“The Wolves Inside Me”

Moses

I didn’t want to kill that man, I only wanted to grab him by his throat, put the cold muzzle of my .45 to his head and scare him to the point of soiling himself.

I also didn’t want for him to be in that house when I burned it to the ground.

As it turned out…he was the wrong man.

He wasn’t the man that shot my dog Moses last Tuesday.

By now, you know that I wear my emotions on my sleeve and until now, I’ve only been brave enough to show you my sentimental side. Which also requires some courage…trust me.

But beyond this point, you will come to understand the “other” side of me, the ugly side of me.

The side of me that regrettably wants vengeance…cold, hard, calculated revenge.

This story is born from the old Cherokee parable about the two wolves that reside inside all of us. After some light research, it seems that its origin has been questioned, but it really doesn’t matter to me where it came from…in my mind, the words themselves are nothing short of pure wisdom.

Now to be clear, the lines that led into this story were only thoughts…scary, dangerous, dark, and unhealthy thoughts…yes, but just thoughts nonetheless.

Most of us have them, the crazy thoughts, the outrageous thoughts, the pathological thoughts, the vengeful thoughts, the intrusive thoughts, but few of us are stupid enough to share them on a public internet post.

Are they normal? Maybe…maybe not.

Are they extremely common? Most likely.

Sometimes I feel like I have more than my share. Perhaps I do, but let me tell you how I’ve learned to process my visits to the lunatic’s fringe, and how “I” starve the black wolf.

It was a beautiful autumn day, one of those days that I just long to be outside. Perfect temperature, perfect breeze, sun shining gracefully through a beautiful palette of reds, greens, golds, grays, and yellows.

I couldn’t help but take Moses with me while I did my pre-winter preparatory work. Things like moving animal shelters, rearranging my watering system, and fencing in the last productive pasture for the year.

I was running my skid steer as Moses circled in my periphery sniffing this and sniffing that. He’s the kind of dog that stays close, he never goes far. Every time I called his name he arrived at my side within minutes. We were working on 25 acre piece of land with another 40 acres of woods to my west, and another 40 to my east.

Plenty of room I thought.

There are however two homes within 100 yards, in both directions, from where we were.

As I was running the machine and intermittently handling logging chains I heard a very close shot. I couldn’t pinpoint its location because of the hills and hollows, and the hum of the machine, but it was very close.

I called Moses but he didn’t come, I felt a little uneasy, but I wasn’t overly concerned because gunshots this time of year are pretty common. I finished what I was doing, parked the machine, and returned to my truck.

I found Moses, he was curled up in the bed of my truck with bright red blood all over his side, hind leg, and backside. I couldn’t immediately decipher what had happened but after a very careful examination on the tailgate, I discerned that he had been shot. The bullet went in about 1.5″ to the right of his anus and came out through the front of his thigh. The bullet had traveled nearly 10″ through his leg.

It was about 6:30 pm, I called the vet to tell them I was bringing him in. They agreed to stay past closing for us.

It was obvious that this man had tried to shoot Moses directly in the anus which is also known as a Texas Brain Shot. It is one of the nastiest, meanest, unethical, deplorable, despicable, reprehensible, shots that you can make on an animal. It literally splatters the animal’s bowels and they die a slow miserable death from infection. Just writing these words provokes the emotions in me that led to the intro paragraph of this story.

I was once again thoroughly disappointed in mankind, I was angry, I was enraged…I wanted revenge.

I knew who it was, or I sort of knew who it was. There was an old man living just down the road in one of those two houses I mentioned. I had heard that he was a grumpy old man and he certainly liked his privacy as evidenced by the gate across his driveway and the “No Trespassing “sign prominently displayed on it.

I did a little digging and found out that he had died just two weeks before, so it wasn’t him. But I knew that he had a son or grandson (I didn’t know which) that lived there too. I had seen him walking around with a gun a couple years back, rabbit hunting, I think, and he was very aloof with me and I got the impression that he was spiteful about my raising animals on the land that he probably snuck into to hunt in years prior.

It was him! I just knew it! That’s all there is to it!

Now, how do I handle this? Confront him? Call the Sheriff? What?

I had zero proof, so all of these options were null.

Why did he shoot Moses? I knew it wasn’t a nuisance problem because Moses lives at the house with us and only goes to that piece of land with me to do chores. So his visits there are very short and he is always near me.

