Dogs Are Strange, Gross And Wonderful, Part Two

Miss Honey on the trail, circa 2010. Photo by CS Sherin

The Story Of The First Dog I Ever Rescued As An Adult, Miss Honey

Sept. 26, 2019

Dogs are embodied joy. Most of the time, when I see a dog, I smile. Most dogs live in the moment with a sweet intensity and playful enthusiasm — it’s irresistible. Dogs are loyal and depend on consistent schedules and their pack/people. Dogs can be such good teachers and wonderful friends. While Shaun had introduced me to some of this, Miss Honey brought me full on into the depths of dog magic and love.

At the end of 2004, while being self-employed at home, and actively caring for a 3 year old daughter and a few cats, I found myself longing for a dog. Our most recent adopted cat at the time, Boris, wanted a dog. I could just tell. Boris was a doggish cat that would greatly appreciate the right kind of dog. My experiences with Aubrey and Shaun probably helped me to have insight into that part of Boris. Doggish cats are certainly the best kind of cats, being a wonderful blend of cat magic and dog wisdom and tendencies — like fetching, the adherence to and need for consistent schedules, and a sense of loyalty and duty. Boris was just such a cat. Having a dog would answer a need in him, and in me. And, this was an opportunity to adopt a dog into the family that my husband and I created together as adults.

I hadn’t had a dog in my life since high school. My father-in-law had a dog, and that fueled my heart’s longing for one to a certain degree. The obstacle, at that time, was my much loved and appreciated life partner/husband, Jeff. He grew up with dogs, and loves and adores them. And, he had a faithful companion, a dog that was his, while growing up. His dog, Gomer, was a Chihuahua-Corgi mix. In all the pictures I saw, from the time Jeff was in middle school and after high school, Gomer was by his side. After Gomer died, Jeff felt unable to open up his heart to a dog again.

Despite this obstacle, it came to be, that my longing for a dog was greater than Jeff’s resistance.

I was looking online at shelters both locally and regionally. I was searching for our dog. I assured Jeff that I would tend to the dog’s needs. He made clear that he would have no part in it.

Some of the private, loving moments of life are shaped, saved, and blessed by beings other than us.

At the beginning of 2005, Jeff’s father died suddenly. He had known that we were looking for a dog. By the middle of June 2005, I had narrowed it down to two dogs at the no-kill county dog shelter, about a half-hour away from our city. One was a little Pug mix named Buzz, and the other was a Beagle-Terrier mix named Summer. I showed our daughter, Samara, and Jeff, the pictures and they agreed that both were cute, and a good size for our family. Jeff especially thought that Summer was adorable, but with a guarded sort of appreciation.

Samara and I drove out to the county shelter. It was a tiny concrete building, just off the freeway. What a sad place it was! A tiny reception room, and through the door a concrete room of kennels with a door outside to a barren fenced-in yard that was sizable. The dogs were all so desperate, sad, and needy. I could barely stand the heartache of their collective pleas, expressed with incessant barking when they saw perhaps someone would take them home. Two people were working who clearly cared deeply for the animals. What the shelter lacked in warmth or comfort was overcome by their dedication. They were eager to introduce us to Buzz and Summer. My heart went out to all the dogs waiting for a home, and I said little prayers for each of them, as I readied myself to perhaps adopt.

Buzz came out first. Buzz was well named! We never actually got to see his face. He was like a tornado, twirling through the room, in tight excited circles. I knew immediately that the cats would not recover from that kind of a dog energy, and we probably wouldn’t either! After Buzz, out came Summer. She walked into the room slowly, and looked at the people working there. She then walked up to me, lowered her head and leaned it against my legs. I spoke with the people as I held her head, and rubbed her satiny soft ears.

She had been brought in by people who said they had found her at another small town’s golf course. She was wandering there. The shelter worker added that this may simply be a story, and that sometimes people surrender animals without admitting that that is what they are doing. One clue, the worker mentioned, was that they had suggested her name was Summer when they brought her in, which the shelter added as her name. Summer was estimated to be 5-7 years old at that time.

I knew, as we sat and petted her, that she needed us, and we needed her. I made the offer to adopt her. Unfortunately, she had just been brought in, so we were forced to wait two weeks, in case someone would claim her. In addition to that hard news, the shelter worker informed me that whomever gets to the shelter first on the first day that she is officially up for adoption, gets her. Back then they opened at 6:30 am.

As Samara and I moved to leave, Summer tried to leave with us. I leaned down and told her that I would return for her. It was so hard for us to leave that day. And for two weeks, our hearts were holding their breath, waiting.

