Jessica Elizabeth heads into mom’s room after breakfast but Budlore Amadeus wants to go out. An odd species of weather sits over Hickory Head, directly above the stars blaze, but water droplets like rain fall from the branches of the trees, and when I turn the flashlight on the beam of light is home for thousands, maybe even millions, of tiny specks of floating water. Bud has disappeared into the wet darkness, and where he had gone, and why is wants to go there, will never be known.
The Big Dipper high in the sky, is clearly visible, but the fog hides the woods, the world quiet except for the sound of water dripping from the trees, and for thousands of years, maybe even millions of years, before humans, this sound was one of the loudest any animal might hear, other than thunderstorms.
This water, these water molecules, hydrogen and oxygen, do these individual molecules last millions of years? Could they have seen the dawning of dinosaurs, the extinction of those dominant beasts, and now watch as humans destroy themselves? Is water eternal? Are the tiny droplets I inhale in the darkness those same particles who have passed through the lungs of a T-Tex? Did a Stegosaurus, whose species died off into extinction long before the T-Rex arrived, breathe this same fog?
Budlore makes no sounds in the woods that can be heard, but he’s been out there for half an hour now, and light begins to seep into the edges of the woods, and the sky is becoming more defined. My clothes feel cooler, heavier, as they absorb the moisture in the air, that which is dry becomes wetter, that which is wet becomes drier, that which is darkness becomes lighter, that which is light becomes darker, somewhere, someone watches the sunset right now.
I hear Budlore now, running at speed, he realizes I’m on the deck, and he leaps onto the wooden boards and heads for the door. Whatever it was is no longer holds his interest, and Bud returns home again. He rubs noses with me, a greeting as older than language, touching faces, exchanging breath and moistures, and then he heads for a morning nap.
My compulsion is just as you see, to write, to put into symbols this dawn, that dogs, the water, the trees, and light of the stars, from which we are all made.
The rain began in the deepest part of the morning, somewhere after midnight, and the metal of the roof announced the storm’s arrival. The wind might knock the power out, but it’s cool enough to keep things in the freezer and refrigerator from going bad for many hours, yet warm enough for the heat not to be on. At any rate, the blankets protect me from all things that are not nightmares, and the dogs snore softly.
There’s little lightning, a rumble of thunder in the distance that holds no threat, and I listen to the rain, wind swept rhythm, and hope the compost pile gets a good soaking. It’s another week yet until Solstice, and the heat of the sun will not return until March. Two cold and dark months left before I can start thinking about planting again.
Drifting between sleep and rain, dreams almost appear, nearly form, but do not. Some of the dream is of drowning, but detached, not terrifying, and in this is the realization not being afraid of drowning creates a bypass for survival instinct, but these thoughts are misty and they, too, drift.
Wrex Wyatt dreams. His legs jerk, and there are yips from deep within, so I reach out and place a hand on him, say his name, and the sleep returns to us both, unbothered by visions or memories. The rain pounds the roof and sleep comes and goes as if blown by the storm. It’s one or two, maybe three in the morning, no, not yet two, for time doesn’t exist in true darkness.
Primal and wet, the lack of light is the bottom of the ocean, where nothing is ever seen, but felt, and smelled and the sensation of the world around the skin is everything that light is two miles above the trench. What if your skin, the entirety of it as an organ, naked, and floating, was your sight, and could clearly discern a world that existed above, below, and all around you, all the time? Changes in temperature, pressure, heat, cold, the feel of chemicals released by others of your kind, the pheromones of those you were interested in, and who were interested in you, the smell of prey or predators, the feel of electricity in all things, the sensation of the life leaving an old one, their life finished, their body drifting to the very bottom to decay or be eaten, or to be buried by the currents, all of this, every moment, a full body experience.
Sight is so limited.
Yet even now, when the realization of this comes, I see a patch of sky that is less dark than before. The rain continues, lighter now, and the wind has stopped. The world is returning to light, slowly, easing into it as if she is loath to begin a day so limited by so little sight.
Budlore Amadeus, the Dog of the Amadai, wanted to go out after breakfast. It’s not that he wanted to, or needed to, go out, no not at all, he wanted me to go with him. It was wet, foggy, and damp outside, and going out into the woods with Bud meant my shoes would be wet, and I might pick up a tick or two. But when a dog wants to go into the woods with you, there’s an unspoken agreement that going out into the woods is the best thing ever, so out we go.
