In the Company of Another Old Dog

img_2131(The other old dog was Dougan, who passed away at age 14 earlier this year)

Bandit was found abandoned in a horse ring in Texas tied to a wood rail.  Witnesses said he was badly abused.  A menacing four-inch scar on the base of his spine was evidence enough. A dear friend’s daughter was at an event at that very horse ring, took him into her care and drove him back to Oregon.  She named him Bandit because of the mask covering the top part of his face.

Bandit is a cattle dog – a breed also known as an Australian Red Heeler (there are also Blue Heelers).  They are a plucky breed, stout medium size dogs with a mixture of dingo, kelpie, highland collie, and Dalmatian, bred to withstand the rigors of herding cattle across grazing lands in Australia.  They are also extremely intelligent, active, loyal, and protective of their owners and property.

Bandit was maybe a 1 ½ years old when we were introduced.  He was about 40 pounds with a gorgeous rust-colored coat tipped with white fur.  With his pointy ears and mask, he was as cute as a red panda.  Beyond the cute factor, we had some kind of connection.  It was like his little spirit said: “pick me!” If there is some kind of commandment that said, “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s dog,” I had definitely broken it.  Regardless, I had to have that dog.

It took about 4 years.  His owner, in college and then off to the world, was in a nomadic phase as most young adults are.  I was always there, raising my hand volunteering to take him in when she couldn’t accommodate him well.  After being put in less than optimal situations, she conceded.  Bandit was dropped off at my home, a fenced acre in the country nine years ago. My gregarious golden retriever, Dougie, had been aching for a canine companion and was thrilled.

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Bandit seemed to sense that he was in his forever home.  He slipped into our family life seamlessly, enjoying all the attention along the way (I’m a dog spoiler). The two dogs took to each other like long lost friends. By far Bandit has enjoyed trips to the beach the most, long walks with me and Dougie, and patrolling the fence line protecting us from loud trucks and farm equipment that drove past the property. Bandit’s sparky personality gave us many a laugh especially when he was excited and acted like a wind-up toy.

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Unfortunately, dogs don’t live long enough.  Our walks grew shorter and shorter as the dogs aged. Sweet Dougie passed away at 14 last spring. Bandit, now also 14 could only manage maybe 15 minutes of sustained walking.  We bought a ramp so he could make it up the two stairs to the porch. Then finally late this summer, his old injuries caught up to him.  He went through several bouts of crippling back pain and could barely walk.  We thought for sure we were going to lose him.  With the aid of a img_3051dog sling with handles (that he wears around his midriff all the time now) we had help him do his business and walk around. Sometimes he messed in the house. Luckily with several trips to the vet, figuring out the appropriate medications, and a little acupuncture, Bandit is now ambulatory and can take care of his personal needs on his own again.  Although he has physical limitations and is in the house the majority of the time, he is back to being his happy self.

During his convalescence, I was so mournful of not having a dog to walk with that I purchased a jogging stroller off Craig’s list for $50 that I converted to be dog-friendly.  We were a team again!  The stroller was so successful that we found a bike trailer for $40 that I also converted so he could join us on bike rides.  Bandit loves his wheels and sets up a barking fit when he sees his rides come out of the shop.

Some might think we have gone to ridiculous lengths and should have just put Bandit down sooner.  The deal is- this dog was given up on once and I was not going to give up on him again, especially knowing he was not ready to leave our company.  Yes, it’s been expensive, a big commitment and at times upsetting, but he’s back with a smile on his face. I know he’s grateful.  This us what you do for the ones you love

Four legs, fur, friend and family- Bandit is all that.

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Out of the Ashes

IMG_1992When any of my pets have passed on I make a piece of artwork to remember them by.  Though I love photographs, my personal interpretation of their spirit provides more meaning and facilitates closure.  Sometimes it’s a clay sculpture, a tile, a ceramic mask.  This time in remembrance of Dougie, my sweet 14-year-old Golden Retriever we had to put down last week, I made this collage.

This piece pretty much summarizes his personality- colorful, happy-go-lucky, playful and a little goofy.  The painted paper I used for his face, tail, and the spirals are from a failed print that came from a printmaking workshop.  These so-called mistakes are torn up and placed in my collage box for a future reincarnation- a lemonade out of lemons kind of thing.  To be able to repurpose these disappointments into other forms that are pleasing to me is very gratifying and highly symbolic.

Out of the ashes we can find beauty.  We passed the Spring Equinox. Winter is behind us. The daffodils are blooming in the yard.

