Losing a loved one is never easy. Saying goodbye to a fluffy-headed kookball dog who followed you, watched you, slept with you, defended you, took you on walks, spun circles when you told her she could ride in the car; who dutifully obeyed her two older-sister cats, showed up to share evening cookies, raced up the stairs and leaped onto a couch for movie nights; who got compliments and lovies from Meryl Streep on a chance New York City sidewalk meeting; who did her best to overcome insecurities from a difficult (before-us) puppyhood but still had a few demons; who barked at horses, motorcyclists, skateboarders, men in hats, tall people and the whoo-whoo! part of the Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil; who adored snow and lobster and her grandparents and Wendy the UPS delivery person and broke into a smile every time you came home...that can be especially difficult.
We were living on Wooster Street in downtown Manhattan after the shock of 9/11 (the edges of our windows still taped up to keep out the smoke from nearby Ground Zero) when we decided to add a dog to our world. A soft-coated wheaten terrier who'd had some hard knocks in Iowa and Connecticut proved irresistible, and after an improbable chain of events involving a driving detour, wilting dahlias and Pamelia's mother needing a haircut, ended up cradled in my arms, riding home with us to New York and a new life as our Wooster.
Dogs evolved from wolves into Woosters with a lot of help from human breeders. We wanted animals who would protect, love and obey us (and, yes, look cute). One trait never changed: Dogs crave the pack. Wooster never belonged to a dog pack—indeed, she started demonstrably disliking other dogs when she was one and a half—but she was part of what we called the "six-pack": A family made up of Pamelia, her mom, our two kitties, Wooster and me. She shared in everything, from trips to naps to dinner. Whenever I dialed an Indian restaurant and started giving our address over the phone, Wooster would start barking, as if to tell us that she knew that chicken masala and a delivery man were on their way.
Our six-pack had been reduced to a three-pack—Pamelia, Wooster and I—by the time Wooster's body started giving out last summer. We worked together to squeeze as many walks and happy moments as we could into the precious months we had left. Wooster had one final day on her bed at The Naturalist's Notebook, and one out-on-the-town ride-around in the car, and one last morning on the bed, with Pamelia sketching her. Dogs shape us almost as we have shaped them, instilling us with much of their own unshakeable loyalty and deep love and pack camaraderie. At least Wooster, our beloved kookball, did.
Nice Words The other day we received our first blog comment written in Russian in Cyrillic characters, so I contacted our Notebook friend Anne, who spends a lot of time in Russia. She said the comment (which was addressing a blog post from many months ago about Georg Steller, the German botanist, zoologist and explorer, translated to:
"Great (fantastic) portrait of Georg Steller!!! Thank you!
Among other achievements, Steller was the first person to describe the pinniped that is now known as the Steller sea lion (below), which is found in the waters of Alaska and eastern Russia and is endangered:
Acadia Birding Festival Just a reminder that the Acadia Birding Festival, which we're helping to sponsor, begins on Thursday, May 31, and runs through Sunday, June 3. There are bird-watching walks, talks and boat and canoe trips from morning to night every day. Don't miss it! We'll try to post some highlights. For a detailed schedule of events, go to:
Answers to the Last Puzzler
1) The word reptile comes from a Latin word that means:
Answer: c) creeping
2) The Latin root of the word amphibian means:
a) of two modes of life
b) water traveler
c) swimming feet
Answer: a) of two modes of life. Most amphibians initially develop gills for breathing underwater but later develop lungs for breathing on land.
Today's Puzzler What kind of egg is shown in the photo below?