Category: Art

Memories of Diego

Another reminder of what our dogs mean to us.

Or, more specifically, what Diego meant for Laura Bruzzese. (This will be the second in the series We Shall Not Forget Them.)


Dog Love In August

collarAugust is the start of the dying season. Garden things begin their slow shrink into the earth, the days grow shorter and cooler, lazy ocean- or mint-scented summer days snap into rigid schedules of work and school.

August is also the month that I lost Diego, my first dog. You can get acquainted with Diego here, a post I wrote a few days before he died. But I would like to share a little more now, on the second anniversary of his departure.

Diego was a poser, in a very literal sense of the word. He loved having his picture taken; in fact, he insisted on it whenever he saw me holding the camera. This picture, for example: it was taken the day I brought my daughter home from the hospital, the day after 21 hours of hard labor produced an eight-and-a-half-pound baby who actually stopped halfway out of my body, looked around, and scowled before resuming her reluctant journey onto the planet. (She was 12, twelve days overdue, FYI all you mothers out there who can surely feel my pain.)

There is something screaming in the bed. Please make it stop before it explodes.
There is something screaming in the bed. Please make it stop before it explodes.

I laid baby Isabella down, stepped back with the camera, looked up, and there he was: Diego, staring. Fifty-eight pounds of solid, unmoving dog. Insisting that I photograph him, too, with this creature that he wasn’t sure if he should guard against or lick. This child who personified the singular emotion of furious for the first nine weeks of her life (if she was not sleeping or eating, she was screaming).

Oh, hi Aunt Rosie. I know you’ve passed on, but I’ll bet you can still hear that screaming baby wherever you are.
Oh, hi Aunt Rosie. I know you’ve passed on, but I’ll bet you can still hear that screaming baby wherever you are.

When my doula told me that the colic or distemper or petite innards or whatever it was making Isabella so unhappy would resolve itself in about nine weeks, I said oh, that’s nice. But I won’t be alive for nine weeks of this. I’ll be in an asylum acquainting myself with a selection of opiates, or at the bottom of the mighty Rio Grande; so behold, an orphan.

But somehow, I survived. And Diego was part of it.

You see, from the very beginning, it was just us — the two of us, the three of us.  I was abandoned by my husband before Isabella was born, a painful time that I don’t often write about.

Within a matter of weeks, the married-and-expecting life I’d known was gone, and I was left to fumble around with the pieces, a wreckage sitting on a pile of broken glass in the dark. The small hours of it were the worst, waking up alone and panicked in the middle of the night wondering how (or if) I would live through the next weeks and years. And Diego was always there, a silent and comforting presence curled at the foot of the bed or coming up to lick my tears if I was crying, which was basically all the time. He was always there.

dog-and-babyI have a teenager now and those days seem ancient. While I rebuilt my life, Isabella grew up and Diego grew old. And finally, in his sixteenth year, he began to deteriorate to the point of pain. I knew he wouldn’t be with me much longer and I had already called the vet to ask her how it worked — when do you know it’s time? Do I take him to the office, or do you come to the house? Will he feel anything? I planned to schedule an appointment soon; I hadn’t had to make this decision before and it was a very painful.

On the morning of August 9 before I left for work, I told Diego that we would have to say good-bye soon because his body wasn’t working right anymore. I told him that I loved him and it was okay for him to go. Over and over I told him I loved him.

Less than two hours later, he drowned in the pond.

I think it was his way of avoiding the vet (he hated the clinic), and maybe sparing me that particular pain. I’m not going to say that I wasn’t devastated. But rather than remembering the urgent phone call at work from Isabella, or the vision of him when I got home, or my step-father struggling to carry the terrible weight of him away, I like to imagine Diego simply being received by the fish and toads. Delivered from his pain by warm water, wrapped in a blanket of lilies.

lilyAnyone who has cared for pets perhaps knows that there is one, a special one, who will always occupy the largest piece of real estate in your heart, though others may follow. That was Diego for me.

