The day’s first movement -
crystaline hexagons falling, larghetto, from a snow-gray sky.
Not too long ago I met a story. While walking my dog I stopped to wish a neighbor well with his move. He waved thanks and kept walking toward his house, and the fellow taping up boxes looked up and beamed. I thought he was grateful for the coffee approaching in my neighbor’s hand until he exclaimed “Puppy!” Tall, lean, with a ponytail in back, this fifty-something man walked over, said hi to me, then crouched to say hello to Cappy. I call this the working hello and I know that the person greeting my dog not only likes dogs but works hard to understand and communicate with them. In this relaxed fall morning a story unfolded.
Dave got his first work dog as a young Vietnam soldier. When this pup was shot literally from underneath him, he was given another to train and work. “War dogs you don’t get too attached to. They are there to do a job. You’re eighteen, away from home, and you love them, but you don’t get too attached.” That’s how Dave became involved with civilian search and rescue teams.
In the 1990′s Dave was employed as a veterinary assistant in an Atlanta Emergency Clinic. One morning he found a young stray tied to the clinic door, with two broken legs and a ruptured spleen. The doctors for whom he worked didn’t believe in euthanizing if they felt there was a reasonable chance of saving an animal. They did their magic, and then it was Dave’s turn to do his. In caring for this nine month old pup Dave recognized that special blend of courage, smarts, loyalty, and desire to please that search and rescue work requires. He put in a call to a buddy at the nearby military base and soon the flat-coated black lab graduated third of thirty in the search and rescue training program.
“Gunner was my soul-mate. He was so special. There are forty-two people on this earth, walking around today, because he found them. Special. We were there after 9/11. Gunner was amazing. There was too much noise at the site. I could only use hand signals. I’d send Gunner out; at thirty feet he would stop and wait for my command. I would move my hand.” At this Dave held out his right arm and, with his index and third fingers extended, he made a small horizontal wave.
“Then Gunner would start his zigzag pattern back toward me, sniffing. That’s how they teach them to search a grid. When they find someone alive, the dog is trained to jump up and down and make a lot of noise. When they find a body or body part they sit. We went to search and rescue, and of course you know it turned out to be all recovery. Gunner would go out, search and sit. Search and sit. He found 30 intact bodies. Thirty! Out of 300 that means my Gunner found ten percent of the bodies recovered. Everything else was an arm here, a hand.” Dave paused. He retired Gunner after that mission was complete, and they traveled together on Dave’s new job as a mover. Gunner succumbed to cancer in 2008.
”He was my soul mate. The dog to replace him hasn’t been born.”
Here’s to all those brave teams of men and women and dogs, who tirelessly searched for days and days through the rubble of the Towers.
Here’s to all those brave teams yet to be created, who will go out again and again, anytime there is tragedy, risking their lives so others may live, or find peace of mind.
The eyes had me at first glance.
Just look at those eyes. Both sets of soul’s windows invite joy and love into your day!
The sender of this card, Helen Ruse, declared that this photograph was of Teddy and herself, though the only Helen Ruse I can find in 1908 Greene County, Pennsylvania is a full grown woman, a neighbor who may have helped on the Minor farm. At any rate the farm dog pictured must have strongly resembled a shaggy pal that my grandfather, Donald Minor, would have known and loved.
The message of Helen’s greeting is as playful as the photo front:
Dr. Faustus was a good man. He whipped his scholars now and then. When he whipped them, he made them dance. Out of Scotland into France, Out of France into Spain, And then he whipped them back again . This is my speech. We are all well. Helen Ruse
Makes me chuckle.
I just dated myself to the era of “Spare the rod, spoil the child!”, when birthdays were occasions for playful spankings, school teachers carried rulers for the occasional knuckle rap and poems about whippin’ were meant to be funny yet instructive. Ah, well. There’s my bias. What is your take on this card?
The Prudential Post Card and Novelty Company printed this postcard in Leipzig,Germany. The company is listed in the 1908 Trow CoPartnership and Corporation Directory of the Boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx. Messrs. Lewis Levy, Isidor E. Schlecsinger and Richard Rudlinger had their New York City offices at 82 Dunne Street, Room 32.
