Wednesday, April 18, 2018



This is a story about my puppy dog Bjorn.

 There are lots of stories about Bjorn, but before I tell the story I came here to tell you about, let me give you an aside (surprise!) that gives you a bit about his background: Bjorn was a true rescue dog. As a puppy he was bought by a man who wanted a viscous guard dog. Instead, he got the most friendly-spirited German Shepard puppy in the county.

 Frustrated, he gave "Rex" away to his son, a firefighter who lived down the road from us. "Rex" lived somewhere beside the firefighter's trailer and spent his days escaping from whatever enclosure he was in -- until he got hit by a car. At that point, said firefighter tied "Rex" to a small tree in the open space of his land in the heat of the summer. After getting complaints from the neighbors about "Rex's" whining and crying all day long, he moved "Rex" to a bigger tree in the shade.

 A month or so later a UPS driver delivered something to Bonn at the old farmhouse where we used to live. The driver arrived in tears, telling Bonn how she had seen a dog starving and pleading with her when she delivered a package. Bonn drove down and confirmed the awful conditions this skinny, malnourished German Shepard was barely living under. When I got home, she told me about him. I didn't need to think about it. "Let's go," I said.

 The situation was worse than I had imagined. He'd been starved and left without water for weeks. Maybe months. We poured a half gallon of water we'd brought with us into a bowl. He finished off all of it without coming up for water. "What are we going to do?" Bonn asked. "Well, I guess we have ourselves a dog," I replied.

 One end of a rope tied was around a tree, the other end was around his neck. He'd paced nervously around in circles so much that the rope had twisted and twisted until I couldn't get my finger underneath the rope around his neck. I cut the rope just past his neck with a knife and then proceeded to write a note to the firefighter that I taped to his door.

 The firefighter called later that night to explain that the dog was "in his teenage years" and might eat everything we put in front of him (surprise); the next day the vet said the dog was about a week away from dying from dehydration and starvation.

Bjorn on stairs
Bjorn, slightly older than in the photo above.

So much for the background. Here's the story I came to tell you about today. Bjorn -- I quickly named him after Bjorn Borg, a tennis player I'd grown up knowing because our Bjorn's first toys were tennis balls, which he absolutely loved running full-tilt after in our big yard -- lived most of his early years on the land around an old farmhouse. After a while we all moved to a house in the Raleighwood suburbs where Bjorn had a big backyard to run around in.

 Suddenly, there were new, suburban sounds for him to figure out. The best of these were fire engines. His first few times hearing fire engines, Bjorn was confused. He couldn't quite figure them out. There was... something there that he was trying to remember, trying to recognize, trying to connect with. 

Finally, one day, the far-off wailing sound of the fire engines reached deep within his subconscious genetic code and spoke to the distant wolf inside of him. And Bjorn began to howl. Bjorn howled in unison with the sirens, in sympathy, in heartfelt sorrow and fellowship with those sirens. His eyes would glaze over and he was transported by his becoming one with that primeval howl, that call to something lost, something missing. That just-out-of-reach longing.

 At first we were perplexed by this howling. I loved my Bjorn-e-o and worked to understand the depths behind it. Soon, I started joining in with the showing with him. At first he was somewhat taken aback by this big pink monkey doing his best to howl alongside of him. That soon dissipated, though. He understood that I was trying (as best I could) to howl along with him for all of those missing pieces, those empty spaces in my soul, adding my voice to the chorus of all of the others who felt the same way.

  ADDENDUM 1: The kids next door had two young dogs who started joining in with Bjorn whenever a fire engine siren started wailing in the distance. They never knew why they were doing it, they were just joining in with that cool dog next door in his howling. After Bjorn died and went to that great Crab Shack in the Sky, both of the next door neighbor dogs still howled every time a siren went by down the main road two blocks away.

  ADDENDUM 2: I still howl with the sirens sometimes. And when I do, I can hear my Bjorn howling with me. Arooooooooooooooooo...