“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Part II: Day 62: Visitors

It starts Monday afternoon.  Erin comes over to say good-bye to Zoe and me.  Erin and her family are off to the cottage until August and in our ideal world their sweet dog, Max, would still be alive to run on the beach with them, and Zoe and my husband and I would join them.  We would eat watermelon on the deck and spit seeds at each other, and we would all swim, and Zoe and Max would compete for the sticks we'd toss, but they'd sometimes swim to shore together with the same one in their jaws.

Instead we humans have to make do with a good talk and a cup of dandelion tea.  But it's enough to lift our spirits, and not long after the visit, Zoe wants to walk, and eat, and tell me a thing or two about how she'd like things to be run around here.  This visit marks a turning point.  We started this day with such sadness, but after Erin's visit Zoe understood that we had heard her and we kind of eased into this new phase of our life together with grace.
Zoe adores Erin.

Eve and Blue arrive on Tuesday afternoon at 3, around the time we'd normally be thinking about a long walk along the river.  Zoe is so excited to see Blue that she chases him downstairs and back up again, and that's how I first hear and witness "the cough," the dreaded sign that the mass in Zoe's lungs is interfering with her respiration.  Well, we knew this was the case a few days ago when Zoe started stopping en route on walks a few times to pant and catch her breath when she went uphill, but now we're onto something bigger.  But our vet tells us a couple hours later that this doesn't quite mean The End.  When Zoe coughs like that when she's at rest, doing nothing at all, and when the cough interferes with her sleep, we'll know.  Plus, Zoe took those stairs to greet her old friend like she did as a pup. She was so happy to see him and his person; her mad tear up and down the stairs to herd Blue was her version of dancing a jig.

Here's how it is for her: It's like she was an Olympic runner and all at once she woke up with the lungs of a two-pack-a-day smoker, and she's just trying to learn how to move again.  Later I will tell this story to Danielle and Steve and Steve will say it's like when Lance Armstrong first got on his bicycle after chemo.  He'd think he was pushing hard, going as fast as he could, and then "a little old lady would fly right past him."

Danielle and Steve and Milo, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who Thinks he's a Greyhound, pop over just after Amy Thompson has finished giving Zoe acupuncture.  Milo has a hard time finding a comfortable place to rest in my studio, and Danielle wonders if he senses that things have shifted for his friend, the big black dog with the wolfy face who used to herd him: if he feels the impending loss.  Zoe is sleepy from the acupuncture so she elects to go out to the balcony to rest.

My husband is having hip replacement surgery on July 10, and Danielle offers to come over sometime after that and make a nice dinner for us, partly in honor of Kerry's birthday which is later in July.  Danielle is one of the best cooks we know.  We were originally going to go to dinner at her and Steve's house on Saturday but now we just can't make plans, and before we could even tell her this she sensed it.   Normally when we go to her and Steve's house she has a bone waiting for Zoe, and all the dogs lick our plates.  Now it seems unlikely that Zoe will be up for leaving the familiar, the comfort of her domain, so the party will come to her--but only if she's up for it.

I feel so lucky to have such kind friends.  And it lifts our spirits, Zoe's and mine, to have visitors.  Zoe snuggles against our friends, or offers them a paw,  and the presence of others lets this sweet dog know that there's still a world outside our house and yard even though, since yesterday, she hasn't been up for heading out there.  I like to think it lets her know that her people won't fall apart.  That she can go when she has to, that she doesn't have to stick around just for us.

Last night my husband said to me, "Would you like to go away for a few days if  . . when . . ." and then the sentence trailed off.   It was such a kind, sweet offer.  We're both kind of tapped out financially now.  He suggested a couple places not far away, one that we've been to in Essex, Vermont, that is connected to the culinary institute, and do you want to know, honestly, my first response?  Before I could say it, I was thinking, 'That's a good choice.  They take dogs."

I'm going to have my work cut out for me.

But I don't have to do it just yet.  For now, Zoe and I are camped out on the balcony watching the river.  The fat groundhog mama just visited, although she thinks of himself, I'm pretty sure, not as a visitor but as an inhabitant.  A hawk swooped above us last night and did a few loops around the yard and we were enthralled.  And although we're all just visitors to this planet, I feel very lucky to have claimed this particular spot on a cool morning in late June with a smart, sensitive dog whose snout reaching over the rails picks up the scent of every creature in our vicinity, and whose big, tender heart keeps teaching me more ways to love her even now.  She's snoring, and that sound as she visits the land of dreams is as comforting to me as the sound of the river flowing past.

Another day.  How lucky we are.  The gift of another day . . .

Blue and Zoe

They have been friends ever since I took Zoe home to live with us

Zoe and I were so happy to see Eve, and I was happier still to see Zoe this happy

When I first brought Zoe home, Eve bought me a pet advice newsletter and was my go-to person on all kinds of pup matters.  She and Zoe have always understood each other.
photo of Milo and Zoe taken by Danielle Egan; I didn't have my camera out to capture their sweet visit on Tuesday


  1. so beautiful. This day is a love letter among friends. Yes, so totally fortunate.

  2. Dear Sara, I wish you could be here to share a cup of tea with Zoe and me. xx

  3. Thank-you, Nat. The same thought crossed my mind.I was wishing I could be like your guests, just pop in and not interfere. It really helps to see the photos of Zoe-the look she has when her head is on the ground as she views the chosen object of her affection.I remember when you first told me you got a dog- your joy has not waned since then I think. more hearts beating tail wagging going on. xo