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Remembering Leader Dog Zoe


Remembering, with Love and Honor, Leader Dog Zoe


(April 23, 2007-March 16, 2016)


* * *


A Loving Portrait of Leader Dog Zoe in Watercolor Tears


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



If I were a sculptor,

I would have chiseled

into a block of marble

a lasting monument

to you and your beautiful ways.


If I were a painter of canvas,

I would have re-created

your portrait as you always sat

in your princes, posture-perfect pose.


If I were a skilled photographer,

I would have captured your likeness–

mid-stride, your harness up,

your head held high and proud

to be in the lead.


If I were a painter

with watercolors …

oh, but I have painted you

a thousand times

with watercolor tears–

this portrait framed only in my mind:

the painful hours and moments of your unexpected final day,

the precious and blessed years

that you

generously and lovingly

shared with me.


Since I am not an artist,

I have crafted only words for you

during these past measured two years,

these last twenty-four months,

these fleeting 104 weeks,

these recent  730 days–

without you

at my lead

or beside me.


To give tribute

to your greatness,

I could only dedicate

a small book to you,

dedicate this blog to you,

remember you

and thank you,

today and always,

at the highest altitude

of gratitude,

as I walk on with you ever in my heart

and Willow now well in the lead.



In loving memory of my third Leader Dog, Zoe,

who passed away two years ago

at 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 16, 2016,

at our home in Milwaukee–

Alice and Willow, my fourth Leader Dog


March 16, 2018, Friday


NOTE:  Although I wrote and posted an earlier version of this poem one year ago, I revised and updated this poem for this special posting on March 16, 2018.  Next week, I will continue with my typical once-a-week WORDWALK posting on Wednesday–March 21, the day that will mark my twenty-eight years of working with Leader Dogs.




Framework for a Pi Poem (and a Sample Pi Poem)


A Pi Poem about a Bakery and a Framework for a 35-line Pi Poem


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



How is your celebration of Pi Day going?  To enhance your Pi Day, this WORDWALK blog post includes another sample pi poem and an easy-to-use framework for writing your own pi poem of up to thirty-five lines.


Last week’s blog post about pies brought forth so many interesting, enjoyable, and much-appreciated comments and personal e-mails about pies that I began thinking about my maternal grandfather’s Italian bakery in the small Hoosier town of Blanford, on Highway 71, near the Blanford Cut-off Road.  Eventually, in a future post on WORDWALK, I will further describe the large building which housed not only the bakery, but also the grocery store and residence of my mother’s family after my grandparents came to the United States from Levone, Italy.


Later, I will further celebrate Pi/Pie Day with a piece of apple pie, which Leader Dog Willow and I purchased during our morning walk.  Happily, I just learned that a friend in Michigan aptly made “Mother’s Chocolate Cream Pie,” the recipe for which I posted on WORDWALK on March 7.  Via a photo of the chocolate meringue pie to my sister, I know the pie turned out picture-perfect.  Coincidentally, perfection is a topic of my pi poem.  I hope you are enjoying a good piece of pie as you read the following.



Grandpa’s Italian Bakery in Blanford, Indiana


a pi poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



As a child,


ran, skipped, and walked


Grandpa’s bakery–

a large, antique room that had become


of all ingredients

for Italian

crusty bread,

whose aroma now

wafts by only as memory.

Dusty, stale air prevails, surrounds me:

at a pause in happy play,

I marvel at the huge old mixer–

still, dormant


Grandpa’s death.

He, the baker from Italy,

was the one

who displayed so much pride

in loaves

of perfect quality

that when a rack

of his loaves

was proclaimed

not sufficiently baked inside,

Grandpa tossed

these loaves

in a trash receptacle

so no one would taste imperfection.

I had the pleasure

of playing in his Blanford bakery,

but wish

I could have tasted just one slice.


NOTE:  Especially in the days of the early 1900s, throwing away food must have been difficult although, I assume, rare.  Even today, I greatly dislike wasting food or having to put food down the garbage disposal.  On the other hand, I must have inherited my particular taste about the doneness of bread from my maternal grandfather because I do especially prefer my bread well done.


