B&B Write

Patiently held in time.

A Bed and Breakfast lives nestled against guardian trees – near a water’s edge.

Agelessly creaking as feet move through and pause.

Themed rooms reflect different light, casting moments.

Old world escapes the kitchen, changing fireplace air.

Refining pieces and capturing thoughts; quietly the compulsion unfolds.

Writer’s escape.

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Confession

I must confess, I Never thought I’d be involved with blogging: not following any, nor especially having one.

I started my blog after listening to Nina Amir speak on “How to Blog a Book” at the 2013 Write on the Sound writers’ conference (another surprise from following the spirit of my dog down this writing trail).  This trail is full of new experiences and literary adventures, most completely unforeseen to me, so I’m just going with it.

To back up a little, I always dreaded writing in school (hated might be more accurate).  For my twenty-year – two-year college degree I took Writing 101 – last.  From this class came something that I wrote called “What Happens”.  Afterward I didn’t write much of anything until I needed something, something to help me while dealing with the loss of my dog dying.  So I began what I call “Sharing Gifts with Sarrah”.  This led me to taking classes, attending seminars, writing workshops and then blogging.  I’m not sure about blogging etiquette or rules (which is just as well since I’d probably ignore them anyway), which leads to my motivation for this confession.  I go back and edit parts of what I’ve posted about “Sharing Gifts with Sarrah”, mostly small tweaks, but edits all the same (I recently started tagging those significantly changed “Amended”).  Blogging bits and chunks of the story actually forces me to make them better.  I find that small improvements are needed to make a portion float on its own, rather than fall short.  I also don’t Reblog.  Certainly these edits go largely unnoticed, which is fine with me or at least has been until now.

I recently joined a Memoir Writing class, a group of writers (some of which are former classmates from the Hugo House) taught by Tara Hardy.  The point you are looking for is that I turned in the chapter “FUgly” for the class to read and workshop in the next class on June 17th (Sarrah’s birthday).  It is a difficult chapter that needs writing improvement.  I reworked again it over a few days (and edited my post) prior to turning it in for critique.  Certainly their feedback will lead me to many more improvements and yes more edits.  Which makes me wonder if I’ll then repost it or perhaps make it be a new Version 2 (actually more like Version 5 or 7) for comparison.  Who knows…

The true confession is that I don’t really know what I’m doing or maybe even Why, but I like it.

 

Salted Air Freedom

We continued to discover and frequent gems of common interest.  A favorite was a park, nearby.  We became regulars to Salt Water State Park, a nice mile plus round trip walk from home.  Here, the small public beach is choked by privately owned beaches, sea walls, rock cliffs, logs and rules.  The semi-sandy beach is about forty yards by twenty at high tide.  Currently it’s more than half covered by the naturally occurring, growing log pile gifted by storms and kept in place by law.  In the summer months the tide recedes further and if lucky enough or planned you can carefully walk out another fifty yards or so on the Barnacle covered rocks amongst the tide pools.  Here at an edge of the Puget Sound, where the ocean’s water works its way around the San Juan Islands, the small waves are more like swells.  These tired waves sort of heave themselves, splashing, thudding and pounding against the rocks.  Despite its shortcomings, Sarrah loved this place instantly.  She would often insist on going there by taking a hard right, instead of the left turn on our usual daily trek down Marine View Drive.  I am certain that my occasional “giving in” further fueled this action, but making time to enjoy small victories is good for all.  We probably hoofed that all terrain trek at least five hundred times over the years, and around one hundred shorter versioned, driven in stops.

Sarrah loved the Puget Sound, especially all of the creatures and smells that come with it.  She happily stole bits of clam, crab and mussels from harassed crows and seagulls, who had dropped them onto the paved pathways to break them open.  We walked the beach in search of sea glass (to collect) and sand dollars (to throw back), along the gurgling creek looking for fish, around the grounds and trails for less crowded nature.

