Constant Companions

Lake Michigan is my constant ever changing companion these days.

Here is the view from my 20th floor window today. I have been looking at the lake this morning, listening to Van Morrison.

His growling soulful voice asks me:

“I wanna know did you get the feelin’? Did you get it down in your soul? I wanna know oh did you get that feelin’ And did the feelin’ grow? Oh did ye get healed?”

A friend of mine, who has since passed away, was a Pottawattamie Native American. She told me that Native Americans view water as “woman’s medicine.”

Well, it sure works for me.

I have another constant companion, my dog Buddy. Minutes can change to hours that drift into whole afternoons watching the lake with my little canine friend lying next to me, The combination of the lake, the dog, and the music wash over me and create a state of inner calm.

So is this “women’s medicine?” Or is this God’s hand?

I don’t have the definitive answer. But I have the feelin’.

And that is enough for me today.


Home is where your dog is

We recently relocated to Chicago from a Midwestern town in Michigan, a place we called home, a place where we raised our two boys. We lived there for 24 years.

It was “home” in every sense of the word, friends, music, fall football games at the local high school, Christmas memories of holiday secrets and very special presents, boys all slicked up for High School dances, pumpkins carved, babies born, parents passing away. Living there was a tapestry of kids growing up, casserole suppers dropped off by friends when times were tough, flowers on the front porch, chatting with neighbors while doing yard work, birthday and high school graduation parties.

Last year my husband, like many other victims of the Michigan economy, lost his job. Michigan has had a particularly rough go of it, with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. After a couple of months looking, we decided he had to cast his net further in the job-hunt and he found a job in Chicago.

We sold our home and most of our possessions and rented an apartment in downtown Chicago. We find ourselves in the curious position of starting over in our mid-fifties. Chicago is a great city to explore and we have discovered restaurants and music venues, museums and other haunts that a smaller town doesn’t provide. And yet, it somehow seems like we are on a long vacation, so much so that sometimes we slip and say “Let’s go back to the hotel,” in referring to our apartment. It all seems like a crazy dream and that any point we will go back home.

Curiously, one of the things that make this place feel most like home is our dog Buddy. He is a conversation starter on the street, he gets us out of our apartment on daily walks, and he is ready and waiting to greet us at the door.

Here is one thing we’ve discovered:
Home is where your dog is.

Buddy for President!

It is that time in the presidential election cycle when things begin to get, well, a bit dicey. Honestly if I get one more nasty email forwarded or Facebook post about either candidate, I think I am going to move to Canada.

Each candidate begins the race like a playground brawl, with insults hurled, exaggerations of the truth, and much posturing. Then it escalates. At this point in the game, it is at a fevered pitch, not unlike two little boys insulting each other’s mothers with a “Yo Mama! Oh yeah, really? Bring-it-on!” braggadocio.

That wouldn’t happen if my dog Buddy was running for president. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He doesn’t even get mad if you accidentally pour pancake batter on his head. Further, he has attributes that I think everyone would like to see in a presidential candidate.

1. You know where he stands.

No flip-flopping. No running to the polls here, he DOESN’T like plastic bags, he DOES like Milkbones and that ain’t gonna change.

2. He is loyal.

If he is your friend today, he is your friend tomorrow.

3. He is reassuring.

When he snuggles up next to you at the end of the day, it gives you that feeling that everything will be fine. Whatever happened to the kind of President who told us we had “nothing to fear, but fear itself,” or that the “torch had been passed to a new generation?” Messages from the president were once confidence infused. Now all we get it bickering.

Given this, I think Buddy would make an excellent president.

He has my vote.

Doggy Jedi Mind Tricks

When my younger son was three years old I heard him yelling, “Mommy, Mommy!” in that tone of voice that could mean that he amputated his toe with a Tonka truck or something. My mommy antennae bobbling, I rushed to the family room to see what the matter was.

“I need some chocolate in my mouf!” He proclaimed.

It was in this instant that I recognized in no uncertain terms that this child was mine. No switched-at birth-child here, no mix-up in the hospital nursery, I understood his yearning. So off to the pantry I went in search of a chocolate chip bar disguised as a healthy breakfast item for him.

So why would anything be different with my dog?

Buddy will be in a sound sleep on the couch, awaken abruptly with a lurch and then sit up next to me with a fixed stare, which we call “THE LOOK.”

It is as if he is attempting a Jedi Mind Trick, not unlike Obi Wan Kenobi, in the move, Star Wars: A New Hope.

You know, when Luke, Obi Wan and the droids are stopped by Imperial Storm Troopers, and Obi Wan waves them off, “These aren’t the droids you are looking for, move along,” and off the Storm Troopers go in a daze.

Buddy will give us THE LOOK, and as if we are the recipients of a Jedi Mind Trick, off we go to the pantry.

“Here is a little doggy treat for you Buddy!” we say, victims of his mind mastery.

It turns out our dog is a Jedi Master. Who knew?

May the force be with you Buddy!


Illusions of Grandeur


I think that Buddy is suffering from illusions of grandeur.

He thinks he is a BIG dog.

He isn’t. He is a sixteen pound little puff ball

Apparently he doesn’t think so. When I take him to the doggy park, he jumps up on benches and rocks so he is eyeball-to-eyeball with the biggest dog in the park. He has absolutely no use for dogs that are his size. He wants to run with the BIG BOYS. He wants to carry the BIG stick.

I understand.

I remember announcing at dinner one evening when I was around ten years old that I had something important to discuss with my supposed parents. I had read about Princess Anne of England in my Weekly Reader, and of course had come to understand that I had been switched at birth with her. The intention of the switch was to ensure that I wouldn’t be spoiled, and that when I reached the age of 18 I would return to England and take my rightful place among British royalty.

I was indignant when my parents burst into laughter. Worse, after that my mother began to call me “Queenie,” as in “Go pick up your toys, Queenie.”

I am not going to burst Buddy’s bubble. If he thinks he is big, then he IS big.

“You go get ‘em, Buddy, you are a BIG BOY!”
photo: Buddy with Stick by Andrew McIntyre

The Dark Side

Living with Buddy is sometimes like living in the horse head bed scene in the movie The Godfather. You know, when the movie producer wakes to find the head of his prized horse in his bloodied bed.

Yeah, like that.

One look around our apartment is like the set from a bad horror movie. Little chewed and maimed stuffed critters are strewn on the floor. They are in a number of stages of ruin, missing ears, tails; their noses and faces are demolished.

Lured by clever pet toy marketers, I try to purchase durable toys. “Tuff stuff! Guaranteed to last! Dura-tough!” the labels read. Hopeful, I purchase one of these supposed long lasting toys and in a matter of MINUTES Buddy will have chewed off one of the poor thing’s extremities.

One would think an adorable, sixteen pound flutternut of a pooch would not be capable of such sadistic behavior, but he apparently has a darker side.