Category: Animal Fiction


Chapter 17 Heavens Above

All my memories seem to be crowding in on me. When a big Monarch butterfly landed on my nose one day while I was dozing in the sun, I could see the big, white house at La Belle shimmering in the background. Also, I could hear the silvery sounds of the people who visited, laughing, and the music makers playing by the pool.
I could hear the wind chimes tinkling on the porch in Canada and the crunch of Beula's tires on the driveway when Mamoo came back from food shopping. Pete and Smiley come to see me more since their stairs got steep. I've lost interest in the ducks since we live off the lake, but I'm very interested in the types of guests who come to stay. I still keep my ďpaw inĒ as a guard and entertainment factor, although there are some who think me unnecessary. Uncle Michael helps me up the stairs and takes me for morning walks.
Patsy and Sheila come to see us in Florida and Canada. But I havenít seen P.J. since we moved from Kentucky and I wonder if he is chasing chipmunks with some other dog.
I remember the way the wind felt on my ears when Bubba would take me to town in the truck, and the crack of the shotgun in the moonlit stillness of the hunt. I wonder if I went back, if all would be as it was-frozen in time, waiting for my return.
I think about Celia and all the lessons she taught me. How patient she was with such an ignorant pup. I can remember how she smelled when she crept close to me. Where would I be without all her clich»s? I wonder if her life turned out to be as interesting as mine.
I have noticed that, as the days go by, it is becoming more and more difficult to get up in the morning. Oh, I can still prowl around, checking things out at night. But I have to rest a lot. Mamoo seems to understand this because she gives me a pill every morning that takes away the pain so I can go outside and do my necessities. I was even having a hard time getting up into the back seat of the car. She puts her arm around me and says that we are growing old together and we donít work as well as we used to.
She cooks my dinner now because the dry food is too hard on my teeth. All those times I chewed the doorframes and tree roots are beginning to tell on me. It causes me a lot of pain when I eat cold cream in a dish (one of my favorites as you know) or hot pasta with cheese. I canít chew bones or even my Bouda bone because it makes my mouth sore.
Chasing bicycles wears me out and I have to lie down -- sometimes in the middle of the street. I stay closer to home and Mamoo puts a sheet under me at night because sometimes I leak on the couch. She doesnít yell at me to get off, she just hugs me.
We donít go in the car a lot because she says itís too hot or too cold. Our walks are getting shorter. I feel very tired and sore in my back legs which makes me sleep all the time. I wish I could get the old spring again -- when I could run all day, rest a minute and be off again.
I donít even try for the squirrels and the tree rats anymore; they have gotten too fast for me. I lie out in the brush at night on occasion and watch the raccoon families do their thing. My respect for life increases as I age. Every minute becomes more precious as I run out of time.
I remember the last tree rat. I was basking in the moonlight on one of those balmy nights Marathon is famous for and I could see perfectly. Mamoo told me he was climbing up the outside wall onto the roof. (Will they never learn?) I set off to the lee side of the house and waited for him to crawl down the drainpipe for a drink. They really are predictable -- one is like another or, if you've had one, youíve had them all. I am full of clich»s these days. Five minutes later he was history and I closed the book on game dinners.
I have begun to notice the difference between the flowers in our garden in Florida and the garden in Stratford. In the winter there are trees are like sticks in the air until we leave. Then, the tops burst into flower. Mamoo makes me a necklace of them for Easter and I wear them to the church in the Keys where dogs are allowed.
The man of God who prays at the altar has his dog sit beside him. His dog only has three legs because he lost one when a car hit him. But he runs faster than I do. I think he is a Golden Retriever with something else there too. It is amazing with all of the dogs in the room, not one makes a sound or loses his temper. The organ music they play is soothing, and I would like to join in like the Basset two rows up does, but Uncle Michael frowns on showing off.
In Canada, I take a nap under the bushes with those heavy, sweet purple flowers which smell like a faraway dream, and savor the rich earth scent absent at the house in the South. I can still dig in this soil for it is soft with earthworm and mulch, not hard with crushed shells. Even the stars in the black sky look different -- like they are upside down. Either place, I spend my days dreaming an old manís dreams.
If someone asked me which part of my life I liked the best, I would say that each had its beauty and rewards. Had I come to Mamoo as a young dog, I think I would have been impatient with her cautious ways and would have longed for the freedom of the open spaces.
By the same reasoning, I would never have turned my back on the creature comforts and security in my mature years. I loved my life at the farm as a rough, uncouth, hunting-hound, but I also appreciate the well-traveled and urbane sophisticate I have become. Two halves of one undivided whole -- the best of both possible worlds.
I have loved both male and female, and have learned to live in peace with both. I have learned to adjust to the circumstances at hand; and to protect and be protected. I have learned about partnerships, working side by side to common ends.
When I was young, they took away my power to have a family of my own. I was told I might resent it over the years, but I havenít really because I have lived with families and shared their successes and failures. I have watched them laugh and cry and through it all, I have learned to understand.
Mamoo said the problem with living is that by the time you have developed your appreciation of life and the means with which to enjoy it, the time left is fleeting and undependable. However, I cannot say I have wasted one moment because, being a dog, I really have no concept of anything past this moment in time. Yesterday I remember and tomorrow I canít see. Mamoo says that probably I will go to heaven before she does, because I am much older.
She says it is time I made some of the decisions about where we live. I am to go to find a place where we can be happy-- where the squirrels are slow, the people good and kind to newcomers, where the sun is warm and the rain refreshing.
I donít worry about leaving Mamoo alone now, because I brought her Uncle Michael to take care of her. She is quite helpless without someone to give her constant care and reassurance and I have taught her all I can about self-reliance.
This will be the first trip into the unknown I will take without her at the wheel. But it will happen as it will. Anyway, I am going to trust in Whoever is in charge.


Sam's Favorite foods:
Browned ground pork with chopped bacon and grated cheddar over rice
Leftover beef stew stirred with garlic over pasta noodles
Pizza, any kind
Lemon and strawberry frozen yogurt
Scrambled eggs and cottage cheese

Chopped chicken livers mixed with browned beef liver blended into a sauce with dried fat free milk. A good sauce for the dried packaged pet food.

Tim Bits; small donut holes in different flavors, no chocolate.

Bran muffins
Light rolls with strawberry jam
Macaroni and cheese
Cheese bites left on plates at cocktail parties

MacDonald's quarter pounder with pickles

Kentucky Fried chicken livers

Sam's Favorite Places;
Journeys Inn
Red Roof Inn
Days Inn
Any Park
Back seats and truck beds
On the sofa in front of the TV
At the beach
Duval Street
Fresh air restaurants
In the shade under a tree
Nose to nose with a smaller dog

Sam' favorite friends
Big blonde girls who giggle
His Editor, Jan Foster, who happens to be a beautiful blonde girl who giggles
Older men
Guys with pick-up trucks
Smiley and Pete and Fred
Some cats
Smart-alecky men he can terrify

Sam's pet hates
Boys on bicycles
Loud noises

On September 22,1998, Samson the Wonder Dog passed away, peacefully and it seemed gratefully into that good night. There is a marble head stone in the garden at Peggyís Place, but his ashes are really in the memorial garden in the park overlooking Lake Victoria. His friends Smiley and Pete, Artemisha and Polly attended the short service on that beautiful autumn day. We all hope that wherever he is now, there are slow squirrels, fast cars and lots of beautiful women.

Celia, the Setter in the cell next to mine---someone called
her a Bird Dog--was there to learn good manners in the field with her human who loved to shoot duck.
Sally E. Headley

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