My dog taught me many things-- to pay attention, to love unconditionally and show sincere affection, to appreciate nature, to clean my dinner plate, and to turn around a couple times before I lay down for bed.
I inherited my love of dogs from my father, that and numerous other things, like a spastic colon. As with all inheritance, whether it be cash or skin tone, it is a win-lose situation, and something that people can parlay into something greater, or diminish. Where animals are concerned, I am glad I have always been willing to step a little aside to make a space for any of them.
Whenever possible, please be respectful of all life-forms. Just because you don't know their function doesn't mean they don't have one. Heck, I don't really know why I'm here either.
The earth is not a vast, benign indifference. It is a brotherhood of all that lives and breathes in an environment, when protected, fully capable of sustaining it.
Be outspoken, not unspoken — where it counts!
Being compassionate makes me smile. Being mean gives me heartburn. For my own comfort, I’ll be kind.
Don’t you think it is ironic that we are vain enough to think we rule the natural world, despite the fact that it is our lifeline and all of that which sustains us.
In the creosote shadows of night, the coyotes, unbothered by memories, untroubled by future, move, and they watch, ahead or over their shoulder, trotting along. They miss little in the present. Perhaps only one meal away from anger and as lean as nature asks of them, they howl (a beautiful sound faithful to the feral nature of their psyches, and with no one to tell them to shut up, certainly not me) to celebrate the moment that moves them.
Reach out! Be bound in fellowship with the human and the nonhuman. Make a strong circle of compassion that cruelty cannot break, nor enter!
We consider ourselves the most intelligent of species, but I wonder. So many of the others learn from their mistakes. They avoid the traps, the pitfalls, those things that previously caused them pain, whereas— we too often rationalize and continue to make the same mistakes. The others, the innocents, accept nature as it is, modify it only to the extent of life-necessity, whereas, though we have been known to exalt nature, we are compelled to control it. We catalogue many of their kind in zoos because we must be amused or taught from easy places. Those we don’t cage we shove toward oblivion to serve our selfish need for space— parking, or five bedrooms, three baths, space that often remains empty, or virtually unused. Their natural choice would be to ignore us, hunker down in their shape-sized places, and amuse themselves. We tire of the natural, and when bored, populate the environment with jagged abstraction. They live in a world of sensuous natural images. Quite possibly, they know a good deal more than we know because they function under the simplest of politics that begin with putting their best foot forward and— no matter what they have seen, where they’ve gone, what they have accomplished, they do not shilly-shally about condemning others or patting themselves on the back. Whatever it is, they just get it done.
Instinct has great value, perhaps more so than educated reason. Instinct compels reserve, deciding what can be trusted, being prepared to starve rather than make the wrong choice. Reason is a compilation of facts, conditions. Frequently it puts on its lipstick and charges in based on little greater than 50-50 odds.
What value is a beautiful wife (or cat) if she keeps sitting in everyone else’s lap?
True, cats can be opportunistic and traitors to your wishes. They are known to be rubber-neckers, peacockers, self-adoring decorations. They might even eat your face if you fall dead with sardines on your breath and the kibble bowl is empty. If they had pockets, I’m sure they’d caution-arily carry a gun. But in the world there is a place (though not quite as large in my life as that set aside for a dog) for what is wily more than strong, what might appear hampered by your presence, what might purjure love in brief doses until you meet their unyielding expectations and actually earn it.
No animal has ever offended me with its pile of shit as much as man has done with his wicked tongue!
Mostly, my selection of friends is based on how they treat animals.
I talk to my pets and I listen to them, a process that makes all of us smarter.
One thing mankind and animals don’t have in common is intentional cruelty. That is a human characteristic.
The treatment of animals has moral significance.
The judgment of a dog is underrated. If a dog looks me in the face but won’t come to me, it’s probably time for me to evaluate something significant in my life or behavior.
When fear of any outcome enters my thinking, I rely on my dog for clean thinking...a sense of simple being...to exercise positive energy as much as possible... limit negative energy...a reminder to exercise surrender to “the now,” and it makes both living and thoughts of dying much less a problem... and of course, the style to walk as if stepping to the beat of secret music is a bonus.
