Monday, August 30, 2010

Lailat al Qadr, The Night of Power: Quranic Revelation, Prayer, Forgiveness, and The Final 10 Days of Ramadan

In Islamic belief, Lailat al Qadr (Shab-e-Qadr [Farsi] Kadir gecesinin [Turkish]), the Night of Power, is the night of the first revelation of Islam to the Prophet Mohamed, and hence the beginning of the series of revelations that collectively form the Qur'an. This is a special night within the month of Ramadan. However, as the exact date of the night was deliberately not revealed, it is thought to be one of the odd numbered nights during the last 10 days of the month--(19), 21, 23, 25, 27, or 29 Ramadan.

This encourages the extension of special worship over the 10 days, and especially the odd numbered nights, so that the last 1/3 of the month of Ramadan is one of extra prayer (including Taraweeh, the post-Isha prayers during Ramadan), readings of holy texts, communal prayer at night in the mosque, and of observance. It is also a special period of asking for forgiveness from Allah--forgiveness of oneself, and of others on their behalf. Prayers in support of others who require help are another important form of prayer, and especially at this time.

Surah 97 of the Quran, Al-Qadr  (Power, Fate or Destiny), addresses Lailat al Qadr specifically:

Total Verses: 5
Revealed At: MAKKA

We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power:
And what will explain to thee what the night of power is?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah's permission, on every errand:
Peace!...This until the rise of morn!

This Night of Power is by extension a night when prayers are believed to be rewarded as if they were prayed for a thousand months--a lifetime (83.4 years). Thus many Muslims spend the entire night, or nights, in prayer, some taking time from work, some essentially living at the mosque. In addition to traditional prayers, Muslims make a special effort to read the Quran. Other texts about the faith may be read as well. Books of Quranic explication, books about the lives of the Prophet and his companions, books about religious law, and about forms of prayer may all be part of the special worship during this time.

In addition to the physical demands of Ramadan, praying all night is physically demanding, and should be done in safe measure, and paced throughout the night if one is going to remain awake for it. Those whose occupations or life demands don't allow them to invert their days and nights need to be more carefuly not to over tax themselves nor to perform poorly or unsafely during the day, due to fatigue.

Nonetheless, this last period of Ramadan is a special one, and an opportunity to be extra reflective, and extra forgiving of others, before the ending of the month, and the celebration of thanks giving, Eid Al-Fitr.

Photographer and PhD candidate (Anthropology),  Damon Lynch has a series of 14 exceptional photographs of Laylat al Qadr at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, thumbnails for expansion here. They give a sense of the ambiance, the reverance, and the family activity during these days and nights.

Over the next 10 days I will elaborate on some of the aspects of Lailat Al Qadr, and of Ramadan, including the Revelation, the Quran, and Umrah. Meanwhile, earlier posts from this Ramadan and from last year are relevent:

Ramadan and the Mixed Couple/Family
Ramadan, Zakat, Sadaqa, and Charity:
When Mixed Marriages Go Awry, and Mixed Families Suffer;
They're Off!;
Eid Al-Fitr and Thanks Giving:
"Do you believe in miracles?"
Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan:
Life in the time of the cholera?
Parts II, III, and IV: The Floods and Sociobiology; The Response; Katrina 5 Years On

How do you and your family usually spend this last period of Ramadan?
In what way is it special to you or not?
In your country when/ how do most Muslims observer Lailat al Qadr?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan: Parts II, III, and IV: The Floods and Sociobiology; The Response; Katrina 5 Years On

An aerial view from a Pakistani army rescue helicopter shows personnel distributing water to flood-affected residents in Ghouspur, some 100 kilometers from Sukkur on on August 9, 2010. (ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Part II Genuine Aid or Sociobiology Experiment?

When I did my original post, I included pictures of Pakistanis reaching for aid supplies, but excluded those where there was clear fighting. I found the latter too disturbing, and thought they would detract from that post. However, as time goes on and the national and international responses continue to be less rapid and less adequate than desirable, it is starting to look as if the inadequacy of the aid in relation to the need is a sociobiology experiment, or as one Pakistani complained, supplies are thrown as if to dogs, while another lamented being forced to fight each other to obtain aid for their families.

There is no doubt that concerns about aid getting to the true needy, and not hijacked for profit by agencies, governments, locals, or bandits is a valid one. In the course of major international relief campaigns over the last decades this issue, along with human exploitation, trafficking, and dubious rescues of children have been all too real. There is also no doubt that the unusual circumstances of the physical terrain, and unrelenting rain in Pakistan continue to make delivering aid a particular challenge.