I called Wrex Wyatt to go with us, and he hesitated, and once outside, he quickly doubled back and waited on the porch for us to return. Wrex is aging, and this is the first time I’ve noticed he didn’t join us.
Both Jessica Elizabeth and Bud hit the trails at speed, and disappear. They’ll wend their way back and forth, closer then further away, no scent unsmelled, no trace of an interloper left uninvestigated, and in Bud’s case, no tree left dry. But Budlore comes in, staying just ahead of me on the trail, tail up, nose to the ground, and he steps over a small rat snake, as do I. There’s no reason to get excited, and the snake freezes, allowing us to go our way, as he will, too.
Spiders have cast webs, trapping tiny drops of water, magnolia leaves have ponds on them, and the whole world seems soaked with dampness. High above, there’s some clearing, but close to the ground the air is a semiliquid that delays the dawn, and mixes shadows with darkness and gray.
The overstory of the giant oaks acts as an umbrella, blocks direct rain, but leaking fog through. It’s a surreal and magical feeling, to be embraced within the atmosphere of such ancient and powerful creatures, who stand without effort or strain, reaching towards the nearest star, and the center of the earth, for every moment of their lives.
I stop to take a photo of the trees, but the light isn’t right. Budlore comes in at speed, as fast as he can run, and I know to stand still, and he will pass. Bud zooms by, barely grazing me, his body a rocket with four legs. He makes the circuit before I can go fifty feet, and comes back again, this time to check in, to show me how happy and excited he is, too. Jessica, on the other paw, is somewhere in the woods, likely digging, but she’s getting to be more solitary now. Jess may, or she may not, follow us in, or she may decide to stay in the woods, and do whatever it is that Jessica does when no one else is with her. She’s becoming an adult, forming into who she wants to be, more and more each day. She likes the solitude of the woods, off the path, alone with the scents that draw her attention. I feel this, and understand it, too.
Lilith Anne doesn’t go with us anymore. At ten years old, she’s no longer interested in leaf collecting, or whatever creatures are passing through the woods. She slowly chases spots of sunlight, finding a nice place to nap and be warm. This morning is not her type of day, and so the bed will have to suffice.
Half the pack is inside, not motivated to go out. I’ve seen this before, many times, where a puppy is suddenly gimpy, ten years after arriving here. The very young become more independent, the old dogs become increasingly slow, and the cycle repeats with each new dog.
But Jess comes with us, following Bud, and as we head inside, I wonder why I never grow tired of walking in the same woods every day, sometimes more than once. The dogs never tire of it either, Bud running like he’s chasing the wind, and Jessica investigating the earth Herself. Light or dark, wet or dry, cold or hot, the woods are always the same, and never the woods they were an hour ago. Every space within gives life, feeds life, is everything there is in life, and that is why I am drawn to the trees and the undergrowth, the mushrooms and the snakes. Here in the woods is where we were always supposed to be, even if we never learn it as a whole, there are those of us who will always call this home.
Many years ago, so many years ago now I have friends who do not remember the year for they are too young, and I cannot recall it because I am too old, there was a young man I knew who killed himself. He was an anxious man, full of restlessness and sadness, yet he was loved. He died alone, by hanging, and no one will ever truly know what his mind was doing right before he died.
Tyger Linn was on Death Row, on the 5thof December, of 2014. A brindle pit stray, she clashed with another dog at the shelter and that was supposed to be enough for policy to have her put down. The call went out, and it does so often, still, and a saw a photo of a scared little girl dog, who had run out of time and run out of chances.
I was once a very young man, and restless, and I was filled with anxiety. In High School, I mostly ate alone, and I drank alone, and I drank a lot. There was a brindle girl pit who would come to visit the school, and I would feed her my lunch, and she loved me. I can’t tell you her real name but I called her “Tiger” and I can’t remember the last time I saw Tiger. I can only tell you so many years ago, that love is still remembered. That’s why I took a chance on the dog I would name, “Tyger Linn”.
