There's a reason we call them man's best friend (or a woman’s in my case) One day I saw an advert in my local newspaper " Dog for sale £30 ". Unbeknown to me, this ad would change my life forever. As soon as Tess and I made eye contact, we both knew it was meant to be. She came home with me and that’s when it all began. Thirteen years of willingness to provide her family members with unconditional love, loyalty and companionship down to her very last breath. In Tess’s presence, somehow nothing else in this world mattered. I was always greeted with the same enthusiasm each and every time I walked in the door. The pure love she gave, sparing no expense and asking absolutely nothing in return.
They say that dogs have the ability to sense what’s really going on and boy did Tess have that sense! There was a time in my life where I found myself in an abusive relationship. The abuser often exploited my devotion to Tess in order to control and manipulate me. He also made it clear that if I ended the relationship, I would never see my gorgeous girl again. Tess was my stable ground and I clung to her during the storm of emotional and physical abuse I faced. As the abuse continued, her increasing affection and unparalleled loyalty provided a safe harbour for me. Whenever I felt weighed down with discouragement and despair, her wet kisses, snuggles and tail wags inspired me to keep coming up for air.
In the end it was Tess that saved me from abuse. She always showed her displeasure with my abuser’s treatment of me and one day she snapped and took a chunk out of him. Normally, I don’t condone aggressiveness of any kind, but if she had not come to my rescue that day and done what she did, I would not be here now. I owe that pooch my life.
It was a very emotional and physically draining time for me, and I'm sure for Tess to. Do I leave and risk harm to me and Tess or do I stay and risk the same. After Tess bit my tormentor we did leave and stay with my parents, Unfortunately it was still in the same town as my abuser so there were times our paths would cross and when they did, Tess's whole demeanor would change, going from a happy, bouncy, trotting-along-not-a-care-in-the-world little lady to a stand-offish pooch rooted to the spot and stiff, growling until he passed by. Tess always spotted him before I did and my abuser knew to just keep walking. Eventually my abuser moved away and we didn't see him again. It was quite a few years later (Tess had already crossed the rainbow bridge) when we heard that my abuser had actually raped a woman he was in a relationship with and was awaiting trial. In hindsight, things for me and Tess could have turned out much worse than they actually did. I'll be forever grateful to Tess for giving me the strength to get out when I did. There was nothing she wouldn't do for me and I for her, the bond we had has been like no other.
I have two rescue dogs now that are my world, I don't love them any less, I just love them differently. The pain of losing her that day will stay with me a lifetime. There's not a day goes by where I don't think of her and feel thankful for the life we had together.
People have been very generous in complimenting my wife Clara and me for rescuing Lance and then sticking by him despite his unpredictability. Financially, Lance didn’t cost us a lot of money (apart from that time he got “porcupined”). After all, we got him for “free” and he was incredibly durable health-wise. Lance was expensive in the sense that he nearly cost us our sanity. Was it worth living with a dog that had us on pins and needles? Definitely. As I mention in the book, “I would take that dog back in a flash, baggage and all.”
Our current dog Buddy, a poodle/beagle mix, was diagnosed with congestive heart disease several months ago. He is now on a regular regimen of visits to the veterinarian and an assortment of medications. We’re spending about $400-$500 a month on visits to the clinic and another $270 a month on medications. This is money that—as the saying goes—we don’t have.
While Lance had us on edge because of his biting tendencies, Buddy has us on edge financially but much more so because his life is literally a day to day thing. He has wheezing spells when he can barely breathe. Clara and I can only sit, watch and hope. So far, Buddy has survived these fits.
At night, Buddy has taken to sleeping in the living room by himself. When I get up in the morning and come out into the dark I’m never sure if I’m going to find him alive or dead. I’m afraid to turn the light on and find out. I go into the kitchen to make coffee and wait for him to show some signs of life. Invariably, I start hearing his tail thump. My first feeling is one of relief—he’s lived to see another day!
So, in a sense we’re spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars and living on emotional pins and needles just to hear a tail thump in the morning. Dog lovers know that’s a worthwhile investment.
