Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Philosopher and the Malamute

Hardback cover Paperback cover

Earlier this year I read The Philosopher and the Wolf, a marvellous philosophical memoir by Mark Rowlands recounting his experiences over 11 years with his lupine companion Brenin.

Brenin was close in size to Bondi, although with more Munson's colouring and there are some spooky similarities between the travels of Bondi and Brenin, although they were a decade apart. Both animals were found by their humans in the United States in a very unplanned way and taken back to their human's own countries and visited Ireland and France. While Brenin didn't travel as widely as Bondi they visited the same specific places around Cork in Ireland and Pembrokeshire in Wales.

Mark Rowlands and Alan Saunders

Today Mark was making the second of two appearances at Sydney Writers' Festival, being interviewed by ABC broadcaster Alan Saunders. I believe it will go to air soon, probably on the weekly program The Philosopher's Zone. I'll add a podcast link when this becomes available. [ Aug 1 update: streaming available here. A download link will probably show on this page before long.]

I wrote to Mark a few weeks ago hoping to make contact with him at the festival and to introduce Bondi. Sadly this introduction wasn't to be, but Mark did recognise me at the signing desk and got to meet Munson outside on the sunny deck of the Heritage Pier.

This has re-energised me to get back into writing Bondi's story, a project which has had to take a back seat over the last two months. In the meantime, I highly recommend reading about Brenin's life - Mark has a very different tale to tell about his wolf friend and intertwines it with insights on the differences between wolf society and ape/human society.

Munson by Sydney Harbour Bridge

Mark Rowlands & Munson

Postscript: Mark mentioned us in his blog: http://rowlands.philospot.com/index.php?story=story090527-102055

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cheek

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Munson is such a funny boy and - may I never tire of saying this - ever so sweet. He has slept on my bed for the last week, his late-night and early-morning presence enclosing nights of vivid dreams about Bondi. I have the blessing of so many unique experiences of Bondi in so many places, that my dreams begin to resemble a trailer for Around the World in 80 Days.

Today I left Munson tied outside a shop for a few minutes. Upon my return he stood on his hind toes and kissed me on the cheek.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Old memories, new memories

My hands have a complete memory of the shape of Bondi's head. They remember the patches at the back of his jaw which I would cup and scratch just the right way, the velvety hairs that cover his ears, the hard spot between brow and muzzle where I would apply two-fingered pressure that would relieve all pains.

As he puts out his paw, I can feel the weight, the roughness of the pads against the calluses on my own palms.; my fingers remember the hairy tuft behind his elbow. My feet remember the weight of his head when his chin rested on them as I sat at the piano. There are spaces around me with weight and memory and texture. A hot breath next to my ear, reminding me to open the rear car window so that the smells of the open road can be savoured.

Munson at Carriageworks flower stall

Saturday was a very hard day for me. My first weekend excursion without Bondi. Early in the afternoon, I was dizzy with grief, operating on auto-pilot.

Later that day I had a very depressing conversation with my brother, over-burdened by the ways the world has shaped him. Tomorrow would have been our father's 70th birthday. All too much for one weekend.

Thank you Munson for being here, dragging me out again into the world, laying down new memories, being the right companion at the right time. x

Carriageworks fence art

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A sparkle on the water

Munson / Rose Bay 

Thank you to everyone who has written, telephoned, stopped me in the street with a kind word and a hug since Bondi's passing. Some of you knew him from his early days in Seattle; others encountered him briefly in our giddy trail across Europe. My friend Brent said that it was never enough for me to walk him on the path around Green Lake, I had to share him with the world.  And so … and so those travels and this blog.

While I grieve the absence of that magnificent head placed upon my lap, the gigantic paw searching for my hand and the deep knowing eyes that bound us through a decade of extraordinary shared experiences, I am also deeply affected by the love that you have written about for your canine and feline friends, some passed, some present, and I hope of many still to come.

Munson / Rose Bay

There's a big hole in my heart filled with my love for Bondi, and the best way to carry that forward, to honour Bondi's memory,  is to apply that capacity to Munson and other furry companions.

Today I took Munson out for a swim in the shallow waters of one of Sydney Harbour's many bays. As he leaped and gambolled, circling me on the waters edge, I was reminded of similar days with Bondi and heartened by the prospect of future days like this, when

with what pleasure, with what joy,

you enter harbours you're seeing for the first time.

As surely as Bondi magnified what was in my heart, he taught me more about living and dying than any human. I offer Munson what I instinctively offered Bondi, what any us would offer a human child in our care: a place to be safe and to be stimulated, to grow in confidence, to know that to offer love is to invite it in return.

Munson prints

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The starlit wave is still

20050608 Haigh Hall - Leeds-Liverpool Canal (1)

'Tis evening on the moorland free,

The starlit wave is still:

Home is the sailor from the sea,

The hunter from the hill.*

.................... BONDI ...................

9-OCT-1998 --- 5-MAY-2009

20050624 Edinburgh

* A.E. Houseman: XXII - R.L.S.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A bridge to cross

trust

The last few weeks have been a gift of time for me to say goodbye to my beloved boy. He's had a resurgence of his early life: grabbing a ball and evading me in the park, larking in mud-puddles, sleeping on my bed, marshalling Munson and other pups around the park, flirting with strangers on street and beach.

This has disguised a resurgence of pain and now a complete loss of appetite. Janet (his vet) and I had a frank but necessary discussion today … I thought that we were both going to let our tears flow there and then, but I knew if I started then I would distress Bondi (and Munson) further.

together

We gave him some methadone now to provide immediate ease and a big skin-patch to deliver additional relief.

Together with Munson we went to the shaded hillock in Sydney Park where he plays most days,  just to sit together for the afternoon. Bondi's head cradled in my lap, Munson curled around my back. Together.

The rainbow bridge is near.

staring into eternity

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sunday Afternoon at North Bondi

North Bondi

It may be halfway through autumn, but Sydney is still throwing up some glorious days. Truth be told, it's my favourite time of the year … if only the daylight hours were a bit longer!

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Bondi's Yoga School

This is about as threatening as Munson gets.

Sunday in Sydney Park

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Sydney Tower visible on horizon

P5030010-11 [canon]

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Parks and Markets

Every Saturday morning there's a farmers' market in the old Everleigh Rail Yards now redeveloped as the Carriageworks complex. Dogs on leashes are regular visitors at the market.

Farmers' market side view 

I've been bringing the boys down here for a few weeks - there's plenty of smells and market excitement for them to begin their weekend outings. Sometimes I get bones for Munson from one of the stall-holders.

Farmers' market Farmers' market seen from main stairs 

Victoria Park

This particular weekend, a Bark in the Park event was held in nearby Victoria Park nest to the University of Sydney, so we had an easy walk from one venue to the next. It's a bit more commercial than BITP events that Bondi and I attended in Seattle due to a single sponsor dominating the proceedings, but it was lovely to see so many people out with their well-behaved dogs in an inner city park.

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Munson encountered one of his regular playmates: Dash is a Staffie girl about the same as Munson. She was one of the first staffie pups to practice the ritual of putting her head in Munson's mouth - it seems to be quite the thing for staffies when they meet Munson.

Flickr slideshow