Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable






IMG_6033-2     What is companionable?  Companionable is a way of life.  Simply put, it is kinship with other life.  A favorite book of my mom’s entitled Kinship With All Life by J. Allen Boone sums it up best:

“All life, regardless of its form, classification or reputation will respond to genuine interest, respect, appreciation, admiration, affection, gentleness, courtesy, good manners.”


“If you would learn the secret of right relations, look only for the good, that is, the divine, in people and things, and leave all the rest to God.”

I’m an animal lover.  Animals are my friends.  People who love animals are my friends.  And I’ve learned a thing or two over the years:  People who are kind to animals are generally the kindest to people.  Like animals, they don’t make judgments based on race, political persuasion, orientation, success status, or any other which way you can sort and separate the human race.

Companions in life are not the same as lovers; they are simply at their core: love.  Love without limits, without expectations, and without fail.

When I photograph animals, I am rightly reminded that love exists not just in the human world, but in their world too.   We all need a good companion in life–a person or an animal who understands us, someone who is simply there when life is tough!

May you find, see, and experience the joy of a good companion today!  For they are where we find our solace and our strength!

“How we need another soul to cling to.”
Sylvia Plath

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.”
Mark Twain

“I want some one to sit beside after the day’s pursuit and all its anguish, after its listening, its waitings, and its suspicions. After quarreling and reconciliation I need privacy–to be alone with you, to set this hubbub in order. For I am as neat as a cat in my habits.”
Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent friend.”
Franklin P. Jones

Quotes from Goodreads.  Photos taken at Sylvan Heights Bird Park – Scotland Neck, NC and NC Zoo in Asheboro, NC and at our home (baby Robin and our dog Marley)


I Learned Italian Because My Son Had to Poop

Narcissus_(da_Vinci) Wikimedia Commons“Narcissus” by Leonardo Da Vinci – Wikimedia Commons

     I learned to speak Italian last night.  In a very nice Italian Ristorante.  In a secret room.  The one where the bella signoras pee or powder their nose.   Why?  When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, l’ll tell you why!  My little boy had to poop.

Here’s the thing. He’s at that in-between age.  He can usually go to the men’s room by himself once I’ve sufficiently swept the area for strangers of unknown origin or intent.  I’m just a mama bear in that regard.  But from time to time, nature calls in its purest form. 

This time my son informed me the nanosecond my steaming plate of pasta arrived, that he had to go to the bathroom–bad.

“Come with me!”  Uh-oh.  I know what this means.  This is code language for I better bring some reading material.  I grab my phone just in case.  I can play on Facebook or perhaps catch an article or two from the Times online.

I do what any protective mother does for her boy of the awkward age between being able to wipe one self, but with neither of us comfortable for him to be alone in a man’s den to do one’s business.  I took him with me—to the Signora’s gabinetto.

He went to the potty.  I went to the potty. He started to bolt.  I grabbed him with my Go-Go Gadget arm that can span the entire width of a gabinetto. 

“Not so fast buddy!  The hands?!?!?”  I ask incredulously.

“Oh yeah!”  He cycles the water on, then off, faster than a camera’s shutter speed in Sports Mode.  Al Gore would be moved if he could witness this moment.

“Hold it!  LONGER!  With soap this time!”

Kids intrinsically know that payback always deserves to be hell.  So after a good five minutes of soaping, lathering, and going through yards of paper towels, he finishes.

“Great!  Let’s go!”  I’m almost out the door when he informs me, “Wait a minute.  I’m NOT finished.”

Terrific.  “I’ll wait by the sink then.”

I wait.  And wait.  And wait.   I read the label on the designer soap.  Wash Responsibly it says.  I ponder this for a few more minutes.  I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever been an irresponsible washer.  They must know piccoli uomini (little men) come in here sometimes.

“Any luck?”

“No.  Not yet.”

That’s when it happens.  The gabinetto is eerily silent.  I am suddenly, but pleasantly aware that the Frank Sinatra songs in the Ristorante are not the same soundtrack playing here.  But I don’t mourn Old Blue Eye’s auditory absence for long.

No!  That’s because it’s better in here.  Way better! 

Why if you stay long enough, you can learn to parlare Italiano!  Fantastico!