What sacrifices have you made for your dog?
Due to the virus, my personal appearances have dwindled to zero. Among the many postponed events was the Kulpmont 100 Beerfest. Based on my experience at last year’s edition, I had been looking forward to this particular venue with special relish. The following essay explains why (if you’ve already read this on my author website I apologize but reading it here might just make you laugh again).
Dogs and beer?!
What does a Beerfest have to do with a dog rescue? You’d be surprised. I think I’ve found a new target market for Lance: A Spirit Unbroken—beer drinkers that love dogs or, put another way, dog lovers that drink beer.
Last Saturday (June 29, 2019), I drove two hours to offer my book at an event—the Kulpmont100 Beerfest.
Things didn’t start off on a positive note. I missed an exit early in my drive, absent-mindedly continuing on a road that takes me to my day job on weekdays. After getting back on the right track, I got stuck in a traffic jam. I showed up just minutes before the event began and rushed to get everything set up.
A half-hour into the event, the skies began to darken. Then came strong winds quickly followed by torrents of rain accompanied by thunder and lightning. I had all to do to keep my tent from blowing away. I hunkered down underneath it, holding on for dear life to one of the tent poles. My coffee thermos got blown off my table and rolled away, never to be seen again. Custom bookmarks got soaked beyond repair. My flyers suddenly were “gone with the wind.”
While I clung to my tent hoping that it would not be blown away (and me with it!), the attendees of this event remained safe and comfortable just yards away, protected by the huge roof of a pavilion. Sheltered from the downpour, they continued to do what they came there to do—sample beer.
As the storm carried on, the thought occurred to me: so this is the life of a self-published author! Then, another thought occurred to me: who got me into this mess? Why, Lance, of course! No Lance would have meant no book which in turn would have meant no rained-on Beerfest. I thought about all the times on our hikes I wound up stuck in foul weather—weather that never seemed to bother Lance. If he had been with me last Saturday, I’m sure he would’ve been having the time of his life.
The rain continued to come down in sheets. I remained planted under my waterlogged tent, faced with having to pack up my goods and schlep to my car, all in the midst of a monsoon.
Just when it looked as if the day was going to literally be a washout, the storm abated and the sun began asserting itself. I resurrected my tent and put what remained of my goods in order. I was back in business. People began leaving the pavilion and many of them headed (staggered?) toward me. That’s when things took a turn for the better. This would become the most unusual book signing I’ve ever participated in:
1—A lady strolled up to my table and began petting the front cover of the book as if she was actually petting Lance. She did it in such dramatic fashion that it dawned on me she was under the influence. She bought a book and convinced her two friends, also a bit tipsy, to buy e-books on their phones.
2—Another lady came up to me and asked, “Is this book going to make me cry?” That often is the kiss of death as I cannot in good conscience tell people that they won’t shed a tear or two reading Lance’s story. However, I held the book for her and asked her to read the next-to-last paragraph from the book blurb on the back cover (that’s where Lance’s quirkiness is described). She said she was not up to it and I wound up reading the paragraph to her. When I was done she said, “I’ve decided you are a kind soul.” She bought not one but three books.
3—Still another lady wobbled up to my table and announced, “I just lost my dog.” I replied, “I’m so sorry to hear that. When did it happen?” She responded, “Oh, about an hour ago I guess.” “How are you handling it?” I asked. She said, “Fine.” Her response was so blasé I wasn’t sure I had heard her correctly so I asked, “Your dog died? You lost your dog?” “No!” she responded. “I lost my glass.” She was referring to the complimentary drinking glass attendees were given as they went from one beer vendor to the other. She had mistaken me for a beer crafter and approached me to get another glass. When I explained to her what I was offering, she stumbled off to the tent next to me where her needs were met. For the record, no book purchase.
For the first time in my life I found myself surrounded by well over 500 people that were under the influence. Certainly, it was the first time in my life I was sober and found myself surrounded by well over 500 people that were under the influence. All in all, a very surreal feeling.
