Saturday, January 2, 2010

Heartland



This happened without premeditation.

I played a couple of sets of tennis from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Came home, poured a glass of wine. Put my feet up, shuffled through some bills, played my messages. Phoned a friend. That must have been at 2:15. Talk to Shirley, she’ll verify the call.

After throwing aside my Allstate invoice and into page three of my VISA novel, I flicked on the remote and heard the five most painful words in the English language:

“I love you, Old Yeller.”

I’m tough. You know I’m hard as nails. I’m harder than the nails they nail nails with. But now, I’m … I’m … goo. I’m blubber. (Not the fat kind, the salty kind. Ok, sometimes the fat salty kind, but not this week. I’ve been on the Mark Bittman diet.)

“You crazy, wonderful dog.”

Look away, I told myself. No good can come of this. But I was powerless, and watched the rest of Old Yeller to the bitter, bitter end. I was ten years old again, sobbing when I read the book, when I read the line, “I put the gun to his muzzle and pulled the trigger.”

I cried tears, silly Disney tears. Albert, my lab, stopped chewing the extension cord and rushed to my side. Phoebe, my boxer, dropped the yogurt container back in the trash and did likewise. Like Old Yeller, they sensed and reacted to their human’s distress. Plus their human was eating apples per the Mark Bittman diet, and a well placed lick might put an apple core in a certain dog’s future.

My current dogs are good, maybe even great. But my personal Old Yeller was someone else. A red dog I got when I left home at 16 and he died when I was 32. We travelled from Illinois to Ohio to Seattle to Portland to California, and I still dream about him. Bru had such a big, wild heart, he feared nothing. He was the Huckleberry Finn of dogs, and wandered everywhere. Never met a man, woman, or child he didn’t like or a dog he couldn’t fight.

Maybe, given enough years and emotional distance, I’ll write about our adventures someday.




Ah, who am I kidding. There will never be enough miles.

45 comments:

  1. I've been salty all night...your story made me smile through the salt...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Why don't you just read Where the Red Fern Grows while you're at it?

    Just thinking about Old Yeller makes me teary. I am always goo. Usually just under the surface.

    ReplyDelete
  3. From a salty dog to:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbWULu5_nXI

    ReplyDelete
  4. No, there will never be enough emotional distance. E told me Old Yeller was coming on cable TV. I told him I had to leave the house... I know I didn't cry all my tears the first or second time I watched it. Much less the 18th time.

    After reading AmyR's suggestion, go ahead and read Call of the Wild, too! Let us know when you sober up.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What are we, made of stone?

    "Now and then, for no good reason, life will haul off and knock a man flat." Damn that Arliss.

    GG

    ReplyDelete
  6. http://dailypensacolaphoto.blogspot.com/2008/12/old-yeller.html

    I read the book as a child and cried and now I have the movie and can only bring myself to watch it once in a while.

    Also, if you need to purge your canine melancholy and come out the other side you might want to see this, but I'm telling you in advance, grab hold of your hankies cuz Stanley is a heart breaker:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqC8snYewvc&feature=player_embedded

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh, that sweet picture with you and your dog makes my heart ache. What an incredible stretch of your life he must have shared...

    I don't remember Old Yeller (although I do have a vague sense that I have indeed seen it, and probably am just blocking it out due to emotional trauma). I do remember Black Beauty. Since you have horses, too, you might want to take extra care checking the tv schedule for awhile.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I was going to write you the same thing, until I read your last line. Well sniff, snuffle, I'm all teary eyed now thinking about my big red Golden, Baxter. There were certain books I could never read to my class, Red Fern and Old Yeller being two. Have you read"A Dog's Live, Autobiography of a Stray" yet? Well go ahead, and while you're out, pick up a box of Kleenex at the store.

    Great piece KB>
    V

    ReplyDelete
  9. Karin, I also meant to say that after seeing your photograph - a treasure definitely worth sharing - that now I have this picaresque movie of you and Bru in my head, and it's just amazing what you two got up to.

