Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Chow's Stubborn Invincibility

My dog Chong, a black chow, used to lay out in the middle of the road and stop traffic. It was only a short road so cars never ran him over. They always stopped for him, and he still wouldn't move - just give that stubborn and aloof chow stare, and not budge an inch. Now if you know chows, you know that nothing can make them do anything they don’t want to do. I named him after watching a Cheech and Chong movie back in the eighties.

I stuck him in my car one night with the windows down after realizing someone had been stealing my gas. That night all hell broke loose, and I never had my gas stolen again.

I flew him up to Tok, Alaska to live with me when I was stationed in the Coast Guard. I climbed Mount Shasta with him when he was five. I took Chong all over. We drove up to Alaska when he was ten, and kayaked for a month in the fjords of the Southeast. I woke one morning to see him staring down four wolves. He was nose to nose with the Alpha male, but he didn't show one hint of fear, even though they would have likely ripped him to pieces had I not yelled. Chows don't have any fear at all, none, just stubborn invincibility. They’re unbeatable for their weight, and never lose their balance; another dog can’t throw them off their feet. And their strength is out of this world.

After he was ten, he started slowing down, and I gradually tapered his daily work out to fit his aging body. By thirteen, he wasn't running anymore, not even trotting, just doing a couple miles at a walking pace - his pace. By fourteen, I was only walking him a mile, sometimes just half a mile. It would have taken me all day to go any farther, and frankly, that was good enough for Chong. He went at his own pace. He went at his own pace his entire life, so why change now. He was so stubborn and strong I thought he might live forever. But a few months later, Chong died. My father found him out back one day, flies buzzing around him. The only two regrets I have about him dying, is that dogs don't live long enough and that I wasn't there to see him pass. I'm not going to ever make that mistake again with any other dog I get. They deserve me being there when they pass. After all, they give their entire lives to us.

Looks Like Doom

Here's a poem I wrote about riding out of the Brooks Range in a helicopter.

Riding back on the helicopter really scares me.
Not because I’m aloft in a heavy, steel machine
That can’t fly a lick if the engines fail,
Not at all.
What scare me are the countless forest fires I see.
I’m not afraid of getting burned.
It looks like a world in the throws of a smoldering and burning apocalypse.
The last days of existence
With the orange glow of a circular sun
Trying to shine through a choking haze.
The imposing columns of smoke have risen above the helicopter.
They’re gigantic and take up most of my view
And are still being fed by the burning of trees and plants down below.
This can’t be natural.
It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.
I hardly avert my eyes from the window
Except to look at my dogs
Sound asleep at my feet.
The dogs and I wear earplugs.
Despite the thumping of the rotor blades and the scream of the engine
They doze like babies.
I’m afraid these fires were never meant to be.
A reflection of the hand of modern man.
The fires are only the beginning of the true scorching,
Of what is yet to come,
The exhumation of the Earth’s surface.
That’s what I’m afraid might be happening.
The sky is so filled with smoke
That it looks like we are flying through a perpetual cloud,
Not quite so dense enough so I can’t see.
It’s like a white veil surrounding the whole world.
And the sun in its orbit appears perfectly round,
A circular sphere glowing,
Trying to shed light on the charred remains of the planet.
I see images like battlefields in a bombed and obliterated landscape.
It looks like doom,
And this frightens the hell out of me.

But then the fires end abruptly
Like there is an invisible line they can’t cross,
Like we’ve made a deal with the natural forces,
Or the unnatural forces if you like.
There’s hope.
Except for the hazy sky,
All looks again like it should be.
There is mile after mile of taiga forest,
And views of rivers and creeks
Threading across the forest in a serpentine pattern.
The land I’ve always imagined.
The way it is supposed to be.