I left the beerfest a bit ahead of everybody else. I didn’t want to leave surrounded by a swarm of gas-fueled cars driven by alcohol-fueled drivers.
Lance got me into a lot of unique situations while he was living; his spirit continues to “hound” me!
The thought occurs to me—I can get angry with humans, even those very close to me. Sometimes that anger morphs into a grudge which I might hold on to for a long time. Yet, I rarely if ever get angry with the dog. At worst, I might be briefly irritated by one. I definitely have never held a grudge against a dog.
Maybe that’s because I relate to humans on humans’ terms. Just like me, other people are capable of anger and holding grudges. Likewise, I relate to dogs on dogs’ terms. A dog rarely if ever has gotten angry at me and, when it comes to grudges, unlike some people, a dog will always give you a chance to redeem yourself.
Does this make any sense to you?
This story is reblogged from the iheartdogs.com website
written by Kristen Cudd
One of the unique aspects of adopting a shelter dog is the fact that, so often, there is little information known about the dog’s previous life. We may always have to wonder: were they loved, were they lost, were they okay before I found them? Even the smallest snippet of background information can make a dog’s personality and temperament more easily understood.
Evan Strand and his girlfriend Hannah Dordal had recently gotten a Labrador puppy. Like all Labrador puppies, little Waylon was energetic, curious, playful, and a fair but mischievous pup. The couple decided that they would adopt an older dog to serve as a good example for him. An older dog that knew the ins and outs of being a model companion would be good for little Waylon and the family overall.
The couple found Willie through the Humane Society in Woodbury, Minnesota. He seemed like a calm, collected, and sweet dog so they went to meet him. It seemed fated, with the names Willie and Waylon but they took Willie on a walk to seal the deal. While signing the adoption papers, they learned a fact about Willie’s past: he had been surrendered by a man that was going into hospice care.
This broke the couple’s heart but also painted a clear and impossible to ignore picture about Willie. He had been loved. He had been wanted. He had been okay. Now that Evan and Hannah had found Willie, they wanted to let Willie’s former family know that Willie was going to continue being loved, wanted, and okay.
They asked the Humane Society if they could have the previous family’s contact information, but of course they couldn’t release that information to Evan and Hannah. The couple threw a long shot and took to social media instead. Evan posted,
“Willie is a very loving and well trained dog, this leads me to believe his owner was attached to him and would appreciate being able to see him again and know that he made it to a good home.”
The post was shared an incredible 13,000 times. It was eventually seen by a member of Willie’s extended family who informed Evan and Hannah that Willie’s previous caregiver had succumb to his illness and passed away in hospice. Evan and Hannah were so very sad to hear of his passing and disappointed that they could not deliver the comfort they hoped to deliver with a last visit from Willie.
We believe that there is truth in the adage, “it is the thought that counts.” Thanks go out to Evan and Hannah for bringing Willie to his new forever home.
March 6, 2018 - I overslept, so off to work I went unfed, unbathed, unshaven and wearing yesterday’s clothes. On the way, I stopped by my home to wheel the two garbage bins out to the road—trash collection must go on through rain, hail, sleet or snow. First, I filled up a huge trash bag with virtually everything in the refrigerator. For some reason, the odor of olives permeated the interior of the fridge, so the jar of Spanish olives was the first thing to be chucked, quickly followed by almost everything else in the refrigerator. I had bought thirty-five dollars’ worth of cheese and cold cuts just hours before the storm began the past Thursday; that all got thrown out, along with a case of state-of-the-art Brown Cow yogurt. This storm was now draining me financially, as it already had mentally and physically.
Through the snow and out to the road I wheeled the trash bin, loaded with suddenly worthless groceries that, less than a week earlier, had cost close to $300. Next, I brought out the recyclable container, aligned the two bins for pickup and headed back up the driveway toward my car.
The porch light came on! Was I seeing things? Yes, I was—the porch light! Too late to utilize this new found power surge to clean up for work. I drove to the correctional facility comforting myself in the knowledge that the siege was over. Was my comfort short-lived? There had been vague rumblings of second nor’easter due Wednesday. This was Tuesday. Let's live for today!
