Dog Tear Crystalized as a Family Legacy

Nah, think hard, readers: I am tough as nails, and I dare you to challenge that with ANYONE who knows me. I have spit in the faces of colonels, cops, Aryans, the pigs of capital. I have danced on the graves of bankers and thrown tequila bottles, empties that is, on John Wesley Hardin’s grave. Had my time with Lee Marvin, some Sandinistas, some Zapatistas, and a whole lot of infamous and small-time hoodlums throughout Tex-ass and Mexico. Hitchhiked from Nogales to Panama.

Nah, I am not special, because, there are many like me. Thanks effe-ing Christ. Unique like a snowflake? Nah, but when I say, THIS DOG is the DOG, man, ya gotta shutta your mouth-ah.

Have I had dogs — Orca the German shepherd who was a bitch who outdid all the other cop dogs in El Paso through the obstacle course. Then Ivan, 100 pounds of Arizona tough, with scorpion bites, coyote gouges, and punk dog claw marks on his black German Shepherd coat. He jumped ten foot walls. Then, Mako, son of Orca, and then, of course, Rio, who died a death in Spokane. He pulled my daughter and friends on sleds — another black-as-coal German shepherd. All kick-ass, and, to be frank, not the German shepherds of lore, city ordinances or of the German profile of WW II. Protectors of swaddled babes, the old and infirm, families and friends.

Count others: Hell, Monique I a poodle I grew up with in Paris, France (of all places) while my old man was doing his SHAPE/Nato and Vietnam thing. And, Monique II, a kick-ass German Shepherd in Arizona that, well, that dog was one of the smartest ever. Over 300 words — English, a few Spanish, a couple of German ones — and, again, a companion while I wrestled mind, matter, existential crises in the desert.

See “Wrestling the Blind, Chasing Apache Horses and Unpacking the Vietnam War.”

But, Otis, man, Otis. OT. RIP — 10:10 10/10/2013. He lives on deep inside, because he was a man. Coat of a thousand colors, emotions of a thousand reincarnated, empath, and a real loyal one. He had more integrity in one blink of an eye than any politician or Supreme Court puke or Battalion of West Point Wastes might want in their entire histories and time on earth. Combined! He is my wife’s dog, saved by the bell by a young woman in need of truth through canine familiaris. OT accepted me, so my then girlfriend, too accepted me, and, alas, that OT and his companion Katie watched on July 27, after we tied the knot after five years. Accepted by dog, accepted by family, accepted, period!

Nah, not sentimental, just mental, here, folks. If you understand the real connection to dogs — people, dogs, clans, the entire breeding and habituation and cultural connection to wolf and man and woman and dog, well,  and there are some okay books — Timbuktu and Racing in the Rain, sure — then you get it. You want to see how your own life means so much more in the full dimensional space when you connect to dogs than when you connect to or try to connect to 99.99999 % of humanity. Well, maybe the ones who are really connected to dogs and the truly social justice component of what it means to be loved by and love a dog, and get grounded by them, and see them as links to the humanity in us all, evolving around the fire, cave and savanna and dogs. Little companions. Big ass hunters, and, unfortunately, for some, the food in bad times. But, the reality is that dogs and other creatures give more to humanity than our own species could ever do in most cases. We need dogs and crows now in DC to chase away Obama, tea baggers, capitalists, real wimps. I am about to pen a quick one on that accord. Hell, the pathetic point of no return we are now in with Obama-Boehner-Rand Paul-Supreme Court-Media-Mogul-Military Injustice.

So, a tribute to my life as a dog, not as a dog whisperer, but as a dog. Dog of desert. Dog of wrestling. Dog of diving. Dog of literature. Doggerel and dog-ness. Read down.

This ain’t no silly Oprah moment, or some rotten exploitation of the dog. I know what dogs can do, and I have been a reporter, teacher, educator, traveler, revolutionary, and, well, fiction writer, to boot, so I get dogs. I remember Steve Bodio — up in Magdalena, New Mexico —  talking about Borzoi dogs, some of his favorites.

In the late 1970s, Stephen Bodio, a Boston-based writer, amateur naturalist, and falconer, happened into Magdalena, New Mexico, on the way somewhere else. He never left. With an assortment of birds, dogs, snakes, and books, he took up residence in a ramshackle two-story house along US 60 and set out to live in the way of country people.“Querencia”–the Zen-like Spanish term means something like the tiny pocket of one’s inner life where one is truly at home–details a decade of life there. Throughout the early pages of his memoir, Stephen finds himself tested by the locals for his knowledge of raptor birds, of snakes, of dogs. When he begins to pass the tests, his transformation is complete, earning him a home, a place in the heart. Querencia offers a fine brief on rural living, alternately reveling in country matters and acknowledging the difficulties involved in such exercises as luring cows home from the mountain wilderness into which they’ve strayed while steering clear of venomous reptiles and combative bull elk. It’s a treasure. —  Greg McNamee

Dogs and New Mexico, and Jon Esposito, former Vietnam Green Beret, dog handler, and veternarian, and El Paso, and his stint as  K-9 Captain that saved so many, and, alas, those pathetic officials demanding they stay behind, some caged, while the US Zombie War Machine retreated from Indochina. Leaving dogs there.

 Washington DC 1970. Sept 22nd, responding to stories in the press of the US dogs being left behind in Vietnam, Rep. John E. Moss (D, California) filed a bill (HR-19421), that would had established retraining or retirement in humane shelters for canine veterans. The bill died in committee. 1970 – 3,000 est. dog casualties?  About 1,000 dogs serving?

War Dog Monument Ft. Benning ,Ga.