So, it was on my birthday week, in the first week of July, that my daughter and I got up extra early to be at the shelter by 6:30 am to adopt Summer. There was no one else there but the workers, and the adoption was a go!

We re-named her Miss Honey, after the kind, gentle teacher from the book and movie, Matilda, by Roald Dahl. What we noticed about Miss Honey and delighted in, were the following things:

She kept her puppy ears — her ears were like silk. She had the prettiest white eye lashes. And she inherited the Beagle traits of singing, dancing, crooning, and sighing when she feels good.

Miss Honey and Samara. This is in July of 2005, not long after we first adopted Miss Honey.

It wasn’t long before we found out that Miss Honey had some serious health issues. She came to us with Lyme’s disease, a severe bladder infection, and many large and small stones in her bladder, which required surgery. From the x-rays, we learned, as a side note from the veterinarian, that Miss Honey had pellets lodged under her skin, probably from a gun while hunting for small game. It became clear to us that she had been, most likely, abandoned because of her health problems.

In addition to the surgery and recovering from Lyme’s disease, we discovered that Miss Honey didn’t know how to play. In addition to this, she had been traumatized by being abandoned by her people (whether that was at the shelter or near a golf course). She associated getting into a car with being abandoned, and she never recovered from that particular trauma. Even after many years with us, reinforcing that we are her “forever home” over and over and over — the scar and its memory never left. She had issues related to abandonment all her life. Despite this, Miss Honey healed well.

Miss Honey, once she had learned to play and relax in our home as family. Circa 2006

I taught her how to play. And I have Shaun, our dog when I was a kid, to thank for that. I taught Miss Honey how to play by getting down on the floor in the universal position for play in dog language. If you don’t know this position, it is when a dog is lying down with their front legs, with head down, and the back legs are standing, while the tail wags. This position means, “I want to play!” Then, I would play with a toy and gently encourage her to do so as well. I showed her that it was okay, and that she had permission to have fun. At first, if she did join in and start to play, but she would quickly get self-conscious and nervous. Then, she would begin licking her arm obsessively. It took quite a while to get past that stage of fear. The good news is, we did get past it, and she spent many, many years playing with abandon and great enjoyment!

When I first began caring for Miss Honey, and we began those first daily walks, I felt a great joy rise up from my being. It was so healing to have a dog in my life again. In fact, Miss Honey is responsible for much joy, insight, learning, and healing for me and my life — and for my family. I had gained the most loyal, faithful, loving friend, in dog form, that I had known. She held joy and connection for me alone, in some ways. Some would say that I was her Alpha, but really, I was her rescuer, teacher, adopter — and she was mine in many ways.

Miss Honey’s joy on an open trail with us. Bliss walks, we may as well call them. Circa 2009

You may be wondering how Jeff was taking all of this, given that he was resistant to getting a dog…

Well, after about three months of me taking full responsibility for all of Miss Honey’s needs…and after Jeff also witnessed how Honey was utterly loyal to me, something in Jeff shifted.

Maybe it started when we were in a large field, and I went as far across it as I could, and Jeff and Samara held Honey until I waved my hands in the distance. As they let go of Miss Honey, she raced to me at full tilt, wanting only to be at my side, floating on the air with a beaming smile, and a lolling tongue of joy. Jeff’s heart melted. Well, all of our heart’s melted! In witnessing this love, it awakened great love and joy in him, and good, sacred memories. The pain of loss and grief was still a part of him, but it warmed into a continuity of love, translated into the present.

Jeff expressed such adoration in seeing the love that Honey had for me. For me, this was something new. I hadn’t had a dog bond to me like that before. It is humbling, healing, and a great responsibility. The beautiful part is that I was ready for it, and was able to be responsible to and for that beautiful dog.

Me and Miss Honey on a trail near the field where she would run to me. Photo by Samara Sherin

The bond between me and Honey gave Jeff room to feel more, and open up his heart, without all of it edging in on Gomer’s place in his heart. Witnessing the bond allowed his grief to soften.

One day, I walked into the living room, and found Jeff lying on the floor by Honey, playing with her, and just the faintest hint of tears were in his eyes. It was on that day that I knew Jeff’s heart was open and healing. From that day on, we shared the care for Honey equally. And since that day, Jeff has told me that he always wants to have a dog in his life.

