“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.” Marie Curie (1867-1934)

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10 years ago, I was so terrified of dogs that I rarely visited friends who had them. Then this little one came home. Skylar weighed less than a pound. She’d been taken from her mother too soon so I had to feed her with a dropper around the clock. We had high hopes that she would be a companion for our children who begged us to get her. Within a few weeks, however, she became my sole responsibility.

Having never owned a dog, I didn’t relish the task. My ignorance was boundless but she was patient with me. The first time I took her for a walk, I put an old cat leash around her neck and almost strangled her. When I dropped a sock out of the laundry basket and she brought it back to me, I thought she had super powers. “Look what my puppy did!” I bragged on Facebook. “It’s called fetch,” my friends replied. Apparently every dog could do it.

Skylar watched my hair turn from brown to gray. She transformed from a rascal who chewed up shoes into an obedient pup who thought sunflower sprouts were a treat. She was there through high school then college graduations, followed us into three, different homes in three, different states and hovered at my side through two, major surgeries. She made me laugh over little things like the face she always made when I brushed her teeth. When I played the piano, she howled along as if we were in it together and we were. At night, if I tossed and turned then sighed, astonishingly, she did the same. Yes, she barked at most everything from falling leaves to FedEx trucks. However, after she alerted me to a midnight prowler, I came to respect her every growl.

I often marvel how I ever managed to live so long before finding such a grand companion. Few humans are as unabashed in both their affections and distresses. Skylar was ALL IN for everything and everyone was a potential friend. For several thousand days, I have held her close against my heart and then, last week, as she took her final breath. The house is pin drop quiet now. Our long running conversation has ended but I will never forget how wonderful it was to have.






Tax day is no longer the exciting prospect that it once was in 1975 when I excitedly marched into H&R Block (in January no less) with my very first year’s pay stubs totaling well under five figures.  As I handed the guy my large envelope jammed with disorganized receipts, I was thrilled to be joining the ‘real’ world of income-earning adults.  Now, I put off the deed until the day before they’re due.

 It’s amazing what I’ll do just to avoid a little pain.  For the last four weeks I have endured a faulty crown on a tooth that STILL hurts a month after being drilled.  There is a gap between my gum and the new crown that aches when I breathe or eat.  The top of it juts out just like that rock the Titanic hit and is sharp enough to draw blood.  When the dentist said he, ” didn’t see anything wrong,” I made him take off his glasses AND his rubber gloves.  “Now stick your finger in there and FEEL IT!” I commanded.  (I’ll just let you imagine his response.)  After a dainty, three-second probe, he declared, “It just needs some smoothing around the edges,” and sent me on my merry way.    

 Five days later it still bothers me.  So what am I doing about it?  Suffering in silence—(except for telling you, of course).  I’m not only reluctant to tell him that it STILL isn’t right, I also don’t want to hear the shrill sound of his drill chiseling through my ear canal, sending shock waves through the dendrites of my central nervous system. You know, this is just plum stupid.  A quick, phone call  would probably put me out of my misery. 

You’d think I’d have wised-up over the last 35 years, but I’m dumber than I was when I first took the SAT’s and thought ‘grovel’ was something you dug with.  There’s a zillion things in life I CAN’T control:  world war, nuclear fallout, drivers who put on their left turn signals then veer right, and my own teenagers.  But what kind of idiot can’t control their own mouth?  (Don’t say it.)  

Just now, some salesman had the misfortune to enter our yard unannounced.  Our dog barked loud enough to scare our visitor backwards through a thorn bush AND set my teeth on edge.  No pussy-footing around with her.  If something’s wrong she lets you know it.  Frankly, I’d trade her instinct for my intellect in a heartbeat.




She looks absolutely pitiful; a shadow of the fluffy pup who only yesterday sprung up to her window seat to watch the cars go by.  The vet sent Skylar home today after double knee surgery.  A stiff, plastic Edwardian collar keeps her from licking the long, red-stitched wounds open.  Her tail no longer arches up with its’ Pomeranian plume but droops like a worn out feather duster.  Carefully, as if I am holding a fragile, glass figure, I carry her to the grass to pee.  Her hind paws rest in my palm like tiny rabbit’s feet.    

The sight of her now would make anyone sad—but for this:  She leaves my side, walking on only her two front feet as if she has done this all her life!  She pauses, sighs, then wobbles forward another several yards with both her back legs lifted.  They seem held aloft by invisible strings!  While her gait has a slight back and forth wobble, she moves with a smoothness that amazes me. 

