Sunday, July 10, 2011

ON THE WATER & DOUGLAS STILL DOMINATES MY MIND

It's been a challenging past three weeks getting the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, TWRA, boat, trailer and truck serviceable.  That equipment sat for two years in the elements and required detailed maintenance work.  Long hours and prioritized maintenance attention have been the tasks each day.  Everything is finally ready for duty.  I'll launch and check out the boat and new navigation system on Tuesday.  The other concern I've had is the property I am buying in Jefferson County.   It's very difficult to purchase property these days, as the government has created many, many hoops that must be jumped through perfectly.  This lengthy process appears to be coming to an end and a possible closing date may be established this week.  That move will place me almost on Cherokee Lake where I am assigned.  It can't happen too soon!
I thought I'd take today off from work to regroup and just relax.  This would be a nice day to put the Gheenoe in the water for a casual float trip down the river.  I haven't been in that boat since Douglas and I were on Tellico Lake a couple weeks ago.  Many thoughts have bothered me today, so I pulled over and rested the boat against a blow down and sat back and thought about things in my life.  An Osprey demonstrated his acrobatic expertise while I watched.  The computer crash late last week took all my photographic software so I am limited on my abilities to reproduce photos.  These are pretty much directly out of the camera.  I wasn't interested in being serious about it anyway.
I was in a light mood when I hitched up the boat late this morning.  The camera and water bottle were on the seat beside me.  I looked at the dogs waiting at the gate for me to come get them as I pulled out of the parking area.  Down the road out of town I went to the turn up 95 North, that leads to the river and the put in.  It is here that I always look over at Douglas and say, "here we go boy."  I did it out of habit on this trip.   The seat was empty.  There was no golden dog beside me.  I felt my throat tighten and was able to think of something else.  The drive up 95 was long and boring.   Suddenly, I didn't want to go.  What was the point?  This gear and equipment was all for Douglas.  All of it.  The canoes, the motor boat, the camping equipment;  all of it was to enable him to accompany me on outings.  What was I going to accomplish by running clear to the river today without him along?  In the Spring; photography is the purpose for the boat.  The photo opportunities are endless.  Douglas would have to sit on the boat doing nothing while I shot pictures. I often went alone.   But, on river runs such as I was going on today;  I'd keep the boat going and he could stand in the constant wind and smell the wild smells.  We often stopped at pretty shorelines where he could run his happy laps, swim and chase fish while I wrote in my journal.
I slowed the truck and almost turned around.  Then, I thought to myself that I've got to get on with life.  I can't let this grieving dominant my everyday.
The truck pulled into the boat launch area and I lazily put the boat into the water and parked the truck.  Normally, Douglas would jump out on my side of the truck and run down to the boat ramp for a quick swim while I locked up.  I would step onto the deck and say, "Douglas, get in the boat."  He would instantly swim to shore and scamper up the dock and jump onto the deck and take his place on the very point of the boat.
As the speed increased;  Douglas would raise his muzzle higher into the wind as if the potential for a larger variety of scents increased with speed.  His legs would sway and bend as the boat would turn this way and that.
But, today I was alone.  The little golden boy was not on the bow point where he belonged.  A sadness overcame me as the boat made it's way downstream at top speed.  Why was I here?   I wanted to enjoy the afternoon on this get away machine and I am saddened to the point of turning around and going back.
I slowed and pulled in against a dead fall log to write in my journal.  Even that aspect of the ride was mundane.  I just wasn't motivated.  Douglas would have disembarked onto the bank when I stopped the boat.  There was no golden dog to keep my eye on while I was writing.  I was alone.  This wasn't working today.  I started the engine and eased out of the bushes and headed back up stream toward the dock.
I didn't hurry.  My throat was getting tight again and I missed my little golden boy badly.  His image is implanted vividly in my mind and I can't shake the thought of him when in these familiar places we both frequented so often.
Douglas would be watching this Osprey closely as it circled.  I can see his head turn and his ears raise as the big bird would pass in front of him.  He's not there now.
I still have Happy and Shade to focus on.  I love them both to no end.  Friends tell me to give Shade a chance to fill the void in my heart, or to at least lessen the hurt.  Happy and Shade are both great dogs and I love both and would put my life in jeopardy for either one of them to assure their safety.  Shade is wonderful.  She's loving and very much bonded with me.  She always relied on Douglas to make the decisions on which way to run and how fast.  It's not that I think any less of her;  it's that Douglas came first.  He is the icon.  He represents the better part of me.  Shade does not share the same dynamics as Douglas.  Maybe I'm just used to a Douglas and nothing different will do.  But, I loved him with my whole being.  You've got to understand something and I'll try to explain it below:

I have no wife, no children and when I moved to Tennessee over seven years ago;  I had only one friend who lived pretty far away.  I don't go to cities, towns, bars or events.  I feel stifled in those places and I see no necessity to go to any of them.  I've no time for loud, obnoxious people or the stress, rush and social requirements of relationships.  Yes;  I have made friends here;  good solid friends!  But, I don't participate in the events they like to do.  I like the wild places.  I gravitate to the waters and forests of this great, wild state.  My first job in Tennessee was with The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and required daily use of a boat on the lakes in East Tennessee.  It was a job where I worked alone.  I asked for and received permission to have a dog accompany me on the boat.  Enter Douglas.  He was raised on that boat for the first year of his life.  He went with me every day I worked.  We were cemented together in a relationship that would bond us for eternity.  Other dogs would enter into our lives for one reason or another but, Douglas was "THE" main character.  He was not just a dog.  He was my friend.  I talked to him every day as we sped along the waterways.  I marveled at his attention to the wild places and animals that he passed.  He continually amazed me with his intelligence.  At one point in his life I could have him hold a knotted rope in his mouth while on the deck of our boat and the other end would be tied to a fisherman's boat.  He held the two boats together while I did my fish counts and creel checks.. He was there on cold Winter nights when I told him how cold I was.  He'd come over and take my mind off it.  At night he would lay on the floor at the foot of the bed.  I awakened to his beautiful face and form every morning.

In the truck, I would reach across the seat to rub his back and pet his beautiful head.  He would turn toward me and lay on his stomach facing me and lay his right paw on my knee as an indication he wanted more.  If I ignored him he would growl very low and stare at me with eyes wide open, imploring me to continue rubbing his back.
Now, I look over and there is an empty seat.  He is not there.  I'm driving alone, to where, and for what?   I can still feel his weight in my arms as I lifted him from the ditch and see his eyes wide in terror and hear his whimpering of pain and I can't stand it.  Just can't.  And the worse;  "Dr Webb;  please take the pain away from my little boy.  Please end his life.  Please be gentle with him before and after he's gone."

All I have of my sweet golden boy is his ashes, a lock of his hair and his collar which I will cherish until I am gone.  He'll never be replaced by any dog.  Never!  I'll relive the memories of many, many outings together and cry an ocean of tears, for his memory will not take on that faded texture that so many have explained it would.  He is vivid in my mind and heart and is with me every moment.  "Douglas;  we are as one my sweet boy.  My life is damaged with your passing.  I will find you someday and will be with you again.  Maybe you can show me the path to take on my journey.  We can walk together."