Dash a little Dash a lot
There he is. Up there. At the top of the page? Yes…and in the Great Beyond, watching. He is not quite sure if he should be playing yet. It was only yesterday he was considering if he should leave his body – though his small right foot was so awfully ravaged by a creeping cancer.
It was a trying time for him, because I knew he did not want to leave and I agreed I also did not want him to go. I had tried antibiotics and steroids, black salve and wheatgrass, homeopathics and herbals, energetics and yes, prayer..But the cancer on little Dashie’s foot had a different mind/spirit and so it became clear that unless he improved the only options were amputation or euthanasia. Now for a young dog the choice would have been a simple one…cut the darn thing off, he will learn to walk on three paws and pray it does not continue to invade the whole body, but sweet little Dash was 16± years and though he was, up until the last days, still eating, drinking, running down the hall like a dog with two tails after he was re-bandaged and begging to be carried when sister Dot went on her walk.
When I was at home he and I would cuddle at length and speak of his being well again…enough so that we did actually go for a walk and carry, even for the week before I departed… it appeared he would recover. Alas, that was not to be.
Even so, though challenging for me, I pragmatically considered the possibilities. How long could he live like this? Especially since I was heading out of town for 4 weeks. Could my friends handle the responsibility of changing the dressing twice a day? Would they be able to deal with the process of cleaning a wound that was, in itself ugly as hell and sometimes stinky? As soon as I had left it became clear that the health problems my dear sweet little Dash dog was experiencing were indeed too great for others to deal with and my options became only one, to send little Dash to join his brothers and sisters who now reside in the Great Beyond. And It is an exercise in futility to imagine how things might’ve been had I not been away. Plain and Simple. We won’t go there.
Instead, I have decided to eulogize the being whose name was Dashiel Hamlet. Yes, I do know who was his quasi namesake. What else might a writer name her dog/s?
When I first met the puppy whose name at the time was Lucky, (and he was as you read on) he belonged to a poor family in Echo Park where my daughter Julia had a job transforming vacant lots into arts parks. Julia had been presented with a very tiny 8 week old puppy, Lucky’s litter mate/sister, who she promptly named Dot…because of a white dot under her chin. One day not long after, Julia called me hysterically. “Mom, Lucky was hit by a car and the family will not take him to the vet. Can we take him please?” I immediately agreed and we drove him to the hospital where we were advised that this tiny dog had a broken leg and pelvis and was experiencing kidney failure. Oy. Surgery was the only option and I agreed to foot (no pun intended) the bill; two or three mortgage payments later we took home the cast-wearing puppy. Meanwhile the family of Lucky had relinquished their ownership – no way were they going to pay the bill. No way would I have given him back either!
Little Dot was ecstatic her brother had come to live with us – she chased him around the yard – body cast and all. Julia was soon going off to college and now I had, in addition to BooBoo, my rescued bichon frise, Julia’s Dot and limping Lucky whose name I soon changed to Dash- an abbreviation of Dashiel. Dot formally became Dorothy (Barker). I had now two of my favorite writers as canine muses and BooBoo to remind me to love my mistakes.
Dot and Dash regularly played tug of war with a 6 foot rope, wrestling and play-fighting over balls and toys and shoes. I laughed til I cried, often and always at their tirelessness and my joy at watching these beings grow. At night they crawled into bed with me. Dash snuggling into the crook of my arm – armpit actually, Dot often under the covers on my left and hBoo Boo was at my feet. It wasn’t always easy to change positions but they were so damn loving, who was I to complain. In the morning they would all chase down the hall, often nipping at my shoes, into the kitchen where they sat impatiently as I prepared breakfast.
At the breakfast table I’d dare to look down at the baleful eyes of the trio as they watched my every bite. It would come as little surprise that I did indeed serve tidbits from the table…I am a sucker and should probably wear a shirt with a big fat “S” to advertise it, though everyone probably knows this too already, but I’m mentioning it for the hell of it.
While Dot is the queen of butter (she must be psychic as she regularly arrives directly in front of the refrigerator door when it is opened to remove a cold stick and can foretell exactly when I am even thinking of the substance), neither Dash nor BooBoo was that particular.
Speaking of BooBoo – this very wonderful dog was self-walking. He would regularly escape at the slightest opening of the front door and disappear for about an hour after which there would be a scratch/knock at the door with a bit of an accompanying “woof” signaling he had returned. Sometimes a well-meaning neighbor would bring BooBoo to the door..”I found your dog wandering the hood…” To which I would act surprised and thankful – I knew better than to say “I know, he does this daily., having said it once to a woman who then proceeded to lecture me on dog parenting. This continued through most of his 14 years until he became blind and deaf and exceedingly pissed off about probably all of his senses disappearing.
I had to beg my second husband, Peter, that we take him to the vet so BooBoo could be sent to the Great Beyond. Peter refused for months until he was bitten – he then got the message. I mourned the passing of my funny bichon buddy who used to follow me or the kids wherever we’d go, except when he was on his daily constitutional. Fortunately neither Dash nor Dot mirrored his daily habit, though walk we did do daily.
Meanwhile, I got divorced and a couple years later met Max who readily adopted my dogs – I was so glad he was an avid dog person – he and I met a day after his dear dog, Ras, had passed on (was I the rebound? I’ll never know) – he had a cat, Neiko, who was very old, which was fortunate for me, since I do have an allergy to cats. When Neiko died some six months later I did breathe a sigh of relief (no joke intended). Funny thing about my cat allergy…I only discovered it when my own special cat, LC, who was more canine than feline, had passed away and my asthma miraculously disappeared! But enough about cats.