But now we’re lucky enough to share our lives with another dog, the rascally, neurotic, road trip-loving Velma. I’ll end this post with a short video of her that reminds me of exactly what I love about dogs: their absolute and abundant connection with life, free of judgement, agenda, or desire to be anything other than what they are. That’s what I think of every time I see Velma in her Writhe of Exquisite Happiness. Perfect contentment of being.


Laura wrote and published this back in August, 2012. But her words, emotions and feelings are those that never age. Indeed, I would add her courageous words.

Goodbye Buddy

The words of Jim and Janet Goodbrod.
buddy1It was finally time to say the last goodbye to our old Buddy.  Life had become an intolerable burden.  His spirit wanted to keep going, but his failing body could not keep up.  We ended his suffering and gently nudged him into that deep and eternal sleep last Wednesday.

Rest in peace old man! You made it 16-17 years. You aren’t in pain any longer and can run and play like you used to. We had you for only about 10 months, but loved you and we’re glad we could make your last year a good one.  Forget the horrible abuse you suffered as a puppy, and remember only the love and joy you gave us in your last days on this planet.

A Dog’s Plea

Treat me kindly, my beloved friend, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.

Do not break my spirit with a stick, for although I should lick your hand between blows, your patience and understanding will quickly teach me the things you would have me learn.

Speak to me often, for your voice is the world’s sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footsteps falls upon my waiting ear.

Please take me inside when it is cold and wet, for I am a domesticated animal, no longer accustomed to bitter elements. I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth. Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst.

Feed me clean food that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life, should your life be in danger.

And, my friend, when I am very old, and I no longer enjoy good health, hearing and sight, do not make heroic efforts to keep me going. I am not having any fun. Please see that my trusting life is taken gently. I shall leave this earth knowing with the last breath I draw that my fate was always safest in your hands.

Beth Norman Harris

Remembering is so important!

I am speaking of our departed dogs.

Last year I instigated a new ‘page’ on Learning from Dogs. It was entitled We Shall Not Forget Them. It was introduced by me as follows:

For millions, the relationship between a person and their dog is precious beyond words. Do you still grieve the loss of your wonderful dog? Let us all know what your dog meant to you. Write whatever you want. Leave it as a thought to this page.

Then it became clear that this was not going to work properly. Because each note of remembrance was, in effect, a comment. And I discovered that under WordPress it is not possible to insert a photograph. I struggled to think of a better way of doing it. Then earlier yesterday it came to me.

I will make each message of condolence, each reflection on how special the dog was, a new and separate blog post. In other words, each dog gets their own post for a full day.

Then each time a condolence is sent in, I will update the We Shall Not Forget Them post with the name of the departed dog, the date and a link to the blog post that has the details and memories of the animal.

I hope that makes sense!

To underline how it is going to work, I am starting off with the words of loss, and photographs, of Jim and Janet’s Buddy.

That post will be published in an hour’s time and will be linked to as I described above.


So I am reaching out to Susan, Asha, Katrina and Whisperofthedarkness – each of you has left a memory as a comment to here.

Please do email me some photographs and any further recollections you would like me to post, and I will do for you as I have done for Buddy.

(Laura, I shall go to that link and republish what you wrote.)

Happy Birthday, Maggie

A further guest post for the first of February.

I was emailed as follows back on the 25th January:

Hi Paul,
I hope all is well with you and Jean and the furry kids. About a month ago, you had mentioned that you would welcome a post about Maggie in honor of her 9th birthday.

Maggie was very enthusiastic about this venture and managed to write a little blog with her advice on aging. I have enclosed the result for your review.

Her birthday is on 2/3. Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity.  Take care!

Kind Regards,

Susan & Maggie

Ergo, this coming Friday is Maggie’s birthday.


Maggie’s Advice on Aging


Hello! My name is Maggie.

I have a much longer AKC registered moniker that Mom & Dad christened me with but it’s ridiculous so I just shortened it.

