Sunday, November 25, 2007

RIP: Princess Jasmine 1995-2007

Had our neighbors been peeking into our yard tonight they may have thought BassMan and I were up to no good.

Earlier in the day BassMan dug a hole. A large one.

This morning, Princess Jasmine Amedea Leroyce Bass, our 12-year-old collie, who's been ailing for several days, let us know today would be her last. We made her comfortable on her sleeping pad, massaged and petted her, nestled and nurtured her. She drifted to sleep and by nightfall she was gone.

So there we were, patio torch blazing over the hole dug and ready, laying deep our Princess in the waning moon. Should the sheriff come a'knocking we'll have a story to tell. It begins here.

Princess was the most gentle of dogs, as smart as Lassie, and loyal to the end. We got Princess from a man whose aging breeding pair of collies produced a surprise litter of two pups. The first pup died, but Princess survived. Her mother wasn't able to produce milk, so the owner bottle-fed Princess. The owner was getting on in years himself and didn't have the energy to keep a collie puppy around, but he didn't want to see Princess on the dog market. When Princess was four-months-old, he advertized for a special family to adopt her, listing criteria that would have made the Ellen DeGeneres rescue center proud. We passed the test and this generous man gave Princess to us. His only charge: that we love and care for her.

Several things come to mind when I remember Princess. It was tradition for our kids to name the pets. On the way to our interview with Princess's breeding owner, we discussed what we would name her. Elisabeth (then eight) and Jonathan (then six) were unanimous that she should be called Princess. In tribute to one of their favorite Disney princesses, they insisted she be Princess Jasmine. On top of that, they insisted on each of their middle names tagged on. She would be Princess Jasmine Amedea Leroyce Bass. Divine synchronicity would have it that ever since the day she was born her owner had been calling her Princess.

We live in a region I call "wind alley." When Santa Ana winds blow in from the high desert we are usually hit with a double blast. Several times through the years the wind would pick up while we were gone and I'd drive up to find the gate blown wide open. The first time this happened, I panicked at the thought of Princess running away in the wind. I jumped from the van and ran through the backyard calling for her. She was nowhere. I rushed back to the front and began looking up and down the street. Elisabeth and Jonathan called me from the front porch. My heart broke wide open to see Princess laying unruffled on our front doorstep awaiting our return.

This year we sent our youngest child to college 1,500 miles away. Our oldest is planning for grad school in NY and London. We did this only a few months ago and here we are at the pet cemetary again. Life changes, we change, but love grows.

BassMan and I are going to plant an avocado tree over Princess.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In the Tent of Revision

It's November. National Novel Writing Month. If you've been reading Ovations for more than a year, then you'll remember that I wrote the first 50k of THE SWORD SWALLOWER'S DAUGHTER last year during NaNoWriMo. Several well-wishing friends have emailed recently asking me about the status of last year's NaNoWriMo novel.

I finished the SFD (Shi**y First Draft) last May, set it aside for a month, then went back in to close holes, flesh-out characters, and clean up sentences. A couple of very trusted readers have given me some fabulous insights that I'm now working into the manuscript.

I'm not playing NaNoWriMo this year. Instead, I've dedicated the month of November to finishing the revision and getting this baby ready for the big top.

Oh yeah, the graphic at right is a mock-up I created last year using a photo of my dad (who really was a sword swallower) and a photo of me with my mom and sisters. Of course, I must finish and get the book published first, but should the book be made into film (most every novelist's dream) I'd love Johnny Depp to play the father. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Meet Buck

It's official. We have a new dog. We weren't looking for a new dog, nor an old one. It turns out our new dog isn't exactly new. He's been used. Used badly. Someone abused him.

I met Buck at my neighborhood Bark Park, where I take Tank to play almost every day. I arrived to see what looked like a yellow labrador puppy cowering outside the park gates. No collar. He scooted off when we approached. Once inside the park, I asked several of the people inside if they knew anything about the dog. Everyone was concerned about him.

Once Tank was happily chasing someone else's tennis ball, I approached the dog. He skittered away, his tail between his legs. Upon closer view, I could tell he wasn't a puppy, but an adult male, probably a beagle and lab mix. He wouldn't come to me, which is rare, because I can usually get the most timid of dogs (and cats) to trust me. Back inside the park, all of us dog companions discussed what to do. No one wanted to leave him at the park, as temperatures were expected to drop overnight. I decided to take him home and see if we could find his owners.

BassMan came out to the park with his truck and with much wooing with food and a steady hand, was able to load him into the cab. We put Buck in our backyard and brought our 12-year-old collie, Princess, inside along with Tank. Once we had him at home, it became clear to me by his behavior that he'd been abused. A sudden move would send him cowering away, hiding under the patio table or the BBQ grill. I gave him a jerky treat that he looked at like it was poison. As soon as I stepped back into the house, he devoured the jerky treat. We fed him. He ate. By the end of the night he was letting me pet him, looking up at me with sad brown eyes that broke my heart. He slept in the doghouse that Tank never uses and the next morning met me at the door with his tail wagging.

I called the shelter to report him, then put signs up at the two local pet stores, the vet offices in the area, and around the bark park. Two people called me, but their descriptions didn't match Buck. By the third day BassMan and I were in love with the little guy. We knew we couldn't take him to the shelter if no one called for him, and began hoping no one would.

By the second week, he'd come out of his timidness, but still lurches if someone moves too suddenly around him. I kicked the tennis ball one day when he was nearby and he ran with his tail cowed so fast, you would have thought I'd kicked him. These are sure signs he'd been abused.

When no one claimed him by the second week, we took him to our vet and had him scanned for a microchip. Nothing. That's when we decided to make a claim on him. We had him immunized, given a physical, chipped, and... neutered. He's all ours now. Buck is already house-trained, sleeps on a pillow on my side of the bed, and snores. Have you ever heard a dog snore?