I think it’s the quiet that helps me the most when I’m walking with Leo, that and his contagious enthusiasm for whatever it is that we do together. That was what I was thinking one day when we came to the end of the dirt road. Leo was first to spot the two small fawns. Or maybe he sensed the closeness of their mother among the oaks and brambles, but I didn’t see her. Anyway it was unusual the way he stopped and just stood there. It wasn’t like him, so I stopped too. That’s when I saw them.

Usually when Leo sees an animal on our walk, a skunk or a chipmunk or rabbit, certainly if he sees a cat or dog, he perks up, gets excited, pulls just enough to let me know he sees something but not enough to have to be reminded not to pull me. This time was different. He saw the fawns and froze, just like they did when they saw us.

I got the feeling there was some communication going on, something from them telling him not to hurt them, something from him saying he would never hurt baby animals. But the most amazing part was how long we all just stood there looking at each other. It felt like a really long time and I wondered who would flinch first. So I said aloud, “Hello baby deer. Look Leo, sweet babies,” and he wagged his tail but still didn’t budge his feet. The deer never moved, never even blinked.

And then without warning, they took off through the woods and their mother joined them and with graceful leaps, the three cleared the stone wall. Leo looked back at me, as if to ask me how I felt about all that, or if maybe he did something to frighten them. I hugged him and gave him a treat. Gentle dog, beautiful animal, friend to all, thank you for your peaceful grace.


17 – Grief tears your heart open, makes you remember the times when you loved so completely that you felt like you might just explode, but also the times when love seemed so unattainable that only your best oldest friend knew the way to reach you. I mean me, my heart, my grief of course, my friend. Chris was that person, the one who knew how to reach me. It was mostly her quiet peace, and that look in her eye, that told me I could count on her.

I remember walking with Leo when he was a tiny pup, well not so tiny since he was a big guy from the start. I would tell him things like that, about grief, about love so big that you, me, people can hardly define it. I’d tell him that was precisely how I already loved him and that I would always take care of him.   Who knew, in those early days when we walked by the pounding surf or up the dirt road and into the woods that he would take care of me?

Love is funny that way, love and caring, and loss.   It’s all so familiar to me, this aching heart, but Leo stays by my side and comforts me. Once again he comforts me.


16 – Walked with Leo in what I call pouring sleet today, made me recall another walk with him after a heavy snow. We were walking through some wooded trails that night. It was dark, probably too late to be out with him. I had a flashlight and the moon was full, but we shouldn’t have been out there.

It was just as I was telling Leo that we should head in, that I slipped and fell towards a snowdrift. I put my hand out to stop my fall, but it just sank into the deep snow and I was stuck. Something about my predicament made me laugh, really laugh hard, and Leo, thinking it was pretty amusing, jumped on top of me. It was okay for a moment, but the side of my face was digging deeper into the snow and it suddenly struck me that I could die out there, a widow with a dog on top of her stuck in a snowdrift.   How to get out?

I changed my voice so I’d sound stern, and said, “Leo, help Mama. Get me out of here!” And wouldn’t you know it, Leo jumped off me and looked into my eyes, well the one eye that wasn’t stuck in the snow. I put my arm around his middle and that big puppy dragged me out of the snow.

Today, walking with him to try to comfort my aching grief-stricken heart, I leaned over and hugged him. Right there in a muddy puddle beside the big holly tree, I thanked that boy for his constant love. And then I cried.

  1. – Loss again, terrible loss. My oldest Vineyard friend died today and my heart is broken. I am so grateful for all the times we shared and for these last days when I could hold her hand and whisper with her.

I will grab Leo and hit the road. Thank you Leo for going with me, for leading the way. It’s dark, but we’ll wear our headlamps and reflective vests and take off up to the horse farm. We will walk off some of this hurt.

She is free of her pain and suffering, but my God, I can’t imagine not having my partner in crime, my confidant for so many decades, my fellow human walker by the sea. For years we walked together by the ocean, through snowstorms and sleet, rain, and on brilliant sunny golden days.