On her second day with me, Tyger Linn clashed with my aging Greyhound/Lab, Sam. I pulled Tyger away and she turned and bit me on the hand and she meant it, too. The wound was deep and it was bloody. At that point, Tyger was still a foster dog. If I told the organization who owned her what had happened they would have had her euthanized on entry of the shelter. Tyger hadn’t had her rabies shots yet, so for about two weeks, I waited to start foaming at the mouth. Meanwhile, I had to tell the people I trusted, on the inside of the organization, what had happened. The choices were to adopt Tyger Linn, or to let her die. In January of 2015, Tyger Linn became my dog, legally.
This story never looked as if it might have a happy ending for Tyger Linn. She never made friends with the other dogs. She clashed with Lilith Anne, the Queen, and she fought with Tanya, the Destroyer. She and Lilith Anne got out and stayed gone for four days, and I thought I had lost them both. Lilith looked no worse for wear but Tyger was badly scratched up.
Tyger clashed hard with Arco the Barko, last year. Arco was a lean white pit who was dumped twice in one day. Tyger went after Arco on his last day here and he hurt her badly. Tyger was a lot better at starting fights than winning them.
Nothing she ever did, ever, stopped me from loving Tyger Linn. She was sweet and loved me back, fiercely, and she slept beside my head, to the right of me, every night. Tyger was a one person dog, and she was a one person heart. I thought we were making real progress, because she had settled down after the clash with Arco.
Back a month or so ago, Tyger got stuck under the shed at five in the morning. She went after an armadillo and could hear her gnawing on its shell. I crawled under the shed to get her, and all I could see was her tail and the tips of her back feet. I had to crawl under without a flashlight and use both hands to drag Tyger Linn out. She was stuck, and I was worried about dislocating one of her legs. She made a really strange squealing noise as I pulled and when she let go of the armadillo she also peed on me. I was truly worried she might come out fighting, but she was too exhausted. I started calling her, “The Brindle Badger”
Two weeks ago, yesterday, I came home and Tyger was missing. I thought she might be under the shed so I went to get a good flashlight out of my truck. Her body was beside the driveway. She was just a few feet from where I parked but I didn’t see her when I drove up. Tyger had gotten out and gone after something; a coyote, a big cat, a wild pig, or maybe even the gimpy stray pit I’ve seen around lately. Tyger Linn had lost her last fight.
I can’t say I was surprised. I was, and I am, heartbroken. Of all the dogs, Tyger was the hardest to deal with, the most difficult to train, and the one who loved me with everything she owned. Heart and soul, Tyger was mine, and I belonged to Tyger Linn.
Where Lucas and Bert are buried, the hallowed ground where the great souls rest, is underwater right now. Tyger Linn was buried under an old tree that had fallen over, and she liked to climb it. I made a cairn out of branches to keep the other dogs from digging the grave up. Today I sat on the tree and promised my heart to another dog, yet unknown, maybe not born and perhaps born today. I’ll never stop trying to save the doomed, the broken, the abandoned, the death row dogs, and maybe, one day, I won’t fail as badly as I failed Tyger Linn.
For all the drama it creates, you’d think I have about a thousand acres in back of my house. The reality it that is a rather small plot, just over an acre, but it generates doggy drama like it’s the size of a small New England state. Early this morning, about five or so, the dogs were restless so I just opened the backdoor and released them into the wild. There’s a fence with two hot wires on it and none of the current dogs, no pun intended, seem inclined to test it.
I hear the doggie door swinging and Bud returns. Then Arco follows him, and then Wrex. I put Arco in the crate, and suddenly, I hear Lilith hammering away in the woods. Everyone heads for the door, and I go back to bed.
By now, the Coyotes have to realize that the Cousins are gone. Those two packed over one hundred pounds apiece and that’s a serious amount of dog. Size matters when it comes to dog fights. But Lilith is still a low slung powerful sixty-five pound Pibble with an even bigger heart. She’s backed by Tyger Linn, fifty more pounds of muscle. I doubt either of the boy mean a lot to the Coyotes; neither of them are pushing forty pounds, but there are two of them, which means at any given time you have to tangle with four dogs. Raiding over the hotwire means dodging it twice. The math is wrong for this to be Coyotes. The return isn’t worth the risk, unless they’re trying to make a statement to the naked ape who owns guns. Again, risk versus return tells me it isn’t Coyotes.
