Damn Dog?

A number of things come to mind when I think of Ray but one, that would likely not be understood by anybody who has not had a relationship with a dog, is that they can draw attention to our own shortcomings. Whether we choose to acknowledge such flaws is another matter, but at least we have the option to reflect and perhaps adjust our actions next time.

I have seen so many dog owners reprimand their dog for being nothing more than a dog! When I looked at the circumstances, it was so often the dog owner that was at fault, but sadly it was the dog that paid the price. This can easily happen if the dog is suddenly attracted to something, at the same time that the owner is distracted. We had occasions where we were distracted in conversation just as Ray picked up the scent of something disgusting but perhaps edible very close by! There are many potential circumstances where the dog is just being himself/herself, but creates a problem because the owners are not being as thoughtful and/or attentive as perhaps they should.

I wonder how many of you can, upon reflection, see a set of circumstances which resulted in your dog being reprimanded (and possibly punished), but where your own “due diligence” (lack of) was the root cause of the issue?

One such experience of mine is covered in the Post below (originally posted Nov. 8, 2014):

Pumpkin Pie & Whipping Cream.

Ray knows how to behave around food. When visiting the Lululemon store, he will automatically sit close to the biscuit bowl and wait for me to give him some pieces of biscuit.

While he will always get excited when he knows that his morning or evening meal is imminent, he will respond to “Wait” until he hears “Take it”. Of course he needs to be reminded, especially after his food bowl is put on the floor, but he is generally very good. I find this particularly impressive because of his background as a stray, where food would most certainly be a “take it now” commodity, because who knows when the next snack would be found? The effort required for Ray to exercise this degree of self-control is very evident as he sways slightly and dips his head towards his food bowl while he is waiting for those two magic words “Take it!”. Once he hears them, all his “coiled springs” release and he dives in to devour another meal.

Even if we are eating while sitting on our sofa, Ray will initially hover around but will soon wander over to one of his beds, curl up and watch us carefully. If we feel so inclined to share a tidbit with him, we will walk over to him and offer it. The idea is to stop him from being a nuisance at meal times, and for him to realize that good things can come his way if he is on his bed. Ray is not perfect, but then neither am I, so I give him some latitude; some flexibility, to just be himself.

Homemade pumpkin pie topped with whipping cream is a particular love of mine and on this day it was dessert! I went into the kitchen and cut myself a good sized piece; topped it off with a generous portion of whipping cream, and also cut Carol a similar sized piece but with no cream (her choice) and brought both plates into our living room. Ray got off his bed and followed me over to the sofa whereupon he just sat and watched me give Carol her plate, and watched me sit down and get myself organized so I could enjoy this wonderful dessert. It probably does not need to be mentioned but, just to clarify the circumstances, we already knew that Ray loved pumpkin pie and would almost kill for whipping cream!

As I was getting comfortable so that I could give my dessert the undivided attention it so deserved, I decided to loosen the laces in my shoes. After that, the setting would have been as perfect as it could possibly get. Unfortunately, that setting was never to be. As I bent over to reach my shoes, holding my pumpkin pie topped with whipping cream away from Ray, I saw him leap towards it. I quickly moved my arm out of his reach however, the motion of the plate triggered movement from the pie which gracefully took off and landed rather ungracefully on the mat near our front door. My intuitive reaction was to follow its flight and I clearly remember the pie landing relatively unscathed and the whipping cream being splattered over the pie’s landing spot. I also remember seeing a large brown furry head seemingly vacuum up the pie which disappeared so fast that by the time I got to the “Leave it” command, there was nothing but traces of whipping cream on the mat!

My immediate reaction was annoyance (and I clearly showed it) because Ray knows better than that however, after more thought, I had to conclude that it was me who was at fault. It is so easy to blame “the dog” when anything goes wrong and once I have allocated blame, I no longer have to deal with it and certainly don’t need to accept any responsibility for it. It has been my experience with Ray that many of his misdemeanours are in fact my fault and that not only should I not be annoyed with him, but I should accept full responsibility and make changes to avoid a repeat performance.

