Swans Commentary: Letters to the Editor - letter179



Letters to the Editor

(November 30, 2009)


[Want your letters to be published? Then, please include your first and last names and your city and state of residence. Also, please, enter in the subject line of your e-mail "Letter to the Editor," and specify the article or the subject on which you are commenting.]

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[We've received numerous postcards and e-mails of sympathy regarding the loss of our beloved dog. Here below is a sample -- and only a sample -- of the correspondence. We've appreciated all of them deeply. Many thanks to all.]

Pain sharing and kind words regarding Dors Petit Homme, Dors Petit Frère: Priam (May 1999 - November 2009)

Gilles and Jan,

I have just read Gilles's touching heart-felt story of Priam. I am so sorry... I do know how you feel because I have gone through the same sorrow. Over the past number of years I have lost three magnificent cats -- all to different types of cancer. Oots at age 12 and Zephyr and Spice at age 16. All three are buried in my garden by a big rock under a mountain ash, each wrapped in an Indonesian batik. My wife had been from Indonesia -- a racial cocktail she called herself, being Indonesian, Dutch, English, French, Jewish, and Japanese. She suddenly and unexpectedly died of a brain hemorrhage, two weeks after I retired as a professor in May of 1996. This almost destroyed me. To help ease my grief I wrote a 400-page coffee-table-type book about her art and her life: Where the wind carries me . . . The Life and Art of Judith Ryan. It became a best-seller and in three years all 2,500 copies were sold. I kept six for myself. It's in ¾ of Canada's libraries and in almost all the art galleries. It took me three years before I could once again live at peace with myself.

When each of my cats died I wrote a long tribute to them, in the way that Gilles did.

Just at the time when my last cat Spice started feeling the effects of cancer, quite by accident three little kittens came into my life. They had been abandoned to die in a garage by a wicked wretch of a person, but on seeing the mother cat patrolling the garage, I opened it up and the three little ones came staggering out, weak and dehydrated. The mother still had milk and I took them into the house. They recovered and took over my home and my heart. Spice died shortly after, and I found a nice home for the mother cat. The three "little ones" are now 2 ½ years old and I have written a book about them: The Saga of the Three Compañeros: Pantera, Leo, and El Tigre. It'll be about 120 pages -- half text and half photos, suitable for children and adults. Unfortunately, I still haven't found a publisher, but I'll keep trying.

I am so sorry about your Priam. He will always be with you, in the way that Oots, Zephyr, Spice...and Judith will be with me.

Such a lovely story you have related. What a great dog he must have been. In many respects, animals are superior to human beings. Animals don't go around torturing one another, killing one another in some type of animal wars -- that doesn't happen with animals. So who is more humane, people or animals?

John Ryan
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada - November 16, 2009

Gilles d'Aymery sent the following e-mail to John Ryan:
Dear John,

Many thanks for your sympathy and kind comments. Can you give me permission to publish them in our next Letters to the Editor? (I'll need to know your city and state of residence. Thanks).

Priam's death has shaken us to the core. It keeps hurting like hell... We beloved him and he beloved us...

Kind regards,
John replied:
Dear Gilles,

If you'd like to publish my letter, it's fine with me. I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba... so I am a Canadian. I've been following Swans Commentary for years. Good work you're doing.

And I'm sorry about the loss of your Priam. The sad and terrible part is that you won't get over this any time soon. In my losses, the pain and grief just wouldn't go away.... for weeks...endless time it seemed. I'd come in the house and expect to see my little companion.... and she wouldn't be there. Just emptiness. And of course with Judith, it was at a different dimension. For almost 20 years we had a fairy tale romance... and suddenly, without warning, it ended. Although I am an atheist, I somehow started to write to Judith... just had to talk to her... knowing she'd never read my letters, or journal.... but I had to do this. Even after I started writing the book on her, I kept writing to her.... for over two years. Death is such a terrible, terrible thing...

All I can say is that now when I think of Judith it brings me happiness... to think of our lovely times together. And after a while, that's how I felt about the loss of my three cats.... I'll never forget them... and thoughts of them bring me a type of happiness as well.... how wonderful they were... what comfort they brought me. My new cats in no way "replace" my earlier companions... they are just additional members to my family... which is just them and myself.

With warm regards, take care.....


