Tag Archives: Cocker Spaniel

Oh My Darling Clementine

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This has been a long time in coming and I keep putting it off and I continue to tell myself that it’s because I’m busy but I think the truth is that it’s my last words to her and they don’t feel perfect yet.  I keep changing things and deleting things and adding stories and I feel like I’m not saying enough about her.  Now, weeks later, the truth is I don’t think these words will ever be perfect.

Final words rarely are.

Clementine is a cocker spaniel that my wife and I have had the very great pleasure of being friends with over the last seven years.  She traveled the country with us, made us laugh and watched us grow.  In many regards, we owe Clementine a great deal because she was very much like a first child to us.  We received her as a puppy, potty trained her and had to temper our schedules to meet hers.

She was our dog but she was also a member of our family in a very important way.  My children loved her, my wife loved her, our friends loved her and I loved her.  Looking back through my photos and memories, I see that Clementine is in many of them and she isn’t tucked away in a corner as an afterthought; she’s sitting on my lap, resting at my feet, standing by my side, a very prominent part of our lives.

Oh My Darling Clementine, you are lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry, Clementine…

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***   ***   ***   ***   ***

I never wanted to get a cocker spaniel.  They always struck me as dopey looking, mangy animals.  So, when my wife presented me with the idea of acquiring a second dog some 7 years ago, I adamantly fought against the idea tooth and nail.  wanted a dauschund or a Saint Bernard.  I couldn’t tell which way my interests were leaning but I definitely wanted something with personality; something who’s actual physical attributes just popped out at you.  I wanted a furry eclectic curio on four legs.

My wife persisted.  She pulled up photo after photo of dopey looking, mangy cockers and said, “Look at this one!  It’s beautiful!  It’s like Lady from Lady and the Tramp!” and I’d say, “I’ve never seen Lady and the Tramp,” and she’d say, “What kind of sad and despicable childhood were you raised in?”

But she didn’t give up and I quickly became schooled in the history of the spaniel simply by proxy until finally, like the battered husband that I am, I caved and threw my hands up into the air and melodramatically moaned, “FINE!  FINE!  Let’s get the cocker spaniel!”

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ABOVE: The lesson I learned was to make sure the doors were all shut before letting Clementine out of the bathtub.

 

One month later Jade and I found ourselves standing in the LAX parking lot with a small crate at our feet.  Our visitor had arrived.  The breeder told us that Sweet Pea (her name for our puppy) was the runt of the litter and just wanted to be held.  “She just wants to crawl into your lap and be cuddled and snuggled,” the breeder would say via her weekly email to us.  “I named her Sweet Pea because that’s what she is – just a darling little Sweet Pea – the most adorable personality.  You’ll love her.”

We’d seen photos of her online but nothing compared to the moment when we opened her kennel door and little Sweet Pea hesitantly stepped out, afraid of the world.  I sat down on a curb stop and watched as this little fuzzy dot crawled out into the California sun after flying straight through, all alone, from Florida.

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ABOVE: The very first time we met little Clementine.  Her very first picture with us.

She hesitantly peeked out, a big white ball of fuzz with brown splotches, looked around with the world’s saddest eyes, slowly walked over to me in the teeniest, tiniest little steps, hopped into my lap and laid down.  She was the most adorable puppy I’d ever seen in my life and I just wanted to pet her and squeeze her and hold her and keep her.  From that moment on I couldn’t imagine having gotten any other dog besides a cocker spaniel.  We told her that her name was Clementine and from that moment on, she owned our hearts.

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ABOVE: Our little vampire would nibble on your toes with those sharp fangs.

Clementine was born with the absolute friendliest demeanor you’ve ever seen in an animal and even in her later years she had the attitude and spirit of a puppy.  She simply exuded joy.

She was a terrible guard dog and would bark at her own farts.  She was as dumb as a box of rocks and would lose in a fight every time but she the one thing she was good at, she was great at.  She was the type of dog that loyalty speaks of in its truest sense.

She really was so very, very stupid but so very, very respectable.  In my opinion, personality will win out over intelligence every time (and that rule applies to both animals as well as humans).

She was a very simple animal to love.

In fact, some of my fondest memories of her are simply driving in the car, she resting on my lap while America’s countryside passed by.  She and I saw quite a few states just like that.

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SOUTH DAKOTA

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MONTANA

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UTAH

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COLORADO

I always loved taking a break and escaping to the dog park with her for a bit.  I’d let her off the leash and she’d wander away and get lost and not be able to find her way back to me.  Meanwhile, I’d just sit on a picnic table and watch her sniff around, unable to pick up a scent and now, writing this, I see how horrible that would actually become.  Eventually, she’d simply give up and stand by some new owner.  She would simply insert herself into a new family.  That said…. perhaps loyalty to ME was not her best attribute so much as loyalty to the human race… or mankind… or The Cause… or Joy.  She was just very stupid and lovable.

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ABOVE: The park in Denver where I proposed to Jade.  We revisited it with the dogs on a vacation passing through CO.

