A Little Clarity, an Odd Source of Inspiration

I just thought out of all the nonsense, I’d pull some sense. These two things come from Congressional stuff happening on the 24th. On the 25th we learned something funny though. The Emergency War Appropriations Bill almost got threatened with a veto by the President because it contained a statement allowing the Senate Day Care facility to sell Christmas ornaments to help fund itself.

The following is from the House of Representatives, not the Senate. Anyway, here is the more, sadly, inspirational stuff (to me):

May 24, 2006

Mr. KUCINICH. With the passing of the war supplemental, our creation, the Iraqi Government, must meet certain benchmarks of performance, including turning over most of their oil assets worth as much as $21 trillion to international oil companies.

The administration blows up Iraq, is responsible for the deaths of perhaps as many as a million Iraqi citizens; the administration triggers a civil war, takes $10 billion in Iraq oil proceeds, which disappear, and now tells the Iraqis they better start behaving or the U.S. won’t give them more support.

This isn’t politics; this is pathology. Instead of passing legislation to continue the war, we should instead deny funds for the war and begin documenting war crimes.

It is time this Congress took responsibility to bring the troops home, to end this war, to restore our Constitution and reconnect our country to the highest values of truth and justice.

Representative McDermott’s (Washington State) remarks:

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Washington (Mr. McDermott) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, the American people want U.S. soldiers out of Iraq. A majority of Iraq’s elected Parliament want U.S. soldiers out of Iraq. And I want soldiers out of Iraq, out of harm’s way and out of the middle of a civil war.

This is what the American people elected us to do in November, knowing the best way to support our troops is to protect our soldiers and get them out of Iraq.

Since January, 431 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq; 83 American soldiers died in January, 80 died in February, 81 died in March, 104 died in April, and 83 Americans have died in Iraq so far in May.

Since January, 2,496 U.S. soldiers have been wounded in Iraq. In fewer than 5 months, the U.S. casualties in Iraq is already exceeding the number of soldiers who died or were wounded in Iraq in 2003. But the President insists we’re winning. The reality is his stubbornness and intransigence has lost the war and the peace.

Outside my office, we honor the fallen heroes of the State of Washington by showing the photographs of 78 men and women killed in Iraq. Adding more pictures will not sustain their memory. We honor these fallen heroes only by protecting the living.

The way forward is not more casualties, as the President freely admits will occur.

The way forward in Iraq is not claiming phony ties to 9/11, fake intelligence, or outright fabrication, although these are the trademarks of this administration.

Demanding a timetable to get our soldiers out of Iraq, as I have done repeatedly, is the strongest support anyone in this Congress or country can do to support our soldiers.

I voted today to support U.S. soldiers by voting against a bill that approves an endless war and provides the President with a box of preapproved blank checks. A Nation does not support its soldiers by accepting more Americans killed and wounded in Iraq while carrying out the flawed mission of a failed presidency. The Congress does not support our soldiers by passing flawed legislation that supports a President who is totally out of touch with reality.

Spending more money in Iraq without a timetable to get out of Iraq only buys more casualties in a needless military disaster ordered by a President who can mislead, but not lead, America in war or peace.

The invasion of Iraq was and is all about oil. The one and only benchmark that matters to the President is for Iraq to pass an American-engineered oil law that delivers the oil wealth of Iraq into the hands of Western oil companies.

The President would not listen when a majority of Iraq’s parliament signed a petition last week demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. That’s because it doesn’t matter what they think; only what the President and his neocon friends want. And they want oil. They want it so much that the President will keep the U.S. soldiers in Iraq until he can strong arm the passage of a law that provides cover for Western oil companies to control Iraq’s vast oil wealth. That is the President’s definition of mission accomplished.

The American people elected us to stand up to a President who is out of touch and out of control. Over 3,000 U.S. casualties ago, we were handed the gavel to lead against the President who had taken his Republican majority in Congress to suspend the coequal branch of government.

The President issued orders, and the Republicans bowed their heads and complied. We must lead, not capitulate.

American soldiers will never be safe as long as the President can order a military escalation in one breath and, in the next, predict growing casualties. The Iraq people will never be free so long as the President has the freedom to occupy their Nation. The American people will never be served as long as the President can go it alone in Iraq and in the halls of Congress.

The American people gave us a mission, but on this day, we have failed in that mission.

Sunset of the Sunny Day Lunacy

Anyone who’s been watching the subject knows government secrecy, even in areas not related to national security, has been on a steady rise. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has been the best tool we have to get information out of the government, to find out such silly questions as… “why?” Or, “just who was involved in doing that?” Or, “how can you justify doing such a thing?”

