A Friend of Crows

I came home yesterday shaky and excited, the stain of a cherry lime-ade spreading across my “We Get What We Deserve” t-shirt. I took the dowsing rods and my mom out into the back yard, way back to where we’d buried the dog. I showed her how to hold them. I showed her how it worked–how they crossed when I crossed the dog’s grave. I asked her if she wanted to try and of course she did. And she stepped on the dog’s grave and they crossed for her.

My mom has her degree in biology. She’s trained to think things through. She knows about the ideomotor phenomenon. She just looked at me and I said, “I know, right. It makes no sense.” She wandered around the yard a little more. No further crossing. You know it can’t  be real, can’t really work, and yet, there you are.

And then a squabble of crows barked in a nearby tree and we looked up to see them harassing a hoot owl. A big one. A couple of mockingbirds were screaming at the owl, too, and a cardinal hopped from limb to limb nearby, as if eager to see a fight. The owl kept looking back at us as if to check to see whose side we were on.

My mom said, “Crows hate owls. Always have. I’m a friend of crows normally, but I don’t like to see them take after owls like this. In this situation, I’m always on the owl’s side.”

I felt the same, even though I knew I was just watching everyone who’d ever lost a relative to an owl letting the owl know how they felt about it.

We watched the argument for a good ten minutes and once the crows got bored, we went inside.

Chapter Three May Do Me In

Chapter Three is divided into three parts–the Harpes, John Murrell, and Isaac Franklin and John Armfield. Basically, if you ever cut open someone’s belly and dumped them in a creek, I have room for you in this chapter.

But Franklin is just such a sick fuck it’s kind of ruining the fun of the chapter for me. The research is just grueling. UNC has some of Franklin’s letters scanned in so that you can read them yourself without having to travel to North Carolina and, good god damn, it’s just so fucking… Like I was relieved when I couldn’t make things out, because his handwriting is so crappy.

And, on a more minor note, I swear, there’s no way to do even a tiny bit of research into John Murrell before you start to suspect he was framed. Not very well, but framed. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure he was a “thief of horses and negroes,” but to the extent people claimed he was? No, that was a frame-up job by a guy I think was a great deal scarier in his own way. No one can put a body count on Murrell, but his “biographer” leaves a trail.


The yard is making mud onion straws. My walk is filled with crunch crunch crunch crunch swish swish. I’m a cacophony of quiet noises.

The dog’s grave is collapsing down to level. It would be distressing to watch what’s going on down there, but I admit to being curious. I imagine the leveling of the grave is somewhat because of just natural settling, but must also be because she’s already done the part where her middle fills up with gasses and expands to way beyond its normal size and then, pop, sinks back down to regular or less than regular size. As there’s less of her, the dirt falls in to fill the void.

Oh, god, this has become the most morbid post ever. Y’all are going to be so ready to hear about a new dog.

The Yellow Lab

It appears we will meet him, probably on Friday, and take him home with us if we hit it off. He is a “young adult.” Since his hobbies included sitting in laps and cuddling, I’m guessing he’s not yet full grown. On the other hand, my cousin A. has two chocolate labs and they are full grown and sit in her lap. So, we’ll see.

We don’t know about names yet. I’ve been arguing for Sonny Boy Williamson III. The Butcher is kind of leaning toward Grendel. But we’ll see when we meet him and what name the foster family gave him and what kind of dog he seems like.

I feel really happy and really sad. I miss having a dog so much. I feel like I’ve been running around with half my heart missing. And so I’m really excited to bring home another dog. But this also makes it really real. Sadie is really gone. She filled our house and then our house was empty of her and now it will be filled with a dog again, but it won’t be her. I didn’t know I’d feel so emotional about the end of an absence, but I do.

She was a good dog, such a good dog, and because she was, I want to do it again.

Lost Dog

This morning, a car stopped up on Lloyd and the woman driving asked me if I had lost my dog.