One of my final memories of her was taking her for a stroll with my children and teaching them how to walk her; me trying to teach them to gently nudge without yanking her around.  I’d hand Rory the leash and he’d walk her and then I’d hand Quinn the leash and she’d walk her.  All by themselves.  As we neared our home I told Rory to go run with Clementine.  “RUN!” I shouted as I watched the two of them scramble down the sidewalk side by side before disappearing into our driveway.

A moment later Rory jumped out from behind the fence followed directly by Clementine and I always imagined that they would somehow be really great friends for many, many years – a boy and his dog.  The idea always seemed very romantic to me.

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ABOVE: Baby Rory and Clementine.

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ABOVE: Baby Quinn and Clementine.

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ABOVE: Little Lady Quinn and Clementine at a family campground.

*** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Last Wednesday night my family went out to a little place called Jerry’s Pizza for dinner.  We just wanted to get out of the house and so we loaded everyone up and took off.  Before I left, last one out the door, as per usual, I checked to make sure the back doors were locked, Clem had water, the stove was off, and then I reached down and rubbed her nose and said, “See you in a bit, Clemmie.  Be good.  Good girl.”

And then I walked out the door.

And then we ate pizza.

And then we came home and kicked open the doors.

And then I sat down to do some work.

And then around 10pm as I was feeding Clementine, I realized I hadn’t seen her for some time.

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We have a completely fenced in yard and so it is not unnatural for us to kick the doors open and let Clementine take rein of the property.  That said, over the course of the last few years that we’ve lived in this house, she’s gotten out a handful of times BUT each time, by the Grace of God, she has made her way back home, typically by Jade or I finding her or by the hand of a gentle stranger.  Again, Clementine will go to strangers.  She will get in their cars.  They don’t even need candy.  They just need to ask.  She will adopt herself into their lives.  Thankfully she wears a collar with our contact info and most people are kind enough to heed it.

SIDE BAR:  IF YOU ARE A DOG OWNER, GET A COLLAR WITH YOUR CONTACT INFO ON IT.  When I see a dog walking around without a collar or without plates, I think of all the times my dog has gotten away and I just shudder.  GO.  NOW.  TONIGHT.

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I called her name a few times and hit all of the standard hiding places; under the bed, under the couch, under the desk.  Sometimes she just hides.  This is not abnormal.  Sometimes you think she’s gotten out but really she’s just lying under the couch and doesn’t feel like coming out.

I find nothing.

I walk outside and all the gates are closed and locked.  I call her name.  Nothing.  I walk into the street.  Nothing.  I walk down the block, calling for her.  Nothing.

She’s gotten out before.  I know that panicking doesn’t help.  I force the rising knot in my stomach to untwist.  I try to run through the emotion and get straight to the logic.

I walk around our block, one of those huge city blocks that is the size of three normal blocks.  I walk into the next neighborhood.  I get in my car and drive around.  I come home and Jade leaves to try her luck – keep in mind that the children are asleep so we can’t fully abandon the house.  In this state of, “I want to go find my dog,” one of us is always forced to plant our feet at the house and it makes us both incredibly anxious.

So I pace.

Twenty minutes.  Thirty minutes.  Forty-five minutes.  Ninety minutes.  Nothing is turning up and it’s getting late.  This has never happened before.  She’s never not come home.  We’ve never had to go to bed without her in the house.  She’s never done this and I feel so helpless.  I suddenly realize how big the world is.  I can suddenly see how massive everything is.  My dog is missing and she could be anywhere.  Any backyard.  On any street.  In any neighborhood.  With each passing moment she could be getting further and further away and I don’t even know it.  Blocks are turning into miles.  She’s leaving Van Nuys… into Panorama City… crossing a busy street.  Traffic is flying by.  Horns are honking.  She’s scared.

Or she could be coming closer!  And so I call her name again but there is no response and, ultimately, Jade and I go inside.  And we go to sleep.  Because, frankly, we don’t know what else to do and now, today, I regret that decision.  I regret it horribly and painfully.  I hate that I stopped looking.  Knowing what I know now I wish that I had just kept going and kept going and shouted longer and louder and looked harder and driven further.

But we didn’t.

And that night I have a dream that Clementine is returned to us and I’m hugging her and smiling and laughing and when I wake up in my bed I’m so happy that everything is over and that Clem is back, our little Sweet Pea is back, and then I remember that she isn’t here and we haven’t found her and that it was a just dream and I’m heartbroken again.

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ABOVE: Road trip to Montana.  Clementine was very wonderful to snuggle when she was clean.

Jade goes to Staples and makes fliers.  White ones.  Hangs them up on telephone lines.  She makes a huge poster and hangs it on the front of our house so anyone walking by can see that she’s missing.  She calls shelters and animal hospitals but no one has seen a cocker.

This, of course, is GREAT NEWS because we know she isn’t hurt or dead.  There has been no confirmation.

But, worse than that… we have nothing.  We have no idea.

