Small Conceits

Musings. Stories. Poems.

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Let’s Take a Walk!

From a summer out of our past. She really was a snarky little girl in her heyday.

Coyote: “Hey! I know! Let’s take a walk!”

Me: “I’m kinda busy here.”

Coyote: “What could be more important than a walk?”

Me: “Sanding down the spackling on this wall so I can wash it down again and get some primer on it tonight.”

Coyote: “I repeat…”

Me: “Weren’t you the one who was complaining that it was hot earlier when I let you outside?”

Coyote: “It *is* hot! But it’s not as hot when you’re taking a walk. Well-know fact from physics.”

Me: “Right. Because sniffing dog pee somehow cools you down.”

Coyote: “It does!”

Me: “It’s not like we don’t have dog pee in the yard.”

Coyote: “But that’s self-referential pee.”

Me: “Self-refer-…what the heck are you reading NOW?”

Coyote: “It’s a dog thing. You wouldn’t get it.”

Me: “Look, I’m up on a ladder here. Just go take a nap or something.”

Coyote: “Up on a ladder, huh? Easy enough to fix…”

Chipmunk: “What are YOU doing out here?”

Me: “I’m not sure. Might have something to do with the swearing when she shook the ladder.”

Chipmunk: “Doesn’t explain *how* you got out here.”

Me: “I opened the door to boot her outside, and found myself out here with the door closed behind me.”

Chipmunk: “Aren’t you the one with the opposable thumbs? Let yourself back in.”

Me: “She locked the door.”

Chipmunk: “How’d she do that?”

Me: “Look, you little rodential pest, why don’t you go find some poisoned peanuts or something?”

Chipmunk: “Still not over that strawberry thing, huh?”

Me: “Get. Lost. NOW.”

Chipmunk: <diving down hole> “Touchy!”

Coyote looking longingly out the front door.

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Bison Bit Debate

Life without Sachi for that nine months meant Coyote and I spent a lot of “quality time” together. At the dinner table, about 18 months ago, when Coyote was still eating food on a regular basis:

Me: <tossing a coupla bison tidbits onto the deck> “Hey, you want this?”

Coyote: <sniffs, takes in her mouth, spits back out, sniffs> “Did you have these in your mouth?”

Me: “Yeah, but only briefly. Kinda sinewy.”

Coyote: “So, what makes you think *I’m* going to want that?”

Me: “You’re a dog.”

Coyote: “What?”

Me: “You’re a dog. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”

Coyote: “I’m not disputing the fact that I’m a dog. What I’m taking issue with is the insinuation that I would eat your mouthed-up table scraps because I’m a dog. It’s speciesist.”

Me: “Oh good lord! Speciesist? What the heck have you been reading while I’m at work? I’m putting the parental controls back on the computer.”

Coyote: “Puh-LEEZE! As if I don’t know your password…”

Me: “Hey! Are you sniffing through my things again? I told you that’s private!”

Coyote: “Whatever. In any case, I’m not your canine garbage disposal.”

Me: “Fine. I’ll just –”


Me: “Dammit! That was almost my hand! I thought you didn’t want the scraps.”

Coyote: “I didn’t say I didn’t want them. I said I resented the assumption that, because I’m a dog, I would want them.”


It’s a good thing Bodhi came along when he did. I think we were beginning to get on each other’s nerves.

Coyote licking her nose

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Scratching Lessons

About 18 months ago I suffered one solid week of maddening itching from a scalp-to-sole allergic rash. And this was the help I got:

Coyote: “Try your hind paw.”

Me: “What?!”

Coyote: “Your hind paw. You can get better leverage scratching behind your ear.”

Me: “Not now, you smartass husky.”

Coyote: “Hey! I’m just trying to help!”

Me: “By critiquing my scratching technique?” <I continue scratching>

Coyote: “See. Now I’d bite that. You’re never going to get that part to quit itching just by using claws.”

Me: “Seriously, this is not the time.” <moaning as I get the hard-to-reach part of my back>

Coyote: <giggles>

Me: “What is so damned funny about this?”