When it was enacted, the FOIA went a long way toward forcing our government agencies to consider their actions carefully before doing anything, because they were much more likely to be held accountable. However, as we know, government agencies under the Bush Administration have been practically free from having to fulfill FOIA requests any more. They will just delay responding to the requests indefinitely, ignore them, slap an arbitrary “national security” stamp on it that cannot be verified, or just fulfill the request by giving a mostly blacked-out document.

Many agencies, most recently the national laboratory at Los Alamos, have decided that all of their documents are unavailable unless specifically noted as being available. This, instead of documents being available, unless specifically noted as being secret.

Also, FOIA requests can be burdensome on government agencies – they require personnel to work to fulfill the requests. Personnel do not like having to be bothered with these requests. I’d do the world’s tiniest violin thang, but all I have is letters here.

Recently, the entire Congress has become united in their desire to strengthen the FOIA in light of the recent unjustifiable secrecy that is just continuing to grow, unchecked. Both houses fairly well unanimously support Senate Bill 849 that forces agencies to respond more timely, hold them more accountable, and forces them to justify far more stringently withholding any information, amongst other things. You can’t really blame them because the Congress themselves often run up to Executive Branch Agencies that are stonewalling them as they try to gather the information they need.

The bill was scheduled to be voted on yesterday, but it wasn’t. I haven’t been able to find anything about this in the news. The reason it wasn’t voted on is because an anonymous Republican Senator put a secret hold on it so that it couldn’t reach the floor. Freedom of Information Act — secret, anonymous hold. Go figure.

At least we can read the Congressional Record that relates to the incident, though, for all the good it does. Ironically, they were calling it, internally, Sunshine in Government.

The Society of Professional Journalists has created a little mechanism to help, though. People can call their senators and ask if they put a hold on it. They will be tabulating the results of people’s calls. Apparently, this tactic has worked before to flush out this type of slimy person.

Also, a lot of talking is starting up about “Terrorist Precursor Crimes”. That is, within the United States, selling of drugs, non-profit organizations, etc, that help support terrorists. Now, the Patriot Act gets real fun… 😉

Sunny Day Lunacy

I’m so sick of hearing this: Democrats don’t have enough votes to override the President’s veto, so they have no choice but to fund the war. They don’t need any votes. All they have to do is stop any funding legislation from passing. There, it’s taken care of. No money for war, troops come home. If you’re all concerned about the troops, does it help them to give the military industrial complex more money, or to bring them home? They can stop the war, today, themselves. But they’re not. They have not been clear and forthcoming about that, and have, in fact, been using smoke and mirrors for some reason.

But they want to fund it for some reason, while saying they don’t want to. Could it have anything to do with the new legislation that gives control of 80% of Iraq’s oil to multinational energy companies? It’s not to help the Iraqi people, like they used to say. More of them are dead now than under Saddam.

And, it seems duplicitous to me that Congress can act all paranoid about us using private security companies like Blackwater, which itself has more force and machinery than many nations of the world, when these same Congresspeople have used our own military personnel as a force that is just handing over multiple trillions of dollars of Iraqi oil to multinational corporations.

Do the Democrats think that sucking off these multinationals will make those multinationals lend their resources and support to them, instead of to the Republicans? Sure, we can see how well this works by looking at Cheney’s Halliburton company, which is taking billions more and moving out of the United States to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Multinationals are not interested in the welfare of any nation, including the United States, unless their interest is drawn there by a potential problem that might impact their profits. All the Democrats are doing is making themselves, and the United States, more irrelevant, while making multinational corporations stronger.

How ironic that I used consider as paranoid the postmodernist obsession with the militarization and rule by corporations of all people. I like to think of myself as someone who has long sight, but in this, the years are proving me to be utterly foolish.

For those of you that do not know, Blackwater is a corporation that provides military services — highly trained soldiers with the latest equipment, for hire. They poured tons of money into the Republican stuff, including the Christian fundamentalists. There is an excellent book about them if you’d like to know more called “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” by Jeremy Scahill. One of my favorite things is they say that they work so closely with the US Military that they, too, need to have the military’s Sovereign Immunity protections against lawsuits, while at the same time saying that they are not the US Military, so they do not need to follow US Military Law, nor have their people subject to the Military Courts. Basically, I guess they don’t want to be bothered by law at all — after all, they have peacekeeping work to be done.

Also, Reggie B. Walton is the new guy just appointed to the FIS court, which approves searches and surveillance for terrorism. I think I remember a while back the Bush Administration saying that they guess they’ll start running things through FIS again, even though there was never a reason not to. Whether they have yet or not, I have no idea, and honestly with the million other pieces of crap floating around in the toilet lately, I just can’t be bothered to check into it.

