Anticipation mounts and I finally buckle under the pressure of returning to writing after an unplanned departure. Last summer the time had arrived to join partner Alfred’s small business, a head shop, which opened in April 2011 and staggered like a drunken soldier, as startups are known to do, with Alfred literally pounding the pavement to get the name out. For a time he had to rely on others to keep the doors open and when the opportunity for me to walk away from the cable company employer came about I did not hesitate. After some decompression I joined him and began applying 15 plus years of retail experience all the while writing between customers but along about October business sky rocketed upwards as the small shop suddenly became well-known in the small town of St. Johns, Oregon it seeing an increase of young couples moving into the area. The holiday season proved profitable and this has continued well into the new year as the selling of tobacco and water pipes along with accessories knows no season!
Then, tragedy struck this month as our Black Pug Smokey Joe
came down with an intestinal infection causing a loss of protein; one moment he was walking in his park enjoying life then the decline in health in, what seemed, the blink of the eye! Three weeks ago partner Al and I sat in the vets office from 3 to 5am tossing back and forth the idea of putting Joe to sleep or giving him pain killers to give all three us more time, just one more day, one more hour, one more minute. Finally, the irreversible, gut wrenching choice and then the grieving, getting over the visual and muscle memory of where Joe walked, slept, ate, sniffed, and loved to be.
We obtained Smokey Joe at a dog show at the age of one year in 2004 his nuances included such as: snoring that sounded human, perching atop the sofa staring at the front door waiting for one of us to step through, resting his head on someone’s foot or leg quietly observing his world, sometimes perched on living room chair staring out the window ( He did this also in an upstairs bedroom looking out the window which reminded me of a widow searching the oceans horizon awaiting the return of her long-lost sailor). On walks Smokey Joe was fun to watch eyes glaring with intense determination as he moved from tree to tree. If he came toward you the front legs worked similar to a Bulldogs while the rear end had a swagger to match John Wayne’s, Pilgrim. On discovering a scent in a clump of grass Joe’s faced disappeared as he plunged in to investigate and on those occasions at home Joe loved to play, with adrenaline flowing, spreading his legs outward lowering his body just centimeters above the carpet he flew from one side of the room to the other. Hilarious! Smokey Joe had a unique personality I’ve never seen in a dog!
Within two weeks of Smokey Joe’s passing Alfred rescued a two-year old Labrador Retriever, Fischer,
from the Humane Society for Southwest Washington whose last home lasted only 13 days as the owner decided she had got in over her head. Sad. Fischer is assisting the two of us as we transform into a new life, another chapter, large paws pound against hardwood floors as he races up and down stairs checking on us, making sure he is not forgotten. So now with a bigger dog, more hair to clean up, energy that makes me tired watching him, two adults are healing one eager to get back to writing! The shop business has picked up as well easing the pain of loss and the transition into the future.
This morning I arrived to work one half hour before opening to do the traditional preopening stuff, clean, restock, wipe down, etc and decided I needed more caffeine so a 15 minute, walk in the brisk Spring air to a nearby coffee shop I went. Pacific Northwest weather at this time of year is cold, wet, warm, overcast, clear and last night it rained leaving a fresh, sweet, tree bark aroma hanging on cleansed air. Nearing the coffee shop my pace livens as this aroma transports me back to Eugene, Oregon circa 1980 when I first set foot in the Northwest. New to the region I explored on foot and bicycle the smell of wood bark everywhere. Now with paper cup full of warm delight I make my way back to the shop spirits high and feeling confident another hurdle that is part of grieving surmounted. I know Fischer will fill the void emptied at the loss of a dog that was so much a part of my life and that he will be loved just as much but it wont be the same, how could it. I am ready for the return of pen to paper and paper to keyboard, cyberspace.