The Walk

The moon hung low on the horizon huge and very bright.  Walking down the road, the woman felt as though someone or something was watching her.  She tried to shake off the feeling and kept walking.  Cara just had to get out and clear her head.  She and Ryan were fighting more and more.  The fights were becoming more vicious and hurtful.  Cara was tired of the arguments and wanted to make some changes in her life.  All Cara wanted was some peace and balance in her life.

Deep in thought she didn’t notice the shadowy figure moving in unison with her down the road.  Cara rounded the bend and once again felt another presence.  She looked back over her shoulder but didn’t see anything.  Turning back around Cara came face to face with a tall ominous figure.  In the glow of the moonlight it seemed as if his eyes glowed in the dark staring intently into hers.  She tried to take a step back but was frozen in the road unable to move away from the fierce gaze.

As the figure reached toward her, Cara tried to scream but no sound came out of her open mouth.  Instead the figure leaned in and pulled her toward him lowering his head toward hers.  Cara felt his touch so tender against her lips moving down toward her throat, wanted to scream and be free but at the same time felt so alive, tingling with the anticipation of what was to come.  She felt his mouth on her throat caressing the skin, then a tingling sensation and suddenly she felt light and faraway.  As her life dimmed away she looked skyward and suddenly wished she hadn’t gone on the walk.

It’s Time to Start Writing Again

I realized the other day that I hadn’t been writing since AJ died.  I had nothing to say.  Nothing funny or witty came to mind; I just felt this empty loss.  I guess I needed the time to get past his death.  I still miss him, but now I know that it was for the best for him.  No more pain.  I’m just sorry that I didn’t clue into his pain sooner.  That makes me sad that I didn’t see the signs, the growing rib cage, the slowing down and most of all not picking up on his refusal to eat with the usual gusto he had exhibited in the past.  Does that make me a bad pet owner?  I hope not.  But I hope that I will be a more aware pet owner for Charlie and Orso.

When a member of the family dies all you feel at first is the sorrow and pain of the loss of a dear loved one.  All of their faults are forgotten.  I could only think of how much I loved him, what a devoted dog he was and that I would never get to see or pet him again.  AJ wasn’t perfect, far from it in reality. 

He had severe separation anxiety issues that we could never overcome, even after ten years in a stable loving environment.  AJ was a consummate counter surfer, stealing and consuming multiple loaves of bread and many coffee cakes that were still in the baking dish.  How that glass pan survived multiple crashes to the floor is a testament to the strength of Pyrex.  He even broke into the pantry and ate his way through two loaves of bread, chocolate cake mix, taco shells, dry pasta and a bottle of Magic Shell in one scavenger attack.  He survived without getting sick, even though I would have felt some sense of justice if he had.

I can look back now and remember the carnage and mess and smile, but not then.  Mitch and I went through a period of trying everything we could think of to contain the dogs, with AJ as the ring leader, and keep the kitchen contents safe from theft and destruction.  The pantry doors will have to be replaced because of the scratches from AJ working to pull the doors open.  I can’t remember how many times AJ knocked over the trash can and dragged the bag out into the room and searched for something that might be tasty, leaving a nasty mess for us to clean up. 

AJ chewed his way through a pair of Mitch’s boots, a pair of my gloves, a pair of 360 ear muffs (my favorite ones of course) and a couple of my cookbooks over the years.  I don’t know if it was out of boredom or fear, but it was so frustrating on my part, looking at the destruction and the cost to repair or replace what was torn up.  We even tried kenneling him when we were gone.  There wasn’t a crate made that could hold him for long.  AJ had an uncanny ability for escape.  His nickname should have been Houdini.  First we tried a wire crate.  It took him maybe four hours to force the welds at the corners to pop and collapse the crate.  I’m only guessing at the four hours because that was how long I was gone.  After the failure of the wire crate we tried an airline crate, formed plastic with wire windows and door.  The door lasted three days before AJ had pushed against the hinge pins long and hard enough to bend the catches so the door would swing open.  Mitch tried to get creative and cut a door out of clear Lexan, drilled vent holes and hung it in place of the bent wire door.  That solution lasted one week.  Long enough for AJ to chew through the formed plastic base all the way across under the door, causing the door to just fall out.  Done, we were out of ideas on ways to lock up Houdini. 

