John Lennon's quote, "Life is what happens when you're making other plans," rams into me as a truth perhaps too often.
Just over a week ago, my wife Ann and I planned to grab dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant. In the car a half-block down the street, we saw three people surrounding two giant dogs, one a pit bull. The people were wrestling with the dogs -- very odd and eerie because the dogs were so big and weren't barking. Then our neighbor Murray emerged with one of his tiny Yorkshire terriers in his arms. The little dog was bloody yet moving its head. Ann called out, "Murray, get in our car, and we'll get you to the emergency vet."
Murray looked dazed and strode toward his house. Ann opened her door, jumped out, and offered her seat. "Let's get you to the vet." He seemed to hear this time. He sat in the passenger's seat, and Ann popped in the back.
Holding the dog closely to him, Murray whispered to him,"You'll be okay. Hang in there." I drove as surely and quickly as possible. I kept glancing at the dog, which looked to be getting weaker.
We pulled into the emergency pet clinic in less than five minutes, and we rushed toward the front doors. Inside, two people, a man and a woman in blue medical uniforms, stood behind the counter ready to help immediately. "His dog was bitten by a pit bull," I blurted, pointing to Murray. They ushered him through a door.
Murray came out about five minutes later with a cardboard printer toner box. The dog hadn't survived and was inside. "There was no way. His laryx was crushed," said Murray.
The day had started with humor in writing another blog (see last week's) and ended with this incident. Instead of our going to dinner together, Ann stayed with Murray to help him wait for his wife, who still had to arrive home from work. In their fifties, she and Murray had never had kids. They had their beloved Yorkies, and she had yet to hear the fate of one of them.
I motored to the Thai place alone and ordered three dishes for take-out. When I returned to Murray's, his wife still hadn't arrived, and I could only imagine the scene once she walked in. I didn't particularly want to witness it. We shared our dinner with Murray.
I'd learned how Murray had been outside when his three dogs inside began barking. When he opened the door, one dog slipped out, and Murray ran after it as the dog sprinted yapping toward the two big ones, a pit bull held on a leash by a man, and a Staffordshire terrier, held by a woman. The pit bull owner had just watched as his dog grabbed Murray's little one by the throat and shook. As we'd come on the scene, the pit bull owner had said, "Your dog was attacking mine. It was self-defense."
After dinner, I left before Murray's wife arrived, and Ann told me later it was as sad as I'd imagined.
Of course, a week later, Murray and his wife had adapted; they're fine but missing their fellow. It was with extra care that I've walked our small dogs this week, on the lookout for any large dogs headed my way, asteroids to Earth.
One of the delights in walking our dogs is passing Shadow's house. Shadow is a border collie with Snoopy's soul. Always in the side yard, he barks and leaps in the air as we approach, happy as a kid seeing candles on his first birthday cake. Shadow then spins and dances. Often Shadow's owner, an older man who looks a lot like Scrooge, calls from the depths of his house, "Shadow, shut up!"
The above scene has occurred as regularly as the alarm clock in Groundhog's Day. Happy-go-lucky Shadow dances and dour Scrooge screams, "Shadow, shut up!"
"Come to think of it," I told Ann as we were walking our dogs two days ago, "We haven't heard shut up lately." As we circled back around, we saw another neighbor, Lois, go through the gate to where Shadow was still dancing. Lois put Shadow on a leash and brought him out. Adding two and two together, Ann asked "Is Shadow's owner okay?" which betrayed how we didn't know the man's name.
"No, he passed away a few weeks back. We found him out back face down in his garden."
So dogs and death have been on my mind lately.
Last night, I saw this all from a different angle when I was watching Bruce Springsteen's The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, whose bonus footage on the DVD I had not seen before. The documentary calls to me, showing Springsteen at work when he was 27. He's 61 now, and footage from then and now contrast each other. Young long-haired skinny guy experimenting stands against gray-templed seasoned master. It gave me a sense of life burning as fast as a match. Carpe diem. One day we're as young as a yapping Yorkshire, as happy as dancing Shadow, and another day, we're lying in the shadow of Shadow.
Still, that's not all I take away from this week. I saw new things in the documentary. Springsteen's fourth album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, became a seminal work, but its creation had many frustrations at the time he made it. Back in 1977, Springsteen had certain ideas but didn't know how to get there. He wrote over seventy songs in hopes of finding the right ten to tell a story on the album. Similarly, when I write, I'm not clear what will turn out in advance. I have my hopes, as Springsteen had (and has) his. I write and rewrite and rewrite.
He had realized that while Born to Run had made him famous, fame wasn't what he was primarily after. Being great at what he did and finding connection to people were two things he still sought. Songwriting was a way to explore life for him, and on his fourth album, he wanted to explore the blue-collar sensibilities and people he grew up with, such as his father, a factory worker.
I now saw Springsteen crafted his album through obsession, a relentless obsession, and he constantly considered his choices. Carpe diem.
I write, hoping to find meanings in my own life. While I do so, life happens.
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