Jade says, “I just spoke to Tiffany and she says that some people find nice dogs and kidnap them and try to sell them,” and I say, “BASTARDS!” and Jade begins to scan Craigslist for people selling cockers.  She finds one and, when she asks to see a photo of the dog, the man deletes the posting and I think Clementine has slipped away from us for good.  I become positive that the man has my dog and that she’s in his house.  I wonder if she’s in a cage or on his couch.  Is he treating her nice.  Does this guy live on my block?  In my neighborhood?  Could Clementine be so close?  OH, IF I FIND THAT GUY I’M GOING TO BREAK HIS WINDOWS!

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Jade reads on a lost dog forum that in order to achieve higher visibility, fliers should be bright pink or orange because they attract the eye.  People tend to look past white ones.  So Jade goes back to Staples and prints off another hundred fliers and she covers our neighborhood with them.  She puts them under windshield wipers and on light posts and she hands them to people and she talks to strangers and, meanwhile, I’ve got an edit that’s due the next day and am working and I hate it.

Rory and Quinn, my three year old twins, stand in the front yard and, whenever anyone walks by they say, “Have you seen my dog?” and the people smile and shake their heads and walk away.  Someone else walks by and they say, “Excuse me?  Have you seen my dog?” and they smile and shake their head and walk away.  Rory shouts, “She’s white and red!  She’s lost!  You go find her!” and then the person is gone and I wonder if my son feels as helpless as I do, trapped in a yard.

I get angry at Clementine and I say, “Stupid dog!  What are you leaving the yard for!  Where were you going?  Where are you?”  and then somebody tells us about Pitbull bait and how dogs that are in dog fights need to train and so lost and found dogs are sometimes used as bait and I shut my eyes and try to wash the image of Clementine being torn to pieces by a dog and his asshole owner but I can’t.

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That night Jade goes to sleep and I’m still working, the front door hanging open.  I go outside on a whim, hoping to just see her prancing down the street towards our house, back from her big adventure.  My brain doesn’t accept that she’s gone and I just expect her to…. be back.  I shout her name.

Nothing.

A Latino couple walks up to me and the woman says, “We lost our cat,” and I say, “Yeah,” and she says, “Your dog was beautiful and so friendly.  A lot of people would find a dog like that and keep it.  Take it home for their kids.  So friendly,” and I imagine these people picking up my dog and I imagine Clementine in their house on my very block, loving her and feeding her and playing with her.  BASTARDS!

I vow to get her back.  I’m going to find the selfish pricks who think it’s okay to steal dogs and I’m going to get her back.  And when I find the guy who did this I’m going to kick the shit out of him.  Or I’m at least going to try because some things are just worth getting your nose broken over.  I’m hurt and angry and heartbroken.  She’s part of my family and my house is feeling like a puzzle piece is missing.

I love my dog and I miss her and I WANT HER BACK!

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Last year we put our older dog to sleep and we grieved fiercely over her loss but there was preparation and peace surrounding the process.  This was just chaos and confusion and neither of us knew what to feel or what to expect.

That night I go to sleep and I dream again that Clementine has returned and the next morning I awake and I begin to feel the very real twinge of loss setting in.  Could she be gone?  Really gone?  Truly gone?  My heart pushes the possibility aside, unwilling to accept.  I get up and tell myself that someone will bring her back.  Someone has her and they’ll bring her back.

A woman emails us, someone who saw the Craigslist ad that we posted.  She tells me her neighbor stole her dog and kept it hidden for three months until she put up a $500 reward.  BASTARDS!

We put up a $500 reward.

Nothing happens.

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ABOVE: Waking up at a truck stop after a night of sleeping in the car with these two.

That night at dinner we get a phone call from a stranger.  They say they’ve seen our flyer and they’ve seen our Clementine just last night one block from our home.  I immediately drop my fork, grab my keys, jump in my car and head into the setting sun.  I stop in the parking lot she was allegedly last seen in and scour it top to bottom in complete desperation.  I call her name.  I shout.  I walk for blocks.  I jump back in my car and drive and shout and nothing.  The sun is gone.  It’s dark.  I go back home.  Every time I turn back I feel like I’m quitting.

I walk in the door and I can see on Jade’s face that she’s hoping and expecting me to walk in with our dog.  It’s the first solid lead we’ve had and now it’s dead.  I shake my head and her shoulders fall.

If you’ve never loved a pet, a part of your soul has not lived.

We eat dinner in silence and then Jade takes the car out to look while I get the kids ready for bed.  She returns empty handed.

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ABOVE: This is her excited face.

That night we decide to start a Facebook page called FindClem.  If someone is keeping her or trying to sell her, we’ll just make her so internet famous that they’ll get busted.  We’ll create an enormous viral campaign.  Clementine has a face made for radio – just a droopy, mangy maw and I became convinced that people would help us.  I stand in my kitchen and say, “We’ll blow this thing up!  We’ll get her back!  We’ll make t-shirts!  Stickers!  Tweets!  We’re going global!”

We never go global but over the course of the following 24 hours we amass a total of just over 100 likes, mostly from complete strangers.  People emailed us and personal messaged us with links to cockers that fit Clem’s description being sold online.  IS THIS YOUR DOG?  DID I FIND CLEMENTINE?  LOOK HERE!”