What can you do with a dog that is that determined to be untethered with a myriad of phobias and bad habits?  The only option we had, love him and deal with the phobias and bad behavior on a day by day basis.  For all of the destruction and mayhem, I wouldn’t have missed one moment with AJ.

A Love Story

How do you write a love story without loss and tears?  I don’t know of any love story ever told where there is no loss, no tears.  This one is no different.

When I first looked into his soft brown eyes, I fell in love.  I felt an over whelming urge to stroke his head and keep him safe from all manner of threats.  I first met AJ, our black lab, on a hunting trip ten years ago, when I began a quest to find a hunting partner for our aging yellow lab, Buddy.

AJ was 2 years old at the time and afraid of just about everything that didn’t pertain to hunting.  He was and still is the most beautiful dog in the field I’ve ever seen.  He moved with grace and speed in search of the elusive scent of a pheasant.  He was truly alive and in his element in the field.  When he locked on the bird he would go on point and hold the bird until we could get set for the shot.  We didn’t deserve such a magnificent hunting dog.

We soon learned that when not in the field, AJ was terrified of most everything else.  He didn’t know how to go up or down stairs had never been inside and had no idea how to walk on tile or wood floors.  Mitch had to carry him down the steps the day we brought him home and I had to run a path of throw rugs and towels through the house in order to get him to go to the kitchen.  AJ suffered from severe separation anxiety to the point of mass destruction throughout the house when left alone.  Storms and fireworks would send him into a panic.  He would tremble and shake violently; the only relief would come from touch.  As long as he could touch me, he would find some comfort and sense of protection.

Looking in those soft hooded brown eyes, I always saw total trust and devotion.  AJ became my constant companion, looking to me before listening to anyone else, Mitch included.  Mitch constantly complained that he was chopped liver when I was around. 

AJ seemed ageless until this year.  He had an eternal youth about him, ready for a wrestling match or a game of tag with Orso and Charlie.  This year at twelve years he started feeling his age.  First it was his eyes, his peripheral vision starting to fail.  He struggled with dark rooms and doorways.  Going from the bright light of outside or another room to the dimmer room became a challenge.  Depth perception was the next to go.  AJ would linger at doorways not sure if the floor was really there.   He started becoming tired quickly not able to stand for very long, preferring to lay down on something soft. 

The heartbreaking next stage of aging came rather suddenly with his sudden refusal to eat his usual diet of Science Diet dog food and carrots for snacks.  When he first starting to refuse carrots, I thought maybe the carrots were too hard, maybe he had a broken tooth.  But a quick inspection of his mouth revealed perfect teeth.  I even soaked his food longer to soften it more, but he just turned away and refused the food.  This from a dog that we had to put a rock in his dish in order to slow down the hoover vacuum force food inhalation.  He even turned away from pumpkin.  Now I was getting really worried.  I have never known a Labrador retriever to turn away from food.  Especially our dogs.

I was able to deal with the eyesight problems and I could rationalize the tired bones.  My brain understood that AJ was growing old and had lived a wonderfully long life, but my heart was breaking watching the rapid physical deterioration.  Not knowing how it would turn out, we took AJ with us on our hunting trip last weekend.  He seemed like the AJ I’ve always known doing what he was bred for, most alive in the field searching for the ever elusive scent of the bird.

Once we got back from the trip he became shakier in his stride and refused almost all food, even hamburger.  We took him to the vet for tests, hoping for the best and trying to prepare for the worst, but you never do.  The test results and X-rays showed a massive tumor the size of a football in his abdomen pressing against his ribs.  Considering the surgery was high risk with a very slim chance that the vet could even get it out and his age, we made the decision to have him put to sleep.  My head knows that this was for the best but my heart is broken, knowing that I will never know the absolute love and devotion from a dog ever again. 

AJ was special and has gone to a special place that only the great dogs can go to.