Emergency Dogblog, or, A Dog’s Gotta Do What a Dog’s Gotta Do

Umm….excuse me?

Maya here. Again.

I know, I know. This isn’t my blog. It belongs to my hooman–y’know, Whatsername. The one with the treats.

Pictured: Whatsername’s hand

Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but ol’ Whatsername’s been pretty much missing in action lately, blogwise. Something about “I’m not really feeling the blogging right now,” or “It’s complicated.” Whatever that means.

So I’m stepping in. Y’know, just to keep this spot warm till Whatsername comes back to curl up in it. I can make myself comfy anywhere.

Hey haters, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

So. That’s it, really. I’m just here to say–stick around, ok? My hooman’s probably just out back sniffing something reeeeeeeally interesting. She’ll be back when she’s good & ready.

But if not–you got me, right?

Who’s a good girl?

Dogblog: Doggone Discipline

Maya here again. Miss me?


The other day I heard someone howling, and…hey. Wait. It wasn’t me!

I hurried over to check and found my hooman giggling at ANOTHER DOG on her little tappity-tappity thing. “Hahaha,” she was saying, “can you believe this?”

Wait–some dogs can get away with this? And get something called 250,000 followers? Pretty sure “followers” are edible.

Well, that dog just crunches my kibble. When I make that noise, my hoomans yell “HUSH!” at me. They certainly don’t turn me into a picture on the tappity-tappity thing for thousands of other hoomans to laugh at. That Zeus dog is FAMOUS. And me? I’m just in the dog house.

Are you KIDDING me?!

I mean seriously. My hoomans make me “heel” and “come” and “sit” everywhere I go. We practice in the house…

Better be some treats at the end of this recall.

…out on walks…

Who’s a good girl? Yeah, yeah, yeah…

…even on the one “Staycation” they’ve taken me on! (This is a thing where hoomans leave their house and go stay in a different house. Lots of cool new stuff to sniff. But I still had to heel and come and sit.)

OK, OK! I’m sitting.

No way would I EVER get away with the stuff that Zeus dog pulls. Every now and then my main-walky hooman lets the leash loose to take my picture, ’cause I’m so pretty…

Even prettier with flowers, am I right?

…or because the trail is too rocky for us to go side-by-side…

But I get to go first!

…but once we’re past that part, it’s back to heel and come and…

You know the drill by now.

I don’t even get to chase whatever little yummy crawly diggy thing made that hole! Bet Zeus would get to eat it for breakfast.

I’m telling you…it’s just NOT FAIR.

So I’d just like to say to Zeus’s hoomans–Can I come live with you? I wanna howl and dig and be a doggy diva too, and my hoomans just don’t UNDERSTAND.

My one consolation? That thing they call “college basketball season” is finally over, so I don’t have to wear this stoopid scarf every time their “Tarheels”–whatever they are, probably NOT edible–throw that round orange thing at each other.

Help me, Zeus!

Me! I’m a Good Girl! …Wait, Waddya Mean,That Was a Rhetorical Question?

Maya here. ‘Bout time I checked back into my hooman’s blog. Missed me?

A lot has happened since I first took over my new realm household a couple of months ago. A LOT. …and no, I’m not talking about “Georgia,” or “Insurrection” or “Amanda Gorman,” or any of the other things my hoomans are always blabbing about. I’m talking tummy rubs, of course. I’ve had about 4,000 of those.

Ready for #4,0001. Don’t be shy now.

But also–well, let’s be real. I’m talking TRAINING.

For some weird reason my hoomans have taken it into their minds that I need to stop knocking people over with the strength of my affection act a little more “polite,” whatever that means. Actually I learned what it means: lots of walking in circles on my leash. That seems to be called “Heel.”

I always try to keep a half-step ahead in case my hooman needs protecting. I don’t know why they don’t appreciate that more.

And there are lots of other funny words, like “Sit” and “Stay” and “Come.”

I get a little distracted on “Stay.” But I love “Come”–there’s usually a treat when I do!