None of them were her but it was inspiring to see such help rally in such a short time span.

We go to sleep.

In the morning my friend texts me and says he had a dream that we found Clementine and that she was hiding under a car.

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We take our fliers and we head back out into the street.  Rory and I walk down one side of the block while Jade, Quinn and Bryce walk down the other as we begin to canvass East.  We hand fliers to everyone we pass.  We hang them up on pegboards in restaurants.

When we reach the end of the road we turn around and my anger rises every time I see one of the hot pink MISSING posters lying in the gutter.  These are my hopes that people are discarding, throwing on the ground.  My fury peaks when I see that people have intentionally ripped them off several light posts. For every good person out there it seems there are two or three awful ones… maybe more.

We meet back at the car and, in a Hail Mary move, decide to try one more place – the bridge across the street.  We hit the walk button.  We pass over the crosswalk.  We approach a man fixing a bicycle.  I hand him a flier and say, “Lost my dog,” and he looks at me and looks at the flier and he stands up and he smells like alcohol and he points at Clementine and he says, in a thick Spanish / drunk accent, “This your dog?” and I say, “Yes.  Yes.  Have you seen her?” and he says, “I seen this dog,” and everything in me blooms.  Hope.  Fear.  Anxiety.

The man, whose name I later learn is Carlos, reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a collection of hot pink Lost Clementine fliers.  Maybe 20 in all.  Jade says, “Why do you have those?” and Carlos points to the dollar signs on the poster and says, “Is there a reward?” and I say, “There is a reward for the dog, yes, yeah,” and he says, “Is there a reward for information leading to the location of your dog?” and I say, “There is a reward for my dog,” and he says, “I have your dog.”

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ABOVE: Brookbank Christmas card 2013.

Jade and I both look at each other and my stomach flip-flops and Jade says, “Where is she!?  WHERE IS SHE?!” and he points back to the money and I say, “Show me where she is,” and he says, “Come here… I show you…” and I tell Jade to stay with the kids and I turn and I follow this stranger down the sidewalk as he takes off at a brisk pace.

As I jog to keep up with his Goliath steps, he glances over his shoulder and casual states, “I live out here, you know?  That’s my home.  I live on the street,” and I nod silently as he points back to his bicycle.  Half a block later he stops at the crosswalk and says, “Here,” and I look around.  I say, “What?” and now I feel like a fool.  I’m letting a drunk man lead me around as I stupidly follow blind hope.

He says again, “Here,” and then, “Friday night.  I saw that dog running around right here.  I thought to myself, what a beautiful animal.  I used to have a dog like that when I was a boy.  A cocker spaniel.  White and spotted like a cow.  Beautiful dog.  I thought… that dog is lost.  I came to pet it and it ran back and forth and before I got to it…. it jumped into the street and was hit by a car and was torn into two pieces.  I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

This is the part of the story where my stomach drops to the floor and I stand up straight and I can feel a nervous breakdown beginning to grow and I lean in and I say, “What?  What’s that?” and he says, “I’ve never seen anything like it before.  A car ran her over and tore her in half.  She was so beautiful but she was a mess,” and I say, “My dog was….. hit by a car?… and you saw this?”

He says, “Here… look, look.  Follow me,” and he marches into the busy traffic, nearly a third of the way across the street.  He says, “Right here.  This is where she was,” and then he walks back while he points at the ground.  I look down and see what looks like a tire burn out.  I say, “What is this?  What?  The tire mark?” and he says, “No.  That’s no tire mark.  Your dog was hit there-” and he points to the spot as I watch a half dozen tires run over that exact place, perfectly aligned in the street.

He says, “I couldn’t leave her out there.  I was drunk.  I went out and I picked her up.  All of her pieces.  All of her insides.  And I dragged her,” and he points to the tire skids, “over to here,” and he steps down into the gutter a points at a blotch of dark black matter.  I look at the mark in the center of the road and I look at the smudge in the gutter and I look at the skid mark connecting them and I say, “That’s…. her blood?  That tire mark is her blood trail?” and he says, “Yes!  It was terribly sad!  And I couldn’t leave her here.  She was too beautiful.  So beautiful!  So I scooped all of her pieces up and I carried them across the street and I put them in that garbage can.”

He points across the street to a garbage can I’ve walked past at least a dozen times since losing her.  “No…” I think.  “Please don’t let that be true.  Not like this.”

He begins running across the street, saying to hell with the traffic light.  He cuts between speeding cars and my hands are starting to shake.  We approach the garbage can and he says, “I put her in here but it was just… so much,” and I say, “So much what?” and he says, “I didn’t want anyone to see – children or people – she was -” and he grimaces and rubs his fingers together, never completing the thought.  “So I cut the bag out of the can — you see here — you see where I cut it?” and sure enough there is a bit of black torn plastic left inside the now empty garbage can.

