My rabbit Tatoo kept getting out. I kept seeing two long, two short footprints in the snow….like Morris Code for ” Where’s Waldo?…everywhere I knew a rabbit shouldn’t be. Or I’d be outside getting firewood or a Pepsi in a snow bank and register a flash of black and white out of the corner of my eye. And there he’d be, running and hopping and skipping all over the place and the dogs would just freeze, like “What do we do now?” So I’d frown at them for even thinking bad Wiener thoughts and banish them to the house, then throw open all the gates so Tatoo could betake his royal self back to his little condo complex when he was good and ready. This goes on for two weeks until it is almost warm enough one day for me to hang outside and observe his escape modus operandi. Turns out he just throws the length of his body…I had no idea he could stretch that much…and flings himself over his gate. I fixed that by raising the height of the gate in freezing temperatures with numb fingers manhandling tools and screws, and I think I’ve fixed the problem of Tatoo. The next morning I go outside expecting to feed a Ram, two ducks, five chicks and a rabbit sitting nicely and appreciatively in his heated rabbit apartment and there he is in Rambos pen giving Rambo the rabbit finger by eating Rambos hay. This wasn’t going to end well, so I got him out of there and spent another day trying to figure out how he was escaping. That night he didn’t go back to his own house and I was afraid he’d really decided to leave for good. The next morning I let the chickens out and Tatoo comes right out of the door with them! Later I found a side door in his condo that he’d managed to shimmie open. In fact, he let me see how he did it

I really like this rabbit and his bold free moves. I dream about him at night…. The flash of black and white, the twitch of his nose as he sails past me wherever I am. Like my fleeting youth gone by and the fast pace of days winking out behind me, Tatoo reminds me that all is ephemeral and not to take life too seriously, but grab those raspberry leaves while you can and never let the gate hit you in the ass.


IMG_0315I’ve been reading lately that a lot of people have been becoming depressed comparing their when-will-this-ever-be-over life with the apparently Sweepstakes Winner-worthy lives of their friends and family, which they read about on social media. To help remedy this, and make my friends and family feel good–indeed, ecstatic –about their lives, I offer this snapshot of a typical day for me. Consider it a public service.

3:00 AM. Husband, with the nose of a bloodhound, awakes, smelling scintilla of dog poop through an entire floor and carpeting downstairs even before it’s actually been fully deposited on the pee pad. Since the dogs are mine, I own the poop too. Crash down the stairs like a drunken sailor and do clean up.

6:30 AM. Pack my man off to work while negotiating with four wiener dogs over treats, which goes something like: ” No”, bark “No” bark ” No” bark “ok! Just one!” bark bark bark . As he drives off–did I just hear squealing tires? On a dirt road?—-, I am greeted with impatient aggravated quacking of ducks beating their wings against their hut door, Rambo battering his shed walls, five squawking hens shoving each other into the roosters path, and a bunny with a great sense of drama who starts chewing on his condo door as soon as he spies me. Twenty minutes later all are fed and watered, happiness restored until exactly this time tomorrow, like some fucking Groundhog Day at the Sowards. Phoebe, one of the pooping dogs, lies in the middle of the yard all this time fiercely checking for mountain lions. Which is less reassuring than it sounds, since she weighs 12 pounds.

8:30. AM. Spent next two hours doing the bare essential chores while watching morning news, hustling four dogs, a cat and a dove in and out, eating my yogurt, and attending to the most recent personal drubbing on FB. In a grand “Fuck You! ” gesture put up 15 articles from serious publications in retaliation, and, to complete my two hours of pointless multitasking, compare money in bank account with bills in drawer to see if they add up any differently than yesterday. Sneak two Hershey’s kisses out of candy jar as reward for not shooting myself this early in the day.

9:00 AM. Watch “Lets Make A Deal ” on the couch with the wieners, who enjoy critiquing the costumes. Congratulate myself for feeling happy for all those people winning fine prizes, cars and trips to places I have no business knowing how to pronounce, like ….shit, I can’t even spell them. Islands.

9:30 AM. Sick of all the people on “Lets Make A Deal” winning all those fine prizes, cars and trips, decide to get serious and work on a new painting.

10:00 AM. New painting is a disaster. Fling myself at a Pepsi while shoving the scale under the bed with my foot.

