Opening the New Year with Compassion

If you want the world to be happy: practice compassion. If you want to be happy: practice compassion.
~ Dalai Lama

I particularly love this time of year, the silent yet stirring segue of the final week of 2015 into the fresh new pages of 2016. As I pondered what I would say here today to open this new year, I found the answer when I prepared to do my morning mindful meditation. Its theme, which resonates deeply in my wishful heart, was: May all beings be well and happy.

This metta-meditation, a very old Buddha technique to cultivate compassion, with regular practice can recondition our minds and open our hearts to both ourselves and others. Metta-meditation tells us we must not decide who deserves our compassion and who does not, but rather that compassion is something all beings deserve, even those responsible for horrendous crimes against humanity.

The guided meditation method to wish happiness and wellness for all beings is to first sit comfortably and, if helpful, close your eyes. First, see yourself in your mind, and mindfully say:

• May I be well and happy. Repeat.
• May I have no fears or sorrows. Repeat.
• May I be healthy and free from illness. Repeat.
• May I live calmly and peacefully. Repeat.

Then repeat the same affirmations for all others in this list, adjusting it to apply to you; for example you may not have a child but someone else you’d like to include. These are examples:

• Parents
May my parents be well and happy. Repeat.
May my parents have no fears or sorrows. Repeat.
May I be healthy and free from illness. Repeat.
May I live calmly and peacefully. Repeat.

Then repeat the meditation for each person on your list:

• Spouse or partner
• Child
• Teachers and mentor
• Friend
• A neutral person with whom you share the simple bond of being a fellow human being
• A person you dislike, keeping in mind the truth that “he or she is just like you—with pains and frustrations, desires and hopes.”
• All humans in the world
• All living beings everywhere, from single cell organisms to the highest form of intelligence

Professor Muesse (see below) states that “medical studies have been conducted and support the claim that prayer has a tangible, empirical effect on the health of those prayed for.” And “whether or not you believe in the effects of this practice… consider the fact that relieving a little of the hostility of just one person—yourself—will make that world a little better for everyone.”

I have found over time this practice has brought a noticeable and welcomed softening to my heart.

IMG_20160101_135251658 (2)

Source: The Great Courses Series – Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation by Professor Mark W. Muesse, PhD, Rhodes College – Lecture #17

 

Advertisements
Posted in Compassion, Gifts, Gratitude, Kindness, Mystery, Simplicity | 6 Comments

Leaving the Farm, Part II – Hilary, 21 Years Later

As I drove up the mountain to have my car serviced early this morning, I noticed some yellow walnut leaves lightly fluttering to the ground. They reminded me that in a few months there will be, instead of dying leaves, large snowflakes gently falling in a hushed early winter snowfall.

I’d been thinking about my cat, Hilary, and her more than two decades of life thus far. At my vet’s office, she’s known as the poster child for wellness chec2010-06-03 22.08.20k-ups. Why, you might wonder? Well, four years ago I took her in, expecting the usual good checkup, and learned she had breast cancer. Stunned, I didn’t even know cats got breast cancer. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she also needed surgery for stones in her urinary tract. I asked the vet my questions: what was her prognosis with and without surgery? With surgery, if the cancer didn’t re-occur in six months, chances were it wouldn’t. Without surgery, her life could last a few months more. What was her general condition aside from her current problems? Her blood work showed she appeared otherwise in good general health for a seventeen year old cat. What was the cost? Both surgeries could be done the same day and would amount to roughly $1,000.00.

I asked for some time to consider. Alone, then, with Hilary, I looked into her eyes as she watched me, almost appearing to understand we were going to have a serious talk. A tabby, she has black lines near her eyes that also give her the appearance of a perpetual frown.

“Okay, little girl, we have a choice: surgery or not,” I said in a low voice, still not knowing the decision.

“Remember when Mom’s cat got so sick and the vet did more than a thousand dollars of testing to determine what was wrong, and then Buster died two days later?”

Hilary, feet tucked under her on the gray Formica exam table, watched me, seeming to get the drift of the conversation, if her eye expression was any indicator. I stared at her quietly then, weighing our options: aged cat, costly surgery, would it give her added life or would it put her through discomfort and she might die soon after?

Was I imagining it, or was Hilary staring at me with obvious trust in her eyes? The options silently swirled around in my head until finally the vet’s words stood at the front of the line of the other choices: she’s otherwise in good general health.

I had my answer and it felt exactly right. “Okay, Hilary. Here’s what we’re going to do.”
She listened attentively, her lime-green eyes fastened on mine. “Let’s do the surgery. What I hope you can do is survive the six months cancer-free, okay? Let’s hope that will happen because we’ll do the breast cancer surgery just this once.”

So that’s what we did. She came through the surgery beautifully, passed the six-month cancer-free marker, and we got to share two more healthy years. When I took her in for a check-up last year, she’d been noticeably losing weight and I braced myself. Her new diagnosis was renal failure, quite common in older cats, I learned. “How much time does she have?” I asked the vet.

“It’s hard to tell,” she said. “She’s lost a lot of weight, but she appears to be doing okay otherwise.” She prescribed some maintenance medications which have brought us to today. Hilary’s a little over five pounds now, tips and totters a lot when she walks, yet still seems comfortable as she maintains her usual patterns. She sticks to her routine of waiting by the door each morning for me to let her out on the front deck where she spends her Virginia retirement in warmth, she begins pacing when around 6pm when it’s time for her wet food, and, otherwise, is a bit snippy with my other cat, my son’s cat when she visits there, and my daughter’s dogs who really want to be her friend.