At the correctional facility, my optimism was dampened somewhat more when told that county employees were not to come to work the following day due to the impending storm.
5 p.m. - After work, I drove to Gina and Ricks’ place, thanked them for their hospitality, collected Buddy and headed home.
While at my job that day, there had been complaints from some co-workers that they had regained electric power only to lose it again. With that in mind, I turned onto Sportsmen Drive (my street) with some trepidation, fearing I'd see that the darkness had returned. I couldn't gauge the power situation looking into the homes I passed and there are no streetlights on Sportsmen Drive that would have tipped me off, so I pulled into my driveway not knowing what to expect. From the outside, I couldn't be sure if I still had electricity. All appeared dark. The porch light was off. Had I left it on? I couldn’t remember. Had I left any lights on inside the house? I couldn’t remember that, either. The suspense was killing me. I walked up the stairs of the side stoop, opened the door and saw, to my great relief, the kitchen light was on. Life was good! In went Buddy, excited to be back in his home but, no doubt, less appreciative than I that the kitchen light was on and what that fact signified. He hopped onto the sofa and made himself comfortable. I cooked up a most likely re-frozen dinner and made a cup of coffee (decaf). I took my food and drink and plopped into my recliner. On went the TV. Ah, the comforts of home were back!
March 7 - 5:30 a.m. There’s nothing like waking up in a warm, well-lit house. Some lights had been left on overnight just so, upon waking up, I could immediately revel in my home’s newfound electricity. When the reveling was over, I let Buddy out to do his business. When he came back in he got fresh kibble and water, the old-fashioned kind from the faucet.
For the first time in six days I was starting the day off with my customary, boring routine - a boring routine I especially appreciated this day. A cup of coffee (still decaf), toasted bagel (however, without the butter that was deep-sixed the day before), a half a grapefruit and a second cup of coffee (yes, decaf). I did some work on the computer for the first time in days. I also called Clara on my freshly-charged phone. She was enjoying her sisters’ company and the great weather in Florida. I was happy for her - sort of.
As the morning progressed, Canadensis suffered very little snow fall. I wished the county hadn't told us to stay home.
1:00 PM – My tune changed. The snow was now falling in bunches. The wind had picked up, although nowhere near as violently as it had in the previous storm, at least not yet. My home's electricity supply now seemed like such a fragile commodity, one that I could do nothing to hold on to. I tried to get as much done as I could while the electric service lasted.
3:00 PM - It was starting to get dark a bit prematurely, perhaps because the sky was overcast and snow was still falling. The wind also had picked up a bit. Just like that, the lights flickered and the TV cable connection went out. Here we go again! Then, just like that, the lights came back on and the TV began rebooting itself. How long would my luck hold out? Though forewarned about this second storm, I hadn’t attempted to purchase batteries, kerosene or bottled water. Clara would have made the effort; that’s who she is. I had neglected to; that's who I am.
The lights flickered again and, this time, they went out. I sat in my recliner, second-guessing my sense of recklessness and envying Clara’s sense of preparedness. At this point, I didn't feel like lugging in firewood anymore—I was beaten down, ready to except the frigid punishment my lackadaisical attitude merited. Upon further reflection, out I went to the woodshed, and back in I came carrying logs. I made five trips, loading up for the long haul. By my calculations, I had enough wood to keep the fire going until I went to bed, which would be soon enough. Tomorrow, I’d utilize the rest of the wood I had brought in. The second act of this weather drama was beginning to feel a lot like the first act.
I sat in my recliner, determined not to start up the fire until the temperature got below 50°F. Why waste firewood? I sat, and I sat, and I sat. Eventually, I dozed off.
4:15 p.m. - I woke up to bad news and good news. The bad news? There was definitely a chill in the air - inside the house. The good news? The lights were back on and cable was again rebooting. How long would this game of electrical cat-and-mouse go on?