Arco isn’t interested at all. I tell him to lie down and he does, inside the crate, and he doesn’t lift his head or voice again. He’s about got this thing figured out, where he gets to sleep inside, and he gets petted, and there is breakfast as soon as I get up. Hunger is a terrible thing, but it lends me a great tool for training purposes, even if I am trying my very best to eliminate it. Arco would learn to deal Blackjack and light cigars if he thought he’s get fed for it. Being silent in the crate seems a very simple thing to him. Whatever is out there, it does not give him breakfast. He is not interested.
Lilith Anne and Tyger Linn, in point of fact, are interested. I hear them both hammering away and whatever it is has to be inside the fence and likely up in a tree. Budlore Amadeus returns and Wrex Wyatt eventually follows, but they can’t seem to stick. One again, they hurry back to the sound of Lilith’s barking.
I drift in and out of sleep, mostly out, listening to Lilith’s voice and wondering what she’s found. Armadillo, likely, in one of the abandoned Cousin Caverns, perhaps, or maybe there were deer just in the other side of the fence. Either way, Lilith is lending her voice to the early morning stillness and everyone who is listening, and there are many listening, know her. Sixty-five pounds in this part of the world means she’s carrying more mass than most things that hunt for a living, and they do realize that Lilith is hunting. This may have a lot to do with this display. I’m not sure.
Ever else can be said about him, Arco Fenney isn’t interested in leaving the house to go bark at the dark. The other dogs can come, go, bark, not bark, but he’s good, thanks, and he’s content to sit this one out, whatever this one turns out to be. He likes to stick close to me when we’re out walking, but not to the point of being a Velcro dog. He’s happy in the kennel in the corner of the room when I’m writing. Arco is all about let’s see how long this regular meals thing is going to last here before we start asserting ourselves.
The first few days Arco stayed in a constant state of motion, trying to sniff everything, trying to figure out where he was and what was happening to him. It was difficult to get a photo of him because he was never still. But now Arco is beginning to get his feet under him. He knows the other dogs are not going to attack him. He knows I am not going to hurt him. He knows there will be food every day, and this is a concept he enjoys. Arco will put his paws on my shoulders while I am sitting on the back steps and allow me to pet him. Allow me? He’s getting pushy about it, actually.
This is the second dog since March I have taken in because they were dumped at the Humane Society building. We’re teaching people bad habits by this. But Budlore Amadeus lies on my bed asleep next to Tyger Linn. Bud was strung up by the collar to the building and left to whatever fate might bring. Now Arco. Another lost soul. Another abandoned dog. Another set of eyes looking at me through the grates of the kennel, wondering if there will be more heartache and more loss.
I make promises. I made promises to Bud, and I make promises to Arco. I make promises to myself, about how much I’ll invest in each dog’s heart. I make promises that I won’t take in another damaged dog, I won’t pick up a hard one, I won’t take in a dog that’s been wounded in some way. But that’s all there is. That’s all of them. That’s each of them. And in some way, that’s us, too. We’re all part of the society that shifts and bends things so dogs are left to die, or left without food, without water, without decent care, because we do that to our own, too.
I can hear the sound of Arco snoring gently from across the room. It’s the deep sleep of a dog who believes, despite all the evidence, that there is a human who will take care of him.
I don’t remember all of my dreams but I do remember a lot of them. Some of them are unformed, not really defined as events or people, but they’re just thoughts or ideas that were pulled out of the oven too soon. I’ve woken up feeling afraid, or sad, or elated, and the remnants of a dream be just out of memory’s reach, like a lover who gets out of the bed, and your hand misses hers by an inch. I dozed off and was jerked awake by something that was nearly a dream, somewhere in my mind, but it’s gone now, and asking me to describe it would be like asking me to tell you who was driving the car that just passed in front of the house, a third of a mile away. I can only tell you I think I heard a car go by, and nothing else.
Budlore was sick last night, into the early part of the morning, and I stayed up with him, cleaning puke up off the floor. I dozed a couple of times, and saw images, at least twice of charcoal drawings, of faces, contorted as if someone sketched out Pompeii’s last moments. Where did this come from? I didn’t recognize the faces. They were just human forms yet not entirely finished, like the dreams that aren’t quite there yet.
