Monday, July 17, 2006


Fetching Blaze, Postlude...

I don't know what your lives are like, but there's something about mine I don't particularly care for, and it's this: whenever something amazing or unusual happens to me, I find myself expecting to wake up the next day and to discover that the world has changed. I don't know why.

It probably boils down to the fact that, on some level, I never got over the infantile notion that we all have, which is that the world must, of course revolve around us.

Well, around me, anyway.

So if something momentous happens to me--discovering my dad is a drunk, narrowly avoiding death in an accident, finding and rescuing my dog after he was stolen--some part of me assumes a brief recap of the event will be on CNN in the morning, or perhaps front page news in the local paper. Then, of course, I'm ever so slightly crushed to find out no one knows or cares much what I've been up to (present company excluded, of course).

But--and this may be the strangest thing of all--within another day or so, even I won't care much. And the bigger the event, the less impact it seems to have on me. Maybe it's just my way of dealing with shock. Or maybe the change that events have on my life is so great it puts me into some kind of sensory overload so that I don't realize how much I was changed until some time later.

Which is why this past week, instead of embarking on some brave new direction in my life, I found myself enjoying a return to the status quo of work and home life. I made a list of the most pressing things I need to do, and it was so wonderfully ordinary, it almost brought tears to my eyes. Here's an example, with special emphasis on items that might prove to be blogworthy:

--Dog to vet
--Clean basement (do another Giveaway of CRAP?)
--Fill out paperwork for the Brownie (who rides the bus to school this year)
--Make flight reservations for NH trip to the folks
--Finish book outline
--Shop for BB's birthday present (check with Mom to see what he might want/need? New GPS? LL Bean gift cert? Semi-automatic weapon?)
--Call Mercy back

Of everything on the list (and this was a serious list filling the front and back of a piece of paper. Torn from a legal pad), I've made only the slightest dent.

For example, first thing last week, I brought Blaze to visit his girlfriends at the animal hospital. Their affectionate display whene he shows up is usually so gooey and saccharine that I half expect to go into insulin shock whenever I take him to in for so much as fecal test. But last week, when I brought him in for a good going over after his adventure, I thought we going to be crushed by the mob that descended on us. They had everything but balloons and a banner with "Welcome Home Blaze" written on it. He just laid on the floor, wiggling and whimpering, while they oohed and aahed and made boo-boo faces over his injured neck and bruised ribs. I even got a little sugar, once I told them a bit about what happened (I was also still wearing my wrist brace and my eye patch. Not that I was trying to get attention or anything). Blaze has been a little skittish since we returned--I suspect he has the doggy equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder. He was a bit guarded with the girlfriends, and at one point actually hid behind me, something he has never done. But they soon plied him with treats and he relaxed enough to submit to a thorough check-up (you'll be pleased know that, aside from a minor infection for which he is still on antibiotics, Blaze is pretty much completely recovered. Physically, anyway).

While I was waiting for him, I took out a notebook and continued to write down details of our recent adventure. Some of you laughed when I said I was only providing a basic description of events--then proceeded to write four long posts about it. But in truth there was a lot that was left out or glossed over--my kids' reaction to the event (including an oddly prophetic dream the Brownie had); my less-than-satisfying encounter with law enforcement (for those of you who wondered why I didn't just report WW to the local authorities, there was a reason. And no, there was no animal control officer. Not in the middle of nowhere, anyway); my brief but important friendship with the owner of the diner in town; the long detour Blaze and I took on our way home; and quite a lot more. I wasn't joking when I said this was worth a book. I'm long out of practice in writing something book-length, and this seems as good a topic as any, so I'm trying to flesh it out. If nothing else, it will give me something to give all those folks whose hearts I broke when I promised to give them some of my writing during last year's Giveaway of Crap (and you thought I forgot!).

And, as I discovered last week, the story didn't end when I brought Blaze back to the house.

