Sunday, April 23, 2006

the dogs continue to wander through the list

6. We called her Sephie, but it was short for Persephone. She was an Australian shepherd with attitude and determination who arrived in my life on a very significant morning; the dawn of the day in which my long term partner and I consummated our relationship. Yes, there is a soap opera sort of story behind that, but it doesn't quite belong in the dog list.
Sephie, then unnamed, was waiting on the cabin steps. And then she disappeared, and came back with a puppy. And again, and again, and again, until there were four pups and their mother. We would later find that she had been wandering the hill for some time, and had not been cared for since her pregnancy. She was confident she'd come to the right place, and despite the exasperation of our landpartner, who was wont to chase strays from the land, Sephie stayed a while. A long while.
The new romance, with all its complications, now included five dogs. This was still in the time of Phoebe, and I was still living by the river in my tiny cabin with my son. For a time, when the pups were old enough to leave their mother, they came to live with me. Four puppies. Four enormous puppies. My dearly beloved and I spent all our spare time finding homes for these foundlings (Sephie had made her home happily with him, despite landpartner's exasperation). Two were black, showing some evidence of a laborador father--I called them Aquarius and...I think, per my son's advice, Blackie. One was tricolor, and she was named Diamond. The fourth--oh, forgive me fourth lost pup, I don't recall you at all, only that you were given away, and I hope you led a happy life.
Sephie befriended Tasha, when we moved to the land, and was willing to travel the woods with my son, happily making certain he was safe and returned home after each adventure unhurt.
It puzzles me now that I do not recall Sephie's end; it must have come while I was focused on my daughter's babyhood and distracted from the dog world. Sephie was my son's companion. I do know her grave is near the cabin, where the white rose grows.

7. It was during my pregnancy with my youngest that a friend brought me the ugliest puppy I had ever seen. Sephie and Tasha had gone on to wherever dogs go in the universe when they leave their bodies; we had many cats, but no dogs. It was, I thought, okay that way. Daughter was 3, my hands were full and my days busy. I didn't need a dog, much less a tiny puppy too young to leave her mother who had inexplicably been abandoned, found beneath my friend's house, eyes barely open.
She was white, with spots and speckles and close together squinty blue eyes that were barely open. She squeaked and squealed a lot. She looked like a wombat. She was probably, like the departed Sephie, an Australian shepherd mix.
Yes, I took her, yielding to my children's eager insistance that we needed, really really needed, this dog. They named her Pepper.
Her sister (for there were two pups under the house) went to a friend, and was named Silver. For many years we compared notes.
I undertook the every 2 hour feeding of Pepper, and in time she moved on to baby cereal and then to dog kibble. She was a very ugly, very patient dog. Her eyes looked small and piggish. Her fur was ever slightly rumpled. My children adored her, and she returned the favor.
Pepper adopted cats, and tried to herd the children. She was a Shepherd, after all. She loved to crush any particularly rare flowers I happened to plant. We had a mixed relationship, Pepper and I, but she was a gentle and forgiving soul, and in her last weeks taught me much about life and death. She died of congestive heart failure when she was 9 years old; it would be the same year my father died, and in tending Pepper, sitting with her staring at the stars above the fir trees, I worked through a great deal of grief.
When she died, Gabriel, who had been companioned by her since his birth, took part in the small ceremony. We put forget me nots on her rough fur, and wrapped a blanket around her, and dug a deep hole, and sang songs.
Two weeks later I found my young Down Syndrome child dragging a shovel to Pepper's grave.
"She wants to go for a walk now" he told me. We discussed death. Gabe still doesn't believe in it.

8. Leonard Woof came to us, briefly, during Pepper's time with us. He was an Irish Wolfhound, and the largest dog I've encountered. We never found out where he had come from, just a huge, handsome, intense critter. Leonard and I loved one another from the first moment, and during his time with me he followed me everywhere, sitting at my feet, watching me. He tolerated the others in my household, but seemed insistent that his place was at my side, always.
I wish he had remained at my side, but Leonard's life was changed, and at last ended, by two tragedies. One night he rushed one of our cats outside, and I heard my partner crying out. The cat, a black and white sweet female named Tippy, never the brightest kitty, ran into the woods. We never saw her again; perhaps the hawks took her body. While I took Leonard's part (it was instinct, not malice, I would watch him) my partner never trusted the dog again. And he ran away, down to the neighbor's yard, where a nubile female had just come into heat. The neighbor shot him. There are evenings still in which I feel the presence of the huge shaggy Wolfhound beside me, and tears fill my eyes.

9. You can read about my dear Buddy somewhere in my other blog (outside the windows). He is with me still, slowing down somewhat, barking at shadows, but ever beside me, my silvering golden lab, now 14. He deserved an entire post to himself.

