Sweet Peachy Tea…

For much of my adult life, I’ve stated that every dog is the best dog that ever lived, tied for 1st place with every other one.  For the past 14 years though, I’ve been lying.  Peaches Fern Cohen, has held the highest place in my heart.  Not just in mine though, everyone fortunate enough to know Peaches, recognized that she was special.

Peaches belonged to my daughter, and her mother.  Peaches went home yesterday, to be with her sisters, Leilui, and Luna.

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If I could describe Peaches in one word, it would be Sunshine.  No ray of sun, shining down from the sky, ever touched or warmed me the way Peaches did.  It began with her face, which was sweetness incarnate.  It just wasn’t possible to look at Peaches without feeling her sweetness.  But that was just the first layer.  Beyond sweetness, there was the happy – and her happy was always turned on.

Except for the occasional grumbly stomach, broken leg, fractured spine, paralysis, or bladder reduction, Peaches radiated joy.  In fact, she experienced and survived all of those, and more – a big part of what made her exceptional.   Any one of those medical events might have taken her too soon, but not one of them did.  Each condition made her a little more fragile, but they also increased the worth of her spirit.  Her 14 years is a testament to the commitment she had to her loved ones, and ours to her.

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When I think of Peaches, my mind always sees her first, sitting outside beside the rosemary plant that she loved to smell.  Her face was often pointed to the sky, and it appeared that she was the one radiating warmth toward the sun.  Whenever I would see her like this, whatever toxins might be in my heart or mind, we instantly defused.

If I’m being honest, Peaches had an unusual look about her, but she made it work.  Due to the afore mentioned medical events, her body changed over time, becoming increasingly fragile.  A Pomeranian by birth, by the time she was 8 years old, she looked more like a punk rock Chinese Crested, mutating into a tiny pachyderm.  She used this funky look as both a fashion statement, and a way to make friends.  It wasn’t possible to walk Peaches without a stranger stopping to admire and inquire.  It almost always started with…

“Oh my god, she’s adorable….!”

The funny thing is, it was impossible to describe Peaches to a passerby with any detail, because once they saw Peaches, the person walking her became an invisible bystander.  People just marveled at her.

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One manifestation of the physical changes she endured, was a high arching spine.  This made her look like a little buffalo.  She often fulfilled the buffalo look by lowering her head into thigh of the nearest seated human – as a silent request to get petted.  If the petting hand would dare stop, the li’l buffalo would push her head harder into the human’s leg until they got the hint.

When she wasn’t being a buffalo, Peaches, always held her head high and looked up in wonder and in joy.  In 14 years, I never saw Peaches growl, snap, or display any intent towards another creature, other than kindness.  From her earliest days, she was a kind old soul.

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Every dog is the best dog that ever lived, tied for 1st place with every other one.  The one that rose above them all though, well she went home yesterday.  She is now free to smell the heavenly rosemary, to buffalo God’s thigh, and turn heads wherever she struts.

As Miss Trudy and I each held one hand to Peaches, our daughter was present in spirit.  Peaches lay calm on her belly, getting weaker, but still holding her head high.  Radiating sweetness till the very end, she was still looking up when she took her final breath.  Be well…  rc

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Sniff And Follow…

Sniff And Follow…

I had a one-eyed dog for many years, Pumpkin.  Pumpkin’s one eye would give way to age, and I then had a blind dog.

I began noticing her loss of vision as one might expect; she would turn corners too soon and hit walls, and she would be more apprehensive approaching things and people in a darker environment.  Eventually, she began to freeze and stay in one place, often showing confusion until I found her and helped her along.

I overcame this, and enabled her to live a more independent life with the use of candles.  I wanted to share that here today, in case any of you have or know of people with blind dogs.

Not lit candles, but I used them as markers on the ground.

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My home at the time had tile floors throughout, and Pumpkin used 3 rooms regularly; the kitchen, the living room, and my bedroom.  She also used a small patio off my bedroom, which she accessed via doggie door.

I took 3 candles, each with a strong, but different scent.  Starting in the kitchen, by her feeding dish, I took one candle and scraped it lightly along the floor in a line from the kitchen into the living room sofa where she like to sit.

I took a 2nd candle, with a different scent, and scraped it lightly along the floor from the kitchen to my bedroom and to my bed where she also liked to sit.