Vietnam, 1970. Just about then, the government reversed its position feeling that the risks were too great. The dog handlers were now told that the World Health Organization had passed a ruling saying that no animals were to come out of Vietnam. Years later, the World Health Organization denied it ever said any such thing.

“Stuff is eaten by dogs, broken by family and friends, sanded down by the wind, frozen by the mountains, lost by the prairie, burnt off by the sun, washed away by the rain. So you are left with dogs, family, friends, sun, rain, wind, prairie and mountains. What more do you want?”    — Federico Calboli

Enough already. My poem, which is not a poem, but a story, tied to a space a million readers have pushed inside to take on the love, loyalty and life of their own dog-ness! (Oh, how I wish a million read this instead of a million times a hundred watching the bad-bad of bad-All-TV. But I digress.


Dog Tear Crystalized as a Family Legacy

my friend, my dog Otis, rest in peace, October 10, 2013

riverstone, color of mountain ripples
undertow of the world, this dog
swims for latching onto logs
tree toppled by storm, beaver
this dog bounds into surf, tackles
stump or limb, fleet of foot
better than anything Laurel and Hardy
might dish up, this boy is a dancer
and magician and empath
his brindle named for Otis

somewhere there are rapids, beaches
of clover, he towers over the waves
then twirls, lifts legs, does his tricks
his mother of Sapiens, the reason
for his birth, broken from kennel
thirty-six hours from execution date
the little bowser tore into love
ripping window panes, doors, carpeting
nothing for the middling life inside
until finally settling down as empath

giver of laughs, lifter of human dilemmas
his pugnacious smile, eyes like Aristotle’s
there is shaman in his lineage
finder of emotions, giver of the sun
after days of miasma
this canine is the loyal
figure of Argos, the true doctor
of random people, he gives hope
and pulls down fatigue
as old men see the pony in a dog
70 pounds of cut muscle, sinew
lifting logs hefty enough
for linebackers, this Otis is a spirit
walker, watchful, waiting for an opening

one human frailty his salving
bark-less as if an angel captured
his snarl so he would only laugh,
run like the wind, prance for princes
singularity of dog-boy-man-old man-wise

his life is the DNA in the heart
of his Sapiens, every small moment
captured in his smile, that stare
winnowing out pain, false fears
his river leap, stutter steps, chucks,
beelines and crazy eights
pure gifts, canine and jokester
he lives in the very essence of what
humanity is, tied to ancient wildness
dog of hunt, dog of fire, dog of the children
Otis embodies all magnificent folds of the human
condition, still prince of dogs, royal
but like Cantiflas, the Red Skelton
of Great Dane-mixed-pit bull-mixed-Shar Pei
Chinese line bred as palace guards in China, his sharpei
Egyptian monuments 5,000 years back, his Great Dane
terrier-bulldog bred for cattle and child companion, his pit bull

Otis is the essence of survival, telling masters
time is going on, lived in each memory pool
this dog splashing, squirreling around bushes
the nose of a captain, fearless but a big
puddle of sensitive-guy kinda dog
Otis is the rhythm and echo holder
his masters always by his side, his masters
trained to divulge ancient patterns of loyalty
dog of war, dog of peace, the dog of sages
canine philosophy in a gaze, that dog is forever
in our minds, the very essence of storytelling
campfire heroics and antics recalled
his Sapiens learns the age of lonely nights and full
memories for the dog of dogs, the child
and wizened, his codex is the captured color
in photos, and his dreams of running
his Sapiens’dreams now, each twitch of the eye
Otis running through clover heaven
the softest beaches, the best white smooth
cottonwood, the water crystalline
he is Argos and Rin Tin Tin, he is Laika the stray Soviet
sent into space, somewhere, they are watching

Otis command the river to flow, to follow his brindle
coat, to take them into the infinite wisdom of Sapiens
touched by the memory of Otis

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.

2 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Paul Haeder said on October 12th, 2013 at 6:15pm #

    Dear Paul

    Your tribute to Otis moved me greatly. How you loved him. I am sorry you no longer have his presence and his company.

    I had a rescue brindle dog called Tigger and loved him so much. He was from a similar mould as Otis, brave, intelligent, quite feisty but so loyal and affectionate. Robbie the border collie, again a rescue dog followed him and when he died aged 14, I found Lily another rescue, now aged 8, She is half collie and half flat coat retriever. She was stroppy and unbiddable at the start but now 4 years on, we are great pals.

    The rescue societies are overwhelmed with abandoned dogs as the continuing ‘recession’ grips. Food banks for the humans are a growing phenomenon and now the Red Cross are getting involved. Unbelievable that this is happening while the 1% get richer and richer.

    Best wishes. I enjoy your writing and your commentaries.

    I am in Surrey in darkest UK where the fascists are taking over!


  2. Paul Haeder said on October 12th, 2013 at 6:18pm #

    Referencing the deterioration in the situation here, this happened recently. He knew he would be fed in the police station.

    Every aspect of our society is under attack including our treasured NHS. Yesterday the ‘Royal Mail’, another valued institution, was floated on the stock exchange. Hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds (Kuwait and Qatar who already own much of the country) made a killing as the shares were priced at £3.30 but rose to £4.56 by the end of trading. The ConDems, as we call the coalition, put Moya Greene in. I think she oversaw the privatisation of the Canadian postal service. She is paid loads of bucks!

    It is the same for the 1% but terrible for the rest of us.

    I will think about submitting something to DV. I expect Angie is still there. Occasionally I write to Kim.

    With kind regards and thanks for your valuable work.


    PS — Same here with abandoned pets. This was a year ago too.

    Referencing Haeder’s,