My Dogs’ Life

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It felt like the first day of spring.  Saturday, April 11, 2015.  Eliza, my 11 year old blonde cocker spaniel-golden retriever mix, and Abra, my 5 year old border collie mix, had woken me at 7 a.m. for a quick trip out to the front porch and then all three of us trooped back upstairs to my queen size bed, found a comfortable spot and slept for another two and a half hours.  At about 9:25, Eliza unfurled herself from the crook of my legs and hopped off the bed.  Abra shook her head and poked it out from beneath the covers next to my left side.  She did her little morning Down Dog yoga pose, waited for a bit of a belly scratch and then jumped down, tail wagging, waiting for me to put my slippers on and walk downstairs to let them outside.

It was a beautiful day.  Clear blue sky, warm sun.  I would get dressed and we would go for a long morning walk, maybe the farmers market.  The girls loved Saturdays because it meant three or four long walks.  One through Sayre School and around Central Christian Church to Esplanade and then Main Street and back up Limestone.  One down Second Street hoping to see and chase Abra’s friend Sassy before going to Georgetown Street and back down Short.  One around the campus of Transylvania and their home turf of Gratz Park where squirrels are most plentiful.

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Abra, left, and Eliza: winter in Gratz Park

As I’ve done a thousand times, I let them into the back yard.  I got a glass of water, a protein bar, the newspaper from the front porch.  I called for them at the back door and they didn’t come so I gave them another minute.  When they didn’t come the second time, I went into the driveway, calling for them in my nightgown.  That was when the unthinkable occurred.

Four people stood in my driveway.

“Are you looking for a couple of dogs?”  The woman asked me.  She was someone I’d never seen before.

“Yes.”

“We hit them.”

“You hit them?”  I asked.  I heard her, I don’t know why I repeated it.  My brain wanted to reject the information.

“Yes.  They were chasing a cat.”

A slim woman in black pushing a baby carriage came closer.  Her face showed great sadness.  I looked from her to the first woman.  The two men hung back.

Please.

“Please tell me they’re not dead.”

The first woman nodded.  “We saw the cat.  The cat got away.  We stopped for the cat.  But we didn’t see the dogs.”

“They’re dead?”  My voice rose in a quiver.  “They’re dead?”

The woman with the baby carriage approached me.  She whispered, “Can I give you a hug?”  I clung to her.  I didn’t know her, but she was my mother and my sister and my best friend in that moment.  “They are dead?  They can’t be dead.  They are all I have in the world.  Please tell me they’re not dead.”

Her husband, young, tall, capable.  “We saw it happen.  I — ”  He checked his wife’s eyes.  “I picked them up off the street and carried them to the sidewalk.  I checked their pulses first thing.  They were both killed instantly.  They didn’t suffer.”

“They are dead?  Dead?  My babies.  My poor babies.”  I cried.  I wailed.  I have heard the word keen but never knew what the sound was until I heard it coming from my own chest.  I needed to see.  I released myself from the bounds of this woman’s arms and walked toward the street and saw a swath of blood and gore several feet wide.  “Oh my God.  My babies.”  From where I stood, I could see the familiar curve of Abra’s soft, black fur covering her curled back, her tail tucked habitually between her front paws.  I couldn’t see her face or her distinctive ears or her bright, curious, loving cinnamon eyes.  I couldn’t see any of Eliza at all:  not her kind, devoted deep brown eyes, or her Grinch-feathered toes or her soft, floppy ears.

Abra, the Doodle, Abra Doodle, the Poodle, the Poo-Poo, Doodle Fus.  Eliza, Eliza Jane, Liza Jane, Smushy-Face, Grinchy Toes.

“I have to call someone.”  I stumbled into the house.  I called my mother, no answer.  My father.  No answer.  On the second ring, my sister answered and within three words, my brother in law was on the way to help.  Within ten minutes, my mother and best friend had arrived.  Then my sister.  Then more friends.  Shock, sorrow, sadness.

Throughout the week, I’ve had cards and letters and flowers and words of comfort from friends and neighbors and even people I barely know but who know me from seeing me walking with the neighborhood with Abra and Eliza.

“Where are the girls today?”

