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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.  

My little green pok-a-dot slip-ons squished through emerald moss as I walked my dog, Sophie-Bea, down through the field at Hacker’s Hill. Usually the grass is tall and provides a hiding place, my favorite sitting spot, on a flat granite ledge.  But today the grass was cropped short, freshly mowed this spring, and everything was wet and smelled earthy. Little brown mud spots speckled my bare calves, adding to my freckles. I wore a dark green cotton dress that came down to my knees with three-quarter sleeves, something that looks like a more figure-flattering version of what my Gramma used to wear around the house on days when she didn’t plan on going anywhere. Anyway, it’s comfortable. We got to the ledge and I un-hooked my dog’s leash so she could sniff around while I perched on the warm flat rock in the sunshine. It was a mild afternoon — 66 degrees F — sunny with a breeze. The panoramic view of the lakes region is pretty in a few directions, except for the three cell phone towers up there, so I like to face the side that opens up in a valley between two mountains. Sophie-Bea stayed close by but sniffed around, hopping through the wet meadow as if she didn’t want her feet to get soiled (hardly her M.O. in reality) until she caught the scent of turkeys. Luckily, we didn’t see any, but the highlight of her day was finding some turkey scat, and rolling in it. Ahh, for the love of dogs. 

 We left Hacker’s Hill and drove the long way home, stopping at a little beach on Crescent Lake, where another couple were throwing a stick for a very large black lab named Ben. I got out and asked, “My dog’s friendly, is your dog friendly, too?” They said, “Too friendly!” They were right. Sophie-Bea and Ben chased each other and played. He nosed her rear and got frisky, and she didn’t exactly snip at him. (Both dogs are spayed/neutered. It was all just for show.) The two dogs waded and splashed in the chilly lake. I was glad to see this because my dog is still getting over a fear of swimming with other dogs since that traumatic incident with the other dog summer 2010, when she nearly drowned under the weight of the other dog. Last summer, 2011, she improved but was still not crazy about swimming with other dogs, and certainly not black labs. So I consider this wonderful progress. 

Sniffing clam shells at the beach

A couple of weekends ago, I took my pointer-mix to the ocean for the first time. We went to one of my favorite beaches–Scarborough Beach, in Maine.

First trip to the seashore

I had her on her expandable leash so she could run but not get too far away from me. At first she liked the smells and the wide expanse of sandy beach to run. She likes meeting people and making friends with other dogs. I’m always so proud of her because she’s friendly and never growls or barks at other dogs. Big clam shells dotted the scene and she sniffed every one of them. She was less excited about the waves, which seemed to startle her. She’d been to the lake with me in September, when we swam together and she wasn’t too crazy about the little waves from boat wakes that lapped the shore. At Scarborough Beach, the waves are big enough to surf. She danced around in the wet sand as I tried to get her to wade into the cold salt water. All of the dogs we met on the beach were soaked from swimming. After all, Sophie-Bea is a water-dog. But she chickened out when the water came up to her ankles. We’ll try again in the late spring.

Not wading into that cold saltwater!

My new dog, Sophie-Bea, is a southern girl. She doesn’t like to go out in any harsh Maine weather and her favorite stuffed toy is a possum. Once abandoned on the side of a highway near Hot Springs, Arkansas, this pointer-hot dog mix is no friend of busy traffic. So I take her on dirt camp roads, down to the lake; we explore wetland preserves in the area. But if she had her way, she’d be happy chasing trucks down Vista Road to the lake…

 Sophie-Bea has transformed into a great companion. In the first month (September), she changed…

1. From being afraid of traffic to chasing the dumptruck down the camp road on trash days
2. From sitting/staying on command to simply lying on her back and wiggling about, or charging off through the woods to do a loop around the house
3. From sleeping at the foot of my bed or her doggie bed–to maneuvering under the covers to the middle of my bed while I’m asleep
4. From peeing in the guest room to sneaking to the basement in the middle of the night to relieve herself despite a LOT of outdoor time together morning, day and night
5. From being good in the kitchen to counter-surfing – (steals sandwich tops, not the bottoms)
6. From not chewing my things to destroying sunglasses, shoes, sentimental things I’ve put up in high places out of doggie reach, or on the dining room table. She’s a climber!

Sophie-Bea - the flash is in her eyes (they're normally dark brown)

My new dog, Sophie-Bea, is the canine version of Elizabeth Taylor in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” (1958) with overly-made-up dark expressive eyes, a white slip of a figure, long nails and a dramatic disposition. She’s eager to please. She respects the male of the house, “Macho,” a 20 pound brick of a feline, who dismisses her attempts to show affection and broods over his glory days as an ex-alley tomcat. Sophie-Bea is part-pointer and part-dachshund, so she’s got the pretty face of a “hot dog dog” and the body of a bird-dog. She dances for attention, makes friends easily and likes to romp around in my woods. We’ve gone swimming a few times on hot September days and I knew as soon as she dove off the dock into the lake, it was a match made in heaven. She’s my first-ever dog. I’m in love!

in her hoodie


Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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