Bud is usually energetic and exuberant. To see him down and out is disconcerting. This is the first time he’s been sick since he arrived and it’s disheartening. I can only sit with him and clean up the puke, and wait for this to pass.
I drift off to sleep and the dreams are fragmented and disconnected. It’s like trying to read the pages of a book as they are spewed out the end of a wood chipper. The scene and people change quickly, erratically, and there is no transition. The faces in the drawing are back, and I can tell gender, but that’s all. They seem to be colored in black, as if in shadow or night, and they all seem to be in some anguish.
I get up because Bud is hacking again, but he seems to be less sick. I sit on a blanket on the floor and hold Bud, and this might be the first time in his life someone had held him when he’s been sick. I lie down with him and he sleeps. I drift again, and the dreams do not come, but stay just out of reach, like someone speaking on the other side of a restaurant.
There’s a story here, where a person sees faces that have been drawn and that person doesn’t know why. Let’s start out with a female lead character, a very young woman, who isn’t an artist at all, and she’s trying to figure out what these visions she has means. They begin one night after she’s been drinking, and she wonders if she has a problem.
The woman’s name is Tory and she works for a lawyer. She has to serve an eviction notice one day and the man about to be dispossessed is an artist living in a terribly shabby and totally dark apartment; he’s blind. Sure enough, when she’s inside she see one of his drawings and it’s one of the faces she’s seen, she thinks, but she cannot be sure. The next day she tries to find him but he’s gone. The dreams become more vivid, the faces more clear, and Tory is convinced the man drew one of them, and perhaps more. She finds him by accident, near the river, about to jump. She looks at his drawings and realizes that they are the faces she’s seen.
She lets him stay at her place and he draws. The energy between them sharpens the dreams, and his drawings. At work, her employer is working on a missing person case, and setting up a substantial reward. The photo of the missing girl looks exactly like one of the faces in the dream, and one of the drawings.
They sit and wonder what the connection is between the two of them, and the people in the drawings. Is the girl alive or has she been murdered? Tory looks at the drawing and realizes the girl looks as if she is still alive, and she asks the artist, Archer, if he will try to draw the missing girl again.
Tory asks her employer about the girl, and he tells her that he was contacted by the girl’s mother, who believes her ex-husband has taken their daughter, but she doesn’t know where he is. Tory goes in search of the woman, but finds her dead. She returns to her home to find that Archer has drawn the woman’s face.
They both are at a loss as to how this is happening or why. They do not understand why he draws what she sees in her dreams. They make love on the floor, passionately, nearly accidentally, for they both fear the passion they’ve kept secret. Unleashed in this is a melding, where she can speak to him of her visions, and he understand now how to draw them. They sit on the floor, an invisible steam rising from their bodies from the heat, and they speak in whispers, seeking the girl, seeking her fate, looking for a connection, and finally there is a building, a home, where she might be held, and the woman had seen this house before. She asks Archer to draw a face, the face of a man, and she closes her eyes and allows her vision to take her, and she sees the girl chained to a bed, and she knows the man is near, he is coming down the steps, and he means to use her for his gain, for ransom, and his evil is plain and finally, Archer tells Tory to look up and he had drawn the face of her employer, and they realize what he is.
In my defense, I did try to pull the old tree down a couple of times but it refused to yield. Chainsawing a derelict tree is iffy, even to professionals, because rotted trees fall in odd ways and in odd places. Yet, still, when it crashed into the front part of my shed I wished I had done more and even as I had the thought I should have done more, I went into full procrastination mode, and did nothing about the stuff in the shed. My reasoning was sound; the front end of the shed was wrecked, but the roof was still relatively intact, and the stuff inside was still dry. It was cold at the time, and I didn’t need the mower or the hand tools, or for that matter, the chainsaw at that point in time, so I just left it. Until I got another shed I would just leave it like it was.
Then I started night work, and that drained my energy down to nothing, and I knew I would have to mow, one day, and I knew the longer I let it go the worse it was going to get, but night work, exhaustion, and dread got the best of me. I decided to go into the shed today, and get the stuff out I could, put it on the porch if I had to, and mow the grass. It was time. I was looking to see where Lilith was earlier in the day and lost her in the backyard.
