I thought I was ready for this. Still, I sat in the car and pondered the finality of it all, forcing the pain back down to where it was manageable, to where it belonged; underneath the hitches in my breath, wiping the fog from my eyes. She passed a week ago; surely I was over this by now. Surely not, I guess. We’ll see, I thought, and bounded out of the car and through the large white imposing wooded doors to the main office.

I would ask for you back, but that would prove how selfish I truly am.

The young tech at the counter recognized my face; she was the one who gave us the grieving room the week before. “Here to pick up little Sadie?” she asked sweetly. “Yup,” was all I could get out before I cleared my throat and managed to smile back at her. “Wait here a second and I’ll go get her,” she said, and disappeared between the swinging metal doors to the back of the clinic. She was gone only a few minutes, re-appearing with a small retail-like paper sack with handles, which she set gently on the counter in front of me. Kinda pissed me off instantly; marketing logo, right smack in the middle of the bag that held the remains of my loved one. Geez, is it always about marketing, all the dammed time…crass.

I reached into the bag and retrieved the lovely carved wooden box; gave my stomach a stab. The staff had also included a sympathy card, which I purposely left un-opened lest I go all wobbly in front of the young technician. Something else was in the bag; a smaller plastic bag with a hard, disc-shaped object. I pulled it from the crematoria-marketing bag and flipped it over to get a look; it was a plaster casting of her tiny little paw-print. At that point, I had no say in the matter; wobbly be dammed, the sobs came in great heaves and I had to put my hands to my face to try to get a grip. All my glory, all two-hundred and forty pounds of fifty-five year-old manliness, bawling uncontrollably over the passing of a six pound hairball generator that shared my life for twelve years. Now, all I had left were her remains in a pretty, carved oak box, a plaster casting of her paw, and a sympathy card from the staff, all thoughtfully packed in a wonderful carry-all bag neatly emblazoned with the logo of the crematorium right on the side.

It took me a good five minutes to gain my composure once I got back to the car. I really didn’t think it would hit me again so hard. Just a week ago, I held her tiny head in my hands as she became quiet, a head no bigger than a large walnut, looking deceptively larger due to the wonderful coon-coat she wore. I watched and listened as the life ebbed away from her little body and buried my face in her ridiculously soft neck as I had done many times while she was alive; only this time, she didn’t struggle to break free. The last thing I could do before I gave her to the doctor was kiss her one last time and close those hauntingly big beautiful eyes. And like that, she was gone; the little shit left her paw-prints all over my heart, dammit.

Like the animals who passed through my life before her, Sadie was quite the enigma. She was more the kid’s cat, if cats are really ever “owned” by anyone. She was quite timid, but very loving and dedicated to her younger human companions. She’d run past me with suspecting eyes; maybe I could get her interested in chasing toys on a string every so often but she always roamed to be within short distance of the girls. Usually, she could be found at the foot of one of their beds. She would occasionally yap and chat at me however, as Maine Coons are apt to do and I think her quiet aloofness was really all a front; just a way to capture our hearts with her feigned indifference, her lie exposed by the volume and ferocity of her own purring.

I wondered the last time I lost a pet; why would I do this again? Was this all worth it? To those who have never loved an animal, maybe those of us who do are quite nuts. Maybe. Could be. It sure feels that way today. I still can’t reach into the bag and look at her paw-print and for the life of me, I can’t tell you why. But I can tell you this; I have never been disappointed by any of the animals I have had in my life. I have never been lied to by any of them, have never been asked to be anything other than “there,” never been expected to be something I am not or may never be. And they have shown me a love that wasn’t measured by bank accounts, the car I drive, and the clothes I wear, the positions I took or the opinions I had. Very few can say there are humans in their lives that love them with the same pure devotion.

So once again, I find myself quite melancholy over the passing of a dear furry friend; much of it the result of the pain I see in the eyes of my daughters and wife; the ridiculous feeling that maybe somehow I could have protected them from this. But protecting them would have meant being firm and keeping to my words when I initially said, no pets. A way to keep them from having to go through this? Yeah right. A way for me to avoid having to go thorough this more likely. But in the end, I would have denied them a love in their lives that they would rarely see, a chance to see the real beauty in life because of that love, and yes, experience the pain and cold, hard ache of having it taken away.