Buon giorno maam!  Good day maam! (A scoundrel’s voice.  I wouldn’t trust this guy as far as I could throw him!)

Sembri molto bella!   (Yah!  Not too shabby considering I’m pushing fifty and I’m fairly exhausted right this moment I think.  But grazie!)

Grazie! I hear a sultry voice with a hint of mischief reply above the automatic air-freshener dispenser.

Che cosa dovremmo fare per cena?   (What should we have for dinner?)  The scoundrel speaks yet again.

How about my PENNE PASTA that is getting cold as I stand here?  I think to myself.


With some oray-gino?   (Oregeno.  It’s actually spelled like we spell it, but this is how people endowed with romantic tongue say it.  Don’t forget to r-r-r-oll the “r” in your pronunciation with heavy accent on the second syllable!)

I’m kind of getting into this now.  I mentally chastise myself for not bringing my glass of Vino with me.

 Ho una macchina veloce sportiva!  (I have a fast sports car!)  A vision of a former boss let go for sexual harassment comes to mind.

The woman on the sound track chuckles daintily and seductively.

 Volete vederlo?  (Would you like to see it?) The womanizer speaks again.  Clearly she gets in his car.

Tieni d’occhio la strada! She says this as she laughs.  (Keep your eye on the road!)

Hey wait a minute I think; we’re about to move into a PG-13 bathroom experience!

More conversation ensues.  I am learning more foreign words during these momenti di cacca than I ever learned in an entire year of Spanish class in both high school and college.  I’m actually paying attention.   I’m having my Rosetta Stone moment all because my son had to poop!

At this point, I am gaining both confidence and fluency.  I check in with the poopster to get a status report.

Almost done!”   Almost, because I have to wait another seven minutes for the wipe process to be carried out.  I hear the pump-a-dump-dump of the toilet paper roll as the cardboard cylinder hangs up on its apparent four corners.  So I know something is happening in there.

More pulling of paper.  More flushing.   I’m relieved that Sheryl Crow did not succeed at getting a one square only mandate passed for us non-famous peasants in order to avoid disastrous climate change.  If we blow up the world from too much cacca, than perhaps we deserve it.

Finally the deed is done.  It is finished.    The Evocatore of Hot-Turned-Chilled Expensive Dinners emerges.

But this time I had held my cool.  I was patient.  Understanding even.

Why?  Because now I’m part Italian.

OK, I know I didn’t learn enough to impress my friends as the narrator promised I would.  As if my bathroom experience could possibly linger even one more stinkin’ moment!  But I think I learned enough that I could at least manage a few basic tasks if given the opportunity to travel to Italy someday.

I can hail a taxi.  Taxi!  (Pronounced Tock-see!)

I can handle the check at the restaurant.  Si prega di dare i miei saluti e il mio check al signore al bar.  (Please give my regards and my check to the gentleman at the bar.)

I can talk my way out of an emergency. Taxi!

When we walked out of the bathroom, some of the restaurant staff were waiting.  We were SO WORRIED about youYour party said you disappeared!”

“Nope.  IT happens.   We’re fine,”   I assured them, “but grazie!

I returned to my cold dinner more excited than when I left.  Now all I have to is find a sponsorizzare for my impending trip to Italy!  I smiled.

“Cameriere!” I snapped my fingers. “Altro vino favore!

Pour yourself some vino to go with that canolli and enjoy this classic:

Barks at Choppers

soldier-and-dog-580x323Photo Credit:  Globalanimal.org


      I can’t help it.  I still miss Josh.  I loved that man like no other.  Josh was more than my master; he was my best friend. 

I must have flown more than a hundred missions with him.  I remember the first time he put me on a Chinook.  I was scared on the inside.  I was trembling.  Even though my training taught me not to fear the chook, chook, chook, of the blades, I still felt fear.  What would happen next?  Did Josh ever feel this inside?

Outside I am a pure eighty pounds of tan and beige hard fighting American glory.  With my titanium teeth and wicked sense of smell I can actually differentiate smells between a battery or the chemicals used as a charge in an IED.  Sometimes it’s more though.  Intuitively, I just know.  Josh is in trouble.  It’s what I don’t smell sometimes that I just know is lurking around the corner, behind a door or a wall.  That’s when I want to bark.  But I can’t.  It would get us both killed.  So I look at him and press against his thigh ever so slightly, in case it’s the last second on earth we ever spend together.  And then he knows.   I know the sound by heart what happens next.  Shelling.  Gunfire.  A spray of sound.  People fall.  Blood splatters.  We made it.  We’re safe again.  This time.

