Good Ol’ Gal

We met, and she bit me. I loved her from that moment. I adored her lumpiness and how her butt drooped more heavily to the right when she walked—pigeon-toed. Her tawny fur bordered near mange, her ears hung in tatters, but a healthy diet would fix all that, and would even stop her seizures. My wife and I adopted Tiva from the rescue service without thinking twice.

The shelter said our Deerlegged Chihuahua was only five years old and spayed. That first week, after a checkup, shots, and the removal of several rotted teeth, the vet said Tiva was probably eleven or more years old. We loved her anyway.

After several months Tiva stopped hiding under the bed, stopped snapping at us, and begged to be held or to sit on our laps.

She slept every night beneath the covers, wrapped in my wife’s arms. We took her everywhere, and on rare occasions when we didn’t, a tiny face with sad eyes peeked just over the sill of the front window to watch us leave. She knew the sound of the car, of our bikes, and the rhythm of our feet. She always met us at the door as if never having gotten farther than a few feet from it during our absence.

Tiva loved the vegetable garden, snorfling for bugs and stuffing her nose into holes. Only once did being outdoors upset her, the day three crows plopped into the backyard and followed like wisecracking teenagers behind her as she skulked away.

On good days, Tiva would laugh.

She loved the beach, the one place on Earth where she would run without coaxing—edging to the water line, racing back before the tide got her.

December 2007, Tiva became lethargic and struggled into the new year. One evening she dropped. My wife and I stayed up all night pumping her with our hands to keep her breathing so we could get her to the vet in the morning. Within minutes of our arrival, Tiva underwent surgery. January 8, 2008: removal of a 1.2 pound infected uterus from a 5.8 pound dog.

Tiva slowed way down, but remained happy.

Six months later, she went deaf, which was actually a good thing. She couldn’t hear the thunder of the Independence Day fireworks, which in previous years drove her into a frenzy and under the bed to disappear for a few. She had finally gained a reprieve. But by Christmas Tiva began to go blind. The vet now guessed that she was no younger than fourteen years old, was lucky to have lived the four years we’d had her.

She made it into the new year, but the last week of January she began screaming incessantly. She paced blindly, ran into walls, doors, and fell over threshold dividers. We didn’t let her on the bed, afraid she would fall. The incessant screaming got louder, and it did not stop. Sedatives did nothing.

Monday, February 2, 2009, the vet gave us a stronger sedative, told me to use as much as I wanted. I didn’t catch the underlying drift because I was adamantly opposed to putting Tiva down; she was not in pain… but the screaming… . 

Wednesday, I realized it was terror in my old gal’s blind eyes. I removed all the furniture from my music studio so Tiva could pace and wander without injury, but she got stuck in corners. Her terror grew even louder.

One of my adult guitar students came in a few days later for her weekly lesson, but she could hear Tiva, though I had shut the tiny old girl in a room at the back end of the house. My student started her finger-picking exercise then looked right at me. “A good friend will have enough love to make the hardest decision anyone will ever have to make.” I deliberated a few days, then my wife and I made a decision on that following Wednesday night. She held Tiva while I pumped our old gal with enough of the sedatives the vet had given us to down a thoroughbred.

It did not work.

Thursday morning, I called the vet and asked to bring in Tiva. I didn’t need to say what for. They knew. My wife and I arrived at the hospital, Tiva screaming in my arms. The vet ushered us immediately to a room, no words spoken. My wife cradled Tiva during the first injection, a relaxant to her get calm. Tiva’s eyes cleared. She went limp. My wife carried our girl to the examination table, laid her down so we both could hold Tiva as she died. For the first time in months, Tiva aimed clear focused eyes at us and smiled. The final injection, Tiva’s body went instantly still. My wife and I stopped crying.

Our old gal found peace—February 5, 2009, 7:58 on a rare sunny morning in Humboldt County.

I regret that we did not relieve Tiva’s pain earlier, wish that I had not held so steadfastly to my vow not to kill in any circumstance. Sometimes death is the only thing in life that will return our comfort and relieve our fear. When it happens to me, I hope my friends and family let go of their intellectualizing and act from their hearts.

Tiva: one cute little piece of stuff.

You Can Sing the Blues

I read once, on Guy Davis’s website, that white people can’t sing the blues. In fact, Davis’s web site article seemed almost downright mad that white people would even think about singing a song in a genre exclusive to Black America.

Sorry, Guy… but that ain’t right. Anyone can sing and play the blues; it doesn’t matter whether you’re pink, green, orange or purple. All you need to be is human. Put an 8-bar or 12-bar pattern together with three chords, throw in a few (or a lot of) wrong notes, and sing like you mean it.

All you gotta do is wake up in the morning and look around for your shoes, or go down to the crossroads, or find out that something you never thought you’d lose is gone. If you’ve ever walked along the railroad track, tried to find your way back home, or made your way to the middle of nowhere… you can sing the blues.

If your best friend done stole your partner, or your partner done found another… you can sing the blues.

If you once had money and now you don’t and all your friends took off ’cause now you’re broke… you can sing the blues.

You can definitely sing the blues if:
• You’re fixin’ to die
• You shot a man in Reno
• You stabbed a man in Memphis
• You’ve been in jail
• Your best friend is the bottom of a bottle
• You thought you had it made but now you don’t
• Even your mama don’t remember your name

I’ve also read that teenagers can’t sing the blues, ’cause they ain’t “fixin’ t’ die,” and because they ain’t older than dirt.

Baloney. Anybody can sing the blues.

Ever been sent to the principal’s office? Ever had someone turn you down when you asked them to a dance? Ever found yourself on the playground feelin’ so lonesome you didn’t know what to do? Ever woke up in the morning and felt that things were just gettin’ ready to go wrong?