Amnesty International just rated the United States as terrible, terrible. Secret prisons in foreign countries, torturing people, etc… and these all things that we have so severely criticized in other countries, and looked upon as unbelievable and barbaric. The US Courts saying that we can’t just hold people in prison, foreign or not, unless they’re charged with something… then our Congress passing legislation saying that the US Courts can’t say that (the MCA (Military Commisions Act)). What??

Ah yes, those are terrorists or enemy combatants. Then, in Oregon just recently, federal prosecutors are trying to get American citizens labeled as terrorists for participating in protests – acts of civil disobedience where nobody was even harmed… Be quiet. Stay in your homes. And I’ll just get catalogued away in some database for writing this.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of somebody looking out for me. It’s nice knowing there is someone who has your back, and will protect you. But these are liars, manipulators, torturers, and people willing send us into other countries to take all that country’s natural resources, killing anyone in the way. I don’t exactly feel safe with them watching my back. In fact, I think I’d rather just walk backwards and take my chances with some cliff I might wander off.

Not to even go into the whole 9/11 stuff again, nor the diversions away from Afghanistan… but we just let an actual known terrorist go free. Luis Posada bombed lots of things in Havana, downed a large passenger jet, got arrested in South America the fled to work for Ollie North in the other Bush’s and Reagan’s Iran Contra arms “scandal”, entered the US illegally, lived in a really nice place in Miami, and until he bragged to a local paper that the Department of Homeland Security was leaving him alone, was never even approached by them. Formal extradition requests by foreign governments were filed against him so he could come stand trial for his crimes of terrorism, and the US Department of Justice (which is just so great) has ignored those requests, breaking US Law by doing so, which it is charged with upholding. Even his illegal entry charges got dropped.

Is is just me, or are things no longer functioning?

Oh, here’s something neat. You can browse the shiny 2007 fashion catalog of US Air Force weaponry — well, the declassified stuff. Sexy. You’ll for sure get off before you run out of the 300-some pages.

You might want to check out the Congress’ 2008 Defense Authorizations Appropriations report, too. You’ll see it’s about $650 billion. It even mentions how hard it will be to maintain that level of spending with all the baby boomers retiring and needing their “entitlements”. Imagine how amazing the 2009 military weapons catalogue would be if we could offload those pesky US Citizen entitlements that just keep sucking like leeches! Oo! We could privatize that!

You know, when new Guantanamo torture videos were aired on Australian TV, the nice CNN newslady says, this is a terrible scandal, no videos were ever supposed to be taken there — only official pictures of the prisoners for identification purposes. Yeah, that’s the scandal, showing the pictures – not the torture. The Pentagon says the pictures hurt national security and help nobody, just inflaming Arabs. Yeah, those damn pictures.

I mean, really, there’s something wrong here, yeah? Maybe just some nice technical reading instead. How about the U.S. Army Field Manual on “Identification of Deceased Personnel“? There’s skeletons, and you can learn how to fingerprint water-bloated bodies, and even get fingerprints from stubborn bodies that have their hands in clenched fists with rigor mortis. Sometimes you have to chop off their fingers, though. And Mike, yeah, you Mike this time, not that other Mike, all kinds of stuff about dental records. Even tells you how to gather up the body pieces.

I’m so happy we have a Christian President, put there by so many loving, Christian people. Interested only in the welfare of others. Oh, wait. Welfare. Hmm. Never mind. I mean, interested in the good, happy souls of others.

Oh, and Gonzales? Well, you know, Latinos have it rough. Give the guy a break. He’s got kids to worry about. You know how it is. Can’t blame him for bending US Justice a little, can you?

Suni, Falluja, whalluja, whateva… I’m so sick of hearing about it all. If I’ve got any money left over after helping Exxon reach yet another year of record profits, I’m just going to head over to Starbuck’s buy a creamy hot caramel chocolate whatever and browse some Ebay. Either that, or shoot myself.

Damn health insurance companies. They’d prolly bring me back for more.

Positivity

The bees are gone. Vanished. I read a national story about this some time ago and thought ourselves unaffected here, as we are by so many things. I hate bees. But I like cherries. We have several cherry trees, wild cherries, sour pie cherries, some amazing tasting Princess Anne cherries (or some similar name I’m confused with). All the cherry blossoms bloomed as they always do, but this year, for the first time ever, there are practically no cherries on any of the trees. The bees are gone.

