A few of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything recently, well I hope at least someone’s noticed. There are few reasons why, the hot and humid summertime around here means everything outdoors has to be done in the early morning or late evening. Taking care of the household, the massive yardwork and gardening challenges stemming from 3 years of neglect means there is so much that needs attention, it’s going to take years to get it the way we want, so it keeps a body busy. In June, my wife and I took a trip back to the Bay Area, and then just recently, Marie returned from a 2 week stay with her older sister in Colorado. The trip was a blessing for her, she had been estranged from her sister for quite a while and just recently, they reconciled. In fact, they got along so well that at one point my sister-in-law threatened to kidnap my wife, begging her to stay for another week or so. Although those two weeks were a grind, and l couldn’t begrudge her another week or so, the fact of the matter is she was greatly missed at home by ALL concerned.
The news is another reason. I looked back at some of my prior writing, reflecting on whether I was right or wrong. For the most part I was right, not to boast, because it’s not a good thing that some of the “wild-ass conspiracy theories” I support have now finally been acknowledged as being not only possible but likely probable. Honestly, I felt and still feel despair about all the current events, it truly seems like good is losing to evil, simply because there is so much evil around these days. The only thing I cling too is the assurance that God is in control, that all things work out for the glory of His name, and to continue being honest, I have personally experienced this phenomenon, numerous times, especially in our relocation to North Carolina. If you want to know more of my experiences, you can message me through my website meanderingsofacommonman.com.
However, I think the main reason I haven’t felt the urge to write, was the passing of a dear friend. A friend I had neglected and belittled time and again, a friend who despite my insults, still loved me unconditionally. He was someone who despite being chastised and disciplined, not unnecessarily, still felt the need to be with me, and whined incessantly when I was away. He was a pain in the ass, would eat ANYTHING, at times he could be gross and disgusting, but he was smart and clever, especially clever, he played dumb for sympathy, and did it exceedingly well. In the end he looked at me with his eyes that I used to joke about being enhanced with “guyliner” to maximize his classic sympathetic ruse. He gave a look that said, “help me, I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” but I couldn’t help him, it was just his time. Someone who I had always counted on but oftentimes taken for granted, had to be eased of his pain. He was my friend and companion, my beloved rescue mutt, Cornelius, a.k.a. Corndog, The Hermano Menor (little brother) of my pack of canine friends who I dubbed “Los Tres Perros Locos.” (The 3 crazy dogs)
My wife and I didn’t start out as dog people, when we started our lives together it was challenging enough being a blended family. One day our neighbors told us they couldn’t take care of the beautiful Border Collie they had and asked us if we could take her in. We knew she was a good dog and agreed instantly. We renamed her Brandy, and she became part of our family. This lasted a while until the pastor at our church ran into a situation where the house he and his wife were going to rent didn’t allow dogs, so their dog, a half lab, half German Sheppard named Comet came to live with us. In the course of a couple of years, we went from having no dogs, to having 2 medium sized canine friends.
As any dog lover will tell you, the hardest part of taking care of dogs is the realization that one day you’ll have to say goodbye. Brandy went first, leaving us and Comet in particular, totally despondent. We found a companion for Comet, another Border Collie we named Molly. Molly was a rescue dog. She had been used as bait for training Pitbulls how to fight. Then it was Comet’s turn, his health combined with his age made us have to make the hard decision to ease his pain. Molly was doing ok, but we realized that she needed a friend, because a dog is a pack animal and does so much better with a partner in crime so to speak. So, we found another amazing rescue dog. They had named him Travi (short for Traveler) at the shelter, because he’d been on his own for 2 weeks before he was rescued. We gave him to our youngest daughter to take care of, as a birthday present, and she renamed him Stitch. Stitch is an incredible dog, mostly Havanese, he is one of those dogs that seems partly human, a one in a million dog, that we all fell in love with instantly. Our daughter took Stitch with her when she moved out, so we went about finding a new companion for Molly the Border Collie. This was where we came upon a pathetic looking Jack Russel terrier mix with guyliner eyes that I couldn’t resist. His name at the pound was Hansel, and there was no way I was going to keep that name since it was the name of the place where I worked, Hansel Ford. Marie asked “well what are you going to call him then?” Jokingly I said “Corn, you know Corndog!” She reluctantly agreed to my bad joke, but said his full name should be Cornelius, and so he became a member of the family. In the course of time Molly passed, and Marie insisted that the next dog would be a small dog like Corny that didn’t shed, because, both Border Collies and Labs tend to shed a lot. So back to the shelter we went and found the exact opposite of what she wanted, a Lab-Shar-pei mix that’s a medium sized dog that sheds as much as Molly and Comet did put together. She named him Chilidog to keep the theme going and Corndog and Chilidog became fast friends. A few months later my daughter calls and says she can’t take care of Stitch anymore and asked if we could take him in. Without a moments hesitation we agreed and so we went from having no dogs to having a pack of three, the original lineup of Los Tres Perros Locos.
