A Blessing

So fellow travelers,  I’m on a quick road trip to visit family.
The early light created some simple words this morning


Easter morning Light
Peace and blessings fill all hearts
Let Love grace your days.

I hope you celebrate Spring and new life in the ways which bring you joy.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Hope Lost and Found

So fellow travelers, our high school community is facing a tough loss and tougher questions. Today, on a walk through a new trail many miles from home I came across sacred spot


where I found this


It brought a revelation about a feeling I’ve been processing.  This sensation of running out of time isn’t about me or my dreams. It’s about running out of time to make a difference for others in personal and even more global matters.

This sacred encounter felt like an answer to words which I had written earlier this week when my heart ached for the young life ended too soon and I wondered if we could help these young souls know just how far into the shadows we are willing to journey to keep them safe.


There are no words to bridge this gaping chasm of grief

Had we known you were falling so far, so fast

We would have reached out to weave our hands and arms into a net to catch you

The breaking of our hearts cracks the code of silence

Too late for one

Now that you have your wings, please

Help us reach others


Although I have journeyed many miles from home to stumble on this spot, I am certain of it’s message.  Hope transcends space and time and Love never dies.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.


Sunday’s at the Rescue: Scarlet

So fellow travelers, I was at the rescue one afternoon a few weeks ago when it happened again.

That magical experience of watching a “gotcha” moment unfold.

With several new dogs transferred in from local shelters and the St Patrick’s Parade committee putting the final touches on the float for Saturday’s Parade, Friday afternoon was busy, even though this is not a transport weekend. I went to help with the afternoon feeding walks and chores. While I was there, several dogs went home with their new families, including adorable little pittie Jackson


Jackson is a local pup who came to HHDR  through our transfer program with the city’s shelter. He was found tied up in a garage with his harness embedded in his skin. *sigh*  human beings can be idiots. Jackson is a spunky fellow, fully recovered, just as sweet and loving as can be. I am not surprised he was adopted so quickly.

Jackson is the kind of dog who reminds me to focus on compassion, so willing to forgive and trust us humans again inspite of the cruelty they’ve endured. You cannot be involved in any kind of rescue work for long without a strong set of coping skills or you burn out faster than a match in a snowstorm. This holds true for “rescue” work with humans too as I’ve learned from my job at the local high school. Anger is a draining emotion to hold and it does nothing to stop the cycle of abuse. It’s a challenge to feel compassion for abusers and I admit most of the time the best I can do is a benign shroud of sadness for those who are in so much pain they are driven to inflict it on others. When I hold a trembling, terrified dog I often think if someone, maybe just one person had done the same for an abuser it would have made a difference.

Pretty little Scarlet was one of those frightened souls.  She arrived two weeks ago on a transport from Alabama and she took a while to stop shaking and come out of her shell. Her profile said she had been “found one day at a shelter,” which likely means she had simply been abandoned. Her foster family said she was very shy yet responded to calm quiet interaction. The experience of the long transport trip can set a shy dog back a bit too, so it takes a special adopter to see the potential in these dogs.

Scarlet’s special people came in yesterday afternoon, a soft spoken young couple looking for a quiet dog they could have in their apartment.  The young woman spoke earnestly with me while her husband was finalizing their application at the front desk. She explained, almost apologetically that they had to be careful of the breed mix not from personal preference but because their landlord had a list of prohibited breeds (*sigh again*  BSL : Breed Specific Legislation and its ignorant offspring of breed specific policies is flawed and misguided concept. However, that’s a topic for another post.)

 “We would take a pit mix if we could. We know so many of them need homes,” she told me. I assured her we understood and that was why the staff always speaks with landlords before giving a green light to an application.

As we talked, one of the volunteers walked by with Scarlet in her arms.  The young woman had seen Scarlet in her crate, but said she was curled up on her bed in the back and didn’t come towards the door.  Now, held gently in the arms of a volunteer she knew, Scarlet didn’t cringe when this young woman spoke to her.  In fact, I noticed her adorable ears perked right up.  I held my breath when, after asking for permission the young woman slowly and gradually reached over to gently touch Scarlet.

Scarlet did not shake or turn away. The woman’s husband joined us to happily inform his wife their application had been processed and they could start the process of selecting a dog.

“Oh, honey this is Scarlet.” she told him.  There was no mistaking the longing and love in her voice. She had not stopped gently petting the little dog, still resting in the arms of our volunteer. “She’s very shy but she’s so sweet!”