And so, as golden leaves gently spiral to the ground, I do the one thing I can: I treasure each day, aware that the bitter-cold day will come when she and I will have to say good-bye.

Posted in Animal friends, Gifts, Gratitude, Health, Mother Nature | 7 Comments

A Woman of Worth: Laura Mitchell Keene

Telling HerStories: The Broad View

Laura Mitchell Keene and I met at church many years ago. She read stories in Sunday school when my boys were small, and attended a women’s writing group there, making insightful and encouraging comments. When the group disbanded two years ago, we decided to meet together at her home.

A tiny African American woman with close cropped white hair, she would greet me at the door of the house she’d built with her husband, fine artist Paul Keene, and where she’d lived alone since his death in 2009. She showed me family photos under a glass table top, her husband’s art on the walls, and in a stairwell, a poster of her great grandfather, Pierre Burr, a descendant of Aaron Burr and his East Indian servant.

It didn’t take me long to realize that this woman was a curator of her life and times. Born in 1925, she has lived…

View original post 427 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gratitude for Today and Yesterday

Two decades ago, when life tugged me away from the little Catskill Mountain town where I’d hoped to live out my days, many years passed before I realized how much of my heart remains there and how much of Bovina lives on in me to this day.

The Bovina farm women were so generous in sharing not only their skills and recipes, but their lifestyle as country women, with the newly-married, naive IMG_20171127_111524044city girl I was then. In 1974, a year after I married my dairy farmer, the Historical Society published Bovina’s Country Cupboard cookbook, a collection of recipes by then-and-former community residents. I slid it from my bookcase several days ago as I prepared my Thanksgiving shopping list, struck once again by how many Bovina recipes remain a part of our traditional menu.

This year I  signed up to make pumpkin and apple pies (with my sister, Bonnie), cranberry bread, golden onion bread, cranberry relish, corn pudding, and a pumpkin-roll cake for the feast. I leafed through the first few pages of the Country Cupboard cookbook, which contains several handwritten offerings of grace, and paused to read several. The Table of Contents followed with broad categories that directed me to the recipes I wanted: Ruth McGowan’s Cranberry Bread and Mildred Reinertsen’s Pumpkin Pie, my favorite for more than 40 years because it contains just the right amount of molasses. Jackie Gallant’s Blueberry Pancakes recipe caught my eye and I decided to make them one morning for my sister, also named Jackie, who adores blueberry pancakes.

IMG_20171128_120259054I pulled out Aunt Madeline’s antique wooden recipe box and found Gladys Doig’s (my mother-in-law) handwritten recipe for Cranberry Relish.  Bonnie and I modified it a little by increasing the cranberries, decreasing the sugar, and substituting some honey. IMG_20171128_115345331_HDRGladys had an old-fashioned, manual meat grinder that she clamped onto her counter top to grind the fruit/; Bonnie and I used my food processor, which worked wonderfully. The recipe turned out fabulously tasty.

Next, I dug into the file for Desserts and pulled out the Pumpkin-Nut Cake Roll recipe, clipped from a Farm Journal magazine decades ago. The recipes were stained and yellowed with age. Years ago I would have copied them over on clean cards and thrown these imperfect ones away, but after all these years the IMG_20171128_115432795originals become more precious each Thanksgiving, especially when I gaze at my sweet mother-in-law’s handwriting. She’s been gone for so long now. Or when I reminisce about the many  wonderful recipes like the Pumpkin-Nut Cake Roll clipped from our country magazines that still fill Aunt Madeline’s recipe box.

Making the cake roll last week was tricky, as always, for when, hot from the oven, you invert it onto a confectioner-sugar covered towel and roll it up to cool, you hope it doesn’t crack. Later I unwrapped it to fill with cream cheese frosting and re-wrapped it tightly, hoping it didn’t split as it did last year. It rolled up perfectly this year.

I think back to the gorgeous meal with many, but not all of our family members just last week and flash back to more than twenty Thanksgiving Days on the farm. I linger as I hold both places in my heart and treasure the ever-increasing gratitude I feel each year for both lives. Thanksgiving today and back then, both with the soft, precious common threads of giving thanks for all we have been graced with.

Before I close the cookbook, I return to the pages of grace and whisper the one I love the best: In gratitude we bow our heads to thank you for our daily bread. And may we use the strength it brings, for doing kind and helpful things. Amen.

 

Aside | Posted on by | 8 Comments

Hello from Addie!

Hi Everybody,

My mom’s quite behind in life at the moment, so I thought I’d say a quick Hi until she gets back to the next chapter of my journal. She’s been especially frustrated this week because her computer crashed on Sunday and she hasn’t worked on her memoir all week. But the computer’s back home, all better for now (it’s pretty old and she needs to get a new one!) and she’s happy today.

Because she’s been running around all week on errands, we didn’t get to have our long walks for the past two days. We did the short ones, but you know there’s nothing better than a long walk. (Well, maybe chicken and snitching some cat food from Button.) But, back to the long walks, especially when there are loads of great scents for me to follow.

So today was such a great day. It was cold when we walked this morning but, boy, after lunch I spent an hour in my fenced in half-acre yard and it was just great. I started barking and sniffing as soon as I got off my leash and couldn’t keep up with myself as I followed the deer scents. You can’t believe the deer that had been in there. It was wild!

Mom went up to the house to get some computer work done, then came out and said my favorite words, “Want to go for a walk, Addie?” Well, almost my favorite words. My most favorites are when she smiles and says, “Ready to eat?” and has my filled bowl in her hand. I stand on my back legs and dance all the way to my feeding area.

