Saturday, December 22, 2007

Reminiscent of Sparkey

This is a detail of a painting by Andrew Wyeth that reminds me so much of the good ol' days with Sparkey. 

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Morning (and Mourning) Has Broken

This was just posted on my blog Digital Doorway and I share it here with you:

December 2nd is a sadly significant day for our family. It marks the anniversary of the murder (at the hands of the police) of Woody, our best family friend, whose untimely and unnecessarily voilent death occurred on this day in 2001, not three months after the events of 9/11. Interestingly, on the day Woody was killed, we were in New York City visiting my great-aunt Theresa, who at the time was around 112 years old. At her advanced age, straddling three centuries, she managed to outlive Woody by three months.

Our dear Woody---who was my wife's former partner, my son's best friend, mentor and honorary uncle, and my closest confidante---is as sorely missed now as he was five years ago. As much as I am able to embrace death as merely a continuation of life on another energetic and spiritual plane, his physical absence from our lives and home is still a palpable emptiness that has persisted over time.

The 2nd of each month also marks yet another month that our dear beloved dog Sparkey is gone. Sparkey and Woody were joined at the hip, twin flames who are inextricably linked in my mind due to their many adventures together over the years prior to Woody's death. When Woody would walk through our door, he would always immediately drop to the floor and allow the dogs to lick him ceaselessly, covering his red beard, mustache, eyes, and cheeks with their kisses of greeting. He would giggle as he lay there, the dogs intent on their right (and responsibility) to slick him down with joy and gusto. Once he was done greeting the dogs, we were next, and his entry was almost always a source of upliftment for all. Rene would have his "uncle" and playmate, I would have my best male friend, and Mary would have her old friend for whom she functioned as confidante, maternal figure, and spiritual sister.

When Sparkey died in September of 2006, we carried his golden and red body to his freshly dug grave in our yard. His coat always reminded me of Woody's hair and beard in its orange-red brilliance. It was like burying a part of Woody that day. Now a small dogwood (purchased and lovingly planted by our son Rene) sits on Sparkey's grave, some of Woody's and Tulane's ashes and Rene's baby teeth mixed with the rich soil of loss.

This first week in December carries with it a great deal of energy reflecting loss and grief. Yesterday, December 1st, used to be my parents' wedding anniversary up until their divorce in 1976 when I was 12 years old. Tomorrow, December 3rd, will mark three months since my step-father's death on September 3rd. Finally, the next day---December 4th---will mark what would have been my mother's and step-father's 30th wedding anniversary. Multiple blows of grief and loss billow through this week, and I/we just roll with the punches.

Still, I am grateful. These beings have fed me with their friendship and loyalty, adding immeasurable quality to my life's trajectory. My step-father (80), Sparkey (14), and Theresa (112) each died from natural causes---pancreatic cancer, renal failure, and old age, respectively---and they were all considerably old (especially Theresa!) based upon their respective species' life expectancy.

As for Woody, his demise was premature and tragic, although I give thanks in this moment for the wonderful times we shared together. Since we were both born in 1964, we had shared visions of our middle age and old age together, and had always looked forward to celebrating our 40th birthdays together. Sadly, we were robbed of that opportunity, and he left me to celebrate my birthdays without him---and there will doubtless be many, many more before I am ready to join him in the Great Beyond.

Woody's loss helps me to more fully appreciate and understand the loss experienced daily by people the world over who lose their loved ones to violence. Granted, I did not watch him be killed---a fate suffered by many individuals in Rwanda, Darfur, Burma, L.A., The Congo, and elsewhere---but he was still robbed from us, wrenched from our lives, and he is sorely missed.

So, here it is 5am and I am awake again. Morning has broken, mourning has broken, and we stand on this troubled planet looking up at the stars, wondering how our dearly departed are faring in their new manifestations, in whatever form that may take. Sparkey, Tulane, Theresa, Woody, and the many others: your days here are not forgotten, your departure still hurts, but we bless you and send you on your way. You are released, and when our blessed release comes, we will also know the sweet surrender of leaving this mortal coil, and entering those realms unknown to those of us still embodied.

