Monday, January 31, 2011

Folded tight like little secrets along thin limbs, rhododendron leaves clamp shut as another storm thickens the air.

Outside the front window I see next season's buds pointing upward through snow, wind, and clinging ice. Tapered points wait for a spring sun. Opening in the warmth and stretching pink petals to catch buttery sunlight, they won't remember winter.

Light fades into dusk then darkness, and I get ready for the bar. Hopeful faces walk in looking for promises. Looking for friendship, love, sex, magic, or happiness, they will find something, everything, nothing, and accept a beer or whiskey while they wait. A storm is coming.

At home with Lily's training collar dropping from my fingers, I let it coil on the floor as I step away from her. She sits and waits.

This is just the first step, Jerry tells me. He uses a light voice as if I am made of bubbles.

Life is in limbo while we stand around in our boots, wool hats, and worn mittens, waiting to fight off the sky with a stupid shovel. More snow is coming in.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yesterday's baby blue sky curdled behind faint clouds. Darkness came. Hours later, Dawn crept over the horizon with a wash bucket, swiping away the darkness . Light brightened a pale off-white sky that snowed.

Lily's thumping tail got me up and out of bed.

I had been dreaming of an old newspaper owner that only visited my editorial offices a few times each year. He was always stiff, with a dark overcoat and briefcase. Will. He was not prone to smiling. He would wrap a fist beneath his chin and listen to a discussion, or interject by yelling.

In my dream, Will walked into the office, set his briefcase on a chair, and wrapped me in a vigorous hug.

Somewhere inside my head I have crossed wires.

Lily and I worked at our training and obedience today. Hershey shadows Lily. Bandit finds something to sniff, and Ozzy sits and snorts.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Post 201

Looking at a clear sky where Orion waves briefly, I see the next storm's clouds slipping in. They'll wipe away his stars like dust. I wait for snow.

Lily has not been out running for two days. She has to earn it and I have to teach her to earn it. She is learning to listen to me. I am learning to listen too. We are learning. Training.

How did the training go? A friend asked.

Like shit.

Oh…can't the trainer help?

Well, I have to do it, I said.

For days I watch styrofoam cups pile up in the trash. I have been here at work, but my mind has packed a little overnight bag and called a cab. An email from a coworker included the remark, I thought I was clear when I said…

No sense answering that.

Around 3 in the afternoon a descending sun sends a splash of gold across the hillside outside my window. Drifts of snow smooth its jutting stones and tree stumps left behind last year when chainsaws sent chips flying. The air smelled like raw wood, summer camp, the moist earth strapped beneath a bark that soaked rainwater from the ground.

The sun's beams unravel like ribbons across frozen crust and bounce through icicles as thick as spears. They light up in a rippling yellow and white, sending splintered colors across my desk. Reaching out to swipe a finger through pastels staining a page of notes, I stop and think about that email again.

I sit here in a cold, dark basement with Jerry's TV sounds coming down. A single lamp spreads a little pool across the desktop. It's enough. Lily pops up and drops cold paws in my lap. With her nose poking my cheek I turn to look at her snow-splashed face. With a little puff I send a tuft of melting white crystals to the floor.

Looking at Lily's eyes glistening in weak lamplight, I imagine each life as this bitty thing that we hold in cupped hands. I set mine down carefully tonight so I wouldn't drop it while I ranted at Jerry. Poor Jerry who lays on the ground in the cold and changes my water pump and adjusts the clutch. I slam doors and yell and swear. I cry. I ramble. I have done this before.

Is this all because of that email? he asked.

Well, probably. Stupid of me, but when I saw it crawling under my skin, I should have killed it then.

Why can't you just dump it on xxxxx at work? Why do I always get the bad part? he asks. How come I have to have the bad part?

When I am calm I place my palms on either side of the tender thing, cradling it in my hands again.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Things suffer to please the eye. As I stood watering the burlapped rootball on our Christmas tree with its spiked fingers that peek out the window at sunrise each morning, I saw that many of its shoots had been trimmed. We danced around it, celebrated, then pulled its decorations off and stashed it here on cold floor tiles. This likely plump shrub was pruned and shaped with careful snips and cuts.

And down there by that tree ringed with dried and fading holiday wishes, I worked with the dog trainer today. Lily writhed and howled on the pronged end of a choke chain.

She doesn't like someone being in charge, L. said. She is used to being in charge. You have to be boss, she told me.

