One More for Meng

Robinson Jeffers – “The House Dog’s Grave”

I’ve changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you, if you dream a moment,
You see me there.

So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you’d soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.

I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no, all the night through
I lie alone.

But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read–and I fear often grieving for me–
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.

You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope than when you are lying

Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.
No, dear, that’s too much hope: you are not so well cared for
As I have been.

And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided. . . .
But to me you were true.

You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.

Meng the Whippet (1992-2005)

Thank you, Steve, for taking the time to share Kipling’s poem. Exactly right; but of course you (and he and probably everyone else here) know why in Heaven we keep dogs, despite the high cost.

Meng gave us everything he had for thirteen years. He chased (and caught!) and flushed game for me and several of my hawks. He was good company on trips away from home; a champion bed-warmer; patient (mostly) with my kids, and devoted to my wife and myself. To everyone else he was a friend…and like whippets generally, a fast friend!

Meng, in his prime, understood and delighted in his own speed. He gave larger dogs the Devil by teasing them and then running just out of range, grinning. He did the same to me from the time he knew he could until about six months of age: That was a trying summer. But thereafter he was a model dog, did a number of neat tricks and came when called, even in mid-pursuit. He flushed like a spaniel and obeyed hand signals like a Lab until his eyes went bad. At that point, he retired to our couch and to Shelly’s lap.

Because I was away on a hunting trip last week, Shelly had to take him to the vet’s without me. I feel terrible about that and won’t forgive myself for it, though I know Meng would. He was nearly gone when they arrived and died quietly with Shelly holding his head, kissing him.

With your permission I’ll add a little bit from my journal of two years ago. It was December 7th, the day that would be Meng’s last hunt:

“…By ten o’clock the frost was gone and the day warming toward a high of sixty-five degrees. I had until two o’clock to hunt. I’d rather leave for the field at that hour, but after a week in the pen Charlie [my Harris’ hawk] seemed eager to go anytime.

On a whim (rare in my hawking), I decided to bring my dog, Meng. He knew this maybe before I did. At nearly twelve, the whippet’s famous eyes are clouded with cataracts, but he must see me well enough. I looked down at him, considering, and he began to shake.

If you add Meng’s total days in the field, they would probably fall short of half a season. His career as a hunting dog has been halting and eclectic: one week chasing jackrabbits in Kansas; one summer slipping from the car at evening squirrels; occasional assistant to Eric’s red-tails and my catch dog on backyard varmint safaris. Meng nosed up sparrows for three of my kestrels and for Charlie, too, but not on more than half a dozen hunts in as many years.

Most days Meng spends curled like a cat on the couch or running laps in the living room. Mostly he belongs to Shelly.

How a whippet hunts sparrows would be familiar to any fox. Meng leaps on them with ears forward, front feet and nose downward. He works close, sometimes clipping my heels in high cover but usually bounding ahead like a porpoise in a bow wake.

His nose, when he chooses to use it, seems not to work very well. But he sees the flush, a tiny brown bird in a field of brown grass, and gives chase. Probably there are better dogs for this but none happier to do it.

Charlie caught two sparrows in long flights and two more in the space between Meng and me. The air felt warm by noon. The dog’s tongue hung loose, and Charlie’s crop shifted beneath his chin, full of little birds. We three rode home in strange comfort, wrapped in nostalgia for a time that never really was.”

Meng the Whippet

In Memoriam: Matt’s Dog “Meng”

Kipling’s “The Power of the Dog”:

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie –
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And t he vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find – it’s your own affair –
But…you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is still (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone – wherever it goes – for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying the Christian clay,
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not alwatys the case I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long –
So why in-Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

ID Humor

Scientist, writer, and artist John McLoughlin (who should be better known– I am a great fan of his science fiction novel The Helix and the Sword, as are Odious and Peculiar) has sent me two irreverent little pieces on Intelligent Design. The first I reprint in full:

“from the Institute for Science and Stork Research:

Two different theories exist concerning the
origin of children: the theory of
Sexual Reproduction, and the theory of the Stork.
Many people believe in the theory of
sexual reproduction because they have been
taught this theory at school.
In reality, however, many of the world’s
leading scientists are in favor of the
theory of the stork.