May all beings be free. May all beings be happy. May all beings be free of suffering.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

One Year: Of Endings and Beginnings

Today, September 2nd, 2007, at approximately 1pm, Sparkey will be dead one year. His body still rests in the earth just beside our house, but his spirit body moves in an entirely different dimension.

Even as we celebrate his life and honor the 12-month anniversary of his passing, we sit vigil here in New Jersey, comforting my beloved step-father as he moves into the final stages of the dying process himself. The details of Sparkey's passage are fresh in my mind, and at this time (10am) on September 2nd of last year, we were enjoying what we knew would be our final morning and afternoon on earth with our wonderful canine companion. It was a day of final events: the last walk, the last meal, the final treats from the mail carrier, loving visits from the neighbors, Sparkey bestowing a final kiss to a small child's face (our neighbors' newborn). And then, before we could catch our breath, the vet came, we administered the medications, and he died, crying a final tear from his left eye as we kissed him and told him how loved and lovely he truly was.

Now, on this very day, we watch as my step-father's breathing becomes erratic, with 5-second periods of apnea (the absence of breathing), followed by a succession of rapid breaths once again. Hints of a minimal rattle in the throat make themselves known from time to time, yet he then breathes normally again. There will be no doctor visiting today to administer a dose of medicine to end his struggle, to assuage his suffering. In our culture, our dogs' and cats' suffering is painlessly ended when it is seen to be the most humane act we can perform; yet our suffering human loved ones, whose quality of life has long since diminished to less than a shadow of its former self, must struggle and gasp until the end. Morphine assists the process and depresses respiration, but Tulane will not experience the sudden and painless release that Sparkey was so blessed to receive.

Speaking of Sparkey and Tulane, Sparkey has now visited Tulane twice over the last few months, the most recent visit being only several days ago. When my mother and my wife and I were finishing a conversation around Tulane's bed early last week, Tulane said, "I didn't want to interrupt your conversation, but Sparkey was just here. He came through the window and stood by my bed, looking at me, smiling and panting, and wagging his tail furiously." (We all noted that there was a chocolate-chip cookie on the bedside table and Sparkey may have been eying it from across the veil.) Tulane seemed very pleased by this visit, as he did by a similar visit several months ago when Sparkey entered through the closed front door and curled around Tulane's legs under the kitchen table. With each visit, Tulane describes being able to smell Sparkey in the air, and to smell him on his hand after petting his head, long after our favorite golden dog had left the scene.

So, we await Tulane's death, midwifing him through the process, even as we recognize and celebrate Sparkey's anniversary. It is a significant day in our lives, and its importance informs our every waking (and sleeping) moment.

Happy un-Birthday Sparkey! May you run and play and rest in a peaceful and wonderful world, and may you welcome Tulane when he is ready to join you there. We love you, Sparkey!

Friday, August 17, 2007

In Loving Memory: Amos

On August 15th (Keith's birthday), one of Sparkey's oldest friends passed from this life to the next. May he rest in peace, and may his loving family find comfort in a life well lived.

Amos lived just down the hill from us from 1994 to 1998 or so before we moved to new environs a few miles away. Back then, Sparkey being a rambling young man, we would usher him out the back door when he was ready, all alight with a young dog's excitement for adventure. "Go see Amos!" we would say "Stay to the side!" Off he would excitedly bound, over the hill and down the semi-rural street. From neighborhood reports, he would stop at various homes for treats along the way, but he would generally end up at Amos' house where a large yard bordering a lush New England forest would await their playful and curious selves.

A few weeks ago, Mary and Tina and I visited Amos and his loving human mother, paying our respects to one of Sparkey's beloved peers who was struggling with cancer in his front leg. Tina and Amos distractedly checked one another out as older dogs will, and subsequently sat in the grass, their hips inches apart (similarly to how she would often sit with Sparkey). We brought special treats for Amos (and some for his Mom, as well) and enjoyed some nice wet kisses from an old canine man who reminded us so much of our Sparkey. It was lovely to see them both, and we knew that this might very well be the last time we saw Amos in the flesh. With Sparkey's eleven-month anniversary imminent, the poignancy of that moment was not lost on either of us. Perhaps Tina and Amos communicated about this in their own way as well, making a silent deal to meet at The Rainbow Bridge and romp with Sparkey and their other friends when they have both left the Earth behind.

