Poet of the Month: Gay Marshall, Ruby

Some Day

There's a day in my life I'll never forget
As I sat by the river's edge.
Across rushing waters our wary eyes met
While you watched from a narrow ledge.

I thought you were wild, I was afraid,
But offered you my hand.
You took a chance, though young and scared
And forever sealed our bond.

I knew some day you'd have to go,
But it's too soon for goodbye.
I knew some day you'd have to die,
But does some day have to be now?

If only we could find that river.
If only we had more time.
If only my love could give you life,
I know you'd live forever.

Come walk with me before we part,
Through fields of butterflies.
And make me a day of memories
To forever hold in my heart.

I knew some day you'd have to go,
But it's too soon for goodbye.
I knew some day you'd have to die,
But some day . . . please, not now.

- by Grace (Gay) Marshall

The coyote was making its way down the embankment on the other side of the river.

As it got closer, I realized it wasn’t a coyote, but a dog.

This was High River, Alberta, the last week of July; I’d been invited to join a pack trip in the Rockies and had come out a couple of days ahead to acclimatize. (I hadn’t ridden for several years and didn’t want my muscles turning to concrete after the first day’s ride.)

The ranch-hand’s son had come running in at lunchtime that day full of excitement announcing, “There’s a wild dog on the ranch - a wild dog!”

“Just leave it alone,” was the response he received from Larry, the owner, “the last thing we need around here is another dog, and besides, it could be diseased.”

This must be the “wild dog” he’d seen. I stared at it and it stared back, but I wasn’t worried; it was on the other side of the river and I felt quite secure knowing that the water was much too deep and fast for it to cross over. It finally gave up the staring match and disappeared.

Sitting next to the rushing water, I couldn’t hear a thing, but it was about ten minutes later when I became aware of a presence behind me. You know that feeling you get when someone, or something, is looking at you? I turned slowly, and there, about five feet away, was the “wild”dog. Now, I should point out, I love animals and will hit the brakes when a leaf blows across the road on the chance that it may be a chipmunk: as a child, every summer our kitchen would have a box with holes punched in it and a bit of straw for some injured critter I had rescued; and I was always bringing home stray cats - still am. But there I was, sitting on the ground, and facing me was an animal big enough to do serious damage. I wrapped my fingers around a rock so I would have some means of defense if, indeed, it did attack, but decided it wouldn’t hurt to try kindness first.

“Hello there,” I said softly, and immediately upon hearing my voice, the dog dropped onto its belly and began inching its way toward me. My heart melted, fear vanished (it never crossed my mind the animal could be rabid), I let go of the rock and encouraged it with outstretched arms saying, “Come on, you’re OK, I won’t hurt you, come here, there’s a good girl.” Thinking that any movement on my part might cause her to bolt, I remained still and let her come to me at her own pace - which was that of a snail. She was very cautious and it took her close to five minutes to reach me. By the time she actually got close enough to lick my hand, she was on her back totally trusting me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just met my new best friend.

My hosts were less than thrilled when I, a distant cousin from the East who had only arrived the day before, came back from an innocent after-dinner stroll with a dog in tow. The next day they made a few phone calls. No one was missing a dog and they didn’t need another dog. . . “So what are you going to do?” I asked with growing concern.

“Larry will take her out, away from the house, and shoot her."

“WHAT! ! !“

They patiently explained to the city girl. “What is better: to take this dog, who’s probably never been indoors, put her in a truck for an hour’s drive to the Calgary Humane Society where she’ll spend 48 terrified hours confined in a cage before finally being given a lethal injection; or take her out into the field and put a bullet in her head?”

Two days of terror or a split second. Even though I was a “city girl from the east,” their way did seem more humane. “I suppose you’re right,” I said, “but you know, I’ve always wanted a dog.” She looked to be about a year old and was a beautiful reddish blond shepherd cross.

It was agreed that she would be fed with their ranch dogs while we were away on our pack trip and if she were still here when we returned, and If I hadn’t changed my mind, I’d take her home with me. Well, there was little doubt in my mind that she’d still be here. Who knew what she had run away from or how long she had been living in the wild. This dog was skin and bone, looked and behaved as though she’d been abused, and here she was getting food, shelter, and no one was beating her - she wasn’t going anywhere and I knew I wasn’t going to change my mind.

