Memo from Stephen Crane

Welcome back to our adventure, my friends.

We’re not quite there yet, I know, but I guess that’s why they call it a countdown. Thanks for hanging in with me, gang; we’re doing this.

As for today, and as I was trying to figure out what me might discuss, I found myself thinking
of an old friend.

Yeah, I guess people who have never had pets – particularly dogs – just don’t get it. To many, dogs are people. Trust me; they just are.

When I was young, we had a Wheaton Terrier, a sweet dog who would eventually become a type of canine Ponce De Leon. Somehow, the older she got, the spryer she became. (I suspect that it helped that my younger brother, Chris, brought home another dog some years later, and that certainly helped keep her young.)

In any case, and as the years went by, somehow, she just hung in there and stayed around.

Of course she kept things interesting along the way, by getting run over by a milk truck, nearly choking to death on nettles that had gotten stuck to her fur, and the pièce de résistance (literally!), somehow surviving eating heavy scraps from the discard pile of a local restaurateur. (Yes, the same pile of discarded gourmet French cuisine
that eventually claimed the lives of two other dogs in the neighborhood.)

And just to round out that weird Houdini-like mix of survival skills, she once had to wear a protective cone on her head. (You know, those goofy looking things that dogs wear after a surgery, so they don’t try to chew off their stitches?) Well, she made it through that, too.

For a dog that might not have been especially outstanding at anything, she just knew how to grind it out. (For example, even though it’s just assumed that dogs are natural born swimmers, trust me that she put a big hole in that postulate! I know because I watched her sink like a stone on more than one occasion.) Basically, if there was an All Star team for canines, she would have been – at best – a write-in candidate. But as a survivor, she was the Grigori Rasputin of dogs. She was just always in the game, seemingly indestructible.

In fact, she was well past her 17th birthday when we finally had to say goodbye to her.

The day she died, my dad, a tough, but very warm and caring man, decided to get her a coffin.

As well-intentioned and thoughtful as my Dad might have been, what he purchased was remarkably large. (In truth, the coffin was so big, it was probably best suited for an above average size human being.)

My parents called both my brother and me, hoping that we could help lay our old girl to rest.

As I mentioned, because the vessel was so oversized, it required a lot of digging – a whole lot
of digging.

It was later in the year (right around now, actually – just after Thanksgiving), so the sunlight dropped very early.

And there we were, my brother and me, two grown men, doing what had to be done.

You’ll laugh (and I swear I still remember this), but I couldn’t stop thinking about a short story I had to read in high school. Written by Stephen Crane (probably best known for his classic
The Red Badge of Courage), it was the story of two soldiers, tasked with giving their fallen comrade a proper burial. While I can sometimes be – and maybe even try to be – a pensive sort, I’m not quite sure how those particular thoughts ended up in my head that day. Maybe Crane’s story got to me more than I wanted to admit.

And on that late November day, now some 30 years ago, just as the sun was going down,
we finally finished.

We may have been two grown men , but we cried like little babies having to say goodbye to
our dog.

While that’s a far-longer story than I think I originally planned to tell, I guess the point is that I understand the hurt when you have to say goodbye.

In memory of Kaylee M. Fischer, May 2, 1975 – November 27, 1992

See you tomorrow,


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