I look up at her with pleading eyes and wag my tail, then stay very still as she clicks on my leash. She laughs and says, “Addie, you are the cutest little girl in the whole world!” I’m beginning to like it here more and more.

IMG_20171027_164531746

So we cut through a field to get to Castle Rock Road so we don’t walk on our road, where some drivers are really nice and slow down for us. Others never do, though, and they frighten me. I have to stop for lots of great smells on the short cut—I wag my tail faster than some of those speeders—until we step out onto Castle Rock, a very long, quiet country road. Home is quiet, but this is a different quiet.IMG_20171027_164426217

The sun is warm and the sky is blue. The air moves slowly and feels so good. The only sound is the breeze gently loosening the yellow and rust colored leaves, like a soft rainstorm. Once in awhile a leaf spins slowly down and I watch it to be sure it’s not something I want to chase, like the squirrels I see on this road all the time. The only other sound I hear are walnuts thunking to the ground once in awhile.

Then we pass the house with the big, old hound dog who used to bark for hours at a time and drive Mom crazy while she was writing. But he’s old now and hardly ever barks anymore. Today he barks at me, though, and I watch as he runs to the gate of his pen. I’m not afraid; I’m used to him now and know he won’t hurt me. I’m learning how good it feels to be safe.

We walk for a little more than a mile on the up and down hills and around S-curves. Squirrels are here and there. I always stop and watch them closely but don’t chase them. Sometimes I see five or six deer in one mowed meadow we pass and stand still as I stare at them and they do the same. I never get tired of walking and I best like the places I know. Mom took me to a park last week. There were no people or animals there when we arrived but I was so frightened when she lifted me out of the car, I sat down and wouldn’t move. She said, “Okay, Addie, I guess it’s not time yet to come here” and she lifted me back into the car where I felt safe. Later I heard one of the family say I might have been overwhelmed by the scents of so many other dogs, even though none were there. Yes, that was part of it.

But, back to today. So we both happily walk. Mom watches me and smiles, knowing how happy I am. Sometimes I stop and sniff the air. She has no idea of the wonderful scents that are here.

IMG_20171027_165412964

Other times I like to climb up a bank so I can sniff and watch what I sense is there, usually a squirrel. Often I want to climb higher than the leash will let me. Mom doesn’t usually climb the banks with me because they can be tricky and she might fall. Today, though, we both climb a bank and walk on the surface above it.

We had such a great walk today. I just had to tell you. Mom told me she’s writing my story in a journal and that many of you are interested in how I’m doing. Well, I’ve come a long way since June. I know I have more healing to do, but mostly you to know how great it is to know you care about me. Mom will tell you more when she gets back to writing my journal. Meanwhile, thank you for caring about me. Mom says that there have been angels in her life that she never got to meet, but that she loves them. I feel that way, too.

Love, Addie

 

 

 

Posted in Animal friends, Courage, Grace, Gratitude, Kindness, Mystery, Nurturance | 1 Comment

Glorious Autumn Harvest Muffins

IMG_20171025_140841375_HDR

Between working on my memoir, taking long and lovely autumn walks on quiet country roads with Addie, time with family, my lovely writing circle, reading, and the many other things I love to do, I realized this morning as I made my favorite Harvest Muffins, that it has been a long time since I’ve shared a recipe here.

This is a Mayo Clinic  recipe, one they tweaked in several healthful ways, then reduced fat, sugar, and cholesterol.  So, did they take away all the good taste, you wonder? Miraculously, quite the opposite is true. I love them and this morning made a small tweak of my own by substituting the 3/4 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of honey.

Here’s the method:                                                                                                                    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with liners.                                                        In a large bowl, whisk to blend:  1 cup whole wheat flour                                                                                                                      1 cup unbleached white flour                                                                                                              2 teaspoons baking soda                                                            In a small bowl, beat together:  2 teaspoons cinnamon                                                                                                                           3 large eggs or 3/4 cup egg substitute                                                                                                  1/2 cup honey                                                                                                                                          1/2 cup vegetable oil and 1/2 cup applesauce                                                                                  2 teaspoons vanilla extract                                                    Stir in: 2 cups chopped apple, unpeeled                                                                                                          1/2 cup raisins                                                                                                                                          1/2 cup grated carrots, then add this mixture to the dry ingredients                      Add to the flour mixture and stir until moistened but still slightly lumpy.                    Spoon the batter into 18 muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full.                                Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of chopped pecans and bake until springy to the touch, about 30 minutes.                                                                                                                              Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer muffins to a cooling rack.                                        Makes 18 muffins that freeze well.

NOTE: Recently I have changed to purchasing Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached and whole wheat flours, and believe they make a huge taste difference. I also like the fact that the company is employee owned.

As Julia would say: Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

Posted in Animal friends, Family, Health, In the Kitchen, Nurturance | 6 Comments

Addie’s Journal, Chapter 7 – Celebrating the One Week Mark

A week has passed since Addie moved in with us. As I’ve watched her closely, her small daily changes  in adapting have given me much joy and so this day I’m taking measure of the growth I’ve seen.