YOUR TURN, PLEASE:  Now, I hope that many readers of WORDWALK will share stories or anecdotes about bread and bakeries in the comment field of this blog post.  Also, you are still welcome to add a comment about pies or Pi Day.  Thanks!


Framework for a 35-line Pi Poem


Following the first thirty-five numerals of the mathematical pi, I will provide below a framework for writing a pi poem.  As mentioned on my blog post of February 28, 2018, your pi poem need not have any particular rhyme scheme.  Although the poem need not rhyme at all, I do hope that you will enhance your pi poem with as much creativity as needed so that your piem(another term for a pi poem) does look and sound like a poem.  While I always write pi poems by counting syllables, some poets count words per line instead.  When I note the number of syllables per line in the framework, you may use the number of syllables in only one word or as many words as you wish in order to have a total of the given number of syllables.  (Please refer to my example  on this blog post, as well as other archived WORDWALK posts about pi poems.)


You may end your poem at whatever point along the framework you please, or you may follow subsequent numerals of pi to write an even longer piem.


Writing a pi poem will help a novice or amateur poet to practice crafting lines of varying lengths to add variety to one’s poems.  Also, if you tend to write lines that are too long, the piem pattern will prevent the occurrence of lines that are too lengthy.  Writing a pi poem is a fun challenge for both the new poet and the experienced poet.  Happy writing!




by piemist:


Line 1.  (three syllables)


Line 2.  (one syllable)


Line 3.  (four syllables)


Line 4.  (one syllable)


Line 5.  (five syllables)


Line 6.  (nine syllables)


Line 7.  (two syllables)


Line 8.  (six syllables)


Line 9.  (five syllables)


Line 10.  (three syllables)


Line 11.  (five syllables)


Line 12.  (eight syllables)


Line 13.  (nine syllables)


Line 14.  (seven syllables)


Line 15.  (nine syllables)


Line16.  (three syllables)


Line 17.  (two syllables)


Line 18.  (three syllables)


Line 19.  (eight syllables)


Line 20.  (four syllables)


Line 21.  (six syllables)


Line 22.  (two syllables)


Line 23.  (six syllables)


Line 24.  four syllables)


Line 25.  (three syllables)


Line 26.  (three syllables)


Line 27.  (eight syllables)


Line 28.  (three syllables)


Line 29.  (two syllables)


Line 30.  (seven syllables)


Line 31.  (nine syllables)


Line 32.  (five syllables)


Line 33.  (For the zero, I use a line of ten syllables; you may also choose to skip the zero or use this zero as an opportunity for a stanza break.)


Line 34.  (two syllables)


Line 35.  (eight syllables)



Hoping you are enjoying Pi Day,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


March 14, 2018, Wednesday


A Pie Recipe for Pi Day


A Pie Recipe for Pi Day


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



You have seven days to plan your celebration of Pi Day–March 14, 2018 (3/14).  Are you thinking of baking a pie  or eating a piece of pie?  Having a piece of pie with a cup of hot tea is a fine and festive choice to enjoy while you are reading and/or writing a pi poem on 3/14.  In last week’s blog post, I shared with you one of my pi poems and gave you the framework for writing your own pi poem.  In this week’s WORDWALK post, I am sharing with you a recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie from my mother’s recipe collection.  This pie recipe was one that Mother made somewhat frequently because it was a favorite of my sister and my cousin Donald.


Whether fruit or cream pies, single-crust or double-crust–all of the pies my mother made were beautiful and delicious–worthy of having a pie photo in a famous cookbook.  As a younger child, I assumed that all mothers made picture-perfect pies; By the time I hit the double-digits of age, I realized that not all pie bakers were of blue-ribbon quality.  Thus, through the years, I gained a better appreciation for my mother’s baking skills.  Since she worked full-time as the postmaster of our small town of Blanford (Indiana), Mother thoroughly enjoyed the art of baking and never complained about time spent in her kitchen.  My mother’s Chocolate Cream Pie recipe is based on a recipe from what is now considered a “vintage cookbook”–The Art of Cooking and Serving, by Sarah Field Splint, copyright 1930 (Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, Ohio, 252 pages).  When our family still had the kitchen with the white cabinets, Mother kept all of her cookbooks in a large drawer near the northeast corner of the room.  Besides liking to eat my mother’s baked goodies, I liked to peruse her cookbooks.  Now, you can have a look at one of her favorite pie recipes.


