How to be Your Best Friend’s Best Friend

Last night a dear friend texted to get help with her brother’s dying dog who happened to be the sibling and litter mate of her own dog. She was worried about her dog as well as her brother’s and wanted to know how they were handling what was going on for them all.
When I went to speak to Sugar, the dog whose death from cancer was imminent, I got a huge wave of concern for my friend. I called her immediately and heard her confusion in what the focus of concern and help should be.
She had a lot going on, the death and possible pain of Sugar, the chance that this could happen to her own dog and her own concern for herself and her brother. A lot of emotional threads.
I think this is the thing I really do in animal communication. I listen for the threads and put them together in a way that soothes the humans involved. The vet had told them Sugar was not in pain, Sugar told me another story and said that this pain was not a big deal, she was ready to die and be away from the discomfort and, yes, pain that life was bringing her now. She was ready was her main theme.
Actually the most impacted was my friend’s dog who was apart from her, she is a nervous dog to begin with and her companion was emotionally torn and confused. Dogs can stand a lot. They have a resilience that boggles our minds and hearts. They are patient and forgiving beyond our wildest imaginations, but it is hard for them to have the people they look to as their chief focus be overwhelmed.
One of the best ways we can help our companions is to take a break, a breath, a walk. Do what they want for a few minutes a few times a day – walks, treats, a little panting never hurts. It could change us into being the humans they treat as if we already are.
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Like It Is

When I read other people’s writing I am so grateful to them for having shared their experience – when they share their strength and hope I’m so deeply grateful. Right now I just want to fill myself up somewhere else. I want to still the maelstrom of my mind with OPW – other people’s wisdom. I sat down to write because the other hasn’t been working for me. I had a moment of light when I asked myself that question, “So, how’s that working for you?” While I hate it I do find it can be effective!

I put these hearts up for me, I’m giving myself heart hugs and breathing space. I don’t know why I need so much but I do and I’m going with that even though it’s a little embarrassing. I feel like “enough already” but enough already hasn’t happened.

Liam is right here, my companion, he gets it and still responds to the moment of the cat outside, the walk about to happen, the squirrel or the car going for a ride. He’s always present and present isn’t always peaceful. And that’s how it is.


I used to write poems a lot when I was young and then older and then older, in fact I’m still writing them. I put up this photo of our dog Cho because he’s really stepping out. Look at his reach and his legs crossing getting ready for his next reach. You’d never know he’s sixteen – a lot of dog years in that forty-five pound body.
I want my writing to be like his hunting. The quality of his reach is impressive, he is steadfast in his focus and nothing ever stops him – from barking or jumping the fence – he is all about showing. I never don’t know what he means.
My hand went numb the first time I formally sat down to write a poem. Not only did I not know what to write, I couldn’t. I got over it and I wrote for many years, gave readings, became a poet around town. I stopped writing for the longest time because I was telling not showing. I wasn’t paying enough attention to dogs – or any animal-being. My first new poem that I could really relate to was about the death of my dog Esme. Her death stunned me – it was sudden, heart attack – but I had leaned on her in a way I don’t think I’ve ever let myself. The quality of her presence drifted into my soul like air I was breathing without thinking about breath.
Here’s a photo of her

and here’s the poem, and yes, it is the anniversary of her death two years ago.

Esme – Greyhound Friend
She rescued me when I rescued her

Today, Monday, is the last time – at 4:30 pm – that I’ll
Be able to say, “last week Esme was…”
My heart is a landslide of rubble, scary places, bad footing.
Now, this day, this minute a week ago I was lying next to her
I was taking her head in my hand, I was feeling her pulse
Her breath, her eyes on me. I felt her limbs be cold in an odd way.
I won’t forget that. I felt her warm belly. I felt her warm ears
And her cold nose and I thought and thought breathing with her
As I was, breathing without thinking of breath, or that thing that rhymes with it.
That point on the trajectory of each life that seeks level, that is level.
Everything else is up and down, hot and cold, short and long.
But death is a flat line. Death is a long time. Death is No More.

Today, Monday, it is 1:45pm. I didn’t know. I had no clue.
When I put her in my car she was breathing. It never occurred to me
She would stop. Or anything. Nothing much was occurring – and everything.
Halfway there I knew. I kept driving. But I knew.
And didn’t wouldn’t couldn’t know – no.
A week ago right now I had no clue. What a blessing.
Her life was a blessing. She blessed me. Her every move
Her looks – they were “come hither” and I did
I can’t bear to put a period with these sentences
Time will tell
Time is telling me
This is Monday, it is almost 2
I still have 2 ½ hours left
And I don’t even know it

