A Poem: Learning to Simply Be


The dog sleeps against my leg,
chest rising and falling, smelling of Milk-bones,
dirt and rain-washed fur.
She has nowhere to go, no thoughts
about what she ought to be doing now.

My ankle twitches, my thighs itch.
I count the ticks of the piano clock,
like a metronome set on andante, slow.
I should be practicing, arranging my music,
composing a brilliant new song to play.

The big dog whimpers in her sleep.
Her paws paddle in the air. She pants.
β€œIt’s okay,” I whisper, stroking her back.
Her muscles tense beneath my hand,
then relax as she awakens with a sigh.

She jumps up, shakes from nose to tail,
stretches and leads me to the door.
Outside, the stars shine thick and bright.
As she trots across the grass to pee,
I gaze upward, still earning to simply be.


The pups in the picture are my babies Annie (tan) and Chico (black). They will turn seven next week.

All contents copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2015

Adios, Chico

My big black dog Chico is gone. I drove him to the Willamette Humane Society shelter in Salem on Saturday and “surrendered” him. Now I can only hope and pray that a wonderful family adopts him and enjoys his loving personality until he’s an old dog with a gray muzzle. Ironically, this was Chico’s 23-month birthday. We almost made it to two years.

He was eager to go for a ride, but as the curves piled one on another during our two-hour journey, he rested his head against the back of the car seat with an expression that said I don’t feel too good, but I will endure. As I drove, I pet his soft fur, felt his massive paws against my thigh and tried not to cry. He had been an angel lately, obeying every command, looking for what I wanted him to do next. He lay his big head on my knee while I worked and put up with wearing a leash every time he went out. I could not help but notice that he appeared to be better looking, more loving, and more obedient than his sister Annie, whom I am keeping. If only Chico hadn’t learned to jump so high that no fence could keep him in. If only he hadn’t tried to kill other dogs. If only my chubby wide-eyed puppy hadn’t gotten so big that he could easily pull me off my feet. I had spent the last five weeks trying to find someone who would take him. Everyone was leery of his size and his half pit bull heritage.

A young woman took him away as soon as I got to the counter. “Bye, honey,” I said, barely able to speak. That was the last I would see of him. The Humane Society will not give updates on what is happening with dogs that have been surrendered. He’s not mine anymore. I feel as if I have totally betrayed him, but I know I had no choice. With everything else that’s going on, with my husband in a nursing home and no one to help me with these big dogs, I had to let him go.

The Willamette Humane Society is a large property with lots of space for dogs to run and play. It was jammed on Saturday with people looking for pets and a Girl Scout troop on tour. The woman who went over my paperwork assured me that they have good luck finding families for surrendered animals. Last year 600 were adopted. She knew it was hard, but I shouldn’t worry about Chico, she said.

Oh, but it hurt to walk out alone. I drove to an empty lot outside a nearby construction warehouse and sobbed. I cried all the way to Philomath, where I bought myself an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen. Vanilla dipped in chocolate. A childlike reward for doing something so painful.

By the time I returned to South Beach, it was dark. I stopped at the Post Office and took down Chico’s poster, tossing it into the recycle bin, then went home to begin life as a duo, just Annie and me. She climbed into my lap, licked my face, and sighed.

Blues in the night

So there I was sitting on the driveway with a flashlight and a box of Milkbones, playing my harmonica and thinking about life without my dogs. It was cold and clear, the stars so bright, but not bright enough to help me see a black dog in the night.

An hour earlier, I had been happily eating dinner when I saw Annie at the sliding glass door. Uh-oh. Sure enough, I had left the gate to their pen open. Fingers crossed, I searched the yard, but Chico had jumped the fence. Now Annie was looking to me to find him. I put on my heavy coat, grabbed the flashlight and leash and set off down the street, around the corner, straining to see, calling “Chico, come”. Nothing. I came back home, walked through the neighbor’s yard, saw him watching TV in his cozy living room filled with the mounted heads of deer, elk and other animals he has killed. No dog.

Having seen other people’s trash carts out,reminding me it was trash night, I decided to pull mine out, too. Maybe Chico would see the open garage with the light on and come home. No. Annie got out. With her dog super-powers, she soon located her brother and they both went flying down the street. I went after them. Occasionally I saw them, running, tongues out, tails wagging, united and happy. I opened the tailgate of my car and sat there. Sure enough, the dogs came, but they gave me a grin and dashed into the forest where the growth is too thick for me to go in there.

