Books for Everyone!

Pets Real and Fictional - PART III

11 January 2023

Buttermilk: Ready for His Close-up

This past December, Chance the wonder-hound needed to have a skin tag removed. It was supposed to have been a minor operation, using local anesthesia. Chance, however, is delicate where strangers touching him is concerned. He didn’t take kindly to the hands of the local vet, known as Joe, in the area of his chest, or, more precisely, smack dab in the middle of the furry white super-zipper that this beagle possesses.

I promised Chancey Boy that if he got through the procedure and recovery in tip-top shape, I’d give him the crucial role of Buttermilk the Hound in my next novel, THE SILENT HEART. He has to be fully ready for his close-up.

Buttermilk is the name for a motherless calf, a dilemma that describes Riego Riley, the hero of this Western. I’d shied away from using any dog at all in this fiction because Riego is such a horse-lover. But dogs and horses can get along quite well, and, so, this canine creature began to take form during the winter of 2022-23.

I’d promised myself to take a year off from novel-writing, but the last week of December and the beginning of the New Year brought buckets of rain and wind. Day after day after day after day, week after week after week. There were at least three weeks of back-to-back storms in northern (in all of) California, starting in mid-December. It was sunny on Christmas morning, if I recall correctly. It’s all a bit awash in my foggy memory!

That December deluge was followed by the January vortex-torrent. Today is 11 January; it’s still raining — And the reservoirs still aren’t full!

On 7 January, I took the command pen in hand and wrote the first scene of THE SILENT HEART. The weather forecasters (per the National Weather Service) predicted another wind-tossed storm that day and night, followed by an even more wet and windy and wild storm. Under such saturated and accordion-barometric conditions, my sinuses suffer. The mind itself suffers!

I only glance every few days at the online line-up, the row of Rogue’s Gallery digital pix known as the forecast. The monotony of the images gets to me. Why torment myself?

Under such abject meteorological conditions, the daily progress on my objectives and goals becomes wearily waylaid: Can’t read, can’t sew, can’t work out, can’t iron, won’t clean house, no place worth driving to.

But I can write.

You gotta play the hand that’s dealt you. My hand from mid-December 2022 until mid-January 2023 (as of today) has been:

Official Winter Storm Warnings, cold fronts, warm fronts, wind and heavy rain just kept coming. The Pineapple Express won’t stop creating:

dark and stormy nights, filled with lightning and thunder, and days of soggy, overcast skies, emptying out over the Tahoe National forest, with slashes of bright sunlight, for an hour or two, in preparation for the next wave of intense precipitation, hailstorms, and, the always lovely blanket of FOG.

Thus far, there’s been only 1 power outage, making for one very dark and stormy night last week. The hum of the generator can be a soothing sound. I nonetheless keep a pocket-flashlight on me and one on the nightstand. This much-practiced precaution, brought to me by the State of California Turning-the-Daylights into Pitch-Black-Darkness, reminds me immensely of my first year of living in this Dream House, Larkhaven; and of the two previous years (2018-2020) in the power-grid starved rental dump in Auburn.

California Dreaming takes on an entirely different definition in the modern state of chaos that is Gavinville.

The world outside currently looks very spongey-pondy-mildewy here in the Sierra Nevada foothills. By the afternoon of 10 January, I’d written the first four chapters of THE SILENT HEART. Today, I realized that this novel is not gonna end where I’d thought it would end, thereby necessitating a lengthy operational pause.

Yup, this book looks to be a 2-parter, not voluminous, but the more I fleshed out my characters, the more clothing my characters needed to be adequately outfitted in their fictional roles.

I wouldn’t want to send them out in the world buck-naked!

The first part ends in the summer of 1895, but it wouldn’t be right to journey all the way to the San Juan Mountains, and not show winter.

Chance has been right there beside me, oftentimes with snout on me to let me know he’s there, for me.

In a similar vein of loving devotion, Buttermilk is right beside Riego Riley in the log cabin built by this horseman in Montrose, Colorado. This large hunting hound is the sole confidante for Riego, at least at the start of the novel.

Buttermilk, or Milky, for short, is a loyal companion to Riego, a guy who must learn how to sing from the heart, a heart that been’s too silent for too long. As for the milksop in the story, we need look no further than a very antagonistic antagonist, the curr of a half-brother, Isaac.

It was always a dog’s life for that crude coward. Riego, however, with Buttermilk beside him, learns that every dog has its day. He follows his silent heart to the love of a woman who, likewise, learns that freedom holds the key to true love.

The pathway toward that key is a bit longer than I’d intended, but, at some point in writing-time, my Muse takes over, and I must follow her lead. For the moment, we’re riding high on that Uncompahgre Plateau, enjoying the view!

11 February 2023

More About Buttermilk

“We” — my Muse and I — have climbed down from that Uncompahgre Plateau, now that THE SILENT HEART has been completed, and e-published. The canine character called Buttermilk is presently a literary reality, based upon the real-life beagle, Chance.

Chancey Boy seems to know it. He’s been rascally as of late, and quite full of himself.

With a hound this larger-than-life, one must find the proper use for all of that personality!

I’d originally planned to depict Buttermilk as a bloodhound, but the more that I observed my beagle, the more I knew that he was ready for his close-up. Some of his most characteristic (!) traits and behaviors have been described in this Western, to the best of my human ability.