Mother’s Chocolate Cream Pie


one baked pie shell


two tablespoons Crisco {trademark}

six tablespoons flour

one and one-half cups milk {My mother’s handwritten note on the recipe indicated that either whole or two-percent milk could be used.}

two squares unsweetened (baking) chocolate

three-fourths cup granulated sugar

one-fourth teaspoon salt

two egg yolks

one teaspoon vanilla


* * *


two tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

two egg whites (room temperature)


  1. Melt Crisco.


  1. Add flour, milk, chocolate (cut in pieces), granulated sugar, and salt; stir constantly, and bring slowly to the boiling point. Mixture will become thick and smooth.


  1. After removing pan from heat, stir in beaten egg yolks and vanilla.


  1. Pour into baked pie shell.


IMPORTANT!  Another suggestion which my mother wrote on the recipe was:  “Let the pie filling come to room temperature  before preparing meringue.”




  1. Beat egg whites until stiff.


  1. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar to stiffly beaten egg whites and continue beating until mixture is glossy and stiff.


  1. As you spoon the egg-white mixture onto the chocolate pie filling, allow the egg-white mixture to form soft peaks. Be certain to spread meringue to edges of crust to form a seal in order to prevent shrinking of meringue.


  1. Bake in a moderate oven (325 degrees Fahrenheit) for fifteen minutes or until a delicate brown.


NOTE:  You may choose to use your own meringue recipe with the chocolate cream filling.  Some meringue recipes call for more ingredients (such as cream of tartar and vanilla) than does this vintage recipe of 1930.  Also, I remember my mother’s experimenting with the temperature and time of baking, especially after a new oven entered our kitchen.  Perhaps, you may find that 350 degrees for twelve to fifteen minutes is better while other bakers may prefer 425 degrees for only eight minutes.  Happy baking!


On Pi Day, March 14, you may find that, if you are not in the baking mood, a pie shop or bakery may have a special sale.  Also, some restaurants may mark Pi Day with a special price for a piece of pie.  Is reading this blog making you hungry for the artful wedge of pastry?  A piece of pie and a pi poem sound like a winning combination to me!


SHARING TIME:  In the comment section for this WORDWALK post, please share your favorite kind of pie, your favorite pie recipe, and/or your favorite pie story.


Happy Pie Day!  Happy March!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


March 7, 2018, Wednesday


Easy Guide for Writing a Pi Poem


Easy Guide for Writing a Pi Poem for Spring


On this eve of meteorological spring–March 1, 2018–I am sharing with you another pi poem.  Of all the pieces which I have posted since January 19, 2013, my blog posts about pi poems are at the top of the list for the most views on my WORDWALK blogsite.  Thus, to help some students and other hobby writers, I am including an easy guide for writing a pi poem of 32 lines, along with a sample pi poem; however, by following the numerals of the mathematical pi, you may write your pi poem of lesser or more poetic lines.  You need only count the syllables per line to coincide with the numerals of the mathematical pi (as noted below).  The rhyme scheme, or lack thereof, is totally your choice.  Nevertheless, be certain to add as many poetic touches as are appropriate for your creation.


I am giving you the following sample of a pi poem and then the guide for writing a “piem” so that you will have two weeks to craft a pi poem by “Pi Day”–March 14 (3/14).  While you may choose any topic for the focus of your pi poem, I selected “Primavera” (Spanish and Italian for “spring”) for the topic of my sample of a pi poem.  Try your poetic hand at being a “piemist” after you have read the pi poem and then the poem again with the syllabic guide.


Welcome, Primavera:  A Seasoned Pi Poem


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Spring blessings


upon the heel


winter’s frosted clouds,

on ochre petals of daffodils,

on trills

of robins’ measured notes,

in hyacinth air,

from sweet voices

of children swinging,

from the soft whir of bicycles,

from fragrance of earth where I will plant

perennial Summer Soul

To hear the quiet affirmation–

dear Nature’s



alas, your turn has come to choose.