That’s when I closed things up and settled in with my harmonica, making up tunes in the key of D. The dogs approached; they like my music. I tossed a handful of treats onto the pavement. Annie came closer. As she wolfed them down, I grabbed her and dragged her in. Once she was safely locked away, I followed the same procedure for Chico. Both dogs were soaked and muddy. I dried them off and cranked up the pellet stove.

Soon the escapees were sleeping on the floor, exhausted and happy, perhaps dreaming of the sound of a harmonica playing in the night.

Wouldn’t you know?

So, I heard about a gig that I really, really want, but I can’t apply until it is officially announced. Meanwhile, my dear Annie refused to go outside, so I decided to take her with me to the post office and go on to walk on a wilderness trail. I wasn’t prepared to see any humans, but who is the first person I saw as we headed for the trail? The person who would be my boss. There I was with my yellow dog pulling me, despite me chanting, “Heel, Annie, heel.” I had no makeup on, raggedy hair, and was wearing my oversized Salvation Army pants that keep falling down. Swell. But this is what a writer looks like when she’s working at home.

“Hi,” I called, smiling. What else could I do? “Hello,” he replied, a look of disapproval on his face.

Oh well, if I get an interview, maybe when I show up dressed like a professional, I’ll look so swell he won’t recognize me. Anything is possible. Besides, do I want to work for somebody who doesn’t like dogs?

Sweet Annie is the one whose obstinacy led to me falling into the back wall of our house and spraining my wrist three weeks ago. I couldn’t see who was behind me, but I think both Annie and her brother Chico were there. All I know is that suddenly I was flying and I knew I was going to hit hard. It took a couple days for me to forgive the pups, but Annie is back to sitting in my lap while we watch TV. Yes, she weighs over 60 pounds. She was a saint in the car today.

Training these pups is a work in progress. My wrist is healing. It will be fine by Thanksgiving. To all those who say, “Get rid of those damned dogs,” I say, “No.” Both dogs and I have come so far it would be wrong to quit now. Look at that picture. Aren’t they sweet?

Besides, I need them to lick the envelopes for my Christmas cards.;-)

The dogs won

See that sweet little dog in my profile picture? Well, Annie got big and stubborn. She and her brother are almost 20 months old now. Last night I was trying to put her out, so I could take Chico to church for the blessing of the animals. I can’t handle both at once, and C. is better in the car. Well, Annie wouldn’t go. I tried bribes, scaring her with the noisy can, sweet-talking and my tough voice. She just sat and barked at me. Finally I tried dragging her by the collar, but Chico followed us and somehow I found myself flying through the air into the back of the house. My right hand and my glasses hit first. I was able to fix the glasses, but my wrist required a visit to the hospital. It’s sprained. No typing, no piano or guitar, no nothing for at least a week. I’m finding it’s very tricky to do everything one-handed. Just try putting on a bra with only your left hand. Flossing is out of the question. Boy, I shouldn’t have had that poppyseed muffin for breakfast. πŸ˜‰

The dogs want to eat my splint. They are sweet as ever today, but forget about the blessing. I think they need to go to confession.

Meanwhile I’m researching a novel about a one-handed woman.

That’s Where They Went!

My black dog Chico’s tags were gone, just gone. All four had disappeared. It had only been a week or so since I replaced them, but now, instead of jingling, he walked in silence. After a diligent search of the yard, I gave up and wrote his name and phone number on his actual collar. He had jumped the fence a day earlier, so I figured the tags were lost in the forest, never to be found again.

Surprise. Returning from the Willamette Writer’s Conference yesterday to two excited dogs and mountains of poo, I started cleaning up the yard and discovered something shiny sticking out of the uh, stuff. Oh my gosh, his rabies tag. In another pile, his license. In yet another, his microchip tag. Annie, Chico’s tan sister, ate them! What a stomach that dog has. She not only ate them, but digested and excreted them. Wearing plastic gloves, I washed off the poo and analyzed what was left. The license has lost all its color, and the microchip tag is illegible, but the rabies tag looks nice and clean now. All we’re missing is Chico’s name tag.

The question is: Should I bother putting the tags back on? Annie goes straight for them every time they wrestle, which is all day long. The last time Chico lost his license, a spokesman from animal control told me it wasn’t necessary to wear the tag as long as his license information was on file. Ideas?

Meanwhile, Annie has all her tags because Chico isn’t into eating non-food items. He’s into running and jumping. Oh, and he did break open the zipper on the big green cushion of the only chair I let them sit on. While Annie was soaking up affection in my office, Chico was quietly shredding yellow pieces of foam rubber in the living room. Arrgh.

People keep telling me they’ll mature. If they live another week, they’ll be 18 months old. Meanwhile, it’s like having two kids in the terrible twos. They are so sweet when they’re sleeping.

%d bloggers like this: