Friday, November 06, 2009

Levi's Issues, Part 2

Part 1

One bright November day, Levi and Esmé went out to swim and hunt. Levi came home alone, obviously traumatized. We looked for a week, but never found her body. Given where we lived, we knew she hadn't been hit by a car, or stolen. The coyotes of the area, though, could be dangerous. 

Together, Levi and Esmé were big enough to deter an out and out coyote ambush. But if a group of coyotes, in the guise of playing, attracted one of them far enough away from the other, that puppy would have been easy prey. I'm fairly certain that's what happened to Esmé, and I'm also pretty sure Levi saw it.

Levi fell into a serious depression. Arthur was heartbroken, and in order to cope with his loss, took to punishing Levi more frequently and randomly.

Ordinarily, I would have been more on top of the situation, protecting Levi from his bully of a brother, but Karen was getting increasingly sick during this time, and my attention was more on her than it was on caring for Levi. I have no doubt that's as it should have been, but the result was Levi remained in what could only be described as an abusive home environment. Arthur never hurt him to an extent where vet care was needed, but he did what he could to see that Levi's natural high spirits were repressed.

Levi recovered from losing his sister and began to be a happy puppy again. There was an old woman who lived across the way from us named Ethel, who Levi would visit every day. She'd give him cookies, and talk to him, and let him graze cherry tomatoes off her plants. Ethel was Levi's grandma, and she helped him get over the terrible loss of Esmé. Since Arthur wouldn't leave the yard, Levi could visit Ethel by himself, and have an opportunity to feel confident and good about himself.

Ethel died suddenly and unexpectedly in December. Levi went to her house day after day, but grandma never came out to play with him again. His depression returned, and despite Levi's obviously damaged state, Arthur never let up on him for a second. Nevertheless, Levi carried on. He loved Arthur, I suppose in much the same way battered wives love their abusive husbands. Erica was a great comfort to him, and he adored his mom and dad. 

Then, in January, his mom died.

Within a few months, Levi, Arthur, Erica and I began a kind of vagabond existence. We moved from the only house he ever knew into a small trailer with a friend in Taos. I worked as a waiter, and Levi and Arthur would spend the day together. When I would come home from work, Arthur was usually protecting his Frisbee, while Levi was running to the car to greet me. I can only imagine what their days alone together were like.

Then the pack moved from wild New Mexico to super civilized Scottsdale. Despite all the upheaval, Levi was becoming happy again. He'd become an adult, and there was much less corporal punishment delivered by Arthur, who Levi still seemed to worship. We started going to the dog park, where Arthur would, of course, obsess over his Frisbee, and where Levi finally had the opportunity to behave as a quasi-independent adult dog.

For about nine months, things at the park were fine. We spent so much time there that Levi began to see it as his territory. Once he determined that he was in charge of the park, he naturally assumed that keeping puppies in line was one of his responsibilities. I'm not saying Levi didn't enjoy the small cruelties he inflicted on the puppies (click for a short film of such abuse), and I'm not saying it was right. I'm just saying I understood.

Eventually, Levi started to be too bad to bring to the park anymore. This was hard on him, because he loved his large group of park friends, but I couldn't stop him from being a bully, so we stopped going. Arthur didn't care; he could fetishize the Frisbee in the back yard as well as anywhere else, but Levi's social circle was again reduced to insane Arthur. At least now he had Rocky and Chi-Chi as friends, as well as Erica, but his primary companion remained Arthur, who that good boy, Levi, still loved like crazy, despite everything. Then Arthur got bone cancer and died.

Soon after that, my father, who Levi had of course loved, had to be moved out of the house due to advanced Alzheimer's. Levi's grandpa died about a year later, though Levi had many opportunities to visit with him in the assisted living facility. When my dad couldn't remember what relationship he had with my mother or me, he never forgot how much he loved his dogs, Chi-Chi, Rocky, and now, Levi. Then grandpa was gone.

In the first year of life, Levi was abandoned by his original family, lost his sister, his "grandma," and then Karen, his mom. He was bullied by a much older, much bigger dog, who he nonetheless worshiped. He lived in four different homes. Additionally, during all this time, he had a dad who was going through hell, and wasn't in a good mental state himself. 

That Levi has survived, and turned out as well as he did, not only amazes me, but it inspires me, and helps me get through some of my own bad times. He's been my best friend, and my crutch, since Karen died, and I'm content to know that whatever road life leads us down, we'll travel it together.

So, there, Levi is not a perfect dog. I said it. Just be sure you don't say it. Nobody talks about my boy like that.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands

Please share this blog with others.


Fisher said...

Such a beautiful story! Thank you.

a. bendelow said...

OK. Levi is king.
But do some editing, former English major!
"There was an old woman who lived across the way from us named Ethel, who Levi would visit every day. She's give him cookies, and talk to him, and let him graze cherry tomatoes off her plants."
i should use with my sophs!

lilyruth said...

Thanks for sharing such a touching story. Im happy that the story ended in a happy note. At first it ws so sad I felt so sad but then as I continue to read it I was very moved. Its such a great story. I want to invite you to visit my dog blog at its sort of new but I know you will like it. @lilruth

Rich Sands said...

Thanks for the comments, and, particularly, thanks to a. bendelow (a Lincoln Fellow!) for pointing out my proofing error. I am also grateful for the malleability of the internet so I could fix it immediately.
But now the dogman is embarrassed. He is going to turn in circles three times, avert his eyes, and sleep in the utility room...

Rich Sands said...

Perhaps not a king, a. bendelow. I see him more as Prince Hal. He might have proved right royal had he been raised by Falstaff. Arthur was more like a combination of Lear and Macbeth, though...

Patty said...

I love your story. I was fluid, engrossing and most importantly (at least to me) is the subject matter. You weaved the story beautifully. A story can be beautifully written and touch many hearts without perfect grammar. I was too drawn in by your love and compassion for this dog and his plight to even take notice to grammatical errors. THAT'S HOW GOOD YOUR WRITING IS! Thank you for sharing.

Post a Comment