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”.

 

 

Winter Walking

The Pacific Northwest offers dampness in the longer evenings, the kind that makes bones ache a little, in the aged and the damaged.  These cold night walks were my least favorite, but also became part of our routine.  I found that ending each day with a stroll does let mental junk settle and unwind springs.  Living near the Puget Sound often brings moist cool marine air induced fog.  This heavy, thick, ‘cotton like’ mysterious air requires a little more caution when walking amongst distracted moving vehicles, due to poor visibility as it shrouds depth and changes perception.  Sarrah and I typically walked three times each day; we experienced all flavors of the weather that come to the Pacific Northwest.  Some varieties were appreciated more than others, but we grew to enjoy all of these experiences, together.

Puppy Shenanigans

From the beginning Sarrah did not like to be alone.  She could hear me upstairs working, instead of playing with her, and howled most of the day in a display of what I was told is called “Separation Anxiety”.   For such a little being she could make the loudest most heart breaking howls, for hours at a time.  She would wail, most of the day, while I tried to ignore her and worked.  Creating a habit, I started taking many breaks to spend time a little time with her; she rewarded me with clumsy excitement and delight.  Leah eventually tried a prescription for this anxiety, but gave up on it.  As like many issues there is not a magic pill cure-all.

Sarrah did not like to be outside, alone.  She insisted that I join her!  She actually delighted in being outside, but solitude was not a friend to her.  When the weather was less than wonderful, she wanted nothing to do with it, alone.  She would sit by the door and whine.  If joined she would rally a little, at least long enough to take care of business and inspect the grounds.  In an effort to make the backyard more suitable for Sarrah I got her a ‘doghouse’, one of those nice modern two-piece molded plastic types resembling those in the monopoly game.  It was a larger version of the ‘cat condo’ that was frequently used and greatly appreciated by Tux and Simon.  Apparently it never became hers, as Sarrah rarely used the little house, so it was merely a place to store her toys and clutter the deck.

I knew nothing about Dalmatians’ except for that they make a good draw for a children’s story.  It turns out that they are a high maintenance, high-energy breed of dog.  They require lots of attention and outlets for this energy (or they will destroy whatever they find), at least in the case of Sarrah.  She chewed, dug and clawed her way through many material possessions in her youth.  Later, I saw part of dog show on television claiming that they were bred to trot under horse drawn carriages ten to fifteen miles per day in defense of the horses and people.  This explains a need for exercise, fierce loyalty to chosen humans, intrigue with large animals and aggression toward other threats.

After a few weeks Sarrah discovered a way to preoccupy herself, without howling.  At first I was relieved and happy, for both of us.  Then I heard a strange digging sound and went downstairs to investigate.  The little monster was sitting down while feverishly scratching a hole in the sheetrock, another hole, in a series of them.  It became my evening activity to mud the damages of the day, to keep the little beast from digging all the way through the wall.  She gave up on this evil obsession, after a few months.

Sarrah had an appetite for destruction.  Her first “cute dog bed” lasted less than fifteen unsupervised minutes.  Sarrah discovered the delightful white fluff inside made for a good tug-of-war opponent, thru a nipped hole.  This synthetic fluffy stuffing was everywhere!  I gathered it up and stuffed it back in the hole from which it came.  The next morning it was mostly all pulled out again.  I reinstalled the filling again, and again.  This game lasted a few days until the bed finally gave up holding together and was tossed into the trash.

Leah special ordered a personalized engraved dog tag; it lasted less than eight hours, becoming a mangled bit (leaving what she couldn’t get to) of red and white plastic that now said “—rah”.

Tennis balls were quickly plucked bald, giving way to yet another mess and green fuzzy dog turds.  She would go crazy with these balls; grip them with her paws, chew and pull in a mesmerized frenzy that didn’t end until her mission was complete.  At least they were intended targets for destruction and easily replaced.

Despite a huge growing collection of toys; balls, bones and things that squeaked (for the approximate ten minutes that it took to tear out ‘the squeaker’) Sarrah seemed to prefer boring, regular everyday ‘around the house’ things to chew on.