  • After Flower and Ed left yesterday, Addie was very tired. She didn’t get up and follow me whenever I moved around as she always does. When she heard me move she simply opened her eyes, saw everything was okay, then closed them and returned to sleep. Another little step forward!
  • I lifted Addie onto my lap on the couch with me after dinner and gently stroked her for half an hour. Then I needed to bring Button inside for the night, so went to the basement and out that door, found him and brought him in. When I returned upstairs after turning out the lights downstairs, Button was by the gate and Addie was five feet away from him. She made no aggressive sounds or actions. I was tickled by what these actions said. Button, also, made no aggressive sounds or actions. I’m hoping we moved a little closer today to the happy co-habitation plan I envision.
  • I asked to reschedule Addie’s spay surgery for another week and the shelter agreed. It just seems too soon given all she’s endured in the last several days.
  • We’ve worked out a broad plan for attention to both Addie and Button. Button jumps on my bed each evening and we spend fun time together: talking, petting, scratching his back and behind his ears. He sleeps on my belly all night, we repeat the evening routine in the morning, and then come out to greet Addie, whose tail wags joyfully as I see her entire body emanate a little more happiness each day. She is the most beautiful wake-up moment of the day. I open her crate door, she happily hops out, then stays still as I rub under her chin and belly. When I pick up the leash without saying a word, she knows exactly what that means and wags her tail enthusiastically as I fasten the collar. Out the door we go. Today she bounded out and off the back deck, and began running alongside the perimeter of the property, as I jogged along with her.
  • Addie’s learned much about her land already, and shows me some preferential places she likes to go to: the shaded glen, then around the dog pen fence to the other side, and into the grassy entrance to the stream, where she hops right in and splashes around. Water level is awfully low right now; she has to walk out nearly two feet to get to the water that is usually right at the bank. She’ll enjoy it more when the level returns, but she’s delighted with what’s there now.
  • Half an hour later we return for breakfast, hers first, of course! I’ve been wrapping her antibiotic in delicious cat food. This morning she ate the cat food and left the capsule. I re-wrapped it again and that time she ate all the food and left the capsule again. The capsule was soft and sticky by that time, so I re-wrapped it in more cat food and let it soften about half and hour. Third time was the charm.
  • I went downstairs mid-morning to walk on the treadmill. When I returned in a little while, Addie and Button were laying on the floor about four feet apart, calm and fine as could be. It was high praise and reward time for them both!
  • She’s learning her name. Indoors, a little while ago, I called to her, “Addie.” No response. The second time I called, she looked at me.
  • Addie’s lost some of her fear of every single noise: as we walked in the glen, my neighbor across the stream mowed his lawn. She paid no heed to the noise. When I tossed some fallen branches on the burn pile, she never broke her sniffing stride.
  • Addie’s eyes were injured during her attack; last night we finished her eye drops. Her eyes look so good, as well as deeply beautiful, as beagle eyes always are.

I decided this day, since no one knows anything about Addie’s history prior to Animal Control found her on June 26th, 2017 at 1:15 in the  afternoon in a ditch, that I will decree her birthday as being July 9, the day I brought her home. I’ve seen her age estimated at anywhere from two, three, and four years old, and that will remain a mystery. Yet a birthday celebration’s a celebration. Does age matter? I think not. Life and love is what matters!

IMG_20170730_151025054_HDR

Posted in Animal friends, Change, Courage, Gifts, Health, Nurturance | 4 Comments

Addie’s Journal – Chapter 6

The next morning when I peeked around the hall corner toward Addie in her crate, I said, “Addie, Good mor-ning! I’m so glad to see you!” I couldn’t resist clapping my palms together and raising my shoulders with joy.

She lay on her side and wagged her tail, slowly, but an undeniable happy little wag.”Oh, little girl, I love seeing your tail wag. It lets me see a day when you will grow into a joyful spirit!”

She walked out the door and down the steps for our morning walk, enjoying morning coolness, sunshine, and patches of sunshine breaking through treetops to sprinkle shards of yellow spots on the mountain floor. Addie and I spent an enjoyable half hour together: she sniffed all over the yard, discovering deer scent here and there. We went into the pen where I unleashed her, watching her carefully as she occasionally looked for places to get beneath and outside the fence. She ran and I walked, smiling as I watched her tail wagging from adagio (moderately slow, in absence of a scent) to prestissimo (very, very fast in presence of a scent.) Later, back at the gate, I said, “C’mon, Addie. Time to eat.” She didn’t yet understand what that meant, and tagged along reluctantly with me to the house. One day, I knew that would change.

Inside, Addie spotted Button in the living room and immediately chased him. He jumped over the baby gate into the hallway and stayed in my room.

Flower and Ed came by later in the morning to bring a new bed for Addie that blended nicely with my living room colors, and some treats for Button. Addie didn’t want to try out the bed; rather she retreated to her crate with the thick fleece-covered pad, lay her head on it and watched us as we talked. I brought up her chasing Button, which isn’t a large concern, yet I didn’t want it to escalate.  As he had done on their last visit, Button hopped over the gate and jumped on the couch. Flower and Button observed and continue to feel Button is not afraid and will retaliate, if he needs to. He hissed and Addie paid attention. We all gave each animal lots of attention, praise, and treats; we were rewarded with  the return of peace between them.

As Flower and Ed were leaving, she placed a red, round, hard plastic something into my hand. “This is a Kong,” she said. “I have a friend who fills it with food and holds it in place with a dog biscuit. Each time she has to leave her dog home alone, she fills the Kong and puts it in the crate. It’s gotten so the dog loves to see her leave these days.”

“Now that’s very cool,” I said and thanked her for yet another gift to help with Addie’s transition. Later, I put some turkey mixture inside the Kong and sealed it with a little peanut butter. The Kong held her attention and was soon empty.

IMG_20170713_152732481

After Flower and Ed left, Addie and I went for another walk. When I encouraged her toward the house, she pulled hard to go in the other direction, any other direction, so I finally picked her up and carried her inside. She napped for awhile, then I lifted her into her new bed and sat with her to scratch her chin and belly. Her body felt tense at first, yet as time passed I could feel her begin to relax. I gave her a treat.