So I festered for a few days…I listened to some outlaw country music for a day or two. You know the kind…lots of revenge type lyrics and heavy base.

It was just what I needed.

Or was it?

It didn’t take long for the emotions go from an inferno to a simmer. As soon as I could see more than just red, I started second guessing my accusations.

Where exactly did that shot come from?

Maybe it was somebody unrelated, and trespassing?

My steam was cooling…logic and reasoning were taking over…finally.

Now, my civilized human thoughts were taking over. Now, I started thinking that perhaps it was his grandson or son and that maybe he was in a really bad place because he just lost a man he loved, cherished, and respected. Maybe everything he remembered about growing up at his grandpas was changing and he didn’t like it so he lashed out at the only thing he could…a trespassing dog.

Perhaps he was crying inside, as I had, over recent losses within the family, and maybe he was frustrated, alone, displaced.

I really didn’t know, but my human side was emerging, so I turned off the Charlie Daniels, Hank Jr., Steve Earle, and David Allen Coe.

Instead, I complimented these thoughts with soft, forgiving, and feel good, music. As the week went on, my anger dulled into mere disappointment, and I was moving on.

I do not consider a canine life and a human life equitable, so an eye for an eye was really was never an option. But for a few days, in my mind…it might’ve been.

Not to mention, I am quite certain that most dogs are better people than a lot of the people that exist in this world.

Four days later…I’m working on finishing the tasks I had started when Moses was shot, this time with no machine noise.

A rifle report cracks the air just behind me…it startled me…and more importantly, it pinpointed exactly where that shot had come from the other day.

It was the other house, not the one that I had thought.

Hmmmm.

What now?

Confront him? Call the Sheriff? What?

No proof…no recourse.

Both of these actions would likely cause a Hatfield McCoy situation that I don’t want to have. Especially considering that I have 3 other very important guardian dogs down there and 40+ other animals.

I had his phone number so I texted him and did a little fibbing, I told him that I was working in the woods behind his house and I was curious as to whether he had an adequate backstop for bullets. He said, “yes, but it was his renter living out back in a tenant house that was doing the shooting”.

Now it was coming together…emotion was finally giving way to logic.

Just a couple days before he was shot, Moses had found a freshly killed groundhog (the maggots had barely started their work) on the property that I lease directly behind this guys tenant house.

I think the renter had shot it.

I now believe Moses went back for more while I was working and was shot either for trespassing or was shot on the property I lease. Both are illegal here.

In Virginia, a dog can only be killed for threatening human life or killing livestock. Moses was shot in the backside from a distance (bullet didn’t expand), and the guy has no livestock.

I was able to reply without accusing him directly by simply asking if he thought his renter would’ve taken a shot at my dog.

He said: “absolutely not…I’d shoot him if he did that”.

I explained briefly how someone had made a Texas Brain Shot on my dog and he agreed that it was “really F’d up for someone to do that.”

Immediately after our correspondence, the shooting stopped for a bit (like they were talking) then the shooter switched from a .22 to something bigger (I believe to sound different).

I passed him on the road yesterday and he wouldn’t even make eye contact with me…he knows something. We’ve always waved to each other in the past.

I think he probably asked his renter about it, and I’m sure the renter denied it, but hopefully, he has put it all together too. I can only hope that he sternly told his renter to never shoot a dog again.

I guess the fact that I wasn’t able to pinpoint the shot that hit Moses that day was a blessing in disguise…I may have been writing this from jail on an assault charge.

So where do I go from here?

Well, since Moses is alive and well (sorry I had to keep you reading:) I suppose I’ll let a little time go by and perhaps I’ll stop by around Christmas time to give him a nice ham, maybe there will be an opening in the conversation to slip some of this dialogue in.

Or, maybe I’ll invite him over for a couple beers around a campfire and explain how important these animals are to my kids and me.

What would I have done if he had killed my dog, or damaged his leg to the point of amputation?

I don’t know…because that didn’t happen so it wasn’t worth putting the effort into resolving a problem that didn’t exist.

I guess if that were to happen, my only real recourse would be to make him famous on our local internet and possibly create enough social pressure to make him move.

Afterall, nobody likes a dog killer.

What will I do if he shoots another one of my dogs? I guess I’ll cross that bridge later if it happens.

Maybe I’ll send him a copy of this.