Coyote: “It’s just that it’s been a while since I’ve heard you make that sound…and there’s usually a man involved.”

Chipmunk: “How’s it going?”

Coyote: “Huh? Oh…you…”

Chipmunk: “What did she put you out here for this time?”

Coyote: <grumpily> “For a prey animal, you’re sure lacking in survival instincts.”

Chipmunk: “Don’t need ’em. We’re avid breeders.”

Coyote: <growling> “You’re about to take one for the team.”

Chipmunk: <diving down a hole> “Touchy!”

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A Sachi-Shaped Hole

Coyote was my rock, my saving grace after Sachi died. She has always been a gentle soul — with just enough snark to keep me from getting too maudlin. 

Coyote: “Mom, why did Sachi have to leave us so soon?”

Me: “I’m not sure, Coyote, but I suspect it’s because the world just wasn’t big enough to handle all of that love and joy.”

Coyote: “I’m going to miss her.”

Me: “I am, too, baby girl. <We pause and reflect a moment.> “If you were to wish one thing for Sachi, now that she’s moved on, what would it be?”

Coyote: “I’d wish she’d finally catch that fat, stupid squirrel that teased us every morning from the maple tree out front. <We share a chuckle> “Remember that one that fell at her feet out of the tree that time?”

Me: <laughing> “I remember. She almost didn’t know what to do with it.”

Coyote: “Or I’d wish that she was swimming in the river, chasing ducks.”

Me: “She was like sunlight on the water.”

Coyote: “Yeah, she was beautiful, that silly Golden.” <sighs> “Mom, who’s going to make us laugh, now that she’s gone?”

Me: “I guess we’ll have to do that for each other.”

Coyote: <groans> “We’re sunk. You’re not funny.”

Me: <laughing through tears> “Well, it’ll certainly be a lot more humbling for me with just you around.”

Coyote: <putting her paw gently on my thigh> “I was teasing, Mom. You’re plenty funny. For a human.”

Me: “But not for a Golden.”

Coyote: <sighs & leans into me, just slightly> “Nope. Not for a Golden.”

Later, from something like a dream:

Sachi: “Mom! Mom! I don’t hurt anymore, Mom!”

Me: “I know sweetheart, I know.”

Sachi: “And I think I could really run again — and jump over logs and play!”

Me: “Then go do it, my good girl.”

Sachi: <teasing and wagging her tail> “C’mon, Mom…what’s the command?”

Me: <unlatching her collar and whispering close to her ear> “Sachi FREE!”


I love you, Sachi. With all the pieces of my heart.

My Golden, Sachi, swimming

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Sachi’s Last Goodbyes

Sachi, my first Golden and Coyote’s sister, had been ill, off and on, for nearly six months when her last emergency room visit finally produced the diagnosis that had evaded us: cancer. And it was untreatable. My entire world went dark. I went to the veterinary hospital, where she’d been kept for testing, to bring her home to die. So great was my anguish and worry about the possibility that she was suffering that I began frantically calling veterinarians to see if someone could come that night to put her down. Fortunately, no one was able to come, as it gave me the opportunity to invite the people who knew and loved her to the house to say goodbye to her. It was too much for me to process and impossible for me to form the right words for such a pronouncement, so I let my sweet little girl tell my Facebook friends how it was with her.

Sachi: “Mom, why are all the people visiting us sad tonight?”

Me: “Well, Sachi, it’s time for you to go, sweetheart.”

Sachi: “On a walk?”

Me: “Well…”

Sachi: “Or a car ride? I like car rides.”

Me: “It’s kind of a like a car ride. It’s a journey, baby. A new kind of adventure.”

Sachi: “Are you coming, too? I like it when we go places together.”

Me: “Oh, puppy-girl… No, I’m not coming this time.”

Sachi: “You aren’t going to be there? What about Coyote?”

Me: “No, Sachi, you’re going to have to do this one alone. But we’ll be right there to send you off, baby. We won’t leave you until we’re sure you’re safely on your way.”

