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Author Archives: Andrea Layne Black

the very best boy

Amicus Black died on October 29th, 2021, just after noon.  He was 15 going on 16. 

My best friend and stalwart partner in crime.

We haven’t kept up this blog at all, really.  Too busy having adventures together.

The hundreds and hundreds of hikes.

The trips to Vancouver when my mom was still alive, the walks around the seawall and at Ambleside Dog Park.

The trips to Comox for my dad’s eye appointments.  Frolicking on the beach waiting for the ferry.

The trips to Ladner and Sechelt to see Steve, Rhonda, Sofie, and Le-le and Kecia and Simone.

The trip to Alberta with Dad and Steve to visit Kevin before he died.

The trip to Vancouver for Mom’s death and then a month later her funeral.

The trip to Alberta with Steve and Tara to scatter Dad’s ashes. Now, I have Ami’s ashes on my shelf beside a golden glittering candle.

All the playing ball and Chuck-It on the huge field behind the old school.

Chilling out on the couch watching Netflix, grinning at each other with such unconditional love. 

How he’d play with his good dog friends, Farther, Leo, and Sole; all three of them now gone, too.  And the fun with his best friend, Franklin, who thankfully is still running strong though getting on himself.

Ami went through it all with me and me with him:  when my mom died; Ami’s surgeries, his two run-ins with Canada Post, my broken ankle, when my dad died, all the poetry and slams, all the turmoil and mess of life, swimming and plunging into rivers, lakes and the Pacific Ocean.

Climbing small mountains.  So many hikes.

The yummy food and treats.  How he loved slurping freshly flushed clean toilet water. 

It was the best life.

Certainly, the best years of my life so far.

Amicus was freaky smart, had me wrapped around his big dog claw.

I swear he smiled and laughed as much as I did.

He slept up on my bed
until he couldn’t.

Then he slept on the couch
until he couldn’t.

Then he slept on a big comfy dog bed on the floor.

All the times I lay beside him, his breathing presence such a constant comfort; brushing him, cleaning his ears (he LOVED that), putting warm towels from the dryer on his aching arthritic back legs. 

We just always were.

We were.


He knew me inside out and I knew him the same.

I felt somehow defined by Amicus.

I think he felt the same way.

We completed each other.

Pinky Stinky, I love(d) you with all my heart.

I will honour and miss your company forever.

I hope we will meet again in another life, my dear friend.

And, Amicus Black,

you were the very best boy.


Lake Water and Joy

Three years ago, Amicus almost drowned at Block Bay.  We were on a walk down Valentine Mountain and he scooted out onto what we both thought was a log dock-type thing, but what was actually a loosely fastened log boom.  Ami slipped down between two slippery spinning logs scrambling and sliding under the water unable to achieve any purchase on the logs.  I started to shinny out to rescue him thinking we’re both going to die today, but he managed to extricate himself before I got too far out.  He swam in to where he could scramble up some driftwood to gain the shore.

Ever since that day, understandably, Ami has had water issues.  He loves wading and splashing around to retrieve a stick up to a certain depth, just about the middle of his chest, before he comes back in and looks at me with a no-way expression.  When other dogs would go plunging out into deeper water for sticks or fun, Ami would whine worrying until they swam back in to shore, whereupon he would sniff them all over to make sure they were okay.  He would fret anxiously, but he would also look on in great envy and admiration and I just knew he dreamed of being able to do that; that that was what fetching a stick was really all about, but that it was for other dogs, and not him.

For a while I tried to convince him to swim, trying all different well-meant methods and, because of his dreams and his love, he would reluctantly make an effort, but would immediately turn back once his paws left the ground and the fear came back.  So, eventually, I just let him be a wader glad he could at least cool off that way and enjoy splashing about.

On Saturday, that all changed.

