Barclay and his Big Sister

Barclay and his Big Sister

Barclay and his big sister pausing on the walking path.

Lonely folks cruise the internet hoping for a good match. Websites pair strangers looking for love. They meet in coffee shops, bars, parks, and restaurants.

On rare occasions the two make for a good match. NEVER are they better matched than Barclay and his big sister.

We should all be so lucky! Forget the internet. Get a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and some pink shoes, and enjoy the mutual admiration on a good walk, healing and heeling at the same time.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Barclay’s Dad, Chaska, MN, April 9, 2017, responding to The Daily Post invitation to share a photograph and commentary on the theme “A Good Match“.

A Dog Day Pattern

Okay, enough of politics!

Time for something light, like a response to The Daily Posts challenge to publish something on the word ‘pattern’.

So, what’s my daily pattern, I ask myself. Kay’s out of town, so the pattern is different today. It’s just Barclay and I (or is it ‘me’?).

I get up early, as usual. I make a pot of coffee, open the front door hoping the newspaper’s waiting on the porch, pour myself a cup of coffee (four packets of Splenda – it’s bad for my health but I don’t care; two teaspoons of Cremora – made of corn starch, also bad for my health and for the planet, but I ignore it) in my special cup from our trip to San Francisco. Every morning I wish I were in San Francisco. It’s part of the daily pattern.

I turn on the MacBook Air to check for emails and find a text from Kay who’s in Charleston, South Carolina with her three sisters from Denver, Lincoln, and Charleston. Texts are rare in my normal daily pattern, but there are three of them this morning. I’m not much of a texter, though there are mornings when, though Kay and I are sitting together silently in the living room so as not to awaken Barclay, she will text me!

About 9:00 a.m. it’s Barclay time and Barclay’s pattern takes over for the next half-hour. Out from the kennel he comes, stretching his legs as though he’s been instructed by a Yoga Master, wagging his tail . . .  running over to the recliner where Kay should be. “Where’s Mom, Dad?” Sitting on the recliner with Kay is an essential part of Barclay’s pattern, but she’s not here today. He looks at me, lies down on the rug, rolls over on his back for a tummy rub, a brushing and the wiping of his eyes (Cavies have problems with their tear ducts requiring twice-daily depletion of  Kleenex). Then he gets his ball and drops it at my feet. Time to play ball – “Get the ball!” “Bring the ball!” “Get the ball!” “Bring the ball!” – until it’s time for a drink and for turning over his food dish to play with the food, as in throwing pieces of food into the air and chasing them down until he runs to the front door to ring the bell that tells me he’s ready to go out.

Anyway, that’s enough about my daily pattern, and it’s only 9:30. The rest of the daily pattern is not very interesting. After lunch we take a long nap together. We have dinner. We go to sleep. And the day begins again with an unhealthy cup of coffee and the dream of being in San Francisco. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat the pattern.

All days with Barclay and Kay are good days!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 11, 2017.

Grandpa’s letter to Ruby

Dear Ruby,

Barclay and I loved playing with you yesterday. I think you enjoyed it too!

You and Barclay aren’t old enough to understand all the things I know. Both of you are only two-and-a-half years old. But, from the looks of yesterday’s play time, you both enjoy life more than Grandpa. Watching you and Barclay do his tricks was such fun!  “Barclay, sit!” “Barclay, down.” “Leave it.” “Roll over.”

You were the alpha dog, the commander-in-chief, Chairwoman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. To this day, no woman has ever held any of those positions.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. You don’t know all that stuff. You don’t know what an alpha dog is, or a Commander-in-Chief, or Chairwoman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or President. You’ll learn all that stuff soon enough, and, if this were the world I would like for you, there wouldn’t be any Commanders-in-Chiefs, or Joint Chiefs of Staff. There would be grandchildren like you and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels like Barclay who play together with moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas without worrying about the reasons we have Commanders-in-Chief and Chairwomen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Watching the two of you yesterday made me think about how much of what I know I wish I could un-learn. My head and heart are crammed full of things that don’t belong there, like the time your Great Uncle Bob drank the Drano and had to be rushed to the hospital to have his stomach pumped.