The other thing you may be wondering about is how Boris and Miss Honey got along. Well, he fell in love with her, of course. Miss Honey, for her part, only tolerated the cats for my sake. But, with Boris she was different. She respected Boris. He could lay by her without her wanting to leave. He could play by her. And when she got out of line, he would tap the top of her head like a drum roll with his paw — so fast, and not quite hard, that she would flinch and blink her eyes. When he did that, then she would shape up and stop causing rifts between herself and the other cats. It was funny, and just what she needed on some days.

I think I have covered how dogs are wonderful in this story, but maybe not so much the strange and gross. For the most part, Miss Honey was a lovely, loving dog. She was never trying to be funny. And she certainly wasn’t the kind of dog that thrived on being strange or gross, but she had her moments…but nothing outrageous.

Miss Honey did like to rub the top of her lower back where it meets her tail under chairs. She would rub back and forth like a bear rubs his back against a tree. She would do this without ceasing whenever she thought we weren’t around or wouldn’t notice. She also broke into a whole container of freshly baked gingerbread cookies that were sealed with a sturdy plastic lid. We came home to find the plastic lid torn, and most of the cookies gone and in her belly.

Once, she was going to vomit in the living room on the carpet, and Jeff ran to her and cupped his hands, of all things, under her mouth. His two hands happened to hold the exact amount that came out. That was certainly gross, weird, and strangely hilarious. I certainly will never forget it. Even Miss Honey seemed a little weirded out by that. And of course, rolling in nasty dead things is a given for any dog, so I won’t go into that. She did it. They do it, and it serves a purpose from their ancestral past — but in the present, it is just nasty.

At Christmas time, we quickly learned that there could be no wrapped sweets under the tree. My mother had left freshly made Divinity candy wrapped under the tree for my mother-in-law. When we returned from an outing with them, we found that Miss Honey had ripped them open and eaten all the Divinity candy! She was a dog who loved treats, and had a terrible affection for sweets! We certainly didn’t try to let her have actual candy or chocolate, but it sure was challenging keeping her away from it.

A fond memory for my husband, daughter and me is the day that we all went for a neighborhood walk with Miss Honey, and we decided to give her full reign. We let her lead us all around the neighborhood — wherever she wanted to go. She meandered for a while. And then, for a straight 8 blocks, she walked faster and faster, with more and more purpose and vigor. After about a mile of walking, we laughed and laughed to find that she had led us to the back of a local strip mall, and specifically to the back door of Coney Island. The smell of hot dogs, chili, and fries were intoxicating for her. We relented and got her a hot dog without the bun. She eagerly ate it. We also tried to keep her diet healthy, and that was not a repeat practice, though she wished it was. Still, we gave her plenty of healthy treats and good food.

Happy Honey dog. Circa 2007

It was always bliss to go for walks with her everywhere, and to see her dance with joy to get home into a warm, happy house. After dancing, she would sing that Beagle croon of happiness. What a dog! She would actually dance with us when we would have little dance parties at home too. She was such a respectful, obedient dog in many ways. But, not because we had disciplined her, because she was filled with the beauty and gratitude of new life…

One of my fondest memories of Miss Honey is when Samara’s kindergarten teacher let me bring Miss Honey for a show and tell. The children all sat in a large circle on the ground as Miss Honey and I came in. Samara’s place in the circle was empty as she stood and introduced Miss Honey and talked about her. As we were welcomed into the room, I let Miss Honey off leash and she immediately went to Samara’s empty spot and sat still in the circle, just like all of the children. Everyone was delighted and amazed by her willingness to sit and be with them like that. And the teacher explained that it takes a lot of time to get a dog to listen and obey like that. I didn’t interject at all or correct the teacher, but I knew that Miss Honey wasn’t doing it out of obedience or anything I placed upon her, she did it out of love. She was a beautiful teacher and friend.

Sadly, in early October of 2013, Miss Honey was diagnosed with an aggressive throat cancer. We applied the care of medicines to extend her life, while keeping in mind her need for quality of life. She continued to make the effort to run, walk, ask for table scraps and even continued to try to sneak-eat cat food. I told our youngest cat of that time, Wesley, that Miss Honey was having a hard time. Wesley went to her and licked her ears and rubbed against her. Boris would lay by her side, more and more. She was also old — she had trouble seeing, and had arthritis. Jeff went out of his way to give her little treats that she adored and that were easy to eat in the last months. He would give her small mixtures of cream cheese and peanut butter with the medicine. She loved that.

Boris, me, and Miss Honey hanging out together. This is an elderly Miss Honey, and around the time she was diagnosed with cancer in Fall 2013. Photo by Jeff Sherin

By the beginning of November (2013), it was clear that she needed to be euthanized. She began having trouble breathing, and began choking at times. We had never had to euthanize an animal companion before, and we were maybe waiting a bit too long, feeling afraid of having to do that.

