animals

Darwin and his best friend Nellie

Louise Glück,who won the Nobel Prize for Literature this week said; “We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory.” And, Jerry Seinfeld said; “The pandemic is like everyone in the world is in detention.” I feel like I’min detention, being punished, alone in a middle school classroom, when it is a beautiful day outside. The feeling I have is this dark wave of loss.

We lost my daughter-in-law’s grandmother in April to COVID, and my wife’s beloved mother in July and once again it hit me hard this past weekend when we lost a “Man’s Best Friend,” our dog, Darwin. Actually his purebred name is Mother Nature’s Darwin. We were coming back from social distancing at our cabin on the Loyalsock creek, and my wife Jane was driving. Darwin, 15, a Norwegian Lundehund and the rarest of the 195 American Kennel Club (AKC) breeds and one of about 1,500 around the world was having a myocardial infarction (MI). He died in my arms and a wave of deep sadness came over me.

In 2006 I went out west to climb Mt.Rainier with my brother-in-law. The local kennel

club there was sponsoring a new breed of dog, the Norwegian Lundehund, or puffin dog.Darwin was just a pup but he couldn’t be bred because he was a cryptorchid. So Darwin was a rescue and came to live with us in Kennett. They are described as loyal, alert, and protective.

As a puppy he won Best Paws in a puppy show and he was the best of thebest in so many ways. In December of 2010 the Norwegian Lundehund became theAKC’s 169th breed. We sent Darwin up to New York City to show thejudges at the Westminster Dog Show what a great Lundehund looked like. He will always be the benchmark for the breed.

The breed developed after being trapped on the arctic Lofoten Islands of Norway as the ice shelf receded at the end of the last Ice Age. Here they adapted to hunt the puffin birds and rodents and eggs in the skree and cliffs of the islands. Lundehunds have 6 toes on all four feet and are built for climbing and descending steep terrain and going underground to retrieve prey. They are very flexible and are able to fold their ears closed to keep water and dirt out, adaptations to their harsh Arctic environment.

They are very pack oriented and alert to anything happening around their home, his best friend Nellie, a Havanese, is always by his side. After the Westminster judge’s education seminar I asked what it was like to have a barking dog in New York City, and they said Darwin didn't make a peep, he only barks to protect his home- NYC - Not His Job.

They say that on the island of Vaeroy several dozendogs would come out barking when a new boat approached the island to dock. During WWII a few waves of distemper nearly wiped out the breed. All Lundehunds alive today go back to two males and one female in 1946. They are like clones and were very close to being extinct.

With the loss of the two grandmothers and Darwin there were other loses. Our new grandson, CJ, is due this week in Switzerland but they won’t let the grandparents visit.

Watching the worldrun out of time with the battle against climate change isso painful. One weekend this summer two of our children and my brother reported fires within 20 miles of their homes on the west coast.

Ourgrandkids’ schools were shut down. We are losing about 1,000 people a day as we move towards 300,000 deaths from the pandemic. My son-in-law lost his job with a company he helped build and it was almost impossible to find a new job with over 30 million new unemployed. Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away just weeks before she would be replaced with a jurist that would keep her flame burning bright protectingwomen’s rights and justice for all.

And there was George Floyd with the realization that black lives don’t matter and public safety is not for everyone. Then today, as a Precinct Captain for New Garden Township, I am taking two hours of poll observer training to respond to people coming to the polls with guns to intimidate voters. Pennsylvania State Police aren’t allowed to come to the polls because many of our citizens are intimidated by them. And, if persons come to the polls with guns, they can’t tell them that can’t bring their guns to the polls.

Finally the train wreck of the presidential debate, as it shows we’ve lost our ability to have a civil conversation about our problems.

A major dimension of all life is loss. Even our economy is all about new ideas bringing new growth and destroying the old. The coal industry is being replaced by renewables. I have to come to grips thatI’m going to start losing friends at a faster rate as I age. I really don’t like funerals but I guess it beats the alternative.

The thing about losing a loved one is that the pain is directly proportional to how much you loved them. When you lose your mother it has you in tears for weeks. Stress can cause symptoms of dizziness, nausea, and headaches. You think you have the virus. But the COVID test was negative, it’s just stress.

It isn’t easy to experience these loses, especially when they build up like they have this year. We do have the everlasting memories of these people and the life they lived. Darwin contributed to the perpetuation of his species along with the people who loved him and helped save the breed. Maybe it will make us stronger and better able to deal with the stress of our future as we dig ourselves out of this hole.

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