Ami and I walked in to West Lake.  It was a hot dry day and I really wanted a swim and Ami could do his shallow-water thing.  I swam out and I thought, you know, it’s been quite a while, years, since I even tried.   I know Ami knows how to swim, he’s just scared.  I don’t want Ami to be scared any more.

So I went out just a ways and I called back, “Ami, you can swim if you want to, I know you can.  Come on, buddy, just give it a shot.”  He looked frantic, scared, threatened even, and basically just said, sorry, no.

Then, for some instinctual reason, I put on a really annoying cute high-pitched animated character’s voice and started calling, “Come on, Ami, come and play; Come on, Ami; Come and play, come and play; Come on Ami, come and play.”

Ami looked so tempted and yet almost sad, but then:

Suddenly he started into the water and began tentatively swimming.

I said, “Oh, Ami, good boy, good boy, you’re such a good swimmer!”

He swam quickly back to shore.

Then I did the voice again, “Come on, Ami, come and play, come and play,” and then, like a magic switch of confidence went off in his head, he plunged into the water and started powerfully swimming directly at me, his dog legs strong and sure.  I’ve never seen him look happier or more proud.  He pulled up alongside me grinning and together we swam around and around.

Then we went to shore and he ran around like a mad dog until he found a big stick and he came over to me, dripping, shaking, wagging, and dropped the stick.  I knew what he wanted, what he meant.  He was saying, “Okay, throw it way out there this time, Mommy, I can do it.”

So I did.  I threw it far out there and in he plunged swimming and swimming until he got to the stick and he clamped his big smiling jaws around it and swam back.  He was so delighted, so proud of himself.  We spent quite a while at the lake swimming together and fetching way-out-there sticks, both of us  completely and totally soaked in lake water and joy.

What a great day.  What a great dog.  Have you met my dog?  He is  Amicus the Brave and Mighty Swimmer.

Thank you, Jackie!

A woman commented on an earlier blog post here, and it sounded like she somehow knew Ami, but I couldn’t tell for sure from her comment.  She left a number and I just had a feeling I should call her. So I did.

Her name is Jackie, 73, and she’s the one who originally rescued Amicus from Abbotsford Animal Control so many years ago. She said she fell in love with him and knew he was a very special dog. She said she cried over him so often because he had just given up at the Abbotsford pound, he lay on cold concrete, they overfed him, there was poo and pee everywhere, and she said one day he just wouldn’t get up, he’d totally given up, she said.

She lost sleep over him and did everything in her power to eventually be able to take him in her van (along with about five other dogs she was also rescuing) all the way over to the SPCA on the Island. She said she loved him so much.

Thank you, Jackie, from the very bottom depths of my heart for rescuing A.J., as he then was, and for saving him for me so he could become Amicus Black and I could be his happy forever home. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me and I love him completely.

Without you and your rescue efforts, he’d probably be dead long ago. I can’t begin to thank you enough on his behalf and all the other dogs you’ve rescued. I’m so glad I phoned you and again thank you so much.

Andrea Layne Black

(And Ami says he loves you, too xxxooo!)

Ode on Amicus



Ode on Amicus

Unqualifiedly, unapologetically, sincerely,

I was without;

Then I met him;

His tail wagged behind a cage;

We breathed each other in,

deciding to be forever.

He got into my car and slipped within my soul.

He is beside me when I am lost even to myself,

soothing embers powering my heart, making me grin.

I thought I knew from humans what a friend was,

But not until my dog did I know that friend to a dog means

handing over your heart completely.

He is my staunch sworn ally through every battle

No matter how wrong I am, he is on my side.

My confidant, comrade, protector, student, and teacher

His brown eyes tell me paragraphs in seconds.

We know each other’s thoughts before we think them.

We play together as children unabashedly.

When we are sad we sit silent but “with.”

When all else is dark, when everyone else has left,

my dog is my light, my reason.

Unqualifiedly, unapologetically, sincerely,

He is Amicus and he truly is the best friend I have ever had.