With all the clearing of trees and housing developments spreading across the land, you can now safely say we live in suburbia. My sister and bro-in-law stayed out here the night before they left on vacation. The next morning, my sister complained she was kept up all night by helicopters. There are often helicopters out at night here, flying back and forth, and hovering around. They never have search lights. Sometimes off in the distance, to the east and north, you can see large groups of lights in the sky in uneven lines, hovering and moving slowly about. I remember a few years ago when helicopters were spraying the entire region with some chemicals from the air to protect trees. This, they did in daylight.

We have lots of underground streams here, being on ancient glacier land. My father and our neighbor dug a well when they first built their homes here, tapping into one. I remember as a child going to friend’s houses in distant housing developments, having a drink of water, and being completely disgusted with the muted, strange taste of their “city water”. I really couldn’t stand it – our water tasted like clear, fresh water. About 10 years ago we were notified by the county that we were no longer allowed to drink from our well, and needed to pay them to have pipes run underground to our house. The well water tested completely clean, and still does. But it’s for our health. Of course, my parents paid the money, and we have city water. The well is still in operation, but we only use it for watering the lawn. Our neighbor’s family still uses it for drinking. There is a benefit to having city water: when the power goes out, as it does frequently here during wind storms, we still have water. City water doesn’t depend on us having electricity, whereas the well required electricity to pump the water up to us. When the power goes out now, for days on end, we run garden hoses over to our neighbor’s house to give them water, and they run electrical cables over to us that are hooked into their generator. Since I moved back here, we no longer require their generator during power outages – I needed steadier, more abundant power for the computer systems.

If we want to “improve” our property in any way, or build anything new, before we will be issued a government permit, we have to pay for sidewalks to be built for the entire length of our property line that is next to the road. We do not get to choose who builds them, nor go through any bidding process. I like sidewalks, especially since people out here are often drunk and in big vehicles. I used to walk everywhere I needed to go in the city. Out here, if you walk, people eye you suspiciously. You can run, though.

There are far more fat people out here than in the city. Even the people who run. In the city, there is shame being seen eating a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Out here, you can sit right down next to them, fart, and be right at home.

People out here are more polite than in the city, mostly through silence. Out here you can easily get your face pounded for creating any ripples. In the city, there are just too many ripples, anyway, to be bothered. Except when they build up too much, in strange ways. In that event, the mind can just topple for a while, or some random act of violence will nicely suffice to right things.

Here, or there, I wear sweats and t-shirts mostly. And in either place I just hate when tying my sweats that I get my lower stomach hair caught in the tie and it pulls sharply. In both places I cut my own hair. But eating healthy here is far more difficult than in the city, where all kinds of specialty food stores are in easy walking distance. I have to plan strategically now, how I will obtain my spices.

In the city, when you stop to get gas, you’re within inches of hitting people and other cars with your car door, or trying to squeeze through and around the 4 or 5 cars that completely fill the gas pumping outlet. Go inside to buy something only if you want to risk having the person waiting behind you lash out in frustration at their wait for your spot at the pump. Out here, float on in any time, lay out a blanket on the oil-stained cement, and have a picnic if you like. Hell, you’ll probably make a new friend or two, and only regret it later when they release their years of pent-up crazy on you, their special commodity that finally really listens to what they have to say.

Do enjoy the air here, though, mostly devoid at least of the smell of machine fuels. Smell the grass, the trees, the bushes and flowers. Enjoy the silence at night, except for the occasional distant, barking dog, the flow of the creek, or the helicopters at night.

I noticed across the tall wooden fence that runs along the driveway leading to our house, separating our property from the adjoining housing development, one of the large houses there contained a family of black people. We had one black person in my high school, and he was a bit of a celebrity to everyone. A nearby house had a Japanese woman married to a white man, who met as a result of the military and married. They had two kids, and the girl was only slightly older than me. They lived in our basement while they were building their house. Linda, a girl slightly older than me, was very selfish and mean, but I didn’t have much choice of playmates with so few people around. It was funny when she rode the big red wagon down the hill, and didn’t turn before reaching the bank, and plunged into the thick green brambles and nettles that eventually led down to the creek. Her mom made strange tasting food. Big snowballs of chilled rice, slightly sweetened, sprinkled with some kind of seeds, to snack on throughout the day. Learning to eat with slippery, pointy chopsticks at such a young age. Chilled, soft, glistening marinated spinaches. Odd, white-faced dolls staring blankly, dressed in beautiful flowing colors. Some larger ones, locked in glass cases.