I let Buddy go outside and checked the weather conditions. Heavy, wet snow had now fallen to the tune of seven to eight inches. At least for now, though, the snowfall appeared to be tapering off and there were no blasting wind gusts. Was the worst over or was this just a lull designed to get my hopes up?
I spent the rest of the evening in my home with electricity as a welcome guest. Buddy went to bed around seven p.m. I hit the hay around nine p.m. in a warm house. Would I wake up in one?
March 8 - Six a.m. Yes was the answer! The storm was gone but the electric power had thankfully lingered on.
The roads were bit dicey, but I made it to work, albeit twenty minutes late. The first thing I did on the job was to bring up the local weather forecast on my computer. There were no storms in sight for the next seven days. My weeklong weather induced nightmare was over.
March 10 - A bright sunny Saturday and, more importantly, the third straight day of decent weather and electrical power. All local businesses and workplaces had been up and running for several days now. The roads had been cleared of disabled vehicles and debris. The scattered pockets of snow that remained gave little hint as to what havoc the weather had caused for a full week.
In the early afternoon, Clara arrived back home from her vacation. She described in enthusiastic detail what a great time she'd had with her sisters - chatting, shopping, winning $650 at the casino, etc. Then she asked me, “How was your week? Tough? “
“You have no idea.”
Epilogue - Following are some of the lessons I learned from this double-barreled nor’easter attack:
One—During the winter, always have a supply of batteries, kerosene, and bottled water in the house.
Two—Invest in a wood stove, fireplace insert or generator.
Three—Have a decent amount of non-spoilable food in supply at home.
On a lighter note:
Four—You can have cabin fever and be freezing cold at the same time.
Five—When you come in from the storm, make sure there isn’t another one following close behind.
Six—In lieu of all of the above, time your vacation in a warm weather spot as cleverly as Clara did.
Seven—Try to make lemonade out of lemons. The lack of electricity gave me the opportunity to wean myself (admittedly in very uncomfortable fashion) off caffeine (alas, two years later I’m anything but caffeine-free. What is a writer to do?). Also, the limited availability of edible food and my temporarily diminished appetite enabled me to cut down enormously on the junk food I tend to eat daily. Since the storm I had no ice cream, cookies or candy for many weeks (once again, that was then and this is now).
The following lesson stands apart from all the above: Throughout our ordeal, my dog was stoically accepting of everything. If he had any complaints, he kept them to himself. His upbeat mood never slackened and his faith in me never wavered.
Buddy proved once and for all that a dog is a real friend, and not just a fair weather friend.
Hope you enjoyed Cabin Fever. I’d greatly appreciate your feedback.
Walter Stoffel author of Lance: A Spirit Unbroken
P.S. If you missed Part 1 of Cabin Fever, let me know and I’ll get it to you.
P.P.S. It’s Monday, April 2 and, in Canadensis, it’s snowing!
P.P. P.S. Almost forgot! Check out http://www.lanceaspiritunbroken.com/
I’m a bit late in honoring the anniversary of an incredible act by an incredible dog.
Backstory: As described in Lance: A Spirit Unbroken, Lance was a border collie that my wife Clara and I rescued. He had lived outside for over 10 years, at the mercy of bad people, bad weather, and wild animals. He turned out to be semi-feral and untrustworthy around people, my wife and I included. He bit both Clara and me on the day he moved in with us. Sporadic attacks occurred, often without warning, until the day he died. Clara was the victim of the worst of Lance's attacks, and she has scars on her face, hand, and leg as reminders. I also personally witnessed Lance kill a woodchuck and a deer, both brutal events but ones I could not stop.
We utilized a dog obedience trainer who was impressed with Lance’s rapid learning of basic commands. However, she was concerned about his threatening and lunging behavior. She referred us to a school for herding and obedience. The director rejected Lance’s “application” because she felt his wires had been irreparably crossed. It wasn't that he was an unintelligent dog—in fact, he was extremely bright and alert. He had simply lived outside too long and been assaulted too often, making him unsuitable for domesticity. At one point, we actively searched for someone or some organization more qualified to deal with him but even the Border Collie Rescue Association said that if they took Lance, most likely he would be euthanized. That left it up to us to pull the switch ourselves and we couldn’t. We wound up living with Lance for the duration of his life. During that time one event in particular occurred that Clara and I still marvel at.