Some of it–honestly? Pretty silly. Like “Down.” Although I guess I appreciate how they want my snout to be closer to all that delectable rabbit poop…

Mmmm…snackin’ size.

But I gotta admit, they’re really starting to get the hang of this TRAINING thing. Look how long of a leash I have them on sometimes!

More time for me to snack.

So all in all, I guess I’m pretty proud of ’em. Sometimes they even have their own partly-grown hooman puppy to come over and play with me, though apparently he needs a muzzle.

Maybe he bites? They should be training HIM.

So we’re all good here. I may check back in again from time to time and let you know how they’re doing. Main thing? They’ve learned the proper way to address me. When I come in from relaxing in the yard, I’m called “Miss Mossy-Butt Bossy Mutt”…which I’m pretty sure means “Your Majesty.”

…as long as we got that straight.

The Next Right Thing

Featured

If you’re new to this blog, you might not know that I created it with little enthusiasm back, oh, nine years ago, when the People Who Know Such Things convinced me that I, as an Author, needed a Platform.

Then a funny thing happened. I started to enjoy blogging. Especially since “Wing’s World” has remained fairly untethered to theme. What’s not to love when you can blog one week about kale salad, and the next about how many times you’ve run around Planet Earth? As a writer, I did try to steer clear of two topics: writing about writing—boooooring—and politics: divisive.

Then an unfunny thing happened: the last four years. And I’ve found myself increasingly drawn toward topics of justice that need addressing, and increasingly uncomfortable blogging with my usual whimsy. While I appreciate lightheartedness in the writing of others, for myself it feels too much like fiddling while Rome burns.

But who needs more blog posts about everything that’s dire? And so I respond with…silence. My posting has gone from a robust twice-weekly clip to weekly…to biweekly…to whenever the hell I feel like it. And I haven’t felt like it.

(photo by rbaez, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Can I get an “Amen”?

Then on a walk the other day, doing my Mary-Oliver-best to let the wild wind and whitecaps and dripping mosses capture all of me, I thought back to a podcast I’d just heard, which reminded me of a hackneyed but super useful concept I learned back in the 90’s. That concept: the Circle of Control from good ol’ Stephen Covey—remember the 7 Habits guy?

[Copyright Stephen Covey]

EVERYONE should be able to relate to this. Life feeling out of control? Too much, too fast, too hard? Well…what are you in charge of? Eating a healthy breakfast? Reading a book to a child? Do that. Start there.

Now that I think about it, it’s quite similar, in fact, to the Serenity Prayer. Probably smarter people than I have already noted this.

You know: this. (image courtesy Etsy.com)

Anyway, that podcast which started this train of thought? An episode of NPR’s Invisibilia featured an extraordinary woman in Scotland, Joy Milne, who discovered she has the superpower of being able to smell diseases in people. Terminal diseases. Which means she can meet someone and know how close to death they may be—even if they don’t know it themselves. Which means she can, in a way, see the future…without being able to control it. 

Talk about “too much”!

Along her journey of discovery—that is, science discovering this woman and putting her power to use—Joy befriended another woman, suffering from Parkinson’s, whose mantra for living with her disease seems to be actually defeating it. This woman says that, in the face of terminal out-of-controlness, she simply tries to “do the next right thing.”

I like that phrase even better than “Circle of Control.” It’s more humble, more tender, more…real.

Throughout most of 2020 (or COVIDCOVID if you prefer), my “next right things” included working on my book, and working to help save America from Donald Trump. [Pictured: my phonebank tallies. Including the calls for the Georgia runoff (which already feels like a year ago), I made approximately 3,000 calls.]

Since that time, conditions in our country and our world feel more out of control than ever–all the more so from having spun away just in the budding of hope. My back pain is not improving. And my writing project is stalled (yes, I WILL write about that when I am able).

In short, I need some new, modest enterprises to function as Serenity Prayer. So here are three:

–a local online tutoring project for kids in our community

–a phone-calling and letter-writing campaign to shut down private prisons in Washington State

–training our new big, overly-enthusiastic dog

Who, me?

