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WHAT THE WALRUS SAID--Our Authors' Blog--

ERIC AND MURDOCK

 

This photograph shows our friends Eric Morse and Murdoch, the West Highland Terrier, just after they won yet another "six-legged race," meaning one human and one dog.

 

We think this photograph speaks for itself.

 

--Joyce

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REEVE IN MAY

  

Reeve, pictured above, is sending us all a message.

 

We told Reeve's story five blog posts back—

 

Bad situation in her native Louisiana, then adopted by Ben Power, a Broadway musician, who gave her such a warm new home that people ask us: "Who is that man who's so wonderful with that dog?"

 

Ben's been traveling back and forth to the city—his show, Come From Away, is due to revive from covid dormancy in September, with practice sessions already underway. His friend Maggie has watched over Reeve while he's away, and she took this photo.

 

She says: "Doesn't this picture speak volumes about the simple pleasures in life?"

 

It does, and Reeve can add to that message—In springtime, to lie in new green grass and sniff the violets brings peace.    

 

--Joyce & Richard

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ESCAPE GENIUS

 

We called him the Houdini of the Dog World.

 

Sam looked goofy.

 

Black, because of a Labrador retriever among his ancestors. Otherwise, a beagle, except with ears so long he often tripped over them. His sister, and admirer, Sasha, looked like a beagle, white and brown and pretty, with appropriately sized ears.

 

Crack open the kitchen door and Sam squeezed out, with Sasha following. Two hours or so and Sasha would be back, clearly pleased with her forbidden run in the woods. Sam? Maybe that night. Maybe tomorrow.

 

We'll skip the time Sam got shot, or toppled over our waterfall, or got a face full of porcupine quills (three times for that). We'll tell you about Sam's greatest escape of all.

 

We built the dogs a backyard pen, for when we had to spend an afternoon away. Routinely, as if by magic, we came home to find Sam gone from the pen. So we made its wire-mesh walls higher, then higher, then higher still.

 

Nothing daunted the dog Houdini.

 

Finally, we hid behind an upstairs window's curtain to watch.

 

Sam sat looking out through the pen's mesh, making sure nobody watched. Satisfied, he got up on his hind legs, stretching his front legs as far up the mesh as possible. Then he used his front paws to pull himself up, giving his rear paws a purchase on the mesh. And so he strenuously ascended, his tail pinwheeling, to give him lift, like a helicopter's rotor.

 

He teetered at the top, looking down at the ground, far below, getting up his courage.

 

Then he jumped.

 

Sasha, still in the pen, virtually applauded her brother's amazing feat, watching him rocket off into the woods for another adventure, going where his beagle nose led him.

 

Sam—the bad dog—outlived his sister. When he died, peacefully, at an exceptionally advanced age, he looked thoroughly pleased with himself.

 

--Joyce & Richard

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THE CHAMP

 

 

This photo shows our friends Eric Morse (the human) and Murdoch (the West Highland Terrier) after their most recent race together, the PAWS run, on April 10, 2021, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

 

Of course, Eric and Murdoch won. They always do.

 

Eric, a state-champion runner in high school, continued running as a member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team, competing against teams from other countries, in foot races up all sorts of daunting mountains, like the Alps.

 

After retiring, Eric began entering "six-legged races" with Murdoch, who has proved as winning a runner as he is.

 

We decided to post this photo because it tickles us to see the Olympics-style podium, with our friend Murdoch honored as "Top Dog." He's won so many first-place prizes that he's one of the few dogs with his own bank account.

 

--Joyce & Richard

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REEVE

 

 

 

We just looked out our new apartment's window—we're up on the third story—and we saw Reeve taking her morning zigzag run, trailed by her human friend, Ben Power, who maintains a more measured pace.

 

This winter morning our building's park is totally white—tamaracks and cedars, pathways, everything frosted. You'd think Reeve, a rescue dog from Louisiana, would object to our northern New England winter. She's small, with short brown hair, definitely not a malemute. But no—she dashes through cold and snow, sniffs, then dashes on, loving every sub-freezing moment.

 

These days, we enjoy other people's dogs, and Joyce lets no dog-owner go unmet.

 

Out our window, before we knew them, she watched Reeve and Ben. She saw Reeve's absolute devotion to her human friend, and her willing obedience, shaped by no more than treats, kind words, and love—when Ben calls, here comes Reeve, fast as she can.

 

I'm out for a run most days, and Joyce told me, if you see that man and that dog, say how much your wife admires their close relationship, and his warmth with that dog.

