Are You and Your Dog Sympatico? | Wilde About Dogs

What are you looking at?
What are you looking at?

Martha isn’t always the most affectionate dog.  Sometimes she seems aloof, independent, self-centered.  But when  I’m sick or upset, she is always there for me, she comes through and is affectionate, even cuddly.  This post from Nichole Wilde is a nice discussion about the varying degrees of closeness people have with their dogs.  Enjoy!

Are You and Your Dog Sympatico? | Wilde About Dogs.


Tennis Balls and the Mysteries of Laundry

2014-12-06 21.27.11 2014-12-06 21.27.05LIke many a frugal Yankee homemaker, I use tennis balls in my dryer to help fluff heavy loads of laundry such as sheets and mattress covers so that they will dry evenly. I have amassed quite a collection of tennis balls over the years. I’ve never had to pay for a one – my walking route with Martha includes the area just outside the local public tennis courts, and stray balls have inexplicably  found their way out of the woods and brush and into my cellar for use in the dryer.

When Martha was younger, I attempted to use these stray tennis balls as toys. I soon learned that she and I had very different ideas about the recreational uses of these fuzzy  yellow orbs.  I’d heard tales of ball-obsessed Labradors, who endlessly chase and return slimy, filthy balls to their owners for hours on end.  Alas, Martha was not one of them.  She’d retrieve the ball maybe two, three, or four times, but that was it.  She quickly lost interest in the sport, and instead showed great delight in chewing on the ball so as to carefully and delicately peel off the fuzzy covering, leaving a broken and ruined wreck all over the living room floor.

She showed a similar attitude towards soft, fuzzy stuffed animals.  I’ve heard tell of dogs who lovingly carried their stuffed animal “babies” around for hours, tucking them carefully into bed, and generally doting on them. Martha could disembowel and shred a stuffed toy in less than five minutes, leaving a huge messy cloud of stuffing and shredded furry covering  all across the room. Frozen beef marrow bones would keep her entertained for nearly an hour. I was shocked to learn that many dogs take several days to dig the marrow out of such bones. She’s such a lady.

I am pleased to report that her destructive tendencies are strictly limited to inanimate objects.  (She has also been seen to attack plastic grocery shopping bags and stray hub caps in the wild.)  She is perfectly polite and gentle to all living creatures, and has been known to show special fondness for puppies and small breed dogs. She also loves people, (though not so much being petted) and seems to understand the need for special calmness around small children and those who are elderly or in wheelchairs.  My sweet puppy.  I guess her values are in the right place.

Anyway, back to the mysteries of laundry.  How is it hat when I put tennis balls in with the sheets and pillowcases, the tennis balls somehow find their way inside the pillowcases in the dryer?  A free (used) tennis ball to the first person who can explain that to me.

Memory of a near miss

I was walking Martha last week when I heard a dog bark and looked for the source. A black dog came running from the street and went straight for her throat, knocking her down. People started yelling, I was frozen in fear. After only a few seconds, the dog let go and ran back into traffic. Martha seemed OK, so I looked to see where the attacker had gone. I saw a woman grab the dog, pick it up, and load it into the back of an SUV.

The dog had apparently jumped out of the window of the SUV.  The owner of dog the came and found me, and apologized, and we made a report to the police department for the record.  Martha was fine, but just to be certain I had her checked by the vet the next day. We found a one inch by one half-inch patch of fur missing on her neck, but no puncture wounds.

The shock of the attack and the speed with which it occurred really threw me.  In the days since, I realize how terrified I was, and how my fear affected my ability to remember what happened. For example, I know that there were other people near me on the sidewalk, but I have no idea how many or whether they were men or women.  I don’t really know how long the contact between the dogs lasted.  I think I just stood there, frozen, but I may have been yelling at the black dog to let go.  After the attack ended, and Martha stood up, all I could focus on was getting the license plate number of the SUV. I tried to take a picture with my phone camera, but my hands were shaking too much, so I typed it into a note instead.

After the report to the police, Martha and I walked back to the office.  I wanted to cry, but didn’t, since I needed to see where I was going and didn’t want to look like a crazy person.

Yesterday I found this article online.  Why Police Lineups Will Never Be Perfect – The Atlantic. The story was about how unreliable witnesses are at identifying criminals.   As a lawyer, I am well aware of the incredibly fragile nature of witness memories.  Any trial lawyer will tell you that the longer you wait to take a case to trial, the worse the memory of the witness.  Most of us probably cannot remember what we had for dinner last Tuesday night.  Add a stressful experience to the mix, and our memories become even more distorted.

I do remember that the photo at the top of this post is of Martha’s foot, her eleven year old toes and nails surrounded by the white hair which encroaches into her shiny black coat more and more every day.  And I remember being very, very relieved that she wasn’t killed or injured by that other dog.  And I treasure her even more because that threat was so real, and I am so very grateful to have her companionship every day.

Not only Emily.

Headstone of William S. Clark, West Cemetery, Amherst, MA USA
Headstone of William S. Clark, West Cemetery, Amherst, MA USA

I walk Martha in West Cemetery nearly every day, all year round, rain or shine.  I frequently see people wandering around as though they are looking for a particular gravesite.  Most of the time, they are trying to find Emily Dickinson’s grave, so I point them in that direction and off they go. It’s fairly easy to identify these folks, because they usually arrive in a late model sedan with Connecticut license plates – a rental car, for sure.

One recent mid-day, Martha and I spotted such a vehicle, parked near the Town Tomb.  Three well-dressed Asian men got out, and looked around as though seeking – a particular gravesite.  I approached and asked them if they were looking for Emily.  To my surprise, they said no.  They were looking for someone named “Clark.”

They explained that they were from Hokkaido University, and they were looking for the grave of William S. Clark.  Clark, the third president of Massachusetts Agricultural College, had later been hired by the Japanese government as a foreign advisor to establish the Sapporo Agricultural College (SAC), now Hokkaido University. Although he was only there for eight months,  Clark made a huge impression on the Japanese, and there is a large statute of him on the campus of Hokkaido University. He was buried in West Cemetery.

I remembered that the Town of Amherst has an online map and directory  of West Cemetery, so I looked it up on my phone and soon enough we were standing before a large, white marble stone which bore the name of William S,. Clark.

Somewhere in Hokkaido, Japan, there is a photograph of three well-dressed Japanese professors, standing with me and Martha next to William Clark’s grave.

Missing Prudence.



Last September we spent a week on Prudence Island, Rhode Island.  It’s a very special place for me. My grandfather discovered it in the ninteen teens when he was a boy scout, and he built a cottage there which our extended family shared for many years.

 After Grampa and Gramma died, my mom and her sisters inherited the cottage, but it was in need of some major repair and renovation.  My oldest cousin had always spent a lot of time on the Island, and had invested a lot of time and effort over the years to maintain the cottage, so eventually the sisters and my mom sold their shares in the cottage to him. He’s done a great deal of work on the place, and spends nearly every weekend there.  He’s really earned the right to the place, and I’m glad he enjoys it.

Last summer was the first time I’d been to Prudence for nearly fifteen years.  It has changed a lot, mostly for the better.  There are now many miles of trails to walk, and parts of the Island which were inaccessible when I was a child are now open to the public.  We walked all over the Island, averaging more than 5 miles a day, with no repeats for a week.  It was glorious and the weather was perfect. Martha was a very happy dog indeed.

This summer has been less active, and as the leaves start to turn I feel pulled back to Prudence.  I can’t spend a week this year, but I hope to make a couple of day trips.  I don’t intend to wait another fifteen years.