Drano container - POISON

Drano container – POISON

Older people your Uncle Bob and me have drunk the poison of thinking we’re smarter and better than dogs and cats, and trees and birds and blue skies and clouds and rivers and ponds and oceans. We drank the poison. I hope you’ll grow up remembering your play time with Barclay whenever the can of Drano sits on the back of the toilet.

I go to the toilet a lot more these days. You’re still wearing diapers. If you’re lucky you’ll learn from Barclay what my generation never learned: never poop in your own kennel. The world, the planet, is your kennel, Ruby! This whole wide world. We need to take care of it. Enjoy it. Not be mean to it or hurt it.

As you get older, remember how you and Barclay looked right in each other’s eyes and smiled. Remember the love. If you do, the world will be a better place than the one I’m passing on to you. And, when I pass on, remember that our big wonderful kennel doesn’t go anywhere. It just keeps going long after we’ve been here. Be nice to it. Be nice to yourself. Keep playing, and, please, don’t swallow the Drano!

Love you,

Grandpa Stewart

Joseph and Mary living in our pantry

La Posada Festival poster

La Posada Festival poster

It’s almost Christmas. Joseph and Mary stayed at our house last night as part of La Posada, a Mexican tradition re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem.

We welcomed them to our home for safe lodging, food, and a warm place.

When they arrived we sat them on the floor.

Barclay welcoming Joseph and Mary to our home.

Barclay welcoming Joseph and Mary to our home.

Unfortunately, Barclay  quickly took a liking to Joseph’s left ear, so we moved Joseph and Mary into the pantry where they’d feel safe from a domestic terrorist attack.

Last night, after Barclay had gone to bed, I invited Joseph and Mary to join me  watching the presidential candidate debate.  Last night’s debate topic was terrorism. Refugees fleeing persecution and immigration policy were also discussed.

Our guests stayed very still. They were very quiet. They watched the faces on the TV screen. They listened to every word. As I went to the kitchen for a drink, Mary cuddled up to Joseph needing reassurance. She whispered, “Joseph, we have to get out of here before one of them gets elected -these people don’t like us! They’re mean. They sound just like Herod!”

I took them back to the safety of the pantry, put them back on the shelf, said goodnight, and closed the door so they’d feel more secure. Today they came out of the closet when another family came to protect them from Herod on their way to Bethlehem. But before they left, Joseph told Mary, “Don’t worry, honey, as soon as you give birth and are strong enough for the journey, we’re leaving for Egypt.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, December 17, 2015.
The Holy Family traveling to Egypt

The Holy Family traveling to Egypt

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” – Matthew 2:13-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chasing the Light: Everything in Life Is “Compared to What”?

Kay Stewart

Kay Stewart

by Kay Stewart

After 16 years of marriage you learn many lessons. But the ones on vacation are especially worth noting.

My husband and I have been given the opportunity of fulfilling a preaching assignment for a lovely little chapel named St. Timothy’s Memorial Chapel located in the abandoned mining town of Southern Cross, Montana. The chapel is perched on the edge of a beautiful mountainside with a gorgeous panoramic view of Georgetown Lake, the largest lake in the area. Breathtaking beauty. A vacation of our dreams. One for the bucket list. All he has to do is provide four Sundays of sermons and they provide us with a free cabin on the meadow down in the valley below, nestled between two mountain ranges. In the morning we hear melodies of little chirping birds, and every evening soft gentle breezes waft across our side porch as we watch sunset after sunset throw a veritable light-show of color as it criss-crosses the valley below. All we have to put up with is a modern-day schizophrenic auditory milieu–pristine quiet periodically interrupted by the highway noises from cars, trucks and RV’s. We have every reason to be grateful, and we are.

