Archive for Being

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Sweet Chloe and The Dog Bob

Sweet Chloe and her best bud Bob, who won every fight they ever fought.

Early this year, we lost our beloved Porch Cat after a slow decline that left her deaf, blind and somewhat demented. A fat rescued tortoiseshell named Fraidy joined our family at Jay’s insistence weeks later. Shortly thereafter, Ashlie’s dog Chloe was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease. Her deterioration happened faster than we anticipated and she died in March.

We did not grieve her as intensely as we did Fat Lola, perhaps because we have lost so much more in the interim. Still, sweet, mild-mannered Chloe is missed – perhaps by no one more than the Italian Greyhound Bob, to whom she was a surrogate litter mate and gigantic best friend.

We buried Chloe near the arbor and the crab grass had already begun to cover her grave by the time we welcomed a new beastie to fill the void she left behind.

Jay has long had his heart set on adopting a retired racing greyhound like the one he grew up with. My only requirement was that we find a female. By early April we were in contact with the Amazing Greys org out of Tracy. We were anticipating the arrival of a particularly lovely female greyhound out of Arizona when Susan from Amazing Greys called and suggested that we meet, as she put it, “a big silly boy with zero ego”.

My first thought upon seeing this 85 lb. greyhound bounding into the room was god, what a beast but moments later, when he flung himself down on a pile of pillows and rolled over with all four legs in the air, I thought dude, what a dork – which immediately won him a place in my heart and ultimately, our home.

Grinning Ollie

The Reverend Oliver Twinkletoes aka Olly Bolly aka Oliver Oily Pants aka Mr. Butts

It seems odd that Ollie has been with us less than six months – he is so much a part of our family. Bob has grown particularly fond of him, insisting on joining him in the Big Dog side of the dog park, trying to keep pace with him on walks and cheering him on from a safe vantage point by barking up a storm while Ollie courses through the yard, throwing clouds of dust behind him. And yes, it’s kind of amazing to watch him run, but mostly he’s a lazy, lovey lay-about – with Chloe’s tag-along habit and Fat Lola’s love of riding in cars with boys.

Three dogs is still too many, and as Iggy becomes more and more of a cranky old man, I steel myself against the inevitable loss while simultaneously looking forward to a manageable animal population in the Vilmur household. Meanwhile, Jay is probably sneaking peeks at that Saluki he’s always wanted.

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Even A Dead ChildI’m walking alone in an unfamiliar neighborhood, pulling a child’s bicycle along beside me. I find Ash along the way, playing with some little girls. I turn over the bike, like I came specifically to deliver it, but Ash shoves the bike away and it clatters to the ground. Clenched jaw and defiant eyes. Oh yes, I know that look.

Like every mother ever, I grab an arm and pull my child away from the others. I hunch down until my face is level with Ash’s and I growl. “Look kiddo, in my real life, you’re dead. So I come all the way down here to spend time with you and THIS is how you’re gonna act?”

The odd thing is, I can’t remember what happened after that – if Ash responded, if the mad mood broke or if I realized how funny and sad it was to say such a thing to a child. Even a dead child. Even in a dream.

 

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sallyWhen I was a kid, I got bit by two dogs. The first was a stranger’s beagle and the second, our own persnickety Irish Setter. After that, I became particularly shy with dogs and remained so for many years. A couple of boxers I met in the mid 90s started rehabing my relationship with the canine family and now, well I’ve got more dogs than I know what to do with. These days, I go out of my way to show children how not to startle dogs, how to hold out their hands for a sniff before petting, how to read wary body language and stay safe. So it is particularly embarrassing, this utterly stupid thing I did on Thursday night that landed me in the E/R and earned me eight stitches in my lip. 

For the record, if you know that a dog is particularly protective over chewy treats because other dogs tend to sneak up and take them while said dog is sleeping, it would be best to NOT tuck a fresh treat in beside him after he’s already asleep and then lean in to kiss the top of his cute little head.

I don’t know which one of us was more horrified in that moment, just after.

I left the hospital with a stitched-up lip and an antibiotic that gave me full-on flu symptoms for four days. Fortunately, THAT bit is over, so it’s just me and my laced-up lip left to deal with. We didn’t cancel our Monterey trip on Friday and I’m so glad because it was good in spite of everything. The Mr. keeps trying to drag me out of the house and has been intermittently successful, but for the most part, I’m kinda keeping to myself until I don’t feel like Sally any more. As for the penitent pup, he’s curled up beside me just now and under house arrest at the behest of local law enforcement until Sunday night at which time he may get a walk but will NOT be kissed upon the head at bedtime.