My oldest sister, Kelly, who would die of cancer about five months later, said to me that November:

“It’s never an easy choice…they are family. I love you, whatever you do — she knows you love her, and you have given her a wonderful life…always know that. Love you.

~ Kelly Burns
Miss Honey and me, November 2013, not long before she died.

Miss Honey didn’t want to leave, but she also became miserable from that wicked disease.

You know, there are never enough kisses, hugs, affirmations, or walks to express the depth of love that is really there.

After Thanksgiving of that month, Miss Honey was euthanized, and we witnessed that it was a peaceful, merciful death. It was terribly hard for us to say goodbye to her, and it was a blessing to be able to let her go peacefully. Right before she was euthanized I fed her little chocolates, which she gobbled up happily. Jeff and I both held her together as she gently left her body, and then we both ugly-cried.

There is no easy way to say goodbye to those we love…whether they are humans or other beings we share our lives with. But, sealed in the goodbyes are memories and love that lasts lifetimes.

This sacred dog story is shared with you because I feel the dogs wish for me to share them. Some of the private, loving moments of life are shaped, saved, and blessed by beings other than us.

Dogs are still mysterious to me. Even in all that I learned with Miss Honey, I still don’t totally comprehend dogs. Though, I do now respect and adore them, as I do cats, and other animals.

Well, this beloved dog story leads to my current dog story….stay tuned for the dog of my current life, and her story, next week!

Dogs Are Strange, Gross And Wonderful

Part One: A Nun’s Dog Was Given To Us, And Then Was Seduced By Our Cat ~ True Story

CS Sherin, September 19, 2019, edited 09-21-19

Being a dog or cat person has been such a big thing in our culture. I am truly an animal person, having an innate appreciation and love for most animals, and other creatures of nature. At the same time, I have experienced an affinity — a deep understanding of and with cats. They are accessible, fascinating beings who have always made life better for me. Dogs have been there for me too, but understanding them deeply has been a process over many years (particularly with three dogs in different eras of my life) rather than an instant access and affinity. Don’t get me wrong, I can delight in dogs, and have always loved them. It’s just that I don’t always fully understand them.

Like the rest of my life, getting to know dogs started off amidst odd circumstances…

When I was a kid, my single mother and I were close to a German priest, Gus, and an Irish nun, Rosemary — they both worked at an ecumenical retreat center in the tiny town where we lived. Fr. Gus ran the retreat center for most of the time that it was in operation, and Sr. Rosemary was the acting psychologist there. There were many other sisters and brothers there as well, who came and went, that were a part of my daily and weekly life in the 80s — from the time I was 8 years old until I was about 17.

Anyway, one year, Rosemary was given a puppy as a gift for Christmas. He was an American Cocker Spaniel, and came with a red bow around his neck. I will never forget the adorable puppy or the smile of glee on her face. Rosemary asked for us to help name him, and my mother came up with O’Shaughnessy right away to honor her Irish heritage, which Rosemary loved. We all then shortened it, most of the time, to Shaun.

My mother, me, Sr. Rosemary and Shaun. This is circa 1982, and we are visiting Sr. Rosemary and Shaun at the retreat center they called home at that time. Photo by Fr. Gus

Although Shaun was a heartwarming companion for Rosemary (and Gus, who also took to him and helped with him), it turned out that Shaun didn’t like any priests other than Gus. They told us that Shaun would chase after, and try to bite the legs of other priests, who were visiting the retreat center. Needless to say, this was bad for business, though kind of funny. It was also kind of strange, because Shaun was the most peaceful, non-violent, mellow dog you would ever meet. Because of this problem, Rosemary asked if we would take Shaun in as our own. My mother said yes — to my surprise and happiness! Since Gus and Rosemary would often visit us, and we saw them regularly, they still got to love on Shaun all the time. It worked out.

This was the beginning of how some big things were revealed to me about dogs, which really made an impression on me, at an impressionable time in my life.

After we left Shaun alone the first time, and when we came home, we found that he had had a massive tantrum. I had been into latch-hook rugs at the time, and had tons of the short yarn in open little boxes as I worked on them. Shaun had taken ALL the yarns, all of it, and had strewn it throughout the house, upstairs and downstairs. It was a staggering amount of energy he spent doing this. We couldn’t believe it! For me, as a kid, it was amazing to see how he could put his feelings all over the house like that, to let us know. Eventually it was funny. We could appreciate that he went all out…even though it was a major pain to clean up, there is a certain amount of respect we grant for that kind of dedication.