No land to stand: Aerial video of flood, Pakistan under water
[NB The intravenous lines in the infants for rehydration: "Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink" goes from poetic to life threatening as infants succomb to dehydration more easily and faster than children and adults do]

An aerial view, from a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter en route to delivering humanitarian assistance supplies, shows the flood-damaged countryside in Ghazi, Pakistan on August 5, 2010. (REUTERS/Horace Murray/U.S. Army)

An aerial view from a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter shows a damaged bridge washed out by the floods in Ghazi, Pakistan August 5, 2010. (REUTERS/Horace Murray/U.S. Army)

An aerial view of floodwater covering the land as far as the eye can see, around Taunsa near Multan, Pakistan, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer)

However, an insufficient response has also lead to scenes like this:

A Pakistan police officer use a baton to control flood affected people who are trying to loot donated food from a bus at a roadside in Azakhel near Nowshera, Pakistan on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

A Pakistani volunteer uses a small boat to evacuate locals in a flood-hit area of Nowshera on July 30, 2010. (A. MAJEED/AFP/Getty Images)

The photos remain disturbing, but part of a human response to dramatic inequalities between supply and need. Sadly both the terms "sociobiology" and "survival of the fittest" come to mind. Even more sadly, some have used these photos to comment on the nature of Pakistanis. "Shame on those who have" comes to mind.

More often one sees photos like these:

A Pakistani volunteer uses a small boat to evacuate locals in a flood-hit area of Nowshera on July 30, 2010. (A. MAJEED/AFP/Getty Images)

Residents help a man untie a chicken from his neck after he evacuated his flooded home with the fowl by swimming to higher grounds in Nowshera, Pakistan on August 1, 2010. (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

Flood-affected people jostle for food relief in Nowshera in northwest Pakistan on Friday, Aug. 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

Evacuees wade through a flooded area following heavy monsoon rains in Peshawar on Saturday, July 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Saeed Ahmad)

Residents evacuate to safety in a flood-hit area of Nowshera, Pakistan on July 30, 2010. (A. MAJEED/AFP/Getty Images)

Flood victims line up to collect relief supplies from the Army in Nowshera, Pakistan on August 2, 2010. Islamist charities, some with suspected ties to militants, stepped in on Monday to provide aid for Pakistanis hit by the worst flooding in memory, piling pressure on a government criticized for its response to the disaster that has so far killed more than 1,000 people. (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

All one can do, it seems to me, is spread the word, contribute within one's means, and pressure governments to make a major relief effort. And thinking of government spending, "Make Peace Not War" comes to mind.

Part III Improvements in Aid (Maybe)--Government Matching and Private Donations of Goods

Sheza Hasan (L) and Kulsum Khan, members of the Canadian Pakistani community work filling boxes with food in a warehouse near Pearson Airport in Mississauga, Ont. August 25, 2010. Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

I was heartened to read this article, about the influx of aid in the form of food, and the offer of Pakistani Airlines to fly relief cargo for free--now overwhelmed by the response of the Canadian Pakistani community based in and near Toronto. The focus has been initially on food and water relief, though eventually clothes, household items, and medical supplies will become more pressing priorities. The Canadian government has offered, belatedly, to match donations through registered charities. Much aid already given through religious organizations will not be matched, but was a crucial response before others were engaged.

The image above accompanying the article reminded me of the efforts of South Asian medical students, to organize and send by air boxes of necessary supplies to victims of the 200? tsunami in South Asia. It also reminded me of a post Maha Noor Elahi did recently, Go Go, Jeddah Girls!!, on the charitable Ramadan food efforts for Saudis, organized by her students, and accomplished with her help, during a tiring by satisfying day of packing and lifting.

Aid organizations and international relief efforts, as well as those of the Pakistani and US governments are now more in evidence.