Anyway, Paul was so gracious to invite me to do a post for all of you good folks at Learning from Dogs. Since I have a birthday coming up (in case you are wondering, I’ll be 9), I thought what better topic to write about than aging.

To me, age is just a number. I know that is a cliché but it’s the truth! I don’t know what other dogs my age do but I’m not ready to just lay down on the couch. Not me! I’ve got too many things to do and way too many places to see.

Here are some of my tips on how you can feel like a puppy:

  1. Take your vitamins – I will admit. After Mom and Dad replaced my favorite brand of fish oil with another one that didn’t taste so good, I refused to take the pill. They would try and hide it in my food but I would just find it and set it to the side. I mean, who do they think they are dealing with? They finally wised up and now I am back to my brand. Some of you might be thinking, fish oil, yuck! Seriously, I swear by it. It promotes heart health and it keeps my coat silky smooth. I also have these tasty Milk Bone vitamins that help me to stay healthy and they even improve joint mobility! That way I will be keeping the ‘rents on their toes for years to come.
  2. Get off the couch – Yes, I like couch time with my Mom and Dad but I love nothing more than to lollygag in our gigantic backyard playing ball. I will do this for hours! My bipeds on the other hand, they have their limits. I also enjoy going for walks in this cool, new park near our house. It’s in the woods and I love all the places I can explore. Just being active is not only good for you but it keeps you engaged and learning new things all the time.
  3. Annual checkups – Going to the vet isn’t fun. I don’t know anyone that enjoys it. However, I know that everything they do for me keeps me healthy. The ‘rents see to it that I get my yearly vaccinations and physical. It keeps me in tip top shape so I will be barking at them for years to come. Mom loves it when I yell at her.
  4. Watch your diet – Okay. I will admit this one bites. If I had my way, I would be chowing down on all kinds of good things like meat, cheese, bacon…. the list goes on and on. I need to watch my girlish figure! I eat the best food with no preservatives and it’s also chockful of vitamins. Believe it or not, I love my yummy meals, they taste good!
  5. It’s the little things – This is what happiness is for me. I love nothing more than playing with the really cool stuffed teddies Dad got me or going for rides in the car with Mom. I really like family time when we watch movies and cuddle on the couch. Just being with my two favorite people in the world keeps me going. We spend quite a bit of time hanging out and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I hope you found these tips helpful. It was fun spending time with all of you. Take care and give your parents a hug! They deserve it.




That’s one hell of a smart dog!

Summer and Millie

Now to the second of this week’s guest posts.

Bob Derham and his wife, Julie, are long-term friends back in the UK.

They recently lost their two dogs.

Bob sent me this:

Millie and Summer both had a fun life.

They were cross breed dogs, partly Springer Spaniel and part Collie. They were born in Wales, but as there are quite a lot of similar dogs there, the owner advertised in a local paper, and brought them up to Dorset one weekend 13 years ago.

Initially we had been looking for only one dog, but it seemed such a shame to separate the two puppies so we decided to take both. Most people were of the opinion that two girls from the same litter was not a good idea, but nevertheless we trained them, and the two animals were always together.
Family holidays, walking the children to the school bus, visiting friends, etc., always included Millie and Summer.

Just over two years ago, Summer became diabetic.  Had this been only ten years ago, nothing could have been done for her, but we were able to inject her twice a day, and keep her healthy, apart from failing sight as a result of the insulin. It was not long after that Millie developed the same problem, so both dogs had the same routine.
Summer went to the vets on the right day for her, and was put to sleep peacefully, and two weeks later Millie needed the same choice to be made.

They enjoyed an almost identical lifespan, and we enjoyed them to the full.

Bob and Julie’s daughter Stephanie then made the following video in memory of their two beloved dogs.

Back to me.

Going to close today’s post with this poem by Rudyard Kipling.


The Power of the Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie–
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find–it’s your own affair–
But…you’ve given your heart for a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone–wherever it goes–for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for the dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long–
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Rudyard Kipling
Dogs bring out so much beauty and love in us.

