Category Archives: dogs
I find myself blessed to have a number of friends and a number of values and not so many friends who share my values. This is just fine most days of the week. I can be as Spain before the inquisition, enjoying a real peace among people who are really different from me. Occasionally something gets to me and I write a post like this.
One point of difference between me and many of my hip friends is the matter of choice. In particular my distaste for the predominant idea that we are, and aught to be free to make our own individual choice to our own individual benefit about every single thing from personal sized ice cream treats to whether or not to care for a dying relative. Read the rest of this entry
My dog died 10 days ago.
Motel 6, 47.00 for bloodstains on the carpet and cigarette burns on the pillows. Salt water taffy stuck in my teeth, I don’t brush it out because where else is breakfast going to come from.
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For those who are not familiar with the phrase ‘flying a sign’ it is a term used for making money by displaying yourself prominently with a cardboard sign expressing your need. They can be simple like ‘HUNGRY ANYTHING HELPS’ or more intricate like ‘FAMILY KIDNAPPED BY ALIENS SPARE CHANGE FOR ROCKET FUEL’. Read the rest of this entry
On the Mesa to the so-called North West (the Earth is still not flat despite sick peoples best efforts) of Taos, a mesa whose name I do not know but know is worth knowing, I spent a beautiful hopeful time.
I drank a lot less out there, which meant more than an average person but not so much that I had to steal away to another town in the night trying to outrun my shame.
I looked up all of the time. I looked up into a sky that never ended, stretching for eternity. The sky was so big that my heart would race when I looked up. I would feel nervous without a canopy, but I liked it. So much of so many blues and far away blues.
I stayed with a man who years before had noticed he had been alone on this land for so long that he was loosing his mind. He had a moment of clarity where he recognized this as a state he may not return from, so he signed up to host woofers on a make believe farm. Two girls came out and smoked weed in his sweet spicy one room half buried palace. They shared a cast iron, if it got cold they made love or something like it.
He had found himself having all kinds of company ever since. I was there with a pack of performers making their living giving shows to drunks on sidewalks and in strip clubs, we moonlighted as thieves. We made clothes with pockets so big they could hide thirty paint markers or a gallon of wine.
My van blended into a sea of automobiles, buses, vans, motorcycles, and station wagons all in various stages of rot. The motley crew had one thing in common, each vehicle had at some point been given its current paint job by one or more clowns on one or more drugs whose names I can hardly pronounce.
Mine was stripes and stars but had cleverly avoided being patriotic.
Up the road was another sea of dilapidated old cars. We heard a rumour that the old man who lived in them was using their parts to make a roller coaster. I have been meaning to go back and check.
People out there were pretty isolated old geniuses. The ones that are much less fun to be around than to hear stories of. Besides the man with the roller coaster there were all kinds of people making all kinds of contraptions, spirally vortex crystal whirligigs, mechanisms for extracting ever more potent hallucinogenic properties from exotic plants, and most of all time machines; too many time machines to count. People were always talking about their time machines but never about where they were thinking they would go?
What time did these lonely fools think would be better for them? I was and am so curious about this.
The folks who were not inventors were focused on other kinds of incredible time (not) machines. For instance fire and farting; these two fantastic ones, exist perfectly inside and outside of all time. No matter what someone is watching on T.V. at any given hour in any given condition, their attention will always be drawn if their yard is on fire. In the same way, no matter how flat and sterile and cold the environment everyone giggles if a fart gets loose. People may even find themselves at the same window where they watched the yard burn, letting the smell out.
These were the kinds of important things that these people, who were smart enough and crazy enough that they could have been hired to build weapons of mass destruction, were keeping busy doing. Thank Gods.
I loved it there. My life is what I love today but sometimes there are not enough puppets hanging from rafters hitting me in the forehead while I am frying an egg.
My dog joined a pack of wild dogs and I hardly saw him. Bitches gave birth to puppies that were full grown pack members in a day and a half.
That pack was second in command only to a crew of feral three-year oldes. They were definitely in charge of the people end of that strange place. They ran everywhere naked and wild eyed. They stole food and made everything they could touch into their new best toy. They came in when they were tired, they knew their names and they screamed them as they ran barefoot over bushes that made me cry if they poked me even through a shoe.
I found some scribbling I did about this place a few years ago this morning as I was riffling through old notebooks.
That piece ended something like this:
Why do I think about that place today when I sit down to write about something or somewhere? Why that place of all of the places? I think it is all the looking up. It is such a striking time of looking up because it is sandwiched between times when I was always looking down, so far down that my face could not be told from the sidewalk.
Was it the skunk spraying my dog or the dog chasing the skunk that saved my life that night?