We always had to take off our shoes at Linda’s house. Everything was always so clean and well-ordered. The father always thought he was sick. I remember the first time the mother washed my feet, calling me in while she was naked in the bathtub, then sent me running along, barefoot as always in their home. The older brother had an elaborate electrical train set and town that captivated me, but I was always too young to play with it. The older brother, like Linda, was half Japanese, and had a bad temper. I remember him yelling at his mother often, calling her a “dirty Jap”. The father hated when a car would drive by on the dirt driveway, stirring up dust for him to breathe. He would rant. Eventually he starting having an oil truck come by periodically, just dumping oil onto the road, covering the road completely in front of his house. I remember how sticky it was on bare feet, and how it smelled, mixed with dirt. I don’t know when he finally stopped doing that. Nobody ever broke into our house, but he was often robbed. The doors became huge barriers, but nothing seemed to help. I remember hearing something about him turning to guns. He liked to feed crows slabs of meat, hung from perches of thick pipes. Crows will follow him down the road when he leaves, in a swarm behind him. The mother still sends me little Japanese treats to this day. I need to go visit her — she and my mom visited often. I was friends with a Japanese exchange student in high school, and the neighbor lady wrote some letters, and translated some letters to me, after the exchange student had returned to Japan. I showed one of the letters she wrote for me to the Japanese PE instructor to see what he thought. He was charmed, saying she wrote in a very old, traditional way. I suppose that explained why she would get embarrassed translating the letters from Masashi to myself — she said that men write very differently to each other than they do to women. It makes me wonder what Masashi might have been thinking as he read the translated ones from me.

Yesterday I went into Seattle to visit the Chiropractor, explaining the soreness I felt. He asked what I’d been doing to cause that. I told him, grave digging. He laughed, as did this slender, waving serpent of a woman in the room with us. Why were you digging graves he asked? The neighborhood children, I said. They mock me. They needed to learn. The both found this very funny. She asked me how many I dug, and I just told her they were shallow. Then he said, they were shallow graves. I told them about Spencer dying. He then made me feel so much better by twisting and snapping my body all around. I love him after times like that, despite anything.

I overheard the asian-looking naturopathic doctor going on about how much she hated the word “chink”. I asked her if people still actually used that word. She said yes. I asked her if she was Chinese. She said no. I asked her what her heritage was. She said she was an American, born here, as were her parents. I said, mine too, but I’m mostly Norwegian. She glared at me, irritated for a moment, then said, mostly Korean. I said, ah. Then I said, I know what you mean, it irritates me when people say this or that thing is “gay” when it’s bad or stupid. She said, she uses that all the time. I told her I’m going to start using “chink” then, purposefully, all the time. Chink. She put her hands on her hips and told me that her mother’s middle name was “Gay” so it’s no big deal. At this point the Chiropractor had come to the front desk. I pointed at him and said, yeah, and he’s a Jew. Then I saw this asian-looking guy back by the photocopier, and asked who he was – I hadn’t seen him there before. He said he’s a new chiropractor there. The naturopathic doctor told me, this asian-looking guy was her brother. I told her that I pitied her parents, having two health-obsessed people in the family. He then clarified that he wasn’t actually her brother and was completely unrelated. I thought, oh yeah, it’s the “you all look alike” thing she’s getting at, and imposed upon myself the rare condition of censorship. The new guy and I talked for a long time after that, about surprisingly unrelated and interesting subjects.

On the drive home, still in the city, heading toward the freeway, during the ebb of rush hour, I almost hit two pigeons that had tumbled out into the middle of the road during the frenzy of their copulation. Up the hill was a towering yellow-painted metal construction high above everything else, that was building more things below it. I thought, how much poetry happens that never gets written down. My cell phone was loudly simulating an actual bell phone ringing, with soothing, dreamy ambient tones mixed in behind it. This was a day for trance-like driving, though, uninterrupted, passing by everything with wind blowing, unmoving in a focus of zero, letting all the things underneath simmer and brew into acceptance once again, thought I wasn’t sure what I was accepting.

There were no blockages in the machine arteries on the way home. The tall, skinny, middle-aged clerk, with an orange-ish tan, cursed at and hit the keypad in front of him as I bought some milk and cottage cheese. He then thanked me and told me to have a nice day. I told him I’ll be thinking of him. I didn’t stay to watch his reaction. I didn’t tell him I’d be writing. I didn’t know.