Before Empires, wars, and European colonists stealing land from indigenous peoples and the ensuing enslavement, torture, marginalizing, discriminating, and exploiting, we humans as an evolving species stole land and life from the animals as we ventured further and further in their wilds slaughtering and enslaving by the trillions and this has only increased over the centuries with billions of animals being caged in tortuous situations, being bred as food, and dying in pain and horror, or being made slaves and the rationalizations, justifications, and arguments for this sort of treatment holding sway over pretty much the entire planet to this day.

It is so easy to say humans are better than animals and therefore we can treat them anyway we want, but there’s such a crushing lack of empathy into the feelings of animals with that argument that, again, it’s so easy to also murder and dehumanize each other by that same logic. The easily-dismissed truth of all the species of animals that no longer exist or the ones severely endangered due to the activities of humans, the shocking reason we have organizations like the SPCA; not to mention our further daily encroaching (settling?) into wild habitats where predators are simply shot and nests destroyed, and entire ecosystems terminated, mostly to strip areas of their resources and/or the harvesting of animals. and to build homes and businesses for humans when other areas could be utilized. 

If we really want to change the way we operate we have to go back to the very, very beginning and re-examine our relationship with the most vulnerable on the planet, that being the animals who were here before us.  Humans have had this concept of dominion and superiority over the earth and that all it contains is ours for the taking.  I disagree. 

The earth is sacred and her inhabitants all have their own lives, needs, families, friends, and goals and we need to think about being together and not above.  Even considering animals as property is a slippery slope because property has few rights.  And those with no rights are fodder. 

Empathy means understanding the feelings of others, their love, excitement, playfulness, fear, and pain.  Animals are others, the Great Others.  They’re not little stores filled with things for us to use.  Their homes/lands are not just ours for the taking because we’re more powerful. They should not be victims of our cruelty and greed.  They deserve our respect and protection.  I certainly don’t have all the answers as to how to implement this understanding, but I think it’s an issue that needs to be looked at in a completely different way than has historically been the case. 

I really do believe that life is sacred, all lives, and the living of life, as well.  Animals must be allowed to have their full lives.  I’ve pretty much felt this way since I was about five or six.  I trust that little five-year-old Andrea on a very instinctual level to know what is the good and right thing, especially when it comes to animals because I have always found them to be amazing teachers, friends, and personal heroes.  That’s my blog and I’m sticking to it.

Ravens Chant Sublime

I am just blogging to say that I want to start blogging every day if I can even if I have little to say.  I just want to get into the habit of it, and the training of it.  Otherwise I get too focused on outcome and trying to be perfect which clearly I will never be, nor my houndie hound, but we are very diligent and strong and so I want to just sometimes throw things out there without a huge degree of thought and polishing and all that bother.

So I broke my ankle on January 20th.  Actually, I dislocated, tore, and fractured it and it’s only in the last two weeks or so that I’ve been back walking Amicus and back to the forest.  Being away from the forest was a little like if someone took your heart away for two months and gave you this little paltry spare one for that time.  I didn’t realize how much the forest now defines me and how much I need it.  Walking along a deep green path with the tri-color tans of Ami padding along ahead, watching him sniff and pee and enjoy the adventure and both of us never sure what’s up ahead or around the next massive cedar, there’s just nothing like it.  I started a little poem that I’m working on with this theme, so far all I’m sure of is, “The forest will forgive me, but concrete never can; metal signs say nothing, but ravens chant sublime.”

Other things I did in this broken ankle time was I entered a poetry slam which I’ve never done and I did really well.  I was super nervous beforehand, but the people there were so supportive and warm and the other poets so amazing and visionary.  One guy, Daun Pechawis, I think is like a force of nature, an elemental spirit, I was so impressed with him and how he revealed his heart through such solid writing.  I met a lot of people that night and I really felt like I was part of something, the community.