She said, sit. Following the command with a yank and attempt to reposition Lily into a sit, Lily just kept struggling. Soon she was promptly responding to her commands and as obedient as hell with the blunt, yet spiked links gripping her around the neck.

So it starts.

Lily's potential is currently asleep and I am the blindfolded and stumbling ass that needs to wake it up.

So, so cold outside. It slips in and finds my fingers and toes, drawing away their warmth. Cold. It's nothing really, but lack of heat.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I can't watch movies about zombies, monsters, vampires, werewolves, witches, demons, ghosts, the Easter bunny, or things that crawl through sewage to snack on fresh guts.

Running from the living room where herky jerky, glassy eyed stiffs hunt down a bunch of people jammed in the corner of a warehouse, I yell, did they make it?

With a look of glee, Jerry hesitates. TV light splotches his face with white moving light, goes dark, turns light again. Yes, he said.

Oh good. A bunch of actors smeared with special effects and howling fake screams can all go home safely again tonight.

Scarier than made-for-television movies are this morning's dreams…I was trying to get a word together but could only manage to moan. My lips were paralyzed. Couldn't talk. In my dream I became aware of someone next to me. Looking up at the closet from the floor I realized I was crouched down with a man whispering in my ear.

Can you see him? the man asked. Some gray shape stood shrunken like a frightened little boy in the corner of the bedroom closet, his feet near my hiking shoes and his head drooped against his chest.

I have not seen him in so long, I tell the man. Trying to reassure the pasty, bloodless looking little boy, I want him to lift his head. I can only moan. I feel myself straining, sounds rumble around in my throat, but no words.

My mind skips and in my dream I rouse again. I see things sideways, as if I have my cheek on the mattress and look across the room at the old woman with heaps of flowing skirts where she rocks in a chair. Then, I see the little boy. He crouches in a pale little way at her feet where her skirts droop like a blanket. They swallow him like a tide meandering in to cover smooth stones. It is somehow imperceptible, yet fast.

Her old worn face flashes across his smooth, wan cheeks and his image appears beneath her wrinkled brow and gray bun piled with hair pins. Then he is gone or they are gone and there is just one person in the rocker, but I have faded again.

We are in a station wagon. I watch the colorful world flash by outside a back window, and nameless others are with me, including the bitch that's driving. Bouncing on a dirt lane parallel to a large storm pipe, I hear a deep, echoing voice yell, here! A woman is trapped inside the pipe, and we have just driven past her location.

Stop the car, we've found the spot, I yell. Not yet, snaps the driver. We aren't to the end yet.

Never mind the end! Stop! She is back there!


Bitch, damn whore! STOP THE CAR!

I wake and Jerry tells me that I have only been restless and murmuring for maybe a few minutes. Who was the little boy? Usually the tangible stuff of dreams leaves a momentary sensation against the skin or butterflies in the gut that are coming from a part of the brain that keeps no memory. Usually, the dreamy things fade so fast, but this little boy is a familiar little one, or triggered a familiar sense of sadness or urgency or worry about what will happen to him. Who will help him? Why is he so pale, dejected, silent, with eyes cast at the ground as if his face were too heavy to lift?

This morning in the woods, as most mornings, I am very careful with Lily and Hershey and who has their tattered tennis ball. In deep snow we are confined to yesterday's deep ruts that we pound for a smidge more space. I worry that with one growl, and one nip for an answer, we'll be rushing to the vet again. I step outdoors with a fear that Hershey will be hurt. We thought about why we should buy a muzzle, and why we should not. We purchased a static shock training collar, but I am too wimpy to wrap it around Lily's neck.

At the bar I see J. who looks worn from so much time plowing the streets since the sky collapsed, dropping more than two feet of snow on top of the 10 inches of several days before. Snow and rain today make the mess soggy, and tonight's chill will freeze the world into a sloppy heap of snow as solid as cement. More snow is coming. I feel like the little boy, just standing with arms dangling and nothing to say.

A friend, C., had come by with a town backhoe and chomped away at piled snow. He spent extra time outside my driveway moving the heaps and pushing the mounds of snow away. With it he took a couple of Rose of Sharon bushes and other shrubs. I told J. about it as I cracked his Corona Light. I was laughing. Those plants were buried.

He thinks he was doing you a favor, J. said.

I know! I love him for it. Please don't tell him about the shrubs!

It's easier to replace plants than feelings.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Looking at summer photos of sunshine clinging to flower petals that ooze warmth like melted butter on my fingertips, I glance at the two feet of snow outside. We're screwed, and will be screwed again with snow and icy rain by morning.