After two weeks of our four week almost-ideal vacation here in Montana, we decided the vacation could be expanded, enhanced–an improvement on perfection. “What we need is an adventure,” I said. This dynamic is better known as “the grass is always greener on the other side”. My husband didn’t really need an adventure, he was liking his Montana vacation just fine. But I was getting restless. I am seven years younger and think it is due to this age difference that I am being deprived of adventures to which I am entitled. It didn’t take long to convince him to break camp (cabin) in search of something else. I used the regret-reduction argument.  It works every time. “When we get home, won’t we wish we had done more exploring of this part of the country?” Avoiding future regret is my argument of choice–it burns like a slow wick, providing a living breathing phantom of anxiety forecast into the future when you won’t be able to do anything about it. So within 24 hours we dismantled our “ideal” vacation in search of a relocation of our vacation spot. We chose a trip to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

We are experienced travelers and have always felt comfortable using Trip Advisor to book a motel reservation. With the correct box checked filtering “pet friendly” venues, we booked a motel for $179.00 a night plus fees and taxes. It seemed a bit high, but Jackson, Wyoming is a high ticket vacation destination. After all, that’s why we were going there. Our internet provider doesn’t have enough cell phone towers in the hills of Montana, so my husband did not get an immediate confirmation number and we got worried. Avoiding any problems, we called the motel to verify only to find out they were not pet friendly after all and we could not stay there if we had a dog. They directed us to another motel close to them that was assuredly pet friendly and we immediately called to book with them for two nights, sight unseen. They articulated right off that under no condition would we be allowed to leave our dog unattended in the motel room. “Fair enough” we thought, we can leave Barclay in the car, for short breaks, going to restaurants, leaving the windows open, we do it all the time when the weather is cool enough. Barclay loves to “go for a ride in the car”; he simply takes naps in the front seat where the Alpha Dog sits.

Five hours of driving later, we rolled into Jackson. We were thinking five hours wasn’t such a bad drive, since it was much less than the 19 hours it took us to drive to Montana from Minneapolis, but we were wrong. Five hours is a long day of driving any time you do it. Especially under a hot 95 degree sun. It’s July. The sun does that in Wyoming in July. This leads into another complication. It’s about our dear little dog. Barclay is a wonderful 14 pound, 2-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. His Cavalier breeding makes him adorable and affectionate, but Barclay has a psychological disorder—he is a “shadow chaser”. I prefer to call it by its more obvious name–Barclay is a “light chaser”. The disorder is not rare, it causes obsessive compulsive behavior in a dog, drawing him, like a magnet, to wherever and whenever there is a difference between light and its accompanying shadow. Barclay is a serious light chaser and intensely loves all light. He actually has no choice in the matter; it’s a compulsory lifestyle for him. When light happens, it immediately activates Barclay. He positions himself as close to the light as possible. Then he, well, just stares at it, or paws it, or licks it. When the light changes, as light often does, Barclay changes too — he moves on to his next favorite piece of it. He never goes looking for different light, better light. He is totally satisfied with the light that happens in his midst. Barclay plays with light like a young child plays with an imaginary friend, but one he will not outgrow. But, after five hours of driving with light careening off of everything metal or electronic, we are pretty much “lights out”.

We arrive at our destination in Jackson worn out and find that our $200 a night motel room would rent for about $80 in any other city but Jackson. The quality is just not there. The room is pitch dark when the heavy musty-smelling curtains are drawn which must occur at all times unless you want the 100’s of nearby tourists to look inside your motel room. But for a family with a light obsession, dark is better for us. As we listen to the roar from the room’s air conditioning unit, which can barely keep up with the afternoon heat, we decide there is nothing else we’d like to do than take a nap.

We read in our motel room the travel brochure provided us explaining Grand Teton National Park’s rules concerning pets. They must be on a leash at all times—we are used to that. But we read further to find that dogs are not allowed at all on any of the park’s trails or public attraction areas. That’s just great.