Are these projects blogworthy? We’ll see. Of course they’re wildly divergent in scope and tenor. But they do have one thing in common: for me, in 2021’s crazy start, they all feel like the next right thing.

And what is yours? Please share.

Teaching an Old Human New Tricks: DogBlog

Hey. HEY.

Talkin’ to YOOOOO.

The name’s Maya. Got any treats? Oops, I mean…pleased to meetcha. My new human, Gretchen, has been spending way too much time on this tappity-tappity black thing, so I thought I’d take over for a while. My house, my rules.

I just got here, less than a week ago, and I’m satisfied that I am now Queen of the Household. I just need to vent a little about the humans who brought me to my new realm.

Our first meeting. I allowed them to rub my belly.

They SAY they are dog people. Malamute people, in fact–I’ve heard them bragging to other humans that I am actually their third Malamute. They speak often of a certain “Mickey,” “Molly,” and…whatshername…”Juniper.” Mickey apparently died young, whatever that means. Molly lived as long as she wanted to, apparently a long-ass time.

She was, it seems, also a Queen. Survey your realm, Queen Molly!

This “Juni” seems to have acted more like a cat, if you can believe that. Seems she was very, very, VERY fluffy. Didn’t like getting dirty or wet. (Ughh. Can’t believe I’m talking about cats.)

Like I said: fluffy.

She did like strong wind, they say–probably the only time the air could ever penetrate to her skin!

Hahaha, silly Juni. Should’ve shed harder.

Anyway, it’s just hard to believe these new humans of mine are so “experienced.” They seem awfully untrained to me.

First of all, they brought me here to my new realm not just in a car, but on a boat.

Something about a “fairy”? Didn’t get that part.

I was not a fan of this. I drooled a LOT.

That’ll teach ’em.

Once established in my new dwelling, they keep trying to take me places on a leash. Oh, humans. What’s the good of a leash when there are so many deer and bunnies to chase? I can just smell ’em!

You may drop the leash. Really. I’m good.

And when we do go places? We WALK. No running! I hear both of my humans bragging about how they used to be “distance runners,” but apparently now they’re too old and washed-up to do more than trot with me. No chase! No catch-me-if-you-can!

They even have to enlist their son, a grownup Human Puppy, to play Tug o’ War with me.

They also complain that I want too much attention. Well, what do they expect? Molly and Juni had each other to play with. I have only…sigh…them.

Maybe they’ll procure me my own puppy to play with.

The house is full of Molly & Juni’s puppy pictures. Well, how nice for them. Nobody wanted me when I was a puppy. That’s why I came to live here…and that’s why I’m for sure Queen of this place!

Never going anywhere again, furever and ever.

Oh please, don’t mind me. Walk around.

Anyhow, just wanted to say, to any of you other Kings and Queens out there: feel free to share your stories about how you whipped your humans into shape! Might be good for a howl.

The ??th Annual What I’m Thankful For List

Thanksgiving is still several days away as I write this. But the more I contemplate the fearful unknowns and the ugly knowns of my country, the more I feel like turning back into a third grader and writing my I Am Thankful For list. This is one is completely off the cuff; I’m not even wearing cuffs. Just letting my mind ramble over bright spots. Like…

–having a job where I get to work with interesting, supportive people, and to make stuff like this:

(Courtesy Stephanie Smith and Holly B's Bakery)

(Courtesy Stephanie Smith and Holly B’s Bakery)

–having friends to sing with at (very nearly) the drop of a hat:

(Photo: Anne Whirledge-Karp)

(Photo: Anne Whirledge-Karp)

–being able to enjoy other people’s dogs vicariously, since we no longer have one:

"Which hand has the treat?" "Both?"

“Which hand has the treat?” “Both?”

Road Trips to visit Cute Cousins (more on this later):

"Quick, hide their ice chest! Then they can't leave!"

“Quick, hide their ice chest! Then they can’t leave!”

Will I be doing more of this in the coming months? Yes. Does it help? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Count whatever blessings you can, and be careful of one another.