P.S. If you'd like to add some of these other thoughts, feel free to do so.
[ed. In November 2003, John contributed a thoughtful piece to Swans entitled For Jews The Real Worry Should Be Sharon Not Arafat.]


More on Priam

Dear Gilles

My condolences...and what a cathartic piece you mustered for all us dog lovers out there! You elicited the palpable and piercing pathos by this wonderful line, "Confronted with overwhelming pain one shuts one's mind and becomes so cold and guarded as to espouse total indifference to the event at hand." It also evoked the memories of our own dog Lucky, who had passed away on a Tuesday, the 17th of November 1977, and incidentally I was at his burial place exactly 31 years later to the day, last year. The amazing phenomenon is that it is not only you and us that named our dogs after the ones we had in the 1960s, but many naming the same way find solace in trying to recapture their childhood by this simple act of naming and perhaps even larger scenarios.

Also, quite moving was your frozen countenance at your grandmother's funeral, something I also experienced at my father's death. You become numb, perhaps a natural defense mechanism that shields us from a possible implosion of our psyche upon taking in the inevitable. Reminds me of a wonderful short story by Thomas Mann called A Man and His Dog. Thanks for sharing your dog with us. May he rest in peace.


Raju Peddada
Des Plaines, Illinois, USA - November 16, 2009


And more...

Aloha Gilles and Jan,

About 3 weeks ago, we experienced similar sadness with a canine family member -- Aka. She was only 4 years old -- complete kidney failure...

My son and I were at his best friend's bar mitzvah (NOT common on Big Island) -- total celebration. The service had just ended and a friend approached -- my wife had skipped and taken Aka to vet -- she had not eaten for 3 days. Multiple tests were run and complete kidney failure diagnosed (there were previous symptoms, but...). I asked my son (13) -- she was to suffer grievously, have seizures, have a constant IV and then pass on... Should we put her to sleep? She was his dog and WE agreed -- the vet said it would ultimately be better to remember her alert and NOT suffering. We raced to the vet, said our alohas, and then buried her at home with a large bamboo to grace her spot.

Your words bring memories and tears... Mahalo for sharing! Next time you guys make it to Big Island, look me up!!!

SWANS support coming soon!

Malama Pono,

Mike Pacheco
Ninole, Hawaii, USA - November 17, 2009


From an e-card posted on 123Greetings.com and signed "Cossack"

Please accept my deepest condolences on the passing of Priam. It is always difficult when we lose a companion...and I sense that Priam was more a companion than a "pet." Please be comforted that Priam was happy with you and Jan and gave you many a happy moment. Never forget, he loved with a love that no human can.


From dog lovers to dog lovers

My girlfriend, Laura, and I just cuddled together to read about Priam and enjoy the photos. Like many dog owners, we are living a life of denial and believe that our Alice will live forever. That an exception will be made. I do recall many details when my golden retriever, Zippy, got cancer and died. The quiet mornings that followed, the lonely half-filled water dish that sat on the floor waiting for a tongue. The chewy toy I plucked from within the couch months after Zippy was gone.

Priam sounded wonderful and was as lucky to have you in his life as you were to have him. A perfect match.

I am very sorry for your loss, and wish you the best and know that over time at least some of the pain of loss yields to pleasurable memories.

I'll give Alice an extra pet on the belly now.


Steve Shay
Seattle, Washington, USA - November 22, 2009


From Peter Byrne, in Lecce, Italy...

The poet Byron buried a dog he called his best friend with these words:

"Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the Virtues of Man, Without his Vices."


From Buddy and Dave...

Dear Jan and Gilles:

Thank you so much for the handwritten note you penned on 5 November. The story of your beloved hound Priam that unfolded six days later moved me to tears. Life would be quite empty without our dogs. When they do leave us the void can seem unfillable. But we keep them in our hearts for ever.

Pic: David Sutton's Buddy in times past, aging and still caring... - Size: 7k Ten years ago when living in Cape Town I also experienced the heartbreak of losing my dog Buddy, age twelve. He was as big as a small horse, and died as a result of a recurring cancerous growth on his foreleg that eventually became inoperable and ruptured. At that stage he was too old to become a tripod, and I took the awful decision to let him go with his dignity intact. I was with him when he died. The attached picture was taken not long before that. Your story brought back all my memories of him, in force. Thank you.