A woman displaced by floods in Pakistan carries her son at a health centre in Muzaffargarh on Aug. 21

Volunteers of the Falah-e-Insaniyat foundation, the charity wing of Pakistan's anti-American militant group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, run a relief camp for flood-affected people in Nowshera, northwest Pakistan on Aug. 9, 2010. U.S. army choppers flew up the formerly Taliban-controlled valley laden with flour, biscuits and water. They returned loaded with hungry Pakistani flood survivors. (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)

Pakistani volunteers unload sacks of flour provided by the U.S. government in Kalam in Pakistan's Swat valley on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010. (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)

Pakistani villagers chase after relief supplies dropped from an army helicopter in a heavy flood-hit area of Mithan Kot, in central Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer)

Pakistani flood victim Mohammed Nawaz hangs onto a moving raft as he is rescued by the Pakistan Navy August 10, 2010 in Sukkur, Pakistan. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

A Pakistani flood survivor climbs onto an army rescue helicopter in Ghouspur, Pakistan on August 9, 2010. (ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)

US Army Staff Sargent Matthew Kingsbury (right) from Bravo Company 2/3 Aviation and Pakistani soldiers sit on the cargo bay ramp of a CH-47 heavy-lift helicopter while looking down at a flooded area while in flight over Pakistan's Swat Valley on August 10, 2010. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

A soldier evacuating residents carries a flood victim to a helicopter in Sanawa, Pakistan's on August 5, 2010. (REUTERS/Stringer)

A Pakistani Army soldier rests between air rescue operations on August 9, 2010 in the Muzaffargarh district in Punjab, Pakistan. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

A beautiful song, created by British composer/singer Sami Yusuf--known for his social activism, and organization of relief responses--is part of a charity drive through Save the Children:

'Hear Your Call' a charity single released by Sami Yusuf [also here]. All profits will go towards Save The Children's emergency relief efforts in Pakistan. Please help donate to the cause.
Support the cause here:
Also available on iTunes. Copyright of ETM International. All rights reserved.

[with thanks to Qusay of Qusay Today, who posted it]

Part IV The 5th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina--Any Comparison?

On August 29, 2005, the flood waters from Hurricane Katrina broke through the levees in New Orleans, and people waiting for rescue from rooftops became a common sight on news reports. Because houses and villages were washed away in Pakistan, in fact the photos below are rather rare:

A family takes refuge on top of a mosque while awaiting rescue from flood waters in Sanawa, a town located in the Muzaffar Ghar district of Pakistan's Punjab province on August 5, 2010. (REUTERS/Stringer)

A woman yells as her child is evacuated from the roof of a mosque where residents were taking refuge from flood waters in Sanawa, Pakistan on August 5, 2010. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Photos like this are more common:

A man wades through flood waters towards a naval boat while evacuating his children in Sukkur, located in Pakistan's Sindh province August 8, 2010. (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)

A man marooned by flood waters, alongside his livestock, waves towards an Army helicopter for relief handouts in the Rajanpur district of Pakistan's Punjab province on August 9, 2010. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Pakistani flood survivors walk in the flooded area of Baseera village, 60 km south west of Multan, on August 10, 2010. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Flood victims are rescued by boat in Baseera, a village located in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab province on August 10, 2010. (REUTERS/Stringer)

People wait to cross a flooded road in Bannu, northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Ijaz Mohammad)

It is hard to compare tragedies, and certainly for loved ones there is no apt comparison, but it seems hard to "top" this:

Villagers wade through flood waters with their livestock while looking for higher grounds in Sukkur, Pakistan on August 8, 2010. Pakistani navy boats sped across miles of flood waters on Sunday as the military took a lead role in rescuing survivors from a devastating disaster that has killed 1,600 people and left two million homeless. (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)

Responses were delayed in both disasters but for somewhat different reasons--though Presidential failings are a common theme. Still the US has a much better infrastructure and the poor are not so destitute to begin with. Also, they had international aid offers faster than George W Bush seemed to respond. Most of the coverage of the anniversary emphasized that there is great improvement, though still a ways to go, post Katrina. For one thing there is more transparency, about current rebuilding efforts, and past errors. Some places and sectors are renewed, though many are not.

5 years on, in August 2015, what will the lives of these 2 be like?

Newborn twin boys lay covered up in a blanket on the floor of a Pakistani Army helicopter, as mother Zada Perveen (unseen) rests after being rescued by Pakistan Army soldiers during air rescue operations on August 9, 2010 over the village of Sanawan in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan. Of the twin boys, un-named at the time, the first was born 15 minutes before mid-day and the other twin was born as the Army rescue helicopter was circling above to find a safe landing position on a road surrounded by flood waters. The mother was then carried on a makeshift bed through chest deep floodwaters to the awaiting Pakistani Army helicopter. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Or these?