The bar owners took us out for margaritas tonight. I melted onto the stool after less than one taquilla-filled goblet. I told them, today is the day of the many layers of loser that keep me wrapped…but not warm. Lily could care less.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Who could imagine that 2011 would begin with an avalanche?

While I wipe down a spilled beer from the bar a friend asks, hey, does that Bronco have a plow?

Yup, I answer.

What size?

Shrugging, I stretch out my arms and say, maybe this wide…bout this tall. Goes forward.

Where is it? he asked.

I smile. I dry the bar. Well, it's at home, under two-and-a-half feet of snow…

C'mon! You could make so much money with that plow! More than here.

I told him, yeah, but there's beer here. And booze. And it's dry and warm. But no dogs….

A few minutes later I am out in the nearly zero-degree night crouched beside his golden retriever. Scratching and praising him, the dog sops it up, snarling the happy snarl with his golden lips ruffled, hid ribs leaning hard against my legs.

Thursday night I realized my mood had curdled and hardened into a lump. Everyone was annoying. Everything was intolerable. I poured, I chilled, I strained, I popped bottle caps. I wanted everyone to leave. Go home, go away, leave me here to clean up without you saying, did you finish the drawer yet? You stocked?

Screw off, I kept thinking. May an open door suck you into the parking lot, and may frigid wind blow across your ass. Thank you.

The next night I am saying sorry for my mood yesterday. Sort of joyless and boring. Sorry.

What was it?

Stuff on my mind, I say. It grows ugly with time until I can't look anymore.

To my friend in Pa. who apologizes for dusting off and stretching out a great stress reliever, I wrote: Hey, the F Bomb is satisfying every time. So are the looks on well-dressed faces. Don't smear your lipstick over it ladies! Then again, I don't think she wants her youngest to use the word properly in a sentence in kindergarten.

To another blog-acquaintance with young children I said: I read your story and Erin's and I think, I have no kids. Why is my life hard? I guess "hard" is just a consequence of things we want to make better, that refuse to play along. Damn bricks, really.

Problems are these immobile bricks I can't dislodge.

Jerry dissolved one in the minus-zero darkness at 6:45 this morning: as the dogs bark like mad, Jerry sat up in bed and said, the furnace just quit.

What? Why are the dogs barking?

The chugging noise from the furnace, he answered.


Since I had come to bed after 5 am, I was soon asleep again. He had gone outside to dig out the oil tank and find the problem. Maybe the fuel gelled or the lines froze. Downstairs today near the furnace were his tools and contraption for work -- his magic wands that create hot and cold where you need them, large or small. Our furnace is now firing like it should.

We bought a static training collar for Lily today. It's meant to help me prevent a future of stitches in the vet's office, but I suspect I'll be using it to keep myself awake.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

By morning gobs of wet, gauzy snow will bend everything down. January has opened the door on an Ice Age that finds us standing around, small with our shovels.

Another storm hangs over us, filling in trampled snow and cleared walkways.

For days I have stepped through old footprints across a little ridge beneath Hemlock bows so heavy with snow that they touched the ground; unlike the warmer months, winter keeps track of everything that moves by.

Like a faceless thing on wooden legs I drag through the forest following yesterday's trail.


I told a friend that most good writing is a lot of erasing, then trimming up what's left. Sometimes it's just a few bent shavings of thoughts, like today.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I finally confessed to a dog trainer that yes, they would certainly size me up in this house filled with wayward dogs, slip a pistol from its holster, and aim for my head.

The pug has a cough, the lab has patches of bare, healing wounds where Lily's teeth punctured the skin, Bandit is just too damn fat to look at, and Lily is a bouncing, jittering, surge of energy.

One dog or even two or three at a time is fine, but all four at once makes me want to walk out back and knock my head against the stone wall. The ivy leaves appear to be holding their breath in for the winter, exposing perfect, rough stretches of sharp rock. As the cinched leaves await the sun's warmth to unfurl, my rotten forehead will leave marks on the stone flecked with glistening mica and my stupid blood.

OK, I only daydream of knocking myself out, but I can picture things flying into the stones and smashing in loud, explosive bursts of porcelain or glass.

Sadly, another avalanche is in the forecast for Tuesday into Wednesday, carrying more huge servings of snow to pile onto the more than 18 inches already underfoot. Up to my knees in the woods with the dogs lately, my legs are sore, my palms hurt from tripping and crashing to the ground, and every day starts out cold and damp, despite the blinding glare rising from the bleached white ground.