He leaned in ever so slightly, without reaching for her and spoke calmly “Hello, Scarlet.” Again, our shy girl did not flinch.  In fact she turned her head towards the young man and looked right at him, so he extended his hand, let her sniff.  My heart skipped a beat.

I asked if they would like to take her outside for a little walk. Usually prospective adopters take the dogs outside with some help from a volunteer to get to know the dogs a bit better.

“Wont she be too cold outside?”

It was as if the young woman instinctively knew Scarlet was not a fan of the vast cold outdoors. “Can we hold her for a bit?”  I held my breath again as the volunteer gently bundled our shy girl into the young man’s arms.

Scarlet sighed and settled right in. For a few minutes time stood still, the noise of dogs coming and going faded, the clatter of bowls being washed sounded like chimes marking the moment, that moment when three souls wound themselves together into one family.


Scarlet’s arrival photo on transport day.  Happy life sweet girl.


Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Editorial Note: Sunday’s at the Rescue is a series of posts about my experiences working with rescue dogs.  It is named for Sunday, a sweet young dog who came through the rescue where I volunteer, stole a piece of my heart (as so many of them do) and got herself adopted into a great home. If you like this piece, you can search the blog for other posts with that title.

Ghosts in the Wood

So fellow travelers,  after a heart breaking day of helping students and staff work through grief that cast a somber silence through the halls of our high school, I returned home in a restless, unsettled state of mind.

My soul was asking me to journey someplace both familiar yet unknown. It took a few minutes of flipping through the many trail maps in my mind to know where I was being called to walk. This is uncharted territory, this ability to hike deep woods trails free from snow so early in the season. It has afforded me a new experience of some previously familiar paths.

While I sought the solitude of the woods, I also needed the simple comfort of an unassuming companion. Delilah was thrilled to see me bring out her walking harness.

Oh, the unconditional love of a dog, asking no more than to be with us where we are in each moment whatever state of being that is.  If there is a more powerful  balm for broken hearts I have yet to find it.


The woods show me strange images in this portal between seasons. The light is harsh without a filtering canopy. I can see far deeper into the forest than I am accustomed to. Trees stand in skeletal clusters, wind rattling residual leaves like a fortune teller casting marked bones. Deer paths beckon off the main trails only to disappear like false promises. Early leaf buds have wisely held fast after unseasonable warmth gave way to waves of arctic chill. Everything is a dry, grayish brown. Only ancient mosses clinging to logs hint of the green still to come.

Even before the tragic news of this week, my recent hikes on these trails have felt haunted by an unsettling Presence. The spectre of life’s end has hung in my thoughts since an elder family member’s medical team gave us sobering news. No, I am not one given to morbid obsessions even as an increasing number of those I know reach advanced ages.  Death, as our community has experienced several times recently, can come at any time in unexpected ways. It has taken quite a few long, ponderous walks through these new to me forest trails to finally recognize the Presence shadowing my steps.

Time,  I thought,  I am running out of time.

I have no specific concern which would indicate my time to depart this life draws near. I am in relatively good health and take decent care of myself. Oh sure there’s things I could do, eat a few less desserts, engage in more weight bearing exercise to slow the loss of muscle strength, all things I am working on. Being one to fully engage whenever possible in the opportunities life presents, this sensation of running out of time  is a strange state of mind. It stopped me in my tracks for a moment.

And then Delilah stopped and sat still. She looked at me, then ahead on the trail and then back at me.

This is what I have trained her to do to let me know something approaching has caught her attention. It is a vast improvement over the lunging and explosive barking she used to exhibit when anything, other dogs, bicycles, strollers, runners, squirrels, anything came moving towards us. She is rewarded with praise and often a treat as well.

It took me a few seconds to see the two black eyes staring at us from far ahead on the trail. The slightest flick of a brown ear and glint of bone branching up revealed our observer was a young buck. The three of us stood frozen in an eternal moment.  Delilah did not stir a muscle even with the intensity of her olfactory exploration of the air.

You must not pass this way.”

The directive was as clear in my mind as if someone had spoken directly to me. This was no ordinary woodland encounter. I stood still for a few more seconds, gathering my balance making sure of my footing and then whispered to Delilah.

“Leave it girl, come.”

I turned slowly in a seamless T’ai Chi pivot and walked down the path.  Delilah followed without a single glance back.

I do not know what transpired at that trail crossing. I only know it felt right as if Something had been Resolved.  My steps on the walk back felt lighter, not so much in joy as in the relief of simple acceptance.