What I do know for sure right now, is that the wolves are here, inside me, and ready to fight with each other at all times. It’s very important (in my life) to quiet the snarls as soon as they lift a lip.

“I” cannot reward the dark wolf by embracing his actions, “I” cannot allow him to plan, to calculate, to execute. “I” need to always reward my white wolf and reassure him that his adversary is wrong. “I” need to consistently build the confidence in the white wolf and show him how grateful I am that he is there to defend me against all that is dark, ugly, and disturbing…within me.

Which wolf have you been feeding?

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I Killed an Eagle Today

The EagleI was driving down a country road and there was a flock of buzzards working on a deer carcass. This is a normal occurrence around here and buzzards are quite good at getting out of the way much like chickens and crows.

I was traveling about 45 mph, I slowed a bit for the buzzards to clear, but low and behold one of them was still there and took flight slowly.

I hit the brakes hard and collided with it at about 20 mph. There was a thud and I saw the body slide across the road in front of me.

Yep, it was dead…damn bird!

I pulled over to check my truck for damage. None, so that was good.

But as I drove by the crumpled pile of feathers I recognized that it was not a buzzard, but instead a juvenile Bald Eagle.

I felt terrible.

I pulled off the road, parked the truck, and went to look at it. To my surprise, it was still alive but looked bad, really bad.

I just couldn’t leave it there, I probably couldn’t have left a buzzard there either, but that’s just my goofy way.

So I stayed and protected him while he regained his composure. I straightened his body out so he could breath better. Then I stretched one wing out, then the other, to check for fractures. There didn’t seem to be any. After that, I cradled his body in my palm and got him sitting upright, then I stroked his neck and back to check his balance, he was very wobbly but steadily improved. I also checked his vision by approaching him from both sides looking for a reaction, there was.

From here, I just gave him time…about 30 minutes.

And support.

I felt good about his prognosis so I grabbed his enormous legs carefully avoiding his fishhook talons and with my other hand, I cradled his breast and he spread his wings with obvious power so I let him go. He sailed about 50 yards into a cow pasture and took a somewhat rough landing. So I sat and watched his progress from the road. The buzzards were circling so I felt uncomfortable leaving him there defenseless.

I contacted a lifelong falconer that I knew who referred me to a local guy who could help, but before I could put everything together, I approached him again and he took to the air. He spread his wings, took a few hops and was airborne. It wasn’t pretty but it was definitely progress…big progress.

Both wings were working, both legs were working, his eyes were working (he avoided a fence). He set down in a little swale on the other side of a knoll in the field. I left him alone from there.

If you read my last post, you’ve heard me say that I believe that there is beauty in everything we see…we simply have to identify it.

The beauty I found in this experience was that I had just witnessed the symbol of America get knocked into oblivion but with a little support, and nothing but a helping hand he rose from nearly dead…to majesty in flight.

It reminded me of our country…America…The United States of America.

The once proud and glorious USA.

What is happening to her?

And why?

We now spend more time tearing each other down on the internet where we don’t have to face our neighbors, our friends, our fellow countrymen than we do holding each other up.

Sure we step up our game after tragedies, but it doesn’t last long does it?

Then we get right back to the business of shredding our fellow citizens with sharp tongues and politics.

When I was a child I was always told that it took two to tango. It took me awhile to truly figure out what that meant (like 35 years) but I eventually figured it out (slow learner).

Now in my adult life, I see the very worst in people on the internet, the very worst of people in the news, the very worst of people in politics.

Now in my adult life, I also realize that when bad energy collides with it’s opposing bad energy it makes a big F’ing mess.

Which is what I think is happening in our country.

When you throw bad against bad, you just get worse.

With this in mind, I wonder if we’d be better off biting our tongues when in mixed company? If perhaps keeping our politics private, using our vote alone to change the political dynamics would be a more productive way to interact?

Don’t blame people for voting for certain politicians…blame the people that don’t vote.

By all means, speak your piece when you’re amongst your brethren, but in public, maybe keeping it to yourself is the best thing for this country that we all “should” love. It’s the best country on earth. It’s not perfect but I believe it is without a doubt the best on earth as long as we don’t tear her apart from the inside with our harsh tactics, personal attacks, and vulgar language toward one another.

These things are un-American…period.

If you don’t want laws, go to the Congo…let me know how you like that. If you want total control…go to North Korea and let me know how you like that.

