Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Group Writing: Earth, a Eulogy

 

The sky was dark and spitting snow. The earth at first broke and then went soft under the swing of my pick axe. The wind was biting and cold as I slowly hacked out the shape of the hole I needed. When I finished the initial work with the pick axe it was the turn of the spade to go into the earth. The soil was rich and dark, like nearly all the earth in the Alazani valley, and as the dark earth welled up on the spade it made me think about growing things, new life and food. But I was digging to plant life but instead to lay life to rest. A few feet from me lay my dog Pirate a brave and loyal companion for 12 years who was now dying in the cold and mud of a Georgian winter.

Something had gone wrong in Pirate’s brain. It started the day after New Year when Pirate had something like a stroke and nearly died. We nursed him back to heath and for a few glorious weeks he seemed back to his old self but obviously older and a bit feeble. Then just 8 days ago it happened again and Pirate no longer ate and drank only with great difficulty. He could not sleep and would just walk back and forth on his chain pulling it as tight as he could and banging his head on his house at one of the chain or a tree on the other end. We took him to several vets but nothing could be done for him. The vets suggested that we let him go and let him wonder off alone to die because, “Dogs like that.” We took him home and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. We finally found a doctor that gave us a medicine that would let Pirate sleep and I gave him a heavy dose and let him rest. His heart stopped once but started again and now his breathing was really slow and I knew the time was approaching and I was digging a grave.

The spade started scraping against stones, refuse from various construction projects that our predecessors on the property had started and then cast aside, so I reached for the pick axe again. The rocks came loose and the hole got deeper and by now I was breathing hard and I could no longer feel my face so I stopped and turned back to Pirate. Sliding off my glove I put my hand on Pirates chest and petted him. I could feel life in him but his body felt stiff. As my fingers ran down his dirty fur I could feel Pirate’s ribs sticking out and my mind cast back, unbidden, to times when Pirate had shown his strength when he had protected us all.

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I lived in a village in compound with a medical clinic. I had an apartment in the back of the clinic and lived there with my wife and young son. My wife first heard the trouble, there were men arguing in the yard, and it sounded bad. I went out to find out if the watchman Givy was in trouble. There was a market in front corner of the compound and Givy was a nice old man hired to be the market’s watchman and I was afraid he might be having trouble with some of the drunk men that hung around the market at night. Sure enough two of the drunks were there, men Givy had know for decades, and Givy had opened the gate to them. The men wanted cigarettes and they wanted Givy to open the market to get them. Givy refused, hence the argument. I was relieved arguments like this were not uncommon but the two men Givy had let in suddenly got violent they grabbed Givy and threw him back into the wall of the market. Shocked I cried out for them to stop and started to run across the yard to Givy’s aid but streaking out silently from the darkness came Pirate. One of the drunks saw him and he turned towards the dog and tried to kick him. Pirate leaped into the air and crashed into the man’s chest. Being off balance the man fell back and hit the ground and Pirate bit the tip of his nose off. The other drunk had let Givy go and kicked Pirate off his friend. Pirate did not miss beat and charged this second adversary. The man foolishly tried to bash Pirate with his arms and Pirate leap up and took a bite out of the man’s cheek. The drunk managed to knock Pirate away but Pirate immediately charged into the man’s leg and wrong footed him and the drunk fell face down on the ground. Pirate leaped on the man’s back and….I grabbed him and pulled him off before he could do any more. The men were beaten. Givy helped both men up and showed them out the gate while I held on to Pirate who was strong, energized and tight as a bow string about to be released. Before I moved from the village he would bite a total of 17 people who all needed biting.

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He was so different then, so full of energy and power. It seemed as if he would live forever but now he was thin and weak and not even in full control of his own body. Standing up I continued attacking the earth in the spitting snow digging a grave for my protector. The earth resisted me at every step when it was not more stones it was tree roots but all the obstacles yielded in the end to the muscles and the tool and the grave was dug. Now it was just a matter of waiting.

The wait was not long I heard Pirate starting to choke and move for the first time in hours. I ran to him and knelt next to him holding his head and petting him telling him what a good boy he has always been. I dearly hoped that some part of Pirate understood that I was there as I had been before…

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Pirate was young and fully of energy a puppy with a full grown body. He darted out the gate one night straight into the path of car. His leg was sprained but not broken. I wrapped it tight with bandages and took care him while he limped around. It was a happy day when the bandages came off and he ran again, but never again in front of a car.

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Pirate had often protected me but on this night I would save him. Some local media had run some bad stories about me and a Priest out with with some teen agers had got to talking about me and one thing led to another and about 30 teens had gathered outside my house to do some minor vandalism and shout insults at me. Pirate did not hesitate but charged all 30 boys and when one young men put his foot over the fence to throw some trash into the yard he lost his shoe an almost his foot. Then the boys made a game of it pocking Pirate with sticks hitting him with bottles and rocks. Pirate would not back down and kept trying to get a piece of these boys. Hearing the noise I ran out into the night and got a hold of Pirate dragging him to safety taking a bottle hit and some rock hits for my trouble. Pirate was bloody and battered but I patched him up and kept him safe that night.

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Now there was no saving him though. I could only hold him and soon there was a bit of blood and Pirate was gone laying still and going cold. I laid him down and gently said a short prayer and let him be still. It was time to pick up after Pirate one last time.

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Picking up after any dog is normal part of any owner’s duties but Pirate did not just leave the standard dog messes but left an impressive amount of carnage in his wake.