Home To Rest


Here is Cho when he first came to us. He was returned to the shelter because he would not get along with other dogs, do anything his person wanted. She had gotten him into a therapy program, where he went with her to hospitals and helped patients. He was good at that. She made him pajamas, coats, had this photo taken – it’s the only formal portrait we have. She just couldn’t get him to get along with her other two greyhounds. She returned him after 1 1/2 years. Oddly enough we had seen him on his first day in this country. We were returning with our Gordie, the first Galgo Espanol to enter this country, to Greyhound Friends for their spring reunion. We got a glimpse of him rushing past.
Later, when we took him home, we had five other greyhounds and his “thing” about other dogs kind of got put aside. He definitely is not one to take on walks to the park – he tries to kill every other dog he sees. And, if you are bullish enough to bring your dog into our house – even when we say don’t – he will reliably try to kill it. But he will not touch his mates, or the cats.

Cho now, after his flight.

and Liam, resting in my studio

and Guinnie – resting

and Jules
All looking for adventure
Tomorrow!

Big Black Dog


My big black dog was named Borus, he was the kindest, sweetest, most gentle dog. And when other dogs saw him, they tried to attack him. It was funny, he would just sit or stand while they were jumping all over him. He had this big ruff around his neck and was completely protected from any attack. He weighed about 130 pounds and everyone loved him. He visited friends, he was welcome everywhere, he was a great dog.

But I’m not writing this because of his saintliness. I’m writing for the little dogs. They saw him and they saw an excuse to attack, they saw him and they knew he was coming to get them – nevermind he wasn’t moving. Once a woman called me to tell me her son had just been bitten by him – luckily he was sitting next to me at the time.

He was a target. And it had nothing to do with him, except for his size. Size matters – rather, perception of size matters. So if someone looks more successful, lives in a bigger house, we often think they must be cannier, made of sterner stuff, have left their heart behind. Someone less well off might have a big heart, we might not look them in the eye, but we aren’t likely intimidated or given to illusions that s/he is a powerful force.

In both cases we are losing out. Both are defined by outward appearance. Just like Borus, you can think what you like. The person you pass on the street be s/he homeless or executive may be forceful or meek. Compromises in the boardroom can be as crucial to the life of the soul as eviction from any dream.

In the boardroom of your mind, who’s in charge? You are looking at something, yes, but what are you seeing?

NOW

Poetry Month

Poem About My Dog Toby

He’s not asking for forgiveness, my Toby
Sorry he may be for putting his back out
Jumping the fence and running for two hours.
But that is past. What’s passed can be
A second ago. It’s passed. Past. My Toby
Lives only in the moment.
His blinking eye ticks off the seconds, the minutes
Until his next fling. He’s not counting.
He doesn’t count the vet bill. The dog officer’s call.
The $250 bill from the hosts of a party where
He ate so much salmon and steak. All wild caught
And grass fed. This moment is the only
Moment for my Toby. And if you are counting
You are in the past. Toby is present. Here. Now.
Now.
Now.
Now

Pam White

isn’t he just the cutest?????

This Is My Dog Beeker

This is me with my dog Beeker when I was about 8. It was taken by a friend of my father’s from Australia who came to visit us every few years. This is important to me because he seemed so normal and what he did was so exotic and exciting to me. I longed to go somewhere. Be somewhere else. I longed to hit the road with a camera and feel the wind in my face.

His name, what was his name, he was a friend of Uncle Sid’s, someone my father had gone to MIT with – even he was cool. They’d been at MIT together – last class of steam engineering – and then Sid had decided to become a doctor and he’d gone back to school – MIT – to end up a plastic surgeon . He was funny when he told stories about all the ears he’d pinned back on people – people were upset by their ears sticking out, I don’t know if they still are, I don’t hear about it much.

So this friend of Uncle Sid’s came and asked me to let him take my picture. This was only possible if I had Beeker at my side. Beeker was actually my sister’s dog but I was around and she wasn’t and Beeker became mine.

Now you should know that Beeker never in his life had a rope around him. Never was tied, there were no leashes. We lived on a farm with hundreds of acres around us and the dogs and I grouped ourselves by choice, we were always together. But I remember so clearly getting the rope and how important it was to me, how important to show the connection physically, palpably.

I’m so proud of this photograph. I love it, I love that someone exotic took it even if I can’t remember his name. There I was in the middle of this big country and got my picture taken with my shirt and my dog on a day I will always remember. Beeker and I were connected, we still are. He has been back several times now in this lifetime of mine and I keep him close to me, I keep him palpable and secure.

Esme – Greyhound Friend She rescued me when I rescued her

Today, Monday, is the last time – at 4:30 pm – that I’ll

Be able to say, “last week Esme was…”

My heart is a landslide of rubble, scary places, bad footing.

Now, this day, this minute a week ago I was lying next to her

I was taking her head in my hand, I was feeling her pulse

Her breath, her eyes on me. I felt her limbs be cold in an odd way.