Oh, and if you’d like to share some of your blessings here, I would love that.

Live Long and Prosper…With Puppies

Forget multivitamins or fish oil, or whatever’s billed as the secret to longevity these days. The REAL secret is not just to live long, but to live long HAPPILY. Right? And I know the secret to that: puppies.

It’s true; I have proof. The other day I called back home to North Carolina, expecting a nice long chat with my 80 year-old mom. My dad picked up, but instead of the usual, “Hi–let me get your mother,” he said, “Martha’s at a meeting.”

“Oh.” OK, this is going to be a short phone call. “Well, how are you? What’s been going on?”

Plenty, apparently. He started talking–mostly about the two new puppies he and my mom just brought home. They’ve been sending pictures, so this wasn’t news.

"We couldn't choose between them, so we got them both!"

“We couldn’t choose between them, so we got them both!”

What WAS news was how much OTHER news my dad had to share. We talked about his recent trip. My recent trip. The puppies. A book he loved. A book I loved. The puppies. My children/his grandchildren. My cousin. Puppies.

When I hung up, my phone informed me we’d been talking on the phone for FIFTY-FIVE MINUTES. For my practically phone-phobic, 85 year-old, serious scientist dad? That’s a world record by more than double.

At first I couldn’t figure out what had made him so chatty. Then it came to me: he’s happy! He’s practically giddy with joy. And why wouldn’t he be? He has these guys to play with:

Don't you just feel happier already?

Don’t you just feel happier already?

I KNOW, right?

I’m not really suggesting anyone give up vitamins or fish oil. But I do think it’s worth considering the power of something utterly charming to boost the latter years of a long life. I’m going to remember that when I’m 85.

 

Life After Dogs: Is There?

I’ll have to get back to you on that one. This is a new phase for us.

As a couple, The Mate and I have never been without at least one dog or cat, if not two of each. As an individual, I have not been without a pet for 33 years, and then only for a couple of years in college when I was still going home to my parents’ farm during breaks.

Our sweet malamute Juniper left us Saturday morning, exactly the way we were hoping she would: she went to sleep under a tree. Since she had been diagnosed with cancer several months ago, and since she had stopped eating a week and a half ago, we had many goodbyes. I am still very sad and will be for a while yet. Juni was only ten, and I thought we’d have more time together.

J

I used to describe Juni as a mix between a malamute and a Persian cat, that’s how soft and fluffy she was. Especially the fur around her face. “Stroke her there,” I used to tell kids we’d meet on our walks, kids nervous of such a LARGE-seeming dog (how could they know it was mostly hair?). “Her cheeks are soft as a bunny.” And their eyes would light up when they discovered this was true.

Juni 2

In temperament, too, Juni was more cat than dog, preferring to curl up on my feet –literally–than to go for walks. She was pretty darn lazy, really. Sometimes in response to people’s questions, “What IS she?” I’d throw “part Yak” into the mix, or “Snuffleupagus.” That seemed to capture her table-wide, fluffy profile and her badger-like gait. Our older son called her “Trundle-Bear.”

Besides her fluff, Juni’s main striking point of uniqueness was her vocalization. Malamutes don’t bark, people say, they talk. In Juni’s case, when she was excited to see you, or to eat dinner, it was more of a roar: “Rrrrooooohhhhh!” My friends Dia and Bert would sing trios with her. “Rrrrooooooooooo!”

Damn, I miss her.

Junifur

 

But we are not talking about getting another dog. In fact, we are talking about NOT getting another dog.

Four years ago, our youngest child headed off to college. We moved away from our suburban house with its enormous garden and started our new lives on this small island. No children. And no garden: I decided to take a break and let the island’s many farmers grow my veggies for me, and I’m still okay with that decision. But we still had our dogs.

The similarities between the three have always struck me. Gardens, like children and animals, have their seasons of neediness, where you can get pretty cranky with their demands. They have their time of independence where you sit back and watch them romp and grow. And then there are those wonderful harvests: armloads or moments of pure, delicious joy that you gather and hold onto, savorable months and even years later.