When I got up, she did, too. Once down on the kitchen floor, she headed straight for her crate and curled up in a corner, watching me as I took the Pyrex bowl of homemade dog food and scooped some into a small bowl. I loved making dog and cat food for my pets before Addie joined us, and hoped she would like this mixture of ground turkey with a few  mixed vegetables and brown rice. I lay the bowl next to her kibble and she suspiciously approached it. She sniffed and then licked at the mixture. Soon, the bowl was empty and I was delighted. She was eating better. Such a good sign. She ignored the kibble I’d offered, so later that night I mixed several pieces of kibble into the turkey mixture. The bowl quickly emptied and I smiled broadly.

After a nap, she stepped outside her crate and followed me around as I moved between the kitchen and living room. When I was making a cup of tea, Addie jumped up to put her front paws on the bay window. She seemed to want to hop up but her legs were too short, so I placed a broad wooden step in front of the window and showed her how to step up onto the broad surface. She wanted to get down immediately, so I moved aside, praising her.

I brought my tea to my computer where I sat down to write and heard her moving by the bay window. I returned to discover Addie was standing up in the window; she’d traversed the two steps up herself. I went over to pet her and talk with her and, as I did, she sat down for awhile. I returned to my keyboard and she followed me. In awhile, she returned to the kitchen and I found her taking a little nap in the bay window. This little girl keeps me smiling throughout the day!

IMG_20170712_101428630_HDR (1)

To wrap up today’s activities, I will share that Addie yawned while Ed and Flower were here. Flower broke out into a big smile and said, “She’s breathing out butterflies.” Now that’s an image I’ll never forget whenever I see Addie yawn. Or anyone else, for that matter.

Such a good day!20-free-butterfly-clip-art-l

 

Posted in Animal friends, Courage, Grace, Gratitude, Mystery, Nurturance | 4 Comments

Addie’s Journal – Chapter 5

On Addie’s second day, our walks were delightful. On our first morning walk, I fastened her leash, opened the sliding door, scooped her up to take her down the three steps to the yard. As soon as she stood on terra firma, her nose dropped to the ground and sniffed as her tail began to wag. Her happiness was contagious. We went for a long walk around the back yard, the front yard and then inside the dog pen, where I kept her still leashed when she actively tried to find a way to get out beneath the wire fencing and the wooden door. I learned I could not yet let her run free in the pen, but hoped the time would come so that she could have the simple, sheer pleasure of running free. Not yet, though. If she got loose, that could be a potential disaster she or we didn’t need.

Flower and Ed came to visit, the adoption counselors from Almost Home. I described the bad start Addie and Button had gotten off to. As we talked, sitting near Addie’s crate, Button walked in at the other end of the room and hopped up on the coffee table. He faced us and watched closely. Flower observed by his actions that Button was not afraid of dogs. It was true he’d not been afraid of my recently re-homed dog, Beau, and I was pleased this would hopefully carry over. Clearly Addie was not afraid of the cat, either.

Flower and Ed had brought a dog bed, a gate, cat treats, and some shredded chicken breast, which they liberally reinforced both respective animals with for their good behavior  I enjoyed a long conversation with Flower and Ed who, retired, volunteer many hours a week, sometimes full time, to assure successful pairings between humans and animals. They gave me so many helpful tips for success, the most important on that day reinforcing that I spend lots of time with my cat, so he didn’t feel displaced and resentful, and with Addie, so she could feel warmly welcomed into and part of all that went on in our home. Before leaving, Flower decided to give the new bed to Button and said she’d bring another for Addie in a few days.

IMG_20170716_154121485

    Button in his new bed

I forgot to return the chicken yet was glad to have it to give to Addie for treats. I pulled some frozen chicken breasts from the freezer and decided chicken would be her food for the next few days as I tried introducing other foods. In a few days I’d make some of my homemade dog food, I thought. Then Addie and Button and I lay down for a long rest, all of us suddenly very tired.

After our nap, Addie and I walked along the tree line outside the dog pen, where a small (because it is so dry this year) stream trickles along. She wanted to step in and so she and I enjoyed several minutes of walking together in the clear shallow water. As she padded around, sniffing and looking at her surroundings, she stopped to take a long cool drink. In time, we stepped up about a foot onto the grassy bank and worked our way back to the house

IMG_20170824_155500496_HDR

The stream with a large dry patch in the right front corner. Normally, the water is several inches deep.

I cooked the thawed chicken and diced some for Addie’s dinner. I measured out half a cup into her food bowl and mixed ¼ cup of kibble with it, then put it inside her open-doored crate. She poked at the dish briefly and then, to my delight, cleaned the entire dish spotless. I praised her and stroked beneath her chin. She curled up for a nap as I sat nearby recording her day in her Journal. Half an hour later she looked up at me, awake, and I asked if she wanted to go for a walk. She didn’t answer, of course, but easily complied as I slipped on her leash. I carried her down the deck steps and we had another nice half-hour walk around the property. She had a bout with loose stool. So her small battered, bruised body was beginning to work the way it should, thankfully; it just needing a little tweaking.

Before we settled down for the night, I gave her a small portion of mashed sweet potatoes, a natural remedy for loose stool, with a little diced chicken. She left some sweet potato but ate all the chicken. As I praised her and scratched beneath her jaw, Addie stunned me when she rolled over to expose her belly for a rub. I softly cooed and my heart sang as she let me rub her belly.