    ReplyDelete
  10. High honors go to "the ones" who could keep up with us in our 20's. Mine was my first siamese cat Tess and I took her everywhere (to class, parks, parades, vacations, downtown LA). Poor Tova, she followed a tough act.

    I've never seen Old Yeller or Star Wars

    ReplyDelete
  11. Aw, Big Red thanks you. I, however, will not even consider a single one of these book or movie suggestions. I know my limits.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for the hot tip on Mark Bittman. Never heard of him till today. A little more notice would have been helpful. Now I've only got three days to get svelte before I blow into Paris. I don't think my chances are all that good. And I don't like raw apples. Can I substitute wine? It's a fruit!

    PS. You started something on my Paris blog today. :) Sax in the City??? Whoooeeeee!

    ReplyDelete
  13. It's interesting what a dog will do to us. It has been a decade since I played with TJ The Dog,and Susan and I decided it was time for his replacement. We named her Poppy. She's a Schnoodle. I'm in love and it's been only a week. The little ball of black fur has me worrying over her, spoiling her and baby talking. Puppys do that to people. There is also definitely not too much more comforting than a sleeping puppy on your lap.

    I hereby resolve never to watch Old Yeller as long as she lives.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Boz is my Old Yeller. Please god he dies in his sleep and I don't have to make that decision for him.

    ReplyDelete
  15. An impossible decision. I waited longer than I should have, but when I finally gave in, I held Bru as they gave him the shot. And just like that, I felt him leave. Bru died in my arms.

    ReplyDelete
  16. KB,
    God was good to me with my dear precious Baxter. He left us at the vet's office and I didn't have to make that decision. I know it is a sad sad thing to have to do . My friend's vet said it best, "He 's been your friend for all these years, but now he can't be anymore." No damn consolation but ......
    Hugs,
    V

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh man. Jeeze. Could we have a hanky alert, please?

    ReplyDelete
  18. We have a kitty that we're on watch for,went to the vet the other day and he said that she still has some time. But Ii know she isn't going to get better so I know it will happen.
    A while back a friend told me to be sure and hold her when they put her down. I must have looked incredulous because she said, "You can do it, you can be there for her." Without L's example I don't think I would have been able to even contemplate it. I looked into the whole idea and learned that you ask for the last appointment of the day so there's quiet and peace in the building. I even have her little plot ready. It's actually a comfort to know what to do in advance. I hope someone does that for me. I guess I better love up on everyone 'til then.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Can we go back to tube socks and tetrazzini? I'm blubbering over here!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Arooooooo!
    & I remember watching Old Yeller in the movie house in Tuzla - and sobbing uncontrollably. I'll have to read the book. The photo of the two of you is darling. What a faithful friend.

    On a lighter note, you asked for it-you got it...XXL.

    ReplyDelete
  21. old yeller. You are such a sap but we love you anyway

    ReplyDelete
  22. I have a question Tash:

    "What does it mean"?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ok, this will put me over the top in the insane pet owner category but if everyone is going to bare their souls I will too. My daughters had hamsters. One developed a tumor. We moved the cage in my bedroom so they wouldn't have to watch the.... well anyway , I could see she was suffering so I took her to the vet's office. Thankfully it was early and the assistant and I were the only ones there to witness me bursting into tears and telling her I didn't want them to put her on life support but didn't want her to suffer. THey called the next day and said she had died. I blubbered like a fool over a HAMSTER!
    Come tie me up and drag me away.
    V

    ReplyDelete
  24. Virginia...I Laurie's right...it's definitely time for tetrazini and tube socks...