When we spew our politics we shove them down other peoples throats. Of course, the other side gets angry. Did we not learn this as children?

We are cutting ourselves off into political factions. Why would we build a figurative wall between ourselves and someone else because 10% of what they believe (politically) doesn’t align with our own affiliations?

In the real world, this means that you could have all kinds of things in common with someone you’ve met (hobbies, interests, beliefs, problems, etc…)
but inadvertently end the relationship before it even gets started because of voicing your politics….what a waste.

We come together after crisis because we focus on each other without the politics, as soon as the politics come back, so do the dividing lines.

The country is not going to hell because of politics, the country is going to hell because we are dividing ourselves with politics. It’s a tug of war, a stalemate…it’s trench warfare. Neither side moves.

If neither side moves in the others direction nothing gets done.

We have got to meet in the middle, lend a hand, work through obstacles…not build more.

The American that “I” want to be is the one that helps his neighbor, doesn’t put other folks down, helps when help is needed.

Few of you know my politics, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. I was taught to keep them private. Not so I don’t offend anybody, but so I don’t alienate others that I might otherwise have a lot in common with.

If I started talking politics, I’d lose half of you, and I’d lose a lot of you that I really like. That’s not an acceptable trade in my eyes.

That said, you’ll never hear my politics because I won’t change your mind, and you won’t change mine. We hold politics as near to our hearts as we do our religions. We are not going to change anyone’s mind in regard to either.

So why try…why cut our country down the middle?

Just cast your vote.

On second thought you may be able to sway someone, but you need to pull them your direction first and then gently sell them on your ideas.

Not repel them while shoving your opinions down their neck.

The beauty of our system is that “generally speaking” it balances itself out.

Lastly, perhaps we should all watch less “news”.

All of the channels/stations just drive the wedge deeper…I don’t care what channel you’re watching…it’s all about ratings. And the more crap they stir up the higher the ratings.

Around the clock news is not good, it drags us down further into the quagmire of politics. Turn it on for 30 mins once a day, you’ll hear enough, and you’ll probably feel better about things.

If your tongue is sharp put it away for later.

Conduct yourself on the internet like your grandparents and your children are watching.

Be an American that your great-grandfather would be proud of…be an American that draws us tighter…be an American that helps the needy off their knees.

Identify the things that bind us to one another, not the things that drive us apart (politics).

Be an American…that loves America.

Attacking our own…is very un-American.

I am sick and tired of both politics and the news.

To this end…don’t kill the eagle….give her a helping hand…some support…some love…and most of all a chance.

I rest.

P.S.

My pledge to you all…to the world.

I am an American:

I will hold the door open for you regardless of your race, color, creed, or religion.

I will speak decently to you.

I will say please and thank you.

I will help you find your way if you cannot see.

I will help you cross a busy street.

I will not push my beliefs upon you.

I will do my part to make “America Whole” again.

I will help you up when you have fallen.

I will stand with you in times of need.

I will vote.

I will find common ground with you.

I will be a good American.

I will stand tall and be proud to be an American.

I will recognize that I live in the best country on earth.

I will not take you for granted.

I will not divide us.

I will not watch the news more than 30 minutes per day so my mind is not battered with all that is bad in the world.

I will not speak my politics in public, so I do not further divide us.

I will give my life to save this nation…should she require it.

The Princess who turned to Stone

I’m not good at remembering specific dates by recall, I guess my mind just doesn’t work that way. I’m not sure why, it just doesn’t.

Now that is not to say I have a bad memory, I do not, I just organize it differently. I tend to mark time not by a clock, or a calendar, but by what I see, feel, and smell at the time.

This is the story of a princess who turned to stone.

She came into this world on September 28th, in 1954. The name given to her by her mother was Daniela Anna Elizabeth Reith, her family resided in Wurzburg, Germany.

Later she assumed the surname of Cline by marriage, after which she was known as Daniele Cline by all but her family.

She was brought to this country at the age of 12. She spoke no english. She was one of five siblings. Finances were challenging for her family in their early days so they moved a few times before settling into a newly built suburban home in Manassas, Va in the late sixties.

She struggled a bit as she assimilated to this new life, as expected, but soon found herself right in the groove of American teen life in the 70’s. She was a very attractive, and vivacious young woman, it wasn’t long before she attracted the attention of a suitor. He was to be her first husband and she bore a son to him at eighteen years old.

From there, her adult life began, and with it, trials and tribulations too.

