Monday, May 24, 2010

So I find myself in Zimbabwe, far far away from the blooming rhododendrons and the sweet spring nights of home. It’s fall here and the trees turn gold and they tell me that the nights are cold. Gets down to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit after the sun goes down.

Africa is a portrait of absolutes. It’s an either/or reality here, an exercise in polarity really, where the people do not smile but the birds sing. It really is haunting beautiful but you are quite aware of the ugliness of 90% unemployment that lays in wait and you wonder constantly if it is you that the ugliness will strike in the next moment.

The elephants lumber in and out of the watering hole and the monkeys sit on the fence post and groom their young. The hippos soak in the river at sunset and I envy them their sublime sanctuary; it comes to me that rivers are another one of the constants in my life. I love the river. I am going to find every great one in the world and float it like I did last night; nodding my head at the sames, shaking my head at the differences. The great Zambezi River and the great St. Joe are brothers, too, apparently.

It’s perplexing to be in the cradle of civilization—the very first man walked right here two million years ago—and not know exactly what I think. It seems like I should be thinking and feeling something profound. The sky is big, ten thousand times bigger than the Big Sky yet you can clearly see to the end of it; the people have great sorrow in their eyes alongside a genuine delight in their laugh; the bush and the animals don’t scare me but the waterfalls do; I can talk to the warthogs as they furiously attack the green grass of the lawn by the driveway and they actually answer me back with a flick of their beady eyes. I do not know what to think.

But I do know this. I know this: I have been here before.

I just can’t quite remember it all.

On Assignment
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe AFRICA

Friday, May 14, 2010

So The Chows read P33t’s will. Dogs will do that. They get right back to things. They have no regrets, remember. Sylvie is P33t’s personal representative and she spent Monday afternoon seeing that P33t’s last wishes were recorded and enacted. I don’t think P33tsy would mind if the world knew what he wanted taken care of—P33t was a simple guy who loved his life and his people deeply and he didn’t give two shits who knew it.

The Last Will and Testament of a Very Big Dog
~with gratitude to the great Eugene O'Neill

I, P33t, having been the object of some unsolved mystery of poison and darkness, do note my last thoughts here in order that you can all move on in an orderly manner without too much shock and sadness at my early death. Who knew that P33t wouldn’t grow old with everyone else? Red Dorothy will be snickering about my ability to write a will as P33t is not known as a particularly articulate guy but rather a guy of action! Someone who barks! Is ferocious! ;) P33t was also someone who was quite handsome. Sweet. Adorable. Good with the ladies. So they can snicker, one and all, at the thought of P33t laying down his last will and testament but to them I say this: P33t Ssssmitz has got game. Watch and learn.

First, I direct Sylvie Ruth to go to Liberty Park Greenhouses and select the biggest, most beautiful hanging basket she can find. In its ideal state, this basket will be lush with blood red geraniums and assorted delicate flowers that hang down in a pretty cascade. Not that P33t knows exactly about this stuff, just what a good one looks like, but that P33t wants something particularly nice and exactly right for his doctor, Suzanne Coulson, DVM. She called me “Petey” from the first day and tried absolutely everything she knew to save me. She telephoned my grandma every day, even Mother’s Day, to check on P33t and I want her to know I wasn’t too sick not to notice. I remember, Dr. Coulson. My family remembers. Your tender care for us all made things better and worse, because if there was or is any truth to all of this, you knew it. And it had/has to be horrifying. And you delivered the news with the most exquisite of compassion. Yes, P33t would definitely call it exquisite compassion. Flowers for your deck to be enjoyed in the morning sun, because The Chow Nation are outdoor dogs, you know, and we loved to play ball in the morning sun as grandma sat and drank coffee. Such laughter, such fun, such excitement; every morning! Thank you, Dr. Coulson.

Second, Sylvie Ruth should stop at South Perry Pizza just up the road from Liberty Park. There she should send Cleo in to buy gift certificates for pizza and beer for all the folks that work at SouthCare Animal Medical Center. They are a good group up there. Darned good group. P33t did not want to have one thing to do with them, smells much too clean up there, and they have that dumb house cat that I was too feeble and too sick to chase but all in all, they were nice people. Real nice to my grandma which matters to me. And I guess that cat donates blood to sick cats and God*Help*Me sick dogs when they need it. That cat walking around like he owns the place without anyone to call him out is but one of the indignities of being really sick but nevertheless, P33t wants those folks to know they were real nice when he needed them. And he hopes they have a nice evening on him sometime.