This being a spontaneous vacation get-away from our primary vacation, we had not realized we were choosing to spend it at Grand Teton National Park on the lead-up to the 4th of July holiday weekend. The city of Jackson gets 3-4 million tourists a year. We were spending the day driving around in our air conditioned car with our beloved dog in bumper to bumper traffic with a great portion of those 3-4 million tourists.

As the vacation wore on, we became grouchier and grouchier. The tourist attractions became mostly distractions because of the tourists. And although The Grand Tetons were magnificent, “when you’ve seen one mountain, you’ve seen ’em all”. We couldn’t hike the trails. Bumper to bumper traffic in 95 degree weather. We wanted to go home.

We chose to travel home through Yellowstone National Park. It made us sad watching the devastation to the forests from the 1988 forest fires. The forest was indeed “coming back”, but it just wasn’t there yet. We tried to stop and see “Old Faithful”, but gave up when we couldn’t find a parking spot. We couldn’t wait to get home so we kept driving.

In 72 hours, we drove 750 miles, spent $700, slept in a dungeon for two nights, and drove home through countless forested areas with dead trees and no parking spaces. Once back in our original vacation location, we discovered something uniquely wonderful. We saw the light of what had been in our midst the whole time–the natural beauty, rolling hills, fresh breezes on our side porch and chirping birds heard even as the highway sang its tune. This lesson learned is one we will keep for years to come.

  • Kay Stewart, Chaska, Minnesota, July 4, 2015. Recently retired from 16 years with Hennepin County Medical Center’s Addiction Medicine Program, Kay is a licensed chemical dependency counselor with degrees in theology and social work. Her reflections on grief have appeared on her blog on Raw Grief.

Freed from the leash on 9/11

Yesterday, on the anniversary of  9/11, Kay and I hiked on the Echo Trail near Ely, MN with 2 year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Barclay. Barclay knows nothing about airplanes, falling buildings, religion, economics, terror, or war. He makes friends with everyone. He rejoices in the present, leaping in the air, joyful for no particular reason.

On the hike we set him free from his leash and watch him romp along the trail, out and away from us – but not too far – and then galloping back like a race horse when called. Unfortunately, Kay’s slow motion video wouldn’t load for viewing.

Freed of his leash

he runs and leaps

his feathery coat

and flopping ears

fill the stale air

with the breeze

of joy unleashed.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 12, 2015

Since we couldn’t upload yesterday’s slo-mo video, here’s a different view of Barclay’s playful spirit.

You’d better not get sick!

We’re sitting across from each other in the ICU Waiting Room after standing at the bedside of our dear friend Phil. Phil and I are old classmates and getting older at age 73.

Kay’s face is solemn. Sad. Pensive. Her brow is furrowed, the way it gets when someone she loves is in trouble. She goes deep inside,  dives down into the darkness to draw wisdom and courage, and comes back up and out when she’s ready.

She says something I can’t hear. I shake my head. She’s says it again quietly, I suppose, because there are other people in the Waiting Room. My inability to hear only serves to underscore the reality of our getting old.

After several more failed attempts to hear her, I walk over to her chair.

You’d better not get sick!” she says.

I tell her I won’t because, unlike our formerly fit-as-a-fiddle racquet ball player friend Phil in the ICU, I don’t believe in exercise. “Exercise is bad for your health,” I’ve said a 1,000 times to Kay’s dismay. I’m more like Barclay, also in the Waiting Room, who, like Phil, looks fit-as-a-fiddle. (This is NOT the canine with the same name who’s waiting in the car in the hospital parking ramp.)

“Barclay, do you exercise?” Barclay’s head recoils like a boxer dodging a stiff jab, his eyes squint, his face grimaces at the thought. He slowly raises his right hand as if holding a spoon, opens his mouth, and shoves whatever’s in the spoon into his open mouth. “Ice cream?” I ask. “Doughnuts,” he says. “What kind?” “Chocolate.” “What brand?” “Doesn’t matter. Any kind. Doughnuts!”

