The Dog Days of Summer

dog days of summer, golden retriever, dog loveFor years I’ve wondered why the best part of the year is called the “Dog Days of Summer.” Most dogs I know (and I’m close to many) aren’t enamored with summer. Too hot for their heavy fur.

My granddog Charlie loves being outside, but on a “dog day of summer,” he buries himself in the dirt (usually in my daughter’s well-loved rose garden) and hangs out there until he’s discovered and chastised. Continue reading

Never Say Die

cat, nine livesWhen my friend calls me from her home in the northwest, she’s tearful and sad.

“What’s the matter?” I ask.

“It’s Honey,” ‘Pat’ explains. “She’s gone.”

I’m not surprised, but I try to sound shocked and sympathetic. Honey is much loved by Pat, yet she gives Honey the freedom she believes a cat should have. Living in a wooded area, Honey slinks out of the house at all hours of the day and night, but by dawn, she always returns home with a smirk and sometimes a feather or tiny tail in her mouth.

“Let and let live,” seems to be Honey and her keeper’s motto, and for 9 years Honey has lived long and hard.cat, nine lives

Pat adores the aging feline, who has fattened over the years, despite her roaming adventures.

But the morning of Pat’s call, Honey is not in her customary cushioned pillow on the sunny spot in the kitchen corner. Honey is missing.

I figure she’s probably used up her nine lives.

Pat discovers a service she’s heard about, but never believed existed.

Hunting dogs that find lost, injured, or killed cats.  

dogs, catsThe dogs arrive a day and a half after Honey has disappeared. They search Honey’s home for items to smell – her ball of string, her pillow, her bowl. And then they take off with a bark, their trainer and Pat trailing behind.

They all race through the wooded paths, up the hills, down, over and around, for a mile, the dogs barking, hot on a trail, the humans puffing and stopping now and then, hands on knees, praying they find nothing, but wishing the dogs would stop.

Suddenly, all three animals lay down on a wooded path, panting hard, staring straight ahead.

“What are they doing? Why’d they stop?” Pat asks, looking around for some sign of Honey.

“The death smell,” the dogs’ trainer explains.

“What?” Pat trembles at the words.

“My dogs stop when they catch the cat’s death smell. She’s gone. Probably coyote. You might find her carcass somewhere near this spot, but most likely, there’s not much left.”

My friend trudges home, disheartened, depressed, mourning the loss of her treasured kitty cat.

Two days later, a despondent Pat answers the doorbell – a neighbor who lives down the street standing in the doorway wearing a puzzled expression.

“You missing your cat?” the man asks.

“Yes! Why?” Pat replies.

“I just heard a frantic meow – some fuzzy animal is stuck underneath my garage.”

Pat runs the 200 yards to the rather slanted garage with a dirt hole underneath it. “Honey?”

A responding meow answers back.

A shovel and shouted encouragement soon brings Honey, minus death smell and a few pounds lighter, back into Pat’s arms.

When she calls me with the good news, I want to shout out the moral to this story.

But I don’t, because I’m not sure what it is.

What do you think it might be?

cat, dog, hunt

A Ghost Story

ghost, ghost story, spirit, friendI know it’s going to happen tonight. All the signs are right. Children off on their own, husband away on business, my two best friends gone on vacations with their families.

I am alone. Finally.

For the past two months I’ve been preparing for this time, not knowing that it would come, but preparing nonetheless.

The sun finally loses its power over gravity and sinks down into the dark rose horizon. The moon floats ahead, but herds of black clouds cover its cheerful shine, darkening the sky and the earth below.

I turn off the lights to the living room, the hallway, then the stairway, and finally my bedroom.

I am swathed in glorious blackness.

I close my eyes, then open them so the room is revealed to me like a developing photo in a dark room.  Familiar shapes and shadows relax me.

Then an unfamiliar form floats from the window to the door and stops a few feet away.

“Virginia?” I ask.  She nods her head. I see no face, no female body, but still, I know it’s my dear friend of many years, my mentor, dead over 15 years now. I have talked to her so often in my prayers, but never a response.

Now she speaks, though no words fill the room.

We revel in memories of the life we shared, and she laughs heartily. My soul fills with the sound.  I have missed it, but now realize that it has always been part of me, and shall remain so.

She answers my personal questions of what lay beyond.  I won’t tell you what she says.

Felicity, my cat, creeps into the room, staring at me with her yellow eyes.  I’m afraid she may think her mistress has lost her mind, but instead she meows to me.  “Why stay here? Take a cat nap and see the world.”cat, ghost, story

Oh, I suddenly realize; I’ve always been able to go back and forth between worlds. I just don’t nap enough.

I close my eyes, feeling Virginia’s presence close at hand.  We soar off through the window panes into the black night.  I am so happy my heart balloons twice its size. I see George, then, and grandmama, and, of course, Pauli.  They are just as free as me.

We head toward the prism that has suddenly appeared, and just as suddenly we’re in a garden of roses and delphiniums and hydrangeas. The soil is moist and smells like cut grass, starfish, and summer moonlight.  Felicity joins us and converses with a butterfly.

“Change is imperative,” the colorful flying insect says wisely.

I wink and find myself back in my dark bedroom, seated Buddha style, petting Felicity in soft gentle strokes.  She gazes up at me and says only one word in a long, low purr.

“Llllllooooooovvvvvvvveeeeeeeeee.ghost story, butterfly, cat, soul

 “Sometimes the soul takes pictures of things it has wished for

but never seen.” (Anne Sexton)