At day’s end, I reflected that Addie had eaten lightly but well, and I felt we were moving in good directions. “I love you, Addie,” I told her as I closed the door to her crate and dimmed the living room light by the hallway. Button waited in my bedroom to hop up on the bed with me as he did each night. Addie was quiet all through the night.

Thank you for a good day together, I silently said to my Creator.

Posted in Animal friends, Compassion, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Mother Nature, Simplicity | 1 Comment

Addie’s Journal – Chapter 4

Dear Reader,

The horrific events in neighboring Charlottesville a week ago profoundly impacted my recent writing. Today I pick up the thread where we left off awhile ago: Adelaide’s arrival at her new home.

Mary Jo

***

Staff at the Humane Society felt Adelaide had most likely lived in a beagle kennel, in the manner many hunters house their numerous hunting dogs. My daughter felt she’d also probably never lived in a home.

So now we were home on our first day where I leashed and guided Addie from the car around the house and toward the back deck, where she dropped to the ground near the deck steps and would not move. I gently coaxed to no avail, then reached down and slipped my arms beneath her belly and carried her up into the house. She lay limp in my arms as I talked softly while taking her on a quiet little tour of the kitchen and living room, which was the space I planned for her to live in initially. When we finished, I placed Addie on the rug by the open door of her crate and watched her hurry inside and hunker down in a far corner. She stared up into my eyes with the saddest hound dog expression I’d ever seen.

I went to the kitchen to fill a water bowl for her and another with grain-free kibble. I sat with her as I placed them inside her crate and watched as she sniffed briefly at the food and ignored the water. After offering pieces of kibble for awhile, which she turned from, I told her I was going to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. She changed her position so she could keep her eyes on me. Again I spoke calming words to her as I reached into a cabinet for honey to spoon into my tea. As I pushed the cabinet door closed after replacing the honey, it made a small clunk sound. Addie jumped, looking fearfully around for the source of the sound.  Crikey, I have to be really careful for awhile I thought, considering the vacuum cleaner and food processor sounds. I knew I wouldn’t be using them in her presence any time soon and will confess to a little smile that crossed my face as I realized Addie, at the moment was, quite possibly, my best excuse ever for getting behind in vacuuming.

Holding my steaming, fragrant tea cup, I sat on the floor by the crate and talked to Addie, as she stared at me with wary eyes that spoke chapters about her previous experiences. Following several minutes of gentle words and strokes beneath her chin, her eyes closed. When I soundlessly rose to return to the kitchen, her eyes popped wide open and followed every step I took, something she would do all day, every day for weeks, I’d soon learn.

“Everything’s okay now, sweet little girl. You are home. You are safe and, best of all, no one’s ever going to hurt you again.” She stared, not understanding my words, as far as I could tell.

My son, Chip, appeared at my back door, tapping gently. He’d come to mow the lawn. When he came inside, he talked gently to Addie, who cowered in the crate and stared fearfully at him. Chip stepped back after his greeting and I became distracted as we talked and moved into the kitchen. Thus, I didn’t notice my cat Button walk near Addie, whom I’d not yet either introduced or prepared for our new housemate. Her crate door open, Button hissed at her and swiped his paw at Addie’s face. My heart sank as I watched a scene I’d never intended to happen. Quickly I scooped up Button and removed him from the room, talking with and reassuring him that this was his home, and now Addie’s as well. He cried softly a few times as I talked and stroked his beautiful, soft black and white fur. Several minutes later, he’d calmed and quieted and I carried Button toward Addie’s crate again, telling him about his new sister. Addie barked at him and I found myself smiling at this first sound I’d heard from her. Good girl, I thought, it’s okay to give Button a healthy boundary! I petted and reassured them both and told them they were the absolute best kids.

A few hours later, I wanted to take Addie outside hopefully for a call of nature. When I approached her with a leash, she wouldn’t stand up or leave her crate. I eventually lifted her out, fastened the leash, carried her outside, and placed her in the back yard where she suddenly became very engaged in excitedly sniffing the ground as we walked through the glen. I was thrilled to see her tail way a little. Nature made no call after half an hour though and so we walked back to the house, where, as she’d done earlier, she dropped to the ground by the deck steps and refused to move forward despite my gentle urgings of, “This way, Addie.” She either didn’t want to step up to the deck, or go inside, or most likely both. I picked her up and carried her into the house to her crate, where she seemed relieved to settle back in.

Throughout the remainder of the day, she and Button saw each other several times from a distance and made no further negative advances toward each other. Also throughout the day, Addie displayed no calls to nature and I would later learn this was not unusual for animals who had been starving.

By the end of Addie’s and my first day together, I had to agree with those who felt she’d never lived in a house. This little girl was terrified by every sound in the house where my cat, Button, and I resided in solitude and in what I would have described as near complete silence. Yet the low hum of the refrigerator, a sneeze, a softly whirring fan, the burbling dishwasher, the soothing ring of my cell phone, a spoon accidentally dropped in the sink–all stopped Addie in her tracks and widened her eyes in terror.

When I turned on the six o’clock news hour on television, she cringed and pushed against the back of her crate, desperate to flee. I turned the volume to zero but her fear didn’t subside as she watched the figures moving on the screen. I didn’t watch news for a few days. When I tried softly playing classical music, she ran to the farthest corner of the kitchen, hunkered down, and shuddered.

I was concerned for her when bedtime arrived. Addie had not used our several walks outside to relieve herself in any way. Nor had she eaten any food. She’d lapped a small amount of water, though.

“Are you okay,” I asked with deep concern as I looked into her beautiful brown eyes, preparing to turn out the lights. She looked at me sadly.