In this particular situation, I knew that Ray loved my imminent dessert, and I also knew that he would go to his bed and lay down if told to do so. Why therefore would I allow him close to the sofa when I am clearly going to eat something that he particularly likes? Why did I not stand up and put my plate somewhere out of his reach before adjusting my shoe laces? Why did I not tell him to go to his bed? The answers are simply that I did not think, which then poses the question – why does an incident become Ray’s fault simply because I was not thinking? While he still should not have hijacked my dessert, it becomes quite an understandable reaction given the circumstances and, more importantly, one which could have been avoided given more thought on my part. 

Sorry Ray. I should not have been upset with you. I really, really, really, hope that you enjoyed my homemade pumpkin pie topped with whipping cream!

The Price of Freedom.

Ray left us on January 18 and here we are, 7 weeks later, adjusting to our life without him. A suncatcher directs the colours of the rainbow onto my bed cover on a regular basis to remind me of my dear friend… as if I could ever forget him!

Carol and I go out for daily walks and, inevitably, we follow routes that we used to use for Ray’s walks. We can now walk closer to the Canada Geese, as well as a variety of other birds, because we don’t have Ray to make them nervous. We can also now both go into a coffee shop and order a couple of lattes. It was not that long ago that one of us would have to stay outside with our furry friend!

Our “dates” for the past 10 years were dependant on the one other person Ray was comfortable with being available to dog-sit for us. The alternative was that Ray had to come with us, which ruled out all the local restaurants. We do however have one local pub which allowed Ray on their outdoor patio. Now we can go wherever, and whenever, we feel like it. Sadly COVID and various variants have made us less than enthusiastic about being in an indoor environment where nobody is wearing a mask!

When one of us is out shopping or at an appointment, the other can freely go wherever they want without having to consider Ray in the decision making process. In fact we have all the freedom we could possibly ask for, but our beloved Ray is always in the background. He is always in our thoughts, in the context of “If Ray was with us… “.

Our Spring season is just starting to impact our garden, and our grass is just taking on a healthy green colour. Our immediate thought was that it would not be looking that good if Ray had been pounding around on it chasing a squirrel! His paws were very good at throwing clumps of soil and grass into the air as he tried get his almost 80lbs weight to follow a sharp turn that a squirrel, or rabbit, had just made.

Our lives are not the same without Ray, but we do have to acknowledge the choices we now have. We have a lot of freedom to celebrate but, as in life, there are always costs. In fact, in our context, I would suggest that our freedom came at a very high cost.

It’s in the eyes!

Eyes are a remarkable communicating tool aren’t they. When talking to somebody, and their eyes keep drifting off to one side, is there a distraction? Perhaps there is a time restraint? Perhaps your topic of conversation is of no interest? If they talk to you and do not hold eye contact, do you really believe what is being said? If they hold an unflinching eye contact with you throughout the conversation, how do you feel?

When working with Ray, one of our challenges was to get him to make eye contact with us. As a trainer succinctly noted, if he is not looking at you, he is going to miss the gestures and overall body language cues that you are giving him, and are expecting him to respond to.  So we worked on that and Ray responded exceptionally well. If you have never experienced a pair of large canine eyes locked on to you, then you have missed out on an interesting experience. If the eyes truly are windows to the soul, then I suspect Ray knew so much more about us than we could imagine!

Look closely at his eyes below.

Did you turn away and then go back to look at them again? Perhaps a third time? It’s in the eyes!

What does your body language tell others?

Body language rarely lies. In fact when the body language is in conflict with the way a situation is being presented, I would trust the body language every time.

As a species, we have developed a quite sophisticated vocal communication system in that we can “keep it simple” or we can embellish. We can get “straight to the point” or we can detour. Which route we take is often dictated by what we are trying to achieve, and how difficult we think that might be to get there.  Simply put, we have developed an impressive system of communication which invites “misuse and abuse”, and one of our problems will always be to listen to what is being said, and then figuring out the thinking behind those words.

I had a dear friend who lived a less complicated life, in that his vocal expressions were minimal, but his body language said so much. He could vocalize what was necessary, but everything thing else was body language. I knew when he was happy, and I knew when he wanted to be left alone. He made it very clear when he wanted something, and was equally clear when being presented with something he did not want. Disturbing him during his sleep was an ill advised action to take. Most of our interactions were via body language, and I often wondered how much insight he had of me simply by my body language? I suspect quite a lot!