“I did, but not like you mean. She died.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I just see you out here walking a pit bull all the time and I saw a pit bull up on the ridge running around and I thought, if it was your dog, I could put you two back… I’m so sorry.”

“We’ve seen that dog, too. But it looks well-fed so we think it has a home.”

“I’m just so sorry about your dog.”

“It’s okay. She was fourteen.”

“But that’s just a baby.”

And I had to laugh, because, though, when she was alive, I regularly teased her by calling her “grandma,” it does, in retrospect, seem like she was so young.

But, it also made me laugh that we’d apparently become such a regular sight up on Lloyd that her absence is noticeable to the cars that regularly drive it in the morning.

Some Weird Club I Accidentally Joined

Sadie was not even cold when the first person said to me, “We deal with a lot of rescue organizations. When you’re ready for another dog, let us know.” I know Sadie wasn’t cold, because she was still on my couch, wrapped in an old purple quilt. That weekend, when someone tried to tell me about how great pit bulls were, I said that I knew, I used to have one and they said, “Keep us in mind when you’re ready for another one.”

If you are, demonstrably, not a jerk to pit bulls, someone is always looking to hand you one.

I’m not ready. At all.

I was thrilled that the Butcher’s dog-friend came by this morning (and can we just talk for a second about how that dude lost the genetic lottery. This is what they tell you a labradoodle looks like. The Butcher’s dog-friend looks like a very narrow lab. No curly hypo-allergenic hair. Just a two-dimensional black lab. He turns front on and you can’t see him. He doesn’t seem to be non-smelly and I doubt he’s hypoallergenic. But that must happen often–that you get a labradoodle that takes more after the lab part, but he’s the only one I’ve seen.) but after he left, I just felt kind of drained. Like how could we go through all this again?

But man, it hurts my heart to know there are so many good dogs out there looking for homes.

The Things that Trip Me Up

I think that, because she died how I hoped she would, in some ways, Sadie’s death has been fairly easy to deal with. I’m sad, but not devastated.

But sometimes, it’s really terrible, just for a second. And it’s always at the moments when I’m like “Oh, crap, I dropped that. Well, Sadie will eat it.” or “What was that noise? Well, I’m sure if it’s a psycho killer, Sadie will bark.” It’s those seconds when I forget that she’s dead and then it becomes real all over again that really suck.

Fortunately, they’re few and far between, but I hate them.

It’s a Little Weird

So far, the parts I’m having the hardest time with are all the annoying parts. I felt lost when I didn’t have anyone to let out first thing in the morning. After I fed the cats, I wasn’t sure what to do with the cat food can, because no one was going to try to steal it out of the recycling if I didn’t let her lick it clean before I put it in there.

I had prepared myself for the end of cuddles and cute snores and car rides and all the things I loved. But fuck it, I even miss all the mundane crap.

I’m hugely sad, I can’t even begin to tell you, but my second largest emotion is relief. I’m so relieved that we were able to do this for her before she was really suffering and that she went so well.

She went very quickly, kind of. They told us we’d have about ten minutes after they administered the anesthetic to sit with her and feed her treats and such, before she went to sleep. But she fell asleep in just a minute or two. The vet said that was probably a sign that she was in worse shape than we even knew. She snored and we all cried and it took them a while to find a vein because, of course, she had to go out with some level of ridiculousness. And she just went away.

It was very comforting in a sad way.

I feel really, really grateful. Grateful to have gotten a chance to know her and grateful for everyone’s love and support. And I’m so grateful the Butcher is here. The things he was able to do for her at the end–dig her a hole, carry her to it, put her in it, and cover her up–he was barely able to do emotionally, but I would not have been able to do them physically, I don’t think.

The vet and her assistant were amazing. They’re not normally the mobile vet that comes to this part of town, but that vet was on vacation. This is who they recommended. And I can’t even begin to tell you what a great comfort it was to have them come to the house and to spend time just openly loving and getting to know Sadie and putting her at ease.

