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The View from Mary's Farm

Best Friends

The View from Mary’s Farm for April 2014
Waiting
Edie Clark

Even when Mayday came limping toward her end last fall, Harriet gave me a clue to her deep connection to her friend. As Mayday prepared to leave us, I found Harriet sitting beside Mayday’s bed, day after day, as if sitting vigil. Could she know? At last, when we returned from that final visit to the vet’s, Harriet went directly to Mayday’s bed and not only settled into it, she draped her whole body lengthwise across it. Though she looked uncomfortable, her head hanging over the edge of the bed, she didn’t move for days. I kept rejecting that this could be anything but fatigue or coincidence. Surely in our dogs, we have all seen expressions of love, anger, sadness, guilt, shame, happiness, the whole range. Why not grief? Just because they do not shed tears does not mean dogs do not experience the same depth of emotion after loss that we do.

Mayday and Harriet did not start out best buddies – Mayday reacted to the new puppy like an angry python, lashing out, lunging and snapping at the tiny Harriet. In fact, Mayday was so upset, she rejected me as well, deciding to sleep on the couch rather than her customary place beside me on the bed. If I walked into a room, she would get up and walk out, ears back, nose ever so slightly raised. This discord continued for at least six months but Harriet persisted. She wanted a friend. She needed a mother. Where Mayday went, little Harriet followed, whether room to room or field to field. Gradually, Mayday softened. Once Harriet was grown, they were about the same size, Mayday gray with a cropped tail and ears tall like a donkey’s and Harriet black with brindle face and legs, soft ears folded down, black tail wagging. They walked the land together, nosing the grasses and exploring the edges of the pond. They rolled in play, pretending to fight, snarling fiercely but using blunt teeth. At rest, they shared the top of the couch, a double blind which allowed them to keep watch on the field, yet survey activities inside the house as well. They ate peaceably side by side, never straying to the other’s dish. The backseat of the car became another refuge, Mayday vigilant, warding off approaching dogs, Harriet, resting against the back of her seat like a little Buddha, content to let Mayday protect us.

Gradually, Harriet returned to life as she had never known it, a life without Mayday who was her mother, her sister, her best friend, her teacher, her protector. At first, nothing I did seemed to console her. It’s not that the loss disappears. More that each day brings new experiences. Friend Debbie brought her dogs to play with Harriet and the distraction seemed to work. Still.

One day, a couple of months after Mayday passed away, I pulled into the post office. In the car parked next to us, a mini-schnauzer that looked very much like Mayday sat calmly in the passenger seat. Harriet saw the dog at the same time. She leapt up, cried out, and pawed the window. “It’s Mayday! It’s Mayday!” she seemed to be saying. But just as quickly, she realized it was not Mayday and she turned from the window, slumped back against the seat, and dropped her head in what looked like true despair, stung by the allure of mistaken identity. She remembers Mayday just as we remember our lost friends. No substitute or look-alike will do. But, even now, when I talk about Mayday to others, Harriet hears that lost name and she jumps up, eyes wide with surprise, waiting.

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Note: My new book, What There Was Not To Tell: A Story of Love and War, based on 2,000 letters from World War II, is now available. Go to www.edieclark.com or use Amazon to order your copy!

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Selected Works

Articles
In 1992, the Bishop of Worcester condemned St. Joseph's Catholic Church and ordered it closed. The parishioners refused to leave, sleeping on cots and on the hard pews. For thirteen months this was their life. In July of 1993, they were removed by the police. In many ways this was the blossoming of their faith. Originally published in Yankee Magazine in November 1993.
Growing up, nothing I could do seemed to please my mother and nothing she said made sense to me. But when my mother, on the threshold of death, came to live with me, I found what seemed to have been lost forever. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1995
(The follow-up article to Miracle at St. Joseph's.) The Bishop turned to them and said, "Your prayers have been answered, the hard hearts have softened." Originally published in Yankee Magazine, December 1996
A reflection on the power of cooking and friendship and the concept of family. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, November/December 2007
Memorial Day, Harrisville, New Hampshire 1995. Originally published in Yankee Magazine, May 1996
My Articles
Libraries occupy a special place in the heart of a town. Evening events at the library give a strong sense of community and make it seem like a great place to live. And in the wake of the online revolution small town libraries have found a way to not only survive but to be indispensable.
In December 2008 an epic ice storm left virtually the entire state of New Hampshire without power. The residual effects of that storm paralyzed the Monadnock Region almost through Christmas. A first person account.
In 1994, sixteen-year-old Billy Best was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. After several treatments, he ran away to avoid chemotherapy. What happened after that may have been a miracle.
Roxanne Quimby once lived primitively in the Maine woods. Today she owns 90,000 acres of those woods, and her goal is to create a national park to preserve the landscape forever. So why do so many people wish she'd just go away?
Multi-million dollar border stations are rising along our line between US and Canada. What was once the "friendliest border" has become deadly serious.
Renowned short story writer, Andre Dubus, reflects on the accident that cost him his legs.
A trip to Poland discovers a beloved family friend
An elegy for the master of the short story.
Fall comes to The County
Thousands seek healing from this innocent, comatose child.
A complete listing of articles published since 1978
Fiction
An encounter with a sick fox brings a young woman to the heart of her grief