Speaking of The Rainbow Bridge, I now picture Amos' spirit body crossing that great divide, entering a heaven that only dogs can know. Waiting on the other side of that heavenly road is none other than Sparkey, glowing as his most healthy and strong self, ready to welcome Amos to a well-deserved hereafter.

"You served well, my friend," Sparkey says. "You served the family, helped to raise the children, attended to your Mistress, and now it's time to rest and play. Follow me!"

Off they bound across verdant hills, flowering trees waving in the warm breeze, as Amos wonders at his renewed, pain-free, and youthful body. Food and water aplenty are available for the asking, and friends old and new greet them at every turn. Amos and Sparkey, reunited once again.

Rest well, Amos. You were---and are---so loved and revered.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Eleven Months

The dogwood bush on Sparkey's grave, thoughtfully and lovingly purchased and planted by our son Rene, shines when the sunlight strikes its leaves. Sparkey's little corner of the Earth is like a little corner of Heaven, with dappled sunlight, towering white pines, rhododendrons, annuals and perennials, the small marsh beyond. Not fifteen feet from our porch, we overlook his gravesite daily, and often pause by this lovely corner of our humble piece of land.

Eleven months after his death, I regard his grave with a mixture of sadness, gratitude, and nostalgia. A part of me wonders how I can miss a dog---an animal---so much, so very deeply. I also find myself wondering if his body is completely decomposed now. Has it completely returned to the earth, or are there vestiges of his physical body still remaining? Would there be any ability to know that he was gently wrapped in a beautiful, soft, green and brown cloth, or has that too become soil once again? To some these thoughts are morbid. To me, they are a normal process of accepting his physical absence, the fact that we put his body in the earth while it was still warm, each of us taking turns climbing into the grave for a final goodbye.

One might ask how an animal could become such an integral part of one's soul. One might also ask how it could ever be otherwise.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Missing Bob, Loving Tina

Tomorrow is the 11 month anniversary of Sparkey's heart wrenching passing. It feels like yesterday yet the intense pain has eased greatly. But I do miss the old boy, his always rarin' to go spirit, his beautiful Woody pumpkin colors and big wet nose, but especially his expressive, innocent eyes, always waiting for the magic words, "walk outside?".

And in Tina's long summer days alone, I think she misses him even more than we do, but she is well adjusted and spoiled with so much love and affection (and we keep high quality treats comin as her favorite word is "treat?"')

Memories of Sparkey will be with me for the rest of my life, images sketched permanently into the recesses of my heart. He will always be our boy.


Monday, July 02, 2007

10 Months' Time

Today is Sparkey's 10-month anniversary of leaving the physical world, and it is our 18th wedding anniversary. Sparkey graced our relationship with his presence for more than a dozen years, and he was---and is---a big part of who and what our little family is and will be.

Happy Anniversary to us all, and much love to our greatly missed boy.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Nine months have passed. A gestation period for us all. Sparkey's body has been in the ground for three seasons and is entering its fourth, returning from whence it came. As for Sparkey's spirit and soul, they are in places of which we can only dream.

The other day, Mary and I were recalling a very memorable 40th birthday party which a friend of ours had in Vermont back when Sparkey was a robust ten-year-old. No dogs were allowed in the house, but this group of Vermont country homes were situated such that lovely rolling hills and a pond separated them, and the dogs from each home were free to wander the intervening land most of the time. Sparkey and Tina joined the friendly pack of about ten dogs immediately, and they played and ran and frolicked for hours in the green meadow grass, stopping periodically for rest, satisfied panting, and a brief check-in with the more sedentary humans.