Picture Parade One Hundred and Eighty-One

Sent to me by Dordie Lamphier from next door.

First some background to the pictures that are presented both today and in a week’s time.

Little Kids and Big Dogs

Andy Seliverstoff is a 58-year-old professional photographer from St. Petersburg, Russia. A few years ago some of Seliverstoff’s friends asked him to take photos of their daughter Alice in a park. They had their gigantic Great Dane, Sean, with them, so they decided to incorporate him into the photos. After seeing the results, he knew he was on to something special.

Seliverstoff did another shoot with a child featuring big dogs, and told BuzzFeed News that he was “deeply touched” by the work. That was four years ago and he’s been a dog photographer ever since.

The project has become his passion, which he chronicles in a book called “Little Kids and Their Big Dogs.“

All of the photos are taken in St. Petersburg. Its extensive parks and colder climate help create some spectacular shots.

Seliverstoff said the goal of the series wasn’t just to create beautiful pictures, but to capture the interaction between the children and the animals.










These are stunningly beautiful. Thanks Dordie.

The final set of eight photographs next Sunday.


Funny how things flow at times.

In yesterday’s post about the cleverness of chickens, John Zande, a long-time friend of this place, left this remark:

I have a marvellous blogging friend in New Mexico who has Rufina, a chicken who was shot in the head, sealed in a plastic bag, placed in a freezer for 24hrs, and lived! (albeit now blind).

I have a framed poster of Rufina up in my living room, and even one her feathers perched in one of my many, many, many St. Francis’s

Here’s the Huffington Post article on her

And here’s Laura’s first post on this gorgeous creature.

Then in response to me wanting to republish that story replied: “Contact her, she’s wonderful, and her pottery is to die for.

So I did and, with Laura’s permission here is that story of this most remarkable chicken.


The Undead Chicken

by Laura Bruzzese, June 24th, 2013

rufinaThis is Rufina. She’s new to our household.

She’s quiet and doesn’t take up much space, mostly sits on her perch or in her ceramic nest all day. She moves around slowly. If you are really gentle, she lets you pick her up.

We sit by the pond together in the morning, before everyone else gets up.

rufina1Last Thursday, I answered a friend’s call on Facebook for someone to take this chicken. Isabella and I drove to my friend’s house in the South Valley, put her in a bin, and brought her home. I didn’t think she’d actually still be alive today.

My friend had posted this story Thursday morning:

The neighbor gave us fresh chickens last night for cooking up. He shot them in the head with gun and handed them over the fence. We bagged them and put in freezer for today. Evan gets home, opens freezer and one bird is perched fully alive, very cold, and pissed off.
Chase ensues… !! We now have a blind undead chicken in our yard.

Anybody want it?

I’m not sure why anyone would shoot chickens in the head.

But when I read the story, I couldn’t help but admire this chicken’s tenacity. She is courageous. She made her way out of a plastic bag inside a freezer and survived for thirty-six hours. After being shot in the head.  I figured any animal that fought that hard to live deserved a little help, if only for a day or two.

The chicken hasn’t made any effort to eat like a normal chicken. Because, of course, she can’t see where to peck. (There isn’t much point in force-feeding a blind chicken.) But she does drink, so I’ve started blending up borrowed chicken food and water and giving her that. She seems content, grooming herself sometimes, showing no signs of pain or anxiety. And still, she will die.

But until then, we will enjoy each of her borrowed mornings by the pond, the sound of birds and running water, the sun on her feathers, expecting nothing.

I’m not sure why I have a blind, undead chicken in my studio. But here is one of my favorite poems, by Laura Gilpin.

The Two-Headed Calf

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.



Now if you think that was remarkable then let me share what Laura posted a few weeks later, linked to via her Epilogue above.


