The End of Summer (ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes)

Change of heart. Change your mind. Loose change. Change of pace. Changeling. Change of life. Small change. Change it up. Chump change.

Change or die.


Knowing and being ready to act upon knowledge are two very different things indeed. How many habits have you known you needed to break, only to circle back, to indulge in one more “last time?” I could feel a change brewing for much of this summer, but the experience of knowing it and feeling it coming on couldn’t quite morph into living it.

Change is hard. I settle into routines as easily as the next guy and only pain and suffering wrests me out of those routines. I had worked out a great dog care routine here at the shack, but this summer I could feel it inching (and, at times, hurtling) towards change. But still I resisted. I didn’t want to change. I still don’t. But it’s inevitable. Change or die.

Iske died in February. I knew what a giant loss this would be to our pack. It’s not sentimental, and I doubt they “miss” her, although if Cinder could articulate her emotions, perhaps she’d describe it that way. They needed her. She played a critical role here, and her presence even as an aged, blind, deaf, incontinent, demented and ultimately dying pack member meant certain types of nonsense was not going to happen. The young and the restless did not act up when she was alive. She didn’t rule with fangs and claws, but somehow rule she did. She kept a certain sense of order and decorum. Without her, I predicted, there would be a real hole in our pack and none of the other dogs would step up to fill it. I was right.


Iske and Mica skewed the pack in the elderly direction. Hawkitt and Peeka reorient it towards youthfulness. And mayhem. Cinder has no interest in maintaining order – she just wants to do her own thing and be left alone. Lily is firmly ensconced in her Omega position. There’s no one but me to keep the nudniks in line.

Add in that Mica and Iske both loved hiking. They were natural hikers, at ease and utterly comfortable in the woods, trotting ahead of me on the trail enjoying chipmunking but not manic or compulsive about it. Cinder is compulsive – all moving things must be stopped. Peeka is confused but eager. And Hawkitt is bored. The daily hikes no longer meet the pack’s needs the way they once did. And a bored, high drive, 95 lb striped marauder is just no good at all. Hawk attacks trees, brings toys along to play with on the way, and on one awful braindead morning, followed his nose to go join another hiker. I spent hours looking for him, yelling myself hoarse calling him… only to find him safely delivered to our home via a car ride from a stranger. That can’t happen again.

You see, some of the change I must adapt to is not part of the natural evolution of my pack. When we chose to move to this place, our choice was in part due to the property backing up to over a thousand acres of public land – public land that had no public hiking trail on it. This summer that changed. A public trail was opened, and the result is exactly as I predicted – I have lost something I valued beyond words. While I know many people would think one person’s loss means little on the balance sheet when “The Public” stands to gain so much, but that isn’t really accurate or fair. What I lost is gone forever, and quite frankly, I’m stuck here. What was gained by the community could have been gained many other local places… Scutt Mountain, Moon Mountain, or up in Prattsville, where the waterfall trail has been waiting to be finished for years. My backyard wasn’t the only option for a hiking trail. But now it is there. And I just have to adapt. Change … or watch change happen around you.

I am heartsick and grieving the loss of this mountain and my daily routine, but I don’t have the luxury to process that loss. I have to function, taking care of 4 beings (ok, 5 if you add in Tom) with very different needs. I have to find ways to satisfy all of them, imperfectly perhaps, but it’s got to be good enough to keep everyone mentally healthy. Me included.

Hawk’s foray onto the public trail and his interest in meeting a human really took me by surprise, but instead of getting angry at him, I interpreted it as communication: Hawk wants more interaction with the outside world. God knows why – I loathe interaction with the outside world. But Hawkitt believes he is the mayor of Bramley Mountain – perhaps of Delhi and Bovina as well. He needs to meet humans and tell them how happy they are to meet him. He is gregarious with a capital G. So I’ve been taking him to the Delhi Farmer’s Market each week. Some of the vendors have gotten to know him and literally squeal with delight when he rounds the corner. “It’s HAWKITT!” they cry and his wag could send bushels of winter squash flying. He loves being a good boy in public. I’m changing, letting this be part of the routine.


I had thought that part of the changes coming up would include adding a new member to our pack. I committed to taking in Summer, a drop dead gorgeous 10 month old malinois from Florida. We were awaiting transport details when an incident unfolded that ultimately made us all – me, Tom, and Cindy, Summer’s coordinator – change our minds. My dogs acted as a pack, aggressing against an “outsider.” I was able to break up the 3 against 1 melee but not before my friend’s dog bit me. I’ve received a lot of accidental nips and bites (Hawkitt isn’t careful about adjusting his grip on the stick), and plenty of what I affectionately term “asshole nips” by Peeka. This was neither. I received a full-on hard bite from a frightened dog defending itself. I’m fine, and I was able to prevent injury to all involved (well, ok, except me), but this whole thing shook me up. I couldn’t think straight for a few days, just so dismayed that I had placed all the dogs in that situation. When I finally settled down enough to think clearly, I knew that losing Iske had been even more monumental to this pack, and to me, than I realized. Without her, there is an instability that could pop up at any moment, with dangerous results. Taking in a new dog was possible, I realized, but not without making radical changes in how I managed everything around here. It would be a fully new experience, despite the number of new dogs I’d introduced before. I talked it over with Cindy and left the final decision up to her. She chose wisely, and Summer is safe in Florida in an excellent foster home. Saying no to a new dog… that’s a change I hadn’t anticipated.

We’re moving into the new house on October 15. The changes to come are incredible. I’ve never lived in a house I participated in building before and it’s an amazing feeling looking around, and knowing – I touched every single piece of insulation. I picked up and carried every single piece of rough-sawn siding. Items that sat in our backyard for years (the kitchen sink was acquired long before this property was!) are in place and functioning. My new kitchen will be magazine-worthy. I have lived in one room for 3 years. Sleeping in a different room and having to walk from where I sleep to where I eat… down stairs, around a corner, into a fully different space – this is huge. Everything about how I manage the dogs will be different – where they eat and sleep, how we walk each morning, and where we go to pee at 10 pm. We will all adjust most joyously, I think.

Change or die… and sometimes, change and live well. I guess that’s the definition of hope.




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One Response to The End of Summer (ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes)

  1. Sandi says:

    Good read! I’m commenting for real over on FB.

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