You can purchase a dog, but you will never be its master without its consent.
I like the company of animals. They never make me feel bad about myself, never judge me when I act weird, don’t condemn me for eating too much, don’t ask me about why I feel this way or why I do that. They let me be who I am.
Sometimes I think I would rather be a dog, not having to go to work, to scrub stains, to apologize for some offense, to set the alarm, to turn down food from lack of fatty circumstance, to worry about what to wear...but, wait a minute, let me second think this. I’m not going anywhere without covering my genitalia.
Some people are quick with a stick to condemn an animal for what they think it is...without giving the slightest effort to find out its true value.
People have difficulty living up to the very attributes that seem easy for dogs: loyalty, gratitude, predictability, love.
Whether for man or for other animals, take responsibility for what you tame.
Too often, we view animals through the warped lens of our own self-importance. We do not recognize their value. Animals display love, gratitude, and loyalty. To me, that seems like a good indication of a soul. They are gifted, have superior extensions of sight and hearing to that of man, and exceptional instincts that we will never attain. They often fill the space of what is missing in our lives. We are known to brutalize some from misconceptions about them, prone to consume others, but seldom fully appreciate their magic, their music, their artful and rightful place in the realm.
WAITING FOR ROSEMARY
"Rosemary, come home, sassy girl."
A patch of multi-colored leaves draws my eye, then crushed cardboard by the curb. A bird makes a cat sound A cat makes a bird sound. A bat peeps in the misty dusk and folds like sunglasses. A strapping young raccoon scuffles in the storm drain and picks through food I leave.
"Are you down there somewhere, Rosemary? In that long dank tube?"
When I first saw Rosemary, she was a wad of wire hunkered in the drain spout behind the old Cox Theater. Her mother was a gunny sack plastered with stick tights, a young cat herself, understandably poor at arithmetic. She walked down the alley with a black kitten and another calico like Rosemary. Both hollered, and were a handful. So, Rosemary was left behind in a world that acted like it didn't like her, and she grew to have more than a little attitude about it.
It wasn't an easy task to foster Rosemary. Adoption involved a little paperwork - an inverted pasteboard box and considerable high-pitched complaining (mine, mostly), a routine which needed to be repeated with certain adjustments when she was taken in for her shots and to change her view of sexuality.
Time passed, and Rosemary spent it wide-eyed, suspicious, watching me.
I continued to offer her the couch, tuna, soft chews, crunchies, fresh water and choice between privacy-assured litter boxes. I called her, patted my lap and left it open, but she didn't take it. Sometimes she jumped up on her own and jabbed her head (sweet-smelling from her nap amid my perfume bottles) against my chin. After a few moments, she hopped down, straightened her bloomers, and looked back at me as if to accuse me of some obscene offense.
Rosemary was what you might call a Liz Taylor cat. She was beautiful and unpredictable. She went wherever she wanted in this small town. Many nights were full of her strut ,and plume-tail, and fuzzy knickers. Catch her if you can! During the day, she let me feed her, plump her pillow, and share her rooms.
It enters my mind briefly that the usually-well-mannered coon may have got Rosemary. I see Rosemary fluff her brown and rust-toned coat as she enters the drain tube and demands passage. She does not drop her head and let any others in the tunnel pass. I see her glare with huge Halloween eyes, and spit and swat, and charge with her checkered bloomers ruffling, until the usually tolerant, unconcerned raccoon retaliates from fret with quick ability to kill her. (Oh, please, if that be the case-- that it was swift!)
There are cats that die in horrid ways, pain-filled and lingering. Many times, I have seen the awful pulp, and worms. Others critters are still wandering, hungry, afraid, in need of empathy and accommodation. And some lost, may yet be found.
Perhaps even a haughty cat, plumed-tailed, strutting, will return exactly when she chooses.
I do what I can while waiting. I look in all directions and wonder what each night will give me.
"Rosemary. Come home, sassy girl! It's OK to bring a friend."