We completed mission after mission together.  I was tied to him by leash, but though he doesn’t even know it, it wasn’t really necessary.  See, he commanded my heart.  “Max, over here!” he’d order.   Josh and I fed off each other when it came to courage.  I’d set out before him, nose to the dusty barren ground,  looking for those damnable PIES (power supply, initiator, explosive, switch) sometimes made with the cheapest of materials, all meant to take us down.   We’d alternate saving each other like the rhythms of the ocean we once visited when he took me home to the States–a place the he and the soldiers always reminisced about.  Me, sniffing out IEDS, putting a paw in front of his foot, being careful not to bark, in case even a sound wave would set off the bomb, Josh pulling down his M16 and eliminating our common enemy.

Why were we here?  How did I get here?  I don’t remember my mother.  I don’t know if I had brothers or sisters.  All I ever remember is Josh.  At night with his ruck sack packed, ready for the next day and parked by his cot, I remember sleeping just a breath away from his canvas cot, his hand draped over and on my head.   We both would fall asleep exhausted like this night after night.  But still, my eyes may have been closed, but my brain didn’t sleep until I heard the quiet rumble of snore that tumbled out of Josh’s throat when he was finally deep in his gift of rest.

That’s when I would dream.  They say dogs only see in black and white, but in my dreams, oh man, was it living color.  I still remember when we went to the ocean together in the States.  He threw tennis balls into the water and I brought them back to him about a million times.  Good dog!  He’d say.  He was freer then.  We both were.  So much more than here.  

    A beautiful woman he called Claire was by his side on a blanket.  Oh, how I loved Claire and she loved me.  She would kiss my neck, and always had cold hot dogs wrapped in foil in a picnic basket for everyone, but she had a dedicated bag of them just for me.

Claire and Josh had three of the cutest kids I ever saw.  I’d lay down my life for those precious babies.   They’d roll all over me and I’d run and halt and fetch and chase and jump and cuddle with them.  That was the best love I’d ever known.  It’s all I think about when my eyes grow heavy at night.  I always thought we’d go back there together.

When were at this magical place known only as home, I rested like I’d never known.   I saw fire contained in a fire place, not being hurled back and forth between people.    I didn’t have to keep a bug in my ear to receive orders the enemy couldn’t hear from Master Josh.  And best of all, I didn’t have to wear that damnable pack on my midsection that kept my insides alive if the enemy fired at us.  And Josh wore something I never saw before too:  White t-shirts , plaid shorts, and flip flops!  No boots on this beach!   And the smells?  Pure heaven.  Salt and surf.  Hot dogs.  The smell of Claire.   I saw him kiss her once and then he saw me watching.  He stopped.  To pet me!  Can you believe that?   Here was the most beautiful woman we’d both ever seen and loved, but he picked me!

I spent three years by Josh’s side.  That’s a fourth of my entire life.  Sometimes I saw him cry.  It was when we went to those things called memorials where they hang a helmet on a rifle.  I figured it out over time.  It meant that friend wouldn’t be petting me anymore at dinner.  He wouldn’t be covering Josh’s and my back in a firefight.   One by one, sometimes our friends would simply vanish.

     And then it happened.  I wish I knew what the other soldiers were saying.  I had just woken up.  Why was my stomach bandaged?  Why were their small patches of fur on my face missing?  Why do I still smell something burning? 

My blood felt cold.  Where’s Josh It was my only thought.   So many hands patting me.  Their faces were all crying.  Why?  Where’s Josh?!?! 

But life’s not fair I learned.   I went through a series of men over the next few weeks.  I didn’t  go out in any more battles.  I heard words like “retirement” and “wouldn’t respond as well to another handler” and “it’s time.”  And finally the word of my dreams—home.   

It wasn’t long after that.  I was on a C-130 Hercules headed back to the States.  I sat bravely with all the other cargo.  Men in gear, ruck sacks, helmets, guns, water bottles, aviator glasses.  They were strong.  Brave.  Like me.