I also discovered during my broken ankle period that I sure do love hot baths and boy did I miss them.  The first day the cast came off, like 25 minutes later I was sitting in hot water staring at the poor shrunken scaly little leg that now needed love and work.  But boy that hot water soaking into my soul felt good.

It would be about two more months after that before I could get back to the forest.  I did realize however that the forest was always inside me, like that poem I wrote a while back, “When the forest gets inside us, it stays there,” well that’s true.  It’s funny now when I walk on a forest path I barely limp, but coming out onto a sidewalk or a parking lot, I limp again.  That’s partly what I meant about the forest forgiving me.  I also meant that only something alive is capable of forgiving and the forest is alive.

I also went to a drumming singing session at Sliammon which is the First Nation that actually owns all this stolen land around here.  I went there just to acknowledge that I know that; it felt really important to me.  I was nervous and I don’t know how I sounded, but the people I met that night were very welcoming to me, and I am going to go back and sing more.  There was a competition song where the men would sing and then the women would sing back.  It was super fun.  In the last few verses, I let my voice go.  I felt awkward and nervous at first because I hoped I had said the right things and that it made sense.

They were planning a canoe voyage where all different Bands meet up and have a big celebration.  It sounded like such an amazing journey and it made me feel sad because I don’t have that kind of beautiful culture where families go on big adventures and meet up with their strong amazing communities.

And when we were all singing, I wanted to go out into the forest nearby and listen from a few 100 metres away and feel like it was hundreds of years ago, and I was one of the first visitors and I would honour the powerful people I met and if they wanted we would have done things all so differently with strong friendly respectful nations glorying in the land and the magical beauty and the whole next hundreds of years would be different, but I knew I couldn’t do that and that everything is so broken and wrong, and so, again, it was weird, ’cause I felt sad and happy at the same time, sad because of the ways things are, and happy because I was singing with really friendly people and having fun.  It was weird to have all those same feelings at the same time.

And I thought if I were them, these welcoming people I was singing with, that I would hate me and not want me there, and maybe they did feel a little of that inside, and understandably, but the way they made me feel was welcome and special and I just kept thinking, wow, way back when it could have all been so so different and beautiful and magical and it was all done so so wrongly and it is still is.

But I really liked singing those old songs and hearing the drums, and now I know it’s even more true than I thought, when the forest gets inside us, it does stay there, and also that the forest will forgive me, but the concrete never can, metal signs say nothing, but ravens chant sublime.

Don’t know if all that goes together, don’t care.  Well, that’s it for today, this is me just throwing stuff out there.


Happy New Year, I’m back, not that impassioned zealot dog of mine this time who thinks he should get to write this blog just ’cause it’s named after him.  From time to time, buddy, from time to time.

Ami and I went on a long walk today, a bit longer than our normal long walks.  We found a new path off of the end of Nootka Street that cuts down into a logged but still wild bushy area that circles around to connect with the Penticton Street trails web.  It’s a long way, lots of time to think.

Ami, as usual, was padding along ahead of me smelling every shrub, peeing on every seventh rock, and occasionally he would stop dead in his tracks, staring out into the field at a big black stump that he couldn’t figure out, wasn’t sure what it was.  All sorts of doggie imaginations scurrying through his mind until I kept calmly walking saying, “Yeah, it does look sort of creepy, doesn’t it buddy, could be all sorts of things, but it’s just a stump,” and Ami would sort of shrug a furry shoulder, almost nod, and then start walking again quickly gaining point ahead of me to go back to sniffing and peeing.

My mind began to wander and suddenly I found myself listing all the many things I struggle with, every single one of my challenges, naming them off in my head, then moving on to the next.  You know the sort of thing, insecurity, fear, needing approval from others, ego, shyness, anger, negativity, reactivity, and so on and so on.  Then I decided to list all the good things about myself like being funny, smart, and liking animals and all the things I’ve accomplished in the last three years.  Then I tried to put the challenges together with the good stuff and make it fit like scissoring jigsaw pieces so you can force them into place.  Some of it connected, some of it didn’t.

