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A Solemn Border Crossing

Jan 11, 2016 | Curbside Consults



Crossed the border the other day.

Stumbled in Canadian snow.


A lot of French.

A lot of Canada Goose jackets.

Tried to stay warm without one.

Are they really cruel to coyotes?

The average American feels sorry for pets, maybe not coyotes.

Not sure about the average Canadian.

We’re supposed to feel sorry for people, not animals.

Maybe Coyotes aren’t pets. We feel sorry for pets.

I stumbled upon some interesting words from a brain scientist interested in writing.

Below, I’ve quoted the most moving paragraphs from Livia Blackburne’s blog. This refers to a spoiler scene near the end of the fantasy novel, Plain Kate by Erin Bow

“For those who haven’t read it, here’s a condensed version of the scene. Plain Kate, the main character, has a talking cat named Taggle. In the climactic scene, it becomes clear that the only way to stop a great evil is for Taggle to die.

“You can survive it,” said Taggle. “And that is all I want. You do not need me. You can find your own place, with your strength alone. . . Katerina, Star of my Heart. Be brave. Lift your knife.”

. . . . And Taggle, who was beautiful, who’d never misjudged a jump in his life, leapt toward her with his forelegs outflung. He landed clean on the blade. There was a sound like someone biting into an apple. . . .

“Taggle,”whispered Kate. His heartbeat slowed under her hand.

“More . . .” His voice was only a breath.

“More than a cat.” 

“And I do not regret it.” His eyes clouded. “Could you . . . This itchy bit. . . ”

She scratched his favorite place, where the fur swirled above the hard nub of his jawbone. The heat from the fire lifted tears from one side of her face.”

Pardon me for the Young Adult Fantasy sentimentality.

In literature as in life, if you are an animal lover, it’s impossible not to be moved by descriptions of animal suffering, particularly when it involves beloved pets. Especially when pets throw themselves at us, with fur, tongue and tail, crammed with all the unconditional love you’ll never find anywhere else.

Maybe our animal friends improve our health as well.

Until they die and leave us alone.

Or we kill them.

But we’re cold and hungry and someone has to rule the world.

Consider us lions in a concrete jungle, competing on the crowded Circle Line of life. Peer through the porthole. Tell me if you like what you see.




Can you see the sea?

Is it too cold or cloudy? Perhaps unseasonably warm?

Are we cold, hungry and angry?

We’re quite good at threes.

Triple plays are rare, but triple actions, common.


To escape the subzero Montreal temperature, I stroll through an underground city and into the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Dana Schutz has work on display.

More about people than pets. Avant-garde expressionist and painterly works; irrational fusions in every day life, “conflicting tensions and desires that interrupt the normal course of thought.”

I particularly like “Swimming, Smoking and Crying.” But Shaking, Cooking and Peeing,” also riles my trilogy.


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The next morning, I’m waking, cursing and ignoring.

Then eating, talking and spitting.

Soon texting, defecating and grunting.

By afternoon: napping, pretending to exercise and complaining.

And somewhere, perhaps a bit north, pardon me for this sentimentality: coyotes are howling, starving and dying.



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