I won’t forget that. I felt her warm belly. I felt her warm ears

And her cold nose and I thought and thought breathing with her

As I was, breathing without thinking of breath, or that thing that rhymes with it.

That point on the trajectory of each life that seeks level, that is level.

Everything else is up and down, hot and cold, short and long.

But death is a flat line. Death is a long time. Death is No More.

Today, Monday, it is 1:45pm. I didn’t know. I had no clue.

When I put her in my car she was breathing. It never occurred to me

She would stop. Or anything. Nothing much was occurring – and everything.

Halfway there I knew. I kept driving. But I knew.

And didn’t wouldn’t couldn’t know – no.

A week ago right now I had no clue. What a blessing.

Her life was a blessing. She blessed me. Her every move

Her looks – they were “come hither” and I did

I can’t bear to put a period with these sentences

Time will tell

Time is telling me

This is Monday, it is almost 2

I still have 2 ½ hours left

And I don’t even know it

Pam White

Esme

I was so engulfed in your death

So overcome with it – the grief, the sudden

Emptiness, goneness, I forgot to look

Through your eyes at the love

You always showed me, shared with me

I forgot to feel your heart, the expansiveness, the joy

Of your surrender. I forgot to see who

Was doing all that, who was really there.

It was just us. We two. And we

Are still, as long as I remember

To look through your eyes

Feel with your heart

Breathe, embrace with your spirit.

It always was the only way to go and

It remains so.

It Was When My Dog Esme Died That….



It was when my dog Esme died that I realized I am a lonely person. Watching the early morning sun on the grass a few days after her sudden death of a heart attack – my heart feels so empty, in a complete way. Not a just lost my dog way. I realize she filled some hole in me emblematic of a manhole cover. She was a strong cover to an unexplored emptiness in me. An emptiness unnamed and without known depth.

When I was young loneliness was lack of human contact, a Saturday night without a date, was not admitting to any needs or lacks. I got over that. Learned to fake it, always have a mate, face the facts, not the fears, not the unknown.  As I write I am surrounded by cats. They never run out of things to do. They never need you to take them for a walk, they would never ask for your company. They will ask for treats, food and the litter changed, but they are self-sufficient beyond my understanding of the meaning of the word. As much as my cat understands my needs and will always materialize and sit with me all day when I am sick or, in this case, lonely. It’s a companionship.

Esme was on my time. She had her needs, yes, but her focus was on what I was doing and could she fit in it or not. If not, she lay on her bed or outside completely happy – it seemed to me. She was not nervous without me, she was whole.  I, on the other hand, was busy or available. When I was busy I knew she was happy, adjusted, doing her thing. As it happened she never peed or pooped in the house, never ate what wasn’t hers and only chewed furniture when my life was miserable.

Her perfection may have masked my weakness. It certainly made life with her easy. On the leash you hardly knew she was there – no tugs just easy pace, whatever I set. Off leash, her life was hers and she took her hikes, dazzling me with the beauty and ease of her run – even though I may have been calling her to come back I secretly admired her flight.

I grew up alone and dogs and horses were where I put my heart.  All those photos and paintings of children and animals are on the mark, animals are where it’s at.  Esme was like the dog in the Norman Rockwell painting you have your arm thrown around. It looks so casual, but it’s not. It’s dead serious. This is an important relationship. She was the softest dog, the quietest, the most beautiful, the most rare.

I once had the pleasure of living with a cat I named Peaches. I named her Peaches because on the top of her head was the outline of a peach seed. People would ask me, “is that unusual?” The outline of a peach seed? On every cat you’ll see. She was no different. They are all the softest, rarest, most beautiful. That’s why we love them so much.  Why they love us is the subject of another writing.

Esme introduced herself to me through love, at the death of my soul dog Zoe.  Zoe told my wife Paula that she would send Esme when I was ready.  After three months I found myself looking at Greyhound rescue sites online. I called one of the shelters and asked was there a dog they weren’t showing. Yes, there was, but she had just been returned by a family where she was biting the children and she wasn’t ready in their mind to go to another family, and yes, we had children but they were 12 and 13.

We went to the shelter that day – no easy feat, we lived on Martha’s Vineyard and it meant finding a ferry over and back – but they were available and so off we went to Mendon, Massachusetts. At the shelter a white dog was brought in, and another dog followed unbidden. I looked at the white one, asked her, “are you Esme,” she came and stood beside me. She never left.

You’re wondering about the other one? He climbed – all ninety-five pounds of him on Paula’s lap (she’s 120) – and that was that. We had four dogs.  Esme focused on me like it was her job, and I believe it was. It’s hard to know what to do, how to explore what’s left, how to have what’s here, how to let go of what’s gone.