Freedom is not a word that you use with kids, nor gardens, nor pets. The Mate and I have grown used to our freedom to come and go as we please during the day, and not to have to worry about watering or weeding when we take a trip. But we’ve always had to find a dogsitter. Now…we look at each other and say in slow disbelief: “We could go camping if we felt like it. Whenever we wanted.”

A young friend of mine, like me, bred to think that life without dogs is no life at all, insists, “You could get a small dog and take it with you whenever you go somewhere!”  Maybe. But I’ve always been a large-dog girl. That’s a switch I don’t think I want to make.

Juni3

I used to think I knew exactly what I’d do when our older malamute, Molly, passed away a year ago: we’d get another older dog as a companion to Juni. But Juni didn’t seem to want a companion; she wasn’t interested in other dogs. Part cat, remember? So then I thought, okay, when Juni passes, I’ll go to the shelter and find another dog who needs us. I even had a great name picked out: Skagit (the name of the closest county on the mainland, and a beautiful agricultural valley–but also a great sound: “Here, Skagit!”)

Now, though? We’re thinking we will let someone else adopt that potential “Skagit” and name him/her whatever they want. We are going to investigate the question of Life After Dogs.

I’ll keep you posted.

But I’d also like to hear from you about your pet/no-pet lives. Have you made the transition from one to another? Have you lived long with, or without? What’s it like out there?

“Hey World, Look How Flawed I Am”: Why I Love Reading Anne Lamott

I need to call our vet this morning, and tell him I may be calling him again in the next few days to put our sweet malamute, Juni, to sleep. She hasn’t eaten since Tuesday morning, and I think she’s telling us she’s done.

We went through this exactly 11 months ago with our other malamute, Molly. But Molly was 15; Juni just turned ten. I thought we’d have a little more time with her, but cancer thought otherwise. I am sad.

So I’m doing what I tend to do in this situation: not thinking about it. I can’t WAIT to get to work, where my brain will be too full of bread and pastry to think about big furry dogs and how much they may or may not be suffering.

DSC02055

At the same time, I’m ignoring another unpleasant (though in a completely different way) set of thoughts. (Yep–I’m a multi-tasking avoider!) Apparently the Kindle version of The Flying Burgowski is riddled with formatting errors, which I only discovered this week, a month after the Kindle upload, because of the kindness of a friend. Not my own scrupulousness in CHECKING the Kindle version THOROUGHLY, which any normal author would do. I don’t particularly like Kindle, so I managed to avoid doing that too. So now I’m…let’s see: humiliated, aggravated, fearful (of the work I’m going to have to do fixing the formatting, AND of failure, AND of the inevitable buildup of aggravation/desperation/self-loathing that will ensue), and…sad.

This is why I was so comforted by reading myself to sleep last night in Annie Lamott’s book, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith.

I know, her author name is Anne, but everyone in the book calls her Annie, and that’s how I think of her too: like this crazy, loving girlfriend you can call when you’re feeling sad or down on yourself or both, because, girl, she’s been through way worse than you.

She’ll make you laugh. She’ll say stuff like, “bananas are great, as they are the only known cure for existential dread” or mention emergency errands “for milk and ice cream sundaes.”

She’ll comfort you with advice, all of which comes directly from the people she credits with the strongest guidance in her life, Father Tom Weston and Veronica Goines, the pastor of her church in Marin City, California. If, for example, you’re feeling put upon by the world, or a co-worker, or your partner,

I tried to look at each person kindly, because I believe that we are family. I don’t always feel it, but I know it. My pastor Veronica often quotes whoever said that it’s not what we’re looking at, but what we’re looking with, so each crooked smile could be like a minimal dose that, however small, helps the healing. Just as a doctor can help you relax for a moment during a spasm, and you remember you’re going to be okay at some point.

See? Helpful. Annie is my kind of religious person.