Anyway, I’m just babbling, but I wanted to tell you that as heartbreaking as this is, we didn’t get screwed out of anything. She had a big, full, happy life full of people who loved her and she died before the worst things happened. It’s sad because she’s gone, but it’s not a tragedy. Everything went as well as we could have hoped for. We were very lucky with her, always.

The End of the Adventures with Mrs. Wigglebottom

Mrs. Wigglebottom had a real name, which I didn’t use on the blog in order to preserve her anonymity. It was Sadie. Her name was Sadie. She died how she lived–well-loved, fed ridiculous shit that wasn’t good for her, and, in keeping with her recent habits, peeing on the Butcher.

Her death was sad, but she died here on the couch and it was just like they promised. She went to sleep and then she died. And then the Butcher dug a hole and we put her in it.

It’s so sad I can’t even tell you. Coming home this evening and not having anyone to let out just about brought me to my knees. But I’m also feeling great relief. The vet told us she had a huge mass in her abdomen and, if it had burst, her death would have been messy and unbearably painful. So, I’m very grateful that we were able to spare her that.

And now I’m tired and frazzled and heartbroken.

Because the camera on my iPhone sucks, this photo turned out kind of lovely and moody.

Because the camera on my iPhone sucks, this photo turned out kind of lovely and moody.

I Can’t Believe I’m Someday Supposed to Do This With My Parents

The bed got peed on again. I got up to let her out, checked and felt that she was dry, and thought I had enough time to go to the bathroom myself before I put her outside. Wrong.

We went for a walk this morning, which both seemed kind of pointless and… well… we were up and we walk in the mornings so what are you going to do? I let her eat some crap I’d normally never let her eat. And when we got back to the AT&T yard, I took her leash off and let her make her own way home while I followed.

She enjoyed that.

The weight of the word “last” is heavier than I realized. The last walk. The last night. The last morning. The last warm day. The last, the last, the last.

The Red-Headed Kid came over last night to hang out and we told him that she was going to die. And he cried, because he is her friend. Him and the Professor are the two people who would come and hang out with Mrs. Wigglebottom just for her sake or take her for car rides without us. She is the kind of dog who has friends.

My dad told me that they were never certain with Fritz if it was the right time to put him down, because every time I’d come home to see him for “the last time,” he’d perk up and run around and be his old self. So, in a way, I feel fortunate for the wet towels and the ruined sleep schedule. You can’t deny it.


I set a timer to wake me up every three hours. And I learned that, in my sleep cycle, the three hour mark has me deep, deep in some hard sleep. But I got up and got the dog out and we had a successful pee-in-the-bed-free night! But man, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I have no idea how new parents do it.

The Butcher got home way late last night.

A couple of the texts he sent me yesterday have me nervous that he’s not convinced that this is the right course of action.

But then, he didn’t wake up to find him and her sleeping in her piss two nights in a row. He didn’t have to clean up accidents during the day two days before that. And the way you can run your finger in the hollow spot between her back rib and whatever is supposed to be just under her rib is new, from yesterday. And he’s got to see for himself how she shakes when she breathes in, like it hurts her.

I’m glad, then, that I scheduled it for Thursday, even if it means a couple more nights of shitty sleep on both her and my part, because clearly, we turned a dreadful corner while he was gone and he needs to see that there’s no coming back from it.

But I really hate that for him. What I learned early Sunday morning, he’s got to learn first-hand today.

It’s a terrible business, waiting around for Death.

Wherever the dog sleeps, it's got to be on a towel. For obvious reasons. I suspect that the orange cat knows something is wrong, since it's exactly the kind of day the orange cat would normally be outside. And yet, he's been this close to the dog all day.

Wherever the dog sleeps, it’s got to be on a towel. For obvious reasons. I suspect that the orange cat knows something is wrong, since it’s exactly the kind of day the orange cat would normally be outside. And yet, he’s been this close to the dog all day.