Talking about this party and the incredible time that the dogs experienced brought to mind what Dog Heaven might look like: rolling hills, perfect flora and fauna, just enough sun and shade, plenty of clean water, tasty treats, and an abundance of dogs with which to play. I hope that this is what greeted Sparkey at the end of his journey, and that the pleasure of that adventure is great indeed.

As for us here on Terra Firma, life in its physical manifestation goes on. These nine months have seen great adjustment on our part, as well as reconciliation with, and acceptance of, the reality of Sparkey's passing. We will not let the memories fade, but the pain does indeed begin to lessen, leaving in its wake a wistful longing for that which was, even if only for a moment of contact and mutual recognition. But we are satisfied with the full and satisfying life that Sparkey lived, and count ourselves as especially lucky to have come under his watchful and loving gaze during his earthly sojourn.

So, letting go some more, and accepting some more. Grieving a little more. And letting go again.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Eighth Month Dream

Early this morning, I had a very clear dream about Sparkey. He and I were walking on a beautiful wooded path in the autumn, a time of year when his golden coat would match the forest. He was running excitedly back and forth on the path as was his wont when he was in his full adult healthy glory. The path wound along between old brick buildings which had been somewhat subsumed by the forest, although several of the buildings had outdoor patios which people seemed to use to enjoy the splendor of the woods.

A man came up behind us and Sparkey seemed to recognize him, running quickly up to greet him. The man said he remembered Sparkey clearly, and told a brief story how Sparks had once come running up to him in the forest and had given him a kiss. The man described how he had been healed by that kiss and the love which it communicated.

I assume that the man represented a part of me which was healed by Sparkey, and I can clearly see how Sparkey's love will continue to heal me long after his body has returned to the soil. Sitting by his grave yesterday, I told Mary that I could understand now that Sparkey's body was in the earth, but he wasn't really there at all. Mary said, "Yes, that's just his bag of bones, and he shook his bag his bones." Shook indeed. He shook himself free, and it's up to us to be sensitive enough to feel his love from that noncorporeal place.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Today marks seven months that my canine soul-mate, Sparkey, left this world. It feels important to continue to mark these passages for now, to acknowledge the loss and keep letting go.

Spending time with a friend over the weekend, she admitted that she used to think our emotional focus on our dogs---and the general fuss we would make about their seemingly uninteresting doings---was somewhat weird. She also admitted that, over time, she has come to "get it", to understand what that connection is really about, how integral to our lives that animals can become. I appreciated that insight, and imagined all of the people who we bored to tears over the years with our endless and tireless fawning over Sparkey and Tina.

Every animal lover thinks that their animal is the most special creature in the world---and they're so correct in thinking so. It is that bond, that ineffable string of emotional connection, that knits an animal into a family structure. Mary and I have been married almost eighteen years, and Sparkey was with us for fourteen of those years, Tina for twelve. That's a long time to have creatures who are so dependent, so loyal, and so totally and unconditionally focused on you and your daily life, always there when you come home, always ready to wag a tail and look into your eyes.

For those who cannot really understand this loss, I am sorry for that which they have missed. Loving an animal, and cleaving him or her close to one's heart, is a wondrous thing, and an experience not to be taken for granted. I am so grateful to Sparkey for his years of service and loyalty, and I continue to honor and thank him for his devotion. As a spiritual person, I truly believe that Sparkey was (and is) a member of my soul family, and although our physical proximity has changed, our tender connection cannot.

These seven months will eventually be seven years, then seventeen, then twenty-seven, and more. He will always live in my heart and memory, and more importantly, deep in my soul.


Saturday, March 31, 2007

Early Spring Without Sparks

These are some of the days when I miss Sparkey alot. It's early Spring, and the weather is starting to warm, but it's still a little chilly, especially in the shade. We feel drawn outside to the sun, but know that it's not quite as warm as we would like.

Mary and Tina settle in for a weekend afternoon nap, but I feel the need to at least get some sun on my face and stretch my legs. When Sparkey was alive, these were the times when he and I would head for the outdoors, leaving the two females of the household to enjoy their sleepy bliss. With water, a snack, a book in hand, and loyal Sparkey at my side, we would stroll out the door and head for the trails. Sometimes, I wanted to stretch out in the sun, or just read for a while. He'd sit beside me, smell the breeze, watch the horizon, sometimes wandering off for a few minutes' parambulation. When he was a little younger, I'd hop on my bike and he would jog effortlessly alongside.