Pakistan army soldiers pass a baby across a channel in the floodwater as they help people flee from their flooded village following heavy monsoon rains in Taunsa, Pakistan on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer)

Children, whose families have declined to be rescued, wade in rising flood waters on August 6, 2010 in the village of Panu Akil, near Sukkur, Pakistan. Rescue workers and armed forces continued rescue operations evacuating thousands in Pakistan's heartland province of Sindh. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Nadia, who does not know her age, sits alongside siblings after they were rescued from rising floodwaters in Baseera, a village located in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab province, August 10, 2010. (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

A young flood survivor cools herself with water at a makeshift camp in Nowshera, Pakistan on August 5, 2010. (FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images)

A girl floats her brother across flood waters while salvaging valuables from their flood ravaged home on August 7, 2010 in the village of Bux Seelro near Sukkur, Pakistan. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

A Pakistani boy named Jeeshan stands outside his tent in a camp set up by the Pakistani army inside a college on the outskirts of Nowshera on August 2, 2010. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Youths affected by floods walk outside the ruins of their home which was washed away by heavy floods in Charsadda, northwest Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

A boy is flung back by the force of a Pakistan Air Force helicopter rotors as it drops water supplies to residents on August 2, 2010 in Nowshera, Pakistan. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

A boy sits on a bed as his family members salvage belongings from their destroyed house in Pabbi, Pakistan on August 5, 2010. (REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood)

Nimra, a three-year-old girl, who was rescued along with her family from Kaalam in the northern area, kisses the window glass of an army helicopter after their arrival at Khuazakhela in Swat district located in Pakistan's northwest Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province on August 1, 2010. (REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood)

Let's hope their prayers are answered.

Pakistani women pray at sunset by the Ravi river in Lahore on August 2, 2010. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Ways to donate, contribute:

Spread the word via social networking sites, blogs, face to face
Share your prayers, and your zakat, if able
Contact your national website of UNESCO, International Red Cross/Crescent, Save the Children to find ways to contribute
Contact private but supervised donor sites like that of Sami Yusuf above
Write letters to the editor, and to government officials to express support for aid
Organize through your own school/workplace, religious group, or social/professional club
Donate time and energy to relief work, if able

A family portrait is seen, attached to a bookcase buried in mud on August 4, 2010 in Pabbi, Pakistan. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Your comments, thoughts, impressions, suggestions?

Related Posts:
Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan: Life in the time of the cholera?
Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan: Part V Not sure what to do with your zakat?

*Images, except where indicated, are from: Severe Flooding in Pakistan; Continuing Pakistani Floods . More photos are available at the BBC, here.

The Family Dog and Islam: Part III--One Dog's Diary, Final Entries

I am sad to say that my canine niece, Whisper, died August 27, 2010, of congestive heart failure. She was comforted by my sister, and supported by the rest of the family, through our shared thoughts and prayers. She is now with her beloved Grandpa, my Dad, whose passing in February  affected her greatly. As I wrote in an earlier post, both Whisper and Dad became acutely ill on Dec 22, and needed urgent appointments. Whisper had a better veterinary GP, than my Dad did a human one, and excellent veterinary cardiologists. They helped her to live well with treatment, and a few weeks beyond the prognosticated time.

Whisper's emotional heart was stressed by grieving, as her physical one was taxed by compromised aortic and mitral valves, resulting in an elarged heart that grew to fill almost her whole chest cavity. She also had congestive heart failure that at times compromised her breathing severely. In recent months she has been markedly slower in her movements, less able to take the stairs, less dynamic, and not allowed to go for walks, but still cheerful and appreciative of the little pleasures in life, and of family.

Her final days were prognosticated for the end of June, and I was very afraid she would die when I was taking care of her during the family's annual early July vacation. I didn't want her and my sister to be separated at such a time. Fortunately we spent a nice week together, though a much quieter and more homey time than usual.

In the last week or so of her life, she was having particular difficulties, and a lack of energy or interest. She soiled herself and didn't seem to care--very unusual. In the 24 hours before her death she was having so much trouble breathing that she was standing with her neck extended, and rarely lying down. In the car on the way to the vet, she sat sagely in the front seat, instead of hanging out the window with the wind blowing through her hair, as she loved to do.

At the veterinary clinic, she was much better with oxygen, and removal of fluid from her lungs, but the veterinarian showed my sister her terrible chest xray, and gave her some options, then left to care for another emergency. My sister and nephew shed many tears, but decided it was best that she no longer suffer as she had been, given the inevitability of more severe respiratory episodes. My nephew pointed out she would be with Grandpa, which decided my sister.