 Ami stopped again this time staring at a frozen black pond.  He seemed both scared and curious.  He started to head to the pond, but when he put his first toe near the ice, I called him back just in case something horrible happened.  He shook his head, had a quick defiant pee, and we continued on our way, him on point, me trudging along, the sun starting to make the snow glisten on the path.  I listened to my boots crunching through the white crust.

My mind started trudging again, too.  I went back to thinking about all my challenges and all the good things about myself and how hard it was to accept the former and hard to truly believe the latter.

Trudge trudge trudge, crunch, crunch, crunch.

Then I started to think about all those army and prison movies where, when the guy’s being inducted or incarcerated and he’s in the beginning reception-like stage, someone shoves a pile of clothes and gear across the counter towards him, you know, like uniforms, soap, boots, maybe, a steel cup, a big knapsack and a gun in the soldier’s case, whatever it might be, all his kit.  The guy who shoves it towards him says something like, “This is your gear; it’s all you get, take care of it; you’re going to need all of it; some of it’s heavy and painful, don’t lose it; like I said, you’ll need it,” and off goes the soldier/prisoner to his next stage holding his gear close to his chest with both arms, his very important precious bundle.

 I thought about that pile of gear, that bundle, and I started imagining some beleaguered spirit guide or someone like that, 48 years ago when I was forming in the womb, standing across a counter from my soul.  He shoves a big bundle of stuff towards me.  It’s all my challenges and all my good stuff.  He says, “This is your bundle; it’s all you get, take care of it; you’re going to need all of it,” and I nod accepting the then unfamiliar bundle from him drawing it towards me.  I accept it. 

And suddenly I thought, yeah, I accept my bundle.  I could feel tears actually welling up in my eyes as I thought to myself, yeah, and I love my bundle, too, all of it, and I have needed all of it.

I suddenly felt the sun warm on my neck and could hear Ami rummaging as he sniffed a particularly interesting shrub.  I felt like hugging myself.  Ami suddenly looked around at me, his big tongue hanging out, smiling.  He’s quite the bundle, too, is my houndie hound, aint’cha buddy.  “Good boy, Ami,” I said, and he came over for a hug.  I buried my face in his fur and gave him a big hug.   Then he had to go sniff something ’cause sometimes he gets shy, too.  I smiled and wiped the snow off my knees standing up.

 Then we trudged on, crunching the snow and seeing our breath, and I thought to myself, I really like this new path we’re on.

We Live to Love You

Hi, it’s Amicus this time.  Had a conversation of sorts with MAFP (my awesome forever person) and we agreed that as this is, in fact, supposed to be my blog (being the titular character and all) that I should get to stick my long collie nose in here once in a while and address you personally, so that’s what I’m doing, even though I am very busy with a specific challenging marrow extraction right now, rubber balls to chew, and of course my opera to write, but I wanted to say a word on behalf of my fellow hounds and also felt it was time to own this blog for a while.

It’s really really important to have people defending us, me and the other dogs, because we can’t do it.  We can whine, cry, hide, bleed, ache, and die, but we can’t really make a change to how we’re treated sometimes.  Only people can do that.

Many many years, (like thousands) we gave ourselves over to you lot with love, loyalty, and our whole hearts.  We of all the animals, no offence to cats or other pets (I figure they can write their own blogs), but we the dogs decided that we would be the closest, we would make you our everything, our god, even, if you like, and we would dedicate ourselves to protecting you and yours, to loving you with our entirety, and all we wanted was something to eat, a bit of warmth, and some love.

Sounds like a good deal, huh?  We’ll never go back on this deal, never.  No matter how you treat us.  So we really need you to make sure that no one takes advantage of our promise to be yours completely.  We need your protection and your help.  We will give you everything, anyway, but if you can, please help us.