Here he is asleep on his place of choice.

I can get so much out of this picture of him. He took possession of our chair as his place of choice to sleep. He liked his head elevated a little (so do I). He felt very secure based on the tangle of legs (it would be complicated to get up fast).  He would have known that a camera was pointing at him, but had no reason to care! Here is a picture of a very relaxed, very contented and very tired Ray.

So the next time you plan on saying something that may not be a true reflection of your feelings, remember Ray and his body language in the above photo … because your body language is likely to “say” so much more!

“A Bag of Secrets”

I find that every now and then, I will discover a piece of music or song that really resonates with me. Sometimes the reason is obvious, but sometimes it just seems to be the melodic flow of the instruments. My imagination can always be “fired up” with particular musical phrasing, and of course by a certain lyric line, so when listening to music or a song (or even reading a book), I am often “directed” into a space where I can let go of the real world for a few moments. I go into my “other world”!

Back in 1973 (when I was a 27 years old father of two), Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” was released. I was one of the few in my social circle that fell in love with it, and I cannot even guess at how many times I have listened to it.  For anybody not familiar with it, the original (he also recorded an orchestrated version and also a more modern electronic version), is a 50 minute musical adventure!

The other day I was searching YouTube for some specific music and quite by chance noticed a “Tubular Bells” video. It was of a live performance by Mike Oldfield however, it was timed at just over 8 minutes. How can one present a 50 minute piece of music in 8 minutes? I had no idea but decided to find out!

Not surprisingly (in retrospect), he used the main “Tubular Bells” theme to gently caress other melodies. This Post was not, however, written to focus on Mike Oldfield, or his “Tubular Bells” piece. Remember the first paragraph?

As the 8 minute YouTube video performance was almost at its end, a voice of a very young boy with an English accent said:

And the man in the rain picked up his bag of secrets, and journeyed up the mountainside, far above the clouds, and nothing was ever heard from him again.”

So why don’t you join me as I go through the doorway into my “other world” and contemplate that single sentence. It raises so many questions such as:

Is it an old man? I associate the activity as being that of an old man, but that is nothing more than my perspective.

Why is he out in the rain? Obviously an unfortunate set of circumstances, but perhaps his mission was very important to him.

How was he travelling? I can visualize so easily an old man walking with great effort up a mountain path and disappearing into the clouds, although he apparently went “far above the clouds” … and has not been heard from since, so I wonder where he went?

Those of you  who are very detail oriented, may be aware that I have not mentioned the “bag of secrets”! That “bag of secrets” was the phrase that got my initial attention and locked in my interest to the point where I had to Google the piece to get the exact wording. So what exactly was in his bag of secrets? Well of course, being secrets, we will likely never know but what an adventure in one sentence 29 words long! Here we have an old man going out in the rain to pick up his bag of secrets. We don’t know whether they were his secrets in the bag, or those of somebody very special to him, but his mission was important enough to be out in the rain.

Then there is the “mountainside”. Not only does that conjure up images of a quite steep and winding trail, but that trail went right through (“far above”) a layer of clouds and “nothing was ever heard from him again”.

So what is it all about? I have no idea what Mike Oldfield had in mind for either the “Tubular Bells” musical saga, or for the little English boy’s spoken words at the end of the live performance. When in my “other world” however:

The old man has lived a long and eventful life and feels that his end is near. He knows that if some of his knowledge learned over his many years were to become known by others, then those dear to him could suffer as a result. He therefore decided that, rather than risk his secrets becoming known upon his passing, he would put them all in a bag and take them to a place where nobody would ever find them.

What happened “above the clouds” provides a couple of possibilities. I think that his work on earth was recognized by one or more of the deities who watch from above, and a reward was offered to him, being eternal life nearer to them … and he could bring his bag of secrets with him to ensure their safety. So it is my belief that he walked up the trail, carrying his bag of secrets, right through the clouds and to the very top of the mountain, at which point he was gently taken from the mountain and carried to a place some of us might call Heaven where he still lives.