Sadly, today I had to head out that door alone, and simply feel Sparkey's spirit beside me, imagining his golden body trotting alongside, tongue hanging out, eyes soft and warm. I returned to the house, sat by his grave, talked to him in my mind, and came back in to wake Mary and Tina from their slumber.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Tribute to Pookah the Wonder Dog

On 3/3/07, 12:45 pm, Pookah theWonder Dog, at the age of 18 ½, took her last breath with the assistance of a local kind veterinarian.

Pookah was raised by Niki, Renee, Andy, Leslie and Jeff Staudinger next to a horse farm in South Royalton, VT. Pookah and I became the best of friends 10+ years ago.

She was extraordinary.

She would…

run next to only the family cars as they left home(clocked at 25 mph) for years.

Bunny hop in deep snow

When she was young her whole body would shake when she was in cars- after I came along she loved hanging her head out the window and was always eager with the words, “wanna go for a
ride Poo?”

She raised many kitties in her life and would groom each one of them with tiny nibbles as though massaging them, making them hers.

She loved rolling on her back, frolicking, scratching, in the hay fields near the house on our walks- (This was such a pleasure to watch)

4 or 5 years ago she had a stroke or an inner ear infection that had her walking like a drunken sailor for a few days. ( She recovered near fully---the only residual being that she was less fastidious in her plate-cleaning abilities.)

She would purr as her kitties had taught her.

She would run for miles as the alpha dog in the neighborhood, going on horseback rides with the
neighbors' trail rides with their pack of 5+ dogs.

She loved getting treats I would buy or be gifted for her from the local cafĂ©---Mocha Joes. She loved RB’s Deli.

She would be given treat of bagels from neighbors and carry them home to bury them beneath Renee’s pillow.

Her last Thanksgiving we expected her to sleep up in Leslie’s room but instead she was in the center of the action---eating and being social for hours.

She loved Nancy Zoe’s seders and meals and the gourmet treats from Pat and Ralph at the Greenfield Contra dances.

Her picture hangs in Rivendell Books in Montpelier---maybe two.

At her visit to the Long Island Sound in CT, on the occasion of my Mother’s funeral, Poo drank from the salty water and was confused.

At the end she weighed nearly half her healthy weight.

Skunked once---porcupined once.

Rumor has it she was well mannered and never received table scraps while at the table until she met me.

Such regal qualities she had.

Rarely in the past many years when we would head home, would I not say repeatedly , “ I hope Poo’s ok.”

In the heat of Summer, she would dig holes beneath the shrubbery to lie in or lie beneath the vans’ back wheels.

I have an extra heavy winter coat with a rabbit fur hood lining that Pooh was fond of eating in her younger years.

She often got burdocked in the fall.

She loved chocolate, wasabi rice crackers, coffee cake,chocolate chip cookies, smoked-peppered mackerel fish skin, ice cream.

Her snout often got caught in 6-ounce yogurt containers or pints of ice cream. Towards the end she developed a remarkable jaw grip, release and spin technique to get all the way around an ice cream pint without letting it down.

She used to get stroked by Andy so softly so as not to disturb her.

Niki often had the refrain…”Oh look at her Mommy. She is sooo Cute!!!”

For the past year or so she has had no hearing and little sight but today, she sure lifted her ears when Leslie walked in saying “Hi Poo, how are you honey?”

Today before the last ride to the Vet’s, Poo feasted on many of her favorite treats,

Today was the day because yesterday was the first day she could not maintain her balance or stand or walk for any length of time.

She did not deserve to suffer---prior to yesterday she showed me few signs of distress as she could get up, eat, drink, etc. of her own accord.

Today she was in no apparent discomfort.

Thank you for honoring her and me in reading this.