The dreams were awful under that bridge.
We had been hitchhiking since dawn out of Portland. We were headed east, headed for Denver, for rivers and inter tubes and 40’s getting warm too fast like they aught to in the summer but never do in Washington. We barely made it 40 miles and I swear we walked most of it.
We were at four corners. Four corners is a place out of place. You can find it in any state, several times some of the time. A place where two freeways cross each other and a truck stop is sitting at each cardinal point. It’s a place made by concrete and named for how square it is. There are other types of four corners but this one is the most commonly known to many a modern american.
It had long since grown dark. We bought a couple of beers with a pile of coins that the cashier didn’t bother counting. That was good for us because it included some Canadian and at least one chucky cheese token, may have also been where my lucky bingo chip ended up.
We walked south down the smallest road leading out of there. We were looking for a nice bush, nothing fancy, just cozy. We saw a string of lights outlining a bridge not to far down the way.
Under it we found nothing too strange. There was a fire pit with the last occupants empties in it. There was a line of bushes where water used to be; the brush was thick past there. We drank and rolled out our beds. My dog, Skrap, was tied to my backpack. It wasn’t heavy enough to stop him but it slowed him to just less then my speed. This was important if a cop was to come down. I agree that it is very rude to wake people up but, in my dogs’ best interest, I still had to be able to catch him before he mauled an officer of the law.
I fell right to sleep.
The sleep was strange; something was strange.
There was something on top of me in my dream, something choking me, my eyes were open but I could not see anything but the bottom of the bridge. I couldn’t breathe. I was panicked.
I woke to Skrap taking off running faster than ever into the bushes. He was hollering loud, the kind that is reserved for real danger. The leash snapped and he was gone. My partner was sitting up, scared. I was aware of this all happening before I sat up because I couldn’t move for a little too long. I was awake but my body wasn’t responding to me telling it to get up.
He turned to me and shook me and with that stimulation my connectors kicked back in. I sat up. He said we should get out of there. I said why. The dream was already fading. He said we should get out of there.
I yelled for Skrap so much. We could hear him tearing through the bushes but he was not listening. My friend was shaken up. I was very groggy. I tried to convince him we should go back to sleep. Skrap would leave whatever it was alone eventually and we could leave at first light.
My friend was pale.
I started to lie down again but Skrap came back. He had been skunked. Fuck. There was no sleeping in that smell. Even under an entire bridge it was suffocating. Not to mention the fact that we would never get a ride farther east with him like that.
We packed it up and walked back to the gas stations. We had to go back to Portland and stick Skrap in a vat of tomato juice or something. There was still something going on with my friend but he was not saying anything to me. He found a guy headed back west willing to put us in the back of his open pick up truck. The sun came up in the gorge as we rode snuggled in our sleeping bags. Bless him; he dropped us right on the doorstep of the Garfield House.
We put Skrap in the tub. There was no tomato juice but there was ten years worth of roommates leaving half full bottles of smelly shampoo. We covered him in everything. By the end of it he still smelled like a skunks ass but more like an elite skunks ass.
We stayed another night. We went to a party with all kinds of cocktails. We drank a glass of water between each of the twelve we both drank. We were pretending that would help us still get an early start.
He told me about the dream his third or fourth drink in. He had a dream that he could not tell was a dream, everything was just like it was when we went to sleep except in this dream he woke up and where I had been was only a small pool of something like water. He said it was the scariest dream he ever didn’t know he was dreaming and that is when Skrap woke him up.
The next day we left, midday and we got a few very smooth, very long rides and we were in Denver in no time.
I don’t want to know what was there besides the three of us.
Thank you Skrap. Thank you skunk. Thank you for every time a person is protected before they know well enough to protect themselves.
A day later we headed north. Grandpa left us in San Francisco and Otay, Skrap and myself moved on alone (together).
We went through Petaluma, hot tubs at parents’ houses, so much wine with so many Dads, washes, olde theatres and punk shows.
We got dropped off one afternoon at a very strange spot that was not in walking distance of food or water. It was the Y where one kind of large road became two much smaller roads. The sun set and we walked into a spooky park called ‘Organ Donors Grove’.
Skrap and I slept hard. Otay stayed by my head and kept watch. I was worried about him in my dreams but in the morning he was curled at my feet. I drank a warm beer in my backpack, the last one left and we went back out to the road.
By afternoon we had not been picked up. Otay was the only one of the three of us that had food, funny because he did not mind missing meals nearly as much as Skrap and myself.