Lastly, I took the 3rd candle, again with a different scent, and scraped it lightly along the floor from my bed to the doggie door leading to the patio, where she liked to sun herself.

Every few weeks or so, I would retrace the lines to keep the scent strong enough for her to find. This helped Pumpkin find her way around my home for years.

Eventually, would lose her sense of smell and remain close to her feeding dish most of the time, where I also kept a blanket for her to sleep on.  Otherwise, I carried her from room to room.

Nothing big here today.  I Again, I just wanted to share this for anyone who might benefit from the idea…  Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from You Am I.  Enjoy…

A Dog With A Job…

Stroodle and I had been housesitting for some friends recently. We had also been charged with the care of a German Shepard named Ilse.

This turned out to be a bit of a hardship on Stroodle for several reasons, not the least of which is that Stroodle open feeds. With other animals around, and in a strange home, open feeding wasn’t an option. Stroodle’s feeding schedule got thrown off, and subsequently so did his potty schedule. He hadn’t pottied in over 48 hours and I was beginning to get concerned.

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Ilse and Stroodle…

As we went about our Saturday morning walk, Ilse included, I explained to Stroodle that our business relationship was based on an exchange of services. I give him food and shelter. In exchange, his job is to provide love, joy, and potty. It’s a verbal agreement, but one which has never been tested.

He just offered me a quizzical look…

I went on to suggest to him that his lack of potty in recent days was bordering on unprofessional. I noted how Ilse had been the consummate professional, despite that her schedule had also changed.

The quizzical stare continued…

I suggested a compromise, and that he work with me and at least try and sniff out a good spot to potty.

He turned and looked at a nearby bunny hopping through the heather…

Finally, I explained to Stroodle that I expect better from him. I used a stronger tone, a greater inflection, and threw in some extreme hand gestures in hopes he would get my point.

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Ilse, very professional…

“I want potty and I want it now!” I exclaimed.

Quizzical look, this time with a tilted head…

That’s when the small man with the athletic frame, clad in skin tight running gear stood up from the bench where he had been stretching – unseen by me until that point.

“You have a nice dog” he said. “Maybe you should talk to his union rep…” He then began his jog.

And that, THAT is why I will someday be known as the crazy dog man of the Los Jilgueros Preserve.

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WIP:  Work In Progress…

We continued our walk with no further incident… Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Blaze Foley.  Enjoy…

Of dogs, and immigrants…

Broad brush strokes…

When we refer to any group, or reference their actions as a collective, we are often making a mistake. My favorite example of this is when people refer to the American founding fathers. This is often done in the context of, The founding fathers would have…

News flash; there was no such thing as the founding fathers as a collective. Similarly, there is no such things as in nature, Hollywood, or the sports world as collective entities.  Still, there are times when it’s useful, and even appropriate to paint with these broad brush strokes. I’m about to do that – twice.

Reflections from a sidewalk…

One year ago next month a conversation took place between a dear friend and I – she and I share a daughter. We were enjoying lunch at a sidewalk café on a Chicago afternoon. The following day our daughter was to graduate from college, so the conversation was reflective on our child’s life. The slow pace of the lunch provided a relaxed dialogue, and gave us a chance to talk without hurrying our girl’s future into place.

As the conversation flitted back and forth through time, the talk was peppered with thoughts of how we humans believe we should live our lives versus we how actually choose to. The two sides of that same coin are often left unreconciled by many. In a serene moment my daughter’s mother and I distilled all we really need to know about how to live our lives into just two words; dogs, and immigrants.

On dogs…

She explained that we should all live more like dogs. Dogs, she said, live in the moment. She suggested that so long as dogs are in a safe environment, they live relatively stress free lives, and are appreciative of whatever it is they are doing at a given time. Be it feeling the warmth of the sunshine on their body, enjoying a piece of food or a human touch, dogs, she suggested, don’t look back or beyond.

Dogs love unconditionally she continued, and humans would be wise to do the same. She explained that dogs are loving creatures with forgiving hearts. Dogs hold no resentment, and when given love, they tend to pay love back – with interest.

Lastly, she stated, that dogs are humble. Though each has a unique personality, dogs tend to understand that they are here to follow, not to advise, and that humans would be wise to live the same way. A dog, she said, has no ego.