Her greatest gift, though, to a multi-tasking flaw-avoider like me, is in the way she holds out her flaws to the world. She has many, many struggles (some of which can be handled by her friend’s suggestion, “Drink a glass of water and call a friend,” or her father’s most “spiritual” advice, “Don’t be an asshole.”). The most poignant of the essays in this book, I found, are about her struggles as a parent. In “Samwheel,” where she suddenly–and for the first (and last) time ever–slapped her 17 year-old son in the face during an argument, Annie takes us with her on the drive she immediately took, running away from the house and her shame and rage and fear.

I wept at the wheel on a busy boulevard. At first people were looking over at me as they passed in the next lane. I wiped at my face and snorfled…I started calling out to God, “Help me! Help me! I’m calling on you! I hate myself, I hate my son!” I wanted to die. What is the point? What if the old bumper sticker is right and the hokey-pokey is what it’s all about?

Me? I barely have the courage to admit publicly that I don’t properly proofread. I can’t imagine the kind of guts it takes to write about feelings like that. So I went to sleep humbled, and grateful, and woke up ready to think about the things I don’t want to think about. I stroked my dog for awhile. Soon I will call my vet for that first, sad, preliminary conversation. Then I will start working my way through the ultra-polite advice of the Kindle rep and my friend Michelle, who have emailed me instructions to fix my mess.

But I may take a break to re-read another one of Annie’s thoughts on faith, on flaws, on dealing with being human.

How about sharing some of yours? Not flaws, I mean, but strategies for dealing with them. “Drink a glass of water and call a friend”? Go for a walk? Take a nap? Write? Maybe I can steal from you too.

 

 

Dare I Say It? Dogs Off-Leash?

I try to stay away from controversy.  Anyone who knows me knows I have my correct opinions and like to argue, but here in Wing’s World, I try to keep it sweetness & light.

But it’s summer. Tourists are flocking to my island. And since the chunk of federally-owned land adjacent to my house has been declared part of a National Monument, they seem to be flocking in, well…rather larger flocks.

With their dogs. Who may or may not be leashed.

See, here’s the thing. I hate leashing my dog, Juni. Off-season, when no one’s around, I used to set her free to romp with her buddies along the wind-swept shore.

Juni romping with her buddy Jess

Juni romping with her buddy Jess

"Oops, romped myself right off that trail! Meant to do that..."

“Oops, romped myself right off that trail! Meant to do that…”

Then I became a volunteer BLM Monitor. That’s Bureau of Land Management, a sub-agency of the Department of the Interior. As a Monitor, I get to do what I do every day anyway, only carrying a clipboard and noting things like birds, plants in bloom, numbers of people, and dogs on or off leash. Including me, and mine. And, oh yeah, if I see someone with an off-leash dog, I’m supposed to ask them to leash up.

Out of sheer embarrassment at the hypocrisy of the situation, I began leashing Juni, even when there was no one around. It did feel better not to have her crushing all the pretty flowers in the spring.

"Look OUT! Here comes another DOG!"

“Look OUT! Here comes another DOG!”

It's called Common Camas. But it's really not all that common.

It’s called Common Camas. But it’s really not all that common.

Later, at a BLM monitors picnic, I learned about the sparrows who nested near the trails, and got reminded about some of the endangered plants that could easily get trampled.

The extremely rare Spotted Coralroot Orchid

The extremely rare Spotted Coralroot Orchid

So okay. I want to be a good role model. I got religion on leashing my dog…in this space, at least. But I’m still torn. Dogs have SO MUCH FUN off-leash! And when I meet friends with free-romping pooches who just shake me off when I give ’em my BLM spiel, I have a hard time feeling too upset with them.

So…here goes the controversy. Does LEASH YOUR DOG really mean what it says, or does it mean “We really wish you would keep your dog under control, and if you can do this without a leash, that’s cool”? What’s been your dog off-leash experience? Any horror stories you need to tell?

I got my clipboard handy. Fire away.

"OK...can you let me off the leash NOW?"

“OK…tourists are gone. Can you let me off the leash NOW?”