Certain Stories by John C. Krieg

Certain stories are supposed to have certain endings.  The die is cast.  The storyline is set in stone.  To not follow the plotline could almost be viewed as a sin, and to go off script oftentimes invites disaster.  Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, and sometimes the flow can cause you to drown.

The day after Luke died, there was a puppy roaming in the driveway, maybe eight weeks old, but probably closer to six and just on the edge of being appropriately weaned.  She was cute, as all puppies are, but there was a sadness about her.  She had obviously been dumped upon us by someone who just didn’t want to be bothered anymore.  Judging by how skinny she was, they most likely didn’t spend any money on dog food.  I could envision her masters ripping apart the litter, separating the young and innocent from their mother as soon as possible, and putting their concerns behind them as they dumped their problems on to someone else.

She looked to be predominately Chocolate Lab mixed with a taller breed.  Gangly with a longer tail than necessary, she was nonetheless instantly lovable, and I very much wanted to do just that.  I called her “Brownie” realizing that it would be a temporary name, and for Brownie this story may or may not end happily.  As for me, I already know that this story is not going to end well, because certain stories are supposed to have certain endings and I violated that premise which is akin violating a code of honor.

I had buried Luke that morning and was still coping with the numbing depression that set in immediately thereafter.  I wrote a poem about the whole affair which I’ll share now:

Lukey’s Last Howl (11/24/2019)

I put another hound
In the ground today
Luke the legendary bloodhound
Has passed away

I buried him under the Manzanita Tree
That had kept him company
For the last six months of his life
Lukey will rest in shade for eternity

He was a month past his thirteenth birthday
Having lived three years past his life expectancy
And the realization was not lost on me
That I was next

Luke was born in Missouri, so
We registered him as “Show Me Luke”
A young strapping pup
With a lustrous black and tan coat

He was so handsome
He was so noble
It was very clear that
Lukey was royalty

There’s been a lot of bloodhounds
In television commercials as of late
Which is false advertising because
These are not house dogs

Bloodhounds are born of the trail
Of the long distance chase
They can easily traverse fifty miles a day
In pursuit of their quarry

During his last year Lukey
Developed horrible tumors on his rump
Those lumps became as big as softballs
I thought of putting home down

But he didn’t seem to be in pain
He never once complained
He wanted to go for his walk every morning
Bright eyed and bushy tailed as ever

But his four laps dwindled to two
And in the end only one would do
Before his legs got wobbly, and
He would occasionally stumble

I thought of putting him down then
But each and every morning he wanted to go
Sniffing every familiar bush and gopher hole
This was his land and he lorded over it

The weather had turned cold and I
Was lackadaisical in my duties
Waiting for the chaparral to warm
Before walking the dogs upon it

In his youth he was always walked first
But in his final weeks I would walk him last
Giving him time to warm his old joints
Before walking his one lap on his trail

Today, as I was walking the other dogs
He howled out to me, as usual, and
I called out to him, “You’re next Lukey.
I’ll see you soon.”

After putting up the other dogs
I went out to his cage, calling out to him,
“Lukey, are you ready for your walk?”
He didn’t answer, and instantly I knew

That I had heard Lukey’s last howl
I hoped it was in anticipation
And not a refrain of pain
I prayed that he had died painlessly

Dead – dead as a doornail
And already starting to stiffen
That’s all she wrote, so it was time
To put another hound in the ground

The ground was harder than I thought
And I had to remind myself that we don’t
Need two deaths today you old fool
Slow down and take your time

I thought of Grandpa Rounds and my uncles
As they labored to dig the grave for Dick
A noble old workhorse that would
Have to work no more

It was a very large hole, and they
Solemnly went about their business
Not asking eleven-year-old me to help
This was no job for boys

Today there was one old man
Burying one very old hound
I had to do this business myself
This was no job for boys

“I’m sorry Lukey that
I didn’t come when you called.
I’m sorry that I didn’t realize that
That was your very last howl.”

So…it seemed like positive karma that this puppy suddenly appeared in my life.  She could well have been a gift from God.  I knew that I was supposed to celebrate the ending of one canine life with the beginning of another; that’s how the story was destined to predictably end.  Our grandson, age 11 begged me to keep Brownie, while our five-year-old granddaughter echoed his sentiments.  I wanted for all the world to make them happy as well as give the little pup a loving home.  But I didn’t.  Inherent in the back-story are the reasons why.