Georgia has big rats, they are black and aggressive and would be right out of central casting for any Hollywood horror movie featuring rats. For years I lived between two small farms that kept animals in their yards and my yard was a black rat highway. They terrorized my wife and were a general nuisance. When Pirate came of age I would let him go and he would hunt, in the mornings I would got out to the yard and discover rats with broken backs laying neatly heaps, rows or circles, Pirate had a whimsical side to him, near my car. I counted for while but stopped after picking up 200 of the buggers and disposing of them. The killing didn’t stop with rats either nothing moved through Pirate’s yard without Pirate’s permission. Hedge hogs, numerous small birds, pheasants, chickens and once I found the leg of a cat but not the rest of the poor creature.

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With the yard picked up and all of Pirate’s things put away I turned back to Pirate and found that there had been no miracle and he was cold in body, eyes still opened wide. Now was the time to lay him in the earth and I did gently and with honor. Then it was time for the spade and covering the brave dog and I did so swiftly as the snow and the creeping frog was turning the ground to slush. My work done I said one last farewell to my brave dog and long time protector and headed inside. The kids would be home from school soon with their mom and I was grateful all the work was done before they came. My kids had known Pirate for their entire lives and I know they would miss him greatly. So I cleaned the tools, I must admit with more reverence then normal, and put them away and I went inside. I reflected briefly on a old Greek legend about Georgia. It is said that one the Greeks first began to trade with the Georgian people more than 2500 years ago it seemed to the Greeks that the Georgians were an ancient people that had just sprung out of the black earth of their land, hence the name GEO-rgia. I thought it some how fitting that Pirate a true Georgian dog had returned to his native soil one last time to rest in peace.

As feeling returned to my face from the warmth of my house I took off my old work jacket. The tough old thing had served me for the last 14 winters in Georgia and had seen a lot of rough service but as I took it off the last of the metal buttons that held it together broke and fell to the floor. One more thing needed to return to the earth that day it seemed…

There are 15 comments.

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  1. Patrick McClure, Coffee Achiev… Coolidge

    Wonderful word-pictures.

    • #1
    • February 10, 2017, at 9:33 AM PST
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  2. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf

    Patrick McClure (View Comment):
    Wonderful word-pictures.

    Thank you!

    • #2
    • February 10, 2017, at 9:37 AM PST
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  3. Trink Coolidge
    Trink Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Oh Brian. I could only skim this. And that made me teary. Where I allowed my eyes to pause . . I found heart-breaking beauty. Forgive. It’s probably an age thing. We’ve buried so many dogs and scattered too many ashes. My poem:

    .

    • #3
    • February 10, 2017, at 11:03 AM PST
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  4. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    What a great dog. I enjoyed the details, especially this:

    I would got out to the yard and discover rats with broken backs laying neatly heaps, rows or circles, Pirate had a whimsical side to him, near my car

    • #4
    • February 10, 2017, at 11:12 AM PST
    • Like
  5. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf

    Trink (View Comment):
    Oh Brian. I could only skim this. And that made me teary. Where I allowed my eyes to pause . . I found heart-breaking beauty. Forgive. It’s probably an age thing. We’ve buried so many dogs and scattered too many ashes. My poem:

    .

    Thank you for that wonderful poem. It is very touching.

    • #5
    • February 10, 2017, at 11:17 AM PST
    • Like
  6. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):
    What a great dog. I enjoyed the details, especially this:

    I would got out to the yard and discover rats with broken backs laying neatly heaps, rows or circles, Pirate had a whimsical side to him, near my car

    Thank you so much. He really was a wonderful dog. Useful, loyal and brave. Everything a dog should be.

    • #6
    • February 10, 2017, at 11:18 AM PST
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  7. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf

    Here is me Pirate and the coat all featured in the story from an earlier and happier winter. Thought you might want a visual.

    • #7
    • February 10, 2017, at 11:24 AM PST
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  8. DocJay Inactive

    Very touching and a wonderful tribute to Pirate.

    • #8
    • February 10, 2017, at 11:25 AM PST
    • Like
  9. Grosseteste Member

    What a dog! Thank you for this lovely tribute!


    This conversation is part of a Group Writing series with the theme “Earth”, planned for the whole month of February. If you follow this link, there’s more information about Group Writing. The schedule will be updated to include links to the other conversations this month as they are posted. Please sign up if you haven’t already, there are several open February spots!

    • #9
    • February 11, 2017, at 10:38 AM PST
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  10. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf

    Is there not just one more member out that would like to recommend the post? Ok perhaps I will just for Pirates honor.

    • #10
    • February 12, 2017, at 2:40 AM PST
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  11. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    What a wonderful dog, thanks for this.

    • #11
    • February 12, 2017, at 6:41 AM PST
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  12. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf

    skipsul (View Comment):
    What a wonderful dog, thanks for this.

    Thank you very much Skipsul he really was amazing dog. Let me tell one more little story. When my son was about 2 he approached Pirate with an empty plastic water bottle and was hitting him with it. I yelled for him to stop and started to come toward them. Pirate looked right at me and then looked at my son and growled and barred his teeth. My son threw the empty bottle into the air and ran away from Pirate who looked straight back at me bagging his tail on the ground, he was laying down. I called out to him he was a good boy and he snorted and laid his head back down to sleep while I collected my son. It was a hilarious moment and one of those times when I thought Pirate was a little more “human” than I gave him credit for being….

    • #12
    • February 12, 2017, at 8:08 AM PST
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  13. Scott Wilmot Member

    Beautiful story Brian.

    I feel like I know Pirate now, and I miss him.

    God blessed you with Pirate’s friendship, loyalty, and love. God is so good.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • #13
    • February 12, 2017, at 1:05 PM PST
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  14. Boomerang Inactive

    A great story, so well told. What a great tribute to your friend and fellow soldier.

    • #14
    • February 12, 2017, at 1:28 PM PST
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  15. PHCheese Member

    I’ve buried a bunch myself and it never gets easy. Great writing of a sad tail.

    • #15
    • February 12, 2017, at 7:06 PM PST
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