In Defense of Walking on the Dead


Palm Sunday I was walking my dogs in the cemetery. Sundays are busier there than any other day of the week, and holiday Sundays even more so. Team Puggle and I do our best to steer clear of people tending or visiting graves, as well as other dogs, so upon seeing five cars parked along the front drive, we took to the back paths.

The dogs were sniffing away in a clearing, enjoying the perfect weather and all the new spring smells. A car pulled slowly down the road about a hundred feet from us and someone in the car did my all-time least favorite thing: made a passive-aggressive judgmental comment just loud enough for me to hear as they drove by, not stopping to actually confront. The woman said, “How dare anyone walk a dog in a cemetery? That’s disgusting!” Her Jersey accent dripped with contempt.

The Puggles perked their ears and tilted their heads at her. She said some other things but I didn’t quite catch them, though her tone of voice made it sound as if I were personally digging up graves and toppling headstones.

I assured the Puggles that they were not, in fact, disgusting and we went on our way to sniff somewhere else. I asked Jack if he wanted to go track her down and inform her that we likely visit the grave of her dead relative far more than she does, because for this woman to be surprised and offended that people walk their dogs in this cemetery, she can’t come here very often.

Jack scented the air and opted out. He is a better man than I, and his insistence that we merely carry on with the walk shut off the imaginary conversation I was having with her in my head- you know, the one where I judge her back and put her in her place and make her feel at least as bad as she made me feel. Jack pulled in another direction and brought me back to where we were.

For a moment there, I second-guessed myself. About walking my dogs in the cemetery being a good thing.

I started walking them here on the advice of my therapist when I could barely get out of bed from depression a few years ago. For a couple of months it was the only thing I could accomplish in a day besides show up to work.

Walking in the cemetery is their very favorite thing in the world. Because we don’t have a yard, they consider the cemetery to be theirs. It’s part of their territory, and I’m willing to bet every other dog that walks there feels the same. It’s the kind of place that inspires ownership.




For me, it’s a chance to serve. I let them choose which way we go. I let them sniff. I pick up their poop; I don’t let them pee on the flags.




They explore as far as they can on the end of a leash. They notice the new trees the groundskeepers plant to replace the ones destroyed in the storms, the flowers and shrubs added by relatives around headstones. They find the evidence of deer, of raccoons, of owls; of the struggle for life and death that goes on in the animal side of things there. We’ve found dead moles, mice, birds and an inside-out rat, picked clean by crows.




I cannot keep a straight face while walking behind two Puggle butts. Jack walks on an extreme diagonal, as if he is in desperate need of an alignment. If he ever requires a wheel, I fear he’ll only move in circles.

The dogs lead me to the change of seasons through all the small signs. I find the first of spring in the new shoots of grass that Casey likes to eat, the crocuses bursting through the ground that Jack has to investigate; I notice the buds on the tree branches as they both stare at the trunk, mystified at a squirrel that magically disappeared by going up.


We visit the graves of the ones who touched our family: The boy who died on the high school baseball field. The kid who committed suicide, though some say it was an accident. The mother who very intentionally jumped off a bridge. The 20-year old girl who lost out to a brain tumor.

I’ll stop at a grave I don’t know and wonder about the person there. I wonder how they died, and how they lived. I wish peace for their families; I know it is harder to come by for some than others.

One thing I’ve learned from walking on the dead is that nobody gets enough time.  The cemetery is full of people who probably would have given anything for one more day or a chance to make a different decision had they known what was on the other side, and what they were leaving behind.


More so than in yoga, or while meditating, the only time I truly appreciate the present moment as it happens is on these walks. Because we are present, Team Puggle and I. We are warming in the sun, we are having our floppy ears blown straight out by the wind, we are smelling all kinds of unbelievable smells.

The definition of reverence is a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe. Walking my dogs in the cemetery is the most reverent thing I do all day.

I guess this whole business of living and dying can be plenty disgusting if you think of it that way, but I don’t. It’s just life. All the gross things that come out of a body have to be tended to, canine and human alike. Is a dog taking a whiz in graveyard dirt any more disgusting than what happens to a body when it expires?

No one here gets out alive.

That’s how I dare walk a dog in a cemetery.


 Every day above ground is a good day.





One Momster Sunday

Here in the Northeast, we have three more weeks of summer vacation left. School doesn’t start until September 9. This may be incomprehensible to many of you who have had your kids back in school for weeks but rest assured, we get out at the very ass-end of June. By the time your kids are sick of the town pool, mine haven’t even taken finals yet.

Over on Family Circle’s Momster blog, I wrote a post about subversive tactics to use with your kids in the fight against summer sloth. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as tricking your kids into thinking.

