Forty-five pounds, pit mix. No rare breed around these parts. A scrapper, a scrounger. Queen of the side-eye. Default expression when photographed: scorn. Aura: glowering. Short legs. Post-litter paunch. Smooth black coat; some white in her face added a few more years than she’d lived. White chest mottled with black. Comically expressive ears, like those of George Rodrigue’s “Blue Dog,” with one usually pointed straight up, and the other bent off in some contrary direction. With a hearing impairment we could never completely figure out. She had a distinctive trot—both back legs would kick out in the same direction, kinda sideways in mid-stride, when running ahead a little ways while we were on a walk. Defiant and never deferring to any mink- or mastodon-sized alpha repeatedly announcing its domain as we passed . . . especially if it was on the other side of a fence.
I don’t know why you should care about my dog. We had to put her down last Saturday. And I am writing this now. Pearl brought much joy to our household; I hope we did same for her. She found sanctuary here in our empty nest, just plain glad to have somewhere comfortable to sleep, and to be. And sleep she did, with great enthusiasm and a broad catalog of snoring sounds to broadcast. Though she was here for a much shorter time than our previous dog Apollo (4 1/2 years instead of 13), the grief around this house feels just as deep, sunny day and cool breeze be damned.
The loss in the silence. All I can hear is what’s missing, stark lack of familiar sounds: from our bed, early morning, we’d hear her up in the front room on the sofa, first a shake and stretch, tag jangling against the rings on her pink collar, a rapid drum-roll flap of the ears, then a pause, followed by the jump down to the hardwood floor, a two-beat landing: ta-da! The quick declarative walk, paws clicking towards the water bowl in the kitchen. She’d drink like she’d been lost for days in the Mojave, then return to the hallway, where she would wait outside the bedroom, knowing we were now awake to serve her, to let her outside then back in for breakfast. After eating she’d jump up on our bed, briefly acknowledge our presence (if she felt like it) then turn to look out the windows before falling back asleep.
A local rescue group had found her wandering before she came to us. A couple of tumors under the skin on her side. We took her in as a foster, then decided to keep her. Possibly she’d suffered abuse or trauma sometime in her past. A couple of kinks: she maintained a vigorous hatred for the two dogs next door to the east; she’d often ask to be let out so she could bark incessantly at their house, whether the dogs were in there or not. The lab who lived on the other side? Fine, no complaints. She’d sleep between us most nights til she got too hot; she would usually lie with her back pressed up against my legs. When I woke up last Saturday morning, that’s right where she was. But she would immediately jump off the bed and return to the sofa if, in the course of normal human movement, turning over, etc., something touched her backside. Hypersensitive. Lately though, I’d learned that if I patted her gently on the leg before I tossed or turned, she’d stay calm. Like most of us, she was no fan of posterior surprises.
She had a way with hiding. I’d be in the backyard working on something, knowing that she had come outside with me, yet when I would look up from cleaning the grill or cutting vines off the fence, I couldn’t see her. I’d stop what I was doing and walk around the yard, often not finding her for several minutes. And it’s not a large yard . . . .
When I was sick this summer, I really fell for her. During the seven weeks of treatment, she’d come close to my face and smell my breath for several seconds, knowing something was going on in there. A brief, begrudging lick to my nose would end her inquiry. There was one day when she’d tired out during a walk—out of breath, gone too far in the heat. I said then, not so seriously: Pearly, don’t fall out on us yet. I can’t deal with that. Let me get through this crap first. Thinking back on that now, well, I don’t know what to say. That’s what happened.
Permanence. Impermanence. Her death, of the former; the willy-nilly arbitrariness of this world being of the latter. Nothing stays, and once it goes, it’s gone. After Apollo passed, I told my therapist more than once that “I want my damned dog back.” Knowing that could never be, but needing to say it just the same. Like hearing my own words out loud would help me to “buck up” and accept the impossibility of the way-back-in-there wish that those words, or anything, could reverse reality.
I write this because Pearl lived, because we loved her, because telling you about her and our time together is what I must do now, to remember a life gone on. Maybe there’s a place around here, some metaphysical fence line the night-trippers know, where space and time have worn-thin edges, and co-mingle more randomly; somewhere some magic might happen, a trade could be made: Give up a little of this Now Without, for some Back Then, with her here again? I haven’t found that place yet; maybe she will.
You can come up, Pearly. You can come up.
To state the obvious: it’s been too long. I just discovered yesterday that a post I wrote in July never actually made it onto the site. But as most of you know, I’ve had other things going on.
I finished treatment for throat cancer almost three weeks ago, and the news is good! I’m feeling a little better every day. I wore the mask you see in the photo for the 35 radiation treatments(5 days a week for 7 weeks); this is how they keep your head still (and in exactly the same place every time), by putting this thing over your head and bolting it to the table you’re lying on. Took some getting used to. Took some anti-anxiety medication! But I did it. Fortunately each one doesn’t take long–10-15 minutes. Was supposed to have six chemo treatments, but only ended up having four. I’ll have scans done in late September which will provide more definitive information, but my doctors are extremely optimistic. I’ll keep you posted on this, but jeez do I ever want to move on and talk about something other than the big C. Those of you who’ve been in this situation know–when you’re dealing with it, it’s pretty much all consuming. It’s your job. It’s your life. Now that I’m recovering, at least I can look out a-ways and try to ponder what’s ahead. Thanks for all of your support, in whatever form–good thoughts, prayers, ice cream, books(!), incredibly tasty Nirvana bottled water(!), and more. All very much appreciated. And thanks to all of you who’ve had this disease who came forward and so generously shared your own stories. It blew my mind to realize how many people have had cancer–but it was also reassuring to learn how treatable/survivable it is now. I don’t like going to the doctor much either, but if you’ve got a question about something going on with your body, please: get it checked out! Catching mine early made a big difference in my treatment and prognosis. Now, finally–a little music news:
Alligator Records artist and 7-time Blues Music Award winner Shemekia Copeland recorded a song I wrote with Gwil Owen (which first appeared on my Gloryland record), “One I Love,” that was released on her America’s Child album in 2018. A few months ago I had the honor of playing guitar on a powerful track on her brand new release, Done Come Too Far, called “When Pink Turns to Red.” Thanks to producer Will Kimbrough for having me. Check it out, wherever you find your music!
Today, September 2, is Bandcamp Friday, when the good folks at Bandcamp waive their usual cut of the sales revenue for anything you buy on their site today. You can find some KG releases there which aren’t available anywhere else, at https://kevingordon.bandcamp.com/
Have a great (and safe) holiday weekend!
TONIGHT (3/31): Rockin’ it again with the legendary Iguanas tonight in Chicago! City Winery, baby. 8pm start. Yours truly begins the proceedings, with the Iguanas backing me supremely for my set, then they’ll play their own. Let’s fill this room! Tickets still available, kids, and it’s a beautiful night to get out amongst other three-dimensional […]
Hi friends, Let’s get down to it: LOTS of tour dates coming up, and I’m thrilled to finally be getting back out there. They’ll all be on the “tour” page here on the site, with ticket links, but here’s a basic breakdown of what’s happening and when: Wed 3/9 (2nd SHOW ADDED!) The David Egan Songbook […]