So my little Sadie now joins Sneakers and Cousey roaming the grounds of heaven where, one would assume, the litter box is always clean, the balls of yarn are large and soft and where there’s always a nice patch of sun-warmed grass to stretch out on and spend the better part of infinite days until we get to hold them all just one more time. Until then, I’ll avoid the paw-print and pictures for a while at least until I can do so without the tears running down my face. And I’ll thank God for the privilege of having yet another of his wonderful creatures roam though my house as they captured my heart, knowing full well that very few of us are really worthy of their devotion; yes, all this for an animal. All this for my little Sadie.

And yes, I would do this all over again.

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Somewhere, way back in the corners of my mind, I have the news images of Berkley in the 60’s, all tie-dyed and sandaled, maybe the occasional whiff of something not quite exotic but not quite legal. Students and their professors had all come together to protest Cal Berkley’s ban on political activities; back then it was the free speech movement (FSM), and this was sometime around 1964. And of course, this was pre-dated by activities in the late fifties (before my time), such as the creation of SLATE, a Berkley student party committed to stopping nuclear testing and capital punishment as well as other issues. And in 1960, students from Berkley were simply rinsed from the steps of city hall in San Francisco by powerful fire hoses as they protested the hearings of the “House Un-American Activities Committee.” Imagine, if you would, a university outlawing strips of common areas where students once passed out flyers and pamphlets, signed others up for petitions and to their cause. The heavy hand of the Berkley administration had put a stop to these activities, prompting sit-ins and arrests, but the students and professors were the heroes of free speech. In the 60’s.

required on the syllabus..

I was extremely young then; the son of a military man, with older siblings who were intensely watching these events unfold. In any case, we were the typical democrat-leaning family, our shrine to Saint John of Camelot adorned with more lit candles than Mother Mary had on hers. And like many of that time, we were consumed with the rise of communism and radical communists in the party we were part of. Neither of my parents were political animals of any sort. If it was good enough for Walter Cronkite, it was okay for them; until they had to watch young communists and radicals openly struggling for a right that both of my parents deeply believed in. A right that was plain and easy to understand in the language of the constitution. It became even more difficult when the radical violence of the left reared its ugly head, bombings by the “Weather Underground” and the execution of policemen around the country. The new heroes of the left were people who were openly espousing the destruction of the country, to be replaced by the benevolence of socialism. “The more things change,” I guess…

Over several decades, the truth would come to my parents, both unable to grasp the blatant lies and utter hypocrisy of the political system, still embarrassed to own up to the different campaign signs gathering dust in the far dark corner of the garage. Unfortunately, that same awareness and nagging guilt over finally admitting to the hypocrisy of it all is sadly missing today. Here we are, 2017 and we’re watching left wing groups torch communities, not just at Berkley, while this time it’s the professors and students burning, looting, and swinging deadly bike locks and spikes designed to injure police horses, all in the name of not having to hear something that they disagree with. Full circle; now college administrations with the blessings, the support and at the vocal requests of those on campus and those behind the lecterns, are stampeding over the students passing out flyers in the commons while dictating that the only place that free speech is allowed is some tiny, designated corner of the campus where the weeds don’t even grow. Decades after I watched the left fight what I believed to be the good fight, they are now fighting violently to take it all back, a do-over if you will; “sorry about that free speech thing, ya know; my bad.” My, how the left likes to use the term progressive. Well, at least they have a sense of irony, if lacking a measure of shame, guilt or self-awareness.

I watched as the violence was misreported, purposefully, this summer. I caught a small snippet of a masked foot soldier of the left explaining that violence is to be the new normal, expected since we were “going to take things away from people.” Taking food from the mouths of those who worked for it, in order to redistribute it to others however, wasn’t the taking he was concerned with. Nor was the taking of hard-earned tax dollars used to purchase medical insurance, again given to those who had none, through no fault of those from whom the taxes were immorally confiscated. No, he was concerned that he wouldn’t get his; warning that those who were “entitled” to the fruits of others weren’t going to stand idly by and have their government-pirated booty denied to them. My mind kept wandering back to the old black and white crime shows where the mask-wearing hoodlum springs upon the unsuspecting victims in a dark alley, weapon in hand, admonishing his prey to “hand over your wallet and no one gets hurt.” The new heroes of the left, wielding a bike lock in lieu of a snub nose.  In 2017.

