolling before my headlights and let the music fill my heart.

In my mind’s eye I saw Ernie running, loping through the woods as he loved to do. I turned up the driveway and realized the last time I saw him alive he was listening as though something was calling him. I got out of the truck and heard a dog barking somewhere on the mountain. I listened to the dog, surrounded by the silence of the night and hoped that someday I would run with Ernie again.

Positive Connections

I did the hard thing and brought my new pup back to the humane center yesterday. It was a hard thing to do, but something the trainer there suggested strongly. After attacking my older dog and being pushy with me, they wanted to re-evaluate him and hopefully find him a more suitable home.

Being an adoptee myself, giving something back awakens all sorts of demons inside of me. What if I had been given back if someone didn’t like me? It’s not really a choice I ever like to make to be honest. But as much as I liked this little guy, it seemed like it would probably be the best move for all of us. And in the end, it even had a  silver lining.

Because he was such a high energy and anxious dog, I had asked my middle daughter and her boyfriend to move in with me to help care for him. They had been living with his parents and were unhappy there, especially my daughter. I have lived alone for a long time, and for the most part, enjoy it. While I do get lonely at times and love my kids, I can’t say sharing my home with lots of people–especially ‘boyfriends’ (mine or others) was something I longed to do.

So after I gave him back, I wasn’t so sure I would have the same need to live with these kids. The boyfriend was having huge separation anxiety from him family and needed to be there all the time. And my daughter appeared to be attached to his hip. As I drove home from dropping Pip off, I called her and suggested they simply move back and I would manage another arrangements for my other dogs.

My daughter got quite upset saying I didn’t like any of her boyfriends blah blah and we went back and forth. I told her she was always welcome to stay without him and that it had nothing to do with me not liking him, but rather not wanting to LIVE with him. But finally she said wanted me to pick her up from their home (which once again they were visiting) so we could talk.

When she got in the car, she told me that she and the boyfriend had been discussing the living arrangements and they had come to a decision. I waited. My usually very confused and immature daughter told me they had decided he would move back to his parents and she would stay with me! I was shocked and delighted. Never in my wildest dreams did I think she would make such a smart decision!

So in the end I realized something: Pip and I did something for each other. Without him coming into my home, my daughter would never have moved out of the bad situation she was in and back into my house. There never would have been a reason to get them to do it. My daughter was miserable in their house too. And the trainer said that we were like a temporary home for Pip to teach him more manners, house training  etc. to get him ready for his permanent home. So we both did good for each other.

I’m trying to look at it then as a positive connection for us all. They said I could call to check on him. I’m hoping his sweetness comes through and he finds a home with no other dogs and someone committed to spend lots of time with him. With those combinations I think he will be fine. Because things do happen for a reason they say all the time. I’ve missed my daughter and have never liked her living with her boyfriend’s family. I only hope this lasts!

My older dog is sick now and this is why Pippy may have attacked him according to the trainer. Just like in the wild, the dog vying for dominance will fight his way to the top. It is sad I had to give him up given my other dog may not be here long. But this isn’t the wild and Brinks deserves to die in peace. And then I will be left only with my Bo. He is my most wonderful friend anyway. And there I think I will stay for a while: a one dog gal. Keep life simple for a bit!

And so it goes: one four-legged kid leaves and one two-legged one comes back. Such is the life of a second half woman!


As I sit here on my bed next to my buddy Pip, I know it will be one of my last nights with him. I’ve decided after speaking with the trainer at the humane society, that he needs to return there to be re-evaluated. Actually it was their suggestion, not mine. Last evening, when my three dogs came up to bed with me as they always do, my old dog (the beagle) lay down on his bed on the floor. My daughter, who lives with me now with her boyfriend, came in to talk to me. Pip, my puggle, attacked my beagle for no apparent reason. It was completely unprovoked as Brinkley was sleeping. This is not the first time, but it was particularly vicious. A huge fight ensued between them. Even blood was shed, not much, but still.

It was traumatic for all of us, including my poor third dog, who sat there shivering. I was pretty stunned after we were able to get them apart without getting injured ourselves. I managed to get the beagle downstairs to safety where he slept unhappily for the rest of the night. Honestly, I can’t trust Pip by himself, so he slept upstairs.

But the worst of it is, that he’s nipped at me a few times. His aggression has been mounting and this is what concerned the trainer. From the very first visit with my two dogs to the humane center, this pushy behavior was noticed. And this trainer said that the current three months I’ve had Pip is the ‘honeymoon’ phase where he has been testing the waters to see how far he can push. Last night he pushed the limits.

While I’m very sad, because he has some wonderfully endearing traits too, the house has been on edge. I lived alone before him and actually had the kids come live here because of him! His anxiety and inability to separate and potty train made it impossible for him to be alone for long periods of time. So now I have kids here and he won’t be here anyway! Sheesh. So I really tried hard to accommodate him. But I still feel guilty. I’ve only surrendered two other dogs, both for biting also, but it was after a few days.

My hope is that they can find a great home for him maybe with only him being the only dog. Maybe one or two people who will be home a lot. He needs an active home and lots of attention. I only hope I’m not sending him to a death sentence. That thought just puts me over the edge….. But it simply is not fair to my two other dogs who have lived here much longer. They are miserable. So buddy, I wish you well. I tried and I’m sorry. I truly hope you find your forever home.