We had a little toy-box for Shaun in the living room. It was his pride and joy. Regularly, each week, he would take time to, seemingly, count each toy. Each toy was accounted for, and if it wasn’t there, he would look for it or ask us to.

O’ Shaughnessy in the mid-1980s at our house. Photo by CS Sherin

Most notable about this little blonde, long-eared, brown-eyed doggy, was that he was extremely loving, peaceful, and really, a pacifist. We chalked it up to his first bonds with religious order folks. When he and I would take walks, sometimes we would encounter an aggressive or even mean dog. Shaun wouldn’t fight back. Not even a bark, whine, or growl would be expressed. I learned quickly to pick him up if a mean dog was loose.

The influence of his religious upbringing went even further. He seemed uninterested in female dogs. This disinterest also extended to our very beautiful cat, Aubrey. Aubrey was a tiger cat with a blend of tan, black, and red colors, and beautiful greenish-gold eyes. She was a super model of cats. Aubrey fell in love with Shaun right away. She must have thought he was the cutest, sweetest guy ever. And, he was not much bigger than she.

Shaun was extremely uncomfortable with Aubrey’s attention. She would come up and sniff at his face, and then try to rub back and forth around his body, ending, always, with an elegant wrapping of her tail around his face and under his chin, like a caress. It was hilarious to watch, because he would only move his eyes awkwardly, sitting still as a stone. This would go on, day after day, and he would still simply sit, stoically unmoved by her advances and affection.

My mother and I would laugh, watching this, because it was clear that after weeks and months of this, Aubrey cat, was starting to get to Shaun, the dog. He was starting to soften and enjoy her attention, but didn’t want to disappoint us, it seemed. He definitely didn’t want us to know. At least, not during the day in the living room. He would even, sometimes, jump up, uncharacteristically, to the top back edge of the couch, like a cat, trying to escape her advances. Often their interactions were better entertainment than anything on TV — besides The Muppet Show.

And then, the weirdness of all of this reached its peak.

I was asleep in my bedroom upstairs, and up they came, to my room. Why my room? I was a teen in middle school at the time. They came up making a racket of sorts, and woke me. It was Aubrey, walking around slowly in my room, with Shaun thumping along at her back, behind her. I admonished them for waking me on a school night, and whisper-yelled to try to get them to stop. They wouldn’t. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He was crazy in love with her, that was clear, and she had broken down all his barriers. I was witnessing inter-species love!

After many times of this happening at night, and always in my room, I broke down, and told my mother. She didn’t believe me at first, and didn’t think it was possible. I asked if they ever went in her room. She said they didn’t at all, and that she had seen nothing of the sort. Well, I had news for her!

Eventually she believed me. She came from an era of no communication about anything sexual, so this was a bit of a breach for her, at first. But she came around eventually. Frankly, at that age, I needed the moral support. This was before internet. There were no people to ask if this was normal or not. Once my mother adjusted and accepted what I told her, we began to muse. We mused upon how Shaun’s first instincts had been shaped by his first adoption by a nun, and a priest who shared the care and duties for him. Both of them were children at heart, but lived a dutiful life, working and living as celibates for a spiritual purpose. They had high standards for Shaun, and he did his best to live up to them. Dogs want to emulate the unspoken standards of their pack. That is an endearing quality. But sometimes, this can inhibit some of the true self…

We laughed at how he had changed with us. Whenever Gus would visit, and when he had to leave, he would mention having to go back to civilization in a humorous way — he was a joker. But, really, as a kid, I thought about that. Gus and Rosemary felt relief and freedom visiting us. My mother created a peaceful, relaxed, hospitable home that was open and accepting of most anyone. It was a peaceful home-base for both of us, despite the stress, loss, and hardships of life at that time.

Fr. Gus visiting Shaun at our house in the mid- to late-1980s. Photo by CS Sherin

Shaun had come into his own. He had a box of toys, a house and yard of his own, a family, and extended family, and he had fallen in love. He was an endearing family member and companion. He was a gentle guy, always willing to go along with me, and whatever I was up to. Shaun had a really great amount of hair on the top of his head too, and I remember how delightfully fun it was putting mousse in it, and styling it. He didn’t mind at all.