Yeah, I know, I know, don’t say anything, I know.
First, there was still part of the tree on the shed. I got the axe out and started chopping and Budlore Amadeus began barking at me. Every time I hit the tree with the axe, it made a deep resounding boom from inside the shed, like Grond was hammering away at it. This made for interesting tree removal, true, but it was a little funny. Once the tree was removed, I hard to unbend the shed as best I could, and say what you will about cheap metal sheds, but cheap metal is easy to bend. I got lucky; my metal rake was wrecked and the handle on the mower was a little misshaped, but all in all, most of the stuff was okay. Now, would the mower run? Yes, indeed, it would and it did. I was in business, except the grass was forest tall, and it was hot as hell. And I had been using an axe for the better part of an hour.
It was already one in the afternoon when I wrestled the mower into the front yard. I’m a push mower guy, yeah, really, because I don’t like the idea of being as out of shape as I am and paying five hundred bucks, or three times that much, or more, to sit and mow. Sure, this thing has gotten out of hand, certainly it’s going to be a bitch, but it’s going to be one hell of a workout. I decide to push, pull, and finesse this thing until I run out of gas, in the mower, and then take a thirty minute break. Usually, a tank of gas will nearly do the front and back yard, and I can get both done in two hours if I hurry, three if I do all the detail spots.
One hour later, I have an area mowed the size of my first apartment, minus the living room and kitchen. True enough, it’s the thickest and hardest part of the front yard, but I’m making zero progress at this point. Push, pull back, lift up, push, lift up quick as the mower nearly stalls, and the gnats are just about to carry me off like the Flying Monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. The tank runs dry shortly afterwards, and damn, this is going very slowly.
The first break I feel okay, but I can tell that my legs and back are getting a workout. I’ve got a good strategy in going slow, sectioning off the yard, cutting less than half the width of the mower, moving back and forth through the roughest part, and truly, I haven’t had to mower quit but once or twice. It’s slow, damnably slow, but I knew it would be.
Two hours later and I’ve got about half of the front yard done, with a patch that I’m going to have to attack with a weed eater to start it. There’s a pine tree there and there’s a billion cones, broken branches and a lot of debris. Fine. I expected that also. What I didn’t expect is to be two hours deep into this thing with just this to show for it. True, the thickest and hardest is done, but barely, and my body is beginning to protest. Still, after two hours, I still feel okay. During my break I take two aspirins and drink a lot of water. I may very well have two more hours to go just in the front yard. It’s not impossible, and I am running out of hours in the day.
Push, pull, lift, wait, and the grass is being cut and the hours are going by. My first real job was in the fields so there’s really nothing I will ever do that compares to that at all. This is bad, but it’s on my own terms. My back and legs are beginning to ache, however, and I can feel over half a decade of life hanging off of me. My making progress and can tell it down, driving deeply into the yard, narrowing the uncut area, and I wonder when we Americas lost the ability to appreciate hard work. There was a time everyone worked hard at something and now it seems nearly no one does. People don’t force their kids to take Summer job in the fields anymore, and you never see a kid pushing a mower. I’m sweating and it’s pouring off of my body, but it does feel good, this does. I can feel my body’s strength out here in the heat and the dust, and the tall grass, and it is a good thing. Do kids understand this feeling these days? Have they ever been pushed to the point where the work seemed endless, the days never-ending, and pay laughably low?
Three hours, and there’s a thin strip left. I have to refuel and take a break. It’s after five and I think I can knock this out before sunset. About ten minutes into the break the thunder kicks in and I go outside to make sure I can get the mower on the porch in case of rain. As I am pushing it the rain begins, hard, unrelenting, and incredibly cool. I’ve had more than my share of outside jobs where a rain like this was a benison. It feels good to be drenched to the bone, all the clothing wet, all the sweat swept away, and now, the day is done because of the rain. Put the tools away, go inside, and strip down in front of the washer, and then take a shower.
The day is done, even if there is still grass to mow. It doesn’t matter because I knew this would happen and it would be this way. I will likely sleep better much later on in the night, and feel good when I awake.