 

I did, and so we met Ben Power and Reeve, which produced some surprises. Ben, we found, is a Broadway musician, currently on furlough because his show, Come From Away, is on a pandemic hiatus. He's sitting it out in a condo, near our building. He's half British, half American, and he's a skilled performer on the Irish flute and Uillean pipes.

 

We decided to post this story because another couple stopped us in the corridor—"Who," they asked, "is that man who is so wonderful with that dog?"

 

We humans are emotionally complex. Dogs just feel what they feel. A dog is content to be respected and loved. So let's take happy dogs as signs, that this world, so often seeming dark, has light in it, and joy, too, if your morning walk is rich in newsy scents.

 

--Richard

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THE WELCOMING COMMITTEE

 

Here are two dogs with a message for all of us.

 

Pfynn, the German Shepard, and his neighbor, Gracie, are welcoming Gracie's new housemate.

 

Here's the back-story: a friend of ours discovered that a co-worker faced a dilemma. A visa snag had stranded her husband in Spain. For an unknowable length of time, husband and wife must be separated. With everything so iffy, housing became a problem for the co-worker.

 

Our friend stepped in: until the situation with your husband straightens out, she said, stay with me.

 

Pictured above, you see Pfynn and Gracie greeting the new roommate, as she arrived, with matching messages: "Welcome Home, Indre," and "We're So Glad You're Here, Indre!!!"

 

In these unsettling times, we thought this little story, of a friendly hand warmly extended, would be worth sharing.

 

--Joyce and Richard

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STAR NOSE AND NOSMO

 

 

My latest mystery novel, Star Nose, is just out—it's about a child under threat.

 

Killers murdered his mother. Now they're hunting him. He's a troubled seven-year-old who trusts no one…except a Pembroke Welsh corgi.  

 

That's Henry. He's the housemate of the novel's protagonist, Cooper North, just retired as a prosecutor, but still in the game. Here's a confession: in my various novels,  Henry is the only character borrowed from real life.  

 

He's an avatar of our own corgi housemate, Nosmo, who pops up in most of my novels, under various aliases.  

 

Here's why: we both loved Nosmo. Also, maybe Shakespeare or Dickens could invent a character like him, but I couldn't. So much personality in that short-legged body.

 

Preternaturally astute eyes, for one thing. You could see him thinking. And he had extraordinary empathy. He felt what you felt.  

 

At midnight once, I came back from the hospital where Joyce was under treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia. At that point, decades ago, her odds of surviving were four percent. I felt low, and weary. I dropped into bed, instantly unconscious.

 

At three a.m., I jolted awake. Nosmo sat beside the bed, silent, but staring intently at me. Seeing me awake, he virtually nodded, then trotted off to the stairs, looking back to make sure I understood.

 

I did. Wearily, still not wholly awake, I followed him downstairs, then out the back door. While he did his business out in the darkness—that's why he'd summoned me awake—I sat hunched on the deck's steps, head in hands. Gradually, I felt warmth—Nosmo, leaning against my side.

 

I don't know how he soundlessly woke me, just by willing it, or conveyed he needed to go out. What I did know then, and know now, was that Nosmo felt my misery and hopelessness. He leaned his warm body against my hunched body to offer solace.

 

He's still with us. He's in this new novel, Star Nose, under a different name—offering an unhappy child solace.

 

--Richard

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WHAT DOES A DOG MEAN?




A friend asked me—why, in most of your husband’s novels, is one character a Pembroke Welsh corgi?

And the answer is: “It’s personal.”

Sometimes that dog character is Henry. Sometimes he’s Tobi. But his real name—he was a real dog—was Nosmo.

“Nosmo King,” in full, chosen by his previous family because they quit smoking and named him for a “No Smoking” sign. Not a name we liked.

Then we realized Nosmo could be a Hobbit name, like Frodo or Bilbo. So he became Nosmo the Hobbit.

He was preternaturally bright. Read More 

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MURDOCK WISHES YOU HIS HOLIDAY BEST

Our good friend and frequent visitor, Murdock Morse, sends his holiday greetings to all.

Go romp in the snow, he says. It feels good!

--Joyce & Richard

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GRACIE WEIGHS IN TOO!

Gracie Duke--another good friend of ours--wants to second her pal Murdock's message: celebrate!

It's the darkest days of the year, she says. So get out there and bark! Bark for the return of the light!. Bark loud! It'll come!

Joyce & Richard

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