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

ON THE PASSING OF A DOG

ANOTHER RACE, ANOTHER WIN

 

 

A good friend e-mailed us—

 

"Murdock went peacefully on his bed at home yesterday."

 

We know that heaviness.

 

You dread summoning the vet, with her vials and needles. You hold that furry body—once so warm—as it goes limp.

  

You wanted to stop the suffering, but now there's guilt—"I killed my dog!" You're lonely. Your companion is gone. You feel hollow inside. Silently, you mourn.

 

A dog is a consciousness, like us, only with a better nose. How did these creatures—progeny of wolves—become so entwined in our hearts and homes?

   

Maybe it's simple: your dog worships you. It's not coy about it. It'll happily lick your fingers. Dogs like fun: let's chase that ball! Tell your dog your fears or worries. Those ears will listen.

 

What better friend than that?

 

Yet, we've seen dogs wandering streets from Cairo to Newark, homeless, hungry.

 

Maybe dogs evolved to test us. Maybe how we treat them measures our humanity.

 

Our friend's West Highland Terrier died of leukemia, after a glorious life—Murdock knew the bliss of being a player on the A-team, beloved.

    

Lucky dog.

Lucky friend of dog.

 

--Joyce and Richard

 

But here's Eric Morse with the last word about his best friend, Murdock—

 

"He had an amazing life of running, covering over 25,000 miles with me, more than the circumference of the Earth. We teamed together in over 200 races in 9 different states.

 

"He continued to run every day with me up until the final weeks. I'm convinced his fitness and continued running extended his life.

 

"I'd like to thank each and every one of you for the thoughtful remarks and reactions to Murdock's passing. They all brought tears to my eyes, knowing so many people cared.

 

"Farewell our friends. It was the best times."

 

--Eric

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A LITTLE LOVE STORY

 

 

 

When the national and international news becomes too scary and mean, we look out our window.

 

We see a little park, with a pond and pathways, and a meadow, and a mountain range beyond. Down in the park we see people, but not just people.

 

Yesterday, we saw one of our favorites, Ella Bella Socks, on one of her walks. She is a medium-sized dog of indeterminate ancestry, black, with white feet and stockings, a pretty sight.

 

Also, farther down the path, we saw our friend Ryan, on his ride-on lawnmower. He is a member of the maintenance team here, and another of our favorites…but not just ours.  

 

Socks saw Ryan, and instantly leaped forward—her human companion dropped Socks' leash, and Socks ran, as fast as a dog can run, full tilt toward Ryan and his tractor.

 

He turned off the machine, waited a second, and then Socks—with a tremendous leap—landed atop the lawnmower and in his lap, clearly ecstatic.

 

Later, we asked Ryan about his relationship with Socks.

 

"She loves me," he said. "Whenever she sees me, her owners just drop her leash and here she comes, fast as she can go."

 

Troubling news, yesterday, on the tv and internet and newspapers. It's always troubling. Out our window, however, the headlines were uplifting—

 

"Dog Loves Man!" "Man Loves Dog!"

 

Go ahead, Socks. Do it again. Make our day!

 

--Joyce and Richard

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PALS

 

 

In case you missed it, we just saw a CNN story that hit a chord, and we want to share it.

 

Cinnamon, a goat, and Felix, a 1-year-old bulldog mix, are totally buddies.

 

They hang out full-time, eating, playing, and sleeping.

 

They came to the Wake County Animal Center, in Raleigh, North Carolina, on March 13, 2023, because they each needed a home, and they found one—together.

 

Now they're BFFs, because a local family, with a history of fostering homeless animals, has taken them in. They now have a small herd of goats, for consorting, pastures for romping, and—of course—each other.

 

Animals, we believe, are sentient, like us, with awareness and emotions, a belief based on really smart and caring dogs we've had in our lives.

 

Plus, a bit of back story—when one of us (Richard) was a child, his dog was an exceptionally bright border collie (mix), who took it upon herself to watch over a boy she considered incapable of looking after himself.

 

Richard had a friend up the street who also had a devoted animal in his life, Clover, a goat. Goat and dog became good friends, and when the two boys played together, so did the animals, fun for all.

 

Only sour note: Richard's mother looked askance at a goat in her house, prancing about on sharp little hooves.

 

--Joyce and Richard 

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WALTER'S WINTER

 

 

Now it is March, which is northern New England's season of impatience.

 

Four months now we've had snow and ice, and slippery roads, and frigid Canadian winds. We're ready for crocuses and incoming robins singing cheerio. But that's not yet.

 

South of here, March is when spring finally opens its eyes. Here in the north, it's when spring gives us an occasional sexy wink, to soften us up, then blows more snow in our face.