This dog also loved when we would walk to see nearby cows in a pasture. Then, his feisty side would show itself. He would act very peaceful, getting as close as he possibly could, and the cows would approach him at the fence. When they all got close, he would surprise them with robust barking and running (on the leash). They would run for their lives, and I could see him laughing, in that way that dogs do. It was funny and fun for both of us, but not so much for the cows. It was harmless, though, and they fell for it every time. I have to think they were allowing him his game. Also, some memories of Shaun are strong because they were pungent. He also loved to roll in cow pies, as dogs do. Which is, obviously, disgusting. And cow pies simply reek. The worst part of that was when we had to put him in the car to get home, and the smell was so overbearing, that it was unforgettable.

Me and Shaun enjoying playing fetch in the water at a camping site up North, circa 1989. Photo by Mickey Collins

Many years later, life changed for us and Shaun.

My mother found an apartment in the city where I had started going to college. The apartment allowed cats, but no dogs. We were heartbroken to think of having to re-home Shaun. It was unthinkable. Gus and Rosemary had moved away a few years before (as the religious go where they are told to go) and we were all he had. My mother asked my godmother if she and her husband would take in Shaun. They had always had dogs, and were extremely loving and caring people — to dogs and everyone else. They said yes, and as hard as that was to do, we knew that this was the best-case scenario for everyone.

Some of the private, loving moments of life are shaped, saved, and blessed by beings other than us.

However, there was something we weren’t prepared for…

When I was on vacation from college, my mother and I went to visit my godmother, her husband, Larry, and Shaun. We were in for some big surprises. We came with the feeling of grief and guilt. But, that quickly faded away with all the new things going on for Shaun.

First of all, they renamed him Porky. I can’t not laugh out loud when saying this. The one thing that Shaun had always been extremely unhappy about with us was that we didn’t give him people food or a lot of treats. It was pretty boring in the food area, and part of that was because we were always low on cash. Anyway, we had a re-introduction to this dog-kid, Porky. He was thrilled to see us! It was beautiful. He celebrated, and he gave us kisses, and we hugged and pet him in joy. But then, it got to be too much, and he made a loud statement. This statement was just as loud as the yarn tantrum, in fact.

With body language he told us, quite clearly, without mincing words, that he loves us, but greatly prefers his new people and new life as Porky. He went over to Larry, and demonstrated how he gets wonderful back rubs from Larry’s feet while he sits in the recliner. He showed us how, though, he wasn’t fat, that his every food fantasy was catered to here, and that he wasn’t about to lead us on. I think he was responding to my feelings of wanting him to be my dog again, even though I knew it was for the best.

When he felt stubborn, even though he was a little dog, he could sit like lead in one spot, not to be moved. We most often found this when trying to get him to the bath. On this day, it was in me wanting to show him more affection while also feeling a little bit of wanting him back…he responded by refusing to leave Larry’s side. He didn’t do it meanly, he just wanted to be clear. We appreciated his honesty, even if it felt like a rough kind of snub at first.

All in all, the visit was enlightening.

Shaun aka Porky showed us that while he loved us, he prefers the man of the house, which was something we could never give him. It seemed to us at the time that he preferred male energy. At that time we made that assumption — but we know now that isn’t true. He preferred the man, the food, and the back rubs — he preferred life at my godmother’s house — it was all good, and what he wanted! And really, we couldn’t ask for a better outcome. Shaun wasn’t dumb, these are salt of the earth people — and we didn’t blame him a bit. We were actually deeply relieved. We recognized that his ultimate joys were being fulfilled. What more can you ask for, for someone you love and care about? It couldn’t have been a better retirement for him! There was no Aubrey, true, but there were kind, loving dog people. Porky was in heaven.

A photo of Aubrey from her elder years, circa 2000s. She never loved another dog, though she enjoyed the companionship of her brother and other cats we later adopted very much. She also adored my husband. I wish I had taken a photo of Aubrey and Shaun together, but back then I didn’t even think of it. Photo by CS Sherin

It was many years later, when my godmother called my mother, weeping, telling us that Porky died peacefully in the yard on St. Patrick’s Day. She had been putting off telling us. My mother and I extended our deepest sympathy and gratitude to my godmother. We were so grateful for the love of and from this family for Shaun the Porky, and we were amazed and touched that he had gone home on a day that honored Rosemary. Since she had also passed on, I felt like it was a spiritual synchronicity that said in a deeper way, that all is well.

Stay tuned next week, for Part Two of Dogs Are Strange, Gross, And Wonderful….

