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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Death of a Pet, part 3

“Judy, do you have a little critter in here somewhere?” asked my principal. 

 Vanette was glancing about my classroom, looking for the dog that had been reported by the parents of a student who was suffering from allergies each day after attending my English class.

It crossed my mind for a brief moment to deny I had a dog at school, but decided I had to be honest about my little Cocker Spaniel puppy, Detour, who was at that moment in his cage in the adjoining workroom.  I was teaching seventh and eight graders at Shea Middle School in Phoenix and had, for several weeks, been bringing my newly acquired puppy to school, knowing all the while that  I would eventually be called to the principal’s office for naughty behavior, but willing to take the chance, because I felt Detour needed company and care.

Detour came into my life as a happenstance of geography, or more accurately because I am one of those people others refer to as someone who “couldn’t find her way out of a paper bag”.  Here’s the story:

My hubby and I had decided to buy a vacation home near Mount Baker, Washington, one of my favorite childhood destinations and the area in which my mother had grown up.  On my first house-hunting trip to the foothills, which I hadn’t visited since I had summited the mountain 40 years earlier, I made a wrong turn as I drove towards Bellingham, where I was staying.  I had driven awhile before I realized the scenery didn’t look quite right.  I passed several farms and fields, trying to find someone to direct me.  Finally, I saw a man standing by his garage, and I pulled into his driveway and got out of my car to ask directions for the quickest way to town.

As I walked towards the man, several adorable little golden balls of fur came frolicking towards me and one of the puppies broke from the pack and ran up to me.  He raised his delightfully furry face, as if waiting for a kiss.  I was immediately enchanted, in love at first sight!  Though I had no plans whatever to add a second dog to our household and had no idea how I would get him home to Phoenix, I HAD to have that puppy.  Other pets my family had had in the past, including our faithful Lab, Batman, had been rescue dogs, and I was shocked at the price the man wanted for the “Pure Bred,” but I would have drained my bank account and lived on noodles for the rest of my trip to keep the dog who had captured my heart, so in a few days, I found myself heading back to Phoenix with “Detour” in a dog carriage.
From day one, Detour and Batman bonded.  Though I felt a little guilty that I had taken Detour away from his mom, I was consoled by the fact that he adored the older dog,  trotting along side of him throughout the day.  But, In spite of Batman’s protectiveness, I was concerned about leaving Detour home alone at such a young age for the long hours the family was away at school and work, so I hit upon the idea of just taking him along to school with me.
Yes, I knew that pets (even gerbils) were not allowed in the classroom without permission from the administration, but that didn’t stop me.  I started bringing Detour to school and letting the kids hand him around during class, each getting an allotted time to fondle and nuzzle him.  I had a hundred and fifty students that semester and it seemed that every one of them adored Detour as much as I did.  I noticed that the ones who seemed to be especially thrilled to hold and cuddle him each day tended to be the eighth grade boys, especially the troubled ones.  I would sometimes notice a remarkable change in demeanor as students petted him and some of my most challenging students began to change before my eyes.  Some of the students would  hang around as long as possible after class and come by after school for an extra face licking from the one who seemed always so thrilled to see them, the one who offered an unconditional love some of them had never experienced before.  
It was inevitable, of course, that Detour’s days in Middle School would have to end.  I sadly accepted my principal’s direction and rationalized that Detour was now old enough to stay home and would provide comfort and friendship to our aging Batman.
Little did I know that leaving my beloved at home, expecting an aging, feeble dog to protect him, would be his death sentence.

To be continued...
Art by Lycia Harding

Friday, June 28, 2013

Death of a Pet, part 2

Death of A Pet

In spite of all the prayers and tears:
the end!
My dog I so adored,
My friend!
My touching, licking,
Tender pet,
And yet;
I feel him ever-present at my side,
My light, my love, my guide,
 “Sit up”, 
“Roll over”
I offered him my heart to steal,
And he came running at my call;
My dog, my friend,
He was my all!