Can it be anything more than a willful ignorance on the part of those swinging the bike locks and smashing the windows of their own universities? How can you stand for the “rights of the oppressed” by wearing a Che tee-shirt, knowing that Che executed those he disagreed with, including blacks and gays? Maybe your gender fluidity professor never went into great detail about the history of Che or even how the anarchists who were part of the National Socialist German Workers Party sought the same type of “free speech” codes you are now violently agitating for. Yup, you’re emulating Nazis. Maybe it’s not willful ignorance after all; many of those roaming the streets, organized by global interests, have been indoctrinated their whole lives to believe that its their right to take from others, that they only don’t have something because it’s been denied them by others. And like those anarchists in Germany, they too will be cast aside once power is consolidated. Socialism isn’t for the governed; it’s for those who govern. Ask those who crawled under the barbed wire of the Berlin wall, or those intellectuals murdered by Mao, or for God’s sake, pick up a dammed paper and read how people are eating their own pets in Venezuela.

The first amendment says nothing about your emotional well-being; flowery speech that tells you you’re a “great kid,” or that “you can be anything you want,” or “you’re beautiful no matter what anyone says” isn’t what the founders were trying to protect; although that’s what you’ve been taught since your government sponsored day-care. Your participation trophies support your infallibility. But we don’t need to explain that anymore do we? We are beyond that now. Now, they seek to control what you say; what you think; what you don’t say; and even whether or not you’ve said it correctly. You now have to denounce anything they wish denounced or you’re supporting that position. And you need to denounce it quickly. You need to use the proper pronouns, although at any given moment, no one is sure which of the 60 plus new ones they’ve created is correct. If you’re a person of color, your position needs to be correct or you’re not really a person of color. If that litmus test isn’t racial, nothing is. And you must toe the line if you want to be considered a “womyn,” lest you have your pink knitted pussy hat taken from you. No worries, there are plenty of men willing to stand in for any woman who doesn’t cut it; they just need to feel that way.

Anything else, anything not approved by the left is hate speech. I didn’t even bother to put that phrase in quotes. There is no such thing as hate speech. Bite me. The pendulum swings, as it always must, and in the future, hate speech will be decided by others who scream louder and are far more violent than you are now. And chances are, you’ll be on the wrong side, begging for your own “free speech rights.” The term hate speech is nothing more than the sharpened stick of political correctness.

I’m not quite sure that these violent leftist, from BAMN, BLM or Antifa have any idea what the hell their desired outcome is. Who can blame them? We just spent the last generation convincing young women that every man is evil; every one of them is a rapist, while we now publicly shame her for not sharing a bathroom with them. And really, I’m having great difficulty understanding your vision of a pluralistic utopia that’s based on violence-induced uniformity of thought. This is the logic that’s running rampant in the streets of our cities; it’s poisoning the halls of academia. And whether they like it or not, it’s the left that supports this; they fail to disavow it in a timely way, with the right pronouns, and that can only mean that they defend it and support it.

You know, I meant that sarcastically but it doesn’t really seem that far fetched after all…


How old am I? I can clearly remember a time when we were taught that all life was sacred, every person mattered and that the painful decisions of life and death were left to those afflicted, grieving families, their doctors and whatever faith leaders they sought comfort from. When did this all change? When did we become so calloused, so cold, so detached from the plight of others that we could allow a faceless state to be the ultimate arbiter of the time, location and manner of our passing? And how do they determine what dignity, our dignity, actually means at the time of our death?

Is there dignity in hope?

I have no idea what “mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome” is. I really don’t much care to know. No one should be forced to know; least of all a ten-month old infant. But the UK government, in its infinite wisdom and compassion, has decided that the parents of little Charlie Gard have forty-eight hours to convince them that he is worth saving; that he has some chance, a realistic chance, or they, the benevolent state, will forcibly end his life. And don’t get confused over my wording here; they aren’t going to hold the little boy down and smother him. Although, it certainly appears as though they could if they wanted to, being all powerful and righteous and stuff like that. No, they’ll physically restrain his parents as the young boy is allowed to die; how? Slowly wither away? Will they flip some magical switch and instantly end all his pain and suffering, and that of his parents? Not at home, not in the arms of his mother or father? Let’s get some clarity here. Just how does the state intend to offer this child a death with “dignity?”