“Addie, it’s going to be okay,” I promised, hoping my words spoke the truth I passionately wished for her. “I’ll see you in the morning,” I said, turned out the lights, and pushed a dimmer switch to give low illumination to the living room, where she was.

“Good night, Addie,” I called from my bedroom.

She barked.

“I love you, Addie,” I said.

She didn’t bark again for the rest of the niight.

 

IMG_20170709_183305292

Posted in Animal friends, Change, Compassion, Courage, Grace, Gratitude, Health, Kindness, Nurturance | 3 Comments

Addie’s Journal – Chapter 3

“Hi,” Flower said happily to Polly and me. “I’m so glad to see you both. Adelaide’s room is back here.” Polly and I followed her through the shelter into a small hallway with lines of rooms on both sides. Large dogs barked noisily and jumped against their doors as we passed by.  At the fourth door on the left, we stopped and looked through the large window. My eyes fastened on the small black, white, and brown beagle lying on an elevated square cot covered with fleece. She looked at me with fearful brown eyes when I slowly entered the room by myself.

“Hi, Adelaide,” I said softly as I gradually sat down on the small stool by her bed. “I’m so glad to meet you. What a sweet girl you are,” I said, reaching out my folded hand toward her nose. She sniffed slightly for several seconds as I kept talking softly in a voice that sought to give her reassurance that all was well. I slowly moved my hand under her chin and tenderly stroked her soft fur, pleased that she allowed me to do this.

Polly remained outside the door with Flower, and watched us for several minutes, then silently entered the room. Addie looked over at her as Polly also talked in a soft, tender voice and extended her hand. As my daughter and I conveyed caring and kindness toward the little canine whose angry red wounds on her back and rear legs were so visible, Adelaide lay still. I looked around at the walls that encircled Adelaide, walls that had been lovingly painted with scenes portraying a room inside a home. Each of the walls was painted a soft green and each contained a mural. The wall behind me held a 4-shelf bookcase filled with books. The top bookcase shelf supported pretty, colorful flowers arranged in a red vase. The mural behind Adelaide held a yellow loveseat with plump, inviting orange and green pillows. An end table stood next to the couch with a wood-based lamp topped with a green lampshade. A third wall held a table with cheerfully colored knick knacks.

Flower quietly opened the door and stepped in. “Want to take Adelaide for a walk?”

“Absolutely,” I said, beaming. Flower fastened a leash to Adelaide’s collar and opened the door. Immediately a cacophony of loud barking started and Addie dropped to the floor, refusing to walk. Flower picked her up like a two-year-old child and carried her to the side door and outside where all was quiet. She put Adelaide on the ground and stroked her as she handed the leash to me.

A few years ago, the University of Virginia women’s softball team created a dog walking trail in a wooded area behind the facility. Polly, Adelaide, and I walked up to the trail and entered into the silent beauty of natural paths; strong trees; grassy areas; and wildflowers; and watched as Adelaide transformed before our delighted eyes. First her little tail started to wag, then she put her nose to the ground and sniffed as she walked ahead following wherever her nose led. When she headed off the trail, I gently tugged her leash or bent down to lift her back on trail, where she happily resumed her scented search in the outdoor world.

“I think she’d be just fine living with you,” Polly told me.

“So do I,” I replied, then said words from the depths of my heart. “I want to adopt her.”

Polly smiled and nodded. After we’d walked the entire trail, we returned to the facility. When we hiked close enough that Adelaide heard loud barking again, I lifted her into my arms, cherishing the feeling of embracing her. Adelaide offered no resistance as I carried her inside and I hoped that meant she felt some measure of trust in me to protect her. We returned to her room and sat close by as she lay back on her bed. Flower and her therapy friend, Jodie, returned and we talked more about the little canine who was the center of all our attention. I told Flower my wish to adopt Adelaide.

“She’s scheduled to be spayed four days from now and will be ready for you to take home by the weekend, if you decide you want to take her,” Fonda had told me in an email earlier that day. In the room, we all talked quietly a bit more, as we took turns gently stroking Adelaide, who moved her eyes still warily from one to the other of us as we spoke. Flower and Jodie left to see other dogs, opening the door to renewed loud barking. I kept stroking Adelaide to reassure the fear her small body silently emanated.

Suddenly Polly said, “Mom, can you take her home today? Do you have what you need for her? She’s terrified here. She would do so much better at your house, where it’s quiet.”

A few seconds later, after a quick mental inventory of what I needed to have for Adelaide at the house, I said, “Yes, I can. I’d like to borrow your small crate though.  She’d feel lost in my big one.”

“We can stop on the way home and pick it up at my house,” Polly said. I nodded, then went to tell Flower our plan. Within ten minutes, Polly was driving us home as I sat in the back seat holding a trembling Adelaide, softly telling her, as I used to talk with foster children when I’d been a social worker, exactly what was happening. “Everything’s going to be fine, Adelaide, I promise you,” I said. She might have trembled a little less but her breathing remained rapid for the entire ride despite my efforts to calm her.

After Polly pulled into my driveway and turned off the engine, I remained in the car with Adelaide as my daughter carried the small crate into the house and quickly assembled it. She returned to the car, where I was talking to Adelaide. “You are home, Adelaide. This is your home and we’ll soon explore the glen, the woods, the stream, and the huge dog pen where we can run and play together.” I lifted her from the car, placed her on the grass, and said, “This way, Adelaide,” as I led her around the house to the back sliding glass door. She sniffed her way forward and my heart melted as I watched her tail wag just a little bit.

