Sunday, September 8, 2013

Going Out With Flash

Flash was an adoptee, a foxhound mutt brought in after the short two-year reign of Dean, the sweet-tempered but ultimately brainless animal, who departed this mortal coil on the fool’s bet that his skull was harder than a Ford Explorer.  I speak of a dog, of course…any other pet is merely an accessory.

He was already named…twice.  He bore the abysmal moniker of “T-Rex”, so named by the people who adopted him at eight weeks and were surprised that a puppy would be rambunctious with a pre-schooler.  The energetic pooch was returned to the Humane Society at the age of nine months, housebroken but psychologically damaged.  When my wife and children went to meet him at the shelter our daughter thought he took off like a flash, and it stuck.

He came in the back door and immediately parked himself at my heels, seeking my approval.  It’s a tough place to be, especially when you’re appealing to a guy who thinks he’s already had the best pet ever.

His name was Brooklyn.  He came to us from my brother, who had incorrectly read his apartment lease and learned only after buying the black and tan shepherd mix that there was no way he could keep him.  He dumped him on my parents and told them to keep it, or give it to the humane society.  Half-assed attempts at finding adoptive families were made, but ultimately it only took one look at his heart-shaped face and you were a goner.  He slept on my bed until I married and fell further back in the pack when my children were born, but he was never less than a perfect companion.  I had him put to sleep on a Christmas Eve when the vet told me his pain would be off-and-on for the rest of his life, but mostly on.  There were treatments available that would do little more than make me feel better, but friends don’t do that to friends.

I was a tough nut to crack, having buried two animals in the previous three years, but Flash didn’t give up on me.  Because of his abandonment, he was a needy animal.  Maybe he saw something in me, or maybe it was because I frequently smell like chicken. He won me over, though I’ve always been kind of a sucker when I think somebody needs me.  He now answers to any number of names, Flash, Flashy, Flash-a-Bibble, Bibbs, Mr. Bibbs, or Bibbsy.  Oh, we call him Big Head, too, though if I call that name out both my dog and my son will come.

It was on a visit to the veterinarian’s office this spring when I learned that Flash, now twelve, had cataracts and was already beginning to lose his sight.  We had noticed that he’d lost a step in the speed department, slept a bit more than he used to and could clear a room with a fart like any number of other old men I have known, but going blind was not on our radar.

Wondering what the future held with a pet whose vision was gradually dimming was difficult to ponder.  He loved to chase small game in the back yard, rarely getting anything but a Squirrel Nutkin catcall from a branch just out of his reach.

It seems like fate now, when the lawn mower broke down.  My wife and I planted a large patch of wildflowers in the middle of our back yard.  They would grow to be a good three-feet tall and remain colorful until the end of June when we would cut them down.  This year however, when it came time to clear the patch, the blades of the Toro were silenced and the parts would have to be ordered…it would be weeks before I could complete the chore.

While my son borrowed a neighbor’s mower to cut the front yard (so we could hold up our heads when we saw the neighbors), we left the back yard alone, as we had had little rain and the growth was not out of control.  One night after work, I saw movement in the flower patch.  Flash didn’t see it, but he heard it.  He crept closer to investigate.

Nose to the ground, he rooted slowly through the mini-forest, one step at a time.  It wasn’t more than five minutes later that he had flushed a rabbit, chasing his quarry until it disappeared into a thicket.  Even after he lost the race, Flash’s tail slashed the air, the thrill of the chase making his heart pound and his ears perk up.

Every night for weeks, Flash would put off the reason he had come outside for a leisurely stalk through the former flower garden, getting a good chase more often that not.  Something those rabbits loved to eat was still thriving in there, long after the daisies had lost their petals.

We’ve cut all of that down now.  I still take him out every night and he’ll occasionally spy a straggler running through the yard. Again, there have been no casualties, but like an old man bouncing grandchildren on his knee while he thinks about his own children as babies, I think Flash feels young again for a few minutes. 

I’ve even noticed he is having more of those hunting dreams, where the legs move in a running motion and he yelps just the way he does when he’s on a hunt.  In some ways, he seems younger than he did this spring, having re-discovered his ancestral purpose.  Or maybe he knows that, on this end of his life, it’s me that needs him and he’s decided to stick around a little longer. 

Whatever the reason(s), every night after dinner you can see Flash and I, two old dogs, our noses to the air, savoring the scents that ride the late summer breezes.  We can enjoy each other’s company for a little longer as we walk the freshly-cut back yard, grateful for an old, broken lawnmower.   
Please consider these other items written and/or performed by Marc Holland:

Live performances at:

Three plays co-written with Mike Davis-

Crenshaw Family Reunion 

Beauty and the Deceased

Night of the Livid Dad (one-act)

One play co-written with Kathy Holland-

Warren’s Peace

Are  all available at:

Coming Soon: A new one-act co-written with Kathy Holland-


Will be available at:

Novels under the pen name Quentin Tippler-

Hats Off For Homicide

And Coming Soon:

On the QT: The Collected Short Fiction of Quentin Tippler

Are for sale at:

Novels under the pen name Carl Stafford-

Son of Mann

And Coming in 2014:

Grandsons of Mann

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