Sachi: “I’ll be sad. I’ll miss you.”

Me: “We’ll miss you, too, baby girl. Believe me. We’ll miss you every single day.”

Sachi: “Mom?”

Me: “Yes, Sachi?”

Sachi: “Am I a good girl?”

Me: “Yes, sweetness. Yes, my soul. You are a good girl. The sweetest, funniest, most beautiful girl. You are my light.”

Sachi: “You’re a good girl, too, Mom. Even if you don’t have a tail to wag.”

Me: “Thanks, baby. That means a lot.”

Sachi: “I’m tired, Mom. Are you ok?”

Me: “I’ll be fine, Sachi. Just rest here, and I’ll hold onto you for a little while. Tomorrow is a big day.”

Sachi: “Thanks, Mom.”

Me: <whispering> “No, Sachi. Thank you. For everything you are and have been.”

My Sachi as a puppy, 10 mos

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John stops us on our walk to ask after Coyote. We pause, and I fill him in on her slow, drawn-out deterioration.

“They’re a super-breed,” he says, pointing at Coyote with his chin.

Blinking, “I’m sorry…what?”

“Huskies,” he tells me. “I did a little research, and they metabolize food differently, so they can go longer on less.”

And it hits me, full-force in the chest: Huskies are the closest that domestic dogs come to wolves. They’ve retained many of the wolf characteristics throughout their journey from fire pit to fire place. One of those characteristics is a kind of “famine mode” for absorbing nutrients from their food.

I gaze down at my sweet girl, trembling with weakness where she stands, as John continues elaborating on how the husky’s loping run conserves energy; how their fur insulates them from heat and cold… I can only make sense of scattered words because my mind is jangling with one simple, cruel fact:

My god, her genetics are prolonging her death.

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A Late Need for Moorings

My dogs have all loved to run off-leash. Living in the city, the opportunities to do so are few and far between — and are often stolen at odd hours or in what most people would call “bad weather” so as to avoid being caught and fined. The Golden Retrievers in my life loved to stretch their legs and run for the sheer joy of it. My Coyote, though, could simply never believe she was untethered, having spent her previous life chained to a post. Of the three dogs who have graced my adult life, she has always been the most grateful for that small freedom.

As Coyote has grown weaker in her illness, I’ve started walking her up and down the street without a leash, knowing that she is too sick to run away and believing that I was doing her a kindness by allowing her to make her careful way without the tug of the leash on her collar. From time to time, I’ve caught her suddenly jerk to attention, seeking me out, so I’ve stayed relatively close and within her narrowing range of sight, thinking that was enough.

Tonight’s walk gave me a different perspective. As we rounded the corner in front of my house, Coyote stumbled over the crumbling road surface. She hesitantly struggled over the rough spot and continued unsteadily on for a few steps before stopping and gazing up at me, tremors running through her poor old body. She seemed to want to lean on me, and I thought, I wonder if she feels lost.

“Do you want your leash?” I asked her. She dragged a few, insecure steps toward me. “Would it help you if you had your leash, baby girl?” I closed the tiny gap between us, and she stretched her neck out in that familiar gesture that, for more than a decade, has signaled she wanted me to clip her leash to her collar for a walk. Only, now, there was another layer of meaning: I need to feel attached to you. I feel unsafe without my moorings.

We walked on for the short way her paws will still carry her, and I noticed that when she stumbled or when her hind paw clubbed up because her brain can’t command it consistently anymore, she would glance up, leaning into her end of her leash so she could feel me on my end. Sometimes, if the leash hung too loosely, she would cast about with her head, relaxing only when she felt certain I had hold of her.

And at the end of our walk, once we were safely in the yard, I unclipped the leash, as is our habit, and tried to coax her into following me up the hill to the house. She froze in place, waiting for the reassurance of my touch on her back to guide her across the yard and up the path.

To keep her connected to me. To guide her home.

white husky-mix on her leash