Not too long after I got back, I got a call from Mercy (the one who originally found Blaze when he was abandoned, and who had brought him to the house when we first took him in). She had been wondering and worrying about me and the dog, so she was overjoyed to learn of our return together. She also had an odd invitation for me.

So it was that I found myself at a little suburban park this weekend, where I was met by both Mercy and a very emotional Faith, Blaze's original owner and the person who had actually taken Blaze from our yard. I had mixed feelings about this person--probably always would--but I couldn't bring myself to hate her. Besides, what Mercy had told me was so astounding and wonderful in its way, I had to hear it with my own two ears.

I tell you, though, it must be a sign that I was suffering PTSD of my own, because the day of the meeting, I became so paranoid, I almost pulled a no-show. Even when I did screw up the courage to go, I got to the park very early and did three drivebys in the parking lot, scanning for WW's pick-up truck, or one of the Blazers I had seen at WW's farm (as you may recall, WW knew my dog as "Blazer," so named for his favorite vehicle. I also had my cell phone with me (I almost never carry it outside of business hours) and the cylinder of extra-strength pepper spray my brother had sent me in the box of armaments he had overnighted to me several days earlier.

Like you probably are now, dear reader, I was half-convinced that this was going to be the explosive third act, the moment where I faced the consequences of my actions. Maybe WW had come back, only this time he was out for blood, and had coerced Mercy and Faith to lure me into a trap (no doubt by threatening those close to the women, possibly even his own kids). It would be the final climactic moment in our story, and it wouldn't end with some lame-ass fight involving iron poles and elbows. No, this was going to be a pitched battle ending in explosions and gunfire and bodies littering the municipal grass of the park. And when it was all over, it would come down to a final, inevitable battle between me and WW, a battle from which only one of us would walk away alive.

Except, of course, that none of that happened. Not even close.

Instead, what followed was a very pleasant meeting, in which I gave Mercy and Faith a condensed version of what had happened. Faith was alternately relieved to hear Blaze was back in good hands, and apologetic for having caused Blaze to end up in the wrong hands in the first place. She was disappointed that I hadn't brought Blaze (call me paranoid, but I wasn't bringing Blaze within a mile of his old owner if I could help it), but accepted my reason that Blaze was still recovering from his injuries and not up to a romp in the park (which wasn't exactly true, but never mind).

"It's too bad," she lamented. "It would have been nice to see him one more time before I left for good."

"I heard about this," I said. "So it's really true."

She nodded and proudly showed me two items: a wedding ring and a passport.

From our brief meeting before, I knew she was seeing someone, but I didn't realize she was getting remarried. I also didn't know that her new husband was an Army officer and that he and his new family would be on their way to a posting in Germany before the month was out.

It explained a lot. I now understood her urgency in getting her ex to sign off on certain legal matters--I can only guess it involved custody of the kids--and she wanted it all wrapped up before they left the country, but WW had been deliberately dragging his feet on this issue for some time. My big brother also opined that WW must have supposed I was the Army officer in question, and his misunderstanding may have unknowingly given me an edge in our confrontations (I don't know about that. BB has some pretty odd theories, and maybe I'm better off letting him expound on this one).

Of course, for me, the news meant only one thing: We were safe. All of us. Since our return, I'd been worried about WW returning to get Blaze back. He didn't know where I lived--and I had gone to some pains not to reveal my name or where I lived when we met--but that was an easy obstacle to overcome if he came back and forced his ex-wife into revealing my name and address (something I had no doubt he could do with ease). Faith hadn't done me any favors, but I certainly didn't wish any harm to come to her or her kids.

Now she was leaving the country and expected to be gone for a few years. She was excited about the possibility of travel (she had never traveled more than a few hundred miles out of state, let alone out of the country) and the chance for a fresh start. I was thrilled because the siege I had been mentally preparing for was suddenly called off. Even if WW knew where she was, he couldn't get to her--the terms of his parole forbade him from leaving the country (I'm not even sure he can leave the state without notifying his parole board). In my most cynical, self-serving moments, I had imagined that the best situation for all concerned would have been for her and her kids to disappear, as they had done before. But this was better in a way.

