The Things We Leave Behind

Pets, Writing

I’ve often wondered what people think about the things I leave behind. I wonder because I constantly make up stories about lost objects, scribbled writings, pieces of paper left behind in books.

Once, I found a plane ticket stuck in a paperback—a satisfying bookmark. I knew where he was going, but not why he was going. I get little clues about people from the things they leave behind, like the nip bottles and whole, undamaged croissants spilled in the alley, probably a tired Starbucks worker off shift.

In preparing to leave a home I have loved for the past four years, I find myself considering what I will leave behind. What other people will assume about my life here.

The house has a lot of history—it was built in the 1800s, and the number of people who have crossed the threshold, lived and loved within its walls is likely staggering. I do know that someone used to store ice in the little room that is now my pantry. I know that in the 70s, it looked just as it did now, only with more lava lamps. I know that someone picked out the godawful linoleum and painted the walls with almost intentional sloppiness. They are clean white now, but I remember the relics of the past.

When I walk out into the yard, I pull the weeds from around Pantalaimon’s little grave. It is marked simply, with a beautiful rock carved with “Pan <3”. I wonder if anyone will notice or wonder about the marker when I am gone.

The headstone is more than just a headstone if you know the whole story. It is a symbol of the life and love I have built here over the last four years. It reminds me of the friends who came together when my beloved pet died, even though most people wouldn’t care about a rat.

Its story is my friends digging the little grave for me, decorating a coffin, holding a service, and then keeping me company with pizza and a screening of Ratatouille. I think it might have been the biggest rat funeral in Cambridge, ever.


The stone arrived a week or two later, totally unannounced. My roommate smiled slyly as I opened it—he’d been in cahoots with our friend to deliver it to me. My heart was full, and I said goodbye to my Pan with proper ceremony and love.

The things we leave behind are often more than they seem.

I may be leaving behind a place that I have loved, but it will not forget me. It will not forget the joys, sorrows, and challenges, because I will not forget them.

Whoever you are, I wish you joy in this house, the house that was my home.


Responsibility is always punished


A couple of days ago, I got proof that the clueless always win. I was walking to work through the North End park on the waterfront, when I saw this woman walking her dog. She had him on a prong collar to control him, and was simply minding her own business, enjoying the first sunshine in several days. As I approached, a larger Fox Terrier mix ran up on them, unleashed, and started taunting the other dog. The woman’s dog, who had appeared to be very calm and well-behaved when left alone, became upset and started growling at the intruder. As much as I was watching the dog, I was watching the owner. I knew that look. I’d given it many times since Moose, my English Setter/Border Collie came into my life. This is him:

My Moosie

Moose came to us with a nature that included a lot of animosity toward other dogs. I got him when I was eleven, and it was extremely frustrating to take him anywhere (4-H, walks, to the beach, etc.), even though I love him to death. I sympathized with this woman, because I knew what an uncomfortable situation she was in. After what seemed like a long time, this man came casually walking up. The conversation that ensued went as follows:

“Is that your dog?”



That was it. The terrier continued to circle, and kept dodging his owner. I could tell she was shocked at his nonchalance, as was I. Apparently, because his dog didn’t have behavioral problems, he thought it was O.K. to just let his dog run around, provoking other animals. Unfortunately, in that situation, the clueless might assume that it was the woman’s fault for bringing her “dangerous dog” to the park. What the situation did was put her in a very uncomfortable position, when all she was doing was being a responsible dog owner. I felt like going up to the man and telling him that unless he had his dog under complete voice control, he should have had him on the leash, so that no one would have been put in an awkward situation. Even if the encounter isn’t your fault, I know how embarrassing it is to have your dog go off on another dog.  You can’t win with people. Even if you are responsible with your dog’s aggression, the clueless will always walk away the winner. If your dog is friendly, great. I have another dog who loves every dog he meets. That doesn’t mean I let him run around loose. People need to keep dogs on leash or under voice control. There are off-leash areas for a reason. Give a dog who hasn’t had a great past some chance to leave the house. Responsible owners shouldn’t lose. People who care so little shouldn’t have dogs. After all, someone could get hurt. Rant over.