Sarrah seemed to have an affinity for salted air, in all of its forms: warm and strong, crisp and bright, cold and damp or even the bone soaking driven by wind.  She led me to find and appreciate the less popular versions of marine air, which are highly addictive and ultimately better.

* * *

On her last day here I carried her down to the beach, sat on a log and held her so she that could see the view and smell the air one more time.

* * *

Saltwater Park was one of Sarrah’s favorite places to taste some freedom.

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FUgly [DRAFT]

SOME PEOPLE ARE STILL ALIVE ONLY BECAUSE IT’S AGAINST THE LAW TO KILL’EM, so reads the sticker on a motorcycle helmet.  Some old sayings stick in your mind.

Like most days, the terrible ones start out and move along in the same old way… Until! January Seventh, Two Thousand Three, was one of those days. I came the closest I have ever been to punching a female in the face. I didn’t, but I still wrestle with my decision. Every time I share my twist on this experience I go into it knowing the risk, but then again anyone who thinks less of me for ‘this’ and cannot get over it, can go Ffff…. Kiss my Ass.

Years ago I discovered that I have “a bit of a temper”. I learned that it is nothing to be proud of and keeping it under control, is for the best. I also have a tendency toward being Vindictive, when properly motivated. These traits, combined with a good memory, create lasting residual demons that live in my head. The misfortune of this day lit my blood on fire, woke up these demons and let them out. Rage is not always a bad thing, we discovered that day.

Inadvertently, I walked Sarrah into a life-changing event, a fight she could not win. We were walking our typical after dark evening route, around the block across the street so as to utilize the sidewalks and streetlights. This night was like many others, nothing special. Walking past a tall weathered wooden fence, then a few old cars in a dark driveway and a scraggily hedge of overgrown rose bushes, put us directly in front of a winding narrow stone walkway to the open front door of a one story house. In the yard were two large dogs with thick fur, curled tails and huge heads. One was white, the other dark. With wide expressionless eyes, they immediately, quietly, came straight for us. Sarrah started to panic and kept turning quickly to look back and forth at them with bug eyes. I tried to speed up and keep her moving as they began to methodically circle us. A few steps later, the closest sniffed Sarrah for a few seconds and then with swift silence, sunk its teeth into her hind quarter and hung on. Quiet air filled with a wounded shriek and constant crying sounds of excruciating pain. With no thought, I attacked the Offending dogs. I quickly Kicked! the second dog as it was moving in, two maybe three times as hard as I could in the ribs and stomach. Thankfully, it just walked away. I then dropped to one knee, punching on my way down, kneeling I Hit, Hit, and Hit the attacking dog in the eye area five to ten times. I was probably yelling, I do not recall. It finally let go of its bite hold on Sarrah and walked away. I assume that these dogs were more confused than hurt and were probably just regrouping from their crazy human experience. It seems that the noise from all of this strife eventually woke up someone in the house, to get up off the couch near the doorway. This person appeared in the backlit doorway to be a drunken lazy, bitch. I don’t blame the alcohol, I blame the bitch.

When it was over, she staggered around her front door, about twenty feet from the sidewalk, and from there said “Send me the bill”, that’s all that she said. Her dogs came in as she called and we walked down the sidewalk a few yards, to get away from that house so I could look Sarrah over. A neighbor who had just driven home, got out of his car and yelled at her, “It Fuck’n Happened Again!” I checked Sarrah out, the bite was into muscle and bleeding, but she could walk. I spoke with him a bit and walked her home.

It was almost six o’clock when I started calling local vets. One answered and told me “We’re closed” and that “they could not help”, I replied, “Then why did you answer the phone?” and slammed it down. After a few calls and phonebook searching I found what I was not prepared for. My day ended with taking Sarrah into the vile blend of disinfectant and urine stained twenty-four hour emergency veterinary hospital in Auburn. It was deemed that they had to perform some torturous repairs and keep her overnight. I had to leave her in this concrete warehouse filled with caged cries and howls of despair.