As we walked back to our cars, I was in the midst wishing her safe travels, when she froze there on the grass and stared straight ahead. I turned and saw a large SUV pulling to a stop in the parking lot. It was a Chevy Blazer, WW's favorite vehicle. I froze too.

But then we saw the passenger door open and saw a boy with a skateboard jump out and wave to a woman in the driver's seat. We both exhaled simultaneously.

"Oh, what a fright," Faith said, waving her hand at her face. "For a second, I thought that was--"

"--your ex-husband, I know." I said.

She looked at me. "How do you know that?"

"Well, I saw the Blazers at the farm and his dad told me it was his favorite car." She nodded, understanding. "And anyway," I went on. "That's what he named Blaze after, right?"

At this, she laughed and shook her head, the laugh of a woman who has put up with all manner of crap and injustice from someone. "Oh, he would tell you that," she sighed. "He just hated anything that was the littlest bit religious. That's why he started calling the dog Blazer."

This went right over Mercy's and my head. "I'm sorry, I don't understand," I said.

She smiled. "The dog was a gift to me, and he told me I could name him whatever I wanted. When I was a little girl, my family had this tradition of naming pets after the saints, so I named him--"

"Oh my God! You mean Blaze is really Blaise?" I said. Mercy just looked at me like I was crazy, since both names sounded alike.

"You know St. Blaise," she said, remembering that I was raised Catholic like her.

"Sure!" I said. "Patron saint of animals and wool combers and throats. Kind of a weird combination."

She smiled. "When I was little, my grandfather had a farm and the priest came out once a year to bless the animals."

"Really?" I asked. "I didn't think they did that anymore. I remember getting my throat blessed in church, but that's it."

"Well, I always thought it was a good name for a pet," she said, then paused, and said shyly. "I even said a prayer to Saint Blaise for the two of you."

"Saint Jude would have been better!" I said, and she laughed.

We shook hands then and she left, on her way to a better future, I hoped. Meanwhile, I marveled at this wonderful new gem of information. So "Blaze" was really "Blaise." As with my memories of the previous few weeks, this information struck me as something I felt everyone should know, but that almost no one would. And if they did know, they wouldn't much care. But I did.

See, I knew all about St. Blaise. Not because of any Catholic teaching, but because my grandmother invoked him often. Due to his association with the throat, my grandmother always insisted that Blaise was the patron saint of storytellers. Mostly, she was thinking of her family, none of who were writers, but all of whom were unexcelled when it came to sitting down of an evening and spinning tales to captivate their audience. These were the people who taught me to tell stories, and who listened to some of my first ones. Occasionally, if I told a tall tale, my grandmother would halfheartedly scold me, saying, "Saint Blaise forgive you for telling such good lies!"

Ever since, I've always thought of him as my personal saint. And all this time, I guess he's been my dog's too.

I'll have to remember that for the book.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Thanks. Yes, we needed to know that. Kinda fits.

I think that your Blaze is a bit of a St. Blaise too (grew up in Catholic school as well). He takes care of your kids well enough.

Can't wait to read the book. I am sure it'll make me cry all over again.
I'm glad Blazey is home safe. I hope you start to feel half human again. Tell everyone I said HI!!!

Twinks ;)

PS... I would love a copy!
Excellent conclusion, much better than some action-packed epic battle. Those are way overdone anyhow.

And how appropriate that it should've been St. Blaise.

As for a CRAP giveaway, I'll have to keep an eye out to get in on this one!

(and I also want to be on the preorder list :-) )
First, wow, Brownie on the Bus. Pretty monumental.

Second, I bet Big Brother gets an awesome gift from you this year. I can recommend the TomTom 700, it's awesome.

Third, ordinary can indeed be a joy.

