Will I Sleep??


 

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THE OLD HOMESTEAD

It was almost a year ago that I left this wonderful home…now I prepare for another big move tomorrow!! This move will be into a tiny 700 square foot condo. I’ve never lived in a condo situation before. Yet I’ve always longed to be part of a community, to belong to a tribe and a neighborhood. So far, with some lovely neighbors, this wish may come true.

There are many things to do within this community: swimming, work out, walking, trips, games and clubs. It’s just a matter of getting involved. Admittedly, for many years now, I’ve been a bit of a recluse. Hopefully I can get myself out of my shell and more sociable. Work doesn’t seem the place that this will happen, so maybe it’ll be this new homestead.

It was built in the ’70’s and appears to have kept the same sense of that era when folks cared more about those around them. The times when neighbors were really neighborly and knew who lived next door. They work hard to make this happen. It’s not quite a co-housing community (not that cool or expensive), but not unlike. Nor is it totally an intentional community, but with all the rules, one could say it’s trying to be.

I’m hoping my pets will make the transition safely and happily. My dog doesn’t know that he already has a new playmate waiting to meet him named Daphne. He will be thrilled since he lost his brother before we moved. My beagle was old and would never had made the trip or tolerated this weather. My pup has been sad without him.

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BYE BYE BRINKLEY

 

I’m more worried about the cats, but tonight I will put out the little carriers for them to sniff. Maybe with a little added catnip. And at least they will only be traveling twenty minutes this time instead of across the country! They should like this new place, with carpets to vomit on and to sharpen their claws….

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HOPEFULLY THE CAT CARRIERS ARE BIG ENOUGH?

While I didn’t get the little place near ‘the lake’ and it’s certainly not my beautiful lake near my old home, I can still walk near the little body of water (I think) if I want. And, in the end, there are just so many good reasons to go through all this trouble to make another move in a year. Honestly, I never thought I would, but hey, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do!

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SIGH….THE OLD LAKE….

Best Buds


There are days where my daughter teases me that I will turn out to be one of those old women who has bunches of cats and maybe dogs living in my house. Today is one of those days I think maybe she is right.

When I was a docent in a zoo many years ago,  I learned that some people prefer animals to humans. The zoo-keepers, the men and women that personally tended some of the animals at this particular zoo, were often very quiet and introverted humans. They took their jobs very seriously and the animals in their care were fed, medicated, groomed, bathed and loved by these people in a way that was quite simply amazing.

It was a relationship that I am now beginning to understand more fully as I grow older. As I have more and more relationships with humans, and am let down by them, I am coming to appreciate why these zoo-keepers would find more dependability in the interactions with their wards.

I’ve been sort of like a zoo-keeper in that I tend to take care of people. I like to give and help. But I find as the years pass that most aren’t really grateful or responsive the way an animal would be. They at least expect you to show up the same time every day and wag a tail or purr in expectant hunger. People, on the other hand, seem to think they are simply entitled to what you may give them. Often without a thank you. It’s odd.

And animals are usually very predictable, while we all know humans are usually not. Even people we think we know often surprise us with mean or dismissive words. Our domesticated pets are always happy to greet us, even if we are angry with them. Even the most beaten down dogs can be rehabilitated with love. And most pets prefer routine — things to be the same.  Wild animals are like this too following patterns.

It sadly becomes harder to trust people it seems because of their changing natures. Never reliably acting the same way. While animals have so few characteristics that we don’t have to wonder what they are thinking all the time. It makes loving them much easier.

While I don’t want to end up living alone in a house with nothing but furry creatures, on particular days I certainly can understand why people prefer animals to humans. My frustrations trying to understand people grows all the time. Constantly trying to change myself is exhausting, but expecting others to change seems futile.

So I will keep my best buds around. They don’t talk back, they love me unconditionally, they are completely trustworthy and they are pretty easy to figure out. That’s more than I can say for most humans I know.

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.

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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.