Sunday, January 19, 2020

      He came into my heart when I needed him most. The early January death of Riley, though expected, was nearly more than I could bear, and here I was, a dog man without a dog. It was not a good place to be and wasn't healthy as I found it harder without a dog to take me outside myself. I was trapped with my sorrow. Though Dido was still here, she also missed her brother, as did Zephram, her human companion.
     I waited four months before feeling emotionally ready for another dog, and Zephram took me to a local SPCA kennel. I was cautious but eager; what would I find? We walked to the first outdoor pen, and this face looked up at me, and I saw Riley in it, and I knew this was the dog Riley wanted me to have. He leaped up and into my heart. He chose me as much as I chose him. He had already been returned by two different families and we soon found out why with his rambunctious energy that would not make him good with children. He did bond with us, but there were issues. For a small dog he was strong, and, in his eagerness to explore and to run, he pulled his leash out of my hand several times on walks, then I had the joy of watching his curly-haired butt bounce down the road, having no idea where he was going, yet also not caring. Fortunately we caught him each time, and realized it would take time before he could be trusted to run free with us. Even now, six months later, that is only done on a limited basis and only when the 15-foot tie-out is securely fastened. Zephram and I are too old to be chasing Chief for long.
     Still, he has greatly improved. He taught me that he needed to poop immediately after supper, a lesson we learned many times the hard way. We took him, perhaps too soon, on a family trip to Maine in July and everything was new and needed to be barked at. It was a long trip in many ways, but we made it and he never ran away.

                                                           On the way to Maine with Dido

    He loves Dido, his bigger, older sister, and probably more than she loves him as he wants to play with her long after she's worn out and wants to be left alone. We're still working on that. In the evening, Chief assumes his drag name of Champagne, that's Miss Champagne to you. And he knows it as well as he does Chief. He's learning to rest during the day between walks and drives as he has an entire sofa on which to lay. He follows me upstairs at night and joins me in bed. Unlike Dido, he doesn't like to be covered up, even with his thin coat of hair which doesn't look that warm to me.  Now that it's winter, he sits in front of the coal stove and worships the fire god.

     He's learning our daily morning route that takes the dogs and I along the creek, and even in the creek when it's low enough. There's a path through the woods we also follow, at least usually, since he is easily distracted by smells and the neighboring farm dog who often comes over to join us. He is not good with other people, perhaps because he rarely sees them. We had old friends as Christmas guests and I thought at first things would go well when I let him greet them, but something happened as he suddenly turned and ferociously attacked Chuck,. even to drawing blood with a claw. I hastily put him upstairs where he and Dido stayed the rest of the visit. However, Michele later sent a beautiful water color she made of him.

     So that's where we are now. Chief is a beautiful incarnation of the spirit. Sometimes I try and project myself into his psyche, to get an idea of how the world looks through his eyes, since we are all facets of the same jewel. It's good practice to extend myself beyond myself and the illusion of separate individuality. I rejoice in him daily.

Friday, January 17, 2020

     It was a dark and stormy night. A truck was racing along a slick, leaf-covered lane, turning a corner in the rain. Suddenly, there appeared a lump on the road, then it moved. Brakes squealed as the truck skidded to a stop just in front of the figure that now had stopped moving. As the driver got out and approached the form, he noticed that it was a mass of matted fur, laying prostrate in the middle of the road. He picked it up and a limp head rolled back, showing a tiny, bony kitten whose legs moved slowly as he held it. 
     He brought it to the truck and got in, holding the kitten close to his neck as he began to drive slowly away from the curve in the road. Suddenly, there was a sound. The kitten yelped and came to life, clinging to the warmth of the driver's neck and pushing its head up under his chin. 
     This little creature had reached his solstice, the darkness of its brief existence and then, miraculously, began its journey towards life and light again.
     The kitten was named Chancey, saved by chance, and in a few months grew into a great, fluffy ball of fur, with yellow eyes and a flat face and an inquisitive personality. He followed us everywhere outside, discovering the world for the first time, every experience new and exciting. 
     Chancey's long, thick fur was brown and grey, striped along the back in an intricate pattern of golden swirls. He was a Celtic Seelie Wicht, a lucky cat from the other world, come through to charm and brighten our lives. 
     He is a reminder to me of other times of darkness that we pass through, always alone, unknowing if we will reach any form of light or clarity again, but knowing that we are no longer what we were going into the darkness.
     At this later date in our lives, we approach this new solstice with a seasoned eye to more change and loss, more death around us. We remember more than we hope, but this experience of going into the darkness one more time is the possibility of a magical change, a hand reaching out of the wet, cold darkness towards us, picking us up off the road as we lay unconscious, and offering us new life, a life beyond clutching for survival. 
     Nature shows us the cycle that our lives follow, and guides us slowly to our fate in the unknown, passing into the longest night, from the shortest day. 

From the brothers at the Hermitage, our best to you this holiday season.