I don’t want to believe anything he’s saying.  I’m certain he’s drunk.  I’m certain he’s crazy.  I’m certain he’s just a violent and horrible man who wants to tell me lies and he’s making it all up and nothing is true but I follow him and I listen to him and I can’t stop because I have to hear it all.

He says, “This way.  I took her over here… in the bag…” and he takes me to a dumpster about twenty yards away.  He says, “Here.  She’s in here.  Now.”

And I bite my tongue and I bite my lip and I rub my hands on my pants and my knees are weak and I can see Jade watching me from across the street and I say, “My dog is in this dumpster?” and in my head I’m thinking, “My Sweet Pea is in this dumpster?  My baby that crawled into my lap at the airport?  My precious Clementine is IN THIS DUMPSTER LIKE A PIECE OF TRASH!?”

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Carlos says, “Yes,” and then hops in and starts pulling boxes out and pushing things aside.  He finds black trash bags and pokes them and prods them and moves them around before he says, “I smell her.”  He lays his hand on a bag before quickly pulling it back and says, “This one…” and I look at him and I say, “Open it,” and a fear comes over his face that makes me wonder how bad it all was.  He says, “You serious, man?” and I say, “I need to see her.  I need to see my dog,” and he bends down and sticks his finger into the bag and tears it open and yellow ooze pours out and I look away but it’s just rotten restaurant food.

He says, “She’s not here…maybe they emptied the trash,” and I think, “Or maybe you made the whole thing up to get money,” and then The Logic in me speaks up and says, “There are too many compelling facts.  The mark in the road.  The fabric on the garbage can.  The fact that the story was so quickly fabricated and told in such detail.  The location of the event to the parking lot from the previous call.”

I don’t want to believe it and so my heart cries liar.

Carlos and I cross the street as Jade approaches us.  I say, “Jade, this gentleman is alleging that–” but Jade, with red eyes, cuts me off and says, “I know.  I just heard.  His friends told me,” and she points to a group of rag-tag homeless men that are halfway to oblivion well before noon.

A man on the street says he was there as well.  Says he saw it happen.  But my heart still disagrees and won’t process it.  Not Clementine.  Not like this.  Not my Clementine.  She’s too sweet.  Too precious.  Too little.  I’m still picturing her in someone’s living room, eating popcorn with them while they watch a movie.

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ABOVE: An art installment at an abandoned desert museum.

I leave Carlos behind and approach another homeless person on the block.  I ask her if she knows Carlos and she says, “Yeah,” and I say, “What do you think of him?  How is he?” I feel like I need to know what the personal integrity of this man is, which just seems crazy.  Anything to prove him wrong.  How did my day end here?  How did this all happen?  I’m so angry that I ever suggested going to Jerry’s Pizza.  I count all of my decisions back and try to figure out how this could have been avoided.  My thoughts are interrupted by Jean, the homeless woman, “He’ll lie and cheat to get what he wants.  He ripped my friend off twice for more than a hundred bucks.”

Is this man some kind of con artist that has hatched a story just in case he came across us, my wife and I, suspecting that we’d be looking in the neighborhood?  Is he telling me the truth?  If he saw my dog die and thought he could make money, why didn’t he try calling us off the number on the fliers?  Why was he collecting all of our fliers?  He says it was so people wouldn’t waste time searching for a dead dog.  Or maybe it’s because he didn’t want other people to be conscious of the reward money.

I walk home, jaded and confused.  I try to separate logic from emotion, an act that has been nearly impossible over the last hour.  My brain and my heart are telling me two different things.  Inside, Jade and I discuss what we’ve seen and heard.  I tell her that I don’t know what to believe and she agrees.

Forty-five minutes later I go back to the intersection and stare at the streak and try to imagine Clementine but I can’t.  I see Carlos staring at me but I ignore him.  I look at the garbage can and I look at the dumpster and my heart breaks open.

I walk home and I tell Jade that I think Carlos is telling the truth.  I tell her that my brain is saying it all makes sense but my heart is unwilling to accept it.  She nods and her eyes gloss over with tears for our little Clemmie.

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ABOVE: Clementine getting cozy with cancer-era Johnny.

That evening we log onto our FindClem Facebook page, our beacon of hope, and create a post that reads, “The saddest of days in The Brookbank Home as we discovered today that our very dearest Clementine is no longer with us. Thank you so much to everyone that helped and reached out. We appreciate you all.”

After typing the words, I just stare at them for a moment as the pieces and the truths all fall into place for me.

All the dark and disgusting things that have been in my heart, all the fear and despair that I’ve kept mostly at bay are creeping towards the surface.  The Black Abyss that has been circling me like a mist is getting thicker.  Typing the words has brought this dormant thought to activation but it isn’t until I hit enter that I realize it’s true.  And in that truth I understand the certainty that Clementine is gone.  Forever.  I realize that I will never see her again.  I realize and understand that I will never pet her again.  I will never take her to another dog park.  I will never go on a vacation with her ever again.  I’ll never wake up to her curled up on my feet and I’ll never get to watch my children chase her again.  She’ll never greet me at the door.  She’ll never see me off.  I’ll never get to take her on another walk.

