All Creatures Great and Small

It has been nearly one year since the passing of Winston the Wonder Dog and Willy Boots the Wonder Goat.  They were mine for 10 and 2 years respectively, and I was lucky for that time.  Their memory is seared forever in this place, their presence still lurking.  I heard a splash in the pond yesterday, and saw Winston’s form happily flail across the water before realizing it was only Junebug cavorting with the turtles.  Last week I was certain Willy had returned to lounge against a snoozing Pyrenees as he always did, on top of the crooked old picnic table, but then saw Dixie lift her head and blink at me for a head pat.  It’s not that they return, exactly, it’s that they never leave.  It’s the greatest comfort I can find some times, some days.

This morning, my very smallest statured, and very biggest hearted dog of all, Hugo, appeared on the porch after chores.  He looked puny and forlorn, wilted against the house.  It wasn’t until he turned, and I saw blood from his neck, that I knew something had gone horribly awry in the 30 minutes since I’d last seen him.  He screamed against my touch and then went limp as I carried him inside for further inspection.  Although it could have been coyote, I suspect he wriggled through the fence that separates us from the neighbor’s 6 or so dogs of assorted sizes and temperaments, chose the losing side of someone else’s battle.  Came home in defeat.  We spent the afternoon at the emergency vet clinic, this being Sunday, of course, and since the nature of his injuries grew more alarming as the day wore on.  The prognosis is not bleak but not really defined.  He is there overnight.  And I find myself one year later carrying that helpless burden of worry and retreat.  Our motto: Hope for the best, expect the worst – echoes through a house empty and silent this evening when it’s usually filled with Hugo.  Our house can usually, barely contain him.

At the clinic today we watched a family circle through the inevitable cycle of choice: they brought in a sick dog, their options were sparse, their decision was final.  We heard them speak with the staff, watched them file into a room, leave tearfully and then…Then we saw the most amazing spectacle.  The entire family stood together under the blazing Texas sun, huddled in a group hug in the middle of a steaming parking lot.  They hugged and cried, wiped tears that turned to laughter.  They stood together bonded over the soul and memory of a dog.  That is the depth of meaning animals carry for so many of us.

Tonight I came home and made a stiff drink, because sometimes that heals what ails us, too.  I carried it out into a pasture filled with creatures who know nothing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the ongoing turmoil in Ferguson, the price of gas, the threat of climate change.  All they know is them and me.  And the weather.  These creatures embody the basic tenants of Life that get buried in the media and pace of this world and those are: food, sex, love, and death.  Maybe not in that order, but still.  The world has and will forever turn around these facts, each one the basis of art and war since the beginning of the beginning.  I forget that sometimes, don’t you?  If not for the animals, their needs so primal it’s writ large across screaming faces, I might never remember.  Sometimes I think I owe them everything.  Tonight I know I do.

Most specifically, this is a love letter to Hugo who has the soul of a cowboy, the heart of a lion, who aspires to be the best at everything.  We would all do better to be a little more like you, sir, and no matter how this chapter ends, your story is permanent here, just like every other paw, claw, and hoof that’s imprinted on this place, through my head, across my heart.

Hug your beasts tonight, tomorrow, every day and thank them for the little reminders they give us about the most important things.



Barnyard, Motivation


  • Cheryl @ PDD

    September 23, 20142:31 pm

    We lost my Maggie Mae (aka Moo) over two years ago, and I still feel her loss keenly. She was my first dog ever and our first child for me and my husband (as we only have kids with fur, feathers or hide). She was a rescue, removed from her previous home (in Colorado) by the court system because of severe neglect and abuse. But she blossomed in our home and was simply a “pretty good ol’ pup.” She didn’t like timers going off, and we still call out “I’m on it Moo!” as we leap to turn off the source. One day, when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse at work, I was working in the garden and looked up towards the house and swear I saw her in the storm door window, smiling at me. My heart stopped. I looked again and she was gone. Two days later I had a new job offer. Hubby says she came to tell me things would be better! That’s how strong a bond I have (still) with that sweet mixed-breed-rescue-shelter dog. I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, your writing inspires me to continue honing my own! So glad Hugo is okay!

  • clairesmum

    September 1, 20149:46 pm

    Glad he’s a bit better. Being in pain is hard, healing is slow, and often apart of those 4 essential elements. Take good care of yourself, too.

  • CeeCee

    August 19, 20149:45 am

    You really hit right to the heart of humanity–Food, Sex, Love and Death…The world has and will forever turn around these facts, each one the basis of art and war since the beginning of the beginning.
    Today is two days since Hugo went to the vet. I hope you have good news to report about him. Dogs really are the best people I know.

    • jennakl

      August 28, 20143:14 pm

      CeeCee – thanks so much for this note and I’m sorry to write such a heavy post without giving an update! After a second surgery this week, he is doing better. This will be a long, long recovery, but he will recover! They really are, truly, the best people….

  • Mary Ann

    August 18, 20149:10 am

    Years ago, I suffered the loss of a little dog, torn by a pack of dogs down the road. I chose to put him out of his misery (at the vet’s) rather than try to patch his town body… but I’m with you here, it’s always, always a hard decision to make. Our dogs no longer run free because of it, so we never have to pay that price again. My heart goes out to you.

    • jennakl

      August 28, 20143:15 pm

      Mary Ann – I am so sorry to hear about the terrible attack on your dog.

  • Sarah Auzina

    August 18, 20149:02 am

    Oh dear! Thinking happy thoughts for you and Hugo. We just said goodbye to our Cleo 3 weeks ago today, and we’re still broken hearted about it.

  • Jamie

    August 18, 20148:16 am

    Hoping that the morning brought good news. Thinking about you in south central PA.

  • Aunt Lisa

    August 17, 201410:51 pm

    Our prayers are going up for that sweet lad’s full recovery.

  • Meg

    August 17, 20149:37 pm

    And there are people pulling for Hugo in Boston, as if that needed to be said. Be strong, little dude.

  • Meg

    August 17, 20149:34 pm

    Sometimes I can’t read for the tears, Jenna. For all the animals large and small, thank you for putting these thoughts into the universe. We are all better for love letters like this.