It Just Goes On and On, My Friend

This just feels like the sadness that never ends. And yet, things go one much like they have for a while now. She goes out and stands in the yard and looks off toward the north like something is coming from that way that only she can see. She sleeps on the couch until she hears something and then she cocks her head and looks at me like I’d better go check and see if we’re about to be killed by a scary monster, because she’s going to be busy hiding and unable to protect us.

She likes the wet food, but, like I said, it’s clearly just the novelty of it she likes. She took a few bites of dry food yesterday, I think mostly to appease my mom, but really has no interest in it.

Sometimes, she stands next to me and puts her head in my hands and stares at me and I know she knows something is wrong and she wants me to do something about it. It’s the same look she’s given me when she wants me to pull a tick off her or get a leaf out of her ear. She pissed the bed again last night, but I had her on towels, so it wasn’t as gross and night-ruining as the night before.

Most alarmingly, it doesn’t have any smell. So, I think her kidneys aren’t working. It’s just water coming through, no waste. And she shudders when she breathes in.

I worry that she’s in pain.

But she seems completely happy. It’s so weird.

I called a mobile vet one of my friends used when her dog was dying. I’m waiting for her to call me back. I thought I was composed, but the minute I had to say why I was calling, I started crying. So, I hope she can understand at least my phone number and call me back.

It’s the ordinariness that gets me, most, how Mrs. Wigglebottom is just doing all the regular things she normally does. Just much more frailly. It’s so easy to ask yourself, “Do you really euthanize a dog who’s still capable of licking her butt in a disgusting manner while sitting right next to you?” “Is it fair to euthanize a dog who would be happy to sit out in the sun all day when there are bound to be so many more sunny days?” You look for any excuse to say “It’s not bad enough yet.”

And then I remember this is night two of her sleeping in her own urine and I feel guilty about wanting to wait until the Butcher gets home. Making her wait seems so cruel.

And yet, of course she’s unbothered. This is just another thing that happens. She used to not pee when she slept and now she does. She seems to find it strange, but not alarming.

I am doing all the dreading for both of us.

The Year of Things I Feel Ambiguously About Shows Its Ace in the Hole

Lose this, lose that, lose this again. Thus has been the rhythm of my year, things I feel ambiguously about leaving me confused and so sad in their wake.

The dog has stopped eating. My parents and I got her some wet dog food, because, as I suspected, she’s very into eating for fun still. She’s just not interested in eating for sustenance. And wet dog food is fun. My dad was like, “I think this is it” and I tried to argue, “I know we are at the end. But I don’t know if this is the end so to speak.” Yes, the not eating is the two minute warning, but can’t we run some plays, see if we can’t stretch things out? Come up with some last minute miracle?

Last night, she slept with me, as she normally does. And she peed the bed. Not only that, she didn’t wake up until I woke her up because I was like “Yuck, why is my bed so cold?”

That’s it, then. When the Butcher gets home, we have to put her down. You can’t ask someone who has been so good to you for so long to sleep in her own piss because you’re afraid of your own broken heart.

And I am glad and relieved that I don’t have to ask that of her, that I can ease her on out of this world before her suffering is too great. But I want to cry for a while, too. For a very long while.

I don’t know how to stand this and yet, for her sake, it must be stood.

Kindness in all Places

NM and I went to lunch where I proceeded to fret about the dog and my ability to a.) judge when the time comes and b.) afford it because of some fucked up shit that I’m too angry about to go into. We’re a ways away. But it’s clear we’re talking months, if not weeks, instead of the wonderful years we had before us.

And, as I said to her, I just don’t want to fuck it up. As I’ve said to y’all.

And the woman at the table behind us came over and said that she’d overheard what we were talking about and wanted me to know it would be okay, that I would know when it was time.

And then we went to JJ’s where there was a pit bull puppy waiting on its owner and I wondered that Mrs. Wigglebottom had ever once been so tiny and then I let the puppy give me a million kisses and everything did, indeed, seem like it would be okay.