Whether our form of exercise is eating doughnuts, playing racquet ball or working out at a gym, we’re all going to get sick. Some sooner, some later. It’s one of two things every mortal shares in common with every other mortal: we are born and we “get sick” (i.e., we die).

“You’d better not get sick!” we say with a smile. In the meantime we give thanks for today and tonight, the comic relief of the doughnuts, and the opportunity to love each other as we pray and wait for Phil’s recovery in the ICU.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 13, 2015

“Where’s Mom? I Need Mom!”

Barclay

Barclay

Barclay must have been begging for help during the night without a mother to hear his desperate pleas. Kay (Mom) has been out of town for a week.

When I approached his kennel this morning, there was an odor. But I thought to myself, that can’t be. Barq hasn’t had an accident in 18 months. His colitis is under control. I was just praising his habits to friends yesterday.

I opened the kennel door. Barclay rushed downstairs in a panic, leaving a trail behind him on the upstairs landing, down the flight of 18 steps, on the downstairs entry floor and carpet before I could get him outdoors Poor little guy.

So I’ve been cleaning up the mess, wiping the floors and soiled carpets, laundering his blankets, de-fumigating his kennel, bathing him, drying him, and brushing him out ever since. Barclay is resting comfortably now on the sofa while I go up and down the stairs wash doing the laundry.

On behalf of Barclay, I sent the following email to Kay, who this morning is with her six girlfriends at the retreat house in northeast Nebraska owned and operated by the Audubon Society.

He needs his mom badly. Bad mom! Bad mom!

“Where’s mom? I need mom!” he asks with those big brown eyes. “She’s in Nebraska with the birds,” I tell him. “Why is she in Nebraska, and what’s she doing with the birds? Does she like the birds more than me?” “No, Barq, she’s with her girlfriends at an Audubon sanctuary.” “What’s an Audubon? Is that like those fast highways they have in Germany? Is mom driving too fast? Will mom be safe driving?” “Yes, mom will be safe. She driving in a great big car today down to the Audubon river with her girlfriends.” “Car?! Ride in the car?!” “No, Barq, mom’s riding in the car with her girlfriends.” “Aw, Mom likes girls better than us? Why, dad, why? Is that why she wasn’t here last night to help me? Is that why you had to pick up my poop and pee – ‘cause it was a guy’s pee and poop? Is mom ever coming back? Are we alone here together, just the two of us, when only one of us can hear?” “No, mom loves you very much, Barq. No need to worry. She’s coming back on Monday. She’s driving back in her car….” “Car? Go for the ride in the car? Can we, Dad?” “Not right now, Barq, Dad has to continue to dry you out and comb you before we can do anything like that, and, besides, you’re not getting any breakfast this morning. Your stomach has to recover today.” “Mom would give me breakfast!!!” “No, she wouldn’t because you’re sick.” “I’m not a dick, Dad, I just don’t feel well. If mom thinks we’re both dicks and mom likes girls better than guys, do you think there’s a danger she might not come back, that she might stay with her girlfriends and the birds by the Autobahn?”

In short – we’re having a most exquisite Saturday morning.

– Gordon C. Stewart, lonely in Chaska, Minnesota, May 30, 2015.

Home is where your dog is

Video

When we arrived last evening the little guy couldn’t contain himself. He ran back and forth between us, wagging his tail and jumping for joy. Barclay’s been accident-free for more than a year. When I picked him up the second time, his tummy was slightly wet. He was so relieved to have us home and we were equally relieved. -:) So was Kristin, his care-giver since Dec. 30, who announces our homecoming in this video.

Home is where your dog is.

 

Ever wish you were a dog?

The voice in this video is Barclay’s favorite sister, Kristin, who’s “babysitting” while Barclay the soccer dog’s parents are away. Sometimes I wish I could turn on a dime and have this much fun entertaining myself. Listen for the “Woof!” in reply to Kristin’s “Good boy!”  We miss you, little guy!