Thank you for your love Pookah.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Memories of Snowy Days Past

Today marks six months that Sparkey has been physically gone from us. This photo brings back such memories of winter days past, when Sparkey would want to play in the snow for hours. The wind would lift his ears, crystals of snow dotting his forehead, and it seemed like he might fly off, squinting eyes and all.

Tina has become our joy, our wiggling playmate, but Sparkey is still sorely missed. I think of his body in the front yard, resting in the cold and damp winter earth, reminding myself that that body is not really him. He was a spiritual creature, but his earthiness was just so visceral and palpable. His smell, his solid body, his pointy head, his musky paws, his little wild eyelashes, that neck that you could hug and hug---his physical presence was such a comfort.

It's now half a year since he left this world, and before we know it a year will have gone by. I could never have imagined life without him, but here we are, and life goes on. We love him still.


Monday, February 12, 2007

I Miss Sparkey

I miss Sparkey today. Plain and simple, I just miss him, his pointy little head, his soulful eyes. Nothing to do, nothing to say. It just is.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Five Months

Today is Sparkey's five-month anniversary of being released from his body. I mark this second day of February by sending love to him, thanking him for his visits, and admitting that there are days when I miss him so much I would give anything to pat his pointy little head.

Yes, death is only a change and the spirit knows no bounds, but the loss of those soulful eyes, that regal gait, the swishing tail, and yes, the bad breath, is at times still so stinging.

His body lies out there in our yard, becoming one with the earth, returning to from whence it came. I just miss his physical warmth and loyal proximity, and that's a simple reality of being a survivor.

I miss my boy, and I send him my love.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007


A few nights ago, Mary was upstairs and I was getting ready to carry Tina up and get ready for bed (Tina had knee surgery a month ago and still can't climb stairs). When I got to the top of the stairs and was about to put Tina down, I could have sworn I heard Sparkey's pitter-patter of paws on the wood floor of the dining room on the first floor. Suddenly, Mary came out of the bedroom without my having uttered a word and said, "I think I heard Sparkey downstairs!" We looked at each other and then yelled, "Hi, Sparkey, we love you!"

Again, yesterday, I was walking Tina around the block before Mary came home. When we got back to the house, Tina went straight to Sparkey's grave, pulling me with all her might. (She generally shows no interest in this part of the yard, usually having much greater interest in getting back inside to the warmth and waiting treats.) Once she was next to the grave, she sat down and would not move, staring fixedly at the grave. I stroked her and acknowledged that, yes, this is where Sparkey's body was buried. She then turned around and sat absolutely still, watching a spot near the house very intently.

A few moments later, I saw Mary's car rounding the corner of our street, so Tina and I made our way towards the driveway which is not within sight of our house but lies down a wooded path between our neighbor's homes. As we came down the path, Mary got out of her car and exclaimed that she could have sworn that she saw Sparkey trotting behind us. I then told her about Tina's behavior at the grave and we both looked at one another and smiled.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Four Months

Today is four months since Sparkey left us and got his wings. Yesterday, January 1st, was the birthday we chose for him, since we didn't really know when he was born. I'm pretty sure he was born in December of 1992, though, based on when Mary found him and how old the vet thought he was.

The ache for his company is not as strong as it was at first, but I still miss him. He always seemed to be there. He was great fun at the holidays, with shiny and colorful bows stuck to his head, or those humiliating doggie antlers.

Tina does seem lonely sometimes, especially when we come home from a long day at work. Even though a teenage girl from the neighborhood spends an hour with her each afternoon at three, there's no substitute for family. She just doesn't have anyone to talk to when we're gone, but we just don't want another dog---not yet.

I know alot of people feel deeply connected on a soul level with their pets, and I am one of those people. Sparkey was much more than a dog. He was so tuned in to the human world. I still feel his connection to me even now, and I thank him for his loyal service to our family.

Is it morbid to continue to write about him and mourn his passing? Maybe, but it sure is therapeutic, and a nice way to keep his memory alive. Four months apart in the face of almost fourteen years together is such a comparatively brief time. I miss him, and feel his love still.

Four months, and counting.