If you were to sit with us for dinner on any given night, you would be privy to a recurrent conversation that surfaces whenever social issues such as poverty, violation of human rights and modern-day slavery, refugee and climate change-caused disasters are brought to our attention via news, books or any other sources: why don’t wealthy people help more? And why do some choose to act in ways that take away from those who have little to begin with?
It’s disheartening to have to ask those questions.
It’s 7.02 and my alarm did not go off. How do I know this? Because of the coldish wet nose that is gently pushing down on the mattress near my own nose. Perhaps a molecule or two are exchanged in the process, that’s how fine her touch is. She knows that my weekdays start at 7am. On weekends we sleep in; she knows that too.
Make that magical feature number 1.
She seeks my gaze when I start dressing or even just reaching for a pair of socks. She looks into my soul and my soul warms up. ‘Can I come along?’ She almost always does. If the adventure is but grocery shopping, it’s togetherness she’s after. So am I. We listen to Nina Simone and Stan Rogers in the car and our eyes meet in the rear-view mirror every now and then. To never feel lonely; infinitive.
Magical feature number 2.
The other day we got ambushed by a coyote on the trails. Twice. The first time she barked her big dog bark, charged the coyote only so far, and then came to stand by me as we both scanned the hills. The second time around she chased it further but came back unharmed. She looked at me: we’re going home now. I listen every time. I learned that in the woods where it’s just the two of us (and the plethora of wild creatures stalking us!) and her nose and instincts always prevail. I am safe because of her; I never question her instinct.
That’s magical feature number 3. (Number 3 applies to people too. She sniffs out the strange ones and blocks their access to me. Go figure. I shrug and say hello but from a distance. As per my dog’s suggestion.)
She sleeps by my side of the bed and when I can’t fall asleep, I let my hand rest on her. Research says… everything calms down and I feel my thoughts tuck each other into imaginary beds… All’s peaceful again. Closeness. Gratefulness.
That’s magical feature number 4.
I signal our hiking trajectory wordlessly; I wave my hand and she gets it. I teach her the words for the things we meet on our hikes: snake, stick, cone, person, bird, puppy, plane (nope, we don’t fly but planes do and she looks up wondering what they are. Planes. So there.) I ask her if she is hungry on the way home and she licks her snout looking up at me. She knows people’s names. Her dog friends’ too. While I solemnly promise to never refer to her as ‘fur baby’, she knows me as Mama. Because the boys call me that. To be fair, we are raising each other, her and I. But yes, on paper I am the dog owner and the dog’s name is Poppy.
Today is her birthday. She turns 3! A pallid midday sun catches us playing soccer with a cone on a frozen beach. I kick the cone we found buried in sand, she runs to catch it and creates a mini sandstorm. Repeat. Repeat. Until. What? Already time to go? OK, once more.
We stop by the side of the frozen river. It’s quiet but for the hum of the city in the distance. I crouch down and she nestles into me. I kiss the side of her head and she closes her eyes gently. She sighs. I sigh. I’d change nothing; not her relentless bicycle chasing or occasional stubbornness. The car will be full of sand again. So what. Repeat. Forever.
Happy birthday, Poppy girl. May our snuggles and adventures never end.
Saturday morning started with a good amount of sunshine and blue skies. I hiked and took in the fresh air and the beautiful landscape, and spent some time remembering Cindy Ross Friedman, whom I got to meet for coffee and chats many times after moving to Kamloops and whose celebration of life service I was to attend later in the day. Gone too soon, she had a spark like no other.
As 2018 is ending, there is a funny thing happening: the resolution machinery is put to work. Open any big box store flyer and you’ll be reminded of resolutions, particularly the fitness ones. The distance between today’s you (somewhat heavier and poorer you after Christmas eating and shopping,) and the better you of tomorrow (possibly fitter but just as poor or worse if you give in to promises and buy promises shaped like fitness machines,) is ultimately yours to decide on.
Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday December 24, 2018.
It was 2am when the dog started growling in that way that means one thing: someone is too close to the house. Shortly after the growling, light beams started flickering through the bedroom curtains. We got up to look: someone was running through our backyard with a flashlight. Admittedly, that was strange. We live in a safe neighbourhood without too much rowdiness or crime. When the back alley light shone on the man’s back we realized he was part of the police force.
October 17 is just around the corner. Cannabis will be legal (and the province expects a hit from the first orders, predicted to come as a huge wave as many want to make history by ordering as soon as cannabis becomes legal,) and many others are bracing for what the legalization brings about.
One of the concerns is driving while under the influence.
Fall has a special place in my heart. When I was a kid, until I left my parents’ home to go to university, as soon as the grapes would start to ripen, I’d go around the yard and get myself a bunch of sweetest ones, usually by holding up the bottom of my T-shirt for an impromptu fruit-picking bucket. Then I’d sit in one of my special places under the quince trees and eat them. One by one, green, black and red spheres, all juicy and sweet, their flavour divinely irresistible.