The dogs came running, surrounding the car as I drove in, yelping and crying, wanting treats, or just some attention. We walked as a sniffing, exploring gang out the long driveway to the mailbox. Kids on bikes with thick baseball-looking shirts down to their knees hurried out of the way, for some reason, from our approach. I learned from the mailbox that the last large section of trees left to the immediate south are now gone, but that now I can get free tanning for a while. A man from over the fence at the housing development yelled over to me, nice dogs! I walked over to the fence and told him they were selfish and needy, yet sweet. He laughed. I smelled panic and tightness behind his skull. He told me that it’s a beautiful day. I told him that I love the smell of rain. He laughed again, then waited for me to say something. I said, I used to play every day where your house is, in the thick trees that went on in what seemed like forever in all directions. I love so much how bark feels, and that incredible green, wet softness of moss. Pulling on huge, bending branches, and getting thwacked in the face by some rogue tree. His contained, little yard was littered with plastic children’s toys, now abandoned. Maybe that’s why he was out here.

Oh, you’ve lived here a long time then? he asked. I looked at the gold plated bracelet he was wearing, and the pastel polo shirt, then back to the tightness of his face. I’ve come back recently, I said. Looks like you guys have some good property there, he said. Suddenly, I didn’t know if I wanted to kick his ass til he was in a bloody heap, or make love to him to make everything alright. Probably both. So I told him that I’d better be going. And as I walked back toward the house, my mind wandered to what was behind me. I could feel, nearby, out toward the thickening paved streets, the large evergreen towering like a sentinel, at the edge of the field of wildflowers, now isolated in its species, yet planted the year I was born. So thick and firmly rooted it was now. I wondered, of all the hundreds of years it might live and grow, just how many will remain to it before the pavement expands to accommodate more fat, pecking families in their misery and path to self-destruction for us all, and this evergreen sentinel is forced to fall?

Even the blackberries that were once there, impossible to kill, are gone. But for now, it stands, healthy and growing. Each trip to the mailbox, the dogs mark it with their pee. Kids walking on the road often stop to lean up against it for a while and talk. It continues to lead people to our house when they have not been here before. Sometimes I wonder if it might even have some awareness of the quick jitterings of things transpiring beneath it, in its long, slow and sweeping movement through time. I’ve seen how deeply the roots of evergreens can reach, and how wide. To think, one day very soon, it, too, will simply be in the way, of something.

Little Dog Gone

SpencerWell, I was planning on writing a follow-up to Seeing Through Solid Earth that was going to deal with the more real, practical, day-to-day things we experience despite the more abstract and significant realities, but have become sidetracked. You might remember that Spencer, our little Golden Retriever, recently developed epilepsy, shortly after his first birthday. It was never very bad at all, and we were hoping to get by without even having to medicate him since the seizures happened so infrequently. But yesterday Spencer died.

The poor thing went into a seizure, and then another, and another, and continuously. The vet could do nothing to stop them, and we had him put to sleep. It seems that many pure-bred dogs have problems with canine epilepsy, and it can be managed in about 2/3 cases. My sister sent some good information on it yesterday, in the event that any of you have the misfortune of running into something similar. Spencer had a wonderful life for the brief time he was here, at least, and we miss him very much.

Spencer and DadShortly after mom’s death, my sister Kim and brother-in-law Jon gave my dad a Golden Retriever puppy. Kim had named him Spencer already, but said we should come up with our own name. Well, tricky sister, Spencer seemed to fit him perfectly.

He definitely kept dad occupied with his constant pooping, peeing and obsession with chewing on everything he could. This worked out well since our father was so accustomed to caring for our mom at all hours of the day and night, and this purpose for him had suddenly ended.

Spencer became spoiled in the extreme, even sleeping on the bed with my father. He always had a dollop of cottage cheese on his puppy food, and broccoli to munch on throughout the day. Apparently broccoli is a very good thing for puppies to munch on.

Spencer on his leashWe have a good deal of space around our house, despite the ever-encroaching housing developments. We always had dogs while Kim and I were growing up. During these earlier years there was no need to fence them in, nor have them on a leash. Letting them run free was just fine since the nearest houses were quite far away and traffic on the main road was sparse.

Now, this same road has nearly constant traffic and a large housing development has taken the place of the Evergreen forest I used to play in, pushing hard up against our property line. Similarly, across the creek behind our house, yet another housing development has sprung up. We have one house that is very close to us, and has been since my father and his friend from work, Bill, built their houses together so many years ago. My dad had found this property and sold him a chunk for practically nothing so that he could live here too. Bill died when I had gone off to college, but now one of his sons lives in this same house with his family. People from across the stream have actually come all the way over to his house, complaining about his dogs barking at night. It seems so incredible.

Little Spencer Pawing the BallSo, with all these extra people and their cars milling about, we had little choice but to keep Spencer on a leash while outside, and make him primarily an indoor pet. Both my dad and I were bothered by this, so during the first summer dad took on a project of building a fence around the side yard. This gave Spencer plenty of room to go running freely, even through a large section of bushes, and freed him from his leash while outside. He never liked going outside alone, though, always staring at us and waiting until we came along too.