Animals have saved my life, dogs, cats, raccoon, opossum, even a skunk with threat from stinky parcel-- for they have ALWAYS been there at the perimeter or deep inside my life, each teaching me something about themselves and something about myself-- most loyal, some protective, some that came to me in need of nothing more than a comfortable place to die--irrefutably all signing the greeting card of my life so that I truthfully take no meaning from the word LONELINESS.
As I tend to the needs of a senior dog today, a great companion, failing now, I think of another great dog from my childhood, one that used to bark wildly to keep me out of the river, out of discarded iceboxes, and I acknowledge how little pets take from our lives, how much they give, and I am grateful I have always been blessed by pet affection, stinky licks -- and nevermind the hair and doggie doo.
FROM THE PARADE OF PETS
TEENA: She came into our lives as a small reddish spot, mostly texture, on a blue blanket. I sensed her presence immediately by the smell of her and I breathed her deeply in. Then we gave her a bath. She was a spaniel/terrier mix, quickly learned her tricks, was easily trained away from floor mishap and in the art of home protection. A good, loving and obedient companion, but, as with all things, not without flaw. Hers was motherhood -- overprotection and need for complete control. One tiny pup got a terminal message when it tried to approach a beckoning hand against her loudly expressed reprimand. I resented her for that, and only years later came to understand the intensity that can result when mothering looses wise focus and merges into destruction.
LESSON: Only until birth are your offspring totally yours, and then they begin their own journey---an adventure into which they must be allowed, certainly not free rein, but always room to grow.
DEJA VU: (Australian Shepherd? Lived 23 years) Deja came into our lives over our backyard fence, accompanied by the sound of someone running away. This was not the first time for such an incident, hence her name. We warmly accepted her into the clan, and she proved to be a vital member. Fraught early-on with health issues, including the need for an arsenic drip and isolation for the treatment of heartworms, and later, diabetes which resulted in blindness and required two insulin shots a day, she was, nonetheless, a trooper. We went for frequent walks and she relied on me for guidance but never acted as if she could not see. Her sharply defined and smiling face turned this way and that as if taking in the scenery. Her sleek, cougar-colored body never hesitated. Not one step was tentative. More than once, I, distracted, not saying "Wait" or "Stop," inadvertantly ran her into a tree or dropped her from the curb. Through it all, she never allowed herself a moment's grief, and gave us none-- was totally devoid of self-pity or the slightest sadness.
LESSON: Never let remorse for what is lost remove or long diminish your appreciation of what remains.
CABBAGE: (A beautiful Himalayan cat, 10, maybe 12 years of life) Perhaps it was an ugly name to give a handsome cat that showed up unexpectedly and surveyed the house for several days before deciding he would stay. He was luminous and serene against the counterpoint of blue sky, a gentle silverish powder puff watching birds ride the wind. Robins were curious about him, landed nearby, hopped about, watched him closely with one eye at a time until they knew that they were safe. I, too, quickly saw him as a friend, and he lived the perfect proof of it, was always available to listen, his gauzy face alert, and quick to volunteer a mesh of small talk that always sounded like approval.
LESSON: Sometimes there is within appreciation of something beautiful, within tiny, meaningless conversation, a sufficient comfort.
FUZZY: Dogs are great! I learned something important, something relevant, from every dog I ever had. Like from a West Highland Terrier White, I learned the significance of "timing" and "charm." Timing from after repeated attempts to give her a home and she still snapped at me until I stomped off saying, "Okay, to hell with you!"-- only to have her follow me and jump into the car... And charm from all the times after she did something to tick me off, she threw herself full bore into a performance of all (and there were many) the tricks she knew. I never found out who lost her, but I was always glad she found me.
Number 100+: Another cat found me in its too-late hours...no longer shiny...gray gums from blood with little oxygen, little color....punch hole eyes....little air in its lungs, so its last voice cracking. What I used to say to it ("Trust me, little one, I will not hurt you") was never what it heard, and it used its classic feral cat defense of bolt, of run.
No longer was it trapped in its suspicion. As I lowered my hand to stroke it softly, it no longer seemed to fear I was wooing it into ambush, but calmly accepted touch and brief comfort, sighed graciously, and its little light went out as it died along with the day.