Rudy.

April 13, 2016 § 9 Comments

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He is more animal than our old cattle dog Moo, who, especially in her dotage, was a grandmotherly friend, a Grande Dame who had her own opinions, offered sympathy, and clearly understood English.

Moo was one of us, a human who had inexplicably opted to be quadrupedal.

She was highly suspicious of other members of her birth species, Canis familiaris. Reacting with fury over the audacity of other dogs who dared to wag over for a pat, she warned them off. We were her people.

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Good dog.

January 9, 2016 § 5 Comments

Moo in the meadow.We knew what we were looking for.

Another Australian Cattle dog like Moo.

Moo was the dog brought home by our daughter, Josie, who volunteered at the animal shelter.

Moo put her paws on Josie’s shoulders, stared into her eyes and said, “Get me out of here.”Maybe no one else heard it, but Josie did.

And we needed a dog, not at our house where we had a resident dachshund who owned the place, but for my dad who lived alone six months out of the year in New Jersey between winters spent across the street from us here in Tallahassee.

A phone call during those long summer months was answered by a voice rusty with disuse. The man needed a dog!

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The Dog.

July 13, 2014 § 11 Comments

My friend John says, the day you get a dog the clock to heartbreak starts ticking.

And it’s true.

Get a dog and you commit to loving a member of a short-lived species. Not gerbil-short, but far shorter than your own expected life span.

Better to love a tortoise or a parrot.

And yet most of us choose a dog, because between the first tick of that clock and the last is an unconditional friendship not possible with a member of any other species, including our own.

Most of the credit for that belongs to the dog.

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The great intangible.

May 17, 2013 § 10 Comments

At first, happiness was a store window, everything I wanted behind shiny plate-glass, unattainable, but brightly lit.

In my ordinary life I had a lot: a loving family, plenty to eat, other kids to play with. Still, I pressed my nose to the glass and yearned for more.

If I couldn’t touch happiness I could always describe it.

At ten, happiness looked like a pair of black patent leather T-strap shoes, with princess heels of course. The happiness that would be granted by putting on those shoes included confidence, head-turning beauty, a satisfying click as I paraded down the hall—the full happiness package.

Moo.A dog of my own was the happiness I craved throughout childhood until, after college I got one…and another… and another.

The dog of my imagination would love me as-is, would understand me, would not talk behind my back, would not care that I wasn’t popular, high-achieving or cool. Happiness had a wet  nose.

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This is an old dog dozing on a sofa cushion.

February 8, 2013 § 13 Comments

Moo.This is also the companion who restored my father’s voice during the six months he spent alone in New Jersey each year.

Before Moo, when we called, his voice was rusty with disuse. After our daughter found her at the shelter and tricked him into adopting a dog his voice not only worked, it sounded happy.

This is also the grieving dog who helped us survive my father’s death by living out the loss with us.

This is also the good dog who, despite the nighttime trash knockdowns and a taste for cat turds has earned the irrevocable title of best-dog-ever. « Read the rest of this entry »

Why dogs don’t make lists.

March 22, 2012 § 10 Comments

It is 1:23 and Moo is asleep on her pillow.

Along with eat, run, scratch and stretch,”afternoon nap” would be on her to-do list.

If dogs made lists.

They don’t.

They go with the flow.

Open the refrigerator door and Moo will be instantly awake, motivated by the two things that will get any dog up from a nap. Need: hey, I’m hungry! And opportunity: whoa, the refrigerator’s open!

Dogs have no future. They live comfortably in the present.

Lists are for those who inhabit the present carelessly and sporadically.

Us.

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Through Ray’s eyes.

October 13, 2011 § 11 Comments

I visit Bluebird, our 10 acres of rural land in Wakulla County, Florida, about twice a week, and always with a purpose.

Today I’ll plant snow peas.

Dig up a patch for the Vidalia onions.

Thin the lettuce.

Pick blueberries.

Even though no one will ask, I feel the need to justify getting up from this chair where I work all day writing stories, or arranging my next school author visit, or answering email from young readers.

My husband, Ray, goes out to our land every single day.

He sometimes splits firewood or waters the garden, but he doesn’t feel the need to explain.

He goes because he loves the place.

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Dog brain.

November 7, 2010 § 7 Comments

I’m not sure how cat brains work, they hold their cards close, but to me their thoughts seem chilly, like an air-conditioned office.  When observed by a cat, I always feel as if I’m being judged by one of the popular girls in high school.

I’m a dog person.  I like the way dogs think.  Unlike cats, dogs wear their thoughts on the outside, like a T-shirt with a slogan printed on it in CAPITAL LETTERS.  Dog-think is bath water warm.  It’s relaxing.

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A boy and his dog.

September 22, 2010 § 6 Comments

As a kid I yearned for a dog.  I just knew that if you wrote out one of life’s difficult questions and then filled in the answer-blank with, “get a dog,” you would be right nine out of ten times.

My mother’s death was the most difficult question life ever posed to our family, especially for my father who did not believe in the escape clause, “until death do us part.”  He had no desire to remarry.  He had three grown children and their children.  He’d make do with what family he had left.

After her death he spent winters in Tallahassee in the house across the street from ours, and summers “up home” in New Jersey.  When we called him there his voice was rusty from disuse.  “You need a dog, Dad,” I said.   He squeaked out the logical reasons why he could not have a dog.    « Read the rest of this entry »

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