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Where My Faith Went
Faith was an old dog when we started building the sailboat. One of the unspoken dilemmas was, of course, what to do with her if she lived long enough to see us launch? She couldn't even ride in the car without finding the lowest nesting spot and curling up there, sick. I knew, but did not say, that if she made it onboard, she would soon be sliding port and starboard, fore and aft in streaks of her own bodily fluids, spread eagle, tail tucked. Probably the rest of the family has the same image in mind.
But we weren't the type of family to identify big looming problems and address them head on. Those kinds of people certainly don't build tall ships in their back yards.
Soon before we started trying to launch (it was indeed a sticky messy ordeal), I drove home to find Rascal the cat in puddle form in the middle of the road out front. Ironically we had all fully expected him to be a perfect little mascot. He would have tucked himself right between the ribs and slept over oceans.
What was left of his head was turned upwards. His jaw bone, white, open, impossibly sticking out from the side of his head, seemed to have froze in mid meow.
The responsible and mature thing would have been to scrape him up with a shovel and deposit him in the ditch and never mention it to anyone. Cats run away sometimes. But I was in no such mood. Launching a sailboat is quite stressful. I left a note on the computer screen for Dad to pick up the cat.
That was a simple, clear cut example of how to discard of an unwanted pet, prior to chasing one's dreams of launching a sailboat, beginning a new life. But the damn dog was surprisingly more resilient. Her arthritis now prevented her sitting down. Her legs shook and quivered whenever she squatted to pee or poop.
Our friend, Jeff, offered to walk her out into the middle of the woods and shoot her, point blank, in the back of the head. Everyone but Liz, her official owner, appeared to consider the offer. It was actually a good, though macabre, idea. We had no money to pay a vet to do it humanely. Jeff even threw in a free bullet. "She'll never know," he offered.
Against all odds, Liz did some quick research and found a local farm that took in unwanted and abused pets. Even if they were very old. She claimed this farm would take dogs. It wasn't like we knowingly abused the poor thing. There just wasn't any possible way she would survive the dream. She simply had to go.
We expected her to expire any day. Her eyes were solid gray with cataracts. She stopped responding to her name. She still heard words like "food" and "wannaball?" These stimuli caused her to bounce her head up and down as if trying to get up some speed.
Two hears after the launch, Tom, my brother, and Liz drove to meet the farmer in the Hannaford parking lot. Tom had set it up. It was Liz's birthday. This was her present.
The farmer was a very butch woman, stocky, hair in a perfect mullet, jean jacket, a neck thicker than mine, beat up boots. She lumbered out of her rusty Ford Bronco II with her fists jammed into her dirty jeans, elbows locked stiff. "You Tom?" she asked.
"No," I said, pointing to Tom, who was at that moment wresting Liz's wheelchair from the back window of the station wagon. He was dressed as if still working on the ship (tar streaked shirt, torn jeans, tuck taped sneakers) though he now lived in Bangor with our uncle.
I could tell this lesbian farmer didn't trust us. "Do you know," she said, "she didn't stop crying for two weeks?"
It sank in with me and I felt the distinct opinion that we had no business being there. I wondered why this woman had even agreed to bring Faith out here. Tom appeared not to hear, of course, because he had a bit of a one track mind. "Where's Faith?" he asked. "Where's my Faith?" he passed Liz off to me and proceeded to open the lesbian farmer's side door.
The farmer hustled herself in front of Tom and snapped a leash on our old pet, something we had never considered.
She now stood loyally next to this lesbian farmer, totally blind, totally deaf, legs spread wide, hed low, tail low, apathetic. I felt very strange and inappropriate, as did Liz. She had nothing to say regarding her birthday present.
"Happy Birthday!" Tom said, just before hunching over Faith and hugging her neck. Instinctively she found his face and licked it. Tom thumped her chest and bobbed his head up and down. "Faith!" she shouted into her ear. "It's me!"
I felt mad at him for not understanding what he was doing to that poor dog. She seemed to recognize him, lunging in slow circles.