Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Thing About Goodbyes...

In the predawn hours of Thursday, July 27th, our little Sasha died. Tiny Sasha, scared and shy Sasha, big-brown-eyed Sasha, fluffy toy-sized Sasha. I've been unable to write about it—hence the hiatus in posts. This is the fifth attempt at a draft, and quite honestly I'm not sure if I'm going to finish this time, either. Yes, of course it was my fault—isn't it always?—but I don't think that's the reason I find this so hard. Or not all of the reason. Maybe it has to do with the impossibility of quantifying loss. In a weird way, paying tribute to her like this, by writing about her death, by "announcing" it, so to speak, so publicly, feels like a lie. There is no way that the huge ways her little self impacted our lives can be translated into words. No way that I can capture the joy she gave us, the bottomless pit her absence left behind... No way I can do any of it justice.

But I must write about it. Until I do, I can write nothing else. Not on this blog, not (really) on the other one, not in my notebooks, not in my journal, not even a short story. I can't, no, because what happened to her left not just a hollow emptiness in the house, in the family, but also wreaked indelible, irreversible change on those of us still here. Powerful lessons that need to be assimilated. Learning on managing the ways our dogs relate to one another, and even to me. Observation skills that need to be developed. So, so much learning. And all of it needs to be processed and mulled over and, eventually, written—

But I cannot write about this, either. That is where every previous draft has fallen short. Fallen flat. Fallen away from the intention I set out to achieve, without ever taking the trouble to define it, even to myself. Every word I write, that is not about Sasha, feels like I am moving away from her. Every word I have written, that is about Sasha, feels like I'm reducing her death into a lesson, something practical and mundane. Every word I write, about or not about Sasha, has felt like I'm leaving her behind—without saying goodbye.

That is the intention I had, when I began that first draft two days after she died. That was the purpose. But in telling the story of her death, in explaining the hows and the whens and the (stupid, stupid) mistakes that led to it, the Goodbye fell further and further behind, until it shimmered so distant in the rear view mirror of the words as the mirage of water on a hot summer highway at noon.

Here it is, then. Goodbye, little Sasha. I did love you, much, much more than I was able to convey to you. And I'm glad you came to our lives, and to our house. I'm glad we didn't give you away back then. Maybe you would have lived longer if we had, so it's selfish of me to say this, but I really am glad you stayed.
So, we'll go no more a roving
   So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
   And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
   And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
   And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
   And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a roving
   By the light of the moon.
(So We'll Go No More A-Roving, Lord Byron)

Friday, October 6, 2017

If a Dog Was Your Teacher...

Posted at the Lessons Taught By Life page on Facebook. It echoed so much of my Lessons In Life From Dogs series for the April Challenge in 2014 that I simply had to share.

The secret, not just to happiness but to fulfillment and serenity? Be more dog.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Chihuahua Who Became Chucho

The name his rescuer gave him was Everest, because she found him in Montaña, a neighborhood in here in Curaçao, which translates to "Mountain"... Personally, I might have gone with Kilimanjaro, or even Blanc (you know, for Mont), but—well, naming is the rescuer's prerogative. Either way, this first name wasn't going to last, because a couple of months later, when a fabulous woman adopted him—only temporarily, as it turned out, but I'm getting ahead of myself here—she decided that, him being a (sort of) Chihuahua and all, he needed a more Mexican name. One of the most common appellatives in Mexico is Jesús (pronounced heh-SOOS), and every Jesús I know gets called, for unfathomable reasons, Chucho for short.

So Everest became Chucho.

Chucho (even before being called Everest) came to us on October 5th, 2016, and it was thanks to Facebook. I belong to several animal rescue groups (surprise, surprise), and on this particular fine afternoon a post popped up on my timeline from a fellow member asking for advice. She'd found this tiny dog on the side of the road, walking in tight, tight circles and acting disoriented. She didn't know what to do. I was probably the third person to reply, and echoed exactly what the other two people had said: Take him to the vet. ASAP. And I added that I'd be happy to do it myself, if she wanted. People not intimately familiar with rescue have no way of gauging what the veterinary 'damage' will be, so sometimes they hesitate to take an animal to the vet out of fear they won't be able to afford the bill. Plus, not everyone can drop their lives at a moment's notice in order to rush a strange dog to the ER. In this particular case, the rescuer said in her post that she knew next to nothing about dogs, that she'd always been more of a cat person; I felt she had done enough by picking up the dog to begin with, so it seemed only reasonable to step in and offer help.