The Miracle of Re-Birth

by Laura Bruzzese, July 11th, 2013

Good news: it’s been three weeks since the attempted murder of Rufina, and she continues to dwell among the living!

rufina2After loads of eye care, foot washing, antibiotics, food and vitamins, she has gained weight and is learning to find food and water by herself. Her remaining eye looks normal again but is still blind (I was hoping for a miracle), and the place of its former pair seems to have reached its majority in terms of healing–no eye, but no skin, either. Just a weird,  green spot surrounded by red skin that looks not unlike a tiny sun-dried tomato.

But that does not prevent her daily forays into the garden where she walks around with her head craned forward to “feel” where she’s going, and from exhibiting other persisting chicken qualities that seem to evidence a contented life.

rufinaagainI’m still surprised, and slightly in awe of this traumatized chicken who is satisfied to reside indefinitely on my studio porch. Shiny, happy chicken.

And so far, Velma the Rascally Whippet has not been the nuisance I was afraid she might be, but instead, a proud example of a bird-dog in defiance of her own natural instincts (save for one minor incident involving a tail feather. That was still attached to Rufina.). Perhaps Velma knows they are kindred spirits, she herself having survived a scary encounter with the Great Beyond earlier this year.

velmaThanks to everyone who has contributed free chicken advice, food, ER and vet consults, and even a couple of adorable, surprise chicks* (!) to keep Rufina company.

chicks*Chicks will unfortunately be dispatched to some other venue because they are exploiting their sighted advantage: stealing food out of Rufina’s mouth, crowding the water dish, and mocking her by constantly blinking and sticking their tongues out.  Also, they are filthy little creatures that walk in their own poop and then jump on me.

And finally, what’s in a name? When it became clear that chicken might live, I thought I should name her, and Rufina was the first thing that popped into my head. A few days later, I googled it to see what came up. This is what I found on Wiki:

Saints Justa and Rufina (Ruffina) (Spanish: Santa Justa y Santa Rufina) are venerated as martyrs. They are said to have been martyred at Hispalis (Seville) during the 3rd century.

Their legend states that they were sisters and natives of Seville who made fine earthenware pottery for a living, with which they supported themselves and many of the city’s poor. Justa was born in 268 AD, Rufina in 270 AD, of a poor but pious Christian family. During a pagan festival, they refused to sell their wares for use in these celebrations. In anger, locals broke all of their dishes and pots. Justina and Rufina retaliated by smashing an image of Venus.

The city’s prefect, Diogenianus, ordered them to be imprisoned. Failing to convince them to renounce their faith, he had them tortured on the rack and with iron hooks. This method also having failed, they were imprisoned, where they suffered from hunger and thirst.

They were then asked to walk barefoot to the Sierra Morena; when this did not break their resolve, they were imprisoned without water or food. Justa died first. Her body, thrown into a well, was later recovered by the bishop Sabinus. Diogenianus believed that the death of Justa would break the resolve of Rufina. However, Rufina refused to renounce her faith and was thus thrown to the lions. The lion in the amphitheatre, however, refused to attack Rufina, remaining as docile as a house cat. Infuriated, Diogenianus had Rufina strangled or beheaded and her body burned. Her body was also recovered by Sabinus and buried alongside her sister in 287 AD.

Old Master Paintings Sale Sotheby's, London - July, 4 , 2007 Velazquez (1599 - 1660) Saint Rufina Estimate: 6,000,000 - 8,000,000 Copyright in this image shall remain vested in Sotheby’s. Please note that this image may depict subject matter which is itself protected by separate copyright. Sotheby’s makes no representations as to whether the underlying subject matter is subject to its own copyright, or as to who might hold such copyright. It is the borrower's responsibility to obtain any relevant permissions from the holder(s) of any applicable copyright and Sotheby’s supplies this image expressly subject to this responsibility.
Saint Rufina, by Velázquez. See the likeness?? She’s even carrying a giant feather!

Just another name? Perhaps. Or: a dark-haired Spaniard and a Italian-New Mexican, two Christian potters separated by centuries, a saint, a chicken, and an ordinary human united in an extraordinary coincidence of the undead.


Follow that!

Well I can’t but John Zande can.

