Captain Jack (2010 – 2022)

We are in shock and mourning. Our beloved border-collie mix, Captain Jack, has left us. Just two weeks ago, he was joyfully chasing a younger dog round and round at a friend’s house, totally exhausting us just watching. However, three days ago, he abruptly went into a precipitous decline—not eating, having difficulty walking, and even standing. I realized with a start that he had lost weight, which I hadn’t noticed. Despite long sessions in two different animal hospitals, the cause remains uncertain. But probably it was a return of the cancer that almost took him a year ago. Here he is, enjoying a last review of the property during a brief rally toward the end.

Many of you will remember that he had radical cancer surgery on his jaw a year ago, resulting in a new lease on life, though one with his tongue hanging out for lack of a place to park it. He enjoyed that year, and we are deeply grateful to have enjoyed it with him.

The timing was uncanny. He abruptly showed serious symptoms on the very day Allysen and Jayce were flying back from Puerto Rico. I was at the hospital with him the very hours that they were in a plane coming home. We are all devastated, but grateful that the whole family could be here to say goodbye. A lovely vet named Dr. Johnson, who makes euthanasia house calls, came to our home to ease his way. Many thanks to her, and to Jackie and the other dog walkers, and to our regular vet Dr. Parker, and to Jack’s oncologist Dr. Cronin, and many others who helped make his life the amazing life that it was. I have owned (and said goodbye to) many dogs, but never one about whom so many people have come to me to say, “I love this dog; what a great dog; he was the highlight of my day.” We already miss him terribly.

Still with us is Lady McDuff, aka Duff-Duff, aka Septima, aka Nugget, aka Possum. She was Allysen’s mom’s dog and is now ours, and she has found her own way into our hearts. Here she is with Jack in happier times. No doubt she is mourning in her own way.

A Day at the Beach with the Carvers

We wanted to do something fun this weekend, and we had not yet tried taking the dogs with us in the Mothership (campervan). So we decided this was the time. We threw together some things for a day trip—mainly just food and dog supplies—and hit the road.

Hah! First of all, it took two hours longer than we expected to get ready (although part of that was going online and picking out a destination). We chose one of the loveliest beaches we know—Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester—propelled by the discovery that April 30 was the last day that dogs were allowed on the beach before summer rules kicked in. That settled, I needed to implement an untested arrangement of harnesses and cushions to let the dogs ride safely strapped into the third and fourth seats of the campervan. (Mixed results on that one.)

Finally, though, we really did hit the road. Ten minutes in, Allysen realized she’d forgotten her glasses. Should we turn around? No, not that important. Five minutes more, and I realized I’d forgotten my wallet. Should we turn around? Yes. So we circled back, and I got my wallet. Also, Allysen’s glasses. Also, I shut the garage door that someone had left standing wide open. Back on the road.

Without further delay, we drove to Wingaersheek Beach. It was late in the day, uncrowded and gorgeous. There were some dogs there, off leash, so we let our guys run, too. Captain Jack had a ball, racing around, swimming in the tide waters, playing (peacefully!) with other dogs. He did steal one dog’s ball, but he gave it up and I threw it back to its owner. Even shy McDuff reveled in trotting free of the leash, though she never strayed far from us. By the end, they were exhausted. Or no, wait—that’s in the other universe. In this universe, they were ready and raring for more, and continued that way for the rest of the day. (Jack, you will recall, is an 11-year-old  cancer survivor.) When we got home, they absolutely had to be bathed, so we did that. By midnight, when they should have been totally zonked, they were still jumping around, Jack squeaking a toy in his mouth, looking for someone to play with. Who are these dogs, and where does that energy come from? Zero-point energy from the quantum flux?

Unanswerable questions. But that’s how we do a trip to the beach at the Star Rigger Ranch.

Merry Christmas, 2021!

Wishing all of you the happiest of Christmases! It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? Time for some quiet contemplation and good cheer, whether you celebrate the birth of Jesus as we do, or simply a good time to gather with people you love. Wishing blessings on all of you! Here’s our simple hearth for this year. Make me feel warm just to sit in front of it.

By the way, thanks to all who have asked: Captain Jack is doing great, following the surgery on his jaw. He looks a little funny, but his energy and personality are back full strength!

