Roll back the curtain of memory now and then…
Not too long after we found Charlie back in 2015, I spotted another abandoned dog out in the same remote area. But this dog was snow white and exceedingly skittish, massive dog ticks hanging from her neck like grey medallions; I tried for two weeks to win her trust, and it was exhausting and heart breaking. She wouldn’t let me near her, but then I would see her in my rear views as I pulled away, charging behind me as fast as her stubby legs would carry her, only to run away again if I stopped the car or motorcycle.
The problem was that there was obviously someone else trying to catch her as well, as evidenced by empty dog food bags and other flotsam and jetsam left in the vicinity. I was NOT going to let that happen, as A: I am a bit delusion in believing that no one else can do it like I can, and B: I could only imagine that someone was trying to capture her for use as a bait dog. Everybody became an expert: just grab her! Set up a dog trap! Do what (fill in the blank with whatever “dog expert” was in vogue at the time) would do!
I was posting daily updates during this time, not realizing that the white dog had acquired a worldwide following of her own. I found out some time later that people were actually setting their alarm clocks in Italy and Australia, Wales and Ukraine, to correspond to AST(Arkansas Standard Time) to see if I had succeeded.
Then on a brutally oppressive day in July, I was about ready to give up. In disgust at my own inabilities, I sat down on the ground and started poking around on my phone. I’m a huge Stevie Ray Vaughn fan boi, and was listening to “Change It” when I noticed the Stevie Mae had crept up behind me, so I just sprawled out on the hot asphalt to see what would happen.
And that’s all it took. I brought her back to the Casa, and Kat spent the day harvesting bloated dog ticks from her carcass(Stevie’s. Not Kat’s), and she quickly became a new dog.(again Stevie, not Kat).
Stevie was special in a way that I can’t define, special enough that if there hadn’t been a Charlie at the time, Stevie could easily became to face of the Casa. As it was, she was the perfect Yin to Charlie’s Yang; black and white, fire and rain, toast and jam; the rest of that summer and into the fall was a glorious time at the Casa.
Then on a weekend in October, Stevie began to show signs of abdominal distress. As it was on a Saturday, the vet was closed, but by Sunday night she appeared to have evacuated whatever was troubling her. The next week was all good until the symptoms began to resume, again on a Saturday.
Early Sunday morning, Charlie and I were still in bed tapping away at a post when Stevie came wobbling into the room. I began to scratch her ears when she looked me directly in the eyes, licked my hand three times, and fell over dead. We have since determined that it was possibly a freak incident of the “bloat” as experienced by certain breeds of large chested dogs, but we’ll never know for sure.
“Devestating” is not a sufficient adjective to describe the experience, but it comes pretty close.
But now what to do? Up to this point, we had made a conscious effort to only emphasize the positives of Charlie’s story, and an event this tragic did not fit that narrative. But on the other paw, people had became as invested in Stevie as I had, and I couldn’t simply write her out of the story.
I was still going to church at this time and was scheduled to be at band practice that morning, so I did a quick post that was very sparse on details. As the thousands of messages of condolence began to roll in, it occurred to me: I’m the Dad. While it would have been so much more comfortable to curl up in my solitary grief, I realized that often times it is the dad’s job to do the hard things; the familia deserves the truth. So, instead of band practice, I drove to a secluded parking lot and did the hardest thing, a proper explanation of what really happened.
The amount of response was overwhelming. It was then and there that I decided that we tell the whole story, warts and all; not for the sympathy, but because family deserve the truth. So, when you read the stories of colostomy bags, of Mom’s cancer, Kat’s assault, my job loss, etc, you can blame it on Stevie Mae; the sunset is always more beautiful when it has accompanying storm clouds from which to reflect.
And quality is always better than quantity. Although Stevie was only at the Casa for a relatively short time, her impact is still felt to this day. Contemplate this the next time that you feel that your own contribution is too insignificant to make much of a difference, that maybe you’re a Stevie compared to someone else who you might view as a Charlie. When it comes to what you have to offer the universe, there is no pass or fail, and what you send out is what you will get back tenfold, packed down and running over.
See you on the other side, Stevie.