Go in peace my dear friend. Be free. I will miss you forever.


6 –

Zeke and I kept walking despite an increase in the frequency and duration of his seizures. He was a handsome dog, black and white, curly haired with long ears and incredible gracefulness. He could really run and he could leap over tall stonewalls with ease.

But life had changed yet again. I remained vigilant about his health. Armed with medications from the vet, I knew how to take care of him, oral meds, rectal meds, a tablespoon of vanilla ice cream after a seizure (yes for the sugar,) and so on. It didn’t go unnoticed that after a terrible period of caretaking my terminally ill husband and burying my beloved, I was caretaking his dog (well our dog, but really his.)

One Sunday we took our really long walk all the way up the steep road past the horse farm, past the duck pond, past the wooded lots. Zeke showed no signs of weakening. But it was on our way down that the Herb hawk appeared. As usual, the hawk wasn’t being particularly birdlike. It hovered quite low, around the height of the telephone wires if not below, and faced us.

Then while we were walking down the hill, past the wooded lots again, past the other landmarks, the hawk stayed overhead, just like that, hovering. It frightened me that it followed us down the road. That was too unusual. Birds don’t do that.

So finally when we got to the place where we turned into our road, I had to speak. I called, “What is it Herbie? What do you want? You want the dog?” And with that, the bird took off.

Zeke’s big seizure started late one night soon after and continued into the next day. There was nothing the vet could do. Zeke had suffered too much brain damage. So lying there on the floor at the vet’s office, lying in a pool of dog pee and tears, I said good-bye to my darling Zeke, my best buddy, my dear sweet friend.

The vet said he wasn’t sure what it was, maybe a brain tumor or maybe he just died of a broken heart having lost his Herb. After all, he’d been by Herb’s side throughout his illness. And I’d brought him to the funeral. He’d crawled on his belly up to the hole in the ground while the casket was lowered and he’d cried so loud that everyone wept for Herbie, for his dog, for our loss.

I walked by myself for a while after losing Zeke, trying to find my pace without my sidekick but it was too hard. I would have to get another dog and hopefully my broken heart would heal. I just didn’t know how much more drama I could take.

7 – I continued to walk despite not having my pup. I tried wearing headphones for a while, but as much as I love music, it just didn’t feel right walking that way. I needed the sounds of the wind and birds, the crunching of the leaves under my feet, not songs, not even Leonard Cohen. I also didn’t know how to pace myself. I walked too fast and wore down quickly. Sprinting wasn’t going to work. So I tried walking really slowly but felt unbalanced and ungrounded. I needed a pooch to set the pace.

I looked online and found a one year-old Labradoodle in Maine. As much as I wanted a puppy, I just couldn’t see how I would train it while working forty hours, so after much consideration, a friend drove me north to meet the dog, a beautiful guy, white with brown splotches, a parti, they said.

When I stepped out of the car after the long drive north, the owners opened the door of the house and dropped the dog’s lead. I knelt down and the dog rushed into my arms. It was a sign, they said. We were connected. Felt like it to me, so without much discussion, I paid for him and took him home. I called him Pasha.

He seemed fine in the car on my lap while my best friend drove, calm, quiet, adorable, but he was very nervous when I got him into the kitchen. Something felt off, wrong, but I didn’t want to believe it. Any dog would be scared the first day, right? Still, he was shaking. I phoned the breeder but of course chose to keep him. We were connected remember? I would never give up on a frightened pup. I would help him. I would love him. We’d be great together.

We had many good walks. He was happy outside and energetic. He easily ‘got into the zone’ and kept a good pace. This was a good idea. I already loved this dog.

We walked on the beach a lot. He was good at that, at staying with me and going long distances. And he was such a good-looking dog!