Captain Jack’s Doing Great So Far

posted in: animal friends 2

You’d never know this dog just had major surgery that left him without half of his lower jaw! His energy and desire to do stuff has come roaring back. He doesn’t like his Hat of Healing—who would?—but other than that, he’s raring to go; and by the way, folks, haven’t you noticed that it’s dinner time, already? Yesterday he pawed at the refrigerator door, which is an all-new way for him to ask for food. Today, on his walk, he took a stab at his old favorite game of jumping around and trying to grab his leash. (The hat blocked him, fortunately; he’s not supposed to roughhouse or tug on things for six weeks.) He’s on soft food for a few weeks, and then he can go back to eating whatever he wants.

Unless you look very closely, you don’t even see that half his lower jaw is missing—except for the telltale tongue hanging out on one side. That’s probably going to be part of his new persona going forward.

This is all great, but we anxiously await the biopsy results, which will give us more information on whether the surgery got all the cancer. That will guide us on what, if any, follow-up treatment is needed. Hopefully none, as he follows in the paw prints of Moonlight, his late cat friend—who at a very senior age, smacked down a gloomy diagnosis and wrested a couple more good years of life for herself.

Here, he takes a well-earned rest…

Captain Jack Versus Cancer

posted in: animal friends 5

I hate cancer. It has taken too many people I love. And now it’s threatening our dog, Captain Jack: an aggressive tumor on his lower jawbone and gum. It was ugly, it was nasty, it appeared very suddenly, and it was growing like wildfire. But we just got it taken out.

We were extremely fortunate in one respect. It is nearly impossible to get prompt veterinary care these days, because the vets and vet hospitals are all overwhelmed by the huge increase in dog ownership during the pandemic. But we managed to get him in to see a surgeon, and he had the operation today, a radical surgery of the jaw that involved removing a lot of bone. The surgeon reported that all went well, and he is recovering. We hope he’ll come home tomorrow. The surgery was performed at Boston West Veterinary Specialties and Emergencies, in Natick, outside Boston. We haven’t even been inside the place; it was all handled curbside and by phone. But kudos to their surgical team!

Please continue your prayers and positive thoughts for our buddy!

Here he is (with McDuff) in a happier time.

McDuff and Captain Jack


Going Out? Cover Your Snout!

Capt Jack - masked up

After all these months of wearing masks and taking proper precautions, I still have trouble remembering to put on a mask when I go out—especially if it’s something quick and routine, like taking the dogs for a walk. It’s not like I’m hiding the masks; they’re hanging right by the door. Am I the only one with this problem? I can’t be.

I decided I needed a mnemonic reminder. So now when I go out, I (try to remember to) chant to myself, “Going out? Cover your snout!”

It helps. Just like “Going out? Don’t go without!” helps me remember to take my wallet when I’m going to the store.

Neither is foolproof. I’m grateful for Google Pay on my phone, which saves me about once every few months, when I find myself at the grocery checkout, patting my pocket, and cursing softly because there’s no wallet there.

Some of us need all the help we can get, these days.

Not everybody likes it, though.

No Dogs on the Sofa! And for God’s Sake, Vote!

If there’s one firm rule we have in this house, it’s that the dogs are not allowed on the sofa unless specifically invited. How, then, to explain this:

No dogs on sofa, Jack!

And this:

No dogs on sofa, Duff!

Also, no squirrels are allowed on the porch!

In case you wonder, I’m an emotional tightwire (like many of you), waiting to find out what’s going to happen on election day—or, more likely, several weeks after election day. Will we step back from the precipice we’re dancing on? Will we put responsible adults in charge in Washington? Before we all die of Covid or drown in the melting ice caps? Will we save democracy from our worst impulses?

I can’t stand the wait, and that’s why we’re getting dog pictures on the day before the election.

Terrorist Furball

posted in: animal friends 0

McDuff, Jack, BillboardMeet Billboard the cat, not to be confused with Bill the Cat (though I often do). Billboard belongs to my daughter and her husband, who moved into our downstairs apartment a few weeks ago. His name comes from the fact that he was found, abandoned, under a billboard in South Korea, by Connor many years ago.

Billboard recently met our dogs. In short order, he struck terror into the heart of McDuff (at the top of the steps), and left Jack puzzled as to why this new resident hissed at him and hurt his feelings. Connor says that Bill loves to pick fights he can’t win, with animals who have no interest in fighting. He’s a good guy, though, and we love him.

1 2 3 4 7