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The Borrowed Souls of Four-Legged Friends

img_1747Last week was difficult.  I had to put down my almost 14-year-old Golden Retriever,  and the little stray cat, Lizzie that adopted us last year died due to complications due to feline leukemia.  Dougie was a devoted companion for years, Lizzie a bright spot in our lives her sweet face peaking in our screen door requesting a meal.IMG_1869

It got me to thinking that these creatures we love are just borrowed souls- and I do believe animals have souls.  Our pets connect us to our best selves. Their lives are far briefer than ours but add so much.  Theirs is a b191b6b2a5a1e5779ebdcd2fb968d468language of the eyes, of touch actions and acceptance. Now the grief has subsided, I am filled with gratitude I had the privilege of borrowing their sweet souls on their short stays on planet earth.

 

 

The following poem speaks to all the dogs that have shared my life’s journey…..

IN MY GOOD DEATH

by Dalia Sheven

I will find myself waist deep in hight summer grass.  The humming

shock of the golden light.  And I will hear them before I see

them and know right away who is bounding across the field to meet

me.  All my good dogs will come then, their wet noses

bumping against my palms, their hot panting, their rough faithful

tongues.  Their eyes young and shiny again.  The wiry scruff of

their fur, the unspeakable softness of their bellies, their velvet ears

against my cheeks.  I will bend to them, my face covered with

their kisses, my hands full of them.  In the grass I will let them knock

me down.

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#19

'11 Ray 'n A kayakIt was unlikely that we’d find each other- a big man that pumps concrete connecting with an artsy middle school science teacher, but we did.

We were to celebrate 19 years of being together as “spousal equivalents” by spending two nights at the Cannery Pier Hotel that juts out into the Columbia River in Astoria Oregon.  Massages were on the books.  I’d always wanted to stay there and have a romantic getaway. There we would lounge around in a lovely room while sipping glasses of wine watching tug boats maneuver barges and huge cargo ships up and down the Columbia cannery-pier-hotel-day

As luck would have it, our 14-year-old Golden Retriever, Dougan was on his last legs, IMG_0400and Lizzy our adorable little feral cat that adopted us, disappeared and returned quite ill.  We were hardly in the mood to celebrate so we canceled. No matter- we enjoy our days together.  Another time IMG_1869awaits.

I decided that 19 would trump 20 as a big milestone.  It’s a prime number that hardly gets any recognition being overshadowed by its next-door neighbor, 20.  I find comfort celebrating the obscure, including feral cats and second-hand dogs.

Both of us had been married before, twice each.  This time we decided to shed all expectations creating a framework that worked for both of us.  We lived apart for the first 8 years raising our own kids.  No use complicating things.  We have been cohabitating since.  Our hearts bind us rather than a piece of paper.  The foundation of our relationship is built on mutual respect- which we both work on.

Bath TimeBeyond all the other complexities of life, the chance to be loved and loved back by other humans (and furry four-legged) is where it’s at.  You don’t have much without loving relationships.  Lucky me.  Lucky us

The hotel will still be there.  When the time is right eventually we will get to watch the tug boats guiding their ships on the mighty Columbia River. Continue reading “#19”

In the Company of an Old Dog

Dougie & A on porchDougan was adopted into our household when he was 8 months old.  He was a hyper golden retriever – too much dog for a professional woman and her 10-year-old daughter that owned him before.  There was no fenced yard at their house so he spent his days in a travel kennel waiting for his people to return from work and school.

Dogs raised like this are typically neurotic as adults dougie young and new kittieand can never get enough attention and affection.  I know because I have had them before. They live good lives out in my fenced yard in the country with plenty of attention.  He has been kept company by Bandit, an adorable 9 year old Red Heeler that also has had a questionable past.  We are kindred spirits as I too had some rough years in my youth.

Dougie & Bandit on porch VegiesDougie is now over 12, old for a golden retriever.  A few weeks ago I thought he was failing as he was refusing food and limping badly.  I thought it was the  end.  Luckily the vet just pulled a few bad teeth and gave him meds his joints and for an injured ligament.   We are happy he is back being his silly self.  I see myself mirrored in him as I age.

 

OLD DOG

Twelve years of observation

and you know my moods and intentions

without a word being spoken

 

It’s the landscape of the body

And of the eyes

And maybe a bit of telepathy

You and I intertwined in a cross species dance

 

You are bound to me like the moon to the earth

And I to you like a tree to a limb

Four legs to two legs

Fur to furless

 

As your face whitens with age

And your eyes hollow

I know we have measured time

But for now

 

Walk with me on these country roads

Let me feel your warm presence

By my side

My steady companion

In this tenuous world
Dougie at Beach