Just before we turned onto the main path leading back to the parking lot the haunting laughter of a pileated woodpecker reverberated through the woods. Delilah and I stood still once more, listening to the echoes bounce through the trees.

“Ghosts”  I said looking down at her.  “Let’s go home girl.”


Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.




Mourning Comes

So fellow travelers,  I am up and on the road a good half hour earlier than my usual 6:30 am drive into work.

I arrive and enter a dark and silent building, dreading the news which will come, because early morning emergency staff meetings never bring good news.

So far all I know is somewhere in our little village a family wakes to unspeakable grief.

On the way in I watched the moon sink through layers of clouds. It had an odd tinge and no, this was not just imagination. I would have welcomed the serene peaceful Light of the familiar Face in the Sky. Instead a haunting image of a gaping wound squeezed between dark cruel fingers hung ominously over the horizon.

The sun was rising by the time we exited our somber meeting.


Time to dig deep for words of comfort and healing. Time to hold onto hope, hope somehow we might reach through pain and sorrow to catch other young souls before they too lose heart.

Walk gently on the path my friends , hug those you love a little tighter and longer today.

Abandon hope

Recent events on a global, local and personal level, including some hard news about an elder family’s member declining health had left me with an uncharacteristic feeling I could not identify. This piece from writer Jennifer Bowman unraveled the darkness and gave it a name. Now I have a reference point for moving forward. On this morning of the Vernal Equinox I am ready to stop postponing life; I intend to start living joy every single day.

The Trailhead

164 Chimpanzee contemplates nature of life, thinks “Well, shit.”

My mother is always the first to notice when I’m not writing. “February 5 was your last post,” she pointed out during lunch last week. I appreciate this. She notices.

In that vein, I want to dispense with one issue upfront: It has been suggested (not by my mother) that the occasional long gaps between my posts indicate I’m insufficiently “serious” about writing. I always despaired a little at that, because it felt unfair. At the same time, I always feared it was true.

But I’ve found that when we interrogate the assumptions behind our fears, and follow the what-if trail to its conclusion, we can find clarity. And I’ve realized it is true. There are many things I take more seriously than writing. Understanding, feeling, processing, life, and honesty are all more important to me than simply stringing words together. These things…

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So fellow travelers, yesterday was gloriously mild and precipitation free. Right after work, I dashed down to the trails by Onondaga Lake where this vista and poem unfolded


You have walked it seems
for lifetimes
to reach this shore
only to realize
there is no way to cross
except for a bridge of clouds
and you wonder
if you dare trust the glassy surface

The lake did look smooth enough to walk on, a crazy idea knowing how toxic the lake still is from years of chemical dumping. Still, I stood there a long time mesmerized by the light.

Sometimes we work so hard to reach a goal only to find the final step appears impossibly treacherous. I am gratefully not at such a crossroads myself right now but I have been and  I know several souls who are. Words of encouragement  and a supportive presence are the only boat I have to offer. So I send quiet prayers to the Heavens, set my sight on the Light and fill my heart with a lake of hope.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Morning Flyover

So fellow travelers,  I’ve been enjoying the morning light while I have it.


In a few days, daylight savings time will spring forward, kicking my morning routine back into darkness.  Nevermind. The symphony of spring adds new voices every day and I am grateful to be up and out early enough to hear them.

The call of geese is a signature sound of the changing seasons. Today several flocks flew through our skies and these words sprang up.

Calls echo Look Up!
Dotted line flies overhead
Racing through to Spring


Sacred moments I’m grateful to have anytime light or dark.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Delilah meets the Bumble

So fellow travelers, a few weeks ago Delilah and I had a rare encounter


DD meets the Abominable Snowman

With the snow nearly gone I thought I better get the story told before it became as unseasonal as the record warmth we’ve been blessed with this month. Delilah was none too sure about this strange creature. She barked furiously when she first saw it and insisted on checking him out.


Approaching cautiously

Hmmm. No reaction


Bravely sniffing, checking more thoroughly



“Hey you’re ok! Wanna play?”


“No ? Ok, maybe another time. I got squirrels to chase now. Bye!”


Nice weather and lingering daylight has had us scurrying to the lake trails this past week, so we haven’t gone by this neighbor’s house for a while. When we did pass by again the other day, Delilah paused for a minute or two looking at the now green and empty lawn. It took me a second to realize what she was looking for.
Oh well~see you next year Mr. Bumble


Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Sunday’s at the Rescue : Transport Day

So fellow travelers, the past two weekends have featured Transport Days at the local dog rescue where I volunteer.