If the theory of sexual reproduction is
taught in schools, it must only be taught
as a theory and not as the truth.
Alternative theories, such as the theory of
the stork, must also be taught.

Evidence supporting the theory of the stork
includes the following:

1. It is a scientifically established fact that
the stork does exist. This can be confirmed by
any ornithologist.

2. The theory of sexual reproduction contains
several features that it is unable to explain.

3. The theory of sexual reproduction implies that
a child is approximately nine months old at birth.
This is an absurd claim. Everyone knows that
a newborn child is newborn.

4. According to the theory of sexual reproduction,
children are a result of sexual intercourse.
There are, however, several well-documented
cases where sexual intercourse has not led to
the birth of a child.

5. Statistical studies in the Netherlands
indicate a positive correlation between
the human birth rate and the number of storks.
Both are decreasing.

6. The theory of the stork can be investigated by
rigorous scientific methods. The only assumption
involved is that children are delivered by the stork.

The second is by Paul Rudnick from the New Yorker, and features a veritable patheon of the gods, squabbling like interior designers over the esthetics of Earth. It is too long to reprint , but this will give you the flavor:

“It’s wet, it’s deep, yet it’s frothy; it’s design without dogma,” said Buddha, approvingly.

“Now, there’s movement,” agreed Allah. “It’s not just ‘Hi, I’m a planet-no splashing.’ “

“But are those ice caps?” inquired Thor. “Is this a coherent vision, or a highball?”


Please be indulgent of spacing, double and missing letters etc for the present–it’s my #$%^&* keyboard, which is almost unmanageable (only on my posts). Reid tried to fix one of my posts below and lost half of it. So did I, and had to rewrite it THREE TIMES.

This too shall pass…

Why Do People Do This?

After last winter’s record rainfall here in California, lots of wood and other flotsam has washed out of the hills and into the ocean and wound up on our beaches. I have been fascinated, in an anthropological sense, as to why people feel compelled to use this material to make little structures on the beach.

Like this one. Last week while returning from a client meeting in Los Angeles, I stopped at Solimar and Faria Beaches to take these pictures. Here are several more of these “hootches.”
And this one was the most elaborate I saw, with an attached dry-laid stone fire pit.
This is very well done and really took several hours of work for someone. I see little impromtu buildings like these all over the beaches here. I suppose part of the reason that these fascinate me is that I have absolutely NO compulsion to do this myself. Depending on your theory as to what determines human behavior, I either wasn’t enculturated by the construction people or inherited the lazy gene. I would like to invite others opinions on what the root of this behavior pattern may be.
I will close with this beach view on a beautiful day west along The Rincon – Libby Bodio’s old stomping grounds. For those of you in areas where the weather is gray and cold, enjoy, think warm, and have a nice Thanksgiving weekend.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Instead of turkey– broken-down vehicles preclude a trip to Albuquerque for a good one– we are having two ducks done according to our grease-spattered copy of Julia Childs’ The Way to Cook. The birds are lightly roasted; then the breasts are sliced and sauteed in wine and butter until they are just barely cooked. Meanwhile, the legs have been roasting in the oven, coated in mustard and breadcrumbs…

Also on the menu: Libby’s squash soup with ginger and chile, and (inspired by a mention by Roseann in Three Martini Lunch) creamy, cheesy polenta with wilted greens on top, cooked in olive oil and garlic.

Will post there later if this machine keeps working.

Fear of Turkeys

The natives of Canton Massachusetts, where I actually used to hunt, are being terroriized by turkeys.

” “Those turkeys terrify me,” Canton resident Judy Klein told the local newspaper, the Patriot Ledger.

” “The turkeys have become a public safety problem,” Canton Animal Control officer Ellen Barnett said.

“Saturday’s Patriot Ledger revealed that, during the summer, Canton residents frequently called Animal Control to report “aggressive turkeys chasing joggers… and scaring mothers wheeling strollers with babies.” Pedestrians took to carrying sticks and umbrellas for protection. To combat the growing bantam menace, the town hired a hunter to kill the flock’s two alpha males with a bow and arrow. Alas, he bagged only one, so the threat level remains elevated.”

Read the whole thing–it gets worse!!!