This is Sadie after she was attacked by Elsa, a tiny Jack Russell. We breezed into Elsa’s space without a care.  Of course, we should have met her on neutral turf – given the dogs a chance to sniff butts and say hello.  But we didn’t.

We heard a deep growl from this miniature being as Elsa defended her turf.  She leapt toward Sadie and as she came down to land she snatched a hunk of Sadie’s ear.  Sadie snarled and snapped at the bouncing terrier, indifferent to the havoc her own blood created as it spurted across the newly painted creamy white walls.

I left the blood for someone else to clean and rushed Sadie to the vet and a few hours later brought her home dressed as you see in the picture.

As I study the photo now, I wonder what Sadie was thinking? Did she know how silly she looked?  Did she care?  I’m not a scientist and I don’t know the “truth” about what animals “think” or do not “think.”  I only know that if she were alive now, she would be curled up next to me as I sit at my desk, her tiny white hairs embedding themselves in the carpet as she slept.  No amount of vacuuming could ever remove all the tiny Dalmatian hairs she’s shed, scattered in the carpets, in the car, in our blankets and in our hearts.  It’s two years since she died and I cannot come into the house without expecting Sadie to be at the door waiting for me.

Then comes a nanosecond when I remember that she’s gone and then a tightening in my chest as my consciousness scratches the layer of grief that hovers around my heart: the grief of losing my parents, my brother, many friends and family and my dogs.  The grief that comes with being human.

I talked about this once with someone who said, “What a bummer.”  Yes, what a bummer.  But not talking about grief, not feeling it may be more of a “bummer.”  Avoidance often leads to a foggy paralysis which is where we find Anna Simon at the beginning of the novel Turtle Season.

Anna learns, as I think all of us must, that we have a choice in how we face the losses that weave through our lives.  My father, Gershon Black, taught me an essential lesson.  He loved to write poetry and after suffering a major stroke, he could no longer use his right hand – his writing hand.  He chose to teach himself to write again – this time with his left hand – and he continued to write poems until his death. One of my favorites is this one, “Call Me Lefty.”

All my life
I have been right handed
Played ball by catching
And throwing with my right hand
Eating, dressing, doing everything
As a regular guy does.

When along comes
An auto accident
And boom I wake up
With a stroke
No longer able to speak
No longer able to move.

I began to move my left hand
And to speak after a fashion
A mere auto accident won’t stop me
Dress and eat with one hand,
I become a one handed wonder
So call me Lefty – for Lefty I remain.