For some reason Sarrah discovered a taste, an insatiable appetite, a gnawing fetish for… footwear.  She liked all kinds, new and old; chewy flip-flops’, tasty backed sneakers and the delightful tug of war promised by bootlaces.  Since we live with the household ‘no shoe’ policy, there is always a plentiful source, by each entrance to the house.  She would chew at least one of each pair, before time willing, going back for the second unmolested shoe.  The unexplained desire to chew off the back of the heel of sneakers and running shoes, rendering them useless, was exceptionally irritating.  Bootlaces are fairly inexpensive, but are not an easily obtained important part of the early morning workday.  I recall that she finally gave up her footwear compulsion after a couple of years and could finally be trusted to leave them alone.

One warm day, while taking a break I went into the kitchen to get some water.  I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye, and again, and again.  Each time I moved closer to see what was going on…it was flying dirt!  As I got to the sliding door, all that I could see was her hind end sticking up out of the ground.  Her tail wagged in a staccato that would impress a Jazz musician, as it kept time with the small explosions of dirt flying out of the hole in the ground, the current hole in the ground.  My once prized backyard looked like old war footage with holes throughout.  When she heard me open the sliding door, the dirt covered little terrorist came running over delighted in discovering her new digging skills and the endless supply of nice flat ground to practice on.  I filled them in, scolded her and went back to work.  I checked on her later and repeated my steps.  We did this frequently for days, weeks and months.

Fortunately Sarrah was only out when the weather cooperated and she did not like that I buried her ‘bio-hazard land mines’ that she left, in the new holes and eventually stopped digging.  My yard hasn’t been “perfect” (nor will it ever be again) since Sarrah showed me that ‘there is more to life’.

As the clumsy puppy grew more coordinated and discovered her birthright for speed, the backyard became an amusing ‘Speckle-job Speedway’.  The little black and white blur made for contrasting excitement.  She discovered that running a figure-eight pattern allowed for limitless distance and honed her skills at banking, in either direction.  She would hole-shot launch from zero to fifteen plus miles per hour, sometimes after the cats, but often for no apparent reason at all other than perhaps burn off steam or just to show off.  If the cause was High Speed pursuit of the cats, they quickly evaded and would taunt her from safe vantage points of the fence, smirking as she went wild with crazy puppy excitement.

Sarrah would instantaneously takeoff running on the deck that runs the length of the house; her gouging toenails would add yet more scars to the wood.  As Sarrah got stronger, she began to jump up onto the built-in bench.  It seems that Sarrah had learned a few tricks from Tux and Simon; she would sit and lay on the bench for sunshine, view advantage and I think mostly to pose, like a cat.  In time, with practice the bench began to serve as a launch platform into the yard, adding to her range for flight and to the collection of toenail scars.  Soon after she began to shoot under the bench at full speed, so often that she permanently wore the hair off of a small area on her chest from deck friction.  As the scars in wood fade into seasoned marks of character and distinction sealed between coats of stain, they become preserved reminders that ‘Sarrah was here’.

When Sarrah was old enough, Leah enrolled her in an obedience class.  She returned after the first class beaming with all kinds of pride because “Sarrah was the best behaved in the class” and everyone was so impressed with her mellow demeanor and cooperation.  I could not believe it!  After the second class, Leah came home in a huff.  Sarrah’s true colors came out and she was a disruptive menace causing many problems with the others, as she never really liked other dogs.  I laughed, that’s the Sarrah I knew!  The next class was their last.  The instructor asked them not to return.  Perhaps a lack of practice and homework was a part of the downfall of Sarrah’s school days (Huck Finn would’ve been proud).  Sarrah always seemed to be a quite, mellow observer until she knew enough of the situation and was comfortable enough to fly her real colors.

In addition to dealing with behavioral matters, there were other adjustments to my home.  Dalmatians have hair, not really much for fur.  This hair is like short little pins that they constantly shed, which in turn persistently stick into all things made of fabric and static cling to everything else.  The blend of white, black and gray hairs ensures that some will be noticed, regardless of clothing color.  I used to say; with a bit of disgust “I’ll be finding her hair, everywhere, for the rest of my life!”  Now I say to myself with a tinge of repose “I’ll be finding her hair, everywhere, for the rest of my life”.