Did anyone ever see William Hurt burst from the depravation tank and run hard into the wall, thrashing as his form devolved from human to something more guttural and primitive? That is me in the morning lately. Stand back, please.

Blurb from my SOS note to the trainer…

I spoke with XXXX over the weekend, and she suggested I contact you.

I have several dogs, but my largest concern is my German shepherd that I rescued one year ago. She was about a year old when I adopted her, only 46 pounds, and suffered from what we eventually found was a digestive problem that we are treating. She is a big 80 pounds now. She is agile, eager, and really enjoying her strength and energy. We run in the woods every morning and at night when we have the sunlight. She loves to chase sticks, but her play can be rough. I have taken my lab in for patch-ups twice because of Lily, the shepherd, asserting herself, or protecting her place near me, or grabbing for my lab's tennis ball or stick. Since she has her new, healthy body, I can't walk her on the street. She lunges at cars.

She also tends to nip in a playful way, which prevents me from going anywhere near other dogs....

I would like to address these things, and also find a job for Lily. She is attentive and I assume a good learner. I don't want to waste her abilities. I would like to learn to handle her behavior, and successfully train her. Her prior owner taught her commands in German, and she tends to lay down flat when she really wants something.

Of course, my other dogs could use lessons in Come, Stay, etc, but Lily is my biggest worry.

I would also like to be able to rescue dogs competently, with the ability to safely take a rescue in and keep the pack adjusted. I have a huge soft spot for dogs, but lack any training to go with it.

While I fear XXXX or another trainer will size up my situation and just shoot me, I believe it is time I get the lessons I need to keep us all happy...SOS.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

We stood bleeding in the vet's office again.

Slogging through the house after our morning run in the woods, I was working myself out of my fleece when Hershey and Lily barged through the doorway at the same time. Hershey growled as they struggled for position, and Lily bit.

With Bandit The Runaway's leash in hand I yelled Hey! No! as I looked at Lily and slapped her across the nose.

Hershey bled on my foot, the wooden floor in the bedroom, through the living room, and into the kitchen.

I herded Lily, Bandit, and Puggy Puggy Pug Face downstairs and rushed Hershey outside. She bled on the patio, up the back steps, down the front steps, and along the sidewalk. My thoughts like echos caught up with my momentum seconds after I was in motion.

In the truck I paused. Nervous, I didn't want to pull onto the road until my mind arrived in the present. Hershey's neck and jaw trailed thick drops running down her fur. She licked where it landed on her legs and paws. I had no idea if there was a gash, or a punctured artery like Lily had several months ago under her tongue. I saw a stream of blood tossing heavy drops all over the seat, console, a stupid wrench and stupid medium point pens. Who writes with those fat things? All pens should be fine points. She bled along the black metal floor and managed to smear a window, my bag with my purse, and smudged my cheek.

I drove. She bled. We parked at the vet.

No collar. I wasn't thinking about leashes or collars, I was thinking about copious streams of blood freeing themselves from the flesh as fast as Hershey's heart could beat.

Inside I said, Hi. I have no appointment, but there is an emergency…

Finally I looked down at my dog and myself and saw the smears even in her chocolate fur. She was matted and sticky, and a strand of coagulating blood hung from a lip.

Then I had to explain. It's a bite. My shepherd bit her.

Into the intercom the receptionist paged the doctor: bite wound. Dr ??? Dr??? We have Miss Bobowick with Hershey with a bite wound on the neck….

In the vet's exam room we hefted a squirming, bloody lab onto the table. She decorated your shoes, the vet said.

Another assistant pointed at my face and said, she got your cheek too. Grab a seat in the lobby, she said.

I wandered back outside and surprisingly, the vet had followed.

She is just too off the wall, she said. Too crazy, we need to give her a fast-acting sedative.

OK, I said.

Back inside she explained, we need to clean the area and see what's there. If we need to stitch we'll have to get a tube down her throat and sedate….

Do what you need to, I said.

Hey, I thought, I have done this before. At least I was able to remember my phone number this time…

Seated on a bench, I listened to doors close, shuffling, and the agitated whining vocal jabber filling the office at a high pitch -- Hershey. The receptionist got up and wandered the rooms. He peered around the corner where Hershey was probably in the grips of fear with a dopey sleepy feeling creeping up on her.

He came back and said with concern, someone is having a melt-down.

The melt-down softened and I knew the drugs were soaking in. Seconds later I heard a buzzing as they shaved away her fur.

