Tag Archives: dogs

The Retriever.

Nero loved to chase the stick.

And, she was born in the backseat of a junked car. Go figure.

Markings of a Shepherd, but with a butt bigger than her face and ears that just wanted to flop over, we knew nothing of her heritage and, for much of her life, didn’t care. She was high energy, outspoken, wriggly, affectionate, and loved.

But, the retriever in her was locked and loaded.

I never knew which part she craved most. Was it the running, or the catch? Clearly, her ancestors went for the birds; the higher and faster the stick flew, the more she scrambled to tumble over herself at the capture. Whichever, this dog ran tirelessly after her “prey.”

Retrieval. For this aging Boomer, the singular challenge. In my case, not chasing a prototype mallard, mine is the ever ephemeral: thought.

The choicest fowl to fly across my firmament most often appears on the cusp of sleep. A kernel, a title, for the next essay. The whole piece, were I awake enough to log on and begin, would write itself; yet, if I do not rise up, feel for the crayon, and scribble the two at most three words into my bedside book, by morning…….flown.

Why, however, does the mind retrieve everything else instead?

Why will it totally recall seeing, even hearing the idea as well as the very position of my body at that moment, without re-sending the bird across my sky? Because, once flown….gone?

Last week, due to ongoing migraine plus my mother’s history with brain cancer I had my once every decade brain MRI. The radiologist was thorough; no lesions, no evidence of stroke, just those pesky, chronic microvascular ischemic “hot spots” in my white matter. The neurologist, fielding my pile of questions, insisted vascular constriction as a cause, said provocateurs being pain meds, the summatriptan I’d taken for over twenty years, and the headaches themselves along with several other indicators most of which did not appear on my health profile. My BP was generally below normal; I never smoked; I wasn’t obese. Yes; I’d had mildly elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, and one month with an A1C of 5.8. But, mostly, my vessels were just sick of being squeezed, and several of the most remote were caving.

Dad, a multi-decade marathoner, had always loved to quote author Jim Fixx:

” Running opens up new avenues of blood vessels!”, he’d crow, after a hot shower upon return from four hours on the open road.

Fortunately, there was hope; for every death, a theoretical regeneration. All I need do was get up off my spreading rear and move.

The same likely not said for the elusive thoughts which had traveled each now defunct pathway. Nero had also succumbed — to a flipped stomach, a horrible way for a dog to die and caused, sure enough, by running on a full belly. The retriever in her, ever at war with the digestive system of whichever breed(s) populated the rest of her DNA.

In our beloved Nero’s memory I’d resolve to get up, and run. Run, for the blood, the vessels, the mind, and every thought which elected to gain entry.

Chasing the stick was in my genes, too.







© 5/05/2021 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Sharing by blog link, exclusively. No copying, in whole, part, or by translation, permitted. Thanks for being the honorable person.




The other day, I saw a photo of a teacup.

No; not an English collectible.

A dog.

Some tiny furball, with stubby, fuzzy legs, bounding around with the sheer joy of being alive. In a still photo, no less. Irresistible Factor: 10+

Yes; I adore dogs. And, bunnies. Guinea pigs. Soft creatures, that bring warmth and devotion. Dogs, especially, because they embody emotion.

I remember Nero.

Nero was actually a female, rescued by my brother from the backseat of a junked car at the local dump. A whole litter, she’d come to him first. Tail bitten off halfway. Rump that wiggled with the tail. Face like a doe. Love at first sight.

She was his, until we as a family inherited her from him when, relocating to an apartment near Cleveland State to finish his PhD, he couldn’t take her with him. Thereafter, she was “our dog”, and my Neebs.

I won’t ever forget Neebs. On her fateful day, she met me, by the back steps, like she did every time I bounded inside upon returning from my night shift at the Greek dinor. Teeming with readiness to chase the stick, she was. Customarily, I’d toss it for her a few times, and watch her tear across the yard, falling all over herself to capture and bring it back for another round.

On that day, I remember looking at her and hastily saying something about not having time, the look on her face branding in my memory.

I’d found her, later in the afternoon, beside the house on a shaded patch, panting, her belly swollen. Attempts to get available family members to lift her and take her to the vet were met with scoff and dismissal. Fatal hours passed; by morning, a phone call bore the news: the vet had diagnosed a flipped stomach, and surgical intervention was impossible, something about the weekend and scheduling. Nero died, likely a horribly painful death, and without any of us there to hold her.

I cried for three days.

And, I did not forget that grief.

In the solitude of advancing life, we hear even more about the value of owning a pet. Therapeutic affect: heart rate; blood pressure; state of mind. And, I don’t doubt any of it.

If I were to cave and get a dog, I’d probably get a teacup. Tiny enough to live in the house and run in the small yard. Yes; I would fall hopelessly, deeply, and irrevocably in love with my teacup.

But, life expectancy under normal, healthy circumstances is probably fifteen years at most, for a lapdog. And, owning a dog takes endurance.

Endurance requires stamina. Emotional as well as physical. We have to be capable of accepting that the life of a dog is terminal. The day we let that creature into our lives, we have to be able to say goodbye.

I’ve said many goodbyes. Grandfather, grandmother. Uncles, aunts. Mum, and Dad. Former loves, a couple of them tragic.

The world today requires of us a massive stamina. We have to process increasing, encroaching violence. We have to cope with a state of fundamental uncertainty in global conditions. We have to endure.

My stamina extends about as far as my position from the TV. Beyond that, it’s all I can do to conserve sufficient energy for the life I embody.

Don’t ask me to endure the love, and loss, of a teacup.

I wonder how long we’ll live before we all lose the ability to say goodbye.





© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  8/26/16   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect. To all dogs, everywhere – the loved, the lonely, the lost: Happy National Dog Day.