How will our March,

April, and May appear?



precious secrets

to planters,


tillers of your magical soil.

Bless their fields,


with fair rationings of rain,

lightning, tempered wind, prodigious sun.

Primavera, come!”


NOTE:  Below you will find my pi poem with each of the 32 lines preceded by the number of syllables in the line.  These numbers, in order down the left column, comprise the first 32 numerals of the mathematical pi.


Welcome, Primavera:  A Seasoned Pi Poem


(3)  Spring blessings

(1)  come

(4)  upon the heel

(1)  of

(5)  winter’s frosted clouds,

(9)  on ochre petals of daffodils,

(2)  on trills

(6)  of robins’ measured notes,

(5)  in hyacinth air,

(3)  from sweet voices

(5)  of children swinging,

(8)  from the soft whir of bicycles,

(9)  from fragrance of earth where I will plant

(7)  perennial Summer Soul

(9)  To hear the quiet affirmation–

(3)  dear Nature’s

(2)  welcome:

(3)  “Primavera,

(8)  alas, your turn has come to choose.

(4)  How will our March,

(6)  April, and May appear?

(2)  Whisper

(6)  meteorological,

(4)  precious secrets

(3)  to planters,

(3)  gardeners,

(8)  tillers of your magical soil.

(3)  Bless their fields,

(2)  gardens

(7)  with fair rationings of rain,

(9)lightning, tempered wind, prodigious sun.

(5)  Primavera, come!”


Happy writing, and enjoy meteorological spring!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


February 28, 2018, Wednesday



More Tales of Guide Dogs



Winter Tales of Doggie Boots and Olympic Doggie Dreams


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



While a vast audience was watching the Winter Olympics on February 12 and 13, Willow–my fourth guide dog–and I were keenly attuned to the broadcast of the Westminster Dog Show.  Despite the learned judges’ decisions, I know that my Black Labrador is my “Best of Show.”  Happily, Willow does garner a host of fans and an admiring audience.  For example, whenever she wears all four of her blue boots, my guide dog grabs the attention of even more spectators than usual.  As Willow and I were walking down State Street on a recent wintry day, a group of students from Milwaukee School of Engineering cooed, “Oh, she’s so cute in her blue boots!” and “Ah, that’s so sweet.”


After taking a couple of tours around the block of Red Arrow Park’s ice rink (which Willow finds very interesting this winter), a man who was heading toward his parked vehicle, quipped, “I have never seen a dog in those {boots}.”  Nevertheless, I have heard that such boots are quite common on paws of Chicago canines.  Certainly, Willow is wanting to keep up with the style set in “The Windy City,” “The Second City.”


On a particularly challenging day of February weather, I think each person whom Willow and I passed on our way to Metro Market positively remarked on Willow’s choice of footwear–PAW-wear.  At the supermarket, Willow and her boots received more attention and comments.  On our sojourn home, Willow was spoiled with more compliments for her wearing her blue boots.  I will confess that prior to the onset of comments, I had no idea that this particular set of boots is blue.  Well, believe me, we have had many affirmations that the boots are blue and, therefore, patriotically match her red-and-white coat.


Of course, what bystanders do not realize is that Willow’s sporting all four boots is undoubtedly deserving of a gold medal in the Winter Olympics.  Would the Olympics consider a new event?  The wearing of doggie boots on salt-covered sidewalks?  How about a BLUE medal for such a feat?


The reason I am totally in favor of this new Olympic event and medal is that although my three previous amazing, much-appreciated, and beloved guide dogs worked so especially well for me–they would not wear boots.  I thought I had just not found the right style of boots, so I kept trying through the twenty-seven years of working with guide dogs.  Thus, I accumulated a significant collection of doggie boots.  At times, I have mused that I could start a doggie boot store.