I think of the old saying, “When one door closes another one opens.”  It occurs to me, though, that the other door being open means absolutely nothing if one does not walk through it.  And I think of the many people I know in my life who stand in front of open doors and never even cross the threshold.  They just stand there, not lifting a foot, as if paralyzed.   Aren’t they curious what might be around the corner? 

When I was a teenager and moping around the house, Granny always encouraged me to go do something for others.  ‘I bet Mrs. Tway would love it if you’d offer to water her flowers.”  Her theory was:  If you take a real interest in others, you won’t have time to think about yourself.  It always worked.

It even works for dogs.  Skylar has spotted a butterfly.  She gives chase for only a few feet and collapses in the grass.  Her little, collared head turns in the direction of the butterfly until it disappears and then she looks at me.  Her eyes are sparkling.  I lift her up and hold her close.  She looks around sniffing with anticipation of what might be next.  And so do I . . .and so should we.      

**Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of the years before and after her grandmother’s descent into Alzheimer’s. 


Only one person wished me Happy Mother’s Day this morning:  the dog.  (Granted, no one else was up yet, but isn’t that how it is?)  Actually, she greets me EVERY day as if I am the most wonderful creature on the planet.  My kids used to be like that.  They’re teenagers now.  So on this happy occasion let me share a few things this little mutt has taught me that I wish I had known BEFORE I gave birth. 

1.  “No” is very effective about the zillionth time you say it.  If you cave before that they just don’t get the point.

2.  If you don’t want them to do something, like chew the buttons off your blouse, whatever you do, DO NOT TRY TO GET THE BLOUSE!  Give them a nice, dirty sock instead.  Otherwise you’ll end up with a ripped blouse.

3.  If they want to play, play with them.  Otherwise they will hound you until you simply cannot do whatever it is that might be more important than playing with them at that exact moment. 

4.  When they get too wound up, pick them up and hold them.  They’ll calm down eventually.

5.  If they bark at strangers you aren’t sure of—let ‘em bark.  Otherwise, get yourself a nice, pair of earplugs cause they’re gonna bark. 

6.  If you have to give them a nasty-tasting pill, don’t tell them, “It’s yummy” and insist they eat it.  Play ‘Keep Away,”  and don’t let them have it.  When they finally get it they’ll pretend to like it even if they don’t.

7.  Don’t pick up after them.  That chewed up, muddy shoe is on their bed for a reason.

8.  They’ll eat when they’re hungry.  Just put the food out.

9.  If they suddenly bark at you or nip you on the leg for absolutely NO reason at all, don’t try to figure out why.  They don’t know either. 

10.  Leash them up at night or you never know WHERE they’ll end up in the morning.

When my grandmother was raising me, she had already owned a dog.  This stuff was second nature to her.  I had to learn the hard way.  So, to all you new mothers out there this morning:  before your little ones grow up, GET A DOG!!!

(Helen Hudson is the author of “Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of caring for her grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. )


     Before we had our cat, Skitter, I thought that people who doted on their pets were complete idiots.   ‘It’s not like they can talk to you or do anything productive,’ I used to say.  But when my oldest turned six and that tiny ball of fluff arrived, I did an about-face.  I became downright besotted.  Even though I was the one who fed her, changed the litter and made the vet appointments, she was worth it.  The kids loved her and even Dad came around the day she plunked in his lap and began to purr. 

     After awhile I was certain that she understood me.  ‘We’ had conversations understood only by us.  I did all the talking but I was sure she listened.  Her ears even cocked towards the sound of my voice.  And get this:  I brushed her with my own hairbrush!  For 9 years, she followed us coast to coast, grew bigger, navigated puberty w/ my oldest and shred a few pieces of furniture in the process.   

     One afternoon I found her licking the dinner bell.  Odd.  The next day she wouldn’t eat & hid herself deep in the closet.  Once the vet diagnosed feline leukemia, the only hope was a blood transfusion.  He said she’d be in pain and likely wouldn’t hold on, so I let her go.  It was hard and haunted me for months.  

     Now my neighbor has a dog.  He loves strutting behind that highly groomed pooch.  Treats him like he’s the Crown Prince of Something.  Picks up his poop in a plastic bag as if he were gathering rare gems.  Calls him, “Buddy.”  Talks to him with such affection and kindness that the day he first spoke to me I was taken aback.  He’s not a very nice guy.  In fact, in 3 years, we’ve only spoken twice.  During our  last conversation, talk drifted to aging parents.  “My mother got that dementia thing,” he told me.  “Put her in a home and that was that.  Don’t know what all the fuss is about.  You can put ’em anywhere.  Doesn’t matter.  They don’t know where they are anyway.”  Wonder what he’ll do when Buddy gets old and loses his swagger.   (http://www.