Typographic Tuesday: Mary Oliver

"Dog on Beach" by Shannon BuekerThe First Time Percy Came Back, by Mary Oliver

Today’s Typographic Tuesday honors National Poetry Month here in America and it’s brought to you by big dose of serendipity (which, I love): this morning I asked my yoga instructor Shannon after class if she could recommend a great dog poem and her eyes lit up. The book she was holding in her hands is by one of her favorite poets, Mary Oliver, and she quickly found this one for me. I knew it would be perfect, a little bit sad but mostly uplifting and tender. Shannon is a very talented artist, and I’ve wanted to feature her work here for a while and as it turns out, one of the three watercolors of hers that I own is this one titled “Dog on Beach”. That makes me want to say “spoooooky…” but I’m just going to say “ommmmmmmm!” Thanks, Shannon!

“The First Time Percy Came Back” is from A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver. A great bio—and a lovely photo with her dog—can be found here.

Artist Shannon Bueker’s work can be found on her website here.

Dogs Teach Us Things

My dog Henry

Barnaby was like a mood, a fragrance of the harmonious inner life, permeating everything with which he came into contact. He knew sorrow and he knew joy, and he held them in a delicate balance of serenity and peace. He knew how to respond equally joyfully to an invitation to walk or talk or sit together, which seems to me to be a particular kind of training in grace—a willingness to respond easily and happily to even the most modest adventure together. Perhaps it could be said that within his framework of being a dog, he lived life as a spiritual exercise.  —from Mystical Dogs by Jean Houston

My yoga instructor read this to our class this week and it made me think about my dog Henry, shown above. We had to say our goodbyes one year ago this weekend, and so I thought it would be nice, a tribute of sorts, to share it here. I haven’t featured Henry on the blog like the others, because it’s been too hard. In fact, Henry’s BFF Nicholas also passed away last October, so that’s two missing from my Dog Bios. But I’ll save those posts for another day, and for now just try and honor the light that Henry shared with everyone he met. Like the excerpt says, “a willingness to respond easily and happily to even the most modest adventure together”, that was my Henry. Like all dogs, he was a champion of living in the moment, but with his own added zest.

I miss you, Captain Feathers.

Comfort Comes to Newtown

K-9 Comforts Dogs with Kids in Newtown

A group of ten Golden Retrievers made the trip from the Chicago area to Newtown, Connecticut over the weekend to provide some measure of comfort to survivors and families affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. These dogs are part of a group called the K-9 Comfort Dogs and they are from the Lutheran Church Charities organization in Illinois. I think these dogs are doing a great thing, and I really appreciate the individuals involved with providing this incredible source of strength during a time like this that’s beyond words.

And it’s time to get to work–

Golden Retrievers arrive in NewtownPart of the group from K-9 Comforts

Here is text from an article from the Chicago Tribune (or you can use this link):

A team of golden retrievers made an 800-mile journey from the Chicago area to Newtown, Conn., over the weekend to comfort those affected by the recent school massacre.

Lutheran Church Charities deployed about 10 of the canines Saturday evening for residents who want to pet them while they talk or pray with the dog’s handler, said Tim Hetzner, president of the Addison-based organization.

“Dogs are non-judgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone,” Hetzner said. “It creates the atmosphere for people to share.”

When the charities’ dogs are not responding to a national tragedy, they will often visit people in hospitals, nursing homes and parks. Each dog carries a business card with its name, Facebook page, twitter account and email so those that meet the canine can keep in touch

“The dogs have become the bridge,” said Lynn Buhrke, 66, who is a dog handler for a female golden retriever named Chewie. “People just sit down and talk to you.”

The dogs’ first stop Sunday in Newtown was Christ the King Lutheran Church, which is holding two funerals this week for two children who were slain during the shooting, Hetzner said.

“You could tell which ones …were really struggling with their grief because they were quiet,” Hetzner said. “They would pet the dog, and they would just be quiet.”

The dogs have been helpful even to those without children in Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the massacre occurred Friday, organizers said.

“I asked (one man) how he is doing. He just kind of teared up and said: ”This year, I’ve lost five loved ones and now this happened,’ “ Hetzner said. ”The whole town is suffering.“

The comfort-dog initiative first started in 2008 at Northern Illinois University after a gunman killed five students. A group of dog caretakers associated with Lutheran Church Charities trekked to campus in hopes of providing a distraction to the student community.

The trip was so successful that weeks later students petitioned university leadership to bring comfort dogs back to campus, Hetzner said.

The initiative has grown from a handful of dogs in the Chicago area to 60 dogs in six different states, he said.