After one beer I was trailing smoke and spiraling down. This is a sad state of affairs but working night shift will do that to a body. Eventually, I awoke to discover that it was still early, and I needed to get a few things done before tomorrow, and things went smoothly. No one was crying and no one was putting beans in their nose. I did some writing, no, not this writing, and then after midnight, I decided go to bed. After all, everything seemed very normal. Why would I expect for there to be anything different or surreal?
I turn the lights off and reality slips quietly out of the room. She sobs softly, leaves a note on the table about not being able to take this sort of abuse, and runs.
Budlore Amadeus, who clearly has never lived in the woods before, hears something in the dark. His plan of action is to bark loudly and charge towards the back door, where I assume he will stop, come to his senses, and return to sleep. I could not be more wrong. The entire pack lifts itself out of slumber to join Bud, and it sounds like they’re trying to tear the back door down.
There is a couple of issues here. One, I’ve been drinking, albeit a while ago, and only one beer, but I have an aversion to picking up a shotgun when I’ve been drinking. My senses tells me that this is Bud gone wild, and the others have joined him in this misadventure, but there is a chance, a small chance, that Bud might be onto something. I reach over for the shotgun and ease into the living room where there is total darkness and chaos to match it. I get to the backdoor and open it, and the pack pours out into the night, loudly, and I listen. Bud is the loudest dog, Wrex has a distinctive voice, Lilith Anne is pounding away at the night, and…where is the Person of the Striped Persuasion? I listen and wonder; has Tyger charged out deep into the woods on her own?
I go back to the bedroom and can still hear the bedlam outside. I sit down on the bed to put jeans on and almost sit on Tyger Linn, who has sat this whole thing out. She has not moved. Tyger has decided all this excitement is made entirely of the nope and she isn’t having anything to do with going outside in the wet and making barking at nothing. If Tyger Linn heard nothing and is doing nothing, perhaps it is time that I reeled the pack back in. I get everyone inside but Bud is still keyed. I hold onto his collar and make him lie down. Bud slips into sleep and I’m drifting off.
Suddenly, and without warning, Bud is off and running again, barking like hell, with Wrex and Lilith in tow, again. In the darkness I reach over to discover that Tyger Linn is of the nope. She has not heard anything that would convince her that wet feet and a raised pulse is worth anything that she hears going on.
I get Wrex in, and Budlore follows, still agitated and barking. Lilith is wound up at the fence barking at the night. She refuses to come in for a very long time and finally I go out and yell at her, and Bud barks at this, too.
Bud is totally shocked when he gets put in the crate. The door is locked behind him, and he’s sleeping in there, or not sleeping in there, I shall not care, but we’re done with this barking thing. I get the squirt bottle out and Bud lies down and remains silent. Wrex doesn’t understand why Bud is crated, but he does understand the squirt bottle.
Silence descends upon Hickory Head.
Wrex gets up, once and charges towards the door, but not barking. The backdoor is closed and Wrex is stymied. I remind Wrex the crate sleeps two, perhaps not comfortably, but two dogs will fit into it, yes, Wrex.
Silence descends upon Hickory Head.
By this time, about an hour or so has passed. I’m tired, sleepy, and peevish at the dogs for being stupid. I open the bedroom window and I don’t hear the multitude of frogs that were going last night. Did the dogs silence the frogs? Or was whatever the dogs barking at the reason the frogs are not singing? But whatever is out there, it is not human, and therefore not nearly the threat Bud might think it is. He does not know how to judge threats or how to temper his reaction. From inside the crate Bud whines softly but he does not bark for fear of water.
When Bert was alive this never happened. Bert knew what to bark at, when to sound the alarm, when to sleep through it, and we never had this sort of late night drama for no good reason at all. Sam and Lucas had good judgment as well, and even the Cousins didn’t do stupid things late at night. But Bert was the best when it came to being a guard dog. He hammered the hell out of humans with his voice and he had a big booming bark. He would bark at deer or other dogs, but when Bert laid it down it was always important.
I miss Bert in times like these. I miss having a Great Dog. I miss his stability and the way he was part of management and knew it. I miss the security that he provided and I miss his leadership with younger dogs. There really was never a reason to fear people with Bert asleep on the end of the bed, and there was never a time he got fooled by some odd sound in the darkness.
The sun comes up and the dogs want to be fed. I need to sleep but I’ll put it off for a while, again. I’m supposed to write today, and this won’t be all of it, but I also have to go into town.
