Monday, February 9, 2009

Sad Days

I opened the Post-Standard today to Jeff Kramer's column only to find a beautiful photo of Nate, his mongrel sometime columnist, a 70 pound companion. Nate had passed on in late January, and Kramer was reporting on his life and times.

I only knew Nate through the columns he wrote and a mutual friend, Lucy, an Old English sheepdog with whom he roamed the parks and byways of Central New York. But he reminded me of everyone's dogs who make life so much better. And since this comes on the heels of another friend's cat's unexpected passing, I wanted to devote a bit of time to what our animals bring us.

In the same e-mail batch that announced the white kitty's end on this earth Intrepid Janet wrote to tell me they had adopted another cat, oddly enough a white cat. For those of you who don't have animals, you may not understand the devotion people feel to their animals and this blog won't make sense.

Kramer's introduction to Syracuse was aided and abetted by Nate. Just as my mother climbed the hills of Thornden Park for 56 years with various dogs, so did Kramer. The city is uniquely suited for dogs and dog-walkers. If you go out in the early morning you will see them. It's as regular as night meets day, or the old Cheers refrain "Where everybody knows your name." Kramer became part of the city because of Nate. A huge man, some thought he was a strange one to be out there, but Nate gave him an introduction. And the parks became the meeting grounds, the dogs the raison d'etre.

My mother had to give up the park when she moved in with us, but we gave her her own private park on our acreage. She had a bench in the glade, and afternoons would find her walking with her rollator slowly, ever so slowly, with Koko following behind, to her bench to read or sit in the sun. Hermes, the white Himalayan, would join them once they got settled.

My mother is gone with Hermes and now Nate, but for all the other pets - Zoie, Luke, Chloe, Red and Ginger, Guinness, Lily, Cody, Tanner and our Boo and Oscar (who has taken over Hermes' spot on the computer desk) - we need to let them know how much we appreciate them. Koko, curled up at my feet now, will be 16 this summer. I'll give her an extra (soft) goody today in honor of Nate. Patience Brewster has a lovely card entitled "In Good Company." It's a picture of a dog with a halo looking upwards.

So when the Post-Standard announces that they are raising their prices substantially, I just think how much would be lost if it went out of print. I had time today at the breakfast table to grieve for Kramer and Nate, just as other days I've had time to laugh with them. Read the column online,, if you can't get the paper today. And thanks, Kramer, for letting us get to know Nate.