Category Archives: Animals – especially dogs

Father’s Day by the Kennebec River

Yesterday was Father’s Day. The kids, alas, live too far away to celebrate it with us, but Clif and I are firm believers in celebrations big and small.  Therefore, to mark the day, we decided to go to Hallowell, a tiny city on the Kennebec River, order Chinese food, sit by the river, and then go for a bike ride along the rail trail.

After a very cool spring, summer decided to make a guest appearance, and by late morning, the temperature was in the low 80s.  Did the heat deter us? It did not. Clif and I are plucky Mainers who can tolerate heat as well as cold.  After packing a cooler full of water, off we went to Lucky Gardens to fetch our lunch. Clif, naturally, got to choose—one take-away meal is plenty for the both of us—and he picked General Tso’s chicken. (See what I mean about the amount of food? A wicked good deal, as we Mainer’s would say.)

While we ate on the pier, we admired a mother duck and her ducklings.

And we watched a woman in a kayak go by with her dog. What a good buddy to stay put!

I saw a sturgeon jump, straight up and then back down with a splash, but I wasn’t at the ready with my camera. Darn!

Dealing bravely with this disappointment, we took to the rail trail.

While we didn’t see any more sturgeon, we did see this beauty. I am pretty sure it is a  young bald eagle, but if any of my birding, blogging friends think differently, do let me know. So wonderful to see the river full of life, especially as my childhood memory of the Kennebec River is of it being dark and dirty with no fish or birds. (I’m sure there were some, but back then nobody I knew spent their days by the Kennebec River.) What a difference the Clean Water Act has made, and I am very grateful for the lawmakers who worked together to clean our polluted waterways.

After the ride, we were more than a little hot. What to do? Go for ice cream, of course, at Fielder’s Choice, where we shared a hot fudge sundae with peanut butter ice cream.

A sweet, cool ending.


Of Red Squirrels, Hummingbirds, and a Spirit Dog

Despite the cool nights and the occasional cool day, summer has come to Maine. In fact, as someone who has seen a lot of Maine summers, this, so far, has been an old-fashioned June with some rain, some sun, some warm days, some chilly ones. It is only during the past five years that Maine Junes have  become so warm. This June is a throwback to the old days, and it feels quite normal to me.

Rather than warm weather, summer in Maine is heralded by green in all its cool shades. Our backyard, indeed all of Winthrop, is enveloped by green—the leaves, the evergreens, the ferns.

Our patio is our summer living room, and Clif and I spend as much time there as we can. For much of the year, we are cooped up inside, and it is a relief to be outside, unencumbered by hats, coats, and gloves.

Yesterday, after doing yard work, we had our tea on the patio. A red squirrel, in a nearby tree, scolded us. I suspect the little creature wanted to raid the brown bird feeder, and we were too close for comfort.

“Have we ever bothered you?” I asked. “No, not once.”

With a twitch of the tail, the red squirrel continued to stare at me and chitter even louder.

To add to the backyard noise, hummingbirds whirred and chased each other away from the feeders. Occasionally, one of them even got something to eat.

A swallow tail butterfly fluttered by, too quick for me to get a picture. Best of all, the dragonflies have come, and the mosquito population has dropped noticeably.

This spring, I neglected to stake the tall irises, and they have drooped pathetically over neighboring plants—begonias, daylilies, and evening primroses.

Next year, I will try to do better, but even though the irises have fallen, they are still beautiful.

As I sat on the patio and listened and watched, the spirit of a black and white dog zoomed around the perimeter of the yard. Barking and racing, setting the boundaries.

Then the past and the present came together—the birds, the spirit dog, the flowers. So much happening on one little half acre.

Finally, I want to thank my blogging friends for all the kind words over the past two weeks, which have been hard for us. It is often difficult to know what to say when someone is grieving the loss of a beloved pet, or even worse, a family member or close friend. But simple words of sympathy really do help, even something as basic as “I am so sorry for your loss.”

Many, many thanks to you all.



Make Way for Lupines

In Maine, early June brings many delights, but few are as beautiful as a field full of lupines.  Every year, I look forward to their tall purple and pink spikes in the deep green grass. Lupines look lovely in gardens, but to me they are best in masses, in a field.

Here is a closer look. It doesn’t hurt to have some yellow buttercups in the mix, either.

Closer to home, in my gardens, everything is thriving. The hostas, not yet chewed to green lace by snails and slugs, are thriving and whole.

The chives are nearly in bloom. I like their spiky pinkness.

On a sadder note, yesterday we sprinkled Liam’s ashes in the backyard that he loved so much, by the ferns by the fence. We have a memorial bench in honor of my mother, Clif’s mother, our previous dog Seamus, and now Liam. The Buddha was purchased in memory of Clif’s mother, who was drawn to Buddhism. The cat was for my mother, who had a special fondness for these independent creatures. Now we need a stone dog to complete the set. A collie, if we can find one. We figure that will be close enough to a Sheltie. (Seamus was a Sheltie, too.)

This bench does not make our backyard a morbid place. Far from it. Instead, it is a place of peace and delight, where the memories of those we have loved come to visit us. They are always nearby.


Comfort Me with Gardening

It has been a long, sad week without our dog buddy, Liam. I keep listening for him, wondering where he is. I save him bits of toast.  Is it time for him to go out? Very foolish to think these things, as I know he is gone, but old habits are hard to break.

