Thanksgiving Harvest & Exciting Theatre in New York

Time Square, NYC

Happy post-Turkey Time! It’s me, Ollie, James’ Old English Sheepdog sending you greetings from New York City (okay, full disclosure, I didn’t get to go, so we’re doing this telepathically – how we always do it).

I’m not going to joke about it here, but I was a little worried about James being in Time Square over Thanksgiving. He told me he’s seen the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade “live and in person,” so he wouldn’t be hanging out on a street corner to see it. Besides, James says the best part of the parade is seeing the balloons being blown up along the streets of the Upper West Side. (Of course none of this makes any sense to me since I’ve never seen it, and I told him this, and I’m sure it might not make any sense to you either – did he really type all of that – he did – oh, he’s so good to me.) To explain, James said that my favorite balloon, Snoopy, is inflated for several hours on one of the side streets along the parade route, beginning on the West Side. (That makes it a little clearer, so I’ll roll with it.)

While I’m in a kennel having so much fun with my buds and babes, James is seeing a bunch of Broadway shows. Sitting in a seat in a dark theatre while other people strut their stuff up on a stage is, well, not for us dogs. But James loves it. This week alone he’s seen Keira Knightly in her Broadway debut, in the adaptation by Helen Edmundson of Emile Zola’s Therese Raquin, with a stellar Judith Light; Clive Owen in a steamy revival of Harold Pinter’s Old Times; the Joe Mantello directed, outstanding ensemble cast, The Humans by Stephen Karam (Tony and Pulitzer nods), which is moving to Broadway in February because it is awesome (a must see); and the immeasurable Laurie Metcalf (Tony nod for sure) and Bruce Willis in Stephen King’s Misery; and the Deaf West Theatre’s revival of Steven Sater’s (book) and Duncan Sheik’s (music) Spring Awakening. James also saw Arthur Miller’s incomparable A View from the Bridge with Mark Strong (Tony nod and possible win) (where James tells me he made his Broadway debut – sort of – because he had a seat on the stage during the performance – I’m so proud of him); and the exceptionally well written, staged and acted play, Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III that won the 2015 Olivier Award (James tells me that’s London’s equivalent of a Tony) for Best New Play. All of these shows have been exquisitely written, directed and performed. Of course, it’s the words that make up the stories that James loves. There was a time he wanted to be an actor, but … (okay, I’ll stop there, sorry to bring up past disappointments – James can be so touchy).

James had Thanksgiving with 17 people hosted by his dear friends Barry and Elyn Rosenthal. I have yet to meet them, but James says they are like family. I’m not sure what that means, as James has told me his family is kind of odd, so …. (Okay, he’s stopped me again, but at some point you’d think I’d learn what his family is all about. Oh, he says you can read his memoir, World’s Fair, and find out – but that still doesn’t help me.) Back to Thanksgiving, James has spent this holiday with a select group of people through the years; people who mean more to him than anything. (I asked if that excluded me and he said, “Of course not.” I’m so happy and can’t wait for him to get home.)

Anyway, James and I discussed it and thought this poem of his was appropriate for the season. It features Trek (you may remember him from an earlier post – he’s my older brother whose gone to dog heaven) instead of me, but that’s okay. Of course, the harvest time in Vermont took place over a month ago, but I thought it fitting. It’s from his Pleasures & Seasons of Vermont collection of poetry. We hope you enjoy it.

Image 11-23-15 at 7.21 AM


My dog, Trek, sits patiently watching me as
I scurry about,
ensuring that the seedlings
are safe from a late frost
as the planting time of year unfolds.

I plow the vegetable patch with a
neighbor’s tiller, borrowed after a casual exchange
where on is mentioned as being needed.

It’s with the assistance of neighbors
and acquaintances
that gardens,
both edible and not
are sustained.

There are times these same people spot me
in the plot and stop to chew the fat.
Soon they are beside me weeding and
admiring, like the bees,
the flowers that each plant displays which will
provide the desired nourishment.

All summer we chat about the progress,
anticipating the precise moment to
pick and plush; for the Vermont harvest suddenly
arrives with an overabundance of wealth
such that we are all sated,
for a little while.

Beginning with the prepping for planting
through to the harvest
we are aided by others.
These same people
share in each successive bounty.

The getting of help and
the giving of produce
also harvests friendships along the way.
Friends who,
while not put up or canned,
remain fresh and true.

Such are the pleasures of a Vermont harvest.