I love the end of spring for all its diversity and color. The urgent heat of day and the refreshing coolness of night. The purple and blues of lupines, iris, chive and sage; the pinks of roses, peonies, dianthus-ish volunteers; the greens of grass, stalks, stems, leaves and needles–all creating a kaleidoscope effect of daily changing patterns and hues. Birds provide an evolving instrumental accompaniment of song tones and percussive calls.
This spring my library holds a copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, a book I make sure I read at least once a day. I have taken quite a few of her suggestions to heart, including the suggestion to create my own happiness project, the only goal of which right now is to be happier more frequently. Research has shown that what we do frequently has more impact in making us happy than what we do once in a while. I am paraphrasing here, but that concept struck me as a real Secret of Adulthood. It really matters that I have a perpetual calendar where I record the high and low temperatures, the colors in the meadow, the moment I hear the first bluebird or robin or oriole. It makes me happy, a little bit every day.
I have been thinking too that Ms. Rubin’s admonition to be serious about play is seriously appropriate for my serious self. Hence, my resolution to have an adventure at least once a week…..that adds up to 52 adventures a year. The anticipation makes me happy! The planning makes me happy! The savoring will make me happy! And recalling these adventures here, on this storytelling blog, will make me happy! I have a project!!!! or a little bit of one.
Hence, today’s first adventure: LuciFreckles’ Birthday Walk on the dike of the Susquehanna River in NEPA. I woke up early to promptly finish morning chores: dogs fed and exercised, trash out, son home on vacation awakened in time for hair appointment. The heat promised by mid-day appeared to be arriving early. I packed ice cubes to the top of our water bottles and filled the spaces with fresh water, sorted through containers to find a special “take with you” size, and changed Luci’s clothes, exchanging her invisible fence collar for her training collar. Leaving the forlorn faces of Cappy and Fly, Luci happily leapt into the way-back of the FIT for the short ride from our Endless Mountain home into the Valley that separates us from the Pocono Plateau. Through the middle of this valley runs the Susquehanna River, and on the west bank runs a portion of a dike network which presumably protects the nearby residences from flood waters. The sidewalk atop this dirt mound is our destination. From here Luci can look right to our low-lying Appalachain foothills and left to the river as we trot south. We watch swallows perform loop-de-loops and starlings feed their @#$* young. Song sparrows perform harmony for Red-winged Blackbirds, Canada Geese monitor their goslings’ foraging attempts on the bank playground. Luci nervously watches bikers, a new sight for her puppyness, and sits politely to let them pass. She growls a low rumble to alert me to the runner approaching from our left rear. Other dogs get the “eye”. Head lowered in line with her withers, tail alert straight behind her, Luci sends a silent message to her canine peer: “Be aware. Be very, very aware. I can herd YOU!” And just as they pass, her tail beats a steady “Hello! Come back! Let me smell you!!!”
It is at this point, one mile out, that Luci seems to feel the heat rising from the macadem, the sun striking us from its climbing position. The river-driven breeze dies down, and her tongue lolls out, dripping big drops of saliva. Her brown sable eyes ask “The end now?” and Luci seems only mildly relieved as we head down the bank to the riverside tree-shade. Gamely she trots on, but without the nose-to-ground of a happy pup. She is doggedly determined to just get back .
One final detour as we round the corner to the car park: the beach where Canada Geese sunbathe. At our approach the honking begins, each adult joining the call to flee. ”To the water, to the water, to the water!” Goslings waddle to the river edge and quickly slide into what I can now smell–the stinky, brown Susquehanna. An oily residue coats the surface and the fluid teases my thirsty one year old birthday girl instead of offering an early drink. Barely acknowledging the goslings and assorted adult geese Luci just looks at me in admonishment, “You have clean water in the car!!!!” As we make the final trek I plot my strategy for teaching Luci and Cappy how to wear a pack. Next adventure we will carry water and treats WITH us.
Once back at the car Luci and I drank our ice-cold, clean water happily.
“Happy is as happy does.” states the childhood ditty that some adult probably offered to cajole me into doing something I didn’t want to do. I now add it to my Secrets of Adulthood list. In spite of the heat, and the left-behind water, the biker who belatedly called “On your left!” and the unwelcome appearance of gnats, I had been happy. I savored the adventure with my birthday girl, taking time to feel the sun, to identify the bird songs, to smile at my fellow adventurers, and to pet my pup’s silky coat. Turns out happy is as happy does.