I started dating around the time I got Pasha and I walking was an important part of my day. The guy, Pasha, and I were walking up the dirt road one day. Pasha stopped a few times to sniff the weeds, to pee, to sniff some more and the guy became impatient. He didn’t want me to bring the dog. He liked to walk fast! He didn’t feel like stopping all the time. The dog was a real pain. Leave him home he said. Um, no, seemed to me the guy was the pain. I kept walking with the dog and ended the relationship for lots of reasons. Pasha and I moved on.

8 – As time went on it became clear that Pasha had some sort of serious health issue, something that included an irritable bowel. He seemed weaker and he frequently needed medication. I was caretaking again, but I never gave up on love. I just took care of him. We were pals. I was committed.

Still we walked. But Pasha grew more and more nervous. He guarded his food, his toys, he snapped at me. He snapped at my friend’s daughter’s toes when she stood too close to him. I worked with a trainer but the dog wasn’t happy. He had frequent trips to the vet. I consulted with behavioral experts at Tufts. I was consistent with Pasha. I took away extra toys and gave him one at a time. I did everything they suggested.

Still I was surprised when I came home from work one day and called Pasha and he didn’t respond. I looked across the kitchen and saw him standing facing the distant corner. I called his name but he didn’t seem to hear me. “Pasha. Pash!” Nothing. When I approached him I could see that he was trembling, shaking all over, really vibrating. “PASHA!”

I led him into the bedroom and lifted him onto my bed. “Don’t worry, Pash, I’ll help you. I’ll stay with you. Pasha,” I whispered, but when I reached out my hand he jerked into a strange position. It was something I later learned they called, ‘tapping out.’ (Look it up.) His head was turned hard to the side, one leg was straight, the other bent. He looked rigid. And his eyes seemed glazed, angry. “What is it Pash?” I asked, sure he was hurting, but when I put my hand on his belly – the way he usually liked it, soft, rubbing him in gentle circles – he showed his teeth and lunged right towards me.

Oh my God! I cried out for him to calm down, but again he came after me. Pasha was crazy. He was trying to bite me!

Sobbing, I called the vet who told me something was very wrong and I had to bring Pasha into the office. He was a danger. He would hurt me. He didn’t mean it. He was sick, maybe a brain tumor, something horrible. The vet had seen it only once before, but Pasha was too sick to be alone with me.

He had, meanwhile, settled down. I put his lead on, got him into the car and sobbed all the way to the vet.

“I’m sorry Pasha. I tried so hard. I love you so much. I’m so very sorry….”

They had to put him down. He was too sick to live with people. I fell to my knees in the parking lot, raised my arms and cried. “So what, I can’t have anyone? Is that it?”

Okay then. I was done with dogs. Done with companionship. Done with love. I would be alone. The pain was too intense. I couldn’t take anymore. And so I walked alone again.

9 – For the first time in my life, I was alone, really alone, just me, no kids around, no man, no puppy. Even the last of the 13 outdoor cats the children raised were gone, as was my dear cockatiel that keeled over at age 21, two weeks after my husband died.  He was a good bird, that Fred.  He whistled with me, things like Michael Row Your Boat Ashore, and Midnight All Alone in the Moonlight….  He called my name.  Now there was just silence, no other life in the house.  Very strange indeed.  I like silence, but not that kind, not absolute stillness. I prefer peaceful company and no drama.

Anyway, I kept walking.  I had to.  I needed fresh air to clear my head and I loved being surrounded by Nature and the chance that something might move, some chipmunk or cardinal, some creature, something alive.

But it was weird being so alone, coming home from work to perfect quiet. Nobody met me at the door. No puppy nose was pressed against the window. Nobody followed me around the house or acted like everything I was doing was important.

And it was strange driving around without my sidekick, coming back to the car after doing errands and finding it empty. I missed companionship. I missed the kind of unconditional love my dogs gave me.

I walked in the rain a lot, something about the way it touched my face reminding me that I was alive, that I had skin, breath, a beating heart. But walking was difficult. Walking with friends meant talking. I liked talking but it changed what walking did for me.