My sister stayed with Whisper, as she died peacefully by intravenous injection. She stroked Whisper's head, and repeated gently, "Mummy loves her Whisper" "Whisper go see Grandpa", until she passed. The veterinarian told my sister she had made the right decision, and hugged her.

During this time, my nephew had left the room though he was given the option of staying. As he said, "No! I'm only 11!". Instead, he called Grandma and spoke to both of us on the phone, telling us that the procedure was happening, and why he hadn't stayed.

He also observed that the recent deaths in the family had occurred on someone's birthday--my Dad's on his friend Rachel's, and Whisper's on my mother's. He then jumped to Saturday's activities: swimming test, which he was hoping to pass, then an afternoon outing for go-karting and paint-balling with a friend. He also talked about getting a new dog, reassured my mother the new one wouldn't shed; and when she protested he suggested fish as a new pet instead. She objected to that, too. I thought he was using a number of good psychological tools to handle his grief, so I jumped in and reassured him that the new pet idea was a good one, but maybe Grandma needed more time to grieve before discussing it further. Then he announced Whisper had passed, as he saw his mother come out of the treatment room, and ended the call.

Before her passing, Whisper had been looking forward to my publishing her diary entries from our stay together this year, while family were away vacationing. I am doing so now, posthumously, below. Feel free to enjoy, and laugh; she would have wanted you to (especially if you laugh with her and at me!)

July 4

Hello Family,

I assume by now you are safely arrived, checked in, and enjoying your stay. Did you notice my more serene send off this year? Amazing what a year's worth of maturity can do for one. No offense, but I resumed my normal activities right away. What can I say, I have raised you the best that I can, and now you must learn to travel without fretting and separation anxiety.

I am taking a similar approach with Auntie Chiara. After all my hard work training her last year, I am taking it easy. She seems to have come along as far as she is capable, and now we must simply reach an understanding. At least she is better able to appreciate my signals and desists, where before she might have persisted.

For example, I saw that she was getting ready to go and sit outside and read in the midday heat. She looked in my direction, as if to suggest I join her, but I merely sauntered off singing pianissimo "Fool on the hill" (an oldie but goodie), and I think she caught my drift--even if she didn't particularly catch that I had changed the words to "Fool in the house". I suspect I shall be singing that a lot. However, best not to offend the source of cheese rain and tuna juice.

Or, should I say, potential source, as today's lunch was singularly uninspiring from my point of view: a sort of antipasto combination of prosciutto, cheese, and olives. Frankly, unless it rains, drops, spills, or is in some other way presented for my benefit, I am uninterested in her concoctions. Still, by the groceries, I suspect there is hope of better things to come.

She is reading a novel in English, and as usual marking it up liberally, though in pencil, with her musings. No need to stick to English on my account. As the descendant of well-travelled seafaring Malagasy royalty, I am able to handle any language she prefers,  when I do sit with her on the swing reading in the cooler hours of the evening. For now, I am content with a little siesta on the cool tiles in front of Mummy's room, and the occasional missive on the computer.

As far as treats go, she has been a little better than last year. I do believe she gave me a whole inch of toast, and a beefy chewy little morsel she hand rolled, which I popped back like an oyster. I pretend I don't know that it is a pill pocket stuffed with little pills, so as to not offend. Oops, I mean, nice little boulette de viande farcie, almost as good as you make them!

So far our afternoon has been a calm one, and we are enjoying time to ourselves. We have a big day tomorrow. She will be going to the city, and I will be...well never mind, what I will be up to. The less said the better.


I have had my dinner, and nothing extra, if you catch my meaning. Jay visited to play with Brother, and failing that I told Auntie Chiara to help him carry back the newspapers to his Dad. She had a nice chat with both of them, which I asked her about. Fortunately she recounted all, though there wasn't much.

I told Auntie Chiara to close up the house, and clean up for the night, which she has done. I am exhausted from watching her so I told her to carry on, and I am about to settle in.

Night night!

July 5

Hello Family,

Thank you for the phone call. I told Auntie Chiara to take it, as I was resting from an eventful day.

We woke up early (6:40) and visited the backyard, then had a treat, and a boulette de viande farcie. I tried to encourage Auntie Chiara in the distribution of treats by heading out to the backyard again, but she didn't take the hint, so I didn't bother going down the stairs and just turned around on the deck, and back in. I was all happy and twirly expecting a treat, but she said something about the boulette de viande farcie and I gave up on her. Let's just say there were a few more choruses of "Fool in the house".