We hope you liked the poem. Oh, and be sure and let me know if you did, or if you have any questions for me (or for James).

Until next week,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of
Time Square photo © 2015 James Stack
Harvest photo from
“Harvest” poem © 2013 James Stack

Uninvited Guest – Cancer


Cancer Zodiac

Hello again. It’s me, Ollie, James’ Old English Sheepdog – but those who’ve been here before knew that already.

Have you ever had anyone drop by you weren’t expecting? Did they sniff you in all the wrong places, and then did they start playing with your toys without asking? Or even worse, did they start acting like you were the guest and it was their home? No? Well neither have I.

But James has had an uninvited guest come to visit and stay. He has leukemia. Oh, it’s not what you might be thinking. I know, when I first heard he had it I thought only children get it, right? I mean, James is, after all, not a child. He may act like one sometimes, but… (Oh he stopped typing what I was saying – how rude). He hasn’t seen childhood in, oh, (now he won’t type anything I’m dictating – it doesn’t help when you have paws instead of fingers and have to rely on someone else to do the typing). Anyway, it’s an adult variety that people usually find they have around the age of 65. James wants me to let you know that he is not that young (there he goes again with typing young when I say old).

As I was saying, James didn’t invite this cancer into his life. It came all by itself, uninvited. He went through chemo during the last six months of 2013, and he wrote a blog about it on The Huffington Post called “Postcards from Lebanon” – the hospital where he had chemo is in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Kind of clever (and James gladly types that for me – oh, he gave me a treat for saying that one – yummy!).

Well, there are silver linings, or as I like to say, treats galore to these types of things that happen to us. That is if we are willing to see the opportunities through the fog, which James did (oh, yes, another treat for me – I’m on a roll). Not only did he write that blog, but he has written quite a number of poems along this topic. Of course, he calls them “death” poems, but he’s still alive (thank the good lord – yes, another treat, I’m scoring), so I call the uninvited guest cancer instead of death. It also, I thought, made a much better title than using the word “death.” I mean, how many of you would have bothered to read my blog if that was how I’d started it? (What? No more treats? You’ve got to be kidding me.)


Anyway, I wanted to share with you one of the poems James wrote after he found out he had leukemia. He figured that since he was going to die, and now he knew most likely how, that his life would be cut short.

Short Cut


From home to school and back again
It was one block up, two blocks over and another block down
Or a short cut through two yards and a field in-between
With Mrs. Outz forever on the lookout
Cutting through her backyard
Picking apples from a tree
Tap, tap, tap went her knuckles on the window pane
Flap, flap, flap went my sneakers on her putting green grass.

Majestic poplars lined the hilly portion of Woodland Street
It was flat by our house and then came the hill
My Schwinn ten-speed took me racing down this road
I decided too late to turn towards home
Running head first
Smacking into a stout trunk
Blacked out, passed out, and don’t remember
How I got from the curb to our living room sofa.

I auditioned for every theatrical production in our town
Was I or was I not the next Olivier
Some roles were practically luminary while others ornamental
Then came the part of Malcolm in Macbeth
Twisting my lines
Discovering stage fright
Stage left, stage right, an earlier exit
Than the blocking we had rehearsed required

The distance we travel sometimes appears overwhelming
With no quick remedy to assist in crossing the finish line
It takes motivation and steady, diligent training
Every day, morning and night
Swimming 2.4 miles
Biking 112 miles
To find the right pace to complete the race
With a run of 26.2 miles

On this side of the continuum time is relevant
As getting through, reaching the other side, is the aim
We are all listening, watching, waiting
Dependent upon you for aid; we are that bold
Asking for help
Looking for guidance
We will never really know during this existence
We will forever reach for that silver lining
From an abnormal direction on a path out of synch
My life moves ever onward, spiraling, reaching its completion
On a revised path via metamorphosed chromosomes
A shock to my bone marrow creating a cancer
Routing my body
Rutting internal organs
One could step off a curve, get hit by a bus
That’s not the short cut I’m taking.

When James and I go out walking, I don’t like it when he wants to take short cuts and hurry back home. He usually does that when it’s raining. He is such a wussy when it comes to the rain. But I love him anyway (and he said he loves me, too – but still no treat).

We hope you liked the poem. Oh, and be sure and let me know if you did, or if you have any questions for me (or for James).