Ever.

Again.

The RETURN key clicks and the post appears for the world to see.  It’s broadcast in front of me like a fact and everything that has held on for the last three days let’s go; breaks like a levy.  I stand up and I walk to the corner and I fall against the door and I simply weep into my hands for the loss of my friend.

The anchor of hope is gone and it’s been replaced by a weight of bricks tied to my neck and I can feel it pulling me down and making me sick.  I want to lash out but there’s nothing to grab.  Jade puts her hands around my waist and sobs into my shirt.  And it goes on and on and on.

It’s not right.  None of it is right.  Clementine getting out of the fence was mischievous and stupid.  Clementine getting hit by a car was, frankly, just bad luck.  But Clementine being picked up by a drunk man and disposed of in a dumpster…

It’s not right and she deserved better.

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***   ***   ***   ***   ***

We’re just over a week out from her death and I still find myself reacting to muscle memory.  In the morning I go to feed her and when I have leftovers from dinner my first reaction is to just toss the scraps on the ground.  Before I go to bed I catch myself just before I shout, “Bedtime, Clem!  C’mon!”  Sometimes I think I hear a scratch at the door and, just because I believe in miracles, I go and check… but it’s never her.

I hear dogs barking in the street and I always pause to listen for her voice… but it’s just strange canines that belong to other families.

We’ve picked up her bed and have begun the process of de-dogging the house – giving away her bag of food and putting away her toys.  I pulled the cover off her mattress and threw it in the laundry basket only to have Jade call me back a few minutes later.  I rounded the corner to find her holding it out to me.

She says, “I’m going to wash this,” and I say, “Okay,” and she says, “Do you want to smell it?  This is all we have left,” and I am suddenly faced with this goodbye that I wasn’t at all ready for.  I grab the stupid dog blanket and I shove it into my face and I inhale and I can smell her.

One last time.

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ABOVE: The very last photo taken of her with my youngest daughter Bryce, just a day or two before she disappeared.

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36 weeks

Ok, guys.  If you were waiting for an official invitation to come out……let me take this moment to officially invite you to come out.  Seriously.  I’m not kidding.  I’m beginning to think you’re worse than Clementine when she gets wind of an impending bath – battening down the hatches cause it’s going to take nothing but sheer force to drag you out of your hidey hole.  I promise you’ll like it once you get here.  Change is good!

Pregnancy naustalgia is falling to the wayside to be replaced by an end of pregnancy discomfort that I never imagined one could feel.  I think women friends conspire to leave out these little details because it’s too depressing for the impending mommy.  I literally have to pee about every half an hour and in the words of your dad, “Your hands and feet look like creme filled snausages.”  Sexy.  We have completed about 18 of the 29 ways to start labor tricks.  Honestly, I’m losing hope in this already.  You guys don’t seem to be affected in the least by all our shenanigans.  I even galloped around the house like an idiotic horse for about 10 minutes…………..ridiculous and shameful desperation.

Both of your Grandma’s are here now too.  They came in for the big show.  Starting to kind of feel like we’ve all gotten dressed up for prom and then got ditched by our dates around here.  But we’ve cheerfully added them to the Ultimate Humiliation contest while we wait.

Had another appointment with the doctor this week and had our c-section rescheduled to the 6th now so it’s potential that your birthday just got shifted a day later for the rest of your lives.  Still hope we don’t make it that far but at least that extra day skated us out of getting an amniocentisis done.  Big needle going into my belly = horrific.  Have I ever mentioned to you my paralyzing fear of needles?  Bad news for me is that she said you two are nowhere close to coming out.  You must really like it in there.

Did I mention we have tamales straight  from the cart out here………eh? Eh?

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The Highways and GoodByeWays of America: Part 4

Welcome to the last leg of the journey. The final segment.

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For the past few years Jade and I have been discussing where we’d move if we left LA. On that list was Denver, Montana, Northern California and, until just a few months ago, Salt Lake City.

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This place is like little LA. It’s dirty, crowded and filled with crazies; the exchange rate is four Scientologists for every three Mormons, but it’s constantly fluctuating.

We spent roughly five hours in the city, driving around, getting lost, angry and annoyed until we finally stumbled upon the Great Salt Sea.

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We tried to park our car but were told that an Insane Clown Posse show was being held nearby and that we shouldn’t leave our automobile unattended. We drove down the road, past legions of men in their thirties dressed as clowns, until we found a little inlet. The gates were shut and I BELIEVE it was closed but we crawled over the fence and the dogs under and we ran across the dried up salty sea bottom.

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To get the dogs to do this we tell them both to look left. It’s really funny because Clementine doesn’t know her directions yet.

“LOOK LEFT, CLEMMY!”

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Jade says jump and I say…..

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We left The Great Salt Thing and headed south-west into the dark. When we awoke the next morning we found a dirt trail off the highway leading towards Blind Valley. I needed to know what it was so we followed the signs.

