A Winter Passing

I have been taking an informal break from blogging and answering questions recently.

In the last month, I learned that one of my dogs had died. The news hit me heavier than I would care to admit. I know I have mentioned my dog and shared photos of Bandit before (x). I took this particular photograph before setting out on the cold, bright morning of our last walk together:

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I have thought deeply about our last walk, tried to recall what thoughts burdened my mind that day or what birds we saw in passing, but I can’t seem to remember anymore.

During his final years, Bandit contracted pneumonia. He never fully recovered and stayed on regular medication during winter months. He also seemed to have arthritis though it was never formally diagnosed by a veterinarian. We watched him age in ways of peace. We watched him stop chasing cars and youth. Australian Shepherds, a bloodline of herders, the working cattle dog and time-honored instinct to nip ankles, a dog who could have defeated Achilles. We watched him shepherd closer to home as a porch dog in the autumn of life. My father told me Bandit died in his sleep on a Friday.

The sadness of Bandit’s death has hit me in different degrees. He was always a vocal dog. Bandit would howl at the sirens of ambulances veering down a distant road. He would say his version of I love you and pull back his teeth to smile, writhing all over, exposing both gum and chipped tooth, upon our arrival home. Bandit looked terrifying when he did this, and his mimicry made us  laugh more than anything else. For the first few nights after his death, I listened to the sirens in Clarksville and remembered his shameless howl. Even now, alone in my apartment, I struggle to write about Bandit, his adventures, and the all too familiar sentiment that it is hard to lose a friend.

I’ll close this entry, my study of grief, with what I think is whispered too often or sometimes not enough. A familiar phrase said across the living room couch during the night with my hand buried in the dark fur of his back: Lie down, lie down.

Positivity Week: Day 3 and 4

Positivity Week Prompt

Day 3: A Step Into The Past
This day we will visit the past for a little bit and find something positive. It can be an event such as a concert, going on a trip, spending the day with someone you love, someone (famous or someone you know) that was a positive influence on you as a child.

I remember the day we brought Bandit home. It was during summer, right around the time of my father’s July 4th birthday, just weeks before the school year. The pup rode in the back compartment of a Chevrolet S-10 between the feet of my little brother and me. My father thought up names and tested them out loud while driving and told stories about old dogs with good names. “All purebred dogs have three names,” he said.

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We bought Bandit from a farm owned by the Houser family. My mother worked at FedEx as a manager, and one of her drivers mentioned that his dad had some Australian Shepherd puppies for sale. There were so many dogs that I came home with tiny holes around the ankles of my jeans. Amidst the writhing red-black-blue fur, the two-toned eyes and bobtails, we found him. Bandit was not my first dog, but he was the first one I ever cared about. He felt like mine.

Day 4: Best of 2013
What is some of the best times you’ve had this year? What are some of your happiest moments of 2013? Feel free to post pictures on this day if you have any and you can share more than one thing.

Many of the happier moments experienced in 2013 have been shadowed by painful events. For example, I visited Boston for AWP with a group of students and  had the opportunity to attend a Celtics game. (They won in overtime.) A month later, the Boston Marathon bombings occurred. Similar circumstances have continued to form in lessening degrees throughout the year always casting a long and dark shadow behind them.

Perhaps my best moment as a reader in 2013 occurred when I stumbled across Simone de Beauvoir. Her book, She Came to Stay, was exactly what my summer needed. I was experiencing the tiring effects of East Tennessee sexism, and a French existential feminist made me feel understood.

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Since then, Beauvoir has become a type of personal hero for me. I love it when writers sweep into my life the way she did. I feel a combination of wonder and anxiety at these discoveries of writers whose words keep me thumbing over page after page and longing to find a similar experience.