Later, she was working on the computer, and I took a call from Mummy’s friend. She had phoned to catch Mummy before she left, but I told her she was too late--I said it nicely. Good thing, she really knows her dog psychology and grieving. We had a lovely chat, and then Auntie Chiara made me hang up so she could begin what she now refers to as her Odyssey, and I call “the day of pipi disturbances”.

First she made me go out, which was fine, I had business to do in the back yard. Then she was getting herself ready, and kept forgetting things (good thing I never forget the lyrics to “Fool in the house”), and packing and repacking her pink tote. She was almost ready to leave--finally!--when she decided to check the map about bus stops, and was delayed again. By the time she was ready, she had given me 3 ice cubes in my water (1 for each  attempt at leaving), and tried to get me to go out to pee again. I let her go on, and even go down to the lower deck herself. I just stood on the upper one and looked at her (as non-sarcastically as I could manage given the situation) until she comprehended--really, finally!--and started back up, whereupon I led the way into the house. She must have been really impressed because she gave me one of the heart shaped treats.

ALONE AT LAST! I played some games on the computer, watched a little television, listened to the radio, played a little piano, and explored the terrain--no decent dropped "care packages" or anything. I was enjoying my ice water, but I was determined not to pipi inside. Just to prove a point! Well, okay, after hour 6 I thought of leaving a little present to make a new point, about exaggerating one's absences when I should be the focus of attention. However, I remembered the bus/train schedule, and her ophthalmologist running a minimum of 2 hours behind, so I just waited by the air con vent near the back door.

She came in, and fortunately was less obtuse than she often is. She let me out, I did my business, and then I greeted her appropriately. There was another heart shaped treat in it, given that I had kept the place so bone dry and it is the first full day that I have been alone, with all of you gone too, and being on a water pill and all. She does have some clues. I also had a boulette de viande farcie as an hors d'oeuvre.

We have now had dinner, and I told her to scram while I use the computer. I think she is watching CNN. We will be having a boulette de viande farcie later, and then turning in for the night.

I am glad to hear Grandma has bought new bloomers. I guess my unpacking her undies and jammies wasn't as funny a joke as I thought. Well, actually, I have been splitting a gut laughing about it, but you may not appreciate my refined sense of humour.

Hope you have a good day tomorrow too!

July 6-Special Bulletin

Hello Family,

This morning I left Auntie Chiara a rather creative message, if I do say so myself. I call it Poem in Caca.

Poem in Caca

I will just take a nap in front of the television, you thought,
Then, computer plans ruined, fell profoundly asleep.
Hours after the cock had crowed thrice, you awoke,
Late for school, if there had been any.

Oblivious, you thought to start the day.
Ah, but what do you find on approaching the hearth,
An ambiance redolent with eau de caca wafting about,
A sign, a trace, an olfactory trail,
A path wending about the kitchen chairs.

One caca for your dining chair,
One for your alternate,
One in between for good measure,
One for your reading chair,
4 little well-formed fresh cacas artfully arranged.

"Thought you were going to have a tea and read your Calvino?", they say,
"Our Royal Canine Mistress thought not."

I allowed her to find me at the foot of Grandma's bed. Hint. Hint. I do believe next time she will sleep in the bedroom where I "suggest".

July 6

Hello Family,

Well it has been, in its own way, an eventful day. After my contemporary poetry installation (see Special Bulletin), I took some time to contemplate my artistry, and now I regret not making Auntie Chiara save it for posterity, but I am sure that such a great work will become known in some way. I understand from Grandma's phone call that the text version was well received. I am, as an artist, gratified by this, of course.

Speaking of texts, thanks to Mummy for the written instructions about treats. I have taken the liberty of a slight editing (slight being a relative term), and expanded in a way compatible with Auntie Chiara’s propensity for length; then sent a copy to Auntie Chiara for her edification and her files--but mostly for my greater satisfaction with our relationship.

The Treatise on Treats

Treats are to be given in liberal quantities, generously, with a celebratory attitude. Spontaneity in treat giving is the best regimen to adopt, while allowing for timeliness with boulettes de viande farcies which constitute a treat extraordinaire, and with which one is not to interfere.