Kind regards,

David Sutton
Auckland, New Zealand, November 26, 2009


Right all over, but for one typo: Peter Byrne's How Granta Got Lost On The Way to Chicago

Dear Swans:

You are right about everything here. But you misspell Stuart Dybek's name.

Shame on you.

Fix it?

Andrew Patner
WFMT Radio Chicago and wfmt.com
Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago, Illinois, USA - November 16, 2009

[ed. Fixed. Thanks!]


The other side of the Yugoslav tragedy raises its ugly head once again -- left unedited... The Balkans and Yugoslavia

To the Editor:

My Croatian friend brought me back to your publication, and I had to remember, that I was pronounced as "Serb hater."

But going thru the list of your "Balkans" subtitle, I can not help noticing names that appear.

Have you ever considered inviting someone from the Albanian community, or Bosnia's Bosniak community, to write one iffernet opinion, fromwhat is a general tone here. A tone that states "poor Serbs, our Christian brothers," who are blamed for making sure Europe is not infested by Islamic scum. And that is your bottom line, when you uncover fancy talk, it is bare fact that you, with others of your kind, truly do not understand why are Serbs penalized for their elaborate "cleaning" job, when they ( Serbs ) should be rewarded for this work?

Or, simply, you are on their (Serbian ) payroll?

Which is it?

Stupid, you are not, what else could be there? I would like to know, specially now, when this circus continues in Hague, where your Serbian friends still manage to outsmart, on any given day, prosecutors and judges, who in turn are not stupid, either. Or, are they, judges and prosecutors, just acting stupid, covering up what appears to be an insult to common morals and decency, by allowing Radovan to play games in court. As if he was on picnic.Or his comrade Plavsic, who maneuvered and "tricked" the court in Hague. Or they wanted to be "tricked"?

Somehow, the only thing missing in Hague is one of you fine folks from Swan publication.

There, you could interpret for the court, and world wide public what Karadzic and company are really about. Maybe, you could finally explain to the world that the cleaning job they ( Karadzic and company) have done is to worthy of a medal, and prosecuting them is an insult to the world order.

On the serious note, it is hard for me to understand your motive re Balkan butchery, other than that you are receiving a good sum of monies for spreading your view. Which just happens to be in accordance with one in Belgrade.

Oh, I know, it is those bad dudes and dudettes of NATO that are torturing our poor Christian Serb brothers.

Just remember, all those children, women and elderly that were butchered by your Christian Serb "liberators," they will haunt you, don't you worry about it.

It is sad that you look down on entire populations, just because they are not Christian.

Very sad, indeed.

Denis Perkovic
Plano, Texas, USA - November 13, 2009

P.S. Why not invite another opinion or two, that represent the other side, Bosniak Muslims, and Kosovo Albanian Muslims? Or that is the actual matter, or a problem with you folks, one being a Muslim taht is the issue? FYI, I am one old fashioned Catholic.
[ed. Other "opinions" can be found all over the Web and do not have to be represented in these pages (except in the Letters to the Editor) if the publisher and co-editors deem it so. We did not buy the PR peddled by Western chancelleries and the MSM at the time. We still do not. As Gilles d'Aymery once wrote, Serbs are NOT Cannibals. From that stand it was logical that Swans would open its pages to, and become a forum for, people who were deeply demonized -- accused of being Nazi-like rapists, killers, ethnic cleansers, their president another Hitler -- and give them the chance and opportunity to present their POVs and their humanity (which were either denied or falsified elsewhere). Religion was never an issue of much import for the co-editors, who are utterly a-religious, and we never attacked any. (By the way, Croats are Christians too...) Just as we've resolutely opposed the illegal invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq (and strongly support the entry of Turkey in the EU), Islam had no input whatsoever in our analysis of the Yugoslav tragedy. No red herring, please! As to being on Belgrade's payroll... Gosh, we wish we were!]


We appreciate and welcome your comments. Please, enter in the subject line of your e-mail "letter to the editor," and specify the article or the subject you are commenting on at the beginning of your e-mail. Also, ***PLEASE,*** sign your e-mail with your name ***AND*** add your city, state, country, address, and phone number. If we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country. Send your comments to the Editor. (Letters may be shortened and edited.)
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Published November 30, 2009
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