The grandson already had two medium sized dogs living outside in a 300 square foot cage.  They were friendly and lovable too, but he hardly ever showed them any attention.  The granddaughter had a Dachshund/Beagle/Chihuahua mix who lived inside and was intensely loyal to and protective of her.  There was also my dog, the adorable Stella, a Black Lab/Border Collie/Poodle mix, who I had had for over a decade and who also lived inside and was extremely enamored with the children.  So the grandkids were not short-changed when it came to canine affection.

I was the one who fed, walked, and somewhat trained all these dogs, and it did take some considerable time.  Also to be considered were the veterinarian expenses that all responsible pet owners incur, as well as the expense of dog food.  I knew that Brownie would eventually wind up being ignored, or second fiddle, or viewed by the one person that was responsible for her the most as a burden. 

I didn’t sleep well the night before Brownie was to be taken to the pound.  I was wracked with an inconsolable guilt.  What would it hurt to keep her?  I would be a short-lived hero to the grandkids.  Who would it hurt, after all?  Mostly it would hurt Brownie because she wouldn’t have the chance in life that a more attentive family could give her.  And, it would hurt me to see another dog not getting their fair shot at a magical life.  That all made sense, but I also knew that she wouldn’t have any shot at any kind of life if no one adopted her and the pound put her down.  What gnawed at me the most, however, was the fear that I was wilfully ignoring the way the story was supposed to end.  I had been through this quandary before, even writing about it in a book of poetry over a decade earlier; which I’ll share with you now:

Death at the Edge of Town

It must take a special
Kind of human being
To take a dog
Down a country road
And drop it off

I think I know
What you tell yourself
“Someone will take it in.”
Someone like you
Fat chance

There’s a 60 percent chance
It will get run over
50 percent it will starve
40 percent it will be attacked by coyotes
Would you like those odds

It would’ve been much better
If you had taken the poor animal
To a shelter, or killed it yourself
It wouldn’t have to suffer so much, but
Such inconvenience is too much to ask of you

I am quite simply overwhelmed
I can’t take in all the dogs
You drop off on my road
So I know most will die
By you inconsiderate hand

By preserving your vanity
By safe-guarding your feelings
One of God’s creatures suffers horribly
All you’ve done is assure
Death at the edge of town

It was thin self-consolation to know that Brownie, as of yet, hadn’t met any of these horrible fates, and that being a very cute puppy, that she may not have to.  This wasn’t how this certain story was supposed to end, but the possibility existed that there could be a new certain ending.  Perhaps a young energetic couple with young energetic children would see all the potential she possessed and take her in.  The possibility existed that Brownie could still have a wonderful life.  The sting of Luke’s death still haunted me, and the guilt of not taking Brownie in still bothers me greatly, but I wasn’t the one who cruelly dumped her, and I feel that the dogs we do have deserve better than what they are getting.  I’m well aware that the word dog spelled backwards spells God, and I fear that I rejected God’s will.  So be it.  I pray that I’ll be forgiven, and as added measure, I pray that Brownie’s story will have a certain happy ending.  In a perfect world, all dogs should have a magical life, and there’s no reason that Brownie can’t exist in that world.

Goodbye Brownie, and good luck.  Know that I wish you all the best, and that you certainly deserve it.

John C. Krieg is a retired landscape architect and land planner who formerly practiced in Arizona, California, and Nevada. He is also retired as an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist and currently holds seven active categories of California state contracting licenses, including the highest category of Class A General Engineering. He has written a college textbook entitled Desert Landscape Architecture (1999, CRC Press). John has had pieces published in A Gathering of the Tribes, Alternating Current, Blue Mountain Review, Breathe Everyone, Clark Street Review, Conceit, Flowersong Press, Ginosko, Hedge Apple, Homestead Review, Indolent Books, Inlandia, Last Leaves, Line Rider Press, LOL Comedy, Lucky Jefferson, Magazine of History and Fiction, Oddball Magazine, Palm Springs Life, Pandemonium, Pegasus, Pen and Pendulum, Raven Cage, Saint Ann’s Review, Squawk Back, The Book Smuggler’s Den, The Courtship of Winds, The Mindful Word, The Scriblerus, The Writing Disorder, These Lines, True Chili, Twist & Twain,and Wilderness House Literary Review. In conjunction with filmmaker/photographer Charles Sappington, Mr. Krieg has completed a two-part documentary film entitled Landscape Architecture: The Next Generation (2010). In some underground circles John is considered a master grower of marijuana and holds as a lifelong goal the desire to see marijuana federally legalized. Nothing else will do. To that end he has two books coming out this year being published by Ribbonwood Press entitled: Marijuana Tales and More Marijuana Tales