Treats may come in a variety of forms; and, indeed, diversity, tastefulness, aesthetics, and presentation are all a part of treat selection and giving. Traditional treats like cheese rain, Trisquits, and tuna juice must be retained, even as new treats are introduced for variety and balance. A little popcorn is welcome, a sampling of coconut covered marshmallow, a crust of bagel, a little diced red pepper, and of course the heart-shaped treats which are somewhere between new and traditional.

Treat giving should begin early in the day and continue until the night time ritual, in an intermittent yet consistent array of offerings. Sun up, sun high, sun descending, sun down, all times are good. Rewards for real or imagined good behaviour, and pre-emptive treating are all a part of good treat giving.

Some people are learning to be more generous with treats while concocting strange lunches which do not allow for traditional treating as in summers past. They are to bear in mind that both traditional and new treats are to be maintained and added to, not replaced.
I thought since there was rice involved that she was going to suggest we dine with the chopsticks she had in her pink tote, and which were now set on the table. However, she wisely recognized that chopsticks are inappropriate for a Mediterranean rice salad, and is saving them it seems.

This makes me fear further culinary adventures. As it was, I had to say "no thank you" to the rice salad, because, well there was no serious tuna juice involved, and no cheese rain came down in the preparation of this particular dish. I am holding out for the Greek salad, the ingredients for which are in the fridge, as there is a good potential for cheese HAIL! IF she REMEMBERS the FETA this time!

Supper was the same as lunch! I got fed up, and sent her out to do some gardening, while I took a little time for myself. Nothing special, a few computer games, a little Youtube surfing, a little piano-playing, and I was in the midst of a good television program when she returned and wanted to read--there. I said fine and walked off, leaving the television blaring. Let her turn it down, if she wants to be like that. She did. Good thing. I had a nap.

After she made popcorn, I decided to be a little nicer to her, and we enjoyed the popcorn together, her reading, and me watching a show she didn't mind listening to.

That was all for today--except she told me about her trip yesterday. Let's just say I was glad I had said "No, thank you" to her invitation to that little adventure too. It would have been quite embarrassing, and I would have had to pretend I didn't know her--hard when she is holding your leash.

First, at the train station, she saw a newspaper headline, and literally jumped up and down, and loudly cried out, “YEEESSSS!" I read the headline and the article in the copy she brought home. I fail to see the cause for excitement. Do I care about changing guidelines for male (human) circumcision to a pro-neonatal circumcision position? Not as much as she does, apparently.

Then, on the way home in the train, she had Thai chicken curry (hence the chopsticks in the pink tote) and a bottle of Coke. Did she manage to open the Coke and have it pour all over? Oh, yes, she did. Fortunately she had a newspaper on her lap which absorbed the overflow--well, the overflow that didn't cascade to the floor, just barely missing the light beige trousers of the nice executive gentleman opposite. Veeerrrryyy lucky, even though he was extremely nice about it, she says.

See what I mean? I can't take her anywhere! Best to send her by herself!

Hope you had a good day. I'm going to put Auntie Chiara to bed now to make sure she goes to sleep in the proper bedroom.

July 7

Hello Family,

I just finished putting Auntie Chiara to bed, and reading her a bedtime story. That should keep her where I won't be required to perform any more poetic art with caca.

As I thought, it was a banner day for cheese HAIL! She seems to be on a creative culinary jag, but I don't care as long as there are suitable side benefits for me. She had a Greek salad at lunch, and I persuaded her to add tuna to the more traditional ingredients. Fool! She did it! Tuna juice for me, and a little more creative a salad for her.

I was telling her to make a pain bagnat tomorrow but she protested. I said, "What's the problem? You make what you have been making lately and stick it in a round bun!" She went on about the right style of bun. I said "What, your legs are broken? You can't walk to the bakery?" She muttered something about the stifling heat, and "We'll see". I said, "Well, as long as there is tuna juice, you sort out the pain on your own."

The feta cheese hail was most welcome, even if one larger hail “stone” landed on my head, like a Greek crown. I wore it for a while, but its white on white effect was too subtle for a decent royal tiara so I told Auntie Chiara to serve it properly. She did.

Ever watch her make and lose her tea? HILARIOUS! 8 hours it took her to find it--on the kitchen table! Where she had put it after a particularly careful brewing and blending! The cup still full, there so long it was stuck to the table! It was over at Brother's spot. "Why there?", you ask. Because she put it down fast after she stepped barefoot in a pie plate of ICE WATER!

I had told her not to leave the pie plate of ice water there. Why would I need ice water at the door to go out to pee? DUH! She had brought it in from outside after our morning on the deck, and left it there thinking we might go out again.