There is a place
Where dogs convene; 
Who’ve gone away 
And can’t be seen, 
They frisk and frolic all around 
And paw and dig up all the ground
And bark all night if they desire
And roll around in muck and mire
Cavort and carry on all day
With nothing more to do than play
And feast on beef and leather shoes
And gnaw on toys and doggy chews.
They chase some sticks and bite some balls
No fences, houses, stakes or walls
They’ve no constraints and no complaints
They lick and slobber without restraints
In doggie heaven, they leap for joy
And hear no words but “Atta boy!”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Death of A Pet, part one

“Your dog has been poisoned.”
As I sat on the steps of my Washington home, reading the letter that had arrived in the mail that morning, it seemed that time stopped and some cosmic photographer clicked a shot of that moment in such a way that it is engraved in my mind forever.  It appears in my mind's eye, even today, as a snap shot.   In this out of body 'photo', I am a ten year old girl in pedal pushers and pony tail, sitting on the porch steps, holding a letter. I can see each blade of grass growing up between the concrete blocks in the walkway, the grains of wood in the porch steps, the weeping willow to the left.  Tears are flowing from my eyesas my face is contorted with horror and unbelief,  profoundly shocked and upset.
The letter I held in my hand was from Miriam, who had been my best friend before my family moved from the tiny town of Gebo, Wyoming to Bellingham, WA.  According to Miriam, whose family had adopted our dog, someone had deliberately tempted Omar with poisoned meat and he had died almost instantly after eating it.
Omar Khayyam.  The esoteric name stood out from the names of the other neighborhood dogs... Spot, Lucky, Buddy.  But then, Omar, who was named by my dad in honor of a Persian poet and philosopher he admired, was a different sort of dog, a wolf-coyote mix who embodied all of the  best features of both breeds; he was loyal, intelligent, playful, protective. 
I had developed a special bond with Omar because I believed he had saved my life. One day we were walked through the prairie and a rattlesnake suddenly reared up, just feet away from me, rattling its deadly warning.  Omar yelped and pounced, alerting me to the approaching danger.   I leaped away and Omar abandoned his attack on the snake and ran with me, escorting me to safety. In my childish mind, I was convinced I would have died if he had not rescued me, and thereafter we became inseparable.  When I found out we were moving and would have to leave Omar behind, I was inconsolable, but happy that Miriam’s family had agreed to care for Omar.  Now, I was broken hearted to hear that he had been so mercilessly killed.
From this experience, I learned for the first time, that there are cruel people in the world.  I learned never to discount the depth of a child’s attachment to a pet and grief over its loss, and I also leaned that childhood experiences can have long lasting emotional consequences, since it was many years before I was able to allow myself to get attached to a pet again. 
To be continued... 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Now is the Time!

 I originally started writing this blog as a memoir, in which I would explore the major themes of my life: early childhood abuse, unplanned pregnancy, interracial marriage, estrangement from family, mental illness, my spiritual journey, etc.

But today I have been diverted to a subject I hadn’t planned on exploring:  DEATH.
When I discovered, through blog tracking statistics, that many of the 3,000 people who have read my blog, did so because they Googled "poem for a dying friend," which just  happens to be the title of a poem I posted,  I began to think more about writing  about my own experiences with death. 
I will be writing this week about:

Death of a pet 

Death of a teacher
Death (suicide) of a student 
Death of my son's friend  
Death of a neighbor, 
Death of a close friend, 
Death of my mother
Death of my father
Death of a friend’s child  

Writing is a strange disease!  It is at once the affliction and the balm.  Those of us who write with transparency about even the most difficult things is our lives do so, I suppose, for cathartic purposes, but also to hopefully enlighten and assist others who have gone through similar experiences.
With that in mind, I commit for the next few days, to explore my own experiences of death in the hopes that my vantage point of age and wisdom may be in some way provide healing for my readers.

Tune in tomorrow for the first installment, Death of a Pet

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I'm back!

I just realized there was a way to track viewers on a blog and was stunned to find this:
Page views all time history for Tree House Reflections
I only write on my blog now and then so could not believe over three thousand people have viewed it! Researching the stats page a little further, I discovered that many readers have come from FaceBook and have been primarily interested in my stories about the son I relinquished for adoption, but a great many more viewers have come from Google and Bing, from people who were searched "poem for a dying friend" which just happens to be the title of one of my poems. The poem I wrote is about a specific person and relationship, but now I am really inspired to write a more generic poem since the interest is high, so check my blog tomorrow for a new post!

There is so much more to write about my son... the painful and difficult, but ultimately triumphant,  process of building relationship with one you love intensely but have wounded immeasurably and a mother-child bond that did not develop in the usual way, but is in some ways even more intense for that very reason.  There is more to write about the damage done by hidden secrets, the perceptions that often are not at all based in reality.... but that will wait for another day, as I find myself encouraged to write about that ever-looming subject, death, and especially the death of a friend, an experience that grows more and more frequent as my husband and I move into that last quarter of our life.  Hopefully, I have gained some wisdom and can write something insightful and/or encouraging.  Tune in tomorrow!