There is a reason why we prefer rescue dogs. The circumstances that led to their abandonment shape their personalities in ways that make them unique from other dogs. They may not be the prettiest, as in the case of Corndog, although he could work the sympathy look like no other, or the best at learning tricks, once again to his dying day, Corny never could catch on to playing fetch. Molly, like I said was used as bait. It made her a bit quirky, I likened her to Laura Petri, the character Mary Tyler Moore played on the original Dick Van Dyke show. Stitch has been abandoned for 2 weeks on his own, when he arrived at the shelter, they had to shave him to the nub, because he was so flea-infested. He is the most resilient dog I’ve ever seen, he survived that, survived getting hit by a car that makes his hips give out from time to time and most recently beat an illness that even his doctors couldn’t figure out. In my view he is either part human or part Ewok, not just because of his looks, but also the way he kind of makes a gargling sound when he’s excited, reminds me of an Ewok. Corndog was in a house that had a couple of dozen other dogs, so he emerged with food aggression and a distrust of other dogs. Chili is a refugee from the “Valley fire” in 2015, one of the series of wildfires that have plagued California due to the criminal mismanagement of the forests by Grewsome Newsom and PG @ E. Every day is a good day for Chili, he seems so thankful that he was rescued. His bark only knows one volume, maximum, which some people find intimidating, but there is hardly a mean bone in his body, although for some reason he has something against beagles.
Although I love all the pack, Corndog was undisputedly my dog. He had to be with me all the time. He was jealous of any dog that I petted, always inserting himself in between us. He and Stitch got along well enough, but Chili was his running mate, the two of them would wrastle endlessly. A garbage gut, we ended up using a muzzle on him for a time to stop him from eating stuff that would make him sick like bugs or poop or anything that caught his eye during our daily walks. When we settled here in Carolina he developed a real passion for Cicadas, alive or dead. He was neurotic as hell, always skittering around on the floor when you needed him to move out of the way, and ALWAYS to the exact place you were going, it’s amazing he wasn’t stepped on more than he was. Corndog did all the bad things that normal dogs do, and he would get chastised and occasionally yelled at for things like stealing Stitch’s food, but he NEVER held a grudge. Oh sure, he’d get mad at me, turn his back on me from time to time, but it never lasted for more than a few moments. In his last few years Corndog had become a very well mannered guy, never giving me any problems on our walks. He stopped eating crap off the ground (for the most part) and even figured out how to play fetch (well kinda.) He just wasn’t like most dogs, in fact I often told him “Corndog, just be a dog dude, you’ll like it.” But for Corndog there was only one thing he wanted to be, my friend, and he did that very well. He’d always be there when I was angry or sad, rejoiced when I laughed, when I watched a football game and got excited over a great play or a bad call, he’d be there to make sure I was ok. When I played my guitars, late at night with a couple of shots of tequila, he never judged me and never left no matter how badly I might have been playing.
One day during a walk, he just collapsed. He got back up quickly but I knew something was obviously wrong. We took him to the vet and they said he was having congestive heart failure, they told me they could give him some meds that would enable him to have a decent life for a while longer as long as he took it easy, with no over exertion. I felt really bad for not noticing his symptoms earlier, he was pissing on the floor every evening, and I thought he was just getting old and acting out. In the end just walking up steps was exhausting for him, and I knew it was time. We spent the last few days together, side by side, him looking at me with those sad brown eyes that said, “you’ve always been able to fix me when I was sick, please do it know, so we can still be together,” and me telling him how sorry I was for not being able to do so.
During our lives with dogs, Marie and I have had to have some of them put to sleep. It’s always hard and gut wrenching, you’d think it would get easier after the first, but in fact, at least for us. it gets harder and harder. Corndog was for me, by far the worst. We had him cremated and I have a little shrine for him in my studio with his ashes, a ceramic paw print and a lock of his fur. I put his collar on Chili’s leash and a picture of him on my phone. I’ll never forget him, and his lesson of unconditional love, I cried when he died, and shed a tear for days afterwards, and I cried when I wrote this, some tough guy I am right? I talked to my son about it, and he said he’s not looking forward to the day when he has to say goodbye to his dogs. I told him that despite the pain, it’s so much better to have known that unconditional love a dog gives, than to have never experienced it, and that feeling the pain of that loss is simply proof of your own humanity. I wish y’all could have known Cornelius, despite all his flaws everyone loved him. The best praise I could ever give him, was to call him “a good boy!” Above all else Corndog was a very good boy. He’ll be there in doggy heaven, and I pray that I might see him again in heaven sometime. I know it sounds Corny, pun intended, but I sincerely believe that all dogs go to heaven.
I miss you every day my friend.