He’s Just a Dog

dog, golden retriever, autumnDo your teeth grit as hard as mine when people use that expression? What do they mean?

He’s just a dog, so his ‘feelings’ don’t matter, because he has none…?

He’s just a dog, so it’s fine to let him sit outside in the rain (or snow or hot sun) all day…?

He’s just a dog, so leave him at home for hours and don’t worry about him…?

I’ll lighten up for the rest of the post, but I needed to get your first visceral reaction. How do we treat our animals? Do they have “feelings” or concerns? Do they get hot and cold, bouts of hurt and spurts of joy? Continue reading

Guiding our Genes

artists born or madeA writer once said, “Journeys, like artists, are born and not made.” (Lawrence Durrell)genes

Really? Are we born into who we are? I know we contain these things called genes, which help us become who we are – the tall gene or the short one; blue-eyed or the brown-eyed gene; the one for a dimple in the cheek or high cheekbones; a gene tendency to grow up lean, or fat.

But are we also comprised of a gene to be an artist or a stockbroker, a train conductor or an engineer?

And then I remember Tory.Guide Dog for the Blind, genes

Tory was my family’s first dog – a golden retriever bred by the Guide Dogs to be a perfect animal to guide and protect the blind. The right height, weight, disposition: sweet, docile, loving, yet with a streak of strength and stubbornness.

In fact, Tory was so perfect, the Guide Dogs organization used her as a breeder (of other perfect dogs), and we became her adopted parents, taking care of her until time to do her duty and produce offspring. Once her litter was born and nursed, Tory came back home with us.

For us, Tory was a perfect family dog. She never met a human she didn’t love.

However, she disliked just about every dog or cat who crossed her path. People oohed and ahh’d when Tory and I walked the lovely Bay path, but if another leashed dog came along, my sweet dog would snarl tightly and lead me firmly away from the unsavory beast.

A mere inconvenience for us as dog owners.

But when it came time for her to breed a third litter, the Guide Dogs rejected her!

Yes, they fired Tory.


Because every single one of her puppies – 8 in her first litter and 9 in her second – disliked dogs and cats. And a Guide Dog who snarls at other dogs cannot be used as a loving companion to a blind person, because that loving dog could lead her person the wrong way, just to avoid a four-legged creature.

So, then, are we only how we arrive, genes intact? Are we born as artist or preacher, as anthropologist or philanthropist?

Are we born mean or nice?

apple pie, genesDo we snarl at strangers because our great-grandfather did, and do we bake the best apple pie this side of the Mississippi because of our great great great-aunt?

What do you think – can we guide our genes, or do they just guide us into who we are?

genes, dogs, Guide Dogs

Smart Tory learned new tricks every day…
thanks to my guy, or good genes?

Worth the Wait

pride of medeira, san francisco bay, walk, dog, friendship  We walk together, in harmony, almost as if we’re holding hands, but we’re not. However, he looks at me often, his deep brown eyes saying so much without his mouth releasing a word. Could anyone ask for a better companion? For a better friend?

But of course, there’s so much more to the relationship than that.

As we walk, he looks over his territory with pride. His name, I tease him, should be Heathcliff or Darcy. He just moves on, pointing at the Pride of horse, nature, walking, friendship, dogsMadeira in the meadow, strutting over to say hello to the horses in the pasture, urging me to run instead of walk along the paved path around the nearby farm. I sigh, then allow my thigh muscles to tighten as I follow him.

His gait is so strong and sure-footed. I run like a girl, he runs like a …. Well, he doesn’t seem to mind and, in fact, even though he can run hundreds of yards in front of me, he stops and looks behind his shoulder to make sure I’m coming along. I think that’s what endears me the most to him. He could make it on his own. He could be perfectly happy and free without me, yet he chooses to slow down, to wait, to watch me with a gleam in his eye, so I can catch up.

dog, golden, eyes, friendshipIt’s that look in his eye that makes me feel so valued, so necessary in his life. As he stands there, still and strong, waiting for me, there is sure certainty in his expression that I am worth the wait.

I reach him, and he opens his mouth with a big wide grin. Somehow, I know I have passed a test. I stroke him, and he dashes on ahead again, ears bent back, eyes slanted from the breeze, mouth turned up into such joy my heart leaps, and I run faster.

Suddenly, I am ahead of him. He stops as quickly as he began, tail wagging, nose tilted down into the ripe lime green grass. I call, he ignores me. The smell must be from nirvana, like chocolate to a woman, diesel oil to a man. I call him, his tail wags faster, but he still focuses on the meadow grass.

I stand still. He’s worth the wait.

dog, golden retriever, friendship, woman and dog

A (wo)man’s best friend.

Sharing the Divine

I can communicate with animals.

Just last night, I stared straight into my golden retriever’s eyes and said silently, “Henry, do you really like that plain yogurt I give you every night with your dinner?”

He stared back liquid pools of brown love and answered, “Anything you give me is full of love, and how can love not taste divine?”

I sat back in my chair, stunned.

I wasn’t surprised that I’d heard Henry’s words as clearly as a train whistle, or a fog horn, or a hummingbird’s wings. His words have rung loudly other times, although I admit the phenomenon is rare.

Most times I feel his answer; if you’ve never communicated with an animal, you don’t know what I mean. But some dog or cat lovers are nodding their heads. We humans usually don’t like to admit that there’s a language bond between species, probably because humans own the ridiculous assumption that we’re superior to every other being.

No, I wasn’t shocked because he answered me, but instead taken aback by his words.


Food and love, giving and receiving, cooking and eating, all are part of the Divine. With a capital D.

I raced to the kitchen, where earlier I’d placed half a dozen Meyer lemons from a friend’s garden. Henry watched me, knowingly, a little drool appearing on the side of his black gums.dog, eating, love, communicating with dogs, food

I started measuring sugar, cracking eggs, pouring flour into a bowl, turning the mixer at full speed, then allowing the dog to lick the beaters as his special treat.

Lemon bars. Cooling now on the rack, ready to share with others.

Sharing the Divine.lemon bars, food, sharing, love

1/2 c butter

1/4 c powdered sugar

pinch of salt

1c flour

Mix all together with until creamed.  Spread in greased 8×8 Pan and bake at 350# for 15 – 20 min.


2 beaten eggs

1 c sugar

2 Tbl lemon juice and grated rind of 1 lemon.  Pour over hot dough, bake 20 min more.  When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.