Following a mostly sleepless night, I picked her up as early as I could the next morning. She was drugged and out of sorts, but greeted me with a lone tail thump. Her body was shaved of some white and black fur with three “ports” of perforated surgical tubing connecting the bite wounds under her pink and black skin, extending out each blood-caked oozing side and sutured in place. A far-away voice explained that this was done so that a disinfectant solution can be flushed thru with a syringe to clean them out, to avoid infection, as damage heals.  Her glazed brown eyes closed as I carried her outside.

After I got her comfortable in the safety of her garage, I typed up a brief letter and returned to that house. No one answered the doorbell and knocking, so I taped it to the door and left. It read:

 

“Dear Akita Owner,

Please mail a reimbursement check (see attached) for the emergency veterinary work performed on my dog, due to the attack by your two dogs last evening. I will mail any subsequent bills incurred by this event.

This entire situation is unfortunate and disturbing as we were merely walking on the public sidewalk, obeying the leash laws. The vehicles in your driveway, combined with a lack of light made it impossible to see your unattended dogs until we were in front of your house—at which point they attacked.

For the future safety of all people and pets in our neighborhood, I hope that you no longer allow them to wander freely.

Sincerely,

Bryan Goffe”

An apology from them at this time would have just pissed me off, more.

I would rather live in a world where people take care of their own problems, not by simply punching three numbers on a phone. A favored saying of my friend Jeff is “Nobody likes a Squealer”, though I completely agree, I did. As I thought it over… Most people would not be dumb enough to fight with dogs, nor lucky enough to win. Anyone else walking Sarrah probably would have met with a different ending. Besides, years of experience with that street had shown me that other dogs and kids walking them was a typical, regular occurrence. I stewed on all of this for most of the day following the attack, argued with myself a little and then pulled the trigger. I decided that if another attack happened, whatever the outcome, it would “Be on Me”, so I broke my own rule and called.

That evening I answered the door for the Animal Control Officer, who to my surprise in our small town is also a Cop. She arrived in full police issue gear: jumpsuit, combat boots, vest, gun, handcuffs, pepper spray and all. I took her to Sarrah and told her what had happened, while she photographed the damage and made notes. She also strongly advised against fighting with dogs, suggested walking with pepper spray and something like a walking staff for the visual and physical defense as many times spray does not stop dogs in attack mode. Though not exactly how she advised, I have never walked unarmed, again. The officer was very sympathetic and nice to us, but she lied to me. As we spoke on the phone I stressed that I did not want the animals destroyed. But the instigator dog was confiscated later that night, detained for a few days of testing and then put down. Charges were filed. I also had no interest in pressing charges. I would have been OK with reimbursement, an official visit and the proverbial ‘slap in the face’ wakeup call that comes with it. I learned a valuable lesson; by making ‘the call’ I put our legal process in motion simply becoming part of “Citation No: 2003-096” and what I wanted, had nothing to do with it.

The process of flushing her ports two to three times per day for two weeks was excruciating, for me. I cannot imagine what it felt like for her, but she tried to stay still. I can’t imagine what she was thinking while I held her down and painfully cleaned her, but she seemed to know that I was helping her. Each time I got ready to clean her wounds she gave me a look that could tear a real human heart, if nothing else scar it. A few times this routine brought tears to my eyes, once vomit to the back of my tongue and always blood pressure that could kill. I held her and tried to comfort her after each cleaning, while my blood boiled.

The road of recovery also included a few trips to Sarrah’s regular veterinarian. She was never happy to go there, but whatever was done behind closed doors after the attack caused her to tremble when we went back. Even driving toward that general area caused her to be alarmed and wail, for the rest of her life.