The Puggles were supposed to tell you about the post, which came out a while back, but they totally dropped the ball. Their two favorite people in the whole world–CC and #4– went out of town at the same time.

They were beside themselves.

Needy Puggles paint an ugly picture. I’m pretty sure they got drunk.

It certainly would explain that battery of late-night texts they sent from my phone that were full of poor grammar and spelling and looked as though they were typed by someone not in the possession of thumbs. Not to mention the pictures I found there.

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Anyway, I’m totally counting that as one of the links today, so go check it out: Picking Your Battles in the Fight Against Summer Sloth on Family Circle’s Momster.

Maybe you don’t have kids; maybe you’re single and dating. Maybe you do have kids and you’re dating. Maybe you want to be reminded of why you don’t date anymore, or how glad you are you got married if solely for the get-out-of-dating-free pass it gives you. Regardless, go check out Amy Neswald’s guest post on Psychology Today. She gives us Five Awkward First Dates You Probably Want to Avoid.

The best damn recipe for strawberry frosted cupcakes ever, on Marge Perry’s A Sweet and Savory Life… and if you don’t tear up a little at the story, you may be Satan.

Here’s a great resource I found on Twitter: 13 Inspirational TED Talks for Writers from Aerogramme Writers’ Studio.

And finally, if you’re a man who is planning on skinny dipping in Scandanavia, Beware the Pacu. It’s a fish. That’s all I’m going to say about it.


Oh, come on, you at least have to click through and see the picture.

Happy Sunday.

My Vet’s Hotter Than Your Vet

Recently we changed vets. Our former vet was at the super chain pet emporium. Great staff; terrible corporate-structured business plan designed to make sure that every time you take your dog in it will cost at least $500. And  it will have to stay overnight.

So we have a new vet that we love even though we’ve only been there once so far. Then Casey developed an issue. There’s no polite way to say it: she wouldn’t pee. When I called to bring her in they asked if I could get a sample.

Me: Umm. That’s kind of the problem. Nothing’s really coming out.

They said not to worry about it. They’d take care of it at the office.

Casey and Jack are terribly attached to each other. Jack more so; he screams whenever they are separated. Yes, screams. Ever heard a pug scream? Click here. It’s neat. And loud. He started screaming when Casey and I walked out the door and he got left behind. I could hear him as I was pulling out of the driveway, even with the house closed up and the car windows rolled up.

In the car Casey jumped into my lap and forced her full body weight against my chest. She trembled silently as I attempted to steer around her. It was pathetic.

At the vet she kept looking back over her shoulder at me. Without her twin there, she was completely ungrounded.

We waited in the exam room.

Casey under my chair in the exam room

And then the doctor came in.

This was a different doctor than the one we saw before. Much different. This doctor was a hot Columbian chick in leather pants, knee-high boots, and a lab coat.

She was awesome.

We discussed Casey, and then the doctor scooped her up under one arm before Casey even knew what was going on and took her in the back to “get a sample”.

I’m not entirely sure how they managed to get a sample out of her. Did they just squeeze it out? Is it in any way like milking a cow? I kept picturing different scenarios until she came back in with Casey. And a sample.

I didn’t ask.

We put Casey on the exam table- which was an elevator, which totally freaked her out- and I held her head in a futile attempt to relax her. The vet meanwhile slapped on a rubber glove, lubed up and started manually checking Casey’s urethra for stones. Then she spoke to Casey in the most incongruous baby-dog voice and Casey calmed right down. Didn’t seem to mind at all. And I couldn’t think of a single appropriate thing to say.

Jack was Still. Screaming. When we got home. I’m glad no one called the cops on us this time. That happened.

Thinking about it afterwards, leather pants seem really appropriate for vets. They clean easily and offer way more protection against scratches and bites than scrubs do. There are probably a lot of other occupations that could benefit from leather pants. This has become my current obsession and I would love your input on which occupations you think could really do a better job utilizing all the benefits of leather pants.

Really, we’d all benefit. I’m thinking here perhaps a National Leather Pants Day (there isn’t one; I checked. There is, however, a National No Pants Day, though there is some great debate on what day that is).

 Meanwhile, your questions of the day: How do you think they got “the sample”? Who do you think should be wearing leather pants? When is National No Pants Day, and are you going to celebrate it?

Casey is going to be fine. Even with four medicines (because she also has an infection in her ear and between her toes) it was less than $500 and she didn’t have to stay overnight. One of the medicines is a shampoo for just her paws.

That I am supposed to leave on for fifteen minutes.

Which should be interesting.

Remember to enter my Pi Day Pie Challenge!