In The Moment, Then and Now

I guess I am no different than anyone else when it comes to the crisp, cold-weather holidays, from Thanksgiving (my favorite) to New Years Day. It is all a matter of what you choose to anticipate, mind you. What is on my mind right now is the day I dread most — the day we turn the clocks back. The only day I despise as much is the day we turn the clocks forward. It is a major chore and when I set my alarm for 2 AM in order to take care of the matter as the media dictates, do I set the alarm for 2 or 3 AM? It is hateful. I have a number of wristwatches to change, the VCR clocks, the clocks in the TVs, the computer clock, the clock in the stereo system, three wall clocks, the alarm clock, the clock radio (the most confusing of all), and even the travel alarm. It is a digital nightmare.

Getting off Daylight Saving Time is an annoying reminder that another year is almost over and many of us have trouble avoiding thoughts of the past moments, 525,600 of them every 12 months to be exact, except on leap year. The only thing that soothes me is thinking about Thanksgivings of the past when a dog ripped a drumstick off the turkey and a cat marched across the whipped yams leaving behind little craters filled with bits of fur and cat box litter in the marshmallow topping. We all have those moments to remember and they are sweet and delicious to talk about over a glass of holiday wines.

However, having lived through the great depression I must confess that Thanksgiving was somewhat bare-boned and threadbare in the late thirties and remembered moments were not about abundance and contentment. They were about other things, some dark, some bright. Although I did not have a dog or a cat of my own back then, there were many of them in the neighborhood, up the alleys and down the streets. I loved looking at them, secretly talking to them, petting those that were as starved for affection as this boy, and offering a spare lima bean or crust of bread, knowing full well that I would catch hell for giving food away. That was a very different time and place than the current moments of the view from my terrace on Charles Street where I am overjoyed with my private blessing of the animals as they march by every hour of every day. My neighbor’s cat stares at me wide-eyed from her window as I talk to her from my little outdoor balcony and sometimes a dog, with hind leg lifted, looks up at me from the street.

Despite these pleasantries, in the current moment I cannot escape the acrid odors carried by the wind from Ground Zero or thinking about the mail as something to worry about. The digging, the carting, and the awful discoveries go on around the clock just a mile or two away and I imagine many of the recovery workers this year will be eating their turkey in a large tent near the wreckage without removing their hardhats.

Throughout the hours of darkness, if you look way down Greenwich Street, toward the tip of Manhattan, you can see a very bright halo in the sky from the intense floodlights as the work continues into the night. Most of the rescue dogs have gone back to where they came from to recover and look elsewhere for signs of life. These are Manhattan moments right now, as you read this. But there are other moments for all of us to consider, the ones spent with our families, our friends, our precious neighbors, and our communities with whom we will share our newfound appreciation for one another. This is what is valuable. And let us not forget the four-legged ones who brighten our lives and remind us, as my neighborhood pets did so long ago during those bleak times, that here and now, there is hope everywhere you choose to find it along with the anticipation of many good days and many good years ahead.

Mordecai Siegal is President Emeritus of the Dog Writers Association of America and the author of 30 published books about dogs and cats. His latest book is “SOLUTIONS…For Your Dog And You.” His web site address is


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