The Animal Police Officer’s second lie came about, I got subpoenaed for court. Being no stranger to court myself, mostly due to moments of youthful renegade wildness and heavy-footed tendencies, this was my first time as “Plaintiff”. I was not happy about being hauled into court, simply to say, “Yes, that is what I said happened”. People gathered in the large white overly lit silent courtroom, to wait in this place without windows and breathe controlled air. I sat on one of the hard dark wood benches in a section with people I recognized to be other residents of that street, including the guy who yelled at the woman that night. I guessed that these people were other witnesses to our trouble and possibly other problems. One quietly told me “Those dogs killed every pet we ever had.” Some of these people momentarily seemed a little pleased to be part of this event and offered solemn nods of approval.

These dogs belonged to arrogant examples of oxygen wasting beings; these people were even a little cocky in the courtroom, before and after those in charge were paying attention. Court went very quickly. They plead guilty and said that “They were very sorry” in court, to the judge. More to my satisfaction we all heard the list of court ordered matters of compliance that these people were to do to keep their other dog:

  • Reimburse me, (which they already had done)
  • Rebuild their backyard fence, updating it to adequately contain “a potentially dangerous animal”
  • Post a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign on the front of their house
  • Muzzle their dog when walking it
  • No one under eighteen would be allowed to walk their dog
  • I think there was a fine as well, but I do not recall

The scars that we carried with us after the battle with the dogs and their people, changed us. Sarrah’s physical scar tissue bothered her hip, even after time had passed. Massage could not completely remove the residual damage. Sarrah’s mental scar faded, faster than mine. After she healed, we did walk around that block, on the other side of the street, Armed, eventually Sarrah was no longer afraid of that area. We had a point to prove, I had a best friend to heal, and potential for who knows… Later I did forgive the dogs, after all they are genetically bred to quietly stalk and kill. But I did not, will not forgive their people. My mental scar still glows brightly, if something makes me focus on it. Mine is rage-based loathing for ignorant animals, in human form.

In fairness, Officer Jan is a good person who deeply cares for animals. She told me ‘what I wanted to hear’ so that she could do her job and what she believed ‘needed to be done’. I am certain that she would be much happier if the actions of Dumb Animals would stop requiring their pets to be “destroyed”.

After a year or so of blatantly ignoring the court ordered requirements with in your face demonstrations (they were too lazy to walk often, so this was no big deal to me). I heard about another problem near that address. Their remaining dog attacked a Labrador Retriever being walked by a mother, carrying her baby in a papoose carrier. The woman was knocked down and her dog was hurt. History repeated and that Akita was put down, too. Soon after these idiots sold their house and moved away. Hopefully some kind of poetic shape shifting happened, trading places of sorts with these dogs and their humans.

Around this time, at the end of each day; before I went to bed I would say “Good Night” to Sarrah. In addition to normal evening chores, I rubbed her ears, touched my forehead to hers and whispered, “Every Day is a Gift”.

 

 

Surroundings

Walking through the streets of my forty-plus year old working-class suburban neighborhood with Sarrah, where I had lived for around eight years, I started to notice and discover things.  The little stuff missed when driving on autopilot, getting from home to wherever and back, even those details that I had somehow missed when just out for a leisurely drive.

Like watching the ‘big hair’ artist Bob Ross on television go at it with a canvas; the brilliant colors, smells and sounds all quickly join in to complete the picture.  With repetition and varied routes we viewed houses, landscapes, people and how they live in different kinds of light.  Sarrah’s frequent pausing to bark at shut-in dogs, sniff shrubs and investigate everything worthy created endless opportunities to look around.  As new discoveries were added into the mix, smaller details were exposed.  A daily dose gives an observer some sense of goings on; projects, maintenance and all changes are easily noticed.  I enjoy seeing pride of possession, on any scale.

I have always noticed the houses with architectural flair, typically those older ones with added attention to detail, built when priorities were different.  By walking I discovered even more.  In particular, landscaping; how it is designed, maintained and evolves has always been an eye catcher for me, but actually walking right beside it and in some cases through it via public sidewalks, paints the picture more clearly.  I like to see timeless balance within a property, an organic harmony between the land and its buildings.  This varied equilibrium is hard to achieve and almost impossible for me to describe with a handful of words, but I think that you know it when you see it.