Still, I kept walking by myself as much as I could and with each step I remembered why I missed having a dog, really missed it.

10 – I dated a lot in those days, but somehow in my heart I remained alone. To keep myself sane, I walked as much as I could.  I liked walking on the beach, listening to the sound of the tide turning the stones on the north shore, or the waves crashing on the south.  I liked the glint of the sun off the water, the boundless sky, the fresh air.

Regardless of the beauty around me, it was strange not having my four legged companion at my side.  Pasha was never great at the sea.  He was too nervous and excitable, but Zeke was a wonderful beach buddy.  He ran fearlessly into the waves and rode them like a little body surfer. I loved his strength and he was such a handsome dog, bred to be a show dog, curly-haired and long-eared, perfect, but never shown.

Zeke was best at ball retrieving.  No matter how far I tossed that tennis ball, he always brought it back, in the field, in the yard, on wooded paths, on the beach.  I worried sometimes that he seemed disoriented if he swam out too far chasing a ball, but he always figured it out and came back to me.  I missed that little guy, missed him terribly.  And Pasha…despite his problems, he was my friend and I missed him too.

It was strange that even though the dogs were gone, I sometimes ‘saw’ them on the beach. I remembered everything about them, like I remembered Herb. They were memorized, a part of me that I carried. My grief was enormous. I felt it inside my chest in a very physical way, a hot heavy weight pressing against the inside of my heart. I worried about it, how a body could sustain such despair.

I knew another dog would help me feel better, but Murray was liver and white, Zeke was black and white. Any Springer would remind me of them, them but not them. So I thought about getting a puppy, something different, something big and loving and connected.   I kept walking and I kept thinking about it. Maybe…. But I couldn’t bear the thought of losing another love.


11 – I tried walking with different men I was dating. There was the very tall guy who talked about sports a lot, who acted like he was in good shape. I parked the car in the beach parking lot and we walked down the sandy path to the beach. The beach grass was bending in the breeze. It was a lovely day.


There before us was the ocean, gorgeous and wild with rows of cresting then crashing waves. The sandy coastline stretched literally for miles and I was excited about taking one of my longer walks by the sea.   That was when my date declared that it was a beautiful spot and he was glad we came. Then he turned to go back to the car. Wait! What about our walk? Oh, he thought the walk was from the car to the beach. His hips were killing him and he couldn’t take another step on the sand. Ugh.

There was the guy who could hardly get out of the car. Medical issues with his legs. No walk.

And the well-built man who could lift just about anything but who had to sit down on the side of the road four times just to make it through one of my typical afternoon walks.

No, walking with men wasn’t a substitute for walking with my dogs. I would have to think about this.

12 – It was springtime when I decided to do some research and seriously consider getting a puppy. I had a boyfriend at the time, but I made it clear that if I got a dog, it would be mine. Not sure why, well probably because I knew the dog would be my forever love and I wasn’t so sure about the guy.

Anyway I found Berkshire Hills Labradoodles online and spend weeks looking at pictures of the dogs, the girls, the boys, the puppies. Finally I phoned Sunny and told her my story. I cried about my losses, my loves, my grief and said I needed a strong dog, a faithful loving friend, a dog that would stay healthy and be by my side through thick and thin. Sunny breeds therapy dogs. Yes, I needed a dog with that sensitivity.

And then I explained that I saw a dog on the website, a white female, Eleanor, and I wasn’t sure why but I really felt I had to have one of her puppies. Turned out Eleanor’s puppies were conceived the day that Pasha died. Imagine. It felt meant to be and Sunny agreed that I could have one of Eleanor’s pups. I waited for them to be born and felt the love for my new puppy growing inside me.

Thank you, thank you dear Sunny, because we both knew the moment one of the pups crawled into my lap during that first puppy meeting, that he was my boy. Leo. I called him Leo, and long after that boyfriend’s departure, Leo is still my best dog, my faithful love. God I love him and guess what? Leo loves me right back.