For he was the first to leave a comment to Laura’s Rebirth post:

Here, i feel this song is in order. Listen carefully to the words, and who is singing them.

Including the following in his comment.

Revisiting the language of love.

That is the language of love spoken by our beautiful dogs.

The present unreliability of our internet connection prompted me to think about re-posting whatever I had posted exactly a year ago. It only took me a minute to look it up and, bingo, what a perfect topic for these wintry days.


As our dear dogs speak it.

You will recall that last Friday I featured an item under the title of Private First Class Lingo. The item had been brought to my attention by Constance Frankland.

Well here’s another really special story that Constance came across on a website called Arditor and I wanted to share it with you.


The Language of Love

love8 Ways Your Dog is Saying I Love You

Although dogs don’t speak our language, they are constantly trying to tell us that they love us and always showing love through their actions. Unfortunately, many shrug their shoulders or get annoyed over their dogs’ love gestures.
Here are 8 ways your dog is saying “I love you”…

waggingTail Wagging

Similar to a cat, a dog’s tail is a communication tool. In fact it is sometimes more accurate in translating its emotions than barking. Held at different positions, a dog’s wag could communicate excitement, fear, threat or submission. If your dog’s tail is held in a relaxed position and wagging all together with its entire butt, it means it is very happy to see you.

lickingFace Licking

Warm, sticky, wet and stinky! We know this can get annoying but licking a person’s face is a love gesture from a dog. Dogs lick faces for a few reasons. Mainly, if your pet dog is licking your face, he is trying to groom you! Grooming is an intimate gesture only done after a strong connection is made between dogs (so now you know he sees you as one of his kind). On the other hand, if a stranger dog licks your face, it is simply trying to say that he is harmless and friendly.

following3Following You Wherever You Go

This is another behaviour that can get on your nerves, especially when your dog attempts to follow you to work! However, it is only a dog’s way to show his love, devotion and loyalty to you. Wherever you are, that is where your dog wants to be. Dogs are extreme social creatures and unlike humans, there is no need for solitude.

Sheltie sleeping with her ownerSleeping with You

Similar to wild wolve packs, wild dogs curl up together to sleep in the night. Rather than sleeping alone in his designated corner, your dog prefers to snuggle right next to you in your bed. If you catch your dog sneaking onto your bed or falling asleep next to you in your couch, it implies that you are his family.


It is no surprise when you see something like a smile on your dog. Dogs do smile too! Research has found that dogs can also show and use facial expressions similar to how humans do. A dog’s smile is another way of showing his love and joy to his owner. Having said that, most of us are guilty of not recognizing our dog’s smile.

crotchCrotch Sniffing

Argh, this is an embarrassing one and how we wished our dogs can quit going around sniffing crotches. But before you start screaming at your dog, try to understand it. This behaviour is in fact a dog’s perculiar way of greeting. More importantly, apart from a hello, it allows the dog to understand and remember you through your scent.

sickTaking Care of You When You are Sick

Does your dog stay by your bed and watch you the whole time while you are nursing a flu? This is its natural instinct to care for a sick or wounded family member, just as they would in the wild. A dog extends its love and care to its sick or injured owner by quietly and patiently watching over him/her. But make sure you hide any superficial wounds away from your dog! It might actually lick your wound as its form of first aid.

leaning2Leaning on You

Whether you are sitting or standing, your dog is leaning on you and wouldn’t budge. You can’t move and you can’t get on with your daily routine. While you are wondering what they are up to, your dog has already got what they needed: your attention. Getting your attention and giving you their attention by leaning on you is their way of showing affection. Next time this happens, stop what you are doing and reciprocate with some love.


This turned out to be more of a Sunday Picture Parade but it seemed too special to hold it from you until the weekend.

No, our dogs don’t speak a language that we humans would recognise as such but, nonetheless, our dogs communicate in ways that still are as magical and special as our human poetry.

Speaking of poetry, let me close today’s post with this.


Wherever you are in the world, with or without a dog in your life, please embrace the power of love.