Though I could not disagree with any of her points, I explained that I feel people need more than those qualities to prosper as a society.

She may have her roaring moments, but Peachy is the most humble dog I have ever known...

She may have her roaring moments, but Peachy is the most humble dog I have ever known…

On immigrants…

I explained to her that I feel we should live more like immigrants. That immigrants, like dogs, tend to be humble, but hard working. Work, I reminded her, is what we humans are here for.

I live in a town with a large immigrant culture. Many come from Central America, and Mexico. Most of the immigrants I have come to know here are among the hardest working, and most humble people I know. I find them more inspiring than I do professional athletes or even astronauts. They also tend to be reverent, and respectful.

When I cross paths with, or interact with the local immigrant culture, they are often on bicycle or on foot en-route to their long days of picking fruit or working elsewhere in agriculture. I have employed several through the years for both short, and long-term work. There are many commonalities I have observed with them as a collective, chief among them is that I am almost always met with a smile, and a greeting.  Most often their shirts are tucked in, they say please and thank you to everything that moves, and they value a dollar – not covet it. From most of them, I sense something genuine.

Let the work day begin...

Let the work day begin…

Among the immigrant population here, there seems to be no real sense of resentment that they are on foot or on bike rather than a Lexus. I feel a genuine sense of gratitude from the immigrant culture that a dog might also have, but a wealthy neighbor probably doesn’t. Immigrants, I believe, sense and appreciate opportunity far better than most of us, having often sprung from more stark beginnings. Many I have known see little use for even a lunch break.

I believe living in this community, with its high concentration of immigrants, has inspired me to live a more humble, and harder working life. I am grateful that I have a chance to interface with these inspirational people most every day of my life.

Inspired from eye level, not from above…

I watched an inspirational video this morning of athletes who all looked like action figures. They were covered with sweat, and performing brave exercises while voices in the background increased in volume as they repeatedly offered motivational clichés espousing the merits of gut busting work as a means of pursuing achievement. I admit I felt largely inspired by the video – at first.

As I watched this video though, I could not help but think that if that same music, and those same motivational voices were superimposed of over scenes of immigrant workers picking fruit, or of stay at home moms juggling laundry, cooking, and children, they would have inspired me as much. I was taken back to that conversation I had nearly a year ago, of dogs and immigrants.

Meme picking…

Barring an advancement in genetic engineering which might enable us to splice the highest traits of immigrants with those of dogs and implant them into the psyche of the average American, I can only hope that for inspiration, we begin looking around at some point, and not up.

In the end I can’t really say we should live more like dogs, or immigrants. I will suggest though, that we should seek out qualities to improve our lives from the collectives which may seem to be beneath or beside us, and draw less those from those who appear to be above us – professional athletes in particular.

Now I know there are lazy immigrants, mean dogs, and mindful professional athletes. However, it’s my firm belief that if our founding fathers were alive today, they all would “like” this essay on their Facebook pages. Be well… rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Jill Andrews. Enjoy…

Stroodle Gets A Steward…

Who’s on first…

These are the first words I speak each day,

“Thank you for being my light, my beacon, and my truth.  Thank you for guiding me, teaching me, reminding me, and forgiving me.” It may sound as though I’m praying to a god with those words, but I’m not.  I continue, “Thank you for being my best friend.  Thank you for letting me be your human, and your steward.  May the lord bless you and keep you this day my Baby Boy.” These words are spoken to my dog, Stroodle.

I have been Stroodle’s human, and his steward for nearly 7 years. In truth, I didn’t want Stroodle at the time he arrived in my life.  I was caught up in a very selfish lifestyle.  I lived in condo with no yard.  I worked long days.  When I wasn’t working I was working out.  I didn’t want to be bothered.  Besides, I already had Pumpkin, a low maintenance Shi Tzu/Pug mix.  Blind in her only eye, and nearly deaf, Pumpkin was the Helen Keller of dogs.  However, my daughter and her mother thought I could provide a good home to Stroodle, and his presence might do both Pumpkin and I some good.

Pumpkin and Stroodle; the salad days...

