BOO! The grandson, the dog, and the grandfather

Isn’t technology wonderful? Memories of Jack, now 12, and the ever playful, ever licking Maggie.

My Grandfather Stewart would play this game for hours. I’d cover him with pillows; he’d cover me with pillows. The resurrection always came as a surprise, as up from the grave we arose!

If you want attention…

Maggie caring for her sick friend Doug

Maggie caring for her sick friend Doug

Sparky and Doug Hall, Wabasha, MN

Sparky and Doug Hall, Wabasha, MN

Ever since posting about the loss of Maggie and Sebastian we’ve been flooded with affectionate Facebook comments.

Dogs touch the deepest parts of us. These photos were taken in the home of Doug and Mary Hall in Wabasha, MN several years ago. Doug, a “street lawyer” (John Gresham) if ever there was one, founding Director of the Legal Rights Center, Inc. in Minneapolis, lawyer for American Indian Movement occupation of Wounded Knee, and restorative justice pioneer, was dying of cancer.

Doug and Mary’s dog Sparky, a lovely Labrador retriever, never left Doug’s side.

Click Nature Boy for Nat “King” Cole singing there was a boy who wandered far only to learn that “the greatest thing is to love and be loved in return.”

If you want attention…No…if you want to love and be loved in return, become a nature boy or girl. Get yourself a dog or two. You’ll be blessed by them. And, when they finally leave your side, your friends will sympathize.

Maggie (Acrostic)

Maggie and Morning Love

Maggie and Morning Love

(Tribute to Maggie)

Magnanimous mellifluence,
Attentive, affectionate, alert,
Good dog, as good as any
God could ever send to such as
I, the aging friend she trusted
Even at the end.

– The day after Maggie left us, April 23, 2013

Empty House

Maggie waiting to play

Maggie waiting to play

Maggie and Sebastian romping in the snow

Maggie and Sebastian romping in the snow

Today the house is empty for the first time in 14+ years. I keep listening for the sounds that are no longer here, the footsteps and voices of Maggie (14+ yr. old Westie) and Sebastian (13+ yr. old Shih Tzu -Bichon-Frise).

The day after Sebastian died on Saturday, Maggie’s tumor broke through the skin. She’s always been a brave trooper. The vet said that Westies are the toughest in bearing pain. But she was not herself. She was in pain. She couldn’t walk. She was grieving. She was bleeding. There was no way back. No way to make it better. There was no joy. I loved this dog so much. Maggie’s been my companion for all these years. They say Westies are the most human of dogs. It was true of her. She was all love and all play. I wept like a baby yesterday, as I had on Saturday, when we “put her down,” as they say.

The house is empty of Maggie and Sebastian. But it is not empty of love. Kay, who is more in touch with her feelings than I, expressed them well this morning in an email to her friend Mary.

Empty…..that’s exactly it. Empty….rattling around in a cage that used to have a wheel for multiple animals, moving, squeaking, flying high, deliriously fun and noisy noisy noisy…… And now dead silence, nothing. They left the cage for whatever eternal freedom awaits us all…..there had better be an assemblance of a heaven full of love and resurrection of all the bodies of those we love or I won’t go.

It was the right time, completely worn out caring for two pups that needed carrying everywhere all day and even “up” to get a drink in the night, or outside to pee in the dark of 2:00 am…..we’re too old for this…..but we had no need for NOTHING, no lovely, characterized soft dazzlingly sweet creatures, instead.

We went to bed last night, finally getting to hold each other without the crowding of legs and the sooo familiar and comforting creaturely bodies nestled together…but we were left without a “pack” and we had no “fam”……something that filled every crevice of our lives so completely. We cried together and held each other, but there was no real consolation, since right now it is ALL LOSS. This place will be filled in with new energy or new peace, we will get to be tranquil…..but we have less spunk and personality and affection, oh so much less of everything precious.

I hold the “rubber band of my ambivalence” in high tension. Here it is 4:45 am and I am having a quiet time by the fire with my morning coffee…..a week ago I would have to hope and pray that one or both (not simultaneously) would not have to be brought down to pee……so I would break into my warmth serenity to put on shoes, coat, ear band, get a little sack, a leash, different shoes, go out in the cold, wait endlessly for them to find just the right smell, or the right place that hadn’t been used before, and they never wanted to come in, because frozen smells from other dogs were infinitely more wonderful than house smells….so I would have to practically drag them inside again….then feed them, and put them on the couch on the soft blanket across from my chair, get them all settled…go back to my chair, get settled, my coffee, my ipad……and, you know what would happen next…..they both would come off the couch and want to sit with me on my chair (half the size). They were always undeniable, however much I tried, I would say no, ignore, plead, but if a Westie wants something, there is no denying her, however much you try to command that breed, why would I ever even try, after 15 years, I should know….so up goes the coffee cup to the table, the ipad to the table…..I reach down to scoop her up (and sometimes him too, all 3 of us on this little chair)…. I am scrunched sideways, contorted to get them to settle down so they will sleep again….and, again grab my coffee, my ipad, start reading or writing (which presented an even more contorted arrangement above their lounging bodies because I would have no lap then)……… And then….and then…..they eventually, 3 minutes, 5 minutes……they would want down again.