By the time she was 40 she had 5 beautiful children (Christopher, Frank, Erica, Natasha, and Alex).

She had a somewhat tumultuous life, the typical ups, and downs, but a little more than her rightful share. Financial obstacles, divorce, etc… but the constant over the years was the love for her children. She did whatever she could to make sure they had what they needed. She raised them all to adulthood, and they turned into fine citizens who contribute to society the way well-raised kids do.

Unfortunately, before they all reached adulthood her kidneys failed at age 45.

She was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Scleroderma, this Greek nomenclature literally means “hard skin”. It was first described around 400 BC.

About 300,000 people in the USA have it at any given time and there are about 30K new cases every year.

It causes the body to build too much collagen and then the body attacks itself with inflammation, it gradually turns soft flesh into a mass of hard fibrous tissue.

Daniela was 45 when she started dialysis as a result of her kidney failure. The average life expectancy on dialysis is about 10 years, she went 17.

Several days per week for 17 years she watched the blood being pumped out, and then back into her body, through thick clear plastic tubes. In that time, the surgeons exhausted every available location on her body for a port, she was on her last.

Imagine being in the middle of life, when you get to the age that you really start homing in on how to manage it wisely, and then your body fails you.

That said, she had the beauty, and poise of a princess, but now something was going to break it down, slowly, persistently, and without mercy.

She loved to cook, and was a great cook too, this was likely her first big challenge because early in the disease her fingers began to stiffen, then curl inward, like she was trying to grip an invisible glass.

After that her forearms, then her feet, her calves, her face, her upper arms, her upper legs.

Then the monster began to tighten its grip on her, slowly, steadily, and insidiously. It was like her body was being wrenched tighter and tighter into a hard mass of flesh. It lost it’s elasticity and then just turned hard.

The face and body of a princess was being taken away from her year, after year, after year…for seventeen of them.

She never once complained, never once thought the world owed her something, never once thought she was being treated unfairly.

About 15 years into it she had begun to need help with daily activities, her hands were for the most part useless, she began to have serious circulatory issues to the point of amputations, she lost a toe here, and a toe there.

Still no complaints.

The doctor’s appointments became so numerous that family and friends had to take on the duty of getting her to and from.

Things got worse and worse. The monster just would not let up and wouldn’t be content until it took her life from her.

Now she met the obstacle of a lifetime, the disease had stiffened her limbs to the point that they barely functioned, but it went farther… to her lungs.

With a mean spirited vengeance, the disease wasn’t satisfied that it had already crippled her, now it had to suffocate her… slowly.

It grabbed a hold of her chest and squeezed, and squeezed, and squeezed, like a constrictor on a fawn deer. It started slow but just kept increasing a little every day.

She could feel it ratchet its grip tighter and tighter.

Over the course of a few weeks, it became necessary to aid her breathing with oxygen. She focused intently as she sipped it. It felt to her like every drink could be her last.

She would startle when she felt like she missed a breath, fearful that she wouldn’t get another.

She was afraid…she cried.

It was time to assemble the family, to celebrate her life while she was still here.

We did, and it was perfect.

All of her kids came, with the grand kids too, it was a wonderful day. A good day to tell stories of years gone by, and a good day to watch her suffering eyes fix upon her family, to take it all in, like it was the last time…it was for some.

When most everyone had left, it got worse, it got oppressive, like a giant was stepping on her chest trying to squeeze the life from her… the princess.

A couple of days later she found herself admitted to the hospital, then after a horrible breathing attack, intubated. She had felt like she was breathing through a straw for weeks, but now she truly was.

The family was called and we all gathered around her, speaking to her from our souls, reassuring her that she was on her way to a great and magical place, where all of the souls that had gone before her would be waiting to greet her.

She nodded in response to our questions…she could hear us.

It took everything we had to be strong, we wept together, we laughed together, we hugged, and we reassured one another.

When the tube was removed, her blood oxygen levels fell, and fell some more, and continued to fall. We all watched every blip on that monitor as we felt life slipping farther from us.

Her body could no longer do it on its own and she did not want to be on life support.

We all had our hands on her as she left this earth, it was breath taking, it was immense, it was a relief from her suffering.

The princess had gone, she was taken by a monster named Scleroderma.

It had turned her to stone…to the extent that her lungs could no longer expand.

It stole her last breath.

