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The Arlo Chapter (2009-2020)

Today is our first Arloversary without Arlo.

His chapter in our life was as significant as they come. Obama was just elected president and Arann and I were just married. A year later Arann was hit by a drunk driver. The year after that our first baby was born at home, with Arlo’s help. And two years after that another baby was added to the family.

He was the perfect family dog. Not once did he growl or complain about his role in life as the trampoline, the step stool, the pillow, the bucking bronco, the hot wheel launch pad, or the stick wrestling opponent. He was never happier than when he was in the middle. He would put on the brakes if someone other than a family member tried to walk him, yet he would jump the fence and walk himself to visit houses he knew might have food left out (twice he got himself stuck in houses after cleaning out their cat bowls.)

It was impossible to imagine our family without Arlo in the middle. And then, on September 14th, 2020, one week before our 11th Arloversary, in the middle of a global pandemic, with CA skies full of wildfire smoke, a national reckoning with racism and our democracy in limbo, my mask wearing children and I learned in the emergency vet’s office that Arlo’s swollen belly was the cause of an aggressive cancer and even surgery couldn’t save him. Within hours, and with the help of friends, I found an incredible vet who came to our house to let us say goodbye to him in our home while eating dog treats. Arlo is now buried in our yard, where he can still be in the middle of everything.

To say we have a hole in our hearts is an understatement, but we are grateful to have shared a life with Arlo for 11 of our most important years. We do still have sweet little Billy, but even he seems sad and lost, like Robin without Batman.

So I imagine there will be another dog chapter starting soon, because there are heartbreakingly so many dogs who need homes, but there will never be another Arlo.

“A Dog, on His Master” by Billy Collins.

~GRAMMATOLATRY

As young as I look,
I am growing older faster than he,
seven to one
is the ratio they tend to say.

Whatever the number,
I will pass him one day
and take the lead
the way I do on our walks in the woods.

And if this ever manages
to cross his mind,
it would be the sweetest
shadow I have ever cast on snow or grass.

Dorothy but everyone calls me Dot

“I was a fighter when I was a little girl. I fought everyone and won too, even though I was smaller than most of them.” Dot Blackwell moved to Reidville when she was 6 years old. Reidville was lonely, she tells me, there were no kids in town. She moved away after she married the first time and two husbands and a new boyfriend later, she has no desire to move back. It was a good place to grow up and she likes to visit her family but she has moved on.

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She is standing in front of her father Doc Lowe’s old service station. It was ‘the’ place to go for many years. Men used to like to come in and stand around her dad’s wood oven and catch up on gossip and wait for her mom and dad to fight. She got her temper from her mom.

Her children don’t have to worry about her she tells me. “I have my Berretta and I will use it too.” Her children make sure to call before stopping by.

When she was pregnant with her first child Chuck, she used to like to come down and take apples from her dad’s store and smell the gas fumes in these garages. But today the gas fumes are gone and the old store has been converted to a restaurant called the Family Dog.

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Nancy Bishop opened her restaurant a year and a half ago. Cleaning up years of oil and grease was a lot of work but apparently she did a good job of converting it because the locals who come to see the new spot say it looks nothing like it did when Doc owned it. Although it is the only restaurant in Reidville, business is slow, but Nancy isn’t giving up yet.

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