Zeke and I were standing on the deck the first time the red-tailed hawk appeared.  We were heading out for an early morning walk and there it was hovering over our heads, just staring into my eyes.  Hawks don’t do that.  I mean birds don’t stay in one place like that and face you and just stare.  But this hawk was different. Not sure why.  Anyway I named it the Herb hawk and from that day on it came to me like a visitor or a messenger.  I read that the Navajo say that hawks are messengers.  Felt like it to me.

I took comfort in the hawk’s presence, waved whenever I saw it, like Herb did when we were walking and the Canada geese flew overhead.  After watching a documentary about geese migration, he became attached to them and identified with the one Canada goose in the film that flew and flew but didn’t make it.  He said he was like that guy and he would walk and walk until he couldn’t walk anymore.

Sometimes when Zeke and I were walking up the road to the horse farm or past it to the place where the hill became very steep and the geese stopped to rest in the meadow by the pond, the Herb hawk would soar over our heads, swooping down in large circles, seemingly staying with us.  Sometimes there were two hawks and I’d call up to them, “Herbie, you have a friend!”  It made me happy to think he wasn’t alone.  He was such a good man.  He died too young.

Often it would be almost dark by the time Zeke and I made it home but somehow the walk would have renewed me, made me feel closer to Herb and fuller alone without him.  I thanked Zeke for his company.  He was such a faithful dog, so dear, so present.  I loved him.  So when his seizures started, it took me by surprise that he was that vulnerable and that I could lose him.  I kept walking with him, sure it was right to continue our exercise and our peaceful ventures into Nature.  But my heart ached anew for whatever was coming.  I could feel that my dear pup was in trouble.  I just didn’t know yet what we were about to face.




I’ve heard that over 700,000 women lose their husband each year. Wow! So I’m not the only one! Being a widow (and I’m sure a widower) is so lonely. For me, it’s been almost 10 years and I’ve learned so much and walked so many miles.

I’ve decided to share my stories about how walking became a vital part of my daily life, how it gave me purpose and peace, quiet and also fullness and better health. I hope you’ll read this and please share it.

I started walking when my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a most horrid disease, a death sentence. He suggested it, that we start walking together, that we get outside every day and share whatever time we had left, so we did that, every day, 3.5 miles, in the sunshine, on moonless nights, in rain and wind and under the full moon, and in very deep snow, every day unless he was too sick to walk. The most memorable times? Well there are many, so I’ll get into that….

And after he died, after I found myself coming home from work and sitting on the couch, sitting deep in my grief, I decided to walk again, to go outside every day regardless of the weather, and cover some miles. I think walking saved me…. I’ll tell you more.

A Widow Walking – 2

The family dog, Murray, a Springer Spaniel, was 14 ½ years old when my husband Herb was diagnosed.   Murray died shortly thereafter and we brought home Zeke, a Springer puppy, knowing that when Herb died, I would have Zeke. We were walking by that time, so little Zeke would run ahead and then turn back to join us and we’d make our way up the dirt road and through the fields that stretched undisturbed for acres.


One night when the moon was full and the three of us were standing in the tall golden grass, our pants tucked into our socks to avoid getting ticks, our hearts blown open by the sense of our time together passing, Herb and I embraced. We didn’t need words. Our love was that strong, but while our tears merged on our cheeks, we reiterated our plan to keep walking, to walk until there was no more walking we could do together. Zeke circled. And when I looked up at the clear black sky, I swear I could feel the rays of that yellow moon glowing down on us.

We both acknowledged the sense that our love was bigger than our dread and then we walked the rest of the way home through the trails that bordered the stone walls, stopping only to give a neighbor’s horse his daily apple. Despite Herb’s impending death, life felt very rich, very beautiful. We were blessed.

A Widow Walking – 3

I don’t remember much about the months after Herb died, but that I would go to work and then come home and sit on the couch and look out the window. I watched the rain out there, the sun, the wind in the trees. I wasn’t very motivated to do anything. What was the point anyway?