Down the street four houses resides an old decrepit evergreen tree on the corner.  This poor tree is in a crappy location and does its part to let everyone know that it is unhappy.  It grew crooked on this sloped lot and has always looked sickly.  To show its unhappiness it constantly drops needles and cones to plug the run-off street drain underneath so that when we get significant rainfall, the street floods.  Sarrah only noticed one thing… the Cones!  She loved the scratching hollow noise that they made as they skipped across the blacktop, when I kicked them.  She would excitedly attack, catch and carry the cone of the day along with us (sometimes two at a time).  Eventually she would drop it indiscriminately; some were deposited as little as ten feet away, most others much farther, the furthest made the whole mile plus round trip.  She should receive honorable mention on Arbor Day, for if ten percent of her randomly relocated cones yielded a tree; she planted around four hundred along Marine View Drive. 

chasing .The Dragon’s Tail…

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          I live in a damaged body that cannot, will not, forgive the pain.  There is an ancient Asian philosophical analogy pertaining to dealing with chronic pain known as “Chasing the Dragon’s Tail”.  Basically, as therapy improves one area of a body, the pain moves on to another area (or becomes more noticeable), and another, and… therefore one is chasing the tail of a dragon.  The Dragon that followed me home primarily Lingers low in my back, Crawls… along… my spine and occasionally Jumps up, into my neck.  Through a few tough turns and some rough life choices, my body had become older than it appeared.  Then in the fall of Two Thousand Five, a few weeks before my fortieth birthday, a Car Crash due to the negligence of another became an exclamation point! at the end of that statement. This vehicular fiasco: damaged my spine, jaded my mind and changed life.  Fortunately for All, Sarrah was not along.

My daily window for working out in the morning had been broken by another, becoming a dark cold opening for my painful routine that I have referred to as “Slow Dancing with My Bitch” (Bitch as in Dragon, not Dog), turning my basement home gym into a dungeon where I now commune with my Dragon.

Around four in the morning my day slowly starts. Typically consisting of at least one pot of strong coffee, a coating of my new menthol based “signature scent” from my growing collection of varied pain ointments, balms, gels, creams or crème and stretching in attempts to break ‘the rust’ loose and prepare for yet another day.  My stretching is an evolving routine from old wrestling and martial arts prep, physical therapy, yoga and some other assorted contortions as recommended from my various therapists’ (often simply laying in repose with my back flat on the floor listening to the old mechanical clock tick, paying homage to my Dragon, while waiting for the mix to ‘kick in’).  On my worst days I’d mostly just lay on the floor, Sarrah would often forego her bed and lay next to me in a quiet kind of solidarity.  She would lie still on her side, pressing her back up against me as if to share some energy.  Whether or not Sarrah knew this would help or if she was simply bonding with me, I believe that these moments were proof that she knew that I needed her.  Then around seven o’clock, my work beckons, whether I feel up for it or not.

Shopping for and finding a replacement vehicle, one that met the needs of an injured driver (with a dragon), was not easy.  Financially times were good so affording a new Sport Utility Vehicle with a smoother ride was possible and appeared to be the best choice.  I got a better one that exceeded all needs and even came with a few luxuries.  One of the best sought out and included options being a rear area climate control feature, for Sarrah and passengers.  I could now accommodate the back by heating it without breaking a sweat up front or cool her without getting frostbite.  I added a remote start with a built in shutoff timer which allowed for bringing Sarrah on the severe weather trips, the kind that she previously couldn’t safely participate in.  These options and along with a significantly larger rear cargo area, were immediately noticed and greatly appreciated by my copilot.