Through the times of Mayhem and Destruction, I made a discovery or at least a bit of dark humor.  I began to joke, “The reason puppies are so Cute, is so that you don’t kill them!”  Sarrah caused many moments of all consuming anger, but I suppose the fault ultimately lies with the humans responsible for the situations.  She won me over with affection, made me laugh and earned forgiveness for those issues that became less significant.

Fortunately I salvaged some of the ‘dog bite enhanced’ items (moving blanket, flip-flops, pull start handles, misc. wooden handled tools, extension cords, etc.  These “damaged items” are new ‘signs of life’ or souvenirs’ (aka. Gifts) proof that I am able to live with less than perfect material things and am actually a little proud of it.

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.

Sharing Gifts with Sarrah

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As if quietly nudged, the desire came to preserve what I can recall from the life of Sarrah, the cute little spotted dog that invaded, influenced and ultimately improved my life.

A few days ago my work took me out to look at a house in Belfair near the Hood Canal, then to another at the north end of Bainbridge Island.  On this long drive I was painfully missing my road trip partner and thinking about how much she would’ve delighted in the adventures of that day.  Inevitably she’d have spotted a park, given me “the look” in my rear view mirror, started to use one or more of her many whines, growls, barks or howls from her large vocal repertoire (she reserved snorts for the rare occasion when there wasn’t enough time to stop) and we would have embarked on another new earthen gift, which busy people drive right on by.  Around noon I stopped at Fay Bainbridge State Park to enjoy a sun break, walk around the grounds and along the beach with the spirit of my dog.  Walking amongst the drift logs on a trail from the grassy area to the beach brought back flashes of choices that Sarrah would’ve made, from youthfully bounding over obstacles to maturely-taken steps of avoidance.  Reflections of her dancing with the waterline, inhaling everything and even pawing at decay – played though my mind.  But the solitude of this walk on the opposite side of our lobe of the Puget Sound was quieter, colder and lonelier than my memories.

On this day, March Eighth Two Thousand Eleven, while returning on a ferry I decided to write my story about Sarrah recalling and reflecting on our intertwined lives. . I chose a strong craft beer and a hard seat in an empty section. Between sips and glances at passing scenery; words spilled onto my graph paper.  Surprisingly, this literary epiphany instantly made me feel a little better.  Whether it’s ever finished or shared with anyone remains to be seen and completely irrelevant to me, at least at this time.

Could this form of expression be a sort of therapy?

For me?

Or, will it push me over an edge?

I recall hearing a theory that a portion of grief is an unconscious fear or dread of losing one’s memory(s) associated with what was lost.  Perhaps grief forces the brain to focus on and emblazon cherished memories in order to strengthen them against the inevitable erosion of time.  Wouldn’t it be sweet if the greater purpose of trudging through this dank pile of emotions was actually beneficial?

Like most people in midlife, this is not my first beating from the monster we simply call “Loss”.  A couple of years ago I heard the actor Brad Pitt (in an interview pertaining to his efforts in rebuilding New Orleans following the hurricane Katrina) recall an old saying “The Greater the Love, the Greater the Loss.”  I don’t recall the specifics of what he was referring to, but I can still hear him saying these words and feel their weight.  Our world is full of tragedy and horrific loss, much more than we can imagine, until it pointedly affects us personally.  Though my current experience pales to many, to me it serves no purpose to neither compare nor compete (with others or within ourselves) on these differing events.  Each of us are affected by many different living beings and in turn, by their matters of mortality.

I think about Sarrah often, throughout each day.  And don’t wish to feel worse because of my feelings nor concern others who might fear that “I can’t let go” or “Move on” from my grieving.  Some may be worried that I might replace my lost companionship by seeking refuge within the wilder side of life and keeping a bottle nearby as I did in my early twenties while dealing with the young relationship of my daughter, as it withered before it took root.  Like plants, some relationships can Miraculously come back to life if one is very lucky and stubborn enough to feed and water occasionally.