Spencer all wet and muddyI spend a good deal of time working away at the computers here, in an isolated area of the house. The basement is pretty much a second home, with all the amenities. So Spencer and my father were constant companions, especially considering Spencer’s attachment. He would follow my dad around everywhere. When my father would leave for some reason, Spencer would not even eat his food until dad returned home, then would punish him for leaving by excitedly chewing on his sleeves.

Spencer all orneryThat was how Spencer most often showed his affection, this friendly, easy, chewing on sleeves, with little growls and a wildly wagging tail. But he was ornery, too. He was a digger, and there are holes all over in the side yard now. At one point, he chewed completely loose a large cabinet panel on which the stove in the kitchen sat. I would get mad at my dad for this, telling him that he must train and discipline Spencer. But he never could. I worked with Spencer whenever I could on training, and he eventually learned to listen and obey on some necessary things, like “stay” and “no”. On the other hand, he was very good and intelligent when it came to listening to the other side of things, like “good boy” and “want to go to the store?”

Spencer diggingBut, despite his obstinance, Spencer was incredibly affectionate. He could never be close enough to you, always pushing tightly up against you, and sitting on your feet. If you got down on your hands and knees, he would stick his head and shoulders underneath you, raising his head up to yours and licking your face like crazy. He also could be calm, too, just laying around happily as you did, or as you were doing something, and almost always watching you. Whenever he needed to get your attention, he would tickle your feet.

Jon has a Golden Retriever himself named Tanner, who was with him even before he met Kim. We ended up babysitting Tanner fairly often while Jon and/or Kim were away. So I suppose it made sense to get us a Golden Retriever — and it worked out nicely, because Tanner ended up being like an older brother to Spencer. Tanner didn’t like sharing the attention at all, though, but eventually tolerated Spencer’s idolizing.

Spencer and Tanner at the doorTanner had a very different personality from Spencer, though. He is most certainly a retriever and is downright obsessed with playing fetch. He’ll hound you until you finally give in to go play with him, and he’ll run back and forth and back and forth, endlessly, even when he’s starting to foam at the mouth from exhaustion. Spencer, on the other hand, was more the artist. He liked pruning trees and bushes, doing landscaping, and was into yoga. I have never seen a dog as flexible as Spencer, constantly stretching, laying with his hind legs stretched out behind him, and loving so much when you gently helped him to stretch. Laying on his side, you could just lift his front paws up to his head, and he would arch his back in luxuriation, licking your hands gently, then when you release, he would roll over on his back, stretching more, and, making little grunting noises, then just rest on his back with his legs dangling and relaxed in the air, and fall asleep.

Spencer and Tanner relaxingHe may have been a Retriever, but he was not a retriever. If you through a ball, he would happily fetch it twice, and sometimes a third time, but then he would hide the ball from you so that you couldn’t make him go do this silliness any more. It’s a shame, really — I love playing fetch with Tanner. But I soon just accepted this as who Spencer was.

It was wonderful seeing Spencer experience his first, and his last, snowfall. He didn’t know what to make of it. The coldness on his paws made him springy, and he liked sticking his nose in the cold, powdery snow, then snorting it out. He loved eating snowballs, too. I found early on that he loved ice cubes. The first time he experienced one he treated it like an adversary after he put it into his mouth. He shook it out suddenly and stared at it, then pawed at it quickly as if it were biting him, sending it flinging across the floor. He soon started loving them, just to chew on.

Spencer in the SnowA strange dog, too, Spencer was. He had unusual, inexplicable fears. For example, he would put down his ears and cower from an olive oil bottle. Also, grocery sacks would make him run. If you held a paper or plastic sack out toward him, he would run around a corner, then poke his head back around staring at you. Several times I tried to get him comfortable with them, but I would just end up chasing him around the house with an empty bag in my hand. I suppose I could have restrained him with his leash and forced him to confront his fear, but it just never seemed important enough. Just another strange aspect of him. He did not like the vacuum cleaner at all.

He loved playing chase, too, whether you were chasing him, or he was chasing you. It was a little comical in the house since we have slick, hardwood floors and slick kitchen tile. He finger nails would send his legs skittering around corners really fast, but he loved it. One of the advantages of having flesh feet in this situation, I suppose: I could always catch him or get away from him on the corners.

Spencer relaxingI think dad will miss him most, though. He went to bed when dad did, and woke when dad did. Dad used to drive him to Dairy Queen even to get him an ice cream cone from time to time. He got a lot of people food, too, even though it was probably not good for him. Dad really did love that dog.