10:02 AM. Check FB for posts of happy friends and family doing “Lets Make A Deal” Winners impersonations in their lives, which don’t appear to be lived on any planet I inhabit. Find several. Decide there are probably many reasons why they feel they must lead such shallow, frivolous lives, but who am I to tell them?

10:05 AM Decide to tell them.

10:10 AM. Cancel devastatingly candid post.

11:00 AM. Total involvement in rescuing disastrous painting for twenty minutes. Realize not all that bad. Celebrate with self congratulatory 100 calorie rice cake and peanut butter. Throw in another Hershey’s for good measure. Ok. Five.

12:00 Noon. Dogs sitting in semicircle on floor watching me paint. Spooky! but I’ll take the adulation and quiet respect. Feeling sort of like Buddha/ Monet until the first whine breaks through. Finally realize it’s hours past their dinner time, Wiener patience wearing thin. Painting is finally going great, as they well know– we’ve been here before, contest between vocalizing dogs and brilliant artist expressing deep soulfullness. Dogs win. Dinner served.

12:30 PM. Decide to give painting which has veered back into disaster column a rest. Check FB posts of friends and family at beach; in National Parks; at Yoga retreats; creating new dishes for upscale restaurants, unsolicited; reporting in on ten day diet with 20 pounds lost; hefty tomes read on work breaks; romantic interlude with husband/ boyfriend in never -before- discovered cove covered in Mangoes…yes, them, not the beach..;.getting on “Lets Make A Deal” and winning…some island. Decide either everybody is a liar or I am seriously losing, here.
1:00PM Lunch. Dogs hoover up Albertson salad crumbs like starving curs. Ignore them while reading lunch time trash novel, placing phone calls, texting, loading washing machine, vacuuming, sweeping,lining trash cans, resuming novel, eyeballing crappy painting across room.

2:00 PM. JERK AWAKE!!!!

2:05 PM. Take dogs out. Chase ducks out of fishpond. Fish dead mouse out of duck pond. Feed Rambo animal crackers in shape of Ram, haha big ironic joke of the day. Clean out finger tapping scowling bunny ‘s condo. Fresh straw for chickens ,up my nose, in my hair, in my eyes. Sneeze vigorously. No eggs. Again. Try to list reasons they exist.

2:45 PM. Get dressed. That’s right. That’s what I said. So?

3:30. PM. . Throw out week old roses from 50th anniversary party. re read cards and smile. Catch gutteral roar of husband’s diesel truck coming up the road. Close iPad on FB. Resume breathing. Painting doesn’t look too bad. Maybe brilliant.



If you believe, as I do, that dogs have a purpose in our lives, we need not quibble over whether they come to us intentionally or with certain latent intentions, the former being a spirit world matter, and the latter being a mutually beneficial arrangement of human and canine desires. With Franny, I easily fell into both camps. There were many times when she looked at me with her large intelligent eyes, fixing me with what I came to call her Franny Mind Meld Stare. It was like she was assessing the state of my soul, and finding it curiously lacking, and so of course she would have to assume command out of a sort of exasperated kindness. Then there were other times when she was demoted to her essential dogginess, her uncanny mental abilities subsumed by my need for an alter ego star in my dog blog. As such, I had to literally put words in a dogs mouth. She never complained.

Franny is buried under a Cedar tree in our front yard. She has a headstone and a little ornamental fence around her grave. I sometimes sit there in the afternoon in my blue wooden chair and watch my chickens and think about Franny, and Mercedes, too, who died a few months before. They weren’t necessarily friends. I always had the distinct feeling Franny barely tolerated the other dogs, except Big Fritz, who was the only other dachshund we had when I brought her home as an 8 week old pup. Scared, sick and quite sure I wasn’t up to the task of caring for her properly, she looked to Fritz for comfort and protection. He found her annoying. But when Franny was mortally ill, and refused to eat or drink anymore, it was Fritz she lay against, and he let her.

What do I think about when I sit next to Frannys small grave? I think about her tiny, long and delicate feet. Her silky ears. Her crooked tail, and how I used to run my fingers down it until I got to the kink, which I once tried to smooth out when I was evaluating her worth as a pup. Clearly affronted, she had yelped and run away from me to the rear of the pen. I dont know what made her come back. Perhaps she decided to give me a second chance. Perhaps she saw her destiny.