An alternative thought is that he carried his bag of secrets to the top of the mountain where he then buried them. His mission completed, and knowing his time was imminent, he lay down and awaited his final breath.

In summary, an intriguing three word phrase (“bag of secrets”) and 26 additional words, can really create the basis for quite a story!

Footnote: It is remarkable how a short collection of words can make such an impact. Now imagine what a larger number of words could do! Well of course, a larger number of words can be called a book, and I am sure that most of you have read at least one book which held your attention, and may even have created lasting memories. A “Bag of Secrets” and the “Power of Words”, are both doorways which invite us through. Anybody ready for more adventures?

A New Direction perhaps?

This Blog was started quite a few years ago, and was predominantly going to be a vehicle for sharing my experiences with Ray … our (then) new family member. Ray may longer be with us, but he is missed terribly. However,  the world must keep turning and, in that context, some decisions are going to have to be made about this Blog. What to write about? How to redesign it to reflect a new direction? What will be the new direction and, in fact, will there be a new direction?

Stay tuned, and don’t be surprised to see some decor changes around here!

The Day After.

I hear little footsteps coming into my bedroom, but I know he will never enter again.
 I get a nudge on my elbow as I sit at the computer, but I know he is not here.
I hear his footsteps overhead as I sit in the basement, but I know it cannot be Ray.
I found a roll of poop bags in my jacket pocket, and later we will probably go for a walk. It will be quite different now.
I look at his food bowls, knowing that we have no reason to put food in them.
The following was  written quite a few years ago now, and is more poignant now than it ever was.

A Man, a Dog, and the Sky

Laying on the grass

On a summer afternoon,

And watching clouds caress the blue sky.

Listening to birds, as they sing their songs,

But I’m thinking of… just you and I.


Leaves gently dancing

To the tune of the wind,

With their branches swaying in time.

Insects are buzzing their own harmonies,

While I’m thinking of… just you and I.


And even at night,

When stars fill the sky,

It’s so easy to lose track of time.

There’s much to see but… so easy to dream

About… just you and I.


And on rainy days;

We both look outside,

And wish that the weather was fine.

But soon it will stop and then… we’ll both go

To play in the garden… you and I.


You wanted to be friends.

I was rather surprised.

A nose touch… yours to mine

Was all it took to melt my heart.

A nose touch… and a moment of time.


Perhaps our souls indeed did touch.

The inner me perhaps was found.

Perhaps it was just your big brown eyes

Saying so much… yet with no sound.

But that’s history… to you and I.


So where do we go

From here my dear friend?

Where do we go and why?

To journey together; to laugh and to cry,

And to enjoy every moment of our time.


A man and his best friend.

What more could there possibly be?

I ask myself with a sigh.

Such unconditional love… just for me.

I shall never question why.


Here we both are anyway,

And on the same road.

Who knows of the reason or rhyme?

But we can love and play; celebrate each day

And enjoy what remains of our time.


Who would ever have thought?

Both of us… just laying here,

On the grass. Just you and I.

Just you and I… together… and alone.

A man… a dog… and the sky!

My Buddy Ray!

It is with great sadness that I write to advise of Ray’s passing. He had developed a tumour on his left hind leg. Surgery would have meant leg removal, and it was believed that lumps in other parts of his body were likely also cancerous. Ray went from a happy, ears flapping dog, to one who was clearly in pain, could barely walk and need to be lifted up steps, in a matter of a few weeks.

Fortunately, we had a vet come out to our home (Ray had been curled up in the garden for the previous 3 hours or so), and she very gently put him to sleep. Once he was asleep, she administered the final injection. Ray was around 12 years old.

Farewell Ray. Wherever you are now, I hope we will meet again some day. You were the best!


Really going to miss you Buddy!


‘Tis that time again!

Wishing everybody a wonderful time over the holiday period, and a peaceful new year.

A new year where we display and witness compassion towards others.

A new year where we endeavor to understand that each of us is a product of our upbringing and of our life experiences.

A new year in which each of us can celebrate our own uniqueness, and acknowledge that attribute in those we meet.

A new year in which we can celebrate our differences, rather than isolate one another because of them.

A new year that we can together make truly wonderful.