With her Golden-Retriever goodness, my graceful and gorgeous first Leader Dog, Keller, allowed me to put all four red boots on her paws.  Then, she rolled onto her back and pointed all four boot-bedecked paws up toward the ceiling as if she were telling me, “These boots are not made for walking.”  The winters that she was an instrumental part of my life were the harshest winters of my twenty-seven winters that I have spent in Milwaukee.  I recall snowdrifts so high in our inner courtyard that Keller could not guide me through the drift.  To precede to the circle drive where we could take a cab to the technical college where I taught, I had to drop Keller’s harness handle, change from the short leash (used for guide work) to the long leash, have Keller stay while I managed to climb over the snow drift.  As soon as I was safely on the other side of the drift, I called Keller to me; she, agile and willing to please, quickly jumped over the drift.  Should this be an Olympic event–worth a blue medal?  During those early winters of the 1990s, Keller and I had plenty of practice with such wintry feats.


Following in Keller’s pawprints, Heather, my second Leader Dog, saw no reason for wearing boots.  Although Heather was too much larger than my Golden to wear her red plaid coat, Heather gladly and frequently wore one of two fleece-lined coats–but never a boot.  My Yellow Labrador Retriever did happily welcome the application of the paw balm called “Musher’s Secret.”  One at a time, in the proper order, she held up a paw for my rubbing on the paw “protector” and later for cleaning each paw.


Throughout our ten years of working together (along with Heather’s one year of semi-retirement and thirteen months of retirement), my second guide dog and I had many winter adventures–one of which that happened during the blizzard of April 7, 2000 is a whole story of itself on a previous WORDWALK post.  The second most memorable winter feat of my Yellow Lab occurred when we were walking home from the technical college.  At approximately the halfway point on our trek home, we just crossed the historic drawbridge over State Street when sleet began stinging our faces.  We were at a point where turning back was as far as our destination.  The remainder of that long block had no building to enter for cover.  While I could close my eyes behind my glasses with side shields and pull my scarf up for additional protection, Heather had to squint through the pelting sleet to take us to a safe location.  Amazingly, my Leader Dog safely guided me through the next major intersection and up the hill.  The farther we walked away from the Milwaukee River, the more the sleet subsided.  Of all the walking I have done with all four of my guides, that afternoon walk with Heather was the only time one of my guide dogs and I were caught in a heavy sleet storm.  Did Heather deserve a blue medal for safe guiding in sleet?  From my perspective, her work was of Olympic proportion.  As usual, when we arrived home, I thoroughly dried her and thoroughly praised and thanked her for her confidence, commitment, and courage to guide me home under such wintry circumstances.


My regular readers of WORDWALK know that my third Leader Dog, Zoe, was my extraordinary Black Labrador/Golden Retriever Mix whom I always refer to as “practically perfect” for me.  My beautiful Zoe proudly wore two hand-me-down coats from her buddy Heather, as well as a new red coat of her own; however, not even my practically perfect Zoe would wear a doggie boot.  Like Heather, Zoe was very accepting of Musher’s Secret–but no boots.  In all other ways, Zoe would be on the podium to medal in all other canine events.  (I still miss her in Olympic proportions.)


After too few winters with my Zoe, the seasons somehow do go on with my little Willow.  The only “boot-wearer” of the bunch is also quite adept at what I call “Puddle Alert.”  My Black Lab comes to a stop and wants me to feel with my boot the puddle that is ahead.  I praise her, but a blue medal would be nice.  Don’t you think?


For more evidence, I mention last Saturday’s walk.  The sidewalks were finally clear of snow and salt–I thought.  To avoid another construction project, Willow and I turned down a sidewalk where we do not travel as often.  Two-thirds of the way down the double block, Willow came to a dead stop.  I tried a couple of times to have her “hup up.”  She would not.  Then, I discovered the reason:  a wide patch of ice, at least six feet in length, was on our path.  “Ice Alert!  Good dog, Willow!”  Medals or no medals–these guide dogs do know how to impress in Olympic ways!


Blessings for all guide dogs and their handlers throughout the remaining days of this winter!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


February 21, 2018, Wednesday



Another Love Letter from My Dad during World War II


For This Valentine’s Day of 2018,


Another Love Letter from Europe during World War II


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa and her father, James F. Massa



My parents, James and Mary Massa, were married in a very simple ceremony in Rockville, Indiana, on December 4, 1942, while my dad was serving in the Army .  For just three days less than 55 years, they were each other’s Valentine.