After only two minutes of driving it became obvious that this road was meant to be taken by nothing less than a Sherman Tank. There were potholes the size of tiny planets distributed fairly crookedly in front of us for as far as the eye could see. We finally came to a small plateau and decided we would never see Blind Valley, which was a little ironic. Instead we just crawled to the top of the hill and fed the dogs.

“Hey, Clemmy…..LOOK LEFT!”

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We’re able to take these perfectly framed pictures of ourselves in the middle of nowhere because I have ape length arms.

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Did I say we walked to the top? Kaidance is out of shape….well….she’s IN shape…..it’s just a nice curvy shape…..regardless, we never leave a man behind.

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Clementine faints from heat exhaustion in the Utah desert and Jade tries blowing in her ears. She says it’s a trick she learned in pre-med.

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Kaidance watches eagerly, intently, hoping, praying, for the death of The Small One.

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Revitalized at last she becomes strangley cocky because she has conquered death. “Big deal,” I say. “So what?” I say. “I’ve conquered death. I had cancer. You just passed out in the sun. Wear a hat next time.”

Little Dog challenges me to a duel.

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I teach her not to bite the hand that feeds and it lands me in the paddy wagon.

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We drive on into Death Valley, California and we watch the temperature meter….temperature gauge….thermostat……..it starts getting really hot and the thing in the car confirms it.

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Clementine has another heatstroke / panic attack / fainting spell and I lift the lost lamb upon my shoulder.

I don’t know. I really like this photo. It reminds me of…..someone…….who……

….someone who saved a lot of people……someone who was gifted with incredible abilities……..

….oh yeah, DUH!

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IT REMINDS ME OF BATMAN!!

We all run and play on the fine sand dunes….all except Clementine. She plays but she doesn’t run. On occasion she does this thing where she just mysteriously hovers inches above the ground and floats from location to location while a strange buzzing noise emits from deep within her being.

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…and again….still floating….levitating….

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…..while I just throw my arms about all willy nilly as I often do….

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WEEEEEEE!!!!! WILLY NILLY NELSON!!!!!

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We drive on to a place that was nearly the death of us….

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The Aloha Inn.

Room 119.

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This place was bad, bad news. We thought it was a hotel – you know, the kind you rent a room at and stay in overnight. The kind of place weary traveler’s might visit. No….no….not so much. This was a place for rehabilitating junkies and ex-cons. It was filled to the brim with people you’d cross the street to avoid. The sheets had blood on them and the room smelled like stale cigarettes.

There was a strange door in our room and I was certain Leatherface was going to come tearing out of it during the night with a sledgehammer and a bondage mask and we’d be done for.

This room, this night, was not enjoyable. It was SO bad that we opted to sleep in the bed, sans comforter, with all our clothes on.

Even Clementine, who licks the places dogs do pretty regularly seems to look pretty off put by the whole scenario.

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What’s that? A broom closet? The entrance to the pool supply closet? The janitor’s storage space? No. That’s our room. It’s right next to the drained pool with the dark brown water at the bottom and the fire pit with the cigarette butts and used condoms in it.

Great ambience.

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After the night of disgust we make our way towards home, back towards Los Angeles. Only four more hours….

I think Kaidance pretty much sums up three weeks worth of adventures with….

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The Highways and GoodByeWays of America: Part 3

In 2007 I was introduced to the wonderful world of disc golf by my sister, seen below. It combines the skill and accuracy of normal golf with the lazy stroll and mindless drivel of regular frisbee. It’s sort of like regular golf meets mini golf with discs.

I only play when I go back home because I’ve never had my own disc set but this year Theresa was kind and generous enough to buy Jade and I each one for my birthday. I have yet to take them out in California because I can’t seem to find any (courts? greens? turfs?) around. If you know of one LET’S PLAY!

Below you can see me taking, what I like to call “My Frankenstein Stance”. I stand very rigid and only bend my arm for maximum scoring possibilities.

Theresa is wearing a tye dye t-shirt. Tye dye is to disc golf as plaid is to regular golf.

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This one could be on a playing card……wait, is the disc coming or going? Is Jade throwing or about to get hit?

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After our five day stay in Sioux Falls, Jade and I made our way to Mitchell, which is, traditionally a simple one hour drive. However, thanks to the strange vortex that exists between these two towns the drive often feels as though it bends and stretches into a decent half day journey.

Just for kicks we decided to try to make it without the assistance of the interstate or highway. We stayed on dirt roads the entire way and what did we find? A pasture of meat eating cows. That one in the center was drooling, staring at me. His eyes were red and I think he had mad cow disease.

I could tell he was in a gang because he had a pierced ear.

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Me preparing for the big shot put competition.

My mother-in-law LITERALLY squatting in a cucumber patch.

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I used to have a motorcycle in LA but almost died on it. A guy in a speeding brown hunk of crap cut in front of me on the freeway and I slammed on both brakes, front and back. This was a mistake but, what can I say? I panicked. My bike wavered and began to tip at 70mph. I stuck my foot down and kicked the freeway and popped back up, my stomach in my throat, my mouth dry and my brain raging with anger. I sped up (brilliant) and pulled up next to the guy (moron) who almost killed me. I looked into his window (ie took my eyes off the road) pointed to my eyes and pointed to him. I don’t really know what I was trying to say. Maybe “Watch the road” or maybe “I’m watching you”. Whichever it was, he was probably really afraid. It doesn’t matter how big of a nerd and how heroin thin you are. If you ride a motorcycle, nobody will mess with you.

