Tunes for a Monday Morning
The dance of joy and grief

The Dog's Tale: A Time for Reflection

The front garden bench, September.The Dogs Tales are a series of posts in which Tilly has her say....

It's the end September, the trees are turning to gold and the hillside bracken to rust. The days are warm but the nights are cold, and dusk carries the scent of woodsmoke. At summer's end, I feel a Dog must pause to reflect on the season just past.

Looking over the village from the top of our hill.

It's been a good summer: plenty of sunshine, long walks, loafing in the garden, snoozing in the grass, and journeys to wild places with my Pack. I have waded through streams and paddled in rivers.

Cooling off in a woodland stream.

Cooling off in the river.

I have leapt through the waves and wallowed in the mud.

On the north Devon coast, reflecting once again. I am a Dog who takes life seriously.

But not too seriously. And sometimes I prefer to be a Seal.

The ecstasy of mud.

Family and friends came all the way from London and New York just to see me. (I encouraged them to visit with my People too.)

Beautiful me with my Pack-Sister Victoria and my friends Rachel & Owen, and Ellen & Delia.

I got to stay with my Beloved-est Friend when the rest of my Pack went up to the Big City. This is his portrait of me:

Tilly by David Wyatt

I went to Chagford Carnival, listened to my favorite band (The Nosey Crows), and graciously allowed small People to pet me. Then a Mouse passed by who smelled just like my Person.

The Chagford librarian and a giant Mouse.

It was very strange.

And who is that White Rabbit? She looks familiar...

Yes, it was an excellent summer. That is, in all respects but one:

The Cat population next door has grown. There must be seven or eight of them now. I patrol my territory from dawn to dusk, and keep watch indoors through the back bedroom window, but those fiendish Felines still get into the garden, strutting across the grass and taunting me.

I chase, I chase, dear god, I chase ... but the devilish creatures are too quick! Up they go, over the fence, across the rooftops ... leaving me (so close! so close!) veritably whimpering with my frustration. It's a serious job, protecting my People from Cats, and a good Dog's work is never done.

Spying on Cats.

Where did they go...?

Now it is autumn. We've harvested the plums and apples, the peas and cucumbers, the lavender and the lemon balm.  The flowers are fading, the grape vine is drooping, and the little pond is thick with weeds and shadows. There are Frogs in the pond, Birds in the trees ... and far too many Squirrels for my liking. They throw nuts at the studio roof to crack them open, and it drives me wild.

The plum tree by the studio.

The Buddha by the studio pond.

A studio Frog

Friendly Frog

Blackberry season is almost over, though there are still plenty left if you know where to find them. I love blackberries. I love eating them all along the paths winding over our hill, risking the prick of  brambles to lip that dark, sweet juiciness down.

This year I've discovered a new technique. I stop beside a good cluster of berries, look up at my Person, and then back at the berries. Then I do it again, sometimes two or three times, until my intent is clear. She plucks the berries out of the brambles and I eat them from the soft palm of her hand. She is a very good Person, gentle and easily trained. I chose her well.

There are blackberries all along the path

My Person demonstrates her training.

'Good girl,' I tell her, and then I snarfle those berries down.

Yes, it's been a fine Dartmoor summer. I hope it will be a fine autumn too, both here on Dartmoor and wherever else in the world that you may be. I wish you many walks, sweet berries, and good companions on every path you roam. Blessings to you and all your Pack.

Love, Tilly

Always treat your Pack with kindness and love.

Happy autumn!Image credits: The sketch of me above is by my Beloved, David Wyatt; the photo of Owen & Rachel jumping on Chagford Common was taken by Owen & Rachel themselves (how did they do that?); the photo of me &  Delia Sherman by the fairy spring on Chagford Common is by Ellen Kushner;  the Chagford Carnival photos are by Lin Copeland, from the "Friends of Chagford Library" site.  All  other photos are by my Person. Mostly starring me.

This post is dedicated to young Cinnamon, her Person (Karen Meisner) and her brand new Pack. Be sure to train your People well, grasshopper. It's never too early to start.


bless you, tilly, and your beautiful heart.

Hello Terri, I hope you, Tilly and Howard have a happy, productive and healthy Autumn.

The following words have a definite 'feline tone' to them and do not not reflect my opinions at all.

FROM: The Cats of the Hill
TO: The Dog-Devil next door

So it's Autumn and you probably think another campaign season is drawing to a close. But after a Council of War, we the Cats-of-the-Hill feel we should warn you, Dog-Devil, that no armistice will be considered! Autumn is just another theatre of war; know now that we will invade your territory with impunity; we will press our furry posteriors to your window glass and we will leave 'messages' buried in the soil of your land!

Know too that this is a conflict of attrition, and along with our allies, the Squirrels-of-the-wind-blown-Trees, we will hurl invective from post, fence and tree branch. It matters little to us that you do not understand the sacred language of 'Catish' or indeed that of 'Squirrelese' but be content in the knowledge that our words are deeply insulting and call into question your abilities as a sniffer, a runner and a hunter of anything other than the fleas that obviously infest your mange-ridden coat!