Mixed in with Otays’ food were raw almonds in their shells. Rats have ever growing teeth and if they don’t have that sort of thing to grind on then their teeth can actually grow up into their little skulls. I picked all the almonds out. I stomped them open on the road and picked out the smushed guts. I ate some and gave some to Skrap.
Some dogs love vegetables, some love nuts and tofu and all kinds of strange things. My dog is not like that. He likes meat and butter and things that taste like meat and butter but since this day he has also loved almonds.
By the time we got picked up in a ride going clear to Oregon we had eaten all of Otays nuts.
We got another ride and made it to Olympia that night. We got to stop with each ride for soft serve. It was a good day.
Skrap is very polite when sharing ice cream. He takes small licks and never bites. Otay, on the other hand, would burrow in with his whole head leaving claw marks and head sized holes all up in your cone. I never minded because I always got the largest of the largest cone available. Next to that, his head was pretty small.
Once we got back to Olympia it took quite a while to reach Montana again. The pass snowed over, I lost three or four days here and there in a bottle and I kept ending up in Portland with my so many loves there.
My brother, from a different and so similar mother, in Portland had a house that loved Otay. There was always a bedroll for us in the basement workshop with two bowls of water beside it, one big for skrap and one teensy for Otay.
Otay had run of that workshop. He loved to chew and play in the pallets that lined the floor so that all the desks, tables, and shelves were raised up when it flooded each winter.
When I went outside Otay would make the herculean climb up the stairs to find me. I always heard him coming because on each step he would stop to sneeze and clean his face.
He was always a big sneezer, when he had play dates with other rat buddies I had to calm the minds of concerned people because sickness spreads so fast among them. Sneezing was not a symptom for Otay, but rather a lifestyle.
When we did finally make it east to the moldy teepee it had been a good while since Otay or I had taken any kind of solid poop. I quit the sauce when I got back to Montana, which is an entirely huge and different story but I will never forget what a milestone it was when me and my rat received the blessing of solid bowel movements…
The beginning of our life in Monatana was me passed out on a tiny karaoke stage at the neighborhood bar. Otay was on his hind legs, teethe barred, balanced on my shoulder defending himself from a barkeep who was swatting him with a broom.
She had never heard of a pet rat.
Folks would come try to get me up and back on a barstool and he would defend me too.
That night was the horribly predictable result of me rewarding myself for being sober 12 hours. The next weeks in Montana Otay slept tucked tight in my sportsbra, safe as I marathon jumped on and off the wagon.
We lived in a teepee buried by 12 foot snowdrifts.
He ran around at night over our moldy futon making trouble in the dry goods box on the desk, chewing candles and leaving pee trails on the ever-growing piles of pictures and poems drawn o the inside of grocery store bags.
A neighbor dog broke into the teepee through a loose seem and chased ota out of where the back corner would have been if a tee pee had corners. It was then that we acquired a big chicken wire cage that had brought chicks to the land the spring before. It had a cute wooden roof and a straw floor and fit perfectly between the futon and the barrel stove. This way he stayed toasty without catching fire.
The cage irritated him a little but kept him from being eaten. My strong preference was that Otay never be eaten.
The sides of the cage were very nice for climbing. A couple of times Otay managed to suspend himself long enough to chew through the corners of the roof and I had to repair them with various methods and masses of electrical tape. Why did we seem to have so much electrical tape?
The dogs would wine at the cage but they knew not to get to close or they would be out in the snow. It was hard for them to understand, having been raised with rewards when they kept Otays’ wild distant cousins out of the barn and the big cabin where the family who belonged to this land lived.
We took a short walk to Oakland California at some point to see my olde drinking buddy from Cottage Grove. He is one of my favorite people I have ever made a series of poor decisions with. Otay nibbled our toes in the loft built above the kitchen built above the bike shop.
When we stumbled back to the car in San Francisco he narrowly avoided the nervous kitty. I was no help to him, curled up and shaking. Then it was back home through stormy mountain passes in a car with no heat whose windows had to stay down to keep the windshield from fogging over.
In December we traveled over to Seattle for Otays first Christmas. He lived on cookies and cheese wedge shaped chew toys and took extra long naps.
We decided to go down to Olympia. Then we decided we may as well borrow little white truck and drive to Arizona since we were already there. Otay rode on the seat behind my head or between the laps of myself and the friend who came along. We picked up 3 of our closest friends in S.F. and drove south a few miles at which time the trucks engine exploded because I had forgotten that trucks need oil.
We left it by the side of the road. We broke into two teams of two and hit the highway one after the other. Our fifth went back to the city. He was in love up there anyways and found it very fortunate that he had a good reason not to go south with us. For all I know he had put sugar in the gas tank.