Throughout their marriage, my parents saved a multitude of greeting cards of various types, from each other and from my sister and me.  All of these cards were placed in the large, lowest drawer  of the tall chest-of-drawers in their bedroom; they kept some other mementos in this deep and wide drawer also.  One year, during the later years of their marriage, my mother decided that she would go through the cards which Dad had given to her; and then she would recycle the card to her Jimmy for the particular occasion.  Then, Dad decided to follow suit:  rather than shopping at a card store, he, too, perused the collection of cards in the lowest drawer and selected a card to recycle to my mother.  At first, they found this new custom more humorous than I did; nevertheless, after a while, I arrived at the mindset that this new tradition of exchanging cards from their earlier years was precious.


In our keepsakes, my sister and I do not have a February-postmarked letter from my dad to my mother during World War II.  Perhaps, the February letter was (or letters were) lost or deliberately not handed down to my sister and me.  Thus, this third letter which I am sharing on WORDWALK is dated a few months after February, during a brighter and happier time.  As I copy this letter below, I think of all the service men and women who are unable to be with their loved ones on this Valentine’s Day, and I keep them in my thoughts and prayers.


* * *


May 3, 1945


Dearest Wife,


Received your letter and was sure glad to hear from you.  I’ve been listening to the radio, and the news seems pretty good.


How’s Lydia [my mother’s next older sister who was expecting her first baby] feeling?  I sure hope she doesn’t have any trouble.


How’s the weather there?  Has it warmed up any yet?  It’s partly chilly here also.


I received a letter from Charlie [my dad’s older brother who was serving as a mechanic, perhaps, in England at this time] and one from Johnny [my dad’s next younger brother who was serving in the Infantry, in Europe].  They are alright.


Honey, I really miss you.  I can’t hardly wait till I get home to you.


How’s Billy and Donald Ray [young nephews]? Tell them I said “Hello.”  How’s the blond at the office?  [My sister and I have no idea who this person at the office is.  While my father was overseas, my mother worked at the Welfare Department at the Vermillion County Courthouse of Indiana; she also worked at her parents’ grocery store in Blanford, Indiana.]  Tell the folks I said “Hello.”


Honey, closing with loads of love and kisses.

Your husband, Jimmy


* * *


The above letter was written on a “V–MAIL,” which measures four by five inches.  As I noted in other blog posts, my extraordinary father was in the 638th Tank Destroyer Battalion.  Our family was so blessed because after serving in World War II, my dad and his three brothers–Charlie, Johnny, and Jules–came back home to Indiana safe and well.


Hoping that you have enjoyed a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


February 14, 2018, Wednesday


Another Heart-warming Visit with Peanut


To Warm Your Heart This February,


Enjoy Another Visit with Peanut of Blind Faith Farm


(Book by Wisconsin Writer Jim Thompson)


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



As we enter into the snow-filled, frigid, days and nights of February, are you ready for an extraordinarily heart-warming story?  This week’s WORDWALK blog post is unusual because I am primarily sharing with you a link to a segment that was broadcast on Milwaukee’s television channel 58 program CBS 58 SUNDAY MORNING on February 4, 2018.  While this post is a follow-up to the book review that I shared on September 27, 2017, the February 5 broadcast was a follow-up to a feature story aired on the same program last November 19.  Reporter Jacquelyn Abad again takes us to Jim and Laura Thompson’s Blind Faith Farm where Peanut happily meets a new friend–Bennett.


With a four-paw recommendation from my Leader Dog Willow and a five-star recommendation from me, I encourage you to take four minutes of your time to listen to and watch the following link for another heart-warming adventure of Peanut of Blind Faith Farm (which takes you to the Channel 58 website with a “play video” button that is easily accessible).


After watching the video, if you would like to read more about Peanut and Blind Faith Farm or if you would like to purchase a copy or copies of Jim Thompson’s heart-warming book Peanut of Blind Faith Farm, please visit the following website:


SPECIAL REQUEST:  In the comment section of this blog post, please add a comment about the video, the book Peanut of Blind Faith Farm, or another heart-warming book which you recommend for winter reading.  Thanks!


Happy February!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


February 7, 2018, Wednesday