Anybody and everybody can sing the blues. We all start singing them on the day we’re born.

Realistically, though… there are some rules. You shouldn’t be singing the blues if:
• Your name is Brittany, Tiffany, or Moonbeam
• You drive a new BMW, HumVee, or an Audi
• You never shop at the Dollar Store
• You have a membership to the golf course next door

As long as you don’t have any blatant “out-of-context” qualities, you can sing and play the blues. Just get a guitar, or a harmonica, or just sing with a moanin’ in your heart.

That’s the Blues.

Coming Upon Winter

The green of summer is gone, the reds and yellows of autumn faded. All that remains above the Poudre River are brittle brown leaves that await their final fall into the flow. Seventeen inches of snow fell one week ago, but the only the bones of the storm remain in gray piles along the roadside, like roadkill wanting to disappear.

‘Tis the season of change――in the air, on the ground, in our lives.

In Colorado, Hell erupted to the surface of the Earth in more ways than several. The entire West is burned to char, and still burns. Violence among people still boils over the rim of the “melting pot,” and the POTUS proliferates violence and ideas of civil war.

Guns in public, aimed at the buses of a presidential candidate opposed to the maniacal, insane antics coming from our “sanctified”: White House.Who could have imagined that, one hundred fifty-five years after the War Between the States, the modern United States would relive one of the worst catastrophes in its history, a catastrophe indicative of Hitler’s rise, Mussolini’s rise, Qaddafi’s rise… .

Rome burned and lost its foothold on the world because of Nero’s insanity. My hope is that history can repeat itself so many times before people wake up.

My wife and I rode our bikes alongside the Poudre this afternoon, and at the bridge just before the intersection leading into Old Town Fort Collins we heard a steel tongue drum, beautiful and so much attuned to the slow rhythm of the river. I stopped on the bridge to listen, and to watch the fella who sat beneath gray trees and played the music. I stood longer, bowed my appreciation to the player as he bowed his appreciation that I listened. He restarted the melodic enchantment for my enjoyment. At the end, I waved good-bye. He waved good-bye. No sound; only the music.
It could have been an eternity. Maybe just a few minutes. He shared his music, I shared my enjoyment, and together, in silence, we shared our appreciation of one another.

I can only hope the U.S. election a week ago brings our country closer to an appreciation of one another, more appreciation of itself, and more appreciation of other countries.


The profoundness of ignorance becomes a devastating tsunami when we look around — to the front, to the sides, then over our shoulders — and realize without having to think about it we did not know. Ignorance pervades, because, after looking around, we do not recognize where we are and have no clear recollection of how we arrived. It is our own fault for always moving. We know that, we admit that (“back in the good old days”), then we “keep on truckin’.’

Yet along the Oregon coast, islands of rock, so steadfast in their defiance of the never-ending surge of a rough sea, have stood against the loneliness of midnight for more ages than man has memory. Still, we cannot sit still in one place for more than a passing thought. Each new idea that seeps into our collective consciousness, or that strikes us like a bolt from a heavy sky, sets us again in motion, embarks us once again upon our mortal pilgrimage toward unknown destinations we hope will ease our loneliness, or will be spectacular enough to ease our pain.

How long has it been since humanity stopped to hear the song of the trees? There was a time when the people of the land understood the language of the forests and of the brooks.

It was common — long ago — to walk through the forest and experience things that can never happen again, or to see things that will remain eternally hidden, and for which we cannot piece together a rough recollection. Some things about the forest could never happen, though we were there and saw it, because we stood motionless in awe and wonder.

But we no longer sit to breathe, we try to authenticate our existence only with movement — leaps and bounds — which we justify as progress. Still, we ain’t goin’ nowhere.

Old to New

Then none were for the party,
Then all were for the State,
Then the great man helped the poor,
And the poor man loved the great:
Then lands were fairly portioned,
Then spoils were fairly sold… .
――Thomas McCauley, “Horatius”

At a point in time a homeowner decides a certain room or other living space no longer suits the needs of the day, and contacts my boss and his wife. They all congregate to devise a new plan: an updated kitchen, a finished basement, a bathroom that, since the original construction of the house, has never quite been as easily accessible as it could be. A style is chosen, plans are drawn, colors are picked… and then it’s showtime.

My boss and I walk cocked and loaded into the particular living space we’re contracted to remodel. We rip away the walls, leaving only the bare bones of framing. If necessary, we tear up the flooring and lay down a new subfloor for whatever change is to come. We use crowbars, hammers, electric saws, drills, the heels of our boots… whatever it takes to empty the space to its essential, original nakedness. Sometimes we eliminate entire walls. It’s laborious work; lots of sweat and a couple of “owies” are always involved. When our demolition is complete, it’s showtime.

Updated electrical systems have been installed, plumbing may or may not be rerouted, a new floor is laid, new cabinets are hung, a stove and range may have been relocated from a dark corner against a wall to an open island we built between the cooking and dining areas, and all appliances are updated. When we’re finished, the place looks like a brand new house.

The biggest deal: the remodel functions better than what the homeowner lived in previously.

The House, the Senate… good gosh the entire country: Democracy in the United States is dead. We need a constitution not written by candlelight. The Bill of Rights has been ignored since the day it was ratified (1791). Three branches of government to “ensure” checks and balances so a dictatorship could not raise its evil head above the banner of democracy――lately that doesn’t seem to be working as planned. In plain sight, mailboxes are being removed so the current government can remove our basic right to vote. Racism runs rampant in murderous numbers.

Just my opinion, but I think it’s time for a complete remodel of the United States, because the house in which we now live no longer suits the needs of the day.

And slowly answer’d Arthur from the barge:
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new.

――Alfred Lord Tennyson,
“The Idylls of the King: The Passing of Arthur.”

Time to Replant the Garden