Sunday, October 28, 2018


About five years ago, I was working as a Humane Society of Skagit Valley employee and a 90 year-old friend of mine was looking for a dog. I've match-made before, connecting the right dogs with the right humans time and time again, but this was a special opportunity. I knew how greatly my friend needed the companionship of a dog as her mobility grew increasingly limited, and I knew how much love and lap-time her potential adoptee was in for. I connected P. and G. (names withheld for the family's privacy), and the rest was history.

I promised G. then that if ever P. needed somewhere to go—a possible reality whenever you're in your 90s and adding to the family—I'd be there. In G.'s last days, I was on call, ready to scoop P. up and get her to her next home when the moment came.

G. and P. brought a tremendous amount of love into one another's lives while they were together, and when G. passed away she was at home, with P. in bed beside her where she belonged. I'm grateful that my friend Jules stepped up and provided immediate foster care for P., sparing her the rambunctious chaos of my three-dog, two-cat, three-rabbit, two-kid home. Jules lost a beloved elder dog a year ago, and P. lost her beloved elder human just this month. They've been a great comfort to one another.

Jules has realized she's not the right long-term human for P., due to her busy lifestyle and P.'s longing for more lap time. Luckily, Jules found a fantastic family that we both like and trust very much, and P. is going to be spending time with them on trial starting next weekend.

Every dog who has ever passed through my hands on their way to someone new—Story, Eben, Djembe, Benni, Noel, Joey, Stoney, P.—can always come home again. I just love it when they don't have to, because they end up somewhere even better.

Happy trails, P. Thank you for bringing so much joy into the life of my good friend.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The visitors: in which Russell loses his shit

Russell (center) has dangerously low self-confidence. Yesterday, he reminded me of this by losing his shit when my friend D. dropped by around dinner time. Forgetting how heavy Russell's emotional baggage is, I let my daughter open the door while I stirred the onions. Russell freaked out and tried to save us, and I arrived just in time to grab his writhing form just before he slipped out the door teeth-first. I carried him to the bedroom, where he proceeded to have a total meltdown. He's valiant—I'll give him that. It's just that D. is the opposite of nefarious, and Russell seems to have missed the memo.

Russell spent the first seven months of his life tied to a tree, during which time it seems he formed a few general impressions: 1) men are bad. 2) tall men are very bad. 3) tall men leaning over are very, very bad. As a result, no greeting of anyone even remotely mistakable for male goes down in my household without Russell being locked away, or at least a stern warning being issued. "Don't look at the brown dog, he's afraid. Don't touch him. Pretend he doesn't exist."

There are exceptions to Russell's impressions, such as my friend Rob. When Russell met Rob, Russ threw the book away and wrote three new rules: 1) Rob is good. 2) Sitting on Rob is very good. 3) Lying on Rob's chest while Rob lays on his back, entranced by Russell's loving gaze, is very, very good. Another exception to Russell's rules is my boyfriend, who spent a couple of years diligently pouring love and kindness upon Russell in order to earn the privilege of leaning over without being barked at.

I know that Russell could be helped by more practice, more treats, more positive associations, and more of my time devoted to exercise and training. I don't have that time to spare right now. Apparently, though, I don't have the most phobic dog ever. When I googled, "my dog doesn't like men" just now, I hit on an interesting thread in which a top comment was, "my dog hates people and the world."

Just goes to show you that life could almost always be worse.

Do drop by again, D., if you're reading. Just don't try to pet the brown dog.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Doggo Slomo

For days when there's no time to write, there's slow motion dog video:

Saturday, October 6, 2018


Clover and Shaila—two of my blessings.

I saw something on Facebook along the lines of, "do you love your job, your home, your family, and your love life? Are you very happy with every aspect of your personal life? Do you wake up filled with joy and gratitude every morning?"

And I thought . . . "yeah! Basically, I am, and usually, I do."

Then I read the comments. It was a sponsored post, selling some kind of e-workshops with a self-help guru. People were pissed—in full denial not only of this guy's services but also of the general premise that it is possible to be pretty happy with every aspect of your personal life.

Don't get me wrong—I get angry, sad, distressed, worried, anxious, irritated, blue. I'm pissed about Kavanaugh, enraged about family separation at the border, distressed on behalf of the animals suffering in factory farms everywhere, and devastated by the ways in which institutionalized racism and speciesism are upheld. I'm also occasionally annoyed by my family, worried about money, or spread thin at work. I want things I don't have and can't afford.

That said, I am grateful. Deeply, awesomely grateful. I'm grateful to my racial justice learning group members who help me learn and grow as an anti-racist advocate. I'm grateful to the staff and board of the Whidbey Institute, whom I count not just as colleagues but as some of my dearest friends. I'm grateful for my children, who are growing up to be kind, wise, talented, and compassionate people who inspire me daily. I'm grateful to my boyfriend, for being kind, funny, thoughtful, and more emotionally intelligent than I thought a straight white man could be. I'm grateful to Sue who is keeping my mule Arrietty safe in Sequim, and Madisun, David, and the Shermans who are keeping my cow Dahlia safe in Coupeville. I'm grateful to the womxn and the LBGTQIA and BIPOC leaders who stand against white supremacy and patriarchy. I'm grateful to indigenous wisdom and cutting edge innovation that brings us closer to environmental sanity. I'm grateful to my wonderful neighbors for putting a smile on my face (and a birdhouse on my fence—thanks!) and to my local farmers for putting food on my table. I'm grateful to all the voters who are going to reset the Senate in the next election.

While there can be no "perfect happiness," here are some ingredients that bring me close:

1) aligning my actions with my values as often as possible
2) doing what I'm good at, for people who appreciate me
3) being honest with myself and others
4) serving others and staying involved in my community
5) living within my means and planning for my future
6) surrounding myself with animals and people whom I love
7) taking down time for myself, even when life is busy
8) staying just informed enough to be effective, without obsessing about what's out of my control
9) getting outside in nature often
10) counting my blessings—every single day

Hey, reader—you're among my blessings too. Consider yourself counted.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Heirloom citrus

I now have 8 baby citrus trees growing in pots in my home. My working theory is that the climate of Whidbey Island circa 2018 is roughly similar to the climate of Oakland, CA circa 1885, which is when the parent tree sprouted in what is now my brother's backyard. I plan to raise my shiny little trees indoors for a couple of years then dole several out to friends, plant one in my greenhouse, and pot one on for wintering indoors for as long as it can fit in the house. I might try putting one in the yard as well, though I'm nervous about its chances in a hard frost. Advice welcome.

My brother's citrus tree is supposedly a pomelo hybrid. It has fruits which look and smell exactly like lemons but are the size of grapefruits. It's a fantastic tree, and though I'm not sure the offspring will share the parent's characteristics, I am very excited to have these shiny little green reminders from my brother's Victorian urban farm.