Poetry: Allowing And Understanding Feelings — Without Being Ruled By Them

The Golden Rules For Feelings, And Other Thoughts In Verse

CS Sherin, 09-10-2019, edited 9-11-19

Canadian Geese and Tundra Swans, La Crosse WI marsh. Photo by CS Sherin

FEELINGS…

are neither good or bad…
they just are.
If denied
they become like
exiled mice
burrowing and hiding
in hidden places
of the psyche and body,
indefinitely.
Only when
they are felt
and named
can they be released
and resolved…
even if it takes
50 years, or more.

If there is no room for certain feelings
they can get squeezed out
sideways
in unintended words or actions
that may inflict
lasting harm…
a lot of times
upon those
undeserving
and most loved.
Or we may express
inappropriate emotions
at inappropriate times
because we were never given permission
to show certain feelings, like
sadness, fear, or anger.

Feelings are like babies
or art…
they are so often
a surprise, an experience
created and flowing
through us without effort,
a full human experience…
emotions provide a needed function
that each of us is
responsible for…even
while others
may come to their own
interpretations
about it.

Feelings are.
All the feelings
are natural, honest responses
to whatever we are experiencing. Sometimes
they seem ugly and wrong,
sometimes they are
harsh
and exaggerated,
but truth is
they are what they are…
and everyone
has all of them
no matter how repressed and denied
they may be. Sometimes
the full gamut of emotions
haven’t been felt or
experienced, but the
potential remains
the same
within each of us.

What is important,
essential,
absolutely necessary
is
to look at our feelings
and name them,
especially the difficult or enigmatic
ones — whenever we can,
no matter
how clumsy or tentative
it seems in doing so.

Feelings, ultimately
are meant to be felt and then
fade…let go of
in the moment,
and recycled
into other energy
and actions that are needed
in each moment.

If we cannot let a feeling go
it becomes something else…
a thing, a force
that we
consciously or unconsciously
choose
to feed and hold onto…
like a depraved zombie
that is treated like a
beloved teddy bear —
it will surely cause
malfunctions and
other problems both
subtle and obvious.

If it is hard
to let go of a certain feeling
it may require really listening to
and responding
to the feeling, or it may mean
that one feeling is dominating
as a defense
to hide a deeper feeling
that was or is
less
acceptable to us
or to those
who
influenced us.

Look at your feelings,
name them, and
let them go.
Let it be
natural.
Let it be
like a passing moment.

No bird ever soars
by holding on.

Truly,
real and needed fear
can keep us alive,
and generate enough
kinetic energy
to fuel needed
responses to real danger
and emergencies:
like running, rescuing,
putting out fires,
fighting for our lives,
and so on.

Best we don’t hold onto it.
Best we listen to it
and respond. That allows
the natural flow
into
needed actions
and new feelings
and experiences.

Real and needed anger
can alert us to the fact
that our boundaries are being
disrespected, someone is
being harmed,
or that we need to
say no, because we are
allowing ourselves to be taken
advantage of, and we are giving too much.
And, it can tell us
that the other person
cannot be trusted, and shouldn’t be
at this time.
The anger serves its purpose…
we feel it,
we listen to it,
name and understand it,
and respond to it appropriately,
and then,
move on.
Anger too,
can give us new energy
to act, to respond,
to create
positive change,
movements for the good,
and new creations. Anger doesn’t mean
ugly. It means
something productive
needs to happen, adjustments
need to be made. Deep breathing
helps.

As emotions flow through and out of us
channeling difficult ones into
actions and words that do the least harm,
is most preferable.
Seeking to channel difficult
feelings can contribute to
health and creativity.

It is a choice
to be responsible
and transform pain and difficulty into
something helpful and
healing, or at least something
that brings greater health and balance
to self…
rather than creating more,
and unnecessary suffering.

In anger
I have created some
of my most beautiful
art. Channeling emotions
with creativity can be
surprising,
refreshing,
renewing. It can lead
to great things.

Easy feelings are easy.
Difficult and layered feelings
can be quite hard
and uncomfortable.

Rage and terribly sad can be much
harder. Along with resentment,
jealous insecurity and many
other challenging emotional
states brought about
by many dynamics…

Norms make some of these
unacceptable to feel or express,
except when channeled into
energy that bypasses
perceived weaknesses…

Feelings range the gamut
and can be easy to handle, feel,
name and let go of
unless
we have been in places
in circles
where
we were made to feel
over and over and over
that certain feelings are wrong and bad or
that there is no room for our feelings
or that feelings are inferior
or too big, or too much trouble…
there are so many ways
that our culture
has manipulated, exploited
and exiled feelings,
while also neglecting to
teach healthy processes for them.

