It's been a year since my good old dog, Tip, passed away and I think I'll rearrange things here and give him a smaller presence on this blog. His forget-me-nots in the garden (by the fence which he so loved to mess up) will bloom in the spring. I want to say that his departure from my life helped me understand what my character, Olga, was going through when she had to leave her dog behind after the family was exiled to Yaya, Siberia. My mom remembers her family dog, Mopsi, and how he chased their wagon when they returned from exile. It's these kind of details that go straight to my sentimental heart.
It was interesting ... I read an earlier draft of my book to my daughter's grade six class, soon after my trip to Ukraine back in 2004. One of the boys asked whether I found Olga's dog while I was over there. (More than seventy years had passed!) But I didn't tell him this, I just said, no, I never found her dog, but I found other dogs - orphans - all over the streets of Zhitomir. They often hung out near the back doors of restaurants, hoping for table scraps. Back in 2004, there was no humane society - no place for orphaned dogs.
One dog was often at the gas station where we regularly filled up. Filling up there was a big procedure. We'd have to get out of the van and wait around for half an hour. I think it was a propane-fueled van. This dog was so docile - so eager to please. He'd have made somebody a great pet.
In the small villages, outside of Zhitomir, many houses had a dog tied to a short chains near the door. A chained dog is not a friendly dog. I wouldn't want to be a mail carrier out there.
So now I look forward to spring and Tip's perennials. While in Ukraine, we followed a trail of perennials. They were the clues to the past lives of my grandparents and other family members.