Let’s face it, we’ve come a long way as a civilization in the fifty years or so that I’ve cast my shadow on this planet. We’ve been treated to break-through after break though in medicine, although there are far too many scourges we’ve yet to conquer. And because of that reality, we’ve also grown intellectually; or so we think. No, we’ve had our brushes with eugenics along the way. Thought we’d put that ugly chapter to bed, didn’t we? But what is this if not a branch of that, the next logical extension of “for the good of all.” And don’t be confused here, for what else is the rationale behind denying a child and his parents an opportunity, a hope no matter how slim, to prolong the life of a child? What harm could there be in letting a grieving, desperate parent fly to some willing medical center that is offering a chance; without any expense to the citizenry or the state at all? What is at stake here? Simple; power. The power to decide which groups deserve to live, which don’t. A power thinly disguised by the state as compassion, acting in the best interest of the child as if the parents were flying him to some dark, remote location to perform untold medical experiments upon him. No, we can’t take that chance. Let’s kill him now.

Power. A power that the state has taken great pains to cultivate and one they would rather not give up. What group of unfortunates will be next? How about those with advanced cancer? Should the state decide at some point, sorry, your medical support is done? No chance for you, no matter how slim. We have determined that and we know what’s best for you. Alarmist? Hardly. What convincing argument does the state have to sentence this child to a certain death when there are others, doctors in other parts of the world possibly, who offer hope. Not a guarantee, but hope. And at no cost to them. Because at the end of it all, that’s all medicine can ever offer us is hope. No guarantees. Deciding to withhold services is one thing; forbidding someone from getting them elsewhere, even for a glimmer of that hope is nothing short of euthanasia. The “group” here is those determined by the state to be “hopeless;” hopeless, because the state is all about destroying the concept of hope. Hope leads to people taking back power from the state. And it won’t be long before other groups will be “hopeless” for some reason or another. Soon it will be age; or ability to produce for the state coffers.

So, as I watch the papers and read blogs and comments, I see a number of people expressing concern and dismay; let the child go somewhere, anywhere, while there is still hope. But I am troubled by the rather large numbers of those who are expressing disdain for the parents; they need to let go, they’re making the child suffer needlessly. I’ve even seen them called selfish for holding out hope where the commenter has determined there is none.  But only those who are truly hopeless themselves never see hope. And I doubt like hell that the parents want to see this child suffer. And of course, there are those who are begging the parents to let the poor child die with dignity, a phrase already used by the state. Odd juxtaposition; if the child wanted to mutilate themselves, we’d be cheering the parents for tolerance and understanding. And just twelve months ago, it would have been perfectly acceptable to tear this child limb from limb, without any concern for whether he felt pain, only to be sucked out of the womb by a tube so his parts could be sold to the highest bidder. What type of dignity is that? This is where we’ve traveled. To this point; where a parent, struggling to save the life of an infant is given forty-eight hours to prove beyond doubt that he can be saved, but waiting forty-eight hours before deciding to tear him from the womb is unacceptable.

No, this is all about the ultimate power of the state; and the right we have given them to determine for ourselves and for those we love, to dictate the reason, the manner and the time of our death; and the definition of our final dignity at the end of our lives.

 

 


It was going to be hot; which meant I needed to mow the lawn early in the day; although mowing the front lawn near the edge of the road mainly consists of creating huge clouds of dust and sending across the road the various pieces of gravel which the department of public works had spread all winter long. Those same yahoos who invite me to play “hide and seek” with my mailbox every winter storm; and I pay them well to do it too. Cody was lying underneath one of the trees in the front yard, his paws in the air, squirming on his back in the cool morning grass. Lesson here; deeply enjoy life’s little pleasures whenever you can.

Comet; painting the skies with love.

She caught my eye from a distance up the road. I noticed that her gait was much slower than her usual daily walk around the neighborhood. She was alone; the empty space beside her obvious and hurtful. I continued mowing away from her, in the same direction she was headed. When I turned around to make a return pass facing her, she noticed me and waved. I killed the mower and took off my earmuffs and safety glasses. Yeah, safety spaz; hell, I can end up bleeding by just sweeping the sidewalk. A real practicing klutz.