At the home of his rescuer while they waited for me. All he wanted was to sleep. No water, no food, just... sleep. Yep, not a good sign.
I arrived at her door about a half hour later, after a few wrong turns but not nearly as many as I expected; it was Election Day here, and a voting location had been set up just a block from her house, so the crowd and the lines of parked cars were hard to miss. She helped me load the dog—who really was tiny; he'd looked rather larger in the photo she posted—into the car, and I promised to call as soon as I had some sort of diagnostic. I did warn her that, from the behavior she'd described—the walking in circles, the disorientation, the lack of appetite or energy—the prognosis would probably not be very good. "There's a chance he'll need to be put down," I told her, as kindly as I could. She nodded, reached a hand in through the open window to pet the tiny head again. "I understand."

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A quick & dirty rescue story

I know, I know—I'm behind on rescue stories: the blind Chihuahua, the puppies... But this one happened just recently, and it has a gorgeous happy ending, too, so... Well, happy endings are too few and far between to postpone sharing, right?


So back in January I got a job. Yeah, a real one (albeit part-time), involving actual paychecks. And it didn't really work out the way I expected—I'll get into that some other time—so I quit. But, being the responsible human being I am, I didn't just quit; I gave a three-week notice. And over the course of those last three weeks, on my way to and from work, I kept seeing a rather large black dog, all matted fur and pointy ribs, on this one street. A rather busy street. I didn't see the dog every day, but whenever I did, traffic simply didn't allow me to stop. By the time I'd turned around and gone back, s/he was gone. Now, this dog looked skinny and in need of help, but s/he also looked street-smart. S/he wasn't panicky, dashing in front of oncoming cars or acting freaked out. (If she had, sorry, everyone, but I would've put the car in Park right there in the middle of the street and stopped traffic bodily if need be. I actually did that for a kitten, probably around a month old, that dashed out into the street right in front of the car ahead of me. I screeched to a stop, got out, ran out to stop the cars in the next lane, and herded the kitten—who was, miraculously, fine—back to his panicked owner on the sidewalk.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

And so it begins, this year 2017...

I hope you had the most wonderful beginning to the new year. May 2017 bring you naught but positivity and hope. (I know, for all us progressive, liberal types hope seems a tad out of reach, but remember all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. It's easy to feel hopeful when things are going well; it is in dark times, though, when the light of hope is most needed. Keep the flame burning.)

I'm sorry for my absence. I haven't posted for over a month, and haven't written a serious post since the A to Z Challenge ended. And I'm sorry about that. You deserve better—and there's been plenty to write about, just... not enough time to do it, I guess. Speaking of time, I won't be joining the Challenge this year, by the way... A multitude of reasons, but mainly because the rescue book—the one that began in said A to Z Challenge—will be coming out within the next couple of months, and promoting that will probably overlap with April in some way.

The cover for the rescue book. Photo by yours truly (yes, that's Sam),
and design by Matt Potter, publisher extraordinaire at Truth Serum Press.

A shame, really. I had a theme all planned out. The A to Z of Fostering Rescue Dogs, ha. A good follow-up to the Rescue posts of last year (and my publisher wants to work on a follow-up book, too, so... two birds, one stone, all that). In October I got involved in fostering again—which is part of the reason I've been so freaking busy. I'd been unable to foster since 2013 because three of my own dogs have 'issues' with new dogs, but... Well, the way things worked out, we didn't get much of a choice. (More on that later.) But, hey—perfect, right? I mean, this is all fresh material that will bring the whole fostering thing much more alive for strangers to the 'craft'...  Yes, I'd have had some excellent A to Z posts. And I still plan on writing them, and certainly on writing the Fostering book, but... No, it won't happen this April.

I may do something in April anyway, just to avoid losing the habit, but it won't be an alphabet thing. I'm thinking maybe a music thing. Maybe on the other blog. I saw this 30-day music challenge on Tumblr a while back and, with some tweaks (additions, deletions, combinations, etc.), it might be fun. Maybe, if you're not an A-to-Z-er yourself (and if you love music), you might want to join me. We'll be the rogue April Challengers—ha!

Anyway. I wanted to keep this short, but I promise to be back soon—like, within the week—to tell you about these fosters we've had. The first was a little Chihuahua mix that seemed to have some severe neurological issues; so severe, in fact, that he had us (heartbreakingly) convinced the kindest thing we could do was put him down and end his suffering. Then, a month later, he went to the best of the best forever homes—and we got a litter of five puppies, about 6 weeks old, who'd been abandoned in a plastic carry-all on the side of the road to die. One did, in fact, in my arms two weeks later, but the other four are doing great. The week before Christmas—the day of the winter solstice, actually (which I found beautifully coincidental)—they were declared healthy enough to receive their first vaccination.

The puppies! Clockwise from top left: Bowie (F), Jopie (M), Lemmy (M), Harper (F).

So. More on the foster stories, puppies and Chihuahua, coming soon. I promise. One of my resolutions for 2017 is to never abandon this blog (or the other one) for more than 2 weeks. Yes, you can hold me to that :)

Thanks for sticking with me, y'all.