He’s home among his family again, where he belongs. I feel a little better now. 

personal effects.

IMG 0014

Henry’s collection of bandanas. He got one every time he had to make a trip to the emergency vet. There are three of them in that picture, but I think there was at least one more I did not keep for some reason. As you can see, he was a little mischief magnet.

I am still heartbroken. I have barely eaten since Sunday and have had no desire to eat. (Henry would think this foolishness.) Things have gotten a tiny bit easier, and sorting through his things and looking at his pictures has helped a little. I won’t truly start to get back to real life until his ashes come home and I have some sort of closure.

I don’t want to keep depressing people with posts about my dog, but writing about him and sharing it has helped me to process the whole thing. When it happened, it was just too fast and traumatic to let me feel anything but numbness for a while. Still, everything in the house reminds me of the fact that he’s no longer there, and it will take time before it doesn’t feel like a fresh wound anymore.

Dogs. To think we opened our home and our hearts to these creatures that can wound us so very much when they take their leave. People have suggested we go and get another dog once we feel the time is right, but we have other dogs. Just having another dog is not the point, and never was. Henry was that once-in-a-lifetime dog for me, the one you bond with above and beyond all the others, the one that has your heart in a way the other dogs don’t quite manage. Before Henry, you could have asked me “Has there been a special dog in your life?”, and I would have answered, “What are you talking about? They have all been special.”

Now I can say, “Yes, and his name was Henry, and there will never be another one like him.”

And I don’t want to try and look for the thing we had in another dog. It happened on its own, not because I sought it out, and trying to duplicate it would be a disservice to him and diminish our bond, and it wouldn’t be fair to the new dog because this is a pair of shoes no other dog can ever hope to fill. (Or tear to shreds, as the case may be.)

No, I think I’ll leave it be, and rest in the knowledge that I had my time with him, and that I was lucky to have had it.

losing one’s heart.

Henry’s death is hitting me hard.

We’ve lost dogs before, and I grieved for them every time, but this one is a deeper hurt that any of the others. The ones we lost before Henry had been barely born, or they were old and had long and happy lives behind them. Even Sam, my Golden Retriever who died accidentally back in 2002, was nine years old and had lived almost a full life. Henry hadn’t even come into his own as an adult dog yet—he was barely three, and still infused with the vigor and hotheadedness of youth.

I can’t really pinpoint what hurts the most about his untimely death. It’s the sum of all the contributing factors, I suppose. Part of it is the speed of his decline. There was no time for me to even prepare for the possibility that he might not come back.

Part of it is the bond I had with him. He was truly my dog, and I was his favorite human, and he loved me deeply. Sitting in this chair, I won’t ever see him rounding the kitchen corner again and then just taking a quick sprint and an effortless leap into my lap (whether I was working or not), for the customary expression of love where he tried to merge his face with mine and nip at my nose.

Part of it is the way in which we went. I was there at the end, but I will always hate the fact that he got to spend the last two days of his short life in a place he didn’t like, with people he didn’t love. I should have been with him then.

Part of it is the knowledge of all the time that was taken from him. After having suffered through this winter with the rest of us, he won’t get to experience spring again, won’t get to lie on the warm patio stones with the other dogs and joyfully bark at passing bicyclists and joggers. We won’t get to walk out in the autumn air again, just him in his chest harness and me holding the leash and letting him map the world with his nose.

The house is much too quiet now. All the activity that used to annoy me a little when I was trying to work—the scurrying, the probing of cabinet doors for an unlatched one, the patrolling of the kitchen for dropped food—all of it has ceased. The three remaining dogs are snuggled up in front of the pellet stove and quietly napping. Little Ygraine keeps looking for her playmate and protector on occasion, and it breaks my heart all over again because we got her as a companion for him, and he’s gone, and she will be all alone when the two old dogs are gone too.

I have a deadline, so I have to go back to work and write, and maybe it will take my mind off thinking about my little buddy, who will never sit on my lap and look out of the window for squirrels again. But I go back to work with a broken heart. It will come back together in time, as it usually does, but a piece of it will be gone for good, and it will have the shape of a stout, happy, smart, and loving black-and-red dachshund.

how to story, in sixty seconds.

Yeah, it’s a commercial for a beer, but it’s also a perfect master class in storytelling. Setting, characterization, conflict/motivation, peril, emotional climax, satisfying resolution, denouement. Themes: friendship, loyalty, love. All squeezed into one minute. Not a second is wasted on anything that doesn’t drive the narrative.This is how you do Story.

bors, 2000-2014.

Bors, a.k.a. Booger Boy, a.k.a. Elder Dog, is no longer with us.

He had a seizure of some sort a week ago, but bounced back to normal very quickly. This morning, it happened again, only there was no bounce. He went quietly in front of the pellet stove, the favorite doggy spot in the winter, with all the other dogs nearby and us there to comfort him. He was 14 and in declining health, so it wasn’t a surprise, but it’s always sad when they finally pack their bags for Rainbow Bridge.

Unfortunately, it happened ten minutes before school bus time, so the kids are a little upset this morning, especially Lyra. Later this morning, I’ll be taking the Booger to our regular vet to have him cremated, and then we’ll have another long conversation about death and dying when the kids get home. It’s their first hands-on brush with mortality–Guinevere, Bors’ mother, went two years ago, but Robin took her to the vet for that last service while the kids were at school. This one was up close and personal for them.