It was the middle of the night and Skrap, Otay, Grandpa (our buddy) and myself were the second team on the on-ramp. A bottom hitting football star cokehead in a big big big shiny shiny shiny black car picked us up.
We slept that night in an R.V. parked in his side yard. That R.V. was larger and more luxurious than most homes either of us had ever been in. Otay got to tunnel in and out of fresh sheets while we watched belly dancing on public access on a large TV mounted between the driver and passenger seats.
Like I said, by that time we did not travel with a cage. By night we would be sleeping in the bushes and I would periodically wake up and hear him nibbling around, but come morning he would be curled in the bottom of my sleeping bag or scratching at my lips. I bet Skraps smell and over-all awesomeness lent itself to Otay never becoming a snack in those days.
It was a whirlwind down thru L.A. and out into the desert. We stopped only to charm people in Wal Mart parking lots, take our naps and drink beers when we tired of pouring them into to-go cups.
Then there was McDonalds. Oh McDonalds. Grandpa and myself had inadvertently found us on a spiritual journey where everything in our lives was being questioned. This included such no brainers as- McDonalds is not actually food. So we ate it. It was our new attitude, breaking away from all preconceived notions. Freedom tasted not like a baby and not like bathwater, we had thrown both out! Freedom tasted like double “cheese burgers”. We ate it until out poop turned black and we dreamt about vegetables. Then we ate it again, big macs apple pies chicken nuggets….it was not a proud time.
Between decisions like that and the booze, Otay, who basically lived in my mouth and refused most other water, suffered similar digestive struggles as myself. Diarrhea became very common for both of us. Rat diarrhea on me in 105-degree weather, racing toward Bisbee where we hardly had enough water to keep us conscious let alone bathe… that was love.
Grace had a dear friend scoop us up. She was visiting family in southern California and she drove us through the miles of one-exit-at-a-time that some people get trapped in for years.
Tucson was wild. We met back up with the friends who had been in the white truck. We got drunk in a tunnel in the morning. When I woke up t was afternoon, Skrap and Otay were curled up on the dirt with me. We walked back to our friend’s house and got drunk again. I had sex with a nice girl on the front porch then went inside and had sex with another nice girl who didn’t normally do that sort of thing. Certainly not on the kitchen counter, then in the middle of the dance floor, then in a sleeping bag 3 feet from her ex boyfriend. Otay was a real trooper. I have no idea where he was but in the morning he was beside me.
Grandpa and I woke up early and got while the getting was good. A hippy headed to Bisbee for the same New Years Hoorah we had our sights set on picked us up. We listened to a cassette tape of chicken stompers from a tribe that lived half on this side of the border and half on the other.
In Bisbee Prince Otay rode in and out of all kinds of music and pubs and parades. We stayed out in the desert. Otay stayed in a bus with Grandpa so that the dog of the guy I was boning would not eat him.
It was here that Otay performed his first miracle…
48 hours later
As I balanced on top of a fence thin trail that dropped drastically several hundred feet down to a waterfall that then dropped another couple of hundred feet it dawned on me that this might be why the trail was lovingly named, ‘Dread and Terror’. Skrap had run ahead to where the road widened. Otay was perched on my shoulder, swaying along like a king on a pillow suspended between elephants.
The cage I was carrying was either helping me hold my balance or responsible for throwing it off. I guess that doesn’t matter if the decision has already been made to carry it.
There were horse prints and bicycle tracks even where the trail dropped off completely and we had to leap to pick it up again. My hat is off to you if you have ever left tracks like that on trails that dreadful or terrifying.
Otay slept the days away, waking to shift around my torso as it suited him. By night he scurried around that silly cage filled with leaves, fir bows, and a handful of morsels from the big zip lock bag I had filled before we left the ranch. We didn’t know it but Otay would never again see that place.
It was only a few weeks of me lugging that foolish cage around. Hiking, hitching, busking, begging always carrying a cage that only got used for a few hours every night. I just didn’t know Otay well enough to trust him to stay close while I was sleeping.
Through Eugene, Portland and Olympia we traveled and then I abandoned the cage. He stayed on me along highways, in grocery stores, at punk shows. In Olympia we stayed in rooms with my extended family of the heart. We would shut the door and Otay would rage.
Little water bottles were duct taped to the bottoms of walls for him and food dishes were kept at the end of sunken mattresses on the floor. Cat pee covered towels were shoved under doors to keep him in and other rats (not the kind that lived on a human) out.
From the time that Otay crawled up out of my collar, the first night I had him, his favorite place to be besides asleep, was my mouth. He loved to drink from it no matter what other sources of water were available to him. He loved my spittle whether it was flavored like cheap wine or cheaper smokes. We developed a lion tamer show where I was the lion and Otay the tamer. The finale was him sticking his whole head, which was growing like a weed, in my mouth.