10. Jamaica arrived as a skittish, starving dog eating from my compost pile. She was starving, a small black shepherd-looking dog. We heard she'd been used as a pot patch dog, tied out to deter would be marijuana theft. She was bad at it, and was supposed to be shot and killed, but had run away. She had been horrifically abused. And she was pregnant. She would run if approached. I spent many days trying to coax her to me, and at the end, her belly swollen with pups but her spine still showing, she came to me. She was one of the sweetest natured dogs I've known, grateful for respite from a desperate life. She'd probably become pregnant in her first heat. I fed her all sorts of supplements and food in an attempt to make sure the pups were okay, and on a snowy April morning took her into town, where that night the pups--five of them--were born in a corner of the bookstore. Rory, the first born, looked like a rottweiller and had his mother's sweetness plus a deep trust of people. He went to live with a little boy and his family; the boy had just had his 5th birthday. Skully (named for the x files character by my daughter) was an australian shepherd looking dog, grey of fur, bright of spirit, with blue eyes. My daughter loved her best of the group, but she was chosen very young by a young couple who visited her daily until, at 12 weeks, I released her to her new home. Cosmo was a smaller male, also grey and spotted, with a rakish eye patch and a sense of humor. Cosmo went to live with a young poet, and traveled to Pittsburgh, and then back to the coast. Cosmo, for a time, would come stay with me as his young owner traveled elsewhere. Kuma was a large silver and spotted female with a habit of hiding under things. The friend who took her renamed her Solita, and she still visits me from time to time. My friend says she is the happiest dog he has known. The last born was a small black dog we called Mai. From birth she looked upon this world with terror. And she is Dog 11. Dear Jamaica grew to trust us more and more, and loved Buddy (who tenderly helped with the puppy pile). My last memory of Jamaica is watching her run in the sunlit woods, her coat shining, her eyes bright. We'd had her spayed so she need not go through another pregnancy, and she'd put on weight, and glowed with happiness.
That night she ran from the hill and disappeared. Her body was found on the road. As with Leonard, I sometimes sense Jamaica, and am filled with regrets--but at least she tasted a bit of happiness in her short life.

11. Mai. Jamaica's lastborn was a fearful, trembling little creature from the moment she was born. I'd put Jamaica's fearfulness down to the abuse she'd suffered, but Mai, entering a wholly loving and protected environment, looked on it as though it was full of demons and dangers. Mai feared cloth. Mai feared sounds. Mai feared just about anything you could think of. And she grew to be a big, big pup, and then a big dog. For of course I kept Mai. Dog breeders whose advice I sought told me she had the potential of being a fear biter, and advised all sorts of training procedures. I enlisted the help of friends, who would visit and give her treats. But no, the world, for Mai, was still frightening.
So, while Buddy loves being at the center of store comings and goings, Mai stays home in the woods, in a carefully controlled environment, in which she is calm, and I think happy. She has a Maltese Cross in white emblazoned on her chest, and brown eyebrows, and a glossy black coat. She is fond of the cabin cats, and takes long walks with my partner to the springs. Sometimes, looking at Mai I see Jamaica, for of all the pups Mai most looks like her mother.
When Mai was 6 months old she vanished. It wasn't long after her mother's death, and I thought she was looking for her.
6 weeks later she showed up miles and miles away from our cabin, on the porch of the friend who had taken Solita, her sister, in. She'd been sighted over those weeks, but never allowed anyone to approach her. Solita's owner simply said "hi, Mai, let's go for a ride, shall we?" and put her in his truck and brought her home to me.
She'd never been to Solita's new home, and we wonder--did she track her sister over all those mountains, past the river?
She's a deep one, our Mai.

12. Who would have guessed there were 12. Champ the pitbull is the 12th. And, like Buddy, he has his own story on my other blog.

I'm humbled by how these beings have walked into (and out of ) my life. Each brought me a good deal more than I gave them, these four legged teachers of mine.


At April 25, 2006 5:22 PM , Blogger marlyat2 said...

You could write a doggish book! They seem very popular, and I can see why, reading this. Jarvenpa and her Wolf under the stars...

I love that story about Gabe, going to dig up the dog. One is torn between thinking about the need to explain and the thought that maybe he knows something we don't.

At April 28, 2006 12:23 PM , Blogger a dracul said...

i have so missed you. if the whole inherit the cosmos and the throne that was prepared for you from the beginning of time thing doesn't work out I was hoping you might take me in for a while, one hopes I'd be part wolf, but if not small fast and ugly, for an old mad cat/dog woman you are incredibly sexy in a spiritual caring way (don mean that in a yukkie spookie way but you knew that) yep really missed you, can relax for a while now. and will read on another day

At April 28, 2006 4:26 PM , Blogger Kimia said...

Hi :) I have never had a dog and some of these feelings that you shared are somehow strange for me :)
by the way I didn't understand the note " forget me". why did you write that? I think " don't forget me" makes more sense.

At April 28, 2006 6:09 PM , Blogger jarvenpa said...

Thanks Marly--Gabe's reactions often leave me with mixed feelings; he definitely sees the world differently.
a dracul--sure, a nice wolf dog would be welcome in my next life, if I believed in such things.
Kimia--your confusion is understandable. "forget-me-nots" (not "notes") are tiny blue flowers that grow in the shade. Myosotis is their Latin name, I think, but you may never have seen them. They like damp forest places, and also grow along rivers. In the old language of flowers they do indeed mean "don't forget me".

At April 29, 2006 1:08 AM , Blogger a dracul said...

and our young prince has named his AIDS?HIV charity after the Lesotho flower with the same meaning, in the day before instant text messaging and that reminder function from the calendar that generated automatic messages, in some ways though it is progress, you try sending a redeemable gift voucher in a bunch of blue weeds.

At April 30, 2006 7:22 PM , Blogger Em said...


You sure had lots of dogs..I wanted to thank you for your wish...

Been thru heaps recently hence the post and hope that I will learn from all that!

At April 30, 2006 7:53 PM , Blogger Kimia said...

aah .. OK :) sorry, my fault. Thanks for the explaination :D

At May 14, 2006 12:40 AM , Blogger Em said...


My comment will be totally unrelated to your post but is related to mine

The song is about how some hijabbed girls wear their clothes like wearing tight t-shirts,having dyed hair underneath their hijab.Their piercings and their social ways...I dunno some but be LIKE that but not all...

N yes the song playin is full of angst...


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