The Dog Makes Preparations

The dog is getting boney in her old age. Her ribs sit right under the surface of her chest. The meat along her back has deteriorated and her spine sticks up like some fresh mountain range. Her round hips are now full of cliffs and hard edges. She’s eating fine and is in good spirits. This weekend, she spent a great deal of time under the privet, digging around, playing happily, which she hasn’t done in ages.

Still, I find her more often just standing in the yard, doing nothing–not staring, not sniffing–just, almost, like she’s waiting.

Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I had a dream that didn’t seem like a dream. I was walking Mrs. Wigglebottom down a hall. The hall had wooden paneling, but grass and dirt instead of a floor. And Hel came down the hall toward us, wearing a large, gray robe that hid her from view. I held out Mrs. Wigglebottom’s leash to her and she reached out with her skeleton hand, and took it. They then walked happily off together, like I’ve seen the dog walk beside my parents or the Professor or anyone she knows and trusts. She didn’t even look back.

And it’s upsetting, now, to recount it. But in the dream, I was happy for her, watching her go off with a friend. And it seemed so real that I was surprised when I woke up and found her snoring away, curled up next to me.

Just Freaking Out the Crows

This morning, on our walk, Mrs. Wigglebottom insisted on walking on my right side. What the fuck. It’s been 14 years. I guess we can switch it up. I couldn’t tell any difference, but she walked more quickly, which makes me wonder if she sees better out of her right eye than her left and would prefer it to be on the outside, so to speak.

Anyway, one of the crows was doing its thing in the trees above us. Caw caw caw. Wait a few seconds. Caw caw caw. Now, because I spend a lot of time listening to crows for someone who is not a crow, I know that the response to this is not caw caw caw in return. But I can’t remember what it is, because I am not a crow.

Also, because I had unsettling dreams about my grandma’s bedroom all night. I dreamed, in one, that I’d taken a Russian lover, who was my co-worker in some office job we had in my grandma’s living room. He wooed me by showing me that my computer tower was also a printer. And then I asked him, “Do you want to fuck?” and we went into my grandma’s bedroom and, well, obviously. Russian guys in my dreams always look like the phone oligarch with the tiny giraffe. But the important part is that, in my dream, even though I said I didn’t want a relationship with him, I still called him up and told him everything I was thinking, even though he claimed to not know enough English to understand me. And I would spend this time on the phone with him trying to make sure that the doors to my grandma’s bedroom were locked, even though all her old bras were draped over the handles, making it impossible to even tell if the doors were tightly shut.

The unsettling part of the dream, of all of the dreams I have about my grandma’s house, is that all my grandma’s stuff is still in it. In the dream, I’m never quite sure she’s really dead. At any moment, it seems like she could arrive home and want to know why I’m fucking Russian oligarchs in her bed.

I really have her bed. In real life. The bed I used to sleep next to her in when we’d visit her. That’s my bed now. Obviously, a different mattress, but that frame is the frame that held her and I.

Which leads me to the other unsettling thing for me about the dream. I’m pretty sure the Russian oligarch is mine. And the computer. But I sometimes wonder if I’m dreaming about her house so much because she did. I don’t know if it’s just that some of her dreams linger on, attached to the bed, and get in my head for the dreaming or if she, in need of a live brain to dream about her old house, is dreaming through me. It’s unsettling. And it makes me miss her. And it’s a little embarrassing. Hope you like naked Russian oligarchs fucking your granddaughters, grandma.

When she first started having her strokes, she told us all how we had to watch out for Catholic boys because they knew how much Protestant girls liked to have sex and the Pope had told them how they could lead a girl right up to the point where she would have to have sex or die and then he’d jump out of the car and refuse to have sex with you unless you converted to Catholicism. So, watch out for those Catholic boys.

I love this story, even though it’s full of anti-Catholic nonsense, because it is anti-Catholic nonsense almost completely opposite from the anti-Catholic stereotypes I heard as a young woman.

