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Ron and TigerThe author and Tiger the Beagle . . . circa 1965
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Ron, Wow and HenryThe author with Wowie the Samoyed and Henry Red Dog (circa 1999 . . . Pony, MT).
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They guys (ron dog photos)A photographic example of why most couches are too short.
My life has been a litany of dogs . . .
Some have been timid as mice in therapy, jumping and lurching at the rattlesnake crackle of unfurled Reynolds Wrap or the air rifle pop of a snap-top Dr. Pepper. Others would snarl and lunge, baring small teeth and baying with abandon at carnivorous animals twice, thrice or even four times their mass. Some of my dogs have preferred people and home, the quiet security of sanctuary. Others have existed for the tang of ice air in warm lung and acrid iron of bloody lip. Some sought kind words and gentle scratches, others preferred atavistic growls and drawn fangs.
Dogs are like that. One to the other, minute to minute, you just never know.
People are like that too, albeit far less trustworthy in motive and deed.
In my early days, Tiger the Beagle roamed the fields and forests of south Missouri. He joined me in the construction of straw-walled kingdoms - Bucephalus to my Alexander - as we rode roughshod over infidel fiefdoms in Grandma Jensen's hay barn. Tiger taught me imagination.
The second beagle, Skipper the bold, delighted in the kill, leaving rabbits, sparrows and live bluegill on the front step before I would wander down to the gravel road to meet the big yellow bus. Skipper taught me self reliance.
Crow the Labrador was a psychic and a genius, imparting life and Frisbee with the wisdom of a beach bound Buddhist. B.J. the Rottweiler was a prisoner - emancipated from a tyrant master by midnight's blackness - who chose to perish with honor and dignity. Crow taught me wonder. B.J. taught me sacrifice.
Then there was Buffett the Wolfhound, kind and gentle yet six feet tall and deadly loyal. Henry, my little red dog, picked me from a line-up. We came home from the pound, he hopped on the bed, and over 16 years the smiles never faded for a moment. By a brief marriage (or rather, by a quick divorce) I inherited full rights to an ancient warrior Samoyed named Wowie. That trio possessed things I've yet to learn.
Dogs die far too young, a fact that is sadly ingrained into the hearts, minds and souls of all who love them. Buff departed; Henry and Wow were soon joined by Boris the malamute. Boris lost his sight at an early age, but his reservoir of grace and courage, his ability to adapt and happily soldier on, taught me that there is hope even in the darkest of nights. I remained dogless for a time – a very short time overflowing with grief – when Henry and Boris passed away barely a year apart (Wow had preceeded them some years earlier . . . at age 18).
And then Hugo arrived, an odd-looking bassett/Aussie who (now only two years old) is the living, breathing epitome of hilarity and innocence. Jack E. Paper (aka: Fat Jack Rabinowitz, Jack the Nipper) moved to Missouri from NJ, the (now) 13-year-old pup of my best friend who could no longer keep him due to health issues. Jack is possibly the most brilliant canine I have ever seen. He’s strong-willed, sometimes demanding, utterly loving, incredibly protective and seems to understand every word I say. Surprisingly to me, he adopted Hugo and the two are virtually inseparable (Hugo is in awe of Jack; Jack thinks Hugo is the funniest creature on four legs). These two reaffirmed my almost forgotten belief that family is not always defined by blood.
The point of this biography, I suppose, is to illuminate the incongruity between dogs and people, the fact that canine insight demands care only of important stuff. I'm mystified at how humans become inflamed and venomous over minutia such as politics and current events when their attention should be focused on their own lives and freedoms. I'm astonished at those who believe that all is crisis, who are unaware that the lying emissaries from Planet Hollywood or Planet Washington seek only self aggrandizement. Don't folks know it's a scam?
Maybe I don't understand. I'm thankful for that,
I rarely write about writing. It is boring for all save he who puts the words in a decipherable sequence. It is not romantic, despite the claims of the biographers who chronicle the transient existences of fabled scribblers. More times than not it is a profession borne of inflated ego and invective adoration.
Writers are not journalists - that's a different profession entirely. Succinctly, journalists record and writers create. The latter, whether through the guise of fiction, non-fiction, essay or sonnet, exist to offer up their own opinion. To present even the most obscure suggestion of an objective accounting would be labeled as transparent pretense.
Like dogs, we sniff the scent in the air. If the scent be pleasing we grin, yapping in a high pitch and bouncing about the yard. If the scent be foul, we expose teeth and prowl, seeking soft underbelly for the damaging bite.
That's what I do. Then again, my life has been a litany of dogs, and dogs are more human than most humans. I like poking fun, considering, laughing and thinking. You jab, back off, laugh, and jab again. Most of the serious issues of the day fail to be serious once given a few minutes thought, and pale in comparison to family, friends, canines and whether or not the catfish are biting.
But that's just me, a mountain lovin', prairie transplanted purveyor of prose who believes life begins and ends at home and the rest is fodder for the jocularity mill. I learn from things close, not from talking heads or printing press. I feel all who take issue with common sense, those whose fearful brains accept only that which is popular, safe, trendy or politically correct, suffer from severe humor impairment.
Of course, since I'm not pretending to be ultra-serious and mega-concerned about every issue from gay weddings in the rain forests to half-drowned polar bears on the picket line I’m often labeled apathetic, arrogant, warped, soul-less and cynical. The dogs find such stuff highly amusing - calling up all their friends to share the oddness - but realize there are matters of far greater consequence, like their own lives, the lives of their kin, and the hope that I have remembered to replenish the bottomless box of Milk Bones.
Being dogs, they don't understand obsession with anxiety, consternation and the pointless trivia of our celebrity obsessed, media-driven culture. The prefer laughing reality.
So do I.