This morning, we sat on the swing before it got too hot. She had breakfast, I had treats. After a while I panted in her face to tell her that ice water or no, it was time to go in. You know how effective my panting in someone's face can be! I find it moves people right along!

Anyway, her stepping in the pie plate of ice water adventure was hilarious, even if there was no wet cement involved. She later put the plate in the dishwasher and ran the dishwasher, as she had accumulated quite the collection of dirty dishes in her evening culinary flurry: poached sole, rice with vegetables, baked apples with chocolate centres. I don't know what has come over her, but I do my best with the new opportunities.

In the comedic department, yesterday she flashed the golf course! She was wearing a sweat shirt...because, well, she didn't compute well the inside (very cool for my medical needs)/outside (hot and muggy) temperature differential, and found herself overdressed on the swing. Off came the sweatshirt, and her Italian World Cup Soccer t-shirt came off at least half way with it. Let's just say, it was lucky there were no golfers passing by, or they would have had quite the show!

It was one of the only times I regret the street number is on the back of the house. Usually I like them to remember where they got their "move along" barking lecture, but this would have been embarrassing--IF I had let anyone know we were related. I was just, "Who me? I don't know who she is. Must be the hired help. It is so hard to get good humans these days." That was the attitude I adopted until I was sure no one had seen. Believe it or not, she almost did it again this morning! I shouted "Shirt!", and she held down the t-shirt.

As you can tell, we had an event filled day. Then I told Auntie Chiara to put out the garbage--all of it--and supervised while she did.

Hope you had a great day too.

July 8-9

Hello Family,

We had a good day yesterday, but by the end Auntie Chiara had one of her "sick headaches", what with the dropping barometric pressure,and all. I have been looking after her full time so I didn't have time to write. I am looking forward to Grandma taking over like Mummy promised.

Have Auntie Chiara tell you about how yesterday she studied the clouds, and then watered the outdoor plants by hand anyway. When it started to rain--as she was finishing--I just raised one eyebrow. She understood.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing you home at last. Now I have to run and clean up Auntie Chiara's mess.

As Whisper said, we had a nice, though occasionally adventurous week together. She was her usual willful and intelligent self, but a lot more interested in cuddling and being patted. Too many losses and separations, I guess.

I would feel remiss, if I didn't tell you the following, which I am sure Whisper would have wanted you to know. When Grandma came to pick up Auntie Chiara at the train station, she was very distressed about the radio. On the 10 minute ride there it wouldn't stop making some sort of tinny tune at regular intervals, totally unrelated to the music playing or the station, or even the on/ off button. It was most annoying as well as most mysterious. This was the first time this had happened in a car almost a year old. I heard it too, but was less annoyed because it was new to me.

10 minutes later, with the radio off and this tinny little tune repeating regularly I was more interested in stopping it. When it continued, even with the engine off at the gas station, I investigated other parts of the car, held up my mother's purse to see if it was coming from in there--wondering if there were some strange alarm in purse or car. Antoher 5 minutes later, we were both discussing the idiocy of this bleating car, and I said "It sounds like a cell phone". My mother reached down, to pick up her new tiny black cell phone on its tiny black carjack blending in to the car moldings. Hah! The source of the tinny tune, which kept on going, off and on. My mother told me to press the red button, the green, the red...whatever to stop it. On the green try I said "Hello, hello" nothing. 2X more, until I finally heard my nephew reply.

Wondering if the tinny tune was related to his call, I asked if he had been calling before. "Yes", he said defensively, "It's IMPORTANT". He went on to tell me that they were at the hospital with the dog, but she was ok, she was in the oxygen room, and feeling better. They would meet us at the restaurant for dinner as planned. Eventually the plans changed of course, but when we did finally have the birthday dinner, 2 hours late, he and my sister pointed out that my mother knew the ringtone on her new phone, she had been the one to pick it out!

I can just see Whisper and my Dad together laughing in the telling and re-telling of that one.


August 11, 1997 - August 27, 2010

Now with Grandpa,

May She Rest In Peace

Please feel free to comment, and to share your own pet stories.

Related Posts:

The Family Dog and Islam:
Part I--Some Generalities and One Family Pet
Part II--One Dog's Diary

Walking with God and the Saints
Time to Say Goodbye

*The flower pictures are all of ones native to Madagascar. The coton-de-tulear in the opening photo is a standin for Whisper.


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