The sadness I hold in my heart – the desire, the physical ache for their return – is a study in ambivalence. I am nuts with sorrow for something I have been waited for for a long long time.

Love conquers all, I tell you. Even high maintenance love. Their 13-14+ years of collective memories will permeate my soul with sadness that will eventually lift to the highest level of sweet sweet melancholy……….but you and I will know the bottom line. The tension is now resolved, and with grave sadness I walk forward into my freedom unencumbered.

Thanks for hearing my 5:00 am confession, my soiled sadness. I know you understand. You spent years in the same condition with many of your dogs before they died. You would have similar tales to tell. I guess dog people are just special souls.

“Lord, help me be half the man/woman my dog thinks I am.”

The only animal dumb enough…

Kay, Maggie, Sebastian

“We are the only animal dumb enough to not be where we are.”

The words popped out in the barber chair at Great Clips when Dee, the barber (I still call them barbers), told me that the person who had sat in the chair before me had spent her whole time playing on her iPhone. Never said a word. Never looked up. It sure seemed to Dee that her client was there…in the barber’s chair…but she was somewhere else, while the barber with the real scissors that were cutting her real hair in the real chair at the real Great Clips in the real Chaska Commons was…well…not there. How dumb is that!  “We humans are the only animal dumb enough to not be where we are.”

I spend my days alone with my dogs. Maggie and Sebastian live where they are. They don’t miss a trick – no pun intended; they’re not very well-trained – but they pay attention to every little thing. Every movement I make, every bird that flies across the window, every word spoken, every sound that might hint that Mom’s home, or that Dad is leaving…or taking them for a walk…or a ride in the car. They live where they are.

Sometimes they have to bark to jerk me away from my desk when I pretend I’m not there, checking my emails, surfing the web,  or writing a story. They know I don’t know how to be where I really am. They know that I’m not as smart as they are, but they’re  forgiving of my chronic weakness. They never look down on me.

We human animals think we’re so smart. We are. But what have we lost in ADHD heaven? If it hadn’t been for Maggie and Sebastian, I might not know; the words would never have popped out of my mouth in Dee’s barber’s chair.

When I got home, I shared with my furry companions the conversation with Dad’s groomer and what I had said: “We are the only animal dumb enough to not be where we are.” They were proud of Dad. I returned to my computer and ADHD heaven. They came along side the desk, gave me their paws, and said in unison, “We’re always here for you, Dad.” Then they asked if it was time to go for a ride in the car.

“Wait ’til Mom gets home!”

Over the Memorial Day Weekend, my only conversations are with Sebastian (Shih Tzu-Bichon Frise), and Maggie (Three quarters West Highland White Terrier and one-quarter Bichon Frise).

Maggie and Sebastian romping in the snow

Sebastian keeps asking, “Where’s Mom?”

“She’s gone to the cemetery.”


“Yes. She’s gone to TWO cemeteries!”

“NO!!!!”  “Not TWO.”

“Yes, two cemeteries.”

“No! Mom’s dead?”

“No… she’s gone to the cemeteries.”

“No. You’re pullin’ our tails…she can’t be buried in TWO cemeteries. Only ONE. We’re not stupid.”

“Okay,” I say. “You’re not stupid. You’re both very bright. Mom’s not been taken to the cemetery like you guys will be if you keep peeing on the rugs and on the corner of the new kitchen island …she’s not buried. She’s DRIVING to the cemeteries in the car.”

“DRIVING? In the CAR?”

“Yes…in DAD’S CAR.”

“We’re going for a ride In DAD’s car?”

“No,” I say. “Mom has Dad’s car. She’s gone to the cemeteries…in Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s Memorial Day. Besides, no rides in Dad’s car until you stop peeing in the house.”

“Aw! That’s not fair. We want to go for a ride in the car…right NOW. Like you always say!  ‘Where the ____ is Mom?'”

“Bad dog, you’re not supposed to talk like that. Where’d you learn to talk like that?”

“Mom taught us. We love Mom more than you.”

“I don’t care. She’s not here!  I’m all you’ve got until Mom gets home.”

“Mom’s home?” They run to the door.

“Oh boy, oh boy, Mom’s home! Mom’s home!”

“No. She’s coming home tomorrow. Maybe, when she brings Dad’s car….”

“Dad’s car? Ride in the car?”

“No. You have to listen. When she gets back from the cemeteries, Dad will take you for a ride in the car…OR…if you keep peeing in the house, Mom will take you both for a ride… to the cemetery.

“No, no…not the cemetery!” shouts Maggie.

Sebastian saunters over to the island.

“You’re pullin’ our tails,” he says. “Mom wouldn’t take us to the cemetery.”

He looks right at me and lifts his leg: “You’re mean. Wait ’til Mom gets home!”

Sebastian and Maggie with Momoh Freeman