For a while at first I thought Otay might be sickly because he slept all day. I laughed hard when I learned that rats are nocturnal, that made an awful lot of sense being as how he was very energetic and thirsty in the night.
Born the end of July 2007 all the way, died the beginning of June 2009
Survived by his living roof, Knee-otni McNett
At a rat ranch in rural Oregon, close enough to Eugene that one could meet their quota of self serving hippie bullshit and far enough away that one could still be who one was, where a lot of beautiful people lived off a combination of moonshine, Wal-Mart and giant home grown vegetables, Otay was born.
The rat ranch was the sort of place where rats were born and not so much raised. Rather they were sold as domestic snake food or sold to pet stores. The difference between a pet rat and a food rat was how colorful they were to the human eye.
Funny thing, people paid more for rats to feed to their pet snakes if the rats were already dead. It was like a denial tax. There o the property was a gas chamber built from an old beer cooler. Rats who had the misfortune of being born white with pink eyes were often killed there then shrink-wrapped and shipped.
Otay was born with 5 or 8 siblings, a pink, bald, blind little critter. He was unaware, as he suckled, that the shoebox-sized drawer they lived in would become very small, very fast. Under his mamas comforting weight his skin changed colors. It greyed around his face and tiny neck, an indicator of what color his precious fur would grow and in what patterns.
After he had grown just the first little bit of said fur, armor if you will, his little eyes cracked open for the first time. The box, however dark, dank and crowded, must have seemed huge in that moment. Unbeknownst to Otay, he was not far from discovering just how big this new world was.
Soon he began to wiggle, then to chatter, then to hop. Occasionally a blinding light would wash over him and his family. The food bowl would be wiped out of pee soaked morsels and they were replaced with fresh ones by giant faceless hands. He learned about the water pipe that came through the light crack.
For the hopeful possibility of future breakouts, I will not disclose the precise way that Otay escaped, nor will I give the details of his accomplices. Though you can be sure it was an amazing story he told often when he had a little wine in him.
Instead, we jump like Otay! There he is running for his life on the tiny edge of wood planks that created the structure that supported the little plastic rat filled drawers up along the wall, 8 high and 30 long. Every few feet he was evading a ginormous wall of calloused flesh that smelled like engine grease and 1000 other rats.
Through a series of what life is made of, those crazy turns, friendships, love and a universal sense of humor, I happened to be standing in the middle of the same room at the exact time when Otay was exercising his freedom for the first time.
The man who belonged to the hands that seemed to be every direction our young hero turned, was flailing around like a ballerina on speed, bending over quickly to catch glimpses of the escapee and then shoving an arm that barely fit, in and out between rat boxes. Eventually and all at once his closed fist popped out of the wall. Otay was wrapped and almost smothered in warm and rough.
I had rescued a half starved ferret I lovingly called Jaws earlier that year and as a result had developed a rather healthy fear of being bitten repeatedly by any small mammal. My scarred fingertips avoided holding them all together at that point in time.
It was an inconvenient fear and I was looking to loose it. I asked to hold the little fellow. Perhaps his tinnier, cuter mouth could act as a gateway for my willingness to interact physically again with yet larger small mammals. Thankfully I did not know then that even a rat the size that Otay was in that moment, can bite with 333 pounds of pressure if they get a mind to.
Otay breathed heavily in his hot seat as I was warned that he was in a stage of rat development known as hopper and that he would likely try to make a jump for it if he saw the opportunity. As the sentence ended the hand that held our sweetheart, our captive, this stories sweetheart, was opening. As soon as Otay saw a piece of light his size he leapt for all he was worth into the unknown.
Where he landed was on my shirt just above my left breast. As quick as day he followed his guts up to my collar and down my shirt where he found my right hip, the perfect ledge upon which to rest and collect himself. For the next six hours he stayed on that hip…collecting himself.
As it happens, if one rat escapes from an institution like that and then is returned to the population it is likely that he will teach all of the rats, seemingly by osmosis, how he did it and then…RAT MADNESS.
So as Otay sat n his new flesh couch cleaning his paws and sneezing, I learned that he was doomed for the cooler, or better yet the next pet store run. He did, after all, possess a rather attractive grey hood with little white diamonds that began in the middle of his ears and ran down into the white that was the rest of his body.
I pretended that it was I who decided that day to welcome Otay into the little family that was my world-renowned canine companion, Skrapen Lacken and myself. In reality, Otay called that shot, and it was only the first of many.