Or that I will delve into another endless labyrinth of excessive work to fill my void, as I did in my late twenties after my brief marriage disintegrated.  The lyric from my favorite song by The Eagles “Desperado” comes to mind “….Don’tcha draw the Queen of Diamonds boy, she’ll beat you if she’s able…”

A seemingly hidden gift out of this immeasurable loss appears to be the unveiling of a new series of coping tools, unused in this way, by me, prior to now.  A yellowed old fat dictionary, relic tape-recorder, worn mechanical pencil, new smooth flowing pens and cool computer keys will be my companions as I wade thru and attempt to let this out.  It seems that a special dog can teach an old boy, a new trick.

Like before… I will work hard through the pain and hoist a few glasses to celebrate the survival of yet another day, but plan to lean most heavily on these writing instruments for balance.  Hopefully crafting something stronger than time and worthy of pride.

As feelings flow and memories surface I’ll attempt to capture them by starting with “Brain Droppings” on paper.  Over time sweep them into piles like bits of sea glass and arrange them into sentences while watching them mosaic…into paragraphs.  Eventually shuffling paragraphs into chapters sprinkled with a few treasured pictures, creating a record of Sarrah’s life with me.  My main purpose of collecting these moments on paper, is to preserve some of my many fond (and a few less than wonderful) memories of her for solace, as I try to move forward in my life without her, here.  Maybe I can repair myself through gradually wrapping the shards of my fractured heart back together, in layers of weathered paper softened by tears and covered with words from reflections of brighter days.

Perhaps I am grappling with a bout of depression, but I have a level of peace with this probability knowing that Sarrah deserved a person who would struggle in a world without her.  If nothing else, spending time with this self-imposed writing assignment gives me an excuse to let my mind wander in the past, while trying to stumble along in a fog as I seek a path into my future.

Lately, people often ask “Are you going to get another dog?” and I struggle with this issue each time I hear it.  Initially I wanted to strangle people who asked me that, especially while Sarrah was still alive, failing… but alive.  Now, each time it’s just another Punch to a wound that won’t seem to heal.

For many reasons I make myself walk on our old usual route, most days.  The obvious motivation for me getting outside and walking is a feeble attempt to retain some fitness, mental and physical.  After all, if one doesn’t over think it, walking is good.

As the seasons change I encounter more “fair weather” people out walking who’ve noticed that I’m alone and many ask “Where’s your dog?”  These questions feel like slow Scratches to my wound, some deep, others faint depending on their chosen words and reaction(s) to how I answer their painful question.

One warm day an elderly lady, who lives about a half-mile to the south, asked the dreaded question.

She replied, “Oh I am so sorry” and then proceeded to tell me how she’d recently lost her poodle.

“He was ready, he just stopped eating.”

As I started walking away after saying, “Sorry.”

She surmised, “Maybe people should learn from their pets.”

I half-smiled and replied, “Perhaps.”

I know that all of these questions come from good people with simple curiosity, but interestingly it also makes me wonder how often a few quick words out of my mouth have inadvertently touched others, with a sore note.  Perhaps we’d all benefit from more pause-induced thought and fewer spoken words.

Despite the overwhelming crushing feelings of late, I would never go back and undo having her in my life.  So these are logical questions, but logic and feelings…collide.  I do not know, can’t even think about, having another dog in my life at this time.

Dean Koontz, in his book “A big little life” wrote that “It took he and his wife eight month’s to ‘have the courage’ to get another dog.”  In my case it’s probably strength, or lack of.  Another emotion could be fear that a new dog would chase away my fond memories and the spirit of Sarrah.  Regardless of whether or not another dog ever enters into what’s left of my life, this story is about the wonderful spirit that lived in a little dog and the gifts of life that she shared with me and others.

 

On Sarrah’s last morning here, I freed her from the collar that she loathed and placed it on the head of my cement gargoyle that resides on a cedar stump in the backyard.  It remains an evolving contrast – a shining chrome chain becoming a halo of rust.

Gargoyle