IMG_20170709_183301498

Addie’s first afternoon at homeIMG_20170709_183056203

Not a good shot above, but shows her trauma in her eyes

Posted in Animal friends, Compassion, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Kindness, Mystery | 4 Comments

Addie’s Journal – Chapter 2

Flower, the adoption counselor, had emailed the evening before Polly and I visited the shelter, a note that well-prepared me for the visit. I’ll bring some boiled chicken for you to give her and I’ll have a little stool in her room for you to sit on. Then I’ll leave you along with her so you can ‘speak to each other,’ Flower wrote.

One of Flower’s dog therapy friends, Jodie—very good with shy and/or physically damaged dogs—had joined her at the shelter and they’d spent a lot of time with Adelaide. Addie is such a precious little dog that is trying to be brave in all of the noise and chaos of the shelter—but it isn’t easy for her to relax just yet (totally understandable). Lord only knows the trouble she’s seen. It is likely that she would have been dead by now had Animal Control not discovered her.

The first thing Jodie and I did was sit in her room with her. Unlike dogs who are terrified of people, Addie shyly welcomed us and did not tremble or cower when we walked in. I took my offering of boiled chicken breast in with me and Addie just laid on her bed enjoying Jodie’s caresses while I sat down next to her bed. I held out a small gift of chicken. She sniffed it, perked up a little, and began eating it very gently. (Her empty breakfast bowl was nearby—she had already enjoyed breakfast.) Jodie loved on her while I hand fed her, but I didn’t feed her too much. She is very skinny but her belly was round and full of food by then. After I put the chicken away I loved on her too. She really enjoys gentle physical affection and doesn’t seem afraid of people at all—but she is concerned about noise and fast, unexpected movements. 

Adelaide’s wounds are clean and seem to be healing nicely. Her ears looked clean inside—the vet may have cleaned them. Her teeth look pretty good too—they are not old teeth. The poor thing is missing hair in many places—especially where the ticks had their way with her. It seems to Jodie, and Fonda, and me that she might have been attacked by an animal. Some of her wounds are punctures.    

 Jodie leashed her up to take her on a walk but when Jodie tried to walk her down the noisy hallway, Adelaide balked. She walked, but she didn’t want to. Once out in the fenced area, with dogs barking all around and a backfiring truck barreling down Route 29, Addie melted onto the ground and wouldn’t move. She couldn’t be coaxed either. Jodie finally picked her up and carried her to the hiking trail behind the shelter, and put her down again. Addie was more than happy to walk then and she was very good and gentle on leash. She freely walked the entire trail, sniffing around like all healthy, happy dogs do, but she shut down again when they neared the parking lot of the shelter. Jodie had to carry her back into the shelter.

   It isn’t Addie’s fault that she is afraid to move around freely in the shelter environment. She’s been through so much and life has taught her that she needs to be careful. She doesn’t seem to be afraid of people at all though. She loves to have her face and chin stroked, and what hair she does have is very soft.                                                   

   Adelaide needs a quiet home in a quiet setting; we are pretty sure about that. If you decide to adopt her, Ed and I will loan you a crate so you can set it up as her own “safe haven.” Dogs often like little spots where they can go to feel safe if they become overwhelmed at times. And you will be able to secure the crate door closed when you, at first, have to leave her home alone before you get to know her real well. We will loan you a crate for as long as you feel you need one.

There is no pressure for you to adopt Adelaide, but I do think she would be very easy for you to manage on leash and it appears that she probably won’t be all that interested in your cat.

See you tomorrow and I am looking forward to it!                                                                  

So did I….

***

The next morning Polly drove the 40 minute trip to the shelter.

“You know,” I said, “Grandmother Davis’ mother was named Adelaide. There’s a part in my memoir where I write about a memory of being together with Mom, her mom, and her mom’s mom, four generations of women, in my grandmother’s kitchen. They were bathing me in the huge kitchen sink, preparing me for my first day of school. It’s the only time I recall being with them all together, those quiet, gentle women. Hearing Adelaide’s name yesterday reminded me of that time with my great grandmother Adelaide.”

“And your mother lived on Adelaide Park,” Polly said.

“Yes. Now I wonder if Grandpa Davis had anything to do with naming that small lane.” Grampa had built Mom’s cozy cottage, as well as several homes that stand to this day on Long Island’s eastern south shore. Grampa had also cared well for his mother-in-law, Adelaide Cartright, widowed as a young mother with two small daughters and left impoverished. She responded to her crisis with strength and courage, boarding her girls with family members as she because employed as a housekeeper.

“It’s very possible Grampa suggested the name Adelaide Park for the road but the problem is there’s no one alive now that I can ask.”

I smiled sadly as Polly turned left into the shelter parking lot. “Don’t let that happen to you, okay? Ask me your questions now while I’m still here,” I reminded her.                                                                                                                                                                   She nodded decisively. Then I pondered how these little pieces of serendipity floating in the gentle breeze that were giving me a warm feeling about Adelaide before I even met her. The universe will show us all where the right place for this little girl will be, I thought as I stepped out of the car. I trusted that feeling with my entire being.

It was the same feeling I’d experienced with joy several weeks ago when Flower had facilitated a beautiful re-homing transition for Beau, who had grown too strong for me. His new exceptional human, Liz, sends me photos of Beau and invites me to remain part of Beau’s life. I hiked with them one day and clearly saw how happy and settled and peaceful he was. Liz has been such a gift not only for Beau but also for me.

IMG_8348 (2)

Liz and Beau

***
And there in the lobby was Flower, who greeted us warmly.

Posted in Animal friends, Courage, Family, Grace, Gratitude, Kindness, Mystery, Peacefulness | Leave a comment