On February 7, 2006 in the early a.m., Clara and I were preparing to go to the airport and fly to Florida. We were planning to visit Clara's brother, Eddie, who had recently turned his life around after battling with drug addiction for decades. We were minutes from leaving the house when Clara got a phone call from her sister-in-law Toni who was screaming, "Eddie's dead. He died from a heart attack. He's gone." Clara was instantly overcome with grief and, sobbing uncontrollably, threw herself into the recliner in our living room. I picked up the phone, not really knowing what to say in such a situation. At the same time, Lance rushed over to Clara, propped himself up with his front paws on her legs and began staring intently at her. Clara was now literally shuddering in tears. My immediate thought was that Lance was about to attack at the very worst possible time. Before I could even think how to prevent such a disaster, Lance leaned towards Clara and began washing away her tears. She burst out, "Look at what this dog is doing!" That’s all I could do, because the whole scene had frozen me in place and left me speechless. Both Clara and I both started crying harder, not only for the passing of Eddie but for this show of empathy by an animal, one who had himself been so brutally treated for over a decade.
They say dogs like the salt in our tears. But it's also safe to say that having lived outside all his life, Lance had never seen a human’s tears. Since salt is odorless, he would not have been attracted to its scent in Clara’s tears. I know what I saw and believe Lance sensed Clara was in deep pain and he reacted as he saw fit.
How would you interpret Lance’s actions?
By Walter Stoffel, author
The following is a recounting of an experience my dog Buddy and I endured two years ago around this time of year:
March 1, 2018—Canadensis, Pennsylvania. The nor’easter started as rain during the late afternoon and continued into the following day with ever increasing winds. Still, nothing to be alarmed about as far as I was concerned.
March 2—My wife Clara had weeks earlier booked a flight to Jacksonville, Florida to see her sisters. Her plane was to depart from Allentown, Pennsylvania at 4 a.m. on March 3rd. With the bad weather we were having, she’d originally planned to stay overnight at the house of a friend who lives further south of us in Easton, Pa. and closer to the airport. The winds were now howling, reaching sixty mile-per-hour gusts, and around noontime the rain changed over to heavy snow. That hastened Clara's departure from our house. She high-tailed it for Easton, earlier than previously planned, leaving Buddy, our poodle/beagle mix, and me to fend for ourselves.
Still not particularly troubled by the bad weather, I decided to work out on my elliptical machine in the garage. While huffing and puffing, I occasionally glanced through the garage door windows at the rapidly accumulating snow, appreciating the winter wonderland look to it all. I wouldn't be appreciating it much longer.
After exercising, I took a shower, had some lunch and sat down at my computer, the lifeline for a self- published author like myself. No sooner had I begun to go through my e-mails then the electric power got shaky. Lights flickered off and then came back on; the computer began to shut down and then revived itself. Finally, all things electric in the house stopped dead in their tracks. I got up from the computer and went out into the living room, finding Buddy, as was his custom, comfortably sacked out on the sofa, oblivious to what had just happened. I optimistically assumed power would be back on in a relatively short period of time so I set up the Keurig to make a cup of coffee the minute it did. Coffee—another lifeline for an author. Switching from optimism to realism, as a precautionary measure I ran the water faucets to get as much water out of the pipes as possible.
5:00 p.m. Still no electricity, heat or water and now it was getting late and the house ever darker and colder. I bundled up and trudged out to the garage to bring in the kerosene heater. I set the heater up in the living room and checked the gauge—the unit was only half full. Back out to the garage I trudged, only to find that the two containers we use to purchase and store kerosene in were bone dry. Since driving anywhere was now out of the question, I decided to start a wood fire in the fireplace and save the kerosene heater for the next day, if needed. In the midst of now blizzard conditions, I brought in firewood stored alongside the garage, making several uncomfortable trips.
