In Mary Wollstonecraft’s first novel, Mary, A Fiction,
which is really truly a hybrid memoir,
she writes of her own love for her friends,
and fleeting happiness.

“I follow a fleeting good, an ignis fatuus; but this chase, these struggles
prepare me for eternitywhen I no longer see through a glass darkly
I shall not reason about, but feel in what happiness consists.”
(-Wollstonecraft, from Mary, a Fiction)

And from her unfinished novel, Maria, Or, the Wrongs of Woman,
which she was writing at the time of her death, ten days after
giving birth to her daughter, Mary (Godwin) Wollstonecraft Shelley
in 1797. In this unfinished novel, the heroine, Maria, is a woman kept
in an asylum because her husband had her committed
for hysteria.

A magic lamp now seemed to be suspended in Maria’s prison,
and fairy landscapes flitted round the gloomy walls, late so blank.
Rushing from the depth of despair, on the seraph wing of hope,
she found herself happy.
            —She was beloved, and every emotion was rapturous.”

(Wollstonecraft, from Maria, Or the Wrongs of Woman)

Today is May Day, and so I feel hopeful: my dachshund-pointer,
Sophie-Bea turns 13 years old sometime this month, or the next.
I watched her sitting in the backyard today and wrote this poem.
It may seem like a strange combination or association, but Mary
Wollstonecraft was a double-Taurus, and we are now in the
“season of Taurus,” and my dog is Taurean, and I, like Mary
Wollstonecraft, and my dog, were all born in what is known
as the “Third Lunar Mansion” with the moon in Taurus. I used
all of the words from the two quotes from Wollstonecraft to
help me articulate my emotions around my love for Sophie-Bea.

A  magic(-ical) moon in Taurus,
       at that degree between Rousseau and Mary Wollstonecraft,
I share their possessive tendencies

     toward appreciating good and beautiful things. We were born
in the third lunar mansion

      as though we possessed a genie’s good will
and an instinct to follow a glowing lamp

           lit us up             led us along        that path of the will o’ the wisp,    
now     it’s    fleeting,
      this good fortune           and not one of us   (well, maybe Rousseau)     
languished in its light.           I tend to think that the little pleasures      
birdsong, a lake swim, hearing the foxes in the woods
under a full moon, or the heart-wrenching call of the loons,
or watching my beloved dachshund-pointer recline in the grass,
her hind legs splayed frog-like,
       sniffing the spring air,
all seemed so good for a few years.

We hiked and swam, romped through meadows;
she followed butterflies and splashed into the waves
at the ocean. But these days, these perfect days
of joy and unrelenting freedom, at times of crisis, or illness,

              I now realize they turned out to be an ignis fatuus          
a meandering marsh fairy leading me along a lovely
sunlight dappled forested path to an unknown meadow, or glade.

      My dog is equally enchanted,
and we just keep going, no intentions of
ever returning to the car

                 or wherever we have to be.          
It started with a funny cough. But this  

merely     suspended our runs through the land trust preserve,
and brisk beach walks in November.

   She fainted once, then in the fall,
her lungs filled with fluid; she went into congestive heart failure.

            In delirious optimism, or denial, we chased
remedies and recipes for low-sodium diet for her.  

        I started cooking for my dog. Sweet potatoes,
chicken (no salt), grilled asparagus, turkey, salmon fillets,
and kale—surprisingly, she loves green vegetables,
and cucumber slices (and fish).

         In the summer heat of a Maine heat wave,
I filled the kiddie pools in the yard, and she waded.

We visited my mother by the river, and Sophie-Bea
lounged in the marsh, a healthy curve to her back,
  she reclined like an empress in a salty breeze
while I swam. She watched me

From the riverbank, occasionally wading into the water
herself to cool her round belly.

      Perfect days like this I find myself singing to myself,
“How do you solve a problem like Maria’s?” 
All of my favorite things—and my lovely little dog

     In one place: the river, the seaweed,
the hummingbirds swooping as I rinse off in the shower—

And she seems comfortable, breathing easy,
meanders like a four-legged elf along the shore,

  Her black spots on her white body almost resemble
a longer version of a cartoon “Snoopy,”

     But with an elegant Elizabeth Taylor
from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” feminine self-assurance

She knows where’s she’s going, and what she wants to do.
These small pleasures I cherish
  watching her. In winter, I know, it will be the opposite:
the freezing cold temperatures and storms,

   the storms I used to love for all of their dramatic appeal—
the warmth of the woodstove — Instead, these stormy
wintry nights feel like an exhausting prison. I turn on the humidifier,

  I make the air as breathable as possible for her. She struggles.
I worry and prepare for the worst.

       February, my favorite month, becomes a nightmare of sorts,
and I think I’ve lost her. But, like the forest, this heart disease
of hers is a weird unpredictable experience. She tells me,

          “I’m happy.” She flits about the house, playful with her toys,
interested in new foods, and charming new side of her emerges
nearly like a marsh fairy.    Suddenly, my dachshund-pointer
is cheery again, the worst is over: it’s spring again; she’s pointing.