Bors was a sweet boy, an eternal puppy, good-natured and easy-going. He was a therapy dog for a while–he visited the old folks in the nursing home and made the rounds with Robin while she worked there. (He was the New Hampshire Health Care Association’s Volunteer of the Year in 2011, beating out a bunch of humans for the title.) One of her patients used to have dachshunds before she moved into the nursing home, and that dog’s visits were the highlight of her week every time. She passed away two or three years ago, and in this instance, I’m pretty sure that Bors is going to have someone waiting for him at Rainbow Bridge already.

Farewell, Bors. We’ll miss you terribly, but we are glad you could join us for a while.

Nurse Bors Sir Bors certificate


on dogs, chickens, and suburban sensibilities.

There’s a WaPo article in our local fish wrapper about the law regarding dogs who kill poultry. Current law allows for farmers to shoot dogs caught in the act of killing their poultry, and the article had a decidedly…oppositional slant. It tells the story of one Alan Taylor, a real estate developer who brought his two dogs to a farm with him on some business. He let his dogs roam free while chatting about planting grapevines (the article calls the dogs “pups”, even though the accompanying picture shows two fully-grown setter-type dogs in the 40-50lb. range), and they got shot while killing some farmer’s chickens. Both dogs survived, but the vet bills ran over $3,000. The author of the article is very sympathetic toward the dog owner, referring to laws that allow farmers to shoot livestock-killing animals as the “doggie death penalty”.

What really ticked me off about the article was the following quote from the dog owner:

“The simple solution for a rational person is to pick up a phone, but what this law allows people to do is to pick up a gun.”


Look, I own dogs, and I own chickens. I understand that your dogs are your companions, and I’d never shoot someone’s pet unless it was in the act of chewing on my kids or killing my animals. But you, sir, are an irresponsible asshole.

The simple solution for a rational person?

Let’s see here and take this simple solution step by step.

There’s a ruckus outside, and when I go to check, I see two dogs in my chicken coop, killing my laying hens. (Two dogs of any size can kill the entire flock in moments. Chickens don’t have much in the way of martial prowess.)

The simple solution (rational person and all that) is for me to run out there, try to separate two riled-up dogs in a killing frenzy from my birds without getting bitten in the process, then check for the tags they may or may not be wearing, keep them away from surviving chickens while I call the number on the tag, hope that someone picks up, and then secure two strange dogs until their owner can show up and collect them?

In other words, the onus of dealing with the situation falls squarely on me, and I should deal with it in the manner you deem rational, despite the fact that it’s your irresponsibility that caused the problem? You are responsible for your animals, and if they run free without supervision, anything that is done by them or to them is squarely on your head, not mine.

“Oh, but they’re just chickens, you stupid trigger-happy country bumpkin. You can just get new ones.”

Even assuming that you’d actually be willing to own up to your dogs’ trespassing and livestock killing instead of just going “Nuh uh! Wasn’t mine! Hank and Boo wouldn’t harm a fly!”, those chickens represent a higher dollar value than even that vet bill you had to pay. Sure, the chicks were maybe two bucks a piece, but I had to build them a coop ($1,000), a covered run ($1,500), and then feed and take care of them daily for months and years. (Care to add up the labor and feed costs for our flock of seven after two years?) And you can’t just replace them on the spot because you can only get new chicks or pullets in the spring, so I’ll be out my investment and the money for all the eggs the hens would have laid in the future, had they not ended up as Hank and Boo’s chew toys.

I love dogs, and I’d be very, very hesitant to shoot someone else’s companion animal and would never do so without severe emergency. But letting your dogs roam free in farm country and then getting pissed off at others for dealing with the results of your irresponsibility in the most expedient and least expensive manner is not rational.  The rational thing would be to keep your damn dogs under control. I love my dogs just like Mr. Taylor loves his, but if I allowed them to escape the property, and some farmer down the road killed them while they were busy slaughtering his laying hens, I wouldn’t blame him in the least for shooting them to prevent thousands of dollars of damage to his poultry. I certainly wouldn’t get all in a huff and cry to the newspaper lady about rational people and the “doggie death penalty.”

puppy play.


Henry and Ygraine doing what they do most of the day. (Ignore the messy floor, which I’ve TOTALLY PICKED UP since then.)

This fiber-optic connection kicks ass. That was a 153MB video straight from the iPhone, and it uploaded to YouTube in a minute or so. 50Mbps download speed is very nice, but 25Mbps on the upload makes a great many online tasks a great deal shorter.

ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray.

We had a door put into the back wall of our garage. it has a doggy flap in it, so the dogs can get into the fenced-in yard from the garage without anyone having to let them out through the porch door.

It’s interesting to see the ability of the dogs to adjust to this new entry/exit after five years of being let out through the porch door exclusively. Henry is the smartest of the bunch–he figured it out in a few hours. The others sort of get confused every once in a while and seemingly forget the new door temporarily.

Ban, bless his pointy little head, is as dumb as a bucket of gravel. He just let himself out through the garage flap, but on his journey across the yard his little doggy brain has erased that locational information to reuse the storage capacity or something. Now he’s standing in front of the porch door and barking desperately to be let in. We’ll see how long it takes him to remember/discover the unobstructed door a hundred feet to his left that leads back into the warm house. I suspect I’ll have to get up and let him in by early afternoon so he doesn’t turn into a dogsicle.

summer’s end.

We’ve had a rainy, buggy summer here in Upper Cryogenica, and I am greatly looking forward to the fall, which is my favorite season.

How buggy has it been up here, you ask? Buggy enough to support the breeding of this truly monstrous orb weaver, who is in residence next to the Castle’s main portcullis (behind the split to spare you arachnophobes):

Continue reading