I put Franny in almost all my best stories, especially the ones where important matters needed to be discussed, like politics and Zen Buddhism. Her observations were sharp, shrewd and revealed a sly prankster. But she never forgot her doggy roots, and her thinking reflected this dog eat dog natural world of ours. As such, she had no use for sloppy sentimentaL thinking, and skewered it with painful accuracy. She also called me to heel any time I failed to meet certain criteria, like paying devoted attention to her always evolving list of needs. She had no patience for small children, whom she bit, less intelligent dogs, whom she ignored, and people who forgot to greet her respectfully, whom she disdained. She hated stud dogs and the fact that being in heat left her helplessly requiring their attentions. She always tried to rearrange their faces as they came off her back. And yet, if Mokie….beautiful , curly haired, and trailing eau de bitch in her wake…was in the breeding yard at the same time, the male dogs wouldnt look twice at our Fran, and she was clearly hurt, and I for her.

Frannys range of emotions fascinated me and left me completely enthralled to her every new whim. She loved to run into the house, and bounce off my chest a few times until I followed her outside, where I was directed to play Hunt The Squirrel. My job was to tilt the long pipe the squirrel was futilely hiding in until it fell out at Frannys feet like a treat out of a gum ball machine. I only did this once, because the results were horrific, but she never gave up trying to persuade me to do it again. She was sure she could turn me into a respectable dog, if I just followed her lead and gave myself over to the glories of her canine world. She had intention. Her intention was to get in my head and infiltrate my heart.

And isnt this what I think about most, as I sit next to her grave, completely undone, months after I dug a hole, and laid her there in her favorite and very expensive blanket? There are exceptional dogs, just as there are exceptional people. My mother, having read my stories about Franny, asked me once, with a certain alarm, if I really thought she talked to me. The question brought it home to me that we may be a very select few, those of us who are privileged to know and PAY ATTENTION to exceptional dogs; that in entering into a feed back loop of communicating in the only ways we can with another species, we inhabit a new space, one of enhanced understanding; and that we DO feed each others minds. Franny became my Muse not because I slipped the bonds of sanity and believed I was talking to a dog, but because she returned the favor of studying me as I studied her, and basking in the delightful glow of her constant attention, and she in mine, the ground of garden variety reality gave way to the sheer Heaven of creativity.

The dying of a Muse is no small thing. But in the grief and loss lies the understanding. All Life acts in concert. When we sit still and pay attention, when we observe without human judgement, when we respect and honor other lives, there occurs a confluence of mental states- of -being across the species divide. How we use our new -found understanding reflects who we are in the deepest part of our souls.

Was Franny a Spirit that came to me intentionally, or an exceptionally intelligent dog that used her evolved canine wiles with intent, to influence human -to-dog outcomes? I dont know. Does it matter? I loved her. Her presence unlocked my creativity and gave me great joy. I hope to find her again in another pair of intelligent brown eyes. It’s possible I will. She taught me how to look.


Just in time for the election, in case you missed it the first time!


Sometimes when I’m watching the Sunday morning talk shows, Franny joins me on the couch with her favorite bone. She brings it along because I once said, with great passion, ” Now I really have a bone to pick with Stephanopoulos!” (Franny’s smart, but there always seems to be a weird disconnect when she tries to barge into my world.) Anyway, today we were watching the talk on the latest Supreme Court ruling. I gave her the rundown: rich people, at least people richer than us, want everyone to be able to give as many bones as they want to anyone they want elected to office. Of course, most of us don’t have a bone to spare, but that’s not the point. We’re talking the Constitution here, I told her.


” So how many bones would I need to get if I wanted to be head of Animal Control?” she asked…

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Franny Parses the Government Shutdown


The day after the government shutdown, I noticed Franny morosely mooching around in her blanket nest. Quickly, as I have been trained to do, I flipped her a rawhide chewy, thinking that’s what she was hunting for. She didn’t even look at it, just kept harrumphing around and around, until her nest was perfect, a sure sign something was eating at her and only frantic nest-building would relieve the stress. I sighed, laid down my book, and asked her what was wrong.

‘ Gurrruuuorawrawra,’ she mumbled.

” What? What was that?” I asked. She wearily raised her head from her paws and gave me the usual pitying look when I fail to read her mind. She always knows exactly what I’m thinking, and believes its a lack of seriousness of purpose that keeps me from reciprocating. I tried to get my book back up in front of my eyes before…

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I stepped out of my life for a moment this afternoon, and what I saw was not pleasant. At least for my ego. I know, I know, I’ve been on a quasi zen-Buddhist-Jedi mission to kill off my ego for some time now, actually since my thirties when I had that wierd dream about offing little egos disguised as babies. Egos are REALLY tough to snuff out unless you’re, like, dead already and the Universe has revealed its secrets and the ego is waving goodbye, a superflous appendage, now, as you drift happily into that white light. I’m not there yet. I cringe when someone says something mean to me and sometimes I want to cry when I look in a mirror. I buy clothes with the sole purpose of soothing my battered and bruised aging ego. And this afternoon I took a big hit when I realized that my…

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“Hello! Have you seen Ball?”


“Sort of small, orange skin, squeaks?”


“Always hiding?”


“I love her so much…”


“l left her right here last night!”


“Yes, right here.”


“Up there?”




“Oh, you have Ball!”


“Yes yes yes! Waiting!”




“Oh! Ball!!”

“Don’t leave me!”


“I love you, Ball!”


“I can’t believe I gave birth to him. And no, I did not have a wild night with a Labrador. Worse, he could stunt double that stupid rodent in Ice Age. He’s sweet, too. I don’t do “sweet”. Simply appalling.”



Sometimes when I’m watching the Sunday morning talk shows, Franny joins me on the couch with her favorite bone. She brings it along because I once said, with great passion, ” Now I really have a bone to pick with Stephanopoulos!” (Franny’s smart, but there always seems to be a weird disconnect when she tries to barge into my world.) Anyway, today we were watching the talk on the latest Supreme Court ruling. I gave her the rundown: rich people, at least people richer than us, want everyone to be able to give as many bones as they want to anyone they want elected to office. Of course, most of us don’t have a bone to spare, but that’s not the point. We’re talking the Constitution here, I told her.


” So how many bones would I need to get if I wanted to be head of Animal Control?” she asked, gnawing away.
” That’s not the point”, I reiterated.
“Sounds like the point”, she said, cracking away at the marrow.
“No, it’s about freedom of speech. Money…bones…is speech.”
“So if you give me a lot of bones, I can bark all I want?”
” Yeah, I guess you could say that.” I was already tired of this conversation. She needed to be on Meet The Press. She’s like a dog with a bone when it comes to making her point. Yeah, yeah, bad pun.

Franny wasn’t finished. She looked at me speculatively.

“So let me get this straight. If I asked all the dogs in the neighborhood to give me all their bones, I could bark day and night? More than anybody else? Is there a rule that says if you don’t have a bone, you can’t bark? ”

“Sort of”,I mumbled. I sighed, and made the poor decision to engage.

“Let’s just say the more bones you have, the bigger a dog you must be, right? So when you bark, the other dogs pay attention. You bark at the strange guy cutting through your neighborhood, they all do too. Maybe chase him because you say so.”

“Hmmm,” said Franny, grinning a little. “I like it. How do I get them to give me all their bones, though? ”

” You only have to promise them more bones back than they ever saw before in their lives”, I said.

“But what if I can’t?”


I thought about it, then laughed.

“In that case, you don’t get re-elected, but all the big dogs know you’re an expert on collecting big piles of bones, so you go work for them and make even more piles!” Thinking we were done, I started to channel surf the talk shows. Franny watched, her peach pit size reptilian brain seizing on the idea of bone piles filling the house. Disdainfully, she pushed the old, used up bone off the couch. She jumped down to begin planning her campaign, but turned with a final question.

” Is this dogocracy?” she asked, proud to have been paying attention.

” You mean, democracy?” I asked, amused at her mistake. She didn’t answer, but looked at me with a faraway look in her eyes.


“Those Funding Fathers sure knew what they were doing”, she breathed, with admiration.

“Founding”, I corrected, clicking on a channel. “Founding Fathers.”

“Funding,” she repeated. I rolled my eyes. She winked. “The Funding Fathers of a dog-eat-dog world. That’s right up my alley. Grrrrrrrrrr. Gimme your bones.”