That’s when I knew.  I smelled him first.  There was a long box.  A box draped with a flag of red and white stripes and white stars embedded in dark blue.   Josh and I used to sit under the stars at night.  He’d say, “Max, when we get home, we’re going to have the best life ever!  You have no idea!”

       Since the first time I first accompanied him in that Chinook, I felt true fear.  I didn’t know what would happen next.  I put my head on my paws and whimpered.  Why don’t dogs have tears?  At this moment I just really needed to cry.

So many hours went by.  And then I saw her.  Claire!   Beautiful, kind, and tiny Claire. She was smaller now than I remembered her.  She was wearing black and hard a firm grasp on Josh Jr.  He was a mess.  All the kids were;  they were crying so hard.   But she smiled when she saw me.   She stooped down.  My intuition started acting up again.  It felt like I do when I had a flea I couldn’t eliminate simply by scratching.   Though I never had the gift of predicting the future entirely, I sensed  together we were going to mend our broken hearts together.  I bolted towards her like my life depended on it.  Because it did. 

I live with the Owens family now.  Josh Jr., Caitlyn and Madeline are my handlers.  My life is good.  But we all have a hole in our heart and not from a bullet hole.  Sometimes when I hear the familiar chook, chook, chook in the sky when a Chinook or a Black Hawk or an Apache hovers overhead, I bark uncontrollably.  I can’t help it.  I just want to see Josh again.  I hope and pray and bark that this is the chopper that’s finally going to bring him back to me, this flying metal savior who will finally bring my Master home. 

I Went to Wal-Mart and Got Depressed

Twilight MomI went to Wal-Mart today to get a memory card and came back with a mild case of depression.

I know why.

I parked all the way out on the last row in the gardening section.  I like stopping there first and make my way to the store because it’s easier to park on the side than in the middle.   Plus seeing all the plants and beautiful flowers helps me prepare for what I invariably see.

The faces of Wal-Mart.  Don’t laugh.  Yes, there are websites about this phenomenon. 

Still, I got depressed.

First, I profusely thank a beautiful woman from India who greets my arrival in gardening:  “Welcome to Wal-Mart!”  Her beauty is eclipsed only by a serene sense of joy.  I make a mental note to smile more peacefully and perhaps consider a gold stud in my nose someday.

Next I walk by pharmacy.  A Caucasian 25ish looking man is studying anti-diarhea medicines intently.  Bummer!  Oops, not my business.  Moving on.

A fortyish mom strolls by.  Her cart has about seven boxes of Tampax and one box of Great Value Fruit Spins Cereal.  She probably has a lot of daughters I think.  I wonder if her husband is attentive or tuned out to PMS drama.  Perhaps she doesn’t have a husband or seven daughters, and she’s about to make a hefty donation to a local shelter.  It doesn’t matter because I’ll never know!

I walk parallel to the cash registers as I make my way over to the grocery section.  That’s when I see a man in his early thirties with oxygen tubes running from his backpack to both nostrils conducting his banking business from a chair.  I utter a small prayer for him.  Lord, just heal him.  Amen. 

Next I see what looks like six similar sixty-something sisters walking towards me.  They are laughing joyously and have very large gaudy flower printed shirts on that resemble one another.  I am not one to judge or be bothered by people of copious size.  I just find it interesting that all are snowman-shaped in terms of physique and have shirts on that look as if they are in a 1970s time warp.  No judgment here, just observation. 

I make my way back towards electronics where I only need to get one thing:  A memory card for my camera.  I’m proud of myself; I didn’t grab a cart on the way in, so I’m super focused this time with no extra unplanned purchases!

I walk past the Crafts and Fake Flowers department.  I see a lady yelling profusely at her baby.  “I said STOP THAT!”   The baby begins to cry.  Do I intervene or walk on by?   I am running late.  I am a coward.   I justify or else lie to myself by thinking other people’s lives are not my business.

Two aisles over, I see a moderately large African-American woman scoot past me in a hurry.  I only see her from the back.  The reason she stands out the most is because she has a huge red silk Superman Cape on, complete with a Superman S in the middle of a yellow diamond on her back.  I assume she has clothes on underneath, but I’m not sure.  I hope she is off to save the distressed baby in the Fake Flowers department.  To each her own I think.  I am just about in electronics. 