Due to the damage, my new inability to sit semi-comfortably for more than an hour requires frequent stops, along the way.  When going to the beach, we utilized all of our frequent places and then some.  Sarrah unwittingly delighted in this, so I chose to think of it as making these breaks for her.

Through the first year I had three to five sessions of therapy (physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage and a variety of torture treatment done by my neurologist) every week.  Each typically one hour long, with an average drive time of another hour.  In the second and third years I continued with one to three sessions of therapy per week.  From the fourth year on I typically feel best if I have one session of therapy per week.  All of this displaced work time, which in turn stole from my free time.  Sarrah’s presence and daily needs kept me getting out of bed and walking, despite how I felt, which was undoubtedly the best therapy of all.

Sarrah went to all but a few of the nastiest (where I could not drive myself) therapy sessions with me.  She was always up for “a ride in the car”; to her they were all just another potential for adventure.  My cohort would patiently wait in our vehicle, bark at those who were deemed a threat and mostly just snooze on her fixture ‘car dog bed’.  Before or afterward we always found a park, path or grounds worthy of a dog’s curiosity to check out the local ‘hood and walk off the day.

After acupuncture we would walk around Anderson Park, across the street in Redmond.  I had visited this park a few times over thirty years ago, as a kid with my Grandparents who lived in Fall City, the next town down the road.  This was a sort of hybrid gift: a stroll back in time, a therapy walk off and simply some good sniffing in return for waiting.   Now walking this park has another dimension to my mental time travels.

When Johnny Cash covered the song “Hurt” I had an instant connection with much of it, particularly the line “…I hurt myself, today, to see if I still feel…” and the somber vibe that he delivered it with.  Soon after, I started playing it on the return trips after acupuncture and any other form of therapy that hurt.

In the third or fourth year after this crash, I wrote something and kept it in my mostly semi-scientific “pain journal” (a record that I keep to track what works, what does not, et cetera), this entry was on a loose undated page.  My brain dropping was “When you’re done wrestling with all of the emotions and embrace the reality that you’ll never feel ‘good’ again, clarity returns”.  Apparently frustration from unrealistic positive thinking, gave way to acceptance of realistic thinking.  Or perhaps accepting my Dragon, instead of trying to kill it, made it become a better companion.

After almost five years of treatments and the best efforts toward “soft tissue” healing the final “Official Medical Evaluation” of my body after this misadventure was “Thirteen Percent Impairment of a Whole Person.”  As much as I wished for this to stop, for my body to bounce back, that some trained professional would have the answer, a magical cure.   Or that time would befriend me and just lead my dragon away.  This was it, the black and white summation of a chapter in my life, with an affected future shadowed between the lines.

Through the first five plus years of this “slow dancing meditation” Sarrah was always there to give me a daily boost with a cold nose and a gentle forehead nudge to my neck as if to say “Come-on Buddy”, which usually worked and eventually we would go for a walk.

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Another theft came in the form of diminished energy and tolerance, for almost anything.  It consumes a lot of energy to keep pain in check and function, trying to do what you once took for granted.  While digging for something positive in all of this and hopefully gain anything to hold onto. I suppose a small seed might be a touch of understanding and more compassion for those who live with relentless pain, like Leah’s grandmother.

It is my casual understanding that meditation comes in a variety of forms in addition to the traditional seated pose.  Walking, even cleaning, yard work and gardening are a few.  I believe the basic essential components are peaceful surroundings and a stillness of mind.  I would like to add (if it is not commonly believed already) spending mellow time with a special animal to the list of accepted forms of meditation.  Now, in Sarrah’s physical absence, I find myself drawn more to the other forms in which I participate.  My need for quiet time has significantly grown, despite the frequent hollow ache, I seem to crave silence.

          My aging Dragon is heavier and cantankerous!  It does not like the cold, loathes an erratic barometer and has become a little unpredictable.  It can actually be quiet and leave me alone or more often Grab me by the throat.  One thing is certain; she is my mine and will be with me, forever… feeding on my Qi.