Since then, the dogs have traveled across the nation to comfort people in the aftermath of major tragedies such as, Hurricane Sandy, and the tornado that hit Joplin, Mo.

On Monday, the dogs plan to be with Sandy Hook students for after-school activities, Hetzner said.

”There are a lot of people that are hurting,“ he said. It’s ”good for the children to have something that is not the shooting.“

All images courtesy of Lutheran Church Charities. For more information on this group or the K-9 Comfort Dogs, click here.

Capitán : Argentina’s Hachikō

Capitan standing watch in the cemetery

The story of Japan’s Hachikō is one of the most touching tales about the eternal bond between man and dog around (if you’re not familiar with the story, you can read my post here). It’s also the most popular post I’ve featured here on Dogs Make Everything Better, having been viewed by thousands of people the world over. So I thought I’d share this incredible story that I’d read about a few months ago because it’s very similar. But unlike the tale of Hachikō and Professor Ueno that took place many decades ago, this story is taking place right now.

It’s 2005 in the small town of Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina and a man named Miguel Guzman adopts a German Shepherd mix dog named Capitán as a gift for his son Damian. When Mr. Guzman suddenly passes away the following year the family notices that when they returned from the funeral service, Capitán had disappeared. But soon they saw him again.

“We searched for him, but he had vanished,” widow Veronica Guzman told the newspaper La Voz. “We thought he must have got run over and died. The following Sunday we went to the cemetery, and Damian recognized his pet. Capitán came up to us, barking and wailing as if he were crying.”

Capitan at the cemetery

But get this: the truly amazing thing is that Capitán had never been to the cemetery, or the gravesite. According to cemetery director Hector Baccega: “He turned up here one day, all on his own, and started wandering all around the cemetery until he eventually found the tomb of his master. During the day he sometimes has a walk around the cemetery, but always rushes back to the grave. And every day, at six o’clock sharp, he lies down on top of the grave, stays there all night.” Mr. Baccega added that the cemetery staff now care for and feed Capitán as he maintains his steadfast vigil.

Damian Guzman says that the family has tried several times to bring Capitán back home, but each time he disappears and returns to the cemetery. “I think he’s going to be there until he dies, too. He’s looking after my dad,” he said.


All photos La Voz.

Those Who Stay

Umberto Boccioni, study for "Those Who Stay"

On my last trip to Milan, a local friend suggested that I visit the Museo del Novecento which is located just a few steps from the Duomo. So I did, and I highly recommend it to anyone that would like to spend a few hours looking at some wonderful 20th century works of art. It’s also a beautiful building, with an interesting layout that includes a winding climb and lots of escalators. In fact, the building’s layout was so interesting that I had to get help a few times from the kind security people on a couple of the floors (but what else is new?).

One piece that stopped me in my tracks (causing me to hover around it for so long that I drew attention from the security people) is this one titled Those Who Stay by Italian artist Umberto Boccioni. It’s sort of one of three pieces that make up the series titled States of Mind about parting ways at a train station. And when I say “sort of” it’s because this is actually a study and not the finished version of Those Who Stay, but I like it better. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Futurist movement as much as the next guy with all of those geometric shapes and Cubist flavor, but this one seems much more compelling to me for a specific reason: it oozes heaviness and sadness. The other two pieces in the States of Mind series are titled Those Who Go and The Farewells.

The reason I’m drawn to this painting is because I’ve always hated goodbyes, and I think it captures that sadness completely. I’m talking about final goodbyes and the emptiness you feel when your loved one is no longer in this world. For me and a lot of other people, the loss of a pet has the same heart-ripped-out pain and devastation and the only thing that helps me heal is to remember that I’m not alone in this. In this painting, all of the left behind streaky figures share the sadness of loss and goodbye together. It’s amazing how art can affect you that way whether you like it or not, pulling you headfirst into a sea of emotion with a language of its own, but without any words. Like a sad, sad song that matches just the way you feel inside, you can gaze into a painting like this whenever you need to and just feel sad because you must.

One of my dogs isn’t well. His name is Nicholas, and I haven’t featured him on the blog yet because he’s been declining since I started it in July and it’s just been too hard. I don’t know how long he has left, I don’t think there’s anything else I can do, and I’m facing that awful decision. But one thing I do know is at some point I will be spending a lot of time gazing into Boccioni’s Those Who Stay.

Visit Museo del Novecento.
This link will take you to MoMA’s Collection page, where you can see the Boccioni series (click NEXT when you get there to see all three paintings in sequence).
A good article on Umberto Boccioni can be found here.