A tall thin Arabic young man is politely helping another customer with a question.  I patiently wait.  A few minutes pass; he finishes answering the customer’s question and quickly took steps to evade me. Believe me I understand, if they help every person that ask them a question, they probably won’t have time to clean their area, stock it, ring people up etc.  I blurt out anyway.  “HEY!  I need your help!  Can you please come with me and unlock the doo-hickey that keeps the memory cards on it?”  (For security purposes—otherwise every picture-clicking thief would just lift these tiny little storage units.)

He walks over with me.  “Oh, you can just pull it off the rack.”  And with kind smugness, he shows me how you can just slide an item off of a straight pole.  Apparently, they are no longer locked up on the pole, they are encased in plastic vaults on the pole that you can just take  to the register where they will promptly wave a magic shoplifter tool over it and extract it for you.

I thank him for his kindness and apologize for my stupidity.  “No problem,” he says gleefully.

I realize it’s been less than five minutes and all of a sudden I am feeling stressed but can’t pinpoint exactly why.

I go to the register and a woman in a sari and hijab rings up my memory card.   Almost done!  I feel myself getting happier inside.  Oh no. Five swipes and my credit card doesn’t go through.  I swear I have money I want to say.  After all, I’m the only person in all of Wal-Mart getting stalled out over one item on their charge.  “It’s okay” she says, “let me try.”  She slides it on the register’s card reader.  It works!  Vindication!

I decide as long as I’m here and mildly hungry, I may as well get a quick smoothie and small fry at the McDonald’s at the opposite end of gardening.  I pass the nail salon where five Asian women are furiously filing, filling, and painting several sets of fingernails.  That’s when I almost gasp when I get to McDonald’s.

There at one of the tables is a man and a woman together, both in wheelchairs, drinking out of a large Styrofoam cup and eating some fries.  Both look like they are in their fifties.  Both clearly have had a stroke as I watch their hands shuffle and try to cope with the items in their bag.  The man looks really tired and weathered.  He has a gray beard that rests on the middle of his stomach which rests on his lap.   I internally say a simple tiny prayer, just “God bless them.  Help them if they need it.”   I smile at him.  He doesn’t smile back. 

I grab my small order and berate myself for buying fast food yet again when I don’t really even like it that much, but was in a hurry and I still haven’t been to the store yet.  Rather than forage for food in my barren pantry, I took the easy route again.

I walk the length of a football field all the way back to gardening.  I finally arrive at my car.  I see old cars with missing hub caps and several with all the windows rolled down.  It’s hot outside; their A/C’s probably don’t work.  I see an employee try to corral about fifty wayward carts with a single strap all by himself. 

I start my car and am just incredibly happy I’m leaving.  See I love diversity and diverse people.  I really do.  But for some reason at Wal-Mart, I get sad.  I see people who just look like they have challenging lives.  I see lots of people younger than me in scooters.  I see weathered faces.   I see people that look worn out before their time, older than their true years.  And then I remember; I am a face at Wal-Mart.  Who knows the sympathy I may garner unaware?

Maybe it’s not Wal-Mart or the people that shop and work there at all.  Maybe it’s just the vastness and quantities of items contrasted against such a sea of humanity.  It just doesn’t go together…all the cultures, and shapes, and colors, and personalities and varying degrees of health, all swirled around with blenders and towels and diapers and DVDS and fake flowers and groceries towering under a fluorescent sky and vinyl earth.    

Something just feels all wrong I think.  These people should be out shopping in open air markets, or walking their dogs, or cuddling their babies, or eating an apple/cranberry/spinach salad, or receiving medical treatment, or taking a long walk on the beach, or reading a book for five minutes without once looking at their phone.  Then again, who do I think I am?  Who am I to judge?

I get my memory card.  But more so, I get in the car with a load of memories.  Ah, the more to write about, the more to write about. 

DISCLAIMER:   I have NEVER or WOULD NEVER take pics of anyone at Wal-Mart no matter how tempted unless I had permission.  I just did a Google image search and since these pics are always taken unaware, I chose one that is not distasteful, embarrassing, or over the top.  I picked this one because it shows how we are all a montage of personalities; we all want to put our mark on the world in our own way!  Besides, who doesn’t internally smile when Rob Pattinson looks at you with those mysterious Edward Cullen eyes?  Even if it’s off the back of another mom!