No Dogs at Walden Pond

I’ve always been a dog lover so maybe that’s why I tend to notice the sign as I drive into the parking lot.

No Dogs. Fine $50.

My dogs have never been great swimmers. Actually I’m a little dog person. While I’m in the water, they’re usually on the couch.

One time, back in 2004, I asked the head ranger if I could take my then dog, Chilli, a Shih Tzu, eyes red rimmed like he had had a few too many chilies, to Walden for a short visit. I would make sure we visited when there were very few people around.

Chilli had nasal cancer. My first personal connection with cancer, which since then insidiously found its way more deeply into my home and life.

I wanted to share with Chilli the place I loved and found peace before he departed for where ever it is that our canine friends go when they leave us.

The ranger said it would be better if I obeyed the rule. I respected her request. There were other ways Chilli and I found to share his last days.

My next dog Elliot, I never thought to take to Walden. He was a Pomeranian. He was golden like the Buddha and bought into my house that same presence that believing in something greater than oneself does. Something reliable. The simple responsibilities to schedule my day by. Food, water, fresh air, exercise, rest.

A stray from the Animal Rescue League of Boston, Elliot came at a time post divorce for me when I never thought it would be possible to successfully have a dog and bring up children.

Elliot not only made it possible, he made it more possible.

When I couldn’t get to Walden, walking though the local park with him were like snatching a little of Walden’s breath in the middle of a busy day.

Elliot helped our fractured family fight childhood leukemia. He developed doggie diabetes in the beginning stages of that fight (2010). He succumbed to some strange electrolyte imbalance in May this year. We had to say good bye.

It was tragic. And tough. But he helped us grow. And …

Elliot in 2010

Elliot in 2010

Well you know the rest.

I went to Walden. In the middle of that belly of water, where Elliot had never ventured, I used to think about his doggy spirit. Elliot was not allowed there with his doggie fur and fox like tail, (he was a big Pom, about 17 pounds.) But maybe his spirit was there.

Yes. I believe in doggie spirits too.

I have one regret.

I remember saying to my dog loving daughter, going into the last summer of her treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, just after Elliot left us, that Elliot knew he couldn’t hang on any more.

Jesi ended up spending the first five weeks of her summer vacation from school in Childrens’ Hospital, with some unknown infection, courtesy of chemotherapy’s weakening her immune system. For the second of three summers I was in and out of the hospital on an unpredictable schedule. Jesi said to me sometime during this period,

‘Maybe Elliot knew I was going to get sick again, and it was because of me that he died. He knew we couldn’t take care of him any more.’

I felt wretched. And numb. Some things that come out of my mouth, I will never forget…I am working on forgiving myself though.

On thursday I adopted Mimi, a nine year old Shih Tzu-cross from the Animal Rescue League in Boston. I started volunteering there two weeks ago in memory of Elliot.

Mimi is the sweetest and gentlest little lady ever. She wasn’t happy at the Rescue though, despite the wonderful work they do in there. (And having been behind the scenes I can say and know that.)

She needed a home. And we were ready to give her one. And I can see in her tail waggles and her lick-ful greetings how grateful she is we were. Not to mention the response of my three teenage kids!

I haven’t been to Walden this week. I do miss Walden’s calming influence, but I have been staying close to home to put my energy into making at least one …albeit canine… life better.

I noticed a bumper sticker on the rear of a car when I was driving in to adopt Mimi on Thursday. It read,

Who Rescued Who. …..!!


About No Dogs at Walden….

It’s a state park…..It’s for people…Dogs when they get together can sometimes be a bit rowdy and out of hand. (Oh, I know…people can be too!) Dogs chase wild life, each other…Sometimes it’s not so peaceful.

I think it’s ok to have sanctuaries where our four footed friends do not accompany us.

I saw a dog scurrying across the road back to the car park, pulled tight on its leash by its owner, at Walden a month or so ago. He looked as if he knew he was not supposed to be there. Funny that, I thought. But then dogs are intuitive. Dogs know things.

I’m glad to have Miss Mimi to share my life away from Walden.

It’s a little like having a teacher in my home. So I can put into practice what I want to take to Walden.

Gratitude             Love            Humility.

Mimi before she came home to live with us.

Mimi before she came home to live with us.


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