“We” are back to being hound dog and owner. My appreciation of this Lanbur beagle does not end with his use as the faithful and fun companion of Riego Riley. Chance has had to put up with my imposed isolation from him at various intervals during the past year while I wrote SHADOW, THE LAST WALTZ, SILVER DAGGER, and THE SILENT HEART.

“We” have together-time to catch up on, although Chance is never truly far from me, at any time. He’s one pack animal who designated me as the leader from the very start of his new life here in California. This jet-a-pet from Missouri took to his literary-support duties very quickly, and he’s accomplished wondrous results for this writer.

As for me, I’ve a hefty assignment, scouting out new trails to follow, and, sometimes, to forge. Chance enjoys sniffing new scents!

Sniffing new scents is the real story of the real Buttermilk, the Climbing Beagle. This stray had been brought, for his own safety, to a shelter in Norfolk, Virginia. Several years ago, this hound gained fame, and public notoriety, through an online video.

He’d escaped, several times, from that pen. Buttermilk, like my first beagle Bonnie, had figured out how to successfully scale a chain-link fence (with Puppy Bonnie, it was a picket-gate covered with chicken-wire). Each hound used the same type of technique, gripping the metal wire with paws, and hoisting the beagle-body upwards toward liberation.

After a few harrowing experiences with this canine escape artist, the employees of the rescue shelter installed a camera to keep an eye on Buttermilk; and to find out how he was getting out of the fenced canine coop. One video showed the kennel, the 6-foot chain-link-fence, and Buttermilk, whimpering his crying howl, as he made his great getaway, claw-climbing up the fence and over it —- to freedom and newer paths to sniff!

This digital video led to yet another return of Buttermilk, the ultimate Rescue Dog — to the shelter, along with the subsequent adoption of this beagle by the kind folks who had brought this run-away hound back to a place he definitely did not call home.

All’s well that ends well, for the real and for the fictional Buttermilk too.

We’ve not built any fences for Chance to scale at our house in the forest. We simply wait for him to run back home after his flight-time in the woods has sufficiently bored him. Chasing after him has proven to be too much of a game, for him, and an exhausting frustration, for us. The faster you go after this beagle, the faster he runs away from you.

If you walk away, he unfailingly feels he’s been left behind. This tactic is not reverse psychology; it’s beagle-ology. Running through the nearby marsh really muddies him up. Only then does he feel adequately houndy and happy - and ready for clean-up and his close-up!

29 May 2023

Memorial to Chance

There are no words, even for a writer, to adequately and accurately address the life of Chance Beaumont. I feel equally inept at speaking of his passing away on 27 May.

From this past March until April, the treatment for an infection of his right front paw was effective; however, less than two weeks ago, the infection recurred. Last week, an extremely aggressive, incurable malignancy was discovered. Within a matter of days, we made the rather brief journey toward the jolting finality caused by a genetic disease.

Chance carried on as his usual brave, calm, playful, devoted self to the end of his time on this earth. The supreme grace of his selfless love guided us toward the valor and benevolence that he deserved. This beagle was still relatively young. He would have been seven this coming July 2; ergo, the alarming rate of advancement of a terminal illness.

His gentle, steadfast, tenacious, whimsical spirit has now joined those of Bootsie, the other Yankee Doodle Dandy dog; Bridget, and Bonnie.

Chance was like a spectacular shooting star that wondrously, and unexpectedly, came into my life, and that of Dear Husband. He was — and is — a chance for me to enjoy life with splendour, and to leave behind sorrow and regret. For such a wondrous gift, I am eternally grateful. Born in Missouri, the Show-Me State, my Chance showed me how to live in the moment.

I am deeply thankful for every moment that I shared with this beagle. He reminded me to take chances, once again. He helped me to feel, and to experience — not merely to opine about — the simple joys of play; the delight in revelry; the fine art of frivolity; the sublime sensation of spontaneity; and the vital importance of having a lark. It was largely because of Chance that I named my new house, the dream house, Larkhaven.

He brought music back into my life.

He imparted to me the can-do indefatigable attitude that I’d begun to lose along the way to tomorrow.

He led by example; and his example was a plucky steadfast devotion to me, right from the minute I saw him, and he saw me. He glanced up at me with a pitiful look, and I somewhat laughingly said, “Oh, you miss your brother!”

His pack brother was Owen, who was going to another buyer. “Fletcher” then came to us, and instantly became “Chance Beaumont”. He brought me a few pieces of his geometric-shaped kibble, which looked like toy food. He wanted me to play with it!

For Chance, sharing was caring!

When a hound, so full of love, comes to you, and you love him in return, that glorious bond becomes a source of strength and courage. From that strength and courage, serenity can be found.

Chance Beaumont was adorably handsome, irrepressibly intense, inquisitive, affectionate, engaging, playful, charming, patient, courageous, strong, tolerant, exuberant, extremely loving, loyal, and sweet, with a rascally streak that only increased his captivating allure to everyone. All this hound ever asked was to be with me, and to hear my voice, which soothed him; and to be with his master, tracking the scent trail for something new.

And so his spirit is now with me and my voice, and with his master, tracking the scent trail to something new. There was always something magical about this beagle. That magic still touches our hearts.

Rest in peace, my bonne and brave Chance. You are, as always, an inspiration to me, for oh so many things.