“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

Monday, July 2, 2012

Part II: Day 66: Clean Plates Club

On Saturday Glenn surprised me with a wonderful message: he and James and the Divine Ms. Emily, their curly-haired golden, were driving out to see us on Sunday from Vermont, if we were up for their company.  They wanted to see Zoe, and while they were at it, to spend a little time with us too.

If you've been following this storyline for a while, you'll know that Glenn and James had a dog named Milo who was Zoe's mentor while he was on this earth.  Milo, the three-legged golden retriever, sometimes known as Milo Speed Racer because he traveled for many months of his life by go-cart, came into our lives via a former student of mine named Annie, who had worked with James at Green Mountain Coffee in Vermont before she and her husband joined the Peace Corps and headed off to Zambia.  Zoe and I stayed with Milo and Emily and the cats and these fine humans twice this spring, in late March and in late April.  I don't think Zoe and I could have navigated through the world of canine cancer without their advice on nutrition and medicine.  Last week, when Zoe announced that she was done with chemo and was going to do everything her way for the last stretch, Glenn gave me a lot of wonderful advice on the phone and talked me off the ledge.  He suggested Prednisone for Zoe's appetite and for relief from inflamation, and Tramadol for pain.  This advice was immediately echoed by a number of other friends on-line.  Because of these wonder drugs, Zoe rallied this week.

But other things may be motivating her to hang out here for a while.  I've written this week about the lamb dinners, the rib-eye steak, the extra acupuncture, the visit with the cat, and the Reiki.  And I wrote about some of our sweet visitors.  Saturday night Zoe got to spend time with the other Milo in her life, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who Thinks He's a Greyhound, when his lovely people brought over pizza and wings and we stayed out on the deck talking and drinking wine until the mosquitoes were stricken with food comas from feasting on us.  I think the love blasting her way from so many sources is keeping Zoe interested in life.

I've written numerous posts about the delight my husband and I take in Sunday lunch, but we skipped it last week because I was working hard on my book and we missed it the week before because we were still at Chautauqua.  I almost forgot how much fun it is to set the table in anticipation of a glorious feast.  To prepare a few of the dishes the day before: the beet salad with wild blueberries, walnuts, parsley, and goat cheese feta; the lime and cilantro and jalapeno marinade for the grilled chicken; the lemon shallot olive oil salad dressing; Kerry's dry rub for the ribs and how his slow-cooking method fills the house with savory aromas.

Zoe has a unique relationship with each of our friends.  With James and Glenn, whose energy is so calming and peaceful and nonjudgmental, she turns into a puddle of bliss.  Other people inspire her to run, or sit up tall, or boss around their dogs, but with these two dog whisperers, she just eases down into the grass and welcomes in the love.  They are the most patient dog-centric people I have ever met and I often drew strength from them this spring when I visited their house in Vermont and hunkered down on the floor beside the dog day bed, otherwise known as The Nest, where their two goldens ran the show.

Before we sat down to eat the two men gazed at the river with their dog and mine, and Zoe seemed to understand that there was something very special about this visit.  She lay supine beside them, as relaxed as she is when someone has just done Reiki on her.

But then she smelled the meat.

Later, Zoe and I lowered our full bellies to the ground and stretched out.  For an hour I lay beside her in the grass.  The wind kicked up again, and then it began to rain.  The title for the tableau the dog and I made was The Art of Resting in the Rain.  It was so soothing and lovely to just ease down onto the earth and feel that cooling mist of rain caress our bodies.  I felt like a plate licked clean by dogs.

In the evening, another car came up our drive.  Zoe left her bunker under the deck where she'd sought refuge from late afternoon sun to run to our guests.  There were Diane and Fred, bearing pepperoni dog treats (low-fat, Diane promised, because their boxer, Finn, has suffered bouts of pancreatitis after high fat feasts.)  They never visit without treats. 

So we sat down at the table on the deck and ate the whole meal again.  While Diane and Fred entertained us with stories about ghosts in the house in Ireland they sometimes rent, the antics of a certain empathy-deficient brother-in-law (now even I can do a fair imitation of the man's whining), and a bizarre murder trial that took place last year in our county, Zoe understood that she was the reason for the visit, that she was the star of this show.

I love how these two couples visiting us yesterday appealed to two sides of Zoe's nature--and ours.  Glenn and James sooth and comfort her, and make her feel safe.  Diane and Fred bring out the puppy in her; they are high-spirited playmates and provocateurs.  Zoe feeling safe and able to relax, Zoe charged and ready to play (or at least, beg for meat): they are both sides of a dog who is still enjoying her life.

Later, Zoe stayed with me in the kitchen while I cleaned up instead of going upstairs with Kerry.
There were still plates to lick from supper. 


  1. When I read this I flashed on Tony Kuchner's "Angels in America"- there are so many loose metaphors between this story and his. It's a story about people who are fighting timeless battles. In his play he has created his own theology, which includes the Angels of America. This is from an interview Terry Gross did with him:
    "Mr. KUSHNER: I mean, the angel is an aggregate entity. She's not just one
    being; she's many beings in one. And one of her manifestations is a collection
    of beings called--from the Cabala, they're called the Daughters of Light. And
    there are four of them there: Fluor, Phosphor, Candle and Lumen. They each have
    a color assigned to them. And so when she speaks, she articulates for each of
    these four immensely powerful beings. They all assemble into one being, the
    continental principality of America. When Prior arrives in heaven, there are
    seven of these principalities; each one is sort of the gathered energy of the
    entire sort of spirit matter and soul matter of all the people who live in each
    of the--I sound like a complete crazy person when I talk about it."
    I think he's talking about the spirit of the whole world, some of which is visiting you in so many forms.

  2. here is another bit you might like, from this source:
    "As Prior deals with the disease, he is visited by an Angel, played by Emma Thompson, and this visitation sends him into a spiritual tailspin that brings him face-to-face with God, faith, reality and his future."

  3. Dear Sara, Wow, I love that comparison to the many beings in that play. I saw it in New York in the 90s and was so blown away. I never did hear the Terry Gross interview and that's such a great quote. And Emma Thompson as the ANGEL--that was the PBS version, yes?--was also stunning. You help me make so many amazing connections, all the time, gal. Thank you so much.