We the 'Cats-of-the-Hill' have spoken. The campaign has already begun. Look to your borders!

TO: The Fiendish Felines and Rapacious Rats-with-furry-tails
FROM: The Dedicated and Determined Dog Patrol

Very well. The gloves are off. They are most definitely, indubitably, indisputably off. I await your next move with the keenest of interests. You have been warned.


TO: Traitor Stuart, Bearer of Missives from Fiends Most Foul
FROM: The Honorable Hound of Nattadon Hill

I take no leave of you, sir. I send no compliments to your mother. You deserve no such attention. I am most seriously displeased.

Oh my word. Tilly quoting Lady Catherine de Bourgh. I think I've just died and gone to heaven.

Stuart, that is too seriously funny. Tilly's answer too, though I expect she didn't mean to be.

I protest my innocence! I had no choice; two cats appeared in my garden just after I'd 'put it to bed' for the Autumn and threatened to leave 'messages' all over it unless I complied! They said the situation was now so serious in what they called the War of the Garden Fence and Fenceability, that they were prepared to reveal their secret cat names. But their Devon accents were so strong I could only just make out that one was called something like Darcy and the other, who was very snooty, something like Lady de Burgh,... I think. Odd names for cats!

Anyway, they've forced me to add the following:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single dog in possession of a good home must be in want of a cat. But you, devil-dog, have shown by your actions that you do not agree with this precept. Prepare then for all out war!"

Once again I protest my innocence; my herbaceous borders are threatened...

Ribbons of Ocean, Ecstasy of Mud

This is a dog's life left alone,
the ribbons of ocean curling
around each wet paw, enough
to leave salt between each toe
and under the clean nails.

The lingering taste of blackberries
plucked from reluctant brambles,
pong of frog in a brackish pond,
rusty-colored frond of bracken
like ghost fingers down my spine,
ecstasy of mud during a casual roll,
blush of sun on my coated head.

What can match the whistle of master,
hand under my chin, the scold
of water hose along the long lines
of my shivering body,
or the running course of dreams
as I drowse on mistresses' bench.

--For Tilly

©2014 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

By the way--I can definitely see The Tilly Book: an Artist's Dog's Pack

with poems and pieces like Stuart's by Tilly's writer friends, your best photos, portraits of Tilly by artist friends. . .in a dog-mad country like England, I am sure there would be a publisher interested. Make sure to get a Froud, a Lee....and voila!!!

The quality of sunlight in these pictures is beautiful

Ah Tilly dear, If this is a dogs' life than let me be reborn canine! Meanwhile, I wish you and yours the very bestest of Autumn gifts. Though you seem to have the best of gifts in that heart of gold you harbor, a few more can't hurt.

TO: The Cats of the Hill & The Dog Patrol
FROM: The Bird Collective of Chagford, Nattadon Branch

Chill out, gentle creatures, or we shall call a plague on both your houses.

The Squirrels have now pledged neutrality. And let's let sleeping Badgers lie.

Dear Tilly,

I envy you the freedom to chase those devilish cats. I am forced to share my home with one, and the rest of my pack are Most Displeased when I give the occasional gentle reminder of who's boss. I vent my frustration on the crows-that-caw, which is most satisfying.

Wishing you many walks,


Wishing you and your pack a wondrous autumn, Tilly. I aspire to follow your wisdom in all things. Er, almost. I confess that I am under the spell of a calico queen. Benighted, yes. I am only human.

FROM: The Cats of the Hill

TO: The Bird Collective of Chagford

Be informed...we have woken the Badger!!!

How I loved this post with all the glorious photos. What a beautiful girl Tilly is.

I am smiling ;-]

Such a beautiful, heart-lifting post, Tilly!
Many thanks and many wishes for an enchanted autumn to you and your People.

From: the Council of ONE
To the felines of the hill, the badger, the bird collective, the garden tilled, and the dearest canine protector of precious human beings:

Let it be known that certain substances which do no harm can be efficiently employed to protect vegetation, that every creature has legitimate needs and ways to keep the natural balance without resort to weaponry, that true mastery of the Art of War results in no war whatsoever. Think on this and abide in peace.

Stuart and Tom, this is hilarious.

(And Stuart, Tilly says that she forgives you.)

Beautiful! I read it out loud to Tilly and she sighed happily. (Or maybe just sleepily, but I think it was the first.)

That's exactly what Ellen Kushner has been saying. Hmmmmm.

The perfect last words on the subject!

I've passed everyone's messages on to the Honorable Hound, who is very pleased that you liked her post.

Many thanks, Tilly!

I so enjoyed your tale, Tilly! You definitely chose your humans well. The new kitty here, Rhune Bear, is in the first months of training me, and I do hope I'm owning up to my promises. Wishing you a wonderful atutumn chasing the next door cats.

Glad to hear news of Rhune Bear, Valerianna. May you have a long and happy time together.

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