...for my new students. They miss their regular teacher, who has been battling cancer since October, and they have had a multitude of substitutes. Worse yet, a Latin-speaking sub--an old geezer from Sun City who hasn't ever taught high school--was assigned in November and December, and they HATED him. These poor kids haven't learned anything, they were treated harshly, and they are facing a final exam next week. The ill teacher has to write a final that everyone won't fail, which should be a real trick. The hardest part for me is how they rejoiced to see me, without even knowing me. They welcomed me with relief, and I promised that I would be on their side, but I just want to go beat up that mean old guy. These are nice kids, and they deserve better.
...for my younger daughter and me. C's pit bull dog Luna died tonight, in a horrible fight with our other dogs. She's been attacking them for several months now, and we've been going hither and yon through front and back doors to the yard, keeping her away from them. She did some awful damage to my blue heeler dog Samson, but she made a big mistake tonight when she went for Dusty and Scooter, the labs. They'd had enough, and it was a fight to the death. Luna was a real sweetie with people: she loved me and C and the Daddy. With other dogs she was the Hound of the Baskervilles. She is now buried next to my beloved Casey in the pasture under the mesquite tree, and I am wiped out from weeping for C and myself. I loved Luna, too, and my heart aches for my daughter.
Good-bye, my boy, my friend, my dog.
May the angels lead you into paradise...
Even a week later, this is all I can write.
Rural life has challenges. In Central Texas one of the most dangerous challenges involves venomous snakes, rattlesnakes in particular. When we first moved out here to the farm, we neglected a field where my Border Collie Casey liked to hunt for mice. Tyros that we were, we forgot that where there are mice, there are nasty wild things that also hunt them. Casey had a run-in with a rattler that nearly killed him--and it freaked me out big time.
Four years later, we had gotten complacent, and we neglected the field where the dogs live. On Monday morning Dusty, our Black Lab, came in the house with a hugely swollen muzzle, crying with pain. We got him to the vet right away, yet his face and throat were even more swollen. To my horror, our vet diagnosed a snake bite, and he was put on IV medications. To my pleased surprise, Dusty healed very quickly; he came home just 24 hours later. He looked like a hippopotamus, and there were two sets of paired puncture wounds on his muzzle, but he was generally okay. I have given him his antibiotics buried in pieces of hot dog, which he loves, and the swelling has just about gone away. A country friend told us that muzzle snakebites are actually the least harmful; for some reason the swelling keeps the poison from getting to the internal organs. Who knew?
Even so, I consider this a serious warning to us transplanted city folks. I was tremendously upset that our carelessness had endangered a beloved pet. We know that we have to keep the brush cut and not have places where snakes can hide, yet we were not careful to keep up with the danger spots. I do not want another reminder to keep the place up! I could not bear to go through another dog incident, and I shudder to think of one of the horses being bitten.
"Nature red in tooth and claw" is a truism from some 19th century philosopher (I should know who said that), and, bottom line, truisms are true. I have been warned twice to take care; I pride myself on being a quick study. I shall not need another warning.
--and good things always come from bad: Daughter was a fount of warmth, support and comfort. She let me weep without judging; she offered no cloying cheer-up blather; and she called to check on Dusty and me just often enough to get me through a hard time. I am blessed--many thanks, Darling Girl.
An Encomium on My Dog
Border Collies are smart, so smart that a Westminster Dog Show judge once quipped, "I expect him to fetch the newspaper and have read it through by the time he gives it to me." They are also very alert, a part of being herders for sheep and goats. If they have no sheep, they will herd children or bicyclists or cars; in fact, having no work to do makes them unhappy.
Casey is my Border Collie, and he has been very attached to me for all thirteen of his years. He is far from being a perfect dog: he is nervy and cranky, and he has always been somewhat neurotic. He will snap at strangers, and he makes sure the other dogs know he is the King of the House. He definitely hates the vet.
However, I am his Goddess. He has always been Mama's Dog. From the time he was a puppy he has sat at my feet, slept next to my side of the bed, protected me from dangers both real and imaginary, and been my companion. He sat up with me when I broke my ankle and hurt too much to sleep; he greeted me with joyful tail wagging when I returned from the daily grind of a job I disliked; he put his head on my lap in sympathy when I was unhappy; and he walked miles with me around the neighborhood. He comes when I whistle. His love for me and my love for him have been anchors in my life.
He quickly learned how to fetch, and he will chase a ball or stick until he is exhausted. For years he entertained the family with a Casey Flop: when I lightly stroked his chest he would collapse on his side in ecstasy. When the children were young, he would help me wake them for school: on command he would jump on their beds and lick them awake. (I'm afraid I enjoyed the spectacle far more than they did.) He misses the children now that they're grown; he is overjoyed when His Boy comes to visit.
He was happy to move up here to the farm. He hunted all the field mice out of the pasture, and delightedly jumped into the river from the low-water crossing. He loves to "go feed Sara" (the horse), and since we've had goats, he will trot along the fence checking out the babies and getting into eyeballing contests with the buck and head nanny. I have even seen him touch noses with a kid through the fence.
Now Casey is old. He spends most of the time sleeping. I know that he has very few years left, and I get sad contemplating his loss. I find myself checking to see if he's still breathing when he's so soundly asleep. The other day he couldn't get up, and he just laid his head on my foot; I wept as I begged him to find the strength to rise. It was going out to feed the livestock that got him to struggle up and follow me, and some short tosses of a tennis ball got his spirits up. We haven't been to the river since March--I plan to take him to swim now that rain has raised the level of the water. I want these waning years to be full and happy for him; I am obligated to return the devotion he has given me.
I love my horses and the other dogs; I am attached to the goats; I even have soft feelings for the turkey and the chickens; but Casey is my dog. I'll never have another like him.