I’ve explained several times and without exception, have been met with real, compassionate tears.

My neighbor across the street called me on Sunday.  “I barely knew them and they always barked at me when they saw me as if they’d never seen me before,” he said, his voice muddy with tears, “but I loved those dogs.  They were the sweetest things.  I miss them already.  I know I’m supposed to strong for you and I’m failing in that.  I’m so sorry.”

One of my neighbors around the corner dropped off a card last night that brought me to tears again.  “I’ve been thinking of you and your pals.  I’m so sorry.  If they could talk, they would thank you for the years of love and for taking such good care of them.”

But you see, it was the other way around.  They took such good care of me.

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Love in the Time of Cholera: War, Peace & Parrots

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    Gabriel Garcia Marquez died at age 87 on April 17.  The New York Times called him the “Magus of Magical Realism” in an obituary penned by noted literary critic Michiko Kakutani.  http://nyti.ms/1eFI0VX

    It seems an appropriate time to revisit my recent post about Love in the Time of Cholera, a novel about love, passion, life, death and time.

      While the choleric anger of petty rage inflames ego-driven wars to ravage the countryside and population of an unknown Central American nation, a doctor, his wife and the man who has loved her for decades spend their days involved in their own lives.  Sheltered from the country’s wars by wealth.  Suffused with longing.  Having an astounding amount of sex.  Love in the TIme of Cholera, published in 1985 by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is at times a study of frustration, devotion, persistence, ambition, betrayal, forgiveness, obsession.  It is a novel of life and yet the author warned readers of Love, “not to fall into my trap.”  He also told the New Yorker that the book is based on the love story of his own parents.  http://www.themodernword.com/gabo/gabo_serenade.html Fermina, the daughter of a successful but disreputable business man, falls desperately in love with beak-nosed, skinny Florentino, a man without resources other than his ability to write really hot letters.  Fermina’s father forbids the relationship and thus the love grows, desperately, until one day Fermina runs smack into Florentino and decides the Garcia Marquez equivalent of:  Ugh.  What have I been thinking.  Frankly, his description sounds rather crow-life (and not nearly as good-looking as Javier Bardem who played him in the 2008 movie), yet despite all that, Florentino becomes rather the Don Juan and Wilt Chamberlain of his time and place, devoting the next 51 years to satisfying every woman within reach (including his 14 year old ward) while reveling in his own unrequited love.

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  Because you see, Dr. Juvenal Urbino takes as his wife Fermina and they what Juvenal believes to be happily ever after.  Until he falls off a ladder trying to return his pet parrot to its cage (not a spoiler because this happens in the first few pages).   Ah, such is life.  Florentino then must try to take advantage of Fermina’s sudden availability to requite the love that has delightfully tortured him for the past five decades.  “Fermina,” he said, “I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love.” The book is dazzlingly full of brilliant natural descriptions, the confusion of human emotions, of journeys.  The book is perhaps, most importantly, a metaphor for life. For your book club, I suggest a South American menu, including (and perhaps most importantly) a drink called a Pisco Sour.  Pisco is a brandy common to Peru and Chile and this drink is delicious.  There are harder ways of making it:  whipping the egg whites, folding them in bit by bit, etc. but this recipe works:

INGREDIENTS:
4 cups ice cubes
1 cup pisco
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg white
aromatic bitters
DIRECTIONS:
1. Place ice cubes, pisco, lemon juice, sugar, egg white, and bitters in the bowl of a blender. Blend on high speed until finely pureed. Pour into two glasses and garnish with an additional dash of bitters.

I would add a warm wild rice salad with fresh julienned vegetables and spicy popcorn shrimp, some guacamole with blue corn chips and a Tres Leches cake for dessert.  I have not tried this recipe, so I’m simply giving you the link to the all recipes page.  http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Gs-Tres-Leches-Cake/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=tres% Music:  oh this is way too easy, I know, but iTunes and Amazon actually sell the soundtrack for the Love in the Time of Cholera movie.  And if you want something sexier, try mixing Shakira, Enrique Iglesias and Frank Sinatra. 1920s_valentine_kiss_retro_art_beverage_coasters-re95e368b14ad424d85fba372ca135ad6_ambkq_8byvr_512