Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Groundhogs Are Back

Sometimes we make a mistake. Cora was (is) a sweet, adorable, little lady, and if I had been in the right place and time for a dog, I couldn't ask for a better one.

But. Soon after I brought her home, I realized that I had made a wrong turn. I had so clearly relished the freedom of being on my own. That feeling of freedom took a nose dive. I felt tied down, accountable, distracted, frustrated, and trapped. Really, all of those--just because of a lovable--and loving--little dog. I tried to convince friends that she was just what they needed, but apparently she wasn't. I tried to grit my teeth and accept that we were meant to be together, and got more depressed. The last thing I could see myself doing was taking her back to the shelter. What could be more heartless?

But. Cora's one bad habit was getting into the "briar patch" that surrounds my property and had worked effectively as a fence for Sisko. Admittedly, she was just doing exactly what I had brought her home to do--taking care of those groundhogs. I tried to explain to her that she didn't need to be QUITE so thorough. She ignored me--tracking down critters was her area of expertise. So the neighbors had to put up with my constantly bleating "CORA-A-A!" when she disappeared. Or I had to keep her constantly on the end of a leash. Who was tied to whom?

Finally I decided to see what would happen if I left her to her own devices in the yard. Maybe I was underestimating her. Maybe she understood what her limits were. She didn't. She worked her way through twenty feet of brush, across a big road, into the field on the other side, and didn't show any signs of stopping. I'm telling this to illustrate why I believe sometimes our wishes are granted in mysterious ways. My fear for her safety was the push I needed to return her to the shelter. Although I felt all kinds of rotten and sad, I also felt my inner compass swinging around. Unfortunately, just because something is the "right" thing to do doesn't make it easy.

On my way back from leaving Cora at the shelter, I stopped to talk to a friend, and she said the magic words: "They'll take good care of her. Don't beat yourself up. I know they will, and I'm trying not to. Another friend said, "Maybe you were the half-way home she needed." And my own inner wisdom reminds me that dogs don't take things so personally. They are more adaptable to life than most of us.

I'm praying for a wonderful home for Cora. (You can contact the shelter here if you're interested!)

And meanwhile . . . does anybody know what to do about groundhogs?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Around the Bend

Last Thursday was my real, official last day at Highlights. They organized a lovely luncheon for me at a local inn. I appreciated all the kind things that were said, and I appreciated all the people who came to help me celebrate. One of my luncheon guests was Ron Zalme, who is the talented current illustrator of "The Timbertoes" and "The Adventures of Spot." I thought you might like to see him. I'm holding a cool piece of art he did for me of the Timbertoes.

People kept asking me how it felt to be retiring, and I was stuck for an answer. I've never retired before! But eventually (and as with most of my best responses, after the fact) the answer did come to me.

In 1932 John Gee illustrated a storybook called The Timbertoes. This was twenty years before the Timbertoes appeared in Highlights. The little wooden family has lots of adventures in the book, including an episode in which Tommy gets abducted to be a child's action figure. Toward the end of the story, summer has ended, and winter is coming. Pa Timbertoe decides the family should head south. He builds a raft for the journey. This is how the book ends: "On down the brook they floated. Around the turn went the little raft. Around the turn and out of sight went the Timbertoes."

I don't mean to imply that I'm going to disappear. It's the image of heading into new waters that appeals to me, trusting the river to carry me to new places, in its own time. That's how it feels.

P.S. Thanks to Sue Erb for the photos of this and the previous event. She's a pro!