    ReplyDelete
  25. But see, the tetrazzini is my fav but not with tomato sauce like KB's. What we do down here is chicken, mushrooms etc. Well I digress ( my middle name).
    Well I'm just going to dry my wrinkly little eyes and go back and have another look at the nudie tube sox dudes and I'll feel much better. Thanks LA and Chieftess!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Uh-oh. This is getting out of hand. We're out of tube socks, but let me wrack the brain and see what's in there.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I never saw Old Yeller. I have a personal story to tell though. I dated the author's son while at U.T.
    Fred Gibson's son, Mike Gibson, was a fellow class mate when I was a Freshman art major. Mike was a writer and as Laurie can verify, I always go for writers. Mike tried to steal my carefully guarded virginity. Well, I was a nice Austin girl, after all. I had to pull a trick Dixie Jane taught me. Pretend to cry. It worked. We were not really an item anyway.

    I later learned that Mike put a gun to himself and shot right into his mouth.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I can't watch it...CAN NOT! Mines name was Rex:(

    ReplyDelete
  29. My parents' version of Bru, Maddie, just died a couple weeks ago. There have been many, many tears. Completely irreplaceable.

    I can't think of Ol' Yeller without crying. Even worse, I started crying on page one of The Art of Racing in the Rain and didn't ever really stop. I'm getting teary just thinking about it now.

    Thank God for hearts so big.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Yes, Linda and Christina, thank god for all the Rex's and Maddie's and Bru's. I sat down today to draw up a list of Bru and Bru & me stories for a possible project, and hit 38 without even pausing for a breath. They've just been waiting there.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I am a mess for dogs. The last 10 minutes of My Dog Skip leaves me non-functional for hours, so re-watching Old Yeller is impossible. But since we're there already and talking about the seemingly impossible, I did hear an interesting suggestion once from a vet about what to do as the shot is being given--cup your hand loosely around your dog's nose, so that the last thing he smells is your scent. Apparently, it's even more powerful a comfort than touch or voice, as dogs are so attuned to smell. I always remember that advice, though I thankfully haven't had to use it. Yet.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Oh, for God's sake, start writing it now. I mean it, girl. I can just see that gorgeous photo on the cover.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Aw, thanks M, I'm going to give it a shot. Will you and Terry send a care package to keep me going? Anything but cauliflower.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Sure, Karin. We'll put together something that's cauliflower-free. Growing up, I had a border collie mix dog that pretty much ruined me for any other pet. She loved to go on loooong walks while I figured out my teenaged life. But her favorite thing in the world was to ride in the basket of my balloon tire bike, her ears flapping in the breeze. She spent her final years on someone's farm in Mississippi. I still think of her and miss her.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Great. I'm reading this story and these letters, bawling over that picture and my two-years-gone Goldie, Ben, and now TV's showing that Wendie Malick Humane Society ad. Wipe me off the effin floor, why doncha?

    ReplyDelete
  36. KB, I had to come back to this, as I kept sitting to write and it kept getting way too teary. I still cry whenever I allow myself to think of my last cat, even though I love my current little one to the ends of the earth and back and I'll go through it all again with her someday. I'll brave the tears to read your book about you and Bru someday when you're ready, dear Karin. {If you're hard as nails, it's strictly on the outside, methinks.}

    ReplyDelete
  37. Sooo, today is January 5, well, actually it's the 6th since it's after 12pm...and I think tonight's news story rivals all of ours...

    Did you all see the story about the 18 month old Golden Retriever who saved his 11 year old "master" from a cougar attack??? And did you see the injuries he sustained in defending his young charge??? Bleeding and bruised, one eye swollen shut, and according to the news, a cracked skull...he's at the vet and is expected to recover...the story brought those tears right on up!!! And the little boy saying with a cracked voice he was his best friend before but now he's even more...It's even better than a Lassie episode 'cuz it's true!!!

    ReplyDelete
  38. This has been my favorite post ever. Thank you, it has been funny, sad, and you left me some beautiful images.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I keep expecting a guitar to appear and hear you launch into a medley of Joni Mitchel songs.

    .....and Mr V would suggest the name Steppenwolf for your pup. He says that in Venice during the summer of 67, the Doors shot to the top and every hippie chick had a big dog named Steppenwolf. You are barefoot in the photo?

    ReplyDelete