I direct my collar to be hung on my condo door as a testament to the fact that I, P33t, was a guy who loved home. Forget about that time I went to town, that was just a misunderstanding because I loved Club Chow and Bellemaison right down to the last tuft of hair on each of my ears. How could you not? The birds and the tulips in spring, the roses and the bees in June, the hot, lazy afternoons of July and August and the bright, clear days of the fall, when the evening finally grew cooler and our fur came back in clumps. Bellemaison is a magical place of life and death, where the good can die young and without warning or reason and where we wait with our old until their very last hour, when it’s finally their time. Bellemaison is the place of every season, every day and without ego and with proper respect, I was a big part of that. I was the one who barked at the skunks and squirrels; roared at the cats stalking the quail; chased the sparrows out of my dinner dish, followed Cliffie’s every move; skipped to bed in my condo under the starry night skies, in wonder at how anything could be more beautiful that the faint and feeble Easter moon; gobbled my nightly bone with relish and grateful appreciation and generally gave the place weight and cred. I want my collar to hang like the cardinals hang their hat in the cathedrals and the great ball players hang their jerseys the outfield wall. Because I was cardinal and I was great.

Stack my dinner dish in the closet because I do not want my grandma to see it in a random moment and be sad. She seems to think she needs to feed the world and that’s fine but P33t’s not here no more for her to feed and she’ll forget that. Let’s not remind her because too many people have left her and she still waits for you, now us, all. You know how she is. Let’s help her be happy and forward looking. Make her throw the ball for you. Let her comb your hair. Lick her hand lotion off. These are the things that will make her view that empty, clean dinner dish with an absent minded intent to find some other new use for it. In fact, I revise my last testament at this very moment and instruct you to place my dinner dish and my matching water dish in strategic places in the flower beds in the gardens of Bellemaison, so the birds can drink deeply and freely, in satisfaction and relief until they are sated. We love dinner time at Bellemaison and feeding each other can and should go on and on and on. Forever. Put my dishes among the roses that grow tall and sweet in Bellemaison and keep them filled with clean water always.

For My Grandma: one hug each day for five years because she will need that. She needs hugs only no one but me really seems to understand that. She needs someone she can go to and that was ME. I was quite good at that if I do say so myself. Hug her people. She’ll have a lot of pain now that I’m not here to help her with it. And she’s like me, the fewer the words, the better. Grandma likes action and action plans. Try not to bother her with expressing yourself in a bunch of awkward, cluttered up sentences. Just show her what you’re thinking and keep moving.

For my Uncle Jonny, I bequeath a long walk in Manito Park on a cool and misty early winter morning. Uncle Jonny’s school years were some of the very best here in Bellemaison for he was a guy who was going places and taking care of business, always. We set the garden clock by the roar and explosion of his truck coming and going and were always grateful and happy to have him come out to Club Chow, in his gentle and loving manner. Be well, Uncle Jon. Don’t take any wooden bones or settle for anything less than you are worth. And do not hesitate for a second to bark if you have to. Then DO IT.

One million bones to my Auntie Angela because she is the true million dollar baby who loves and respects everyone particularly me. She taught P33t everything about ball and my game was only good because she coached me on how to win and how to play hard. Even though I was big. Who knew someone like me could run bases? But I did. Auntie Angela got me to do it. I owe her everything and direct Cleo to give her 5 black kisses from me and further direct her to play to win in all her own games. With no argument. Get going.

A cold six pack and a great afternoon in front of the TV watching a brilliant Mariners win is for Uncle Ben because that’s what he likes most and that was one of my most favorite afternoons-- listening to the game as I napped. And Uncle Ben, get your hair combed out even though it will hurt some. Hell, get it all cut off if you have to. We started getting these damned lion cuts and came to like them, even if we looked ridiculous, because we just swept the dirty, matted knots, stray sticks and dead bugs of winter right into the garbage can. Got to quit dealing with all that pesky Old Business. Besides it was just us who saw us and we all came to appreciate how dumb we looked, but how great we felt. Give it a try? And never stop believing. Especially when we are talkin’ the M’s. And never miss a chance for a warm afternoon with a cold beer doing something you love.

I would like my Auntie Robbie to have a nice evening at the end of a busy, happy day because she loved me without fail; give her some good company, good conversation and a really nice time together for Auntie Robbie is one who cares for the world and wastes her smile on any and all. You may say that a smile is never wasted and you’re probably right but Auntie Robbie’s smile is so dazzling and so real that P33t believes it’s quite possible it could be a national treasure, like that one movie. Yes, Auntie Robbie’s smile belongs in that place back east where they have George Washington’s sword and Sacajawea’s dress and Wright Brothers’ airplane. And I direct The Chow Nation to join in a rousing chorus of “Adestes Fidelis” every August 5, not because Christmas is coming, but because Auntie Robbie is always faithful. To me and everyone. Happy Birthday always to my Beloved Auntie Robbie.