Pumpkin and Stroodle; the salad days…

Stroodle had likely been abused as a puppy.  He was just under a year old when he arrived.  His left rear hip was damaged, and despite two surgeries after I got him, he still uses that leg for balance only.  After I took him in I immediately hired a couple of neighborhood girls to walk Pumpkin and Stroodle each afternoon while I was working.  At night the three of us would sit on the living room sofa, and watch ESPN until bedtime.

Mr. Misty…

I have belonged to a household with at least one dog since the day of my birth.  I am a dog person.  I come from a long line of dog persons.  In truth, I was always a minor contributor with the upkeep of the dogs I had growing up.  Most of their care came from my older brother, and my parents.  I loved, and appreciated dogs, but I could rarely be found with a brush in my hand.  I had better things to do. Misty, a male collie who was named by my brother after Dairy Queen’s Mr. Misty drink, accompanied my family throughout most of my childhood.  He probably deserved a better home, but he was loved and appreciated, if not well groomed.

One day when I was 16, I walked into the house and gave Misty a hug.  I was surprised when underneath his un-brushed fur, his stomach was the size of a basketball.  I had discovered a tumor that he had likely been carrying for a while.  I was the only one home. It was snowing, and my car wouldn’t start.  I began walking Misty through the snow about a mile to the local veterinary clinic.  When Misty could no longer walk, I picked him up and carried him in spurts.

Eventually we arrived, I checked him in, and I guess without giving it too much thought, I left him there in trusted hands and contacted my mother and father to let them know what happened. The following day Misty passed.  I believe he was 13.  Though I was sad when told of his passing, in hindsight I can say I was more neglectful of Misty, than I was an advocate for him through the course of his life.  What did I know…?  I was just a kid.

 On stewardship…

As I have gotten older, perhaps due to the influence imbalanced human relationships have had on my life, I have come to realize that despite my life long appreciation of animals, I’m only now learning to appreciate the value of animals in the human experience. Some values which are often associated with our pets:

– Unconditional love

– Living in the moment

– Truth

– Devotion

Some values which may go less noticed:

– Dignity

– Elegance

– Humor

– Playfulness

 Back to Stroodle…

I had always depended on Pumpkin and Stroodle to be there for each other.  I was simply providing them a safe home, some love, some kibble, and lap time at the end of my workday.   Some time back Pumpkin passed away, and Stroodle was alone.  This, this is when I discovered what it truly means to be a dog person.  After Pumpkin’s passing I made a promise to Stroodle that I would be the best human he could hope to have.  I made it a priority to be his steward, and his advocate, not his owner.

My brother from another mother...

My brother from another mother…

Each morning I hold him because I believe no dog should go a day without a human touch.  They deserve to feel love through hands of another being.  Many times throughout the day though, it’s more selfish than that.  I hold him because I’m the one who needs to feel love through the touch of another being.  As the chaotic world around me unfolds through my 17” computer screen; babies dying, shootings in schools, wars and politics rage on, my dog never questions my need to touch him.  He simply provides me with comfort – willingly.

A house is not a home…

I believe children should be exposed to pets at an early age.  My daughter was born into a house with two dogs, and we added as she got older.  By the time she was 13, the dogs she knew as a child had passed. Though there is certainly sadness, and heartache that comes from the loss of a pet, there is also a perspective, and context which can be applied to life.

If we are fortunate enough to love an animal, and be a steward for him, we are blessed in many ways. Not the least of which is learning a superior context we can apply to apply to the duration of a life. When we are born our parents are already older. We never really know them in their youth. If we are fortunate enough to have children, we know them in their youth, and perhaps even into middle age. However, most never see their children live deep into old age. Having a pet gives us a different perspective on this. Horse, dog, hedgehog, or cat, we often get our pets at an early age, and are often able to see them live a complete life.

When I stop to consider this, it reminds me that we have so much to learn about the seasons of life from our pets. The fragility of spring. The restlessness of summer. The calm of autumn. The perspective of winter. Watching these seasons unfold through the animals I have loved, helps me better understand my life, and the lives of others.  Be well…  rc

Stroodle, and his cousins-in-law; Luna, Peaches, and Posey...

Stroodle, and his cousins-in-law; Luna, Peaches, and Posey…

The only truth I will ever know, is looking into the eyes of a dog.

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Wooden Shjips.  Enjoy…