Many of my brothers and sisters are locked up cold and lonely, some of them are really old and some are sick and some look funny or are totally misunderstood, and you’re their only hope.  They’re just waiting to give you everything they are.  Just waiting.  If you can help them in a big way and bring them home, that would be great.  If you can give a bit of money, or blankets, or food, or help them in any small way, I personally would be so happy.  I was where a lot of them are.  I was about to die because I was so scared and sad that I felt I had to be mean and strong.  MAFP came and brought me home, anyway.  She’s my everything, I have given myself to her forever.

MAFP has Christmas treats hid away for me.  She doesn’t think I know, but of course I do, and I know her own forever people are going to visit us and they probably will give me treats, too.  It is good.  And I can play with young forever people who are smaller and scratch my belly lots and who I like to follow everywhere when they visit.  They smell good.

I have really liked writing to you all.  I love you very much.  That is what we do, us dogs.  We love you.  Have a very merry holiday and, on behalf of my fellow hounds, know that our promise to you is forever every day all year round.  We live to love you.  Please love us back.

Thank you.
Amicus Black 

Love Comes Running

Wow, last time I blogged it was March 23, about three months ago, and here I was hoping to blog every day and develop a huge following and be popular and loved.  Well, three readers, obviously I haven’t blogged every day and have not developed a huge following, but I do have the most important friend perhaps I’ve ever had, the most perfect companion and faithful hound who would follow me into hell, even though he’s destined for heaven, if such places there be.

I remember before I found Amicus, but I knew I wanted to get a dog, I would be walking alone in the forest and sometimes I would yell out “Amicus!  Amicus!” as though I had a dog who would come trotting through the bushes when I called.  I called it out to see how it would sound and to imagine outcomes, I called it out to tell the universe that I needed a dog right quick, and I called it out so that whoever Amicus would be would hear it and hurry up finding me.

I figured if anyone else in the forest heard me they’d just figure I was someone with a dog, that no one would hear some woman calling “Amicus” out loud and guess that she was yelling to the universe and yelling to an unknown entity who she wanted desperately to meet.

I think back to those days when I was all alone, not lonely, really, or at least I didn’t know I was, I suppose.  You don’t know you’re lonely sometimes, I think, until you’re not anymore, until your big empties are filled with dog love.  Hard to explain, but anyone with a dog knows what I mean, I think.

Anyhow, now when I’m in the forest and call out Amicus, I hear paws a-thunderin’, sometimes hear a-barkin’, I see brown and tan fur come a-chargin’, I see a wonderful bushy tail a-waggin’, a happy dog tongue a-lollin’, and when I call out Amicus now, Amicus himself comes a-runnin’.

And that’s what I’ve been doing for three months since I last wrote, three intense beautiful months, exploring mountains, forests, lakes, beaches, and the whole of this little town I live in, exploring it with Amicus, a better friend you couldn’t find, fun, brave, stalwart, generous, and smart.  When I call out Amicus now, I know I’m not alone and if anyone does hear me calling out, they better look out ’cause Amicus is out there running back to me, and he’s in a hurry.  Now, when I call out Amicus, loves comes running to me, love comes crashing through the trees right to me.

So maybe I’ll blog tomorrow or maybe it’ll be another three months, but right now me and Ami, we got important stuff to do.  Amicus!  Amicus!  Come on, boy, let’s go!

When the forest gets inside us

When the forest gets inside us, it stays there; parched ribs refreshed drip green moss; weary hearts newly beat plush strong rhythms, a mysterious geomancy of the mind; not just a walk with my dog, but a significant journey of two brave explorers amidst ancient cedar, fir, arbutus, raven, dark earth, and lichen; paw prints through mud under eager wagging tail, my awed plume of breath on the cool silent air, and his playful breath, too, with lolling happy dog tongue; there is a sacred hush amidst the towering trees where old delighted gods beckon us with cracked branch fingers, grey bark smiles, and on and on we walk and smile back because when the forest gets inside us, it stays there.

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