     She’s in the yard, looking for birds, or squirrels,
but not chasing anything.
She walks calmly.

She traverses the woods    
soft-stepped, a sure-footing,
and doesn’t take her chances

with more than a trot through the yard in the rain.
This rare time of year we see the pond

    through the trees, and feel grateful for these warm,
sunny landscapes – patches of blue buds of green and
red on the trees.   My dog is nearly thirteen-years-old,
either this May or June—

(hard to say because she was a rescue)
but she was definitely born under the influence of Taurus!

   One of her most defining characteristics,
besides strong neck and shoulders, her independence!

         When not on her 50’ long “training leash” in the yard
(a precaution, post-diagnosis)

  She flitted through the woods like a wood frog or songbird,
or fairy. She’d disappear, and reappear

      with black legs—evidence of her visit to the Bog of Eternal Stench
in the black ash seep just beyond Fern Gully here at Nixie’s Vale.
I forgave the eternity of bog aroma because I love her—
and lavender coat conditioner works quite nicely.

When we swam out deep

    Together, that first August of 2009,
in the lake I knew like the back of my own thigh, I knew

            She was a keeper—my soulmate,
the kind of dog with a pointy-dachshund face and a round
curvy torso, wagging full-bodied, and could jump six feet into the air
from a standing position—

  Unusual and completely unexpected.
I had known the gloomy days of post-traumatic stress, months,
no, years of the gloom I could not quite pierce (even with my herbal remedies)
Until I found my dog. No, I don’t think my dog was a “crutch,”
as one psychologist suggested.

    We found our footing together;
she was recovering from whatever horrible trauma in Arkansas,

     I think she was a recovering model for Purina,
or a hunting school failure, abandoned
on a highway in Hot Springs. Together, in my house in the vale,
our walls came down. Some nights, she slept-walked into the closet,
and climbed into my laundry basket,

I’d go and turn the light on, and wake her; she’d look around,
disoriented. The longer she

    She’d go without sleep-walking, for months—
this happened late at night, she did so without
ever once making a noise—not a bark, not a yip,
no sound uttered from her throat.

   It was as if her ululative instincts were inhibited,
or dysfunctional; she could not ululate.

We formed a language in other ways;
I made hand gestures, and she mouthed my hand

   While we walked side-by-side. In the night,
she began making little sniffy noises, huffs, and sighs
until a year had gone by, and she finally, for the first time, barked!
And then it was as if a window had opened.
Her personality shined through in the second year—so see-through

   We were transparent to one another.
She knew my secrets, and I knew hers.
Her expressions

        Just a look and I could read her eyes;
we talked a myriad of miscellaneous trivia her news of the woods

The kinds of conversations you can only have
with a dog who already knows your past
by smelling all that permeates your skin
your bedsheets your clothing and your wall is blank glass

       The two of you together—dog and woman—
might as well be mother and daughter,

Or confidantes, or two lovers, as weird as that may sound—
at least, two souls darkly
Aware of one another’s dreams and nightmares;
we wake the other up when the images

Come rushing in the night like a thunderstorm, or howling wind. 
I guess she is a part of me from every vulnerability   
and the parts that we cannot eat, or climb under to make a den,

Or swim through to cool our bellies, we shall make do with,          
she and I know the depths

   We go to avoid death. Of more than one occasion,
this dog has simply saved my life, and then

Saved the lives of others, who never knew her name,
or cared. She also helped small children

  Overcome their cynophobia (and their parents,
delighted, stood back and let them pet her)

Sophie-Bea took this responsibility very seriously—
on her back, motionless, full submission

 Not to interfere, I stepped aside to let her shine.
She thrives in the company of admirers.
    In solitude, during isolation, we do not despair.
We take solace in the slope of the yard,

      The birdsong and sunshine, a reason for living—
she reclines on the deck.

A phoebe swoops and lands on the back of my chair.
Up close, I make eye contact, and wish

      This is an on omen. Sophie-Bea glances over briefly,
the seraph-like bird flexes her little wings

         And is off again. I sip my tea and make a wish
about this day, but of course I know

I can only hope she will still feel content
and comfortable tomorrow and in the days that follow.
     Today I found out she will not eat liver
(another thing we have in common)

        What she will eat, and when, is a mood-dependent lunar thing.
She knows herself.

Now that the sun and the planets are in the sign of Taurus,
I feel happy, and hopeful.
  She is breathing easy tonight, this May Day,
and was able to walk about her beloved yard.

    And inspect the perimeter of every corner of her territory.
These small victories

Conjure an emotion in me that stir that magical lamp
and I again call upon the genie, if he, or she,

   Might still be listening, and if the genie was willing to make note:
my list consists of her happiness

  All these spring afternoons, for her,
I wish for easy breathing, birdsong, and breeze-sniffing:
and dreaming butterfly meadows
and grassy beds on the riverbank rapturous.