A puncture, the vet told me. She is lucky, she had scrapes up over her eye, and a puncture under her jaw. No stitches, but she'll need to take it easy for at least 24 hours. Come get her around noon.

I never considered how shaved up and patchy she would be. My loving Hershey would not place any blame on my failure to correct and stop Lily from nipping and grabbing whenever she and Hershey wanted to occupy the same space next to me. Hershey would growl and turn away, but sometimes Lily would nip. She was more eager about it if Hershey had a stick she wanted, but turned her head when Lily lunged for it. She would snag Hershey's scruff instead, but never anything this bad.

I do blame myself.

I need to take enough time to teach Lily to stop it, or tape her big mouth shut.

A muzzle, Jerry said, and a shock collar.

Poor Ozzy has a cough and I think we are going to need antibiotics. It's so hard to see something so small suffer. It's so hard to handle the dogs everyday, and sometimes I am just worn out.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Post 193 ...

The rhododendron leaves are slapped shut as I wander the sidewalk, avoiding hardened shells of yesterday's footprints. Around me are traces of the violence animals use like paring knives or tenderizers.

Tufts of feathers from a partial wing, and one wretched and bent little bird leg make me hate the cats.

At least once a week I slam the door saying: screw those F*%k head cats!

Why? Jerry asks.

My standard answer: dead stuff. They killed something again.

This week Jerry told me a story about something that angles down and slices life from tree branches and hollows. Life in its grasp shreds like paper, arriving dead on the ground.

He said, I saw a red-tailed hawk come out of the sky and grab a bird right out of the trees.

I had been wondering why the cats' attacks had been so unlike the usual unravelled purple strand of intestines. The chunks of animal left behind are more easily explained by the rending, desperate strike of a beak and talons reaching swiftly for a blinking, chirping thing about to end.

I do not live by my teeth, claws, and leathery, wet evisceration. Copper stains, and a warm, sweaty smell linger.

Charlie once told me that Lily smelled like, I don't know, she smelled like … squirrels, he said. Raw flesh was a salve to her bad pancreas, I suspect.

One of the vets told us that if we did not feed her enzymes to correct her illness, we could feed her pig pancreas to replace the enzymes her body lacked. Maybe hundreds of small squirrel pancreases were just enough while she was with Charlie.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I overheard: There is a lot out here, and we're not the top of the food chain...Then I looked at the TV where a guy traced a bear's movements with his rifle. Waiting.


Winter is a frigid, dark thing with its eye suspiciously closed, but watchful. As sunrise pokes through a gauzy dawn I see a gift winter left outside, wrapped with black ribbon and foil. Pulling the bow apart I find darkness that leaves residue on my skin.

Sunset creeps over the sky, soaking in the pale yellow and amber afternoon. I just stare at the clouds and jagged, bare tree limbs as the light fades.

The dogs and I have retraced our steps for days through a thick snow that fell one week ago. Hundreds of paw prints are embossed along our path like stamped ice. They rise from surrounding white patches that diminish under winter's short spurts of sunshine.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I try really hard not to kick, scream, or insult the things I love, but sometimes I am angry.

Rather than kick, scream, or sharpen blunt words into spears, I break things. If I can't break things, I have a little snag.

If a plate or glass or anything in my hand suddenly looks better and sounds better flying out the open door and smashing on the patio, it goes. If one plate doesn't do it, I march to the cabinet and grab another one.

On other days my mood shrivels -- a worm in the sun. I do what I call Shut Down. It's involuntary and unpredictable.

Today the black mood came from nowhere -- well, I suspect that a succession of Things That Weigh Me Down added up. Jerry and I drove to visit my parents and somewhere between the parked truck and the front door I lost something essential -- It just closed its eyes and refused to be any help at all.

Inside and greeting my family and our friends, I discovered that Miss Monosyllable was going to do the talking.

Kendra, did you work last night? Debbie asked me.


You did?

A few hours.

Oh, you were able to close early! How nice!


Rather than make small talk, I looked for something to do. I made coffee. I was fine while filing the pot with water, but when mom came to drop things in the sink, she was too close. I put the pot down and moved away.

Filters? I saw them on the counter before I had to ask, but I needed help with the coffee.

Mom, where is the coffee?

It's in the fridge, she said, walking toward me.

I got it! I said. Don't get it for me. I feel claustrophobic. Just tell me…

I needed to leave.

Apologizing to everyone, I said, I am sorry, I am just not able to be around anyone today.

At home Jerry found a creepy movie on TV. By the time it ended I was fine.

These moods make no more sense than hiccups.