Until next week,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of
Photo credits requested but not received, please use with discretion
“The Short Cut” © 2015 James Stack


Lessons Dogs Teach Us – Puppeteer

Image 11-13-15 at 2.35 PM
Springfield Humane Society

Hi there. It’s me, Ollie, James’ Old English Sheepdog. I’m starting this while James is at a board meeting for the Springfield Humane Society. He was asked to be on the board a little over a year ago, and they meet the second Tuesday of each month.

For those who don’t know, the Humane Society is a national organization that celebrates animals and confronts cruelty. They accept donations, as does the one on which James sits on the board (I have to chuckle when James says he sits on a board). If you’d like to donate, you can send a check to Springfield Humane Society, 401 Skitchewaug Trail, Springfield, VT 05156, or donate on their website.

Well, James just got home and saw what I was typing (actually he does the typing as you might have guessed). He wanted you to know that this past month the shelter brought in 12 dogs, nine cats, three kittens and two rabbits while there were 11 dogs, five kittens and four cats adopted. They’re a small organization serving a large area. I’m always pleased to hear about other dogs, and even cats, finding loving homes. James keeps telling me that one of these days he’s going to bring home a brother for me to play with. My paws are crossed.

Speaking of crossed paws, James and I thought it might be nice if I added some things I’ve taught him over the past year and a half (okay, from all the dogs he has been blessed to have in his life, not only me).

  1. Patience. It doesn’t come easy to him, let me tell you. But it is something he has had to work on ever since I came along. I’m sure he had to have had it before, but I’m known to take my time when we venture outside, even in the rain and snow, so he’s grown some patience.
  2. Loyalty. Perhaps we should have put this first, as it is very important to be loyal to your friends. It’s how they stay your friends. You may disagree or get upset with them over some trivial comment, but to remain reliable no matter what, that’s what counts.
  3. Tricks. Learn new ones no matter how young you might be (James typed “young” when I had said “old” — go figure). It helps to keep you on your toes (again, I said “pads” and James goes and types “toes”) and your mind stimulated. It can also be fun when those friends from #2 come over and you get to impress them.
  4. Talents. Unleashing your hidden gifts (Spoiler Alert: see the poem below) will bring out the best in you for the world to see. You will also feel better about yourself, and when you feel good, your friends are glad for you, and the world is a happier place.
  5. Simplicity. Keeping your life simple and uncomplicated will prevent any unwanted stress from building up. This helps with your blood pressure, your anxieties and things like that (which James says are important, but I don’t know what they mean). It will allow you to do the important things in your life, like spending time with your dog.
  6. Exercise. Going for a nice long walk or hike or jog with your dog will help with all of the above. Trust me, I know, for James and I go for long walks each morning, except when it’s raining, as James doesn’t like hanging out in the rain, but I do. James loves snow, but not ice, and neither do I.
  7. Stretch. Whenever I get up, I always stretch. And it’s a reminder to James to do some stretches before we go on our long walks. I don’t want him to cramp up while we’re out there, or it’s no fun for me, not to mention what I have to listen to from him – don’t get me started.
  8. Forgive. It’s never a good thing to hold grudges. They complicate your life and prevent you from achieving #5 above. And you all make mistakes – I mean, you’re all human. Remember that people say and do stupid things all the time. Forgive them and get on with a happy life.
  9. Things. With all those possessions cluttering up your lives, you end up carrying around far too many issues. Cleanse your life. Find the few, like the rubber ball I love, or my octopus I like to chew, and give the rest away to those who might need them. You’ll feel better for it.
  10. Love. The one thing we dogs do best is love you unconditionally. Think about how wonderful the world would be if everyone loved one another. I wouldn’t have to listen to those talking heads on TV every night, which would be a blessing. I love James absolutely, and he loves me completely. You can do the same. Try it, you’ll like it. (Je suis avec le peuple Français – Nous sommes un.*)

This may not seem like a talent to some, but believe me, when I was but a little puppy and having to learn to be on leash, my older brother, Trek (he’s gone to Dog Heaven, or so James told me, and when I said I want to go visit Trek, he said we will, sooner than we’d like – sometimes James says such weird things) and I gave James such a hard time. We bonded on these jaunts together, laughing at what James was doing. Enjoy.