She glanced up and noticed I was still watching her. She raised her hand to wave again but quickly brought her hands to her face. She tried to wave me off as I approached her. No, I don’t think so. The distress on her face was clear, painful to see and quickly shot to my heart. She tried to explain through sobs and broken words that she couldn’t talk about it. Just couldn’t and tried again to wave me off. Bullshit. I reached out for her hands and pulled her in and hugged her, as much for me as for her. It was hard she said, so hard. It came so sudden; they certainly weren’t prepared. They were all devastated. He was such a big part of their lives; the kids were taking it okay, but everyone was lost in their own way. They loved him so much and he loved them back. The hole was huge. They miss him so.

For those who aren’t animal lovers, it may be hard to understand the impact that the passing of a beloved pet has on those of us who consider them our furry children. To some, we all look like the crazy cat ladies we always hear about; so be it. Guilty as charged. But those who are fortunate to have the priceless love of an animal understand it fully. Try to find anything on two legs in your life that will show you the dedication, the devotion, non-judgmental love and the willingness to let you be the center of their universe; far and few between.

No, these are our furry toddlers; it takes that kind of dedication. Often, it’s another damp carpet; maybe pieces of your favorite shoe spread across the living room. Sometimes it’s those dammed dead spots on the lawn or the wonderful piles of humiliation that you can never seem to completely clean from the nooks and crannies on the bottoms of your sneakers. But they’ll still look deeply in your eyes and let you know that you are the only human on the planet that matters. Have a horrible day at work and they’ll wag you back to peace. Don’t feed them; they’ll forgive you. Be an asshole; they don’t care. Heap unwarranted abuse on them and they’ll still look deeply into your soul and tell you that it doesn’t matter; as long as they can feel your hand between their ears, hear your voice, be in your presence, tug on the other end of that rope, their life is complete. They’re not here to judge, to accuse, to demean. They’ll still love you, often well beyond any measure that you should be entitled to; they’d be willing to die for you. And not once would they demand anything in return.

Comet meant that much to her and her family. He meant a bit to some of the rest of the neighborhood too. He was a rather large dog; long legged, loopy gate. He seemed to be the type of dog that you would swear was smiling. He was a “Golden Doodle,” a breed whose name would bring a smile if not outright giggles. I’m quite sure that “Golden Doodle” translates in some places around the world to “Shetland Pony.” He was usually covered in curls, soft and deep. The occasional shearing made it even more obvious that he was a large framed animal, not just a bunch of hair for show. His pinkish-brown, wet nose seemed to have the circumference of a baseball. I’m sure that some found his size intimidating; for others it may have been his high level of enthusiasm. But in the end, he was he was large vessel of love and happiness and I was always prepared with treats in my pockets when we passed. And he knew it. I for one will miss his commanding voice, a bark that would resonate across the neighborhood. Some may have found this too, to be intimidating. But it was his way of telling his family, and those who were walking by that he was keeping an eye on anyone who might approach those who he would willingly die for.

As with any comet, he was rare. Comets shine brightly but briefly and we’re left with the memory of how they painted the dark skies of our lives. So it is with Comet. And I’m sure that Lisa and Peyton and their kids will have these brief moments in the future when something will jar their memories and they’ll recall the Comet that appeared briefly in their lives and touched them all. The pain will eventually fade and the memories will be far more joyful than they are now. And in whatever sky he is streaking across now, with his wet, pink baseball-sized nose I’m sure he loves them as deeply as he did when we was laying at their feet. One would imagine he’s in the fields of heaven giving the local squirrels a hard time.

God Speed Comet; I hear the angels love a good game of tug-of-war.


I’m pleased to announce the release of “Sarah’s Stone.”  I hope it brings you as much joy reading it as it brought me to write it.

Best wishes;

Jp

 

“Aldo was hired to find and return what he believed to be a priceless family heirloom. A simple man who considered himself an “extraordinary thief,” Aldo had searched years for the elusive stone, being paid handsomely while never getting any closer to his goal.  
 
The death of a solitary figure in an asylum in France starts Aldo on his quest as he chases the stone from Russia to the islands off the coast of Maine. However, as he gets closer and closer to the stone, he starts to realize that what he doesn’t know about the stone or about his benefactor, could very well kill him.”

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