The calm before the (well-0rganized) chaos 

Whenever I write about transports I know there will be questions regarding this aspect of the operations at Helping Hounds and I always welcome the chance to help people understand the whys and hows of rescue work. Most of those are covered in this previous post.

I’ve served in many roles during the years I have been a volunteer. Joining the Transport Team allows me to serve in a way that fits into my life right now. Knowing the transport dates helps me block out dates in advance so my schedule for that weekend can accommodate any last minutes changes which may (and often do) occur.  Since I drive a 35 mile round trip to get to the rescue, it’s more effective for me to put in longer hours several times a month rather than shorter shifts once or twice a week. Transport weekends are intensely busy, extra help is always needed to keep things running well.

Transports are timed to arrive during hours when the rescue is not open to the public. This gives us a chance to get the new dogs welcomed and somewhat settled in before the long line of potential adopters begins to stream through the front doors.



Each dog is greeted by a volunteer as they come off the transport trailer.



Some dogs are eager to check out their new surroundings

I think I smell that place they call “home!”



others are more cautious,


Ziggy leaning into Alan for a little extra assurance

That’s an understandable reaction given what most of them have been through just to get here. Calm, crazy or cautious, every dog gets reassuring attention from the minute they arrive.


Each dog receives a martingale collar with a Helping Hounds tag and after a quick relief walk, they head inside for a meal


Yum these folks sure know how to feed us pups!


Then it’s another round or two of walks (the stress of travel can upset some tummies, so frequent potty breaks are part of the arrival routine.) Some of the volunteer team walk dogs, others stay inside to clean crates, change bedding and refresh water buckets. Dogs who need a little freshening up are given quick baths. One of my favorite tasks is sitting with a trembling pup, wrapped in a towel and waiting for that moment when they relax enough to give a first little kiss.

When the doors open to the public at noon prospective adopters are greeted by guides who walk them through the rooms, answering questions and helping them interact with dogs they may be interested in. Watching the heart connections form between the dogs and their adopters is a truly magical experience.  I never tire of seeing the “gotcha” moment click into place.


This is a photo from 2014 and while its not a great shot it is my favorite photo I have ever taken at the rescue.  I watched this young couple fall in love with Kimbo a local “pit mix,” as they waited for a different dog to arrive on a transport which had been delayed. Lucky Kimbo did indeed go home with them that day and the dog they had originally selected from the transport list went home with another family.  Two perfect matches.

For some dogs, that moment takes a little longer


My buddy Buddy, who has been waiting as patiently as a young fellow can for a family of his own. He’s one of the local transfers brought over from the city shelter, part of the rescue’s efforts to help reduce the over population of bully breed (aka “pit bull”) mixes in our local shelters.

and when it happens it is that much sweeter, because while they wait we all fall a little more in love with those dogs every day. The day their adoption photos post on the rescue’s page there is a steady stream of “happy tears” comments.


Our amazing photographer Carolin posts an album of the dogs arriving.  The photos soon have a string of comments from their original fosters and rescue sponsors who anxiously follow their journey North to find permanent homes. What selfless and compassionate people they are to take in these dogs for a few weeks as they recover from their spay/neuter surgeries. The personality profiles the fosters send are tremendously helpful in creating a better understanding of each dog’s temperment, because the dog’s behavior in the rescue kennels vs a foster home is often quite different. Many of the families also pack up “going home” bags with favorite toys, treats, blankets and letters which bring tears to everyone’s eyes when the new parents share them with us.


In the days following transports, we all check the daily posts to see who went home. Occasionally a first placement does not work out quite right. It happens less often now because the staff works so hard to make the right match for both adopters and dogs. Besides even dogs that come back don’t stay long.

So many dogs, so many stories each one a life saved.

Actually two lives saved, because each successful adoption makes room for other dogs in need, a kind of domino effect of openings down the line: an open kennel at our rescue, a spare bed in a foster home and one more sweet soul pulled from a kill shelter in time.

Like I said, so many dogs, so many stories. It would easily become overwhelming so I make a conscious choice to focus on the hope of the work we do. I am but one human doing what I can do and hope is what keeps me going.

Photo courtesy of Carolin Booth Murphy

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Editorial Note:  Sunday’s at the Rescue is a series of posts about my experiences working with rescue dogs.  It is named for Sunday, a sweet young dog who came through the rescue where I volunteer, stole a piece of my heart (as so many of them do) and got herself adopted into a great home.