Fortunately for me, the weather has been oh so fine, and I have worked in the gardens all week. Such a consolation, and I can only be grateful that Liam’s decline did not happen in the winter when we were stuck inside. Instead, like a terrier, I have been digging and moving hostas to fill in empty spots left by less hardy plants that didn’t make it. Finally, after nearly thirty years of gardening in this dry, shady yard, after spending too much money on plants that either died or didn’t thrive, I have given into hostas. Now, in our yard, hostas rule.

However, amid the calming foliage of the hostas, there are some budding irises, my favorites..

And front or back, everything is green, green, green. Our yard is held in the palm of the forest.

Amid the green, I love the dash of blue of the little fountain, given to me by “the kids” on my sixtieth birthday. When Clif and I sit on the patio, we can hear the gentle splash of water. So soothing.

And then there’s this dash of orange, which always livens things up.

Believe it or not, wild Sherlock is a comfort, too. He and his gentler sister, Ms. Watson, bring purring life to our evenings, settling beside us as we watch TV.

And so it goes into June. Soon the heavy gardening will be done, and after that, it will be on to bike riding. We’ll probably never be able to keep up with my blogging friend Tootlepedal, who recently biked seventy-six miles in honor of his seventy-six years, but we are going to step up our game, so to speak.

Biking, flowers, time on the patio. Come, summer, come!




In Memoriam: Liam, January 15, 2005 – May 25, 2018

The title of this post pretty much says it all. While Liam rallied a bit midweek, it became clear that by Friday something was terribly wrong. He hadn’t eaten since Sunday, and nothing, not even ice cream, could tempt him to take a bite.

We brought Liam to the vets on Friday, and he had an ultrasound, which revealed that he had cancer that had metastasized. The time had come to have him euthanized, and Clif and I were with him at the end. For those of you who have had beloved pets put down, you know how heat-wrenching this is.  But to us it was clear that this was the right thing to do. There was no hope of Liam getting better, only more suffering.

Oh, the house is quiet without Liam. Even in his decline, he had a bright spirit, so luminous that when we posted Liam’s death on Facebook, kind friends who knew him mentioned it over and over. How lucky we were to have this energetic dog who filled our days with joy and pizzazz. Until he went blind, Liam was always ready for a lark—a trip to the beach, a walk in the woods, an ice cream treat at the Dairy Queen.

One of my favorite memories of Liam was how he gleefully raced around the backyard. Soon after we got him, we fenced in our entire backyard, about half an acre, which gave him a good sprint. Liam raced around so much that his pounding paws wove a groove around the perimeter, and our friend Claire dubbed it “The Liam 500.”

When a motorcycle went by, this was especially exciting. Not only would Liam run, but he would stop to twirl once, twice, three times, barking madly. Friends who witnessed this would laugh and shake their heads. Our Liam knew how to liven things up.

What makes Liam’s death especially poignant is that there will be no more dogs for us. Our books keep us busy as we go to various events. Because of Liam, we could only go an hour or so away from our house. Now, we can go two hours and even, on occasion, three hours. While we gladly accommodated our schedule to Liam, we decided that after he passed, our energies would be devoted to our books.

One of the many lessons we learned from our vibrant dog is this: Life is short, so cherish the ones who are dear to you, be they family, friends, dogs, cats, horses, or whatever. This cherishing brings a richness to life that cannot be purchased, no matter how much money you have. At the end of things, there will be grief, but to be mourned is to be loved.

So farewell, Liam! You were certainly loved, and our lives won’t be the same without you.

A Liam Update: Better but Still Not Eating

Here is an update on Liam. On Tuesday, he had a very bad spell, lying prone on the floor for hours and hours. His breathing was labored, and we thought we were losing him. What a long day!

But then, when night came, Liam perked up. He was so weak that Clif had to carry him down the front steps to the backyard. But once in the backyard, Liam walked around, sniffed a bit, and even woofed when he heard the snorting of what we think was a deer.

Wednesday, he continued to gain strength, even though we had to help him get up from a lying position and carry him up and down the front steps.

Today, he is getting up by himself, but Clif is still carrying him up and down the front steps.

Liam is drinking water aplenty, but unfortunately he is still not eating.  I’m hoping he’ll soon turn the corner on this. If not, I’ll give the vets a call.

Because Lian is not eating, the pills must be pushed down his throat. How I hate, hate, hate to do this. I’d gladly clean up any stinky mess rather than force pills on him. But, as Clif pointed out, without the medicine, Liam would surely die.

Yes, he would. And so I do it. Actually, it takes two of us. Despite being so sick, that dog has mighty strong jaws.

We are feeling encouraged by the progress Liam has made, and to celebrate, here’s a close-up of one of my lovely irises.

Bloom on, flowers and dogs.


A Very Sick Dog and Another Break from Blogging

As the title of this post suggests, we have a very sick dog in our house. For the past week, Liam has been eating less and less and then for the past few days, nothing at all. Just water.

Yesterday, we brought Liam to the vets, and he had all sorts of tests. His liver count is not good, and he has a fever. The vet suspects an infection, and she sent us home with five different kinds of pills that we have to stuff down Liam’s throat because he is not eating.

An extremely  hard time for us and for Liam. How we love our dog buddy and how we hate seeing him this sick! We are hoping that the vet is right—that the pills will take care of the infection and that Liam will soon be back to his old self. Both Clif and I would like more time with Liam, but only, of course, if he is eating and feeling well.

Besides taking care of Liam, these are busy days in the garden. Because of this, I will be taking another short break from blogging, until Liam is settled and the gardening chores are done.

I must say that the beauty of May and our backyard is a great comfort right now. As Wordsworth wrote, Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.