Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A man and his dog

The first thought that came to mind when I heard the word, "Doberman" was that of a formidable, fierce animal defined by razor-like daggers for teeth and metal collars. When my husband broached the subject of purchasing a Doberman puppy soon after the death of my cat (RIP), I was leery. Somehow, I convinced myself to overlook the Doberman part and focus on the puppy part, but as we drove out to Shelton to pick out the newest addition to our family, I sat rigidly until the "pins and needles" feeling became reality and my feet became numb. Arriving at an out-of-the-way trailer with dog, cat and random animal feces all over the place, we made our way to the front door cautiously. An elderly woman greeted us at the door, confused by our presence. We explained that we were the ones who'd called about puppies, whereupon she ushered us into the house, where a large blue male Doberman growled fiercely at us, and an insane white shaved Persian cat ogled us with its gigantic oogly eyes. Entering the back room where the puppies were kept, we watched the poor things scramble upon themselves in an effort to escape the people, oh the scary people that had intruded upon their space. Only one tiny girl stood apart, clearly afraid and yet determined not to be cowed. She wouldn't look at us; she stared straight ahead with her head held aloft. Pulling the puppies apart, the woman grabbed two of the little girls, including the independent little imp that had caught our eye.

This little girl became part of our family. Looking back, I wish we'd been able to do more for the rest of the puppies. We were so inexperienced at this that we never realized we'd bought a puppy from a backyard breeder. Walking through PetSmart one afternoon after Ari was a year old, we met a woman whose Dobermans were from the same breeder; they'd experienced many of the same illnesses and gross ailments that our girl went through: ear infections, severe worm infections that required multiple treatments, nasal infections...

It is hard to believe how quickly puppies grow. She's taken my heart. My initial hesitation toward her breed, I found, was misguided; I discovered the notoriety held by Dobermans was largely founded upon their superior brilliance and ease in training for Hollywood films, making them the most popular breed to use as "guard dogs." In actuality, Ari, as is typical of the breed, is shy, meek and seeks only our affection and gentle reinforcement of good behavior. As a guard dog, I fear she will be highly ineffective; the only safety benefit I've gained from her has been the remaining misguided perception of Dobermans. Rarely do I worry about men approaching me when I walk her. More often, a grown man will cross the street rather than confront me and my dog.

The most amazing thing about Ari is watching her relationship with my husband. As his first dog, it is akin to the young boy and his dog, the loyal, watchful creature that waits patiently at the front door for her master to come home and play with her. Although she has grown to regard me with affinity and has bestowed her loyalty to me as a byproduct of her love for C, he will always remain her first and greatest love.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Most commonly said expression regarding pictures is that every one is worth a thousand words. Mine convey a memory, each one, sometimes more than one. This day was soon after I got my new digital Canon Elph SD500, which at the time was a little powerhouse of a camera. Painful as it is to remember that in one of my many moves over the last year I lost the charger and can't take pictures until I buy another one, I still like to look back and remember each day. Lind, Washington, is a small town nestled in the valley of low, pastoral hills growing aught else but wheat and a foreign species of sagebrush that transplanted the original native species. Only about 400 people muster the census--at least according to the 2000 edition. They're a dying breed of people for the most part; hardy, grim farmers determined to die on their own terms. Many have failed, being sent by their families to nursing homes in nearby Moses Lake and Spokane. Those that do cling on are marked by the hardness of life. The local gas station, Pump 24, used to be run by the local grange, until it closed in 2005, leaving only one other local option for gas to the residents that remain.

Once, Lind bustled with commerce; the downtown area fairly rumbled with the to-and-fro of customers getting their daily bread at the grocery store, or catching up on gossip in one of the town's three barber/beauty shops, purchasing screws and hammers in the general store, buying Christmas gifts at the drug store, or enjoying one of the feature films that came to the local theater. The town doctor lived in a beautiful three-story Victorian; a wealthy farmer built the large Tudor/Victorian that my parents bought in 1999, and soon after built a house next door for his son and daughter-in-law. Christmas fetes were held at the high school or the grange hall.

Today, to walk through the town is to catch a whiff of the giant impending tumbleweed soon to roll through, taking with it the remainder of what still stands: pieces of the auto parts store, the Wills' convenience store that's been going out of business for the past three years (offering everything inside for half off, not including the liquor portion), the Whitman Bank building (where a noted pianist once gave lessons to the town children), the original one-room schoolhouse, and a few of the grain towers. In 2005, the auto parts store caved in on itself, likely the result of precipitation accumulation on the unrepaired roof.

The streets were paved not too long ago. The city hired a contractor to repave the roads, and after repeated diggings-up of underlying water pipes and the sewer main, some parts are nice, while on others one is cautioned to steer around the holes.

No one visits the pool any longer, considered new only 15 years ago. It isn't any longer a matter of simply money; the town simply doesn't have enough children.

Old-timers complain about the newcomers--often those hoping to find reprieve in the lower-cost housing offered by the town. Retaliatory in nature, the old-timers threaten to raise the rent to keep them out. Meanwhile, some old-timers are getting out, only to find that no one wants to move IN.

The only part of Lind that grows these days is the cemetery.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

salt creek cove

Tucked into a cove hidden in northern Washington, is a small island. My friends and I were lucky that day to have arrived at a time when the sun was in our eyes, casting mystical shadows about. This place is heaven...chilly winds that slap the blood into your cheeks, promontories to creep out onto carefully so as to not take a misstep and fall into a tide pool in which a myriad sea life abounds, somewhat remote to human beings not willing to leave their vehicles. Nearby this island is a row of old military bunkers, where once firearms were kept ready to be passed out. They've taken some of the old nuclear warhead shells off the nub and made barricades out of them to mark the walls. Graffiti lines the inner concrete walls inside the room off to the right in one, and left in another; walking through with the sun going down, you can't help but imagine a ghostie or a crazed ax man jumping out from the shadows with a distorted grin on his face, eager to cleave your flesh a disservice.

I'm not anxious to leave this state just yet. Only recently have I been exploring outdoors and finding such tremendous beauty that I'll never find anywhere else...it makes the task of leaving doubly difficult. I drove home last weekend to take the LSAT and broke down crying when faced with the craggy, scraggy, shrubby plains where I grew up. The reality is, I'll never come back if I can help it. This place reminds me of everything I've tried to overcome. But when I exit the house in my hiking boots intent on sights unseen--to me--I always come home a changed woman, having seen the things that I've seen. I've looked across the Hood Canal, across the Puget Sound, past Bainbridge Island, and I've seen Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond...from the top of a mountain, surrounded by breathtaking snow, with my husband and my dog panting next to me. I saw past Seattle and saw, from north to south, the Cascade range, interrupted by the sharp peaks of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood. How could you hold hands with someone you love and realize that you're the only humans on the mountain, and not return home changed? How can you stagger down the mountain with only a headlamp, in the dark, over icy pitches, without reassessing your internal status?

The truth is, Washington has changed me, and what I have to remember it by are the best of memories, the times when I've gone out and changed me.