 

So, here we are, looking out our west-facing windows at the horizon's mountain range, white all the way up the flanks to the peaks. There's a meadow below our windows, rising to a knoll, all buried under a foot of snow.

 

Gray sky, looming clouds. More snow forecast.

 

We stare out the window glumly. After all these months, winter lies heavy on the mind.

 

But what's that, coming up the meadow knoll? It's a woman, bundled in a parka and heavy mittens, and at her feet prances a small mahogany-furred presence, performing ballet moves in the snow.

 

It's Walter!

 

He's a Pembroke Welsh corgi, with a huge personality, but short legs. Walter can't walk through the snow, with those short legs, so he prances through it, jumping, pirouetting, burrowing, leaping up in a geyser of white—having a blast.

 

Walter's endured the same four frozen months as we have, and now he's out in it with no parka, no mittens, no boots…but he's not glum.

 

Walter is joyfully alive, relishing the white stuff in which he prances, gleefully using his snout as a shovel, to throw up powdery white clouds.  

 

Presumably, we should learn from Walter—take what life gives you, cold or warm, find joy, prance.

 

Yes, it would be nice. However, that's not how it is. Our sky's still gray, our meadow's still  mineral white, it's still gusting cold.

 

We watch Walter prance back down the knoll and out of sight, leaving just a memory of exuberance.

 

We're still staring out the window, looking at another month of winter.

Yet, not quite so glumly as fifteen minutes ago.

 

Thanks, Walter.

 

--Joyce & Richard 

 

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SIMON SAYS

 

Simon says: "Top O' the Mornin' to you!"

 

He wants everyone to see him in his St. Patrick's Day outfit. Mainly, he just likes everyone to see him. 

 

He's a Pembroke Welsh corgi, not Irish, but he feels that's close enough. 

 

He lives with our good friends in Virginia, Clarissa and George, who sent us this photo for him, because Simon has no computer skills. For that kind of thing, he says, "See my people about that." 

 

He also says, "Eat your heart out, poodles--cuter than this it doesn't get!"

 

--Joyce & Richard

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WHAT IS YOUR DOG THINKING?

 

 

 

We met a woman today who noticed the t-shirt one of us wore, with a picture of a Pembroke Welsh corgi on the front.

 

Our best friend, we said. He'd been astonishingly bright.

 

So she told us about her dog—also now gone—a Bernese mountain dog, with some collie mixed in.

 

"He was a genius," she said.

 

As evidence, she told us how one of her cats would escape, out to the meadow, where  danger lurked. Coyotes, for instance.

 

So she would tell the Bernese mountain dog: "Go find the cat."

 

Off he'd go, into the meadow, sniffing for cat. When he found her, he had no way to bring her home. So he'd gently place his huge paw on her and press her down.

 

Then he would wait for the lady to come and retrieve her imprisoned cat.

 

Later that day, our friend Eric visited us, with Murdock, a west highland terrier. We told him how impressed we'd been with that Bernese mountain dog's intelligence..

 

Eric looked unimpressed.

 

"Sometimes my cat disappears in the house," he said.

 

He stared down at Murdoch.

 

"Where's kitty?" he said. "Find kitty."

 

Immediately Murdock went hunting her. Is she behind the television? Under the bed? Did she sneak into the pantry?

 

This was our house, with no cat. However, Murdock diligently looked for her. Just like that Bernese mountain dog, he understood—"Find kitty."

 

So, double proof—some dogs know exactly what you're talking about.

 

--Joyce and Richard

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JUST PUBLISHED

 

 

My new novel, just published, is The Girl Who Got Her Tiger On (And the Dog Who Had Her Back)—it's a small departure for me, because it's a young-adult thriller.

 

It's not much of a departure since I'm unsure there's much difference between a young-adult novel and an adult novel, except the YA protagonists are youths.

 

In this story, the heroine is a 17-year-old telling about what happened when she was only 12, just after her father's helicopter blew up in Afghanistan, and her mother became deeply depressed. She felt she had "bad weather" in her head. Amidst all that, new neighbors move in, creepy people, she thinks, and she starts watching them—trying to do the right thing, she gets deep into danger.

 

 There's a new boy across the street, who wants to be her friend, but she avoids her classmates. With all her troubles, they seem shallow to her.

 

Virtually all my novels have a corgi character, and this one does, too. He's the heroine's best friend, William, a Pembroke Welsh corgi, who "helps" with her surveillance of what she calls "The House of Evil."

 

Novels are about characters—usually humans—going through difficulties. Maybe they're destroyed. Maybe they're changed. But, on that basic level, I don't think the protagonists' ages matter much.

 

--Richard

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ERIC AND MURDOCK

 

This photograph shows our friends Eric Morse and Murdock, 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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