The View from Mary's Farm for May 2006
January 1, 1970Hello, friends,
Please forgive my silence over the past couple of months. I've been so busy running around reading from my book, The View from Mary's Farm, I'm afraid I've neglected my basic duties. There's another issue as well and that was the mildness of the winter which had the affect of making me forget what month it was. It all ran together as a kind of prelude to the winter that never came. By the time spring really opened up, I was caught still waiting for winter to begin. It never did. So here is the essay for the month of May, having skipped a couple of months. I hope you enjoy the tale of my little companion, ever vigilant, ever ready for an adventure. I hope you are all well and enjoying the spring, however it may be showing itself where you live.
A Dog's Name
People think that I named my dog Mayday because she was born on the first of May. She wasn’t. She was born on February 20 which, in New Hampshire that year, was the day of the presidential primaries. In honor of that, all the puppies in her litter of miniature schnauzers were named after the aspiring candidates. Female puppies were named for candidates’ wives. Mayday, then, was originally named Sabina, after the wife of Steve Forbes, champion of the Flat Tax. I wanted a different name but, as time passed, I sorted through a host of names but none of them seemed right.
I was to claim her in April and so on the appointed day, I woke up and the first word that came into my head was “mayday.” I lay there for a while, wondering what that meant and suddenly realized it was to be the dog’s name. However, I envisioned it as “m’aidez,” French for “help me” and the derivation of our word “mayday,” military code for emergency. I was not thinking of the emergency so much as the help. I had decided to get a puppy because I was depressed. Dune, the terrier who had been the dog my husband and I shared, was then 15 and frail. I dreaded her leaving. And so I thought that a puppy could help. I picked Mayday from her seven siblings because she hopped out of the box and jumped all over me. Some of the other puppies tried to do the same but lacked the zest. The others continued to sleep. I liked this girl’s eagerness.
And so she became Mayday, or M’aidez. I don’t very often spell her name out but, from the start, she was more of an emergency than a cry for help. First, she chewed up a stick of firewood and clogged her innards enough to require triage. Next she consumed a small rug and we had to go through that all over again. In her first year, a large black lab lunged at her and tore her throat. Big emergency. I began to picture her with a small whirling red light on top of her head. She became infested with more than one thousand ticks, prompting the vet on call that weekend to remark that in his 35 years of practice on Cape Cod, he had never seen anything like that. More recently, she was mauled by two large and vicious dogs, causing another ambulance-style ride to the vet’s. Other instances have been less medically oriented. She once followed a jogger almost five miles down the road to the next town – just enjoying the run – causing me and my two friends to wander several hours across woods and fields, calling Mayday! Mayday! – the three of us feeling we were not only calling to her but expressing our feelings as well. And the time she got loose from her leash on board the ferry to Block Island. As a result of my running after her, calling her name, we almost caused the boat to halt and turn back to shore.
Can a name determine one’s fate? Sailors sometimes believe that about the names they give their boats. I wonder what kind of dog Mayday would have been if I’d kept the name Sabina.