Puppet Master


Outings initially were a frenzied sight
with you being hesitant — defiant actually —
and Trek pulling onward
with me being drawn — thankfully not quartered —
by leads in opposite directions

zigzagging and turning with slight of hand
leash between my legs and around my back
over and under the one and the other

twisting brings a quick flip and underhand lob
a toss and a slide, and — voir la —
free and unraveled

wanting only to play with Trek
while he mostly ignores your 11-week old self
who jumbles the halters by jumping over
running around and squeezing under
the unfazed old guy who
knows how to get untied — most of the time

being driven nearly crazy
I find my self becoming a puppeteer
guiding both along without any glitches
you the wryly whippersnapper and
Trek the dogged old Dalmatian

becoming the master of ones destiny
       managing the strings of life ever so fragile and dear
whether man or animal
requires slight-of-hand skills
       like a ballerina or a tightrope walker
       requiring delicate hand and foot choreography

maneuvering through to survival
is uppermost in our thoughts
as we smile through the days and nights
encountering entanglements we must undo
much as the tether we shed as we age

I prefer to run free, but if I have to be on leash I’d rather not have to walk around another dog – just sayin’.

We hope you liked the poem. Oh, and be sure and let me know if you did, or if you have any questions for me (or for James).

Until next week,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of
“Puppet Master” © 2010-2015 Mini-Zilla
Puppeteer © 2015 James Stack
* I am with the French people – we are one.

T’aint Nothin’ – A Vermont Season

Ollie with Stick

It’s me, Ollie, James’ Old English Sheepdog. I’m writing this during the season of sticks and twigs, or as it is know around these parts, T’aint Nothin’ – they don’t teach that in schoolbooks, but it’s a legitimate season here in Vermont. It’s the time in-between Foliage (yes, that’s an official season too) and winter.

It’s a short season, only a few weeks in duration, ending once the snow starts falling in November. Not much happens in Vermont after Foliage until Christmas week. But those of us who live here welcome the solitude before the winter onslaught of tourists. We get a chance to re-energize after all the leaf-peepers have gone home.

However, James is hunkered down as he participates in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and the November PAD (poem a day) Chapbook Challenge. He’s writing a new novel tentatively entitled Vermont Love Story. He tells me it’s a little more complicated than the 1960’s Love Story, and not only because it takes place in Vermont. A quick synopsis of the novel, which James has allowed me to post here, is:

“Four people fall in love with someone other than their spouses; but not all love is reciprocal. Set in the present day, VERMONT LOVE STORY is a tale of falsehoods and failings, deceit and disloyalty, illness and impurity, where survival is the ultimate goal and pain becomes the crucial healer.”

I can’t wait to read it – well, for James to read it out loud to me, as he usually does. He looks to me for feedback on how well he’s doing. Regardless of how I feel about anything he’s written, I still rub up against him as often as I can.

Oh, and James told me I could use the following excerpt from his novel:

“Love isn’t an emotion easily explained. Nor is it one we can anticipate. It simply happens to us. Like an uninvited guest, love shows up at unexpected times and places. And when that happens, transformations take place that we have no control over. We do reckless things, say hasty comments, and forget where we were headed and what we were doing. It’s even worse when we already have someone in our lives, someone who loves us — who we love as well.”

He’s hoping to complete a first draft during November, but if he doesn’t, he’ll still have won NaNoWriMo if he completes the first 50K words of the first draft by the end of the month. That’s all it takes to be a winner. Of course, James is planning on completing a first draft. Then there’s the finessing and editing that will be required for future drafts.

There is also the November PAD Chapbook Challenge in which James is participating. The final iteration of this will be James’ finest 20 poems from November, selectively placed in a poetry chapbook with each page containing one poem. James is excited about this prospect for the month and hopes he hasn’t bitten off more than he can swallow. Leave it to me to fill you in on these things.

As for the time in Vermont in which we are now, James wrote about it in his “Seasons of Vermont” Poem contained in his collection of poetry available on entitled, Pleasures and Season of Vermont. With James’ permission, I am displaying this brief poem here, in honor of the season:

T’aint Nothin’ Landscape

X.     T’aint Nothin’

Passing into November milkweed pods shoot stars on gusts
foreshadowing vast snowfalls.

The in-between time:
trees blown bare display sticks and twigs;
ground turns brownish gray exposing stones.

A time we find ourselves alone — together.

So you know, I love to chew on sticks — twigs were for when I was younger.

We hope you liked the poem. Oh, and be sure and let me know in the comments what your favorite season is, or if you have any questions for me (or for James).

Until next week,


Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of
Photos “Ollie with Stick” and “T’aint Nothin’ Landscape” © 2015 James Stack
Vermont Love Story excerpt © 2015 James Stack
“Season’s of Vermont” excerpt “T’aint Nothin’,” © 2013 James Stack