I know Jon felt a little guilty for having given him a dog that died after a year and a half, especially considering my mom’s death. Dad told him, though, that he was so happy having Spencer even for the short time he was around. Dad’s an old Kansas farm boy, accustomed to the realities of nature. I know it’s true — dad wouldn’t have traded Spencer for anything. And neither would I.

Spencer after seizeureWhen Spencer had his first seizure, dad had taken him along with him to the store. He came running in to me from outside, yelling that Spencer was dying. But it was just a seizure. The vet said to track the seizure times. He had another a few weeks later, and then had a couple more, a little over a month apart. We discussed medicating him for seizures, but didn’t want to damage his liver, either. It has been a good amount of time since the last, but early this month he had one. Then he had another one, not a week later. We should probably have started medicating him at that time. But we hoped — and I had told myself that one more soon, and we will.

Then, the day before yesterday, in the evening, he had one, and a few hours later, another. The next day he had a couple more, and we took him to the vet who gave him an anti-seizure shot. We brought him home, and he was walking around as if he was blind, just running into things. Not even an hour later, he had another seizure. He managed to stand up again, and wandered around, knocking into things, with his eyes wide. A few minutes later he had another. He ended up standing again, moving just a little, coming toward the stair in the garage, which he just bumped into. There was no response when you spoke to him or petted him. He had another. Then he was just standing motionless in one of my dad’s tool chests. Dad tried to move him out of it, and he backed up looking terrified, cowering in the corner. He smelled terrible, there was foam all over himself, an urine everywhere. After this, it was just one seizure after another, with no break in between them. The vet could do nothing, and we had him put to sleep.

ToolshedHe came home yesterday in a big blue bag, with a little white paw on it, all zipped up. It was a nice bag, and biodegradable. My dad wanted to bury him next to where my mom’s ashes are, under the Japanese maple tree that her mom had given her. I wouldn’t let him though. I told him that mom didn’t even know Spencer. He said that she liked dogs. I said, I know she did, but she also knew that dogs had their own place separate from her. He agreed finally, and we dug up a nice deep grave for Spencer out near dad’s toolshed. I still don’t know if I did right on insisting on this, but it seemed better to me that having this area of concentrated loss in one place. Spencer was something that happened in his own life, separated from mom.

After all that hard work digging, I thought it was a good idea to mop the house and scrub out the garage where Spencer had spent his last bit of time. I could smell him everywhere, and this was like a tangible presence that needed to be put aside. Dad says his sense of smell doesn’t even really exist any more with all the chemicals he’d worked with over the years at Boeing. But he lies, too, and I wanted the smell to be gone, and have the house “reset”. I forgot about the stairs going downstairs, though. I smell Spencer whenever I go up or down them. They’ll be gone over today.

Dad had been planning a trip back to Kansas, California and Texas for a few weeks to visit relatives. He thought he might put it off for a while, but I told him he should go. Now that I think about it, I think he was going to put it off more for me, than for himself. So, this morning around 4am he left, driving the minivan. Tonight, Kim and Jon will be out here with Bennett and Tanner. Tanner will be staying here for me to babysit as they head off on vacation for a few weeks, too. It will be a little strange, having just Tanner here, but I’m very happy he will be.

Spencer and Dakota playing as usualOur neighbors I mentioned earlier have two dogs, Angel and Dakota. Angel is an elderly golden-lab-ish dog who is really more eating machine than dog. Dakota was Spencer’s playmate, over every day, several times a day, to play and wrestle around. Tanner doesn’t really like playing with him that much. So, the dog dynamics have fundamentally shifted.

I wanted to go get another dog, to be here for my dad, when he gets back. Jon has asked me to hold off, though. I think he has plans.

Ah, but little Spencer. Only a year and half. I sure do miss him.

It’s strange as I go through photos of Spencer, choosing the ones I might want to put here, placing them in a folder, then editing them down to size. After I edit one, and include it, I delete the image from his folder, leaving less of a jumble to choose from. now, there are just a very few left. And I think of my mom, and how Rick made this DVD that is a compilation of videos and images he took, or has gathered of my mom, all in once place. As I piece together these images and thoughts of Spencer, it surprises me a little how I can do it, with a tear now and again as one thing or another surfaces. But it reminds me now, too, of how I have yet to watch that DVD Rick left a couple years ago of my mom. It reminds me of how I avoid even thinking that it’s there, even though I keep it. It reminds me of how I have yet to make any fudge, that I used to so often, that was the little secret conspiracy that my mom and I shared.

Spencer Yum Yum

Spencer in the Grass - Last photo ever taken