As I left the hospital the heavens opened above me. A comfortably warm southern breeze kissed my skin. I could feel the presence of something much larger than myself, the sun beamed through the holes in the clouds with a purpose, a message.

On any other day it would have been a beautiful sight, but on that day, it was a magical sight.

It was June the 21st around 7:00 pm, she had passed around 6:00.

I wish I would remember that date and time, but I know that I won’t, the whole week was blurry.

The next morning when the sun rose yet again, I stirred my coffee and peered out the kitchen window to notice that the lilies were in full blossom.

They had opened while she lay dying. They had unfurled their petals as the tension was leaving her embattled body.

I know life goes on, sometimes it just doesn’t feel like it, but nature always reassures me when I’m in doubt.

I promised her that I would see her on the other side, if in fact they let me in, but until then, I will remember the princess Daniela every year, on the day the lilies bloom, in a soft June breeze.

Now, I watch my wife…lost, not knowing what to do, there are no doctors to call, no appointments with nurses, no coordination of oxygen deliveries and dialysis appointments.

So here and now, I tell her to look at the lilies, and know that their petals open for her sister Daniela.

To Daniela, I wrote this so no one would forget your name, or your story.

With everlasting love,

Your sisters, your brother, your children, your grand children, your mother, and me.

May your sweet soul rest in peace…

I know this may have been a graphic description of this disease, but I told it like it was so people wouldn’t forget “Scleroderma” If you have a moment and a few spare dollars please donate to one of the Scleroderma organizations, this disease is more common than ALS and you never hear about it.

And if you can’t donate that’s okay, but please talk about it, and often enough that it gets some sound recognition and perhaps the right person or group of people will be able to help with research efforts if they hear about it.

Thank you for reading this far.

 

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The Loyalty demanded of Mercy

I once had a pair of Kings…but now they are gone.

I did something this morning that many, if not most of you could ever understand.

That’s okay because in my life of 46 years I know that I’ve always been a little different, a little awkward, a little eccentric, a little impulsive, and just a little “off”, by most standards.

Not good, not bad, just different.

I do not know why, and I no longer care, I just embrace it.

Not to say that I do not care what people think of me, I do, especially my children.

I certainly don’t care if you think I’m cool, or rich, or poor, or grumpy, or strange. But it is very important to me that people do not think that I am shallow, superficial, selfish, careless, or greedy.

With that out of the way, the rest of what I write here may make you angry, or sad, or confused, and perhaps even make you unfriend me. However, I hope that after I’ve let you into my mind, my rationale, my logic, and my motivation, that you will see that this was a painful, but necessary thing that I had to do today.

Moving on…

Once when I was young my father shot the family dog. It was the end of Amos’s life and it needed to be done, but my siblings and I could not understand how one could kill the family dog in a such a brutal, and calloused way. I never did understand the ol’ mans logic. Was it cheap and easy? Is that what it was? Who knew what went through that old codger’s mind.

Many, many, many, years later…today…I understood.

The pair of kings that I mentioned above were a pair of brothers (orange tabby cats).These cats ruled our side of the mountain for the past 15 years, they were big (18-20 lbs), burly and beautiful. They were tough. They had the loudest purr you ever heard and were very friendly, but not to cats that didn’t belong, and some small dogs too.

They lived outside until they reached about a decade in age, from then on they had house privileges during inclement weather, and as they approached a dozen years in age they pretty much just went in and out as they pleased. We never had a litter box, ever.

We lost the first one to cancer a few years back. It was ugly, it took hold in the roof of his mouth and eventually interfered with his ability to eat so I liquefied venison and put it on a saucer plate so he could lap it up with his tongue.

Unfortunately, but expected, the day came that we had to take the one way trip to the vet’s office.

There were tears, the kids stepped out of the room, the injection was made and he died in my lap. The passage of his time in our family filled my mind. After all, he had been around throughout my children’s lives. He could be seen in countless photos, their baby years, their toddler years, and even their teen years.

Believe it or not, this was the first animal out of a lifetime of pets that I ever had euthanized by a vet. For one reason or another, accidents, sudden illness, or otherwise, I just never had to make that choice.

Life goes on.

A few years later…now, I notice the last brother has a swollen abdomen, I know what it is, I think I know what is, so I take him to the vet for a positive ID of cancer. It was. So I used the money that I had to keep him comfortable as long as I could until I knew the time was here. We had another week to spend time with him, to burn the memories of his image into our minds.