Let sleeping dogs lie.

Seriously.

There’s a reason that’s a thing.

 

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CornerGasNearly every night for the last 4 ½ years, I’ve fallen asleep with an episode of Corner Gas playing on the television. There’s 107 episodes in all and I can crash out to the same one for a week before moving on. Still, I’ve seen them all so many times I could rewrite entire scenes with little help.

Jeremy could help.

He knows them by heart as well.

And Ashlie could fill in some of the best bits if she was still here.

We found Corner Gas in 2008 – stumbled into an episode titled “Worlds Biggest Thing” and kinda fell in love all at once with the wit, wordplay and brilliant comedic cast. When Ashlie died in early 2009, few things were comforting but somehow this show was.

Nothing horrible happens in Dog River. People don’t change or leave or die and somehow the jokes get funnier over time. Werewolves fighting robots still gets me, I’m prone to guffaw over a healthy fear of pink eye, and angering the internet(s) is awesome every time.

Perhaps it seems odd, linking a sitcom to my grief process and being unable to untangle those two things nearly five years down the road. But I’m not one to change what works – what keeps me from spiraling into the darkness every night. Maybe some day I won’t need Emma, Oscar, Wanda and Brent, Hank, Lacey, Davis and Karen to lull me to sleep. And maybe I always will. I’m ok with that. It’s my happy place.

Thanks guys.

You’re the best. 

 

So Rex Mantooth …

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nemesisMy first nemesis was a bespectacled fellow in his mid thirties who worked as a cashier at the U-SAVE liquor store on Mission Street in Santa Cruz. In the two years of ringing up my Slim Jims, Red Bulls and Smirnoff, he refused to make eye contact and only spoke to me when absolutely necessary. Something about this behavior, which was in stark contrast to that of his coworkers, a friendly and gregarious lot, always made me feel lousy, guilty, less than.

And so, at some point I began to think of him casually as my nemesis. I began to challenge him with bits of conversation, a joke or two, even a question now and then that should have forced him to at least glance in my direction while answering but nothing would break him. When we moved off campus and up into the mountains, we were forced to leave U-SAVE Liquors behind and I had to admit that I’d been bested.

My next great foil came in the form of a girl at the coffee shop downtown. She’s maybe twenty-two and her mouth is perpetually askew. This creature replaced lip-ring girl at the coffee-shop counter last year and despite the fact that she has taken my order three times a week for the last twelve months, she looks at me each morning with the same stabbing lack of recognition.

With her pen poised over the order pad, she asks, “And what can I get for you?” in such a polite voice that i don’t dare to be rude. “And your name is?” she finishes off with, utterly oblivious to the fact that I’ve told her my name approximately one hundred and fifty-six times. It’s not this, not just this though that makes her my foil. No, it’s also that time she wrote my name down wrong, completely wrong, and the boy who prepared my coffee stood at the counter calling “Daffy?” over and over until she pointed to me and said, “There’s Daffy, right there!”

Daffy. Yeah.

But it’s difficult to think of this girl as an arch-rival, a true nemesis. After all, a possible hearing problem and lack of short-term memory are hardly the well-honed superpowers of a worthy opponent…a true nemesis.

Enter Rex Mantooth.

To be fair, I did not know his name was Rex Mantooth when I first encountered him at the bank where his cover is that of a mild-mannered bank teller. He was merely a lanky boy with a high forehead and a mess of dark curls. And I didn’t know his name was Rex Mantooth when I next encountered him out on the street, walking casually from the clocktower to Zoccoli’s. Still, I didn’t like him and when he smiled, either from recognition or merely that “hi, i’m cute so you should smile at me” thing, well I flat-out refused and I gave him the very same disinterested passing glance that the coffee girl gives me.

Now, on my weekly visits to the bank, I invariably end up at Rex Mantooth’s window and nine times out of ten, he has to call a manager over to sign off on the amount I’m depositing because he hasn’t clearance for more than ten thousand dollars(office money, not mine). He’s ever so polite, which of course, I hold against him, refusing to be swayed by nemesis niceties.

My brother-in-law says I should go into the bank, lay both palms on the counter, lean forward and hiss menacingly “So Rex Mantooth, we meet again.” I’ve considered it, but I’m a secret kind of superhero and for now, I think it best that the supervillans don’t know who I am.

(from the Lily White archives 06.2003)