Over the six years before I met Max, Dot and Dash had grown into fierce friends – (they played daily up until the last months of Dashie’s life) so when Max and I found Buck, our amazing siberian husky, at a horse fair in the winter of 2005, it was Dot who had to give her approval. Dash was cool. He thought the big dog was more than okay. It was mutual. Dot was pissed – she let Buck know, in no uncertain terms, she would not tolerate any BS from the big oaf. Dot began yapping which then provoked Buck into what is now known as his very individualized husky howl. Dot and Buck still perform their cacophony when people or dogs pass on the street or knock on the door; sometimes they do this just for the hell of it, a sort of audible doggy dance-off competition. Dash would join in only if he felt like it. He also and often times had a way of telling the Type A’s they could just stew in their own juices but he would have none of it!
Each story I recall seems to remind me of yet another event. One might ask if each memory I bring up is a sort of mind-fuck, and yet my answer is unequivocally no, it is solid testimony to the immensely deep affection I had for the tremendous being who was known as little Dash.
I still see Dash hide his face in his paws when I’d blow air at him. I can feel his paw tapping my leg when he wants a “pick me up” or a nosh. When he got something stuck in his paw he would graciously and without argument allow me to investigate and remove the object. Taking a bath or the many instances in which we would take a shower together were events of hilarity. Especially when Dash would decide to give in to the wet and enjoy his soapy massage. When it was time to dry off the silly little dog helped me by leaning into the towel and my hand with reckless abandon. We were a team, he and I to seek out Dot and encourage her to jump into the water, after which the two damp dogs would chase around the house and dry off by rubbing themselves to dry off anywhere they could. This included furniture, clothing, rugs – anything was a target – this compelled me to clean up my act, so to speak…I recall the years prior when my mother was reminding me to pick up my things – my dogs channeled her in this way. There are so many instances of endearing Dash behavior that will forever be in my memory – these things might make me cry, though for now I am instead holding them in extreme thankfulness.
On March 2, 2012 – nearly 2 months before we had any inclination that my beloved Max was truly ill, I found Mocha, the stray 2 year old chocolate lab, who was entering the 210 freeway to head north (was she heading to San Francisco?) I was in the process of exiting. Fortunately, my son, Billy was visiting me and in the passenger seat. We were enroute to the shelter Where I give workshops. He jumped out of the car and dashed across the intersection, and on to the onramp to nab the dog before she became roadkill. We brought the lab home after discovering she had a chip with no registration. It was no question we’d keep her if the humans who had her turned up. They didn’t. We did. Surprisingly the pack thought she was aok…even tough Dot said “alrighty” to the lovable moocher. Dash was more than tolerant, as long as she gave him space, which she did. It was at this time Dashie stopped sleeping with me. I think it was because he knew Max was ill before we did, and wanted to give him space.
Buck likes having a big buddy who is submissive, a bill Mocha fits to a “T”. The two big dogs and I have an intensive daily morning walk/run which is first preceded by Buck waking me and Mocha from our slumber, then both of them encouraging me to hurry, get dressed, grab leashes and get out the door. We were often followed by Dash to the door where I’d remind him I’d be back and to guard the house. Upon our return Dash would welcome us back, then tell me it was his and Dot’s turn to explore our hood, by barking until leashes were attached. Dash had the adorable habit of grabbing Dot’s leash in his mouth and dragging her to the door. She never fought this attempt of his to bully her. She knows he is playing, that she is top dog and she is the love of his life.
Funny how this statement and realization has caused me to have uncontrollable tears, as if the thought of her without sweet Dashiel is somehow like me without my dear Max. Fa! I was just easing into my singledom and this has to remind me of Max. Instead of running from this feeling, as I am at first tempted, I am embracing it head on. Bam boom, wave after wave hits me,( like the sea outside here in Crete, though each wave is more gentle) until I am quiet once again, reflecting on the gifts of my increasing awareness along with these doggy memories I call forward.
Afternoons with my dogs has developed over the years into an interesting routine, because as mornings are about exercise and food, 4:00PM is about dinner, it’s preparation and eventual consumption. Often I am at my desk, writing away when I am disturbed by first Mocha sniffing at my arm, then Buck nibbling at said arm, followed by a Buck howl, a Mocha bark, and then a Dash repetitive woof. Dot sits back, relaxed knowing the three will take care of getting food on the table. Once ready, or at least I make them think I’m ready, and state, “okay, let’s make dinner”, we all go to the kitchen, to grab scissors and basket, then all three follow me to the garden where I cut greens and other veggies, to the garage freezer where I grab meat, open the fridge to get carrots, back into the house where they park themselves in the kitchen as I cook their meal. Like the previous run-on sentence, the process takes time, which can be especially trying to the patience of the big dogs. I am often reminding them it all has to cook…and no I do not feed them a raw diet, except for raw carrot, sweet potato and broccoli noshes while dinner stews on the stove.
Up until little Dash’s foot challenge, my sweet dogs have had virtually no health issues. When I first got Mocha she had ear “ick”, but this was quickly resolved with the clean diet of organic veggies and meat…and no chicken! No packaged dog food. I prepare dehydrated sweet potato and peanut butter seed granola treats for them…cheaper, faster and easier than commercial stuff. Well, not necessarily faster but the payoff is amazing. And I’ve got happy pooches.
Now, even at this great distance I am surrounding my three dogs with immense hugs and lots of love. I am sure we will have a good cry, lots of hugs and licks and heavy petting when I return. As to my sweet little Dash… I am imagining he is hanging out with BooBoo and LC and Max (of course) and Neiko and Ras, and our family of dogs and cats and people who have preceded him into the Great Beyond. This causes me to feel very thankful and blessed.