Some of us grew up
being told without words that
there will be no support for our feelings
(trusted caregivers did this,
as was done to them)…or that
some feelings are forbidden. This is like
telling someone
that peeing is forbidden.
The pee is going to come out
sooner or later.
Seen or unseen.

Feelings are an automatic
and natural response to experiences
and situations.

Some of us received love when we
expressed pleasant emotions and then
likewise, love was
withheld
if
we expressed anger
or other “ugly” feelings.

Some natural feelings became
confusing, hard, forbidden.

There were so many unspoken judgements
and snares
like barbed wire for our
automatic, natural emotions
to navigate, all the while our brains
weren’t fully developed.

Drugs and alcohol often step in
for so many of us
to alleviate, numb, or mask
the difficult feelings and exile, and the
resulting anxiety and depression
produced
by such a dysfunctional culture
that has developed and upheld such
corrupt systems
that discriminate
and silence
among other things,
natural functions necessary
for
healthy development, comprehension and
coping skills.

Stress can be living in an environment that
denies and forbids difficult feelings
in public and community settings,
while also setting up media forces that feed
on stagnant, underdeveloped, unhealthy
held-on-to emotions.

Seems a stage set for devolution, really.

We have a right to our feelings. Just as
it is a basic right
to go to the bathroom
in a healthy, sanitary way.
We don’t have a right
to piss on others
and to take out
our pissed off state
on others.
Dealing with others
who are doing this,
or being cold and vicious
can be just as challenging
to handle.

We have a right to
our feelings and there is only
one over-arching
golden rule:

While feelings are neither good or bad…
when you are old enough
to understand and respond,
you are 100% responsible
for your own feelings and
how you handle them.

The GOLDEN RULE has many parts,
but it is all one
understanding and code:
We honor our feelings,
we take responsibility for our feelings,
and we take every measure to refrain from
causing harm to self or others due to our feelings.
We find ways to express our feelings
in healthy, honest,
creative ways. We refrain from
holding on to feelings, and instead, we
let them flow. Except,
with an anger that is unreasonably lit
with threat to harm, we engage our
breath, logic, and exercise — we engage
all manners of detaching from the lit rage,
as needed,
so that it does not become
unnecessary harm and suffering
for others
and self.

We are most true when
we realize:
No one makes us feel a certain way.
We experience our own feelings,
through our own experiences
and lens of perception.
Likewise, we aren’t responsible
for other people’s feelings.
Still, we can share a
healthy detachment that seeks to
acknowledge and honor the feelings
of others,
as needed, in order to
address something important.
Then, we let the feelings go,
and move on…
all the wiser.


CS Sherin, WildClover.org 2019©

Tips of gratitude are welcome here! Click the pic to support this site.


Life Advice From Cats

CS Sherin, September 4, 2019

Having lived with and loved many exceptional cats in my life so far, I am finally getting around to sharing some of their sage advice for life and living. The cats I know and love, and those that have since carried on across the Rainbow Bridge, all are/were the best kinds of cats. The best cats aren’t really aloof, mean or uncaring. Quite the opposite. Anyway, please enjoy some of the wisdom I have gleaned from generations of fur family companions, as it comes straight from them. 🙂

Baby Wesley. Photo by: CS Sherin

Life Advice From Cats

  1. If you are a leader: lead with love and encouragement. Purr and smile when things are good. Also, correct bad behavior swiftly, and mean it. Hiss if necessary.
  2. Become good friends with the dog. Keep it on the down low. And hit the top of her head (not too hard) if she gets rude.
  3. Hold your loved ones paw until they fall asleep when they are sad. Stay beside them when they are sick.
  4. Smile, run, play, eat, cuddle, nap.
  5. Ask for what you need when you can’t do it for yourself. Be as loud and creative as needed.
  6. Take your jobs and duties in life seriously, and keep your humor.
  7. Vow to be true to those in your care. Watch over a child. Protect and guide them.
  8. Be king or queen of your own life. Be just, valiant, fiercely passionate. Do this without apology or arrogance.
  9. Be tidy in the bathroom.
  10. Take sun baths whenever possible.
  11. Cuddle with your loved ones.
  12. Jump the fence. Even if it is quite tall. Do this to really live — not to run away. Go just a little ways past the fence and sleep under garden plants for the day, where no one can find you.
  13. Get home in time for dinner.

May we all make the most of the life we have, with the luck of nine lives, and the health of a happy purr in our hearts that abides. Meow!

CS Sherin, ©2019 all rights reserved.