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HIS SEEING EYE HUMAN … PART ONE.

Dear Matzo Ball Blogger:

Thank you for logging into yet another exciting episode of As the Matzo Ball Turns. In this edition, I am returning from my long absence on this blog. As some of you may know, I’ve spent the past four and a half years developing an original musical based on the source material As the Matzo Ball Turns the novelThis morning, I was inspired after waking from a brief and fitful night of sleep, to finally get back to it. When I reached the downstairs my inspiration, in the form of a four legged Australian cattle dog named Charlie, sensed my unusual early presence in the room.

For those of you that read the book, Charlie makes an appearance in the final Chapter and, in a way, is one of the last remaining reminders of my time in LA and my failed pursuit of a Crazy Dream (a song in the show). Almost ten years have passed since I left LA and a fairly young Charlie, who was about 6 at the time, has now advanced in age. This post has been punching its way out of me for sometime but I could never find the time to write it. With the sun rising and a cup of coffee to my left, I am finally taking that time.

For those of you who have ever owned a pet, I know you know what I am talking about. Animals bring out the best in us and in certain cases of complete human ignorance, the worst. No matter how shitty our day is or how much the world hates us, they are there for us and are always happy to see us when we arrive home. I once thought that maybe it was because they can’t open cupboards or are unable to use a can opener to access a can of food that propels their tails into a flickering motion when we return home from a long day. Our arrival assures them they are not alone which also means they have the potential to be fed. Although that may be part of their elation, I believe the relationship goes much deeper than that.

Charlie, like myself, was abandoned when he was young. He was found at a road stop rest near Bakersfield off the I-5 in California. When Mary, my girlfriend at the time, brought him home, I was apprehensive to say the least. I mean, I was going to make it Hollywood if it killed me and yet another mouth to feed and the responsibility involved in walking, grooming, and bathing anybody but myself seemed like an overwhelming task at the time. But, Charlie brought something to me that I can never repay him for … unconditional love.

You see, Hollywood is a very tough town. It is filled with constant rejection, backstabbing, ridicule, desperation, broken dreams, and above all loneliness. Everybody is so busy trying to out do the next guy or developing friendships and relationships based on what someone can do for their “career” that it becomes a very void and empty town, despite the 16 million people cutting you off in traffic. What Charlie brought to me was a warmth that started to melt what was becoming a very cold and bitter heart. When the time was right, I made the executive decision to get out of LA in the quickest and most efficient way possible.

Travelling across the entire US with my two furry friends (my American Eskimo Tai has since passed) is until this day one of the greatest experiences of my life. We scaled the Rocky Mountains during a blizzard where Charlie experienced his first snow storm, dodged a tornado in Indiana, and trekked through the incredible scenery in Bryce Canyon, Utah before nearly running out of gas. On that journey, which was at times quite harrowing, I felt an intense obligation to keep my co-pilots safe and out of harms way. After six days of travel, we rolled back into my hometown of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania from where I had spread my wings eighteen years prior.

The idea for the book became vivid during this journey across the country and as soon as my feet hit the ground in Pennsylvania, I began penning my ten year Hollywood tale.  Three years later, the book became a reality and As the Matzo Ball Turns was born into the world. In between writing breaks and jobs, Charlie, Tai, and I would also live life to the fullest by hiking, swimming, boating and travelling the beautiful mountainous countryside. When the book was finished, it was Charlie who showed up in a bow tie to attend one of my book signings. Unfortunately, Charlie thought he was there to protect his new surroundings rather than promote my first book and he nearly scared the bejesus out of a gay couple entering the book store to browse a few titles. Even though the situation ended with no further incident, the couple never entered the building nor returned to the out of the ordinary event, and an economic decision was made to leave my bodyguard at home for the remainder of the book tour.

When Tai passed, it was Charlie’s howling that notified me that our pack was down one member. Tai was a tough dog and as sad as it was to see her pass, I believe it brought Charlie some peace. Tai could be quite domineering whereas Charlie is a gentle and sweet soul who, quite frankly, didn’t really enjoy the constant aggravation and barking orders. We became more inseparable as the years passed and when relationships failed or I struggled with disappointments of all sorts my rock was always there for me.

When hiking our favorite spot, the beautiful Glen Onoko Falls in Jim Thorpe, I was confused to see Charlie reaching to find his next step while approaching a familiar but steep incline. When we got home and under closer inspection, I noticed a light film starting to coat his friendly brown eyes. A few weeks later, I took Charlie to the vet when I found him on the floor bleeding profusely through his snout. When I first informed my vet of the bleeding he wanted to x-ray him for fear it could be a cancerous tumor causing the massive discharge. Thankfully, his x-ray returned negative and in hindsight it was probably his decent into blindness that caused the hemorrhaging. It wasn’t long before Charlie, an incredibly sensitive being, was unable to hide his impairment from me which came in the form of intense anxiety about leaving his familiar surroundings.

Just weeks prior, Charlie and I were racing up the street in an all out sprint or tearing up a mountain side like two Bighorn sheep and now he was petrified to leave the comfort of his favorite recliner. Although he could still navigate through the house, thanks to his high IQ and keen sense of smell, Charlie was reverting to his past trauma which I am certain stems from whatever abuse he suffered as a puppy. With a strong, healthy body and many years of high quality life left in him, I was not about to let him retreat in a world of darkness and fear. I decided we were going to do the same things we always did with one exception, I would now be leading the way.

When confronting Charlie with this new proposition, he was less than thrilled. As a matter of fact, he protested vehemently.  As I tried to attach his leash he scrunched up and barked threateningly. The more I tugged on his harness the more he sank into the chair, resisting with every fiber of his body. When the physical struggle failed to gain his compliance, I released the tension in the chord and in the sternest voice possible said, “Let’s go! You’re going!” To my surprise he jumped off the chair and allowed me to guide him to the door.

I have to admit, it was an adjustment for both of us, but mostly for me. Most of the time, I would unhook Charlie from his leash and allow him to run the rest of the way home as it was one of his favorite things to do. Or, if out on a walk, I could be alone with my thoughts as Charlie navigated the way along our usual routes. But now, I would have to see things from a very low perspective in order to build his trust in my ability to lead him through the darkness.

Within a short amount of time, he was courageously racing me up the street in an all out sprint once again. As a matter of fact, his fearlessness and determination to keep going despite his disability has been a constant source of inspiration to me. I knew it from the day we first bonded in California that I would never give up on him for as long as I have breath in my body. I can’t teach him calculus or get his opinion on a section of my new book but there is an unspoken spiritual connection that we share that is beyond words. I will always have his back and as a few recent events have proven those aren’t just empty words … (To be continued)

 

Categories: dog, pet, seeing eye human