A week passed and we returned from our pack trip in the mountains. After only knowing the dog for that first evening and part of the next day, and with someone else feeding her for the past seven days, I wondered if she would even notice, much less care, about my return. Care she did. That dog knew I belonged to her. I received an exuberant welcome and every time I came outside, she would rush over to me (others would go in and out of the house and she wouldn’t even look up). She was also extremely possessive: if I paid any attention to another dog, she would immediately come and squirm in between. She left no doubt - I was the proud owner of a dog. Now she needed a name. Take a chance, come by chance, last chance. It was easy: her name had to be Chance.

I bought Chance a traveling cage, a plane ticket, had her checked out by a local vet (I had three cats - all strays - and I didn’t want to risk bringing any parasites home to them). I also wanted to get her a tranquillizer for the plane trip (however the vet said she only prescribed tranquilizers for very excitable animals as the calmer ones were better off without).

I called my sister and said, “When you come to the airport to pick me up, please bring the truck, I’m not coming home alone.”

The vet was right, Chance was remarkably calm at the airport. I still marvel at her reaction, or lack thereof, to the whole airport experience. Knowing she would be in her crate for several hours, I waited until the last minute, then took her for a short walk. I was glad we had practiced walking at the ranch. The first time I put a collar and leash on her, she lay down and wouldn’t move. It was obvious that she had spent much of her short life tied up and as soon as the leash went on she resigned herself to confinement. It took quite a while to teach her just to walk beside me - something she certainly needed to know at the airport.

Shortly after arriving back home, I went outside to clean up the yard and noticed her droppings were full of white things. I was horrified to think she could have brought something back that might infect the cats, but upon closer examination, the white things were pieces of egg shells. It seems the last thing Chance did at the ranch, in addition to continually running through the flower beds (I think they were happy to see us both go) was raid the duck house and steal the eggs.

Chance was about one year old, not housebroken, and absolutely destroyed if I raised my voice to her - probably the result of abusive treatment, (the first time I pick up a stick to throw for her, she dropped to the ground and cowered, trembling in fear.) Fortunately for both of us, she was a quick study, for although I am mostly a calm and patient type, it was extremely difficult to remain calm when I’d look up and see a full-grown dog going to the bathroom on the living-room carpet! However, in her praise, she caught on quickly and only had very few “accidents.”

I was a little concerned about the safety of my cats. After all, here was a dog that had survived in the Prairies, for who knows how long, on whatever she could steal or kill, but she seemed to understand that the cats were residents of the house and not prey. They weren’t very hospitable at first however — they hissed and spat every time Chance got too close for comfort. It took a few swats on the snout before she gave up trying to get them to play with her.

Chance and I go to the office each day where she lies quietly at my feet under the desk waiting patiently for our noon walk in the park and she gets to accompany me on errands. For the most part, people come and go, never suspecting there is a dog there; except for the postman: when he walks in she greets him with her best sit and he gives her a cookie. He’s a nice man.

This is July 14, 1997 and she is about ten years old now. A couple of weeks will mark the ninth anniversary of the day I found her, or rather, she found me. Chance has turned out to be the very best dog anyone could ever hope to have.


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About the author:

Hello, my name is Grace, or Gay, as I am known to friends (that's "Gay" as in lively, joyous, merry, bright). I was a flight attendant with Canadian Airlines in my twenties and following a brief stint at university, moved on to office work until retiring in 2001 at the age of 52.

In 2007 I wrote Everybody Calls Me "DOC" - a story of inspiration and determination - the story of Annemarie Doenne, an old-fashioned country doctor. She taught me so much about values. She had grown up in Frankfurt and hearing her stories about the war, I learned that money and possessions mean nothing: life is what is important... life is what really matters.

I enjoy travelling; hiking; turning dog hair into luxuriously soft, warm yarn on Annemarie's turn-of-the-century spinning wheel; I am an enthusiastic photographer of nature and am passionate about the preservation of the environment - my property is willed to the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy, a charitable, non-profit, non-government organization that works with landowners who want to protect the future of their land by creating nature reserves.

To earn a little and spend a little less. To seek elegance rather than luxury.
To think quietly, talk gently, act honestly.
To be wealthy, not rich.
To be honest, to be kind, to be courteous.

Based on quotes from:
Robert Louis Stevenson
William Ellery Channing

Photos by Grace (Gay) Marshall

Poetry Speaker, Sharon Sinclair

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