Fourth, dude, you totally owe me from the last C.R.A.P. giveaweay! ;-)

Fifth, would this be your first personal (non-work related) book? If so, I'd love to read a post on your thoughts about such an endeavor.
Please, please put me on the pre-order list. My goodness. Shaking my head right now. You amaze me.
Almost every state has an SPCA or humane society agency specialising in animal abuse law enforcement, and most of not all have hotlines you can call anonymously, if you want to point them at the dogs still at that place.
i want a chance at the CRAP, especially if it means an early copy of the book ;) or anything you write. I'm hooked.

So glad life is back in normal-mode!
Oh ya, where do I pre-order said book. :) Even if it's on pre-order until, say, the Brownie is in middle school, I still want on!

And, this time I am not going to miss the great C.R.A.P. giveaway!
St. Blaise became the patron saint of ailments of the throat by way of inventing the Heimlich maneuver.

You could look it up.
Wow. How neat that Blaze turned out to have such a meaningful name. (And how great that he wasn't named after a stupid car after all!)

I guess it's a good thing you stumbled into blogging, since now you have an audience for those life-changing events. It's not the same as being on CNN, but it's close! Sort of! :)

Put me down on that book preorder list, too. I suppose you were including me in that group of people who have yet to receive your writings, but since I haven't held up my end of the bargain either, we're even :>
Thanks for the ending, it was feeling a little bit like dinner without dessert.

Also thanks for writing well enough to keep me reading until the end, I read like I watch TV, but instead of constantly hitting the remote, here I use the mouse to move on after one paragraph (normally).
Oh, drat. It's already blazing hot (pun intended), and now you've gone & warmed my heart... ;-)

I remember throat-blessings from my Catholic childhood. How cool that Blaze/Blaise has a guardian saint!
Longtime reader - first time commenter ;)

Good to hear that there was at least a bit of closure for you - and Blaise. This story has really reminded me that there's a place for righteous anger. I'm glad you stood up for yourself, your family and Blaise.

Put me down for 2 copies of the book. I'll keep one and give one away.
I couldn't help but think of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Requiem" on hearing the end of the tale.

Not for the death stuff, but because of the closure that it gives, a journey at its end.

Put me down for three copies of the book. One for me, one for my aunt who loves animals. One, just in case.
I'm ready to read the whole story too and have picked a spot out for your book-Right next to my other favorite dog loving writer- Jack. I think you two will sit nicely and alphabetically together- L & MM :)
I get exactly what you mean about big events and expectations. Here's my take on it: We have become such an immediate gratification society that we expect life changing moments to have instant impact. There is instant emotional impact, but the changes made in us by events are subtle and deep, almost on a genetic level. Most we will never even attribute to the actual event that changed us, but, our character and morals, our values are the sum of lifechanging events. It literally becomes part of us.

Not only are you changed forever by this event MM, you've got one hell of a book too!
Can't wait for the CRAP giveaway (you know you MUST have one now that you mentioned it)
Can't wait for the book...I'd love to hear the parts you glossed over especially your family's reaction and Brownie's dream.
And I don't care how long I have to wait. :-)
Your stories always seem to have a way of coming full circle and I find myself wondering if that's just how it is in your life or does it happen in all our lives. Perhaps I need to look a little closer at my own life.

Again, I am so happy that your whole family is home safe.

Now I'm just going to sit here patiently and wait for that book.

*drums fingers on table*

Is it done yet? :-)
Do you find it ironic that Blaze is named after the patron saint of throat ailments, yet he gave you strep throat? ;)
wow. time for brownie bus rides? where does time go?

poor blaze. blaise? i hope he heals, physically and emotionally, quickly.

happy birthday, bb. mm, you could replace his nightscope. or, if he doesn't have one, one of those game camera things - we got my dad one for christmas and it's really neat.

hmm. i want the book, but i don't want you to compromise your secret identity either. you could do one of those online books like stephen king did a while ago.

yay - CRAP! yay even more - exploring other people's CRAP!
A book, YAAAAY!

And also, whew on the Germany thing. I was a little worried that WW would find you/Blaze/your family.

Have to say I agree with BB's theory - and it would be a good thing if that's what WW actually thought.