To the wonderful, wonderful children of Hutton School, whose comings and goings frame our day here at Club Chow, I leave you recess twice a day for the rest of your life, no matter where your path leads or your travel takes you, because joy and sport builds muscle in your heart and frees your soul to sing. Promise P33t you’ll give yourself this everyday because I think you could become exceptional if you could remember how much fun we always had at Club Chow in Bellemaison. We listened to you over the fence everyday and your laughter and shouts always brought us a smile and put a skip in our step. Living next to you was one of the very best parts of my life. Always be in your life how you were at recess at Hutton School and your dreams will come true. One by one…

I leave to my Very Best Friend Cliffie a whole flower pot full of balls. Like that song Jay-Z says, “ Just a picture perfect day/ to last a whole lifetime.” That was Cliffie and us every Friday and Saturday. A picture perfect day that lasted a whole lifetime until the next Friday when we hit rewind. P33t loved Cliffie and every single second we spent together in Club Chow.

Finally, and with no afterthought, I leave my grandpa a big paw anytime he wants or needs it. Grandpa wasn’t a guy who liked a bunch of words either but he always knew what I meant when I gave him The Paw. Maybe it was P33t’s imagination, but I think he kinda gave me the paw back, plenty of times. Grandpa will miss me because I was no candy ass, attention greedy dog but a regular guy who was good company. We snored together on Sunday afternoon a lot and Grandpa won’t need anybody to remind him that nobody’s paws were bigger than P33t’s.

So I tell you good bye with the most reluctant of farewells; I did not want to leave you. But I went with the sun on my face and the sweet smell of spring in the air and that helped. And I was so grateful to have had such a good family to play with all the time and to have known the contentment of the evening after a busy day in the garden, the wonder at the stars and moon on a perfect clear night, the fun and jokes we all had with each other as another day came again and again and we got to start it all over. P33t has so many fantastic memories and loved you all more than you knew and waits for you now. If ever you find yourself on The Path, be sure to listen. First you’ll hear me; then look up-- because you’ll see me then, standing at the gate and wagging my tag with a loud and rowdy bark, in happy gratitude because the long night of our separation is finally over. Don’t forget me. I’m P33t. The Big Dog.

Club Chow
May 11, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

October 31, 2000-May 11, 2010
Requiescat In Pace

It's a beautiful morning here in Bellemaison. The sun shines through the newly green leaves of the bushes and trees making the garden look like an emerald paradise of hanging cups and saucers dripping in all hues of green and sparkle, brilliant in freshness and new growth. The birds sing deliriously, happy to an extent that only birds can be, and all the things that live here scurry and scamper about, glad that the cold, dark days of winter are far over and that food and life is abundant one more.

So we wait, Sylvie Ruth, Cleo, Red Dorothy and I, for P33t to get his call. He's been called to go live with Santa and we are sitting with him until his time comes. We do not know why and how it was P33t who got poisoned but we know, absolutely, that the acute pain that life sometimes deals out is too, too hard. Too hard. The Chows are taking this somewhat better than me--they are completely settled that P33t will be with Uncle Bob but I cannot reconcile myself to P33t's suffering and bewilderment as this deadly toxin has settled into him, gripping his kidneys and liver, refusing to give up even in the face of the best veterinary science has to offer. I can't reconcile this surprise visit from fate or The Gods or whoever pulled P33t's card up and put it on their desktop.

The Chows have lived in the gardens of Bellemaison their entire life so they know that life and death are completely predictable in the course of any season, even in spring. They live each day to the fullest and fall asleep exhausted each evening with no regrets. That's why The Chows will all get to go live with Santa and Uncle Bob. Their hearts are pure and unfettered with seductive pursuits and obsessions. They have a close circle of best friends that they honor and value without exception, unconditionally. Mr. Erickson, who throws milk bones over his tall hedge for them. Auntie Robbie who they invite for sleepovers when everyone else here is on the road. Cliffie, who comes on Friday and Saturday to play with them as he works in the garden and who is Their Very Best Friend. The mailman, who they've never seen, is their friend and so are the two meter readers. Although they like to bark riotously at the mailman and the meter reader, it's only just for fun. Everyone knows their role in Bellemaison. The Chows close the books on their life each and every evening and so start the day fresh, with their values keenly focused and their intents genuine. The Chows have no other aim than to be fully present in every moment for those and that whom they love. That's why they will go straight to Santa's side when the time comes. As Eugene O'Neil said, dogs do not have a narrow, jealous spirit.

I, on the other hand, can't get to the end of the tears. Just can't seem to find the end. Syvie comes and sits by my hip as I write, lifting hopeful eyes into my face, imploring me to be strong. That hurts even worse. She now guards P33t as he sleeps deeply and peacefully and then comes back to my side, laying down and stretching out fully with a big sigh. You're never quite have enought of you to be there for everyone you love.

The 'Kan EWA