By the time I had the fireplace roaring, the only light in the house was coming from the fire itself and a dim flashlight featuring well-worn batteries. I sat in my recliner, determined to let the inefficient warmth of the fireplace make me feel better. It didn't. Quickly concluding there was absolutely nothing to do in a cold, dark house, I decided to go to bed. I checked my home’s sole operating timepiece—a battery-operated clock—and realized I was hitting the sack at the ungodly hour of 5:45 p.m. Addicts use drugs to escape from reality; in this case, sleep would be my drug. Buddy hunkered down in bed with me and wasted no time getting underneath all the blankets. Disturbed sleep came quickly—disturbed because the intense cold had me waking up on a regular basis, wiggling my toes in an attempt to keep them limber and unfrozen.
In the dead middle of night, I was rousted out of sleep by a dog’s slobbering tongue planted all over my face. Buddy had decided he had to go outside. I grudgingly got up, fumbled in the dark for the flashlight, and stumbled groggily through a pitch black house to the side door. Out my dog went into the freezing cold, while I waited inside where it was only ever-so-slightly warmer. Some five or ten minutes later, Buddy came rushing back to the door, happy to have concluded his business. I was happy too, happy to get back under the covers that were providing me a small yet precious measure of warmth.
March 3—I got up from bed about 4:30 a.m. It was dark outside—and inside—the house, immediately letting me know I was still without electricity. The god-awful chill enveloping every corner of my home compelled me to start another fire. Once I got it blazing, I sat in my recliner and Buddy immediately hopped onto my lap. He yawned and I could see his breath, unexpected and somewhat startling proof as to just how cold the house was.
It didn’t take long before I realized how inefficient a fireplace without an insert is. I cranked up the kerosene heater and again “relaxed” in my recliner with Buddy. Ah, the precious warmth! Unfortunately, there would be no accompanying cup of coffee, breakfast, shower or access to the computer. March 3rd promised to be as dismal as March 2d had been.
7a.m-The sun was up and, despite an overcast sky, the weather much improved. The snow had stopped except for the occasional flurry. More importantly, the wind had subsided to half the force of the previous day’s gale-like outbursts. Things looked good outside, much better than they did inside.
At this point, my only contact with the outside world resided in my Smartphone. I’d lose that lifeline soon enough. There was no way to charge it in the house and, weeks ago, I had lent my car charger to a friend. Using the phone while I still could, I surmised from news reports that, like much of the northeastern United States, my local area had been devastated. The local electric company had issued an electronic form letter on its website announcing power would be out, at worst, for twenty-four hours. In view of that company’s track record, I found this form letter less than inspiring. Unfortunately, my lack of faith would prove justified.
I got a text message from Rick, my daughter Gina’s fiancé. They lived in the next town over, had no power and were going to stay at a hotel some thirty miles away. Would I join them? Not without Buddy, I wouldn’t. One thing I was certain of—by now, kerosene, firewood and bottled water and pet-friendly lodging were in short supply throughout the region. Buddy and I were in this together for the long haul.
A few minutes later Rick texted me a question: “What did the settlers do without electricity? I know they drank.” I texted back: “Yeah, they all drank and died of hypothermia. That’s why there are no settlers today.”
4:30 p.m. A combination of curiosity and cabin fever (the freezing kind) drove me out of the house and into my car. I wanted to see firsthand just what Mother Nature had done the past forty-eight hours. I couldn't take Buddy because he tends to get car sick, so I wrapped him up in blankets on the sofa and left him in the house. I started the car, pulled out of the driveway, drove to the end of my road and turned right onto northbound Route 447. The devastation was everywhere. Collapsed trees and tree limbs were draped over power lines, the latter now sagging under such ponderous weight. Trees and other debris scattered on the road created an obstacle course for drivers. Speaking of drivers, there weren't any on the road other than yours truly. There had been numerous motor vehicle accidents involving both cars and trucks—some landing in ditches, some smashed against guard rails, and others simply sitting in the middle of the road. I got as far as the intersection of Route 447 and Route 390. Not one place of business was open and I got the feeling they wouldn't be for quite some time. There was nothing else to do but turn around and head back home.