Tyger Linn is not an overly needy dog so I was surprised when she got up on the bed and tucked herself quite neatly against my body with her head under by chin. This is Tyger’s way of letting me know she wants to be held, like a puppy, and even though I want to nap, and it’s going to be hard to get to sleep with Tyger nestled against me like this. There’s some reason inside of this little girl that caused her to come to me wanting comfort. So the nap can wait, and Tyger gets petted on her ears as she dozes in and out of sleep, pushing me with her nose when I stop.
In an alternative universe, Tyger Linn is an only dog with an older person as an owner and I think she would be happier that way. But then again, there is no way of telling what is reality except that one we’re sensing right now, clouded by prejudices and desires, perceived poorly by soft machines that are tragically flawed. One beer more and I might not have cared about the person of a striped persuasion, or perhaps, one less and I would have been more reasonable and not tried to rescue the violent little street dog.
Very few of the dogs I have rescued have been abuse cases, and Tyger arrived in good health, physically, but clearly she was accustomed to fighting for food, space, attention, and for her life. Every disagreement was a fight and every fight was to the end. The reality Tyger Linn lived in there was very little love or affection and no comfort. Sleeping on the bed was something that Tyger delighted in the first time I allowed her. She had to learn not to sleep in the middle, so there would be room for others, and for me, and her was taught not to growl at me, or the other dogs once she was on the bed. But there is something to be said for a bed. It beats the hell out of sleeping on the ground, in the open, or in a cage.
While in reasonably good health, Tyger did arrive with a great deal of food aggression. She ate very quickly, scarfing down mouthfuls of food as quickly as she could, growling at me if I got near, and then she was off to do battle for the food of other dogs. Tyger learned very quickly that no one is allowed to steal here, and no one will ever starve under my roof. It took some doing, but in the end, Tyger learned to sit and wait for her bowl to be filled, and she learned to stay away from other dogs while they eat. Comfort and food go a very long way in getting a dog to settle into a pack. Love helps a lot, too.
When we see this, and if you rescue dogs you do see it, we assume it’s a natural thing. We assume that if we do the right things the right way, no matter how damaged the dog might be, we can pull it back from the edge, and wind up with a mild mannered lap dog. It’s true, it’s possible, and while Tyger is not exactly perfect right now, the little girl has come a very long way. The clashes are less frequent and far less violent now. Tyger isn’t interested in prolonged conflict with anyone for any reason now. She has her bowl and she has her place. And when need arises, Tyger gets to get up on the bed and curl up beside me, and be comforted.
It’s odd. As many people who might applaud this rescue of a street dog destined for the needle, there seems to be a blindness when we speak of rescuing human beings. If you can agree that love and comfort will heal the violent street dog and guide her into being a trusted member of a pack, why is it we jam human beings into cages and expect them to be released in a better form? We cringe at the idea of high kill shelters churning out dead pets as quickly as they can be brought in and put down, yet we have become so accustomed to prisons being the only answer to crime and criminals, that we do not wonder any more that they do more harm than good. If prisons work then why do we keep having so many criminals?
It’s difficult to rehab a dog, especially one who is violent. It’s got to be even harder to rehab a human being. Yet with all the millions we spend, are we actually making things worse? I can point to Tyger Linn and tell you that she is a success story, that people can pet her and hug her, and she’s okay with other dogs, but can you take someone out of prison and feel comfortable letting your kids live next to that person? The perception is there, even if it isn’t true. We do not trust our system of punishment to produce favorable results. We use a system to damage human beings and then we blame them for that damage.
No, I have no answers. I cannot tell you that allowing criminals to sleep on beds and be petted will solve the world’s problems and we’ll all sleep with our doors unlocked. If there was an easy answer here then the world would beat a path to my door and we would all live happily ever after. There is no cure here.
What this is, in the end, is a question. Why can we do no better? Why is it that we have the wherewithal to seek the retraining of dogs in need yet there are over one million of our citizens in prison right now without any hope of doing more than sitting and waiting for their time to be up?
Tyger Linn stirs in her sleep, sighs, and then returns to slumber. This is a damaged being, mistreated by humans, and mistrustful still, at times of their intentions. But it has been worth all that I have done, and it will be worth all I will do.