Thursday, November 20, 2008

Remembering Truckee


Truckee
(1975-1991)

It was 17 years ago that I said goodbye to her and it's only been in recent years that I acknowledged to myself that I owe her for protecting me from unforeseen or unheeded dangers during my drinking years. After I attained sobriety in 1985 her life became much easier, but our time together before then was a real adventure and I remember her clownish ways and steadfast loyalty. She was a for-real pal, a child and a mother to me in the form of one dog.

I named her Truckee after the Truckee River that runs through Reno.
My ex-husband, Jack, and I bought her from a pet store in Reno a year before we moved to Oregon for him to attend law school. We separated after a year for a stretch of nearly a year, and during that time Truckee lived with me. We had a miserable year-long reconciliation period together, after which I moved out and the divorce process began. I wanted the two precious cats and Jack asked to keep Truckee so I left her with him in the two-story house we'd rented all three years while he was in law school.

One weekend night I was out on the town with my mother and, still possessing a house key, decided to stop by and say hi to Truckee while Jack was working (he had failed the Oregon Bar and was waiting tables prior to his move to Texas, later passing the Bar there). Poor little Truckee! She charged into my arms, greeted her "grandma," whined and cried so pitifully that her message was undeniable. I left a note for Jack in his living room saying that I was taking Truckee and I left my old house key there, locked the door behind us, and never heard a word from him about it.

Truckee and I later moved to Portland. I could say that Trucks lived in Portland with me and I lived in a fog with her. Those were the days I'm sure that having her was protection from forces I don't want to think about now. It was a bad time for me, a struggle in all ways. I made sure, however, that Truckee had a fresh dog bone regularly and -- truth is -- they were as much for my fun as for her satisfaction. We had a corner apartment in a six-plex, and I'd let her out the front door with her bone in her mouth, then watch from the bank of windows as she speed-waddled (she had shorter-than-average legs for her body size) down the sidewalk, turned the corner, select the best place to bury her bone in the small strip of grass that ran behind our bank of three of the six units, and take great care in burying it. All the while she'd look up at the windows and I'd have to dodge her glance because she definitely didn't want me to know where her stash was.

Because I didn't have a car we walked everywhere together there in Portland and also when we moved back to the valley area. Those were simple and good days in that way: buying only the groceries that I could carry, exploring parks and creeks, making paths in new snow, romping so happily at the Oregon coast, sitting by the wood stove, cozying up in bed.

This might sound strange but I didn't miss Truckee after she was gone. I think it's because we experienced so much of life together, in many ways grew up together, and when she became sick and needed to be freed from that it just felt like there wasn't anything left that we were supposed to do together or for one another.

The Nevada Historical Society Papers feature a piece written by Robert L. Fulton, titled The Truckee River, in which he likens the source, path, and destination of the river to the stages of life. Here are some excerpts that I liken to my dog, Truckee:

A Reverie on the Banks of the Truckee.
I sometimes sit upon its banks in contemplative mood and compare the Truckee River to a human life — not a quiet, easy, well-cared for one, but a life born in the midst of war and battle — one of violent impulses and strong emotions; one who feels the hand of discipline curbing his energies and directing them in useful paths; one who does good in his time, and, after a rough and busy day, spends a quiet afternoon and evening, and sinks to rest as pure as when he started upon his course. Our river falls from Heaven in showers of snow, amidst whirlwind and storm, upon the scarred and broken mountain-tops, a white-winged messenger of peace. Its infancy is spent in Tahoe, where it is tossed to and fro by the blasts, while the mountain pines sing lullaby. Soon the adventurer steals out of the gate to see the big world which lies all before it — all unrealized, all bright and fair. It has no thought of the narrowness of its channel, nor of the strength of the opposition. It sees no limit to the ground it may cover — to the heights it may attain — but without a misgiving, with the confidence of youth and inexperience, it begins to roam. . .

. . . If my simile is not tedious, the divisions between youth, manhood, and old age are finely marked. At Crystal Peak, where it comes of age, it makes a turn directly to the east. Here it parts with the pines that attended at its birth — watched over its cradle and clung to it thus far. Its associations henceforth are changed; it sees unfamiliar faces and new scenes. Its occupations are different and its methods more complicated. It exerts its best powers for the good of mankind, and renders fruitful the broad acres for miles on each side. It is drawn upon by a dozen channels through which its strength is diverted but not lost. It gathers in a thousand trickling rills the volume it put forth, and seems to gain by the process. True, it does not escape from the ordeal without stain, how few there are that do! — but like an honest and well-meaning creature it rids itself rapidly of the dross and enters upon the last stage with a pure current and steady sweep, born of a good conscience. . .

. . . Now the year begins to tell, and the effect of age is visible. . . There is much less noise than in youthful years but the noble current — deep, silent, and mighty — sweeps on its way with grand power. Here it is a fine symbol of a healthy mind in a sound body — rounded and completed by a full experience, strong in purpose and weighty in counsel — growing gently and calmly old. . .

. . .The "Evening."
We near the close of this career. The current of life slackens. The pulse grows weak. Our friend draws near to his end. Around his bed gathers a beautiful cluster of tender and shady cottonwoods that might be his grandchildren, the daughters of the pine and the fir. They bend over him closely, shielding the calm and beautiful face from the hot sun and the boisterous breeze. They cling to him tenderly, but in vain. He slips from their embrace and seeks the silent depths of his last resting place, and his spirit is caught up into the mysterious skies whence it came.



(Photo by Bruce Olson)

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6 comments:

Jennifer said...

It is amazing the effect animals have on our lives, our companions for such a short period of time. I remember all of my old animals, some more distinctly than others. There really is a bonding that goes on and a deep communication.

I'm glad Truckee was there with you.

Melinda said...

Lydia,

I loved reading your reminicing about Truckee--it reminded me of some treacherous times in my life where I believe my sanity was saved by the presence of a beloved pet. I have always had animals--as a child and as an adult. However, since my husband and I are currently bicoastal, we aren't able to have any (right now) and I miss that so much! Pets bring a special kind of unconditional love to one's life that can be particularly healing during times of divorce, transition, etc.

Take care,

Melinda

Naomi said...

Your visual and psychological journey is quite an experience to follow. Starting with November 15, I've traveled along and will return to take more in.

Lydia said...

Jennifer,
I'm glad Truckee was there with me, too. This makes me wonder if you had an animal companion with you when you were in the little house.....I hope so.

Melinda,
Abby's having a doggy dream as I'm answering comments, so she's yipping in her sleep. I can well understand how you must miss having a pet now, and I'm sure some lucky furry one will be under your care in the future.

Naomi,
You're so sweet and way too busy to catch up on my posts going back to mid-November! I played catch up at your blog today, too. You are a wonder.....congratulations again on your senior blogger award!

Elizabeth said...

I loved reading your story about Truckee. I'm glad he was there for you in those days. I am so happy to have Atlas and consider it a very lucky chance that I wound up with him in my life. :)

Lydia said...

Elizabeth,
I'm really glad you visited while the Truckee post was up. When I saw her death date on my calendar it really stopped me; can't believe so much time has gone by since I saw her silly smile....
It's wonderful that you have amazing Atlas in your life.

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