When I got there, I again started up a fire that only slightly warmed the living room. I gave Clara a call. Her flight had taken off as planned and she was now in the sunny state of Florida. She happily reported the temperature in Jacksonville was 74°F. I didn’t know what the temperature was in Canadensis and didn’t want to know. Clara had timed her exit from Pennsylvania perfectly and for that she had my grudging admiration. I was envious of her comfortable living conditions in Jacksonville compared to mine here in Canadensis, but the thought of asking her to end her vacation and come home to suffer with me never gained traction in my mind. The dice had been rolled and Clara was the winner. Our conversation was brief as I had nothing positive to talk about.
By 5:30 I was in bed with Buddy—extended sleeping hours were becoming a habit.
During the night, there was good news and bad news. Buddy slept through, so there was no need for me to let him outside at some ungodly hour. The bad news was that I woke up every fifteen minutes due to the intense cold. Again, I found myself wiggling my toes on a regular basis just to maintain circulation in them. During one of my waking spells, I pictured Lance (a border collie I rescued) spending ten consecutive winters struggling to endure weather like this—outside. Just because he was a dog didn’t make his fight to survive any easier. How the hell did he do it? I went back to sleep harboring evil thoughts about the Schmidts (his original owners).
To be continued…
Blayze was a very shy border collie.
We worked many years to bring this boy out of his shell. He was funny, loyal and eventually became leader of our small pack. It took a lot of confidence for him to assume the role of leader to our little pack.
Blayze thrived on fetch, was off-leash trained and a joy to own. He blossomed into a lovely companion for our family.
One day, at the age of 14, our boy was not eating. Now Blayze never refused food.
Initially, I thought he was attention seeking, which is something he did on occasion, to illicit cuddles and hugs. Today however, Blayze did not even want to move. With some encouragement he managed to get outside to do his business but collapsed on the way back in.
Alarmed, I arranged for a trip to the emergency vet. After some time the doctor came into the room and asked if Blayze had been hit by a car or if anything traumatic had happened to him.
I explained that he hadn't been feeling well and collapsed at home.
The verdict: Blayze had massive internal bleeding, a ruptured organ that was most likely caused by cancer. My world went from helping my precious boy to losing him in that one moment.
Now Blayze was "a perfect gentleman", said the vet. He allowed the exam, despite tremendous pain, and gave kisses throughout. (Blayze had always feared the vet.) I think he knew what was coming.
Once the reality of saying goodbye hit, Blayze was carried in to me (he was unable to walk due to the loss of blood) his tail wagging furiously when he saw me.
The room was cozy: a desk, an end table, leather sofa, soft lighting, very calming. The vet placed Blayze beside me, wrapped in a towel, on the sofa.
I cradled his head in my lap and talked softly to him, a natural thing to do even though at 14 he was completely deaf. I think we snuggled for about 2 hours together. Sharing our secrets and telling Blayze about the Rainbow Bridge.
Finally, it was time to let him go. I stood up from the sofa and walked slowly to the door to usher the vet in to the room.
At that moment Blayze summoned all his strength and leapt up from the sofa and ran after me. I could hardly believe it. I'm not staying here without YOU. Mom, don't leave me behind! he seemed to say.
I motioned for the vet to come and guided Blayze back to the sofa. I gently sat with him as he lay on a towel on the floor and held him close.
Blayze watched quietly as the vet prepared the injection to help him sleep. Then, he lay his head on my lap as the needle slipped into his leg seamlessly.
He was sleeping, breathing quietly, as I kissed him one more time. Then came the final injection and his final breath.
There was my boy lying on a plush towel lifeless, trusting, gone. In his final moments he showed his incredible love for our family by summoning his last bit of strength to follow me, his mommy, home.
Loved and remembered always. We love you "Bubba." You will always be our "Little One."
The love of one dog. xoxo. Claudia Crosier and Blayze.
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).