And then one day I was sitting there thinking about a walk Herb and Zeke and I took one late afternoon in winter. The sun was already going down when we reached the untouched white field of deeply drifted snow. I hesitated about crossing the field with all that snow, but Herb and the dog were eager to get going so we pushed on.


It was easy at first, our boots crunching across ice and some pretty frozen snow but then the snow got deeper and drifts like ocean waves rose and fell before us. Still, somehow we were laughing by the time we were waist deep in the white fluffy snow.

That was when I realized that the sun was gone and the moon was just a sliver and it crossed my mind that we were in danger. But what is danger when your husband is dying? Our limits had changed. Our goals were in the present. We didn’t have much of a future. So we made our way through the hills and valleys of white, Zeke leapfrogging, and Herb and I holding on to one another, stumbling, moving forward, kissing, laughing.


There was one moment when I felt too cold. Thigh deep in snow I felt stuck. It was too hard and I wasn’t sure I would make it home. I started to cry. “Of course you will,” Herb said, smiling, his eyes twinkling in what little light there was.


Of course I would, and I did, I said to myself, standing up from the couch. That was the very moment that I chose life. I said it out loud, “I choose life!” And I grabbed Zeke’s lead and rushed outside with him and into the woods to find a familiar path without Herb this time. And so began the next stage of walking, that of a widow walking.

4 – A Widow Walking

I think I overdid the walking thing once I got going. I mean I became obsessed.   From the moment I awoke to the time I went to sleep, my goal was to get outside with the dog and walk. I walked with Zeke before work when the sun wasn’t yet up and the road was pitch black. I wore a headlamp and tied Zeke’s to his collar. It felt like a great start to the day.

And then we walked after work and sometimes before bed. Rain or shine, we were out there. Our walks were just down the dirt road towards the horse farm or sometimes all the way up the other road towards the fields that Herb and I used to cross. Somehow when I was walking with the dog, I felt more alive, invigorated. I was free of the grief that otherwise consumed me.

On weekends, Zeke and I took three or four walks a day and the walks got longer, so after a while we were going about five miles. The grief was easier when I was outside walking. I felt like I had a purpose, a goal. So we walked and walked and eventually started walking on beaches and in the woods.

It was probably only a few weeks later when I realized that I was no longer stuck inside my lonely head. My solitary world was opening. When we walked I heard the birds calling. I started to learn their calls, the familiar sound of the bobwhite, and the cawing of the crows. I noticed things on the ground, horse manure and rabbit droppings, tiny white flowers, and piles of leaves and sticks. On the beach, I saw gold jingle shells and horseshoe crab shells.

I missed Herb like crazy, but I was okay. Somehow I was okay.


We started walking up the road to the horse farm every day in the late afternoon. The light was perfect at that time of day, soft, shaded, just beautiful. Once Leo got going, he stayed focused and marched along with enthusiasm. I was so encouraged. My puppy was growing up.

I’d stand by the fence that surrounded the fields, Leo would sit, and together we’d watch the thoroughbreds. Sometimes one would come right up to the fence, stick his head underneath it and sniff Leo. Leo didn’t flinch. He wasn’t scared. He was curious. I loved that about him.

And then we’d circle back to our road and head to the house. Leo kept a good pace. At the bottom of our driveway, I’d let Leo off the lead so he could run to the deck. He ran effortlessly, with such grace. He as strong and well coordinated. And just when I thought he was going to keep running, he would always stop and turn and wait for me. I was so proud of my boy, so ready to make walking together a part of our daily life.

Once again, I had a faithful companion. I couldn’t count on men back then, but I could count on Leo. We walked in rain, snow, ice, and bright sunshine. We had headlamps and orange hunting vests, cleats for my shoes and a water repellant coat for Leo.   We even took selfies on the beach. Leo, Leo, my best buddy!


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