Because of that incident I sent my bike packing back to South Dakota and now only ride it when I’m home.

You can see how happy I am, cruising down 7th on my way to Taco John’s. Could things be better?

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If I’m at an all you can eat buffet I have a very difficult time choosing what to eat. I don’t want to just eat SOMEthing. I want to eat EVERYthing, even if I don’t want it. For some reason I just feel as though I’ve purchased everything and now it is my job and my job alone to get my money’s worth, which usually means shoving hideous amounts of food down my greedy throat until I’m sick.

The nacho buffet at M&H gas station is no exception. I fill the container up with cheese. I dump some salsa in. I put in black olives and onions. I dump in jalepenos and sauerkraut and shredded cheese on top of the nacho cheese. This concoction reeks. It smells like dirty feet and B.O. and has been dubbed with the name Dirty Nachos or B.O. Nachos. This is not a title I have personally given it. This is a label my friends and family members have given it over time of me bringing this overlooked delicacy into their presence.

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My dad and I had our first joint birthday party, which was pretty interesting. He was turning 50 and I’d just turned 27, our birthdays being nine days apart. We had all of our friends and family over and just hung out all evening. It was great fun and there was cake and food and flies. There are always flies in South Dakota where there is food.

Look at my stupid little beard. It is so pathetic and weak. I am ashamed.

Look at my dad’s mustache, so proud and vibrant, resting on his upper lip like a Sasquatch caterpillar.

Someday…..

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This is Derrick. His grandparents live next door to my folks so we were forced to grow up together, often times playing “Guns”. This is the game where boys have fake guns and pretend to shoot each other but end up spending most of their time arguing over if they were actually hit by the pretend bullet.

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Derrick now has a beard and I hate him for it.

Someday we’ll show them all…..

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I call this one, “Rolling Thunder”.

Look at Jade’s flowing locks. I use to have flowing locks. That was before I began to bald. That was before…..when I was still happy and confident in my physical appearance.

That was….all…..before…..

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My grandma has this fascination with dolls. It’s something that happens to older, older women. It’s just a part of growing up, I guess. First you hit puberty, then you get married, then you go through menopause, then you collect strange little dolls. I don’t know. My mom seems to be hitting her Doll Phase early. She’s got these creepy little things with devious grins hanging out about the house.

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We left Mitchell after our five day sojourn and then I dropped Jade off at her home….

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Our car was packed…..PACKED…..but I managed to find a little room for My Pet Monster. I cannot yet tell how the dogs are reacting to him. I can say, however, that when I got back in the car after grabbing some coffee, I’d found his fingers nibbled on a bit and clementine with some strange bright blue latex clinging to her lips.

She’s a hateful vandal but is awful at espionage.

Sometimes I think she wants to be caught.

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We were planning on driving from Billings, Montana down through Yellowstone. We drive an hour and a half south and get to the Yellowstone entrance and the ranger tells us that there’s a fire or some fallen trees or ice or something and the roads are blocked and we can’t get through. She tells us that we’ve got to drive ALL the way back to Livingston, which is about 45 minutes from Billings.

The morning is shot. We see everything twice.

Here is the Yellowstone entrance, apparently historic.

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Here’s what we saw the first time going through:

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Here’s what we saw the second time, after it started to snow:

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Me looking like an angry old man trapped behind the wheel of his automobile.

Clementine looking depressed as per usual.

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After driving the same thing twice we decided to just stop at the next town and spend the day relaxing at the hotel, maybe go out and grab a bite to eat, watch some TV, go to sleep early, read a book.

We pulled over in historic Butte, Montana, a wonderful and antiquated town. We saw this place:

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Looks pretty nice. Looks pretty fancy. We call to get pricing, just for kicks. We figure it’s way out of our price range and we figure they definitely don’t take dogs. Truthfully, I don’t know why we even bothered.

As it turns out, they were the cheapest hotel we spoke with and they DID take dogs.

Weird.

We walk inside of this elaborate lobby (think The Shining) and the lady gives us our key and tells us that JFK stayed here once. She tells us to pull in around back….

…..where we find….

……this place….

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Okay….this makes a little more sense…..The Historic Hotel Finley where JFK stayed. Certainly they mean that he stayed in the nice part. They should really advertise this as the historic Hotel Ghetto where Lee Harvey Oswald probably LIVED.

Dogs welcome.

Sure, sure….why not? Drug addled maniacs welcome. Prison escapees welcome. Vagabonds welcome….

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We introduce Clementine to snow.

It does nothing for her hair.

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Room 160.

This is where the magic happens…

….Magic: The Gathering….

Alright my little noobians, just one more blog to go until our trip is over and then it’s back to regularly scheduled programs!

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