In “my” mind, when an animal with the voracious appetite of a cat can no longer eat or drink, the time has come. In “my” mind, it is pure torture for a cat to not be able to eat, or drink.

What happened next, caught me by surprise, as well as my wife, and I spent most of the day reflecting upon why I did it, because I really didn’t spend much time thinking about it before hand, I just did it.

On my way out the door this morning I told my wife and kids to say their good-byes. I had told them last night that today would likely be the day.

I told the girls to put Tiger in the truck, I grabbed my briefcase, and left. I spoke softly to him, and said my good-byes in my own way.

I drove gently to the bottom of the mountain where our farm is, and then to the end of the lane. I softly took him from the seat of the truck, set him down on beautiful green spring grass, got him comfortable, stroked his emaciated spine with my left hand, he was purring, and with my right hand pulled the trigger of my .22

It was over in an instant.

I stroked his body until his writhing muscles went limp.

Then I rolled him up in a nice towel and placed him in a box.

My last king was gone.

Then I cried…hard.

With wet, swollen, and bloodshot eyes, I drove 1 hour and 15 minutes to a meeting with a contractor. I spent that 1:15 reflecting upon what I had done and why.

My wife Charleen also sent me a message telling me that my daughter had seen the .22 in the truck and that she was mad at me.

So in a way, I’m writing this to my daughters so they don’t spend years wondering what was going through this old codger’s mind when he shot the family cat.

Here is what I’ve gleaned from my actions today. When we had the first brother euthanized by the vet I felt like I was paying someone to do what I should’ve done, my responsibility, my duty, my onus.

The money was not a consideration, but the act of mercy on an old friend was.

I love animals, and I’m a small scale farmer.

That said, I take my responsibility of owning animals very seriously and feel that I owe them the best life that I can give them from beginning to end. Every single time I have to put an animal down, I do it with reverence, and a silent prayer of sorts thanking them for what they’ve given me. There is never a struggle.

In this case, he was a pet, a friend, and I felt it was my obligation, not someone else’s, to end his suffering.

I assure you that it was not callous, cheap, or easy…it was compassionate, caring, heart wrenching. In fact it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It was personal. It was painful.

It was the duty of a loyal friend, and I am a loyal friend.

To my daughter’s…should I ever be in the last stage of my life and need your help to get me to the other side, if it’s legal, and you’ll suffer no consequences, please show me the love that I showed your cat today.

I will close my eyes, and love you forever.

Your father.

A Pair of Kings

The Shepherd’s Heart

39Tonight, a warm southern breeze slinks it’s way through the ridges, and hollows.

And here I lie on a bed of the finest hay that once waved easily to the blue skies above the Shenandoah Valley.

On this moonlit night though, it insulates me from the winter ground, and smells of fresh cut grass from the summer past. 

I find myself reflecting upon a mind that is sometimes troubled, but most times peaceful.

At what may be midlife, I wonder why the answers never seem to be as clear as the stars and moon above my head.

What am I supposed to be, supposed to do, supposed to feel?

I work a job that I’ve learned since I was nineteen, but now it feels as though it was never supposed to be.

I only find comfort, find solace, find peace, while surrounded by hills, hollows, grass, and the animals I raise.

I was born into a family of farmers, who shaped me, made me, and molded me. But now I find myself far from that place, and lost in region that runs at a frenzied pace.

My peers strive to climb the corporate ladder but I just can’t find the desire.

“I” just want to lie here on the side of a blue mountain in the moon shadows of four loyal, and giant, dogs while trying to figure out how to make it my life.

I’m running out of life you know, and so are you.

After all, nobody gets out of this one alive.

I cannot die knowing that I didn’t live the life that I should have lived…that I was supposed to live.

Perhaps I’ll find a way to make this work, to make it “my” work.

My mind wanders, my mind wavers, my mind gets lost in a sea of thoughts. But it only seems to be at peace when I am here.

Surrounded by goats, and dogs, and ridges, and hollows.

So there is my answer, my calling, my passion.

It’s taken nearly a half a century to find this answer. Why was the path so long, and why so arduous?

Can I do this?

I don’t know.

But if I die while trying… it will be a good death, and a good life that was worth living.

An honest life, like the farmer’s that made me.

I’ll live it for me, not another man’s profits.

And these are the inner pieces of me…

-CS Jackson