Little Lost Dog

A few days ago my partner, who is a crane operator, spotted a scrawny brown Chihuahua in a remote stretch of swampland. There were no houses in the area, just a handful of rickety fishing shacks and rotting piers. The dog was hunkered on the edge of the dirt road, and my partner, who was on her way to a lift, backed up her rig and stopped. She got out of the cab and began to approach the dog, who had flattened its body to the ground. The truck engine was still running as my partner, getting closer, offered soft words of reassurance. Caught between terror and hope, the dog shivered violently but stayed in place. Allowing it to sniff her hand, my partner then scooped the stricken animal into her arms and carried it back to the truck.

Because we have two cats and no dogs, our friends think of us as “cat people.” The truth is, I like dogs as well as cats, and I have the same admiration for hedgehogs, blackbirds and blue whales. The main advantage of cats is their autonomy. While both our cats are fairly affectionate, they do not require a constant stream of attention and approval, and my heart doesn’t break when I look at them—well maybe sometimes, when they were kittens, for instance, and vulnerable to everything, or when I take them to the vet and they try to hide in my arms. Thank god, by the way, for veterinarians and their assistants, for all those who are strong enough and good enough to spend their days in the service of animals. My respect is boundless.

When you look at this dog, even the briefest glance, her tail wags hard and her ears lift; if you speak to her, her body shudders in a paroxysm of joy and she dashes over, head lowered. Each time you lift your arm to pet her she flinches and drops her pelvis to the floor. Her hips splay so easily that I’m not sure if it’s a genetic trait or if chronic dread has reshaped her. When your palm settles on the small dome of her head, her body stills and her eyes glaze with gratitude. Running your hand down her back and sides, you can feel every vertebra and rib.

I had her scanned at a pet shelter and was not surprised to learn that she is not chipped. I also spoke with a clerk at the Solano Animal Shelter who informed me that no one has filed a report on her. I provided a description of the dog and my contact information, then regretted it soon after. I assume she was dumped in that swamp or ran away on her own.

Between the cats and my partner’s allergy to dog saliva, keeping this dog was not feasible. We put her photo on Facebook, and just like that she was adopted by a friend. Despite the fact that we refrained from naming her and tried to keep a barrier of resistance around our hearts, her departure is wrenching. The house feels cavernous, useless.

There were the cats, the allergies, but something else too: the agony of looking at an animal who is locked in fear, who wants nothing more than your mercy. Our friend is smart and kind and I know she will try her best to make up for whatever happened to the dog before my partner found her. This little brown Chihuahua will get all the love our friend can give, which might, over time, be enough. I’m looking forward to finding out.

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Regrets, I’ve Had A few

I recently read a Facebook post that began with three words: “Have no regrets.” The author went on to justify this remark by reminding us that every decision we have ever made has fashioned us into the people we are today. This argument does not seem sufficient. Couldn’t we be more than we are today? Why is it wrong to imagine so?

Dictionaries define regret as a feeling of sadness, repentance or disappointment over something that has happened, especially a loss or missed opportunity. I can’t imagine there’s a person alive or dead who has not experienced this wistful angst. Regret is the product of a robust conscience and a working mind. If we did not regret our mistakes, we would not learn from them. We would be something less than human.

The nice thing about regrets is that they lose no potency by being kept private. I could tell you right now what my top three are, but I won’t. They are mine. Like the small and steady diminishments that come with age, I don’t deny my regrets. I allow them, forgive them; I keep them close. Wrinkles and regrets—what can you do but give them a home?

I can’t believe there’s a purpose to everything, hidden trajectories designed for each of us. While life on this planet is held in exquisite balance, it is also random and unjust, urgent and ever-changing. Our lives are so rife with choices and hazards that regret is inescapable, maybe even an adaptation, a feature meant to foster compassion and humility.

Not that we need to be mired in remorse, mourning the options we didn’t pursue. To dwell on something is to stop moving forward. But if we own our regret, acknowledge where we might have done better, we might in fact do better. Some of the roads we could have taken are closed off now–no matter; more open up all the time.

On the virtual plane, there are many versions of myself, living out the choices I didn’t make. Life is not easy. I wish them well.

Creating and Editing

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A friend posted this on my FB page the other day and it made me smile, mostly because my writing experience is the precise opposite. The creative stage is a long stumble through dark woods; the editing phase is a lakeside stroll on a summer day.

As I commit words to the page, I am hounded by my inner critic every inch of the way. She doesn’t believe in drafts and will not tolerate any sign of weakness, insisting that each line be strong enough to bear the weight of the next.

Not until all the sentences are mortared into place does my critic depart, apparently trusting me with the minor edits. I love it when she leaves.

What about you? Which writing stage do you most enjoy?

 

Helping Honey Bees

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President Obama has just created a task force to research the alarming problem of honey bee deaths, commonly referred to as colony collapse disorder. The Pollinator Health Task Force is charged with addressing issues surrounding the plight of honey bees and other important pollinators such as monarch butterflies.

Better late than never. Maybe. Meanwhile various environmental groups are filing suit against CA’s Department of Pesticide Regulation for continuing to approve neonicotinoids, a group of seven chemicals which are highly toxic to honey bees.

As we cannot count on corrupt politicians to stop the manufacture of these products, we must do it ourselves by not buying them. Here is a list of pesticides to avoid. For more information, please visit the Xerces Society.

Examples of Neonicotinoid Garden Products Used in the United States

Bayer Advanced 3-in-1 Insect, Disease, & Mite Control

Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Insect Control

Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed

Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus & Vegetable Insect Control

Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care concentrate

DIY Tree Care Products Multi-Insect Killer

Ferti-lome 2-N-1 Systemic

Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Spray

Knockout Ready-To-Use Grub Killer

Monterey Once a Year Insect Control II

Ortho Bug B Gon Year-Long Tree & Shrub Insect Control

Ortho MAX Tree & Shrub Insect Control

Surrender Brand GrubZ Out

Clothianidin Granules for turf, and ornamental flowers, shrubs, or trees. Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose & Flower Care granules
Green Light Grub Control with Arena

Thiamethoxam Foliar spray for turf and ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs; granules for turf and ornmanetal flowers, trees, and shrubs. Amdro Quick Kill Lawn & Landscape Insect Killer
Amdro Rose & Flower Care

Maxide Dual Action Insect Killer

Acetamiprid Foliar spray for garden fruits and vegetables, and ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs. Ortho Bug B Gon Garden Insect Killer
Ortho Bug B Gon for Lawns

Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer

Ortho Rose and Flower Insect Killer

Ortho Rose Pride Insect Killer

Dinotefuran Granules for turf and ornamental flowers, shrubs or trees; soil drench for ornamental flowers, trees, and shrubs. Green Light Tree & Shrub Insect Control with Safari 2 G
Safari

Ortho Tree & Shrub Insect Control Plus Miracle Gro Plant Food