But anyway, she never told me about Russian Orthodox boys. So, who knows?

I still slept poorly.

So, I looked around and there was no one outside at the AT&T building and so I called back caw caw caw. And there was dead silence from the crow. Nothing. And then a tentative caw caw caw. So, I caw caw caw-ed back and again, silence.

But I’m going to try again. Because I’m taking the silence to mean that the crow knew I was talking to it. Maybe not what the hell I was saying, but that I was trying to say something to it.

This Afternoon

I was up all night because the dog barfed in my bed. I consider this to be both her fault and mine. Though, looking back, I’m not sure what I could have done differently. The thing was that I don’t have another mattress pad so I couldn’t make the bed until the mattress pad was dry. That took forever. And I’d just washed the sheets! Ugh.

Anyway, just as I was getting in bed, I was overcome by sneezing fits.

And lo and behold, I’ve felt like shit all day today.

I went out to nap in the hammock for a while and something woke me up. In my head was the phrase “strange spirits walk the land.”

Like that’s what I’d been dreaming, I guess, though I don’t remember dreaming.

It creeped me out, though, and I had to come inside.

Something Weird Happened on Our Walk This Morning

miracle dog stuff

We were heading back toward the house and I unhooked Mrs. Wigglebottom so that she could do as she does every day–slowly walk back toward the house while I got ahead of her and got my shoes and socks off. What happened instead was that I unhooked her and she took off at a pleasant trot toward the house.

She ran.

So, let me tell you, I don’t normally recommend stuff. And I don’t know anything about this company, VetIQ. They may be terrible or a subsidiary of McDonalds or some other thing that’s going to make me uncomfortable that I wrote this post. And certainly, these products come with some drawbacks–for one, the stuff in the blue bag smells like the Devil’s butt. Seriously, the first time you open it, you’re going to wonder if this is what zombies smell like as they stumble around rotting everywhere. If you leave the bag unsealed, it will stink up your whole house with a smell that can only be described as shockingly noxious. The other drawback is that I’ve only ever seen them at Walmart. So, yeah, fucking Walmart.

But Mrs. W’s skin problems are, while not solved, better than they have been in years. I mean, she has no spots on her sides that are bare and her neck is finally starting to heal up.

And this morning, Mrs. “Maybe you should just go for a walk by yourself, because I’m too old” Wigglebottom beat me back to the house.

Slow Dog

The dog walks so slowly in the morning. I try to mosey at her speed, for her sake, but it makes me laugh. It’s not the opposite of exercise, but I swear, it kind of feels like it. When we used to walk, my heartrate would go up. I would come home feeling sweaty and like we’d done something.

Now we walk the same distance and I feel relaxed, like we’ve just done some mild stretching. Other than just getting to spend some time together and enjoy the morning, I’m not sure it does any good.

Do Dogs Get Pissed?

I’ve seen dogs get mad. Obviously, they get aggressive. And I’ve seen dogs not like a particular person.

But I’ve never seen a dog behave like Mrs. Wigglebottom is behaving. Hell, I’ve never seen Mrs. Wigglebottom behave how Mrs. Wigglebottom is behaving. If you’ve been over, you know that you arrive, there’s much barking and bottom wiggling and attempts to sit on your lap and to get all of the butt scratches you have to give.

But when the Butcher returned home, Mrs. Wigglebottom got up off the couch and went and got in my closet. No barking, no wiggling. And, like right now, since she’s sure the Butcher is asleep, she’s in there sleeping on the floor where she can keep an eye on him, but when he stirs, she rushes into my room so that, I guess, he doesn’t see that she cares?

I don’t know how to understand this, since it would seem to take a level of emotional sophistication both that I didn’t know dogs had and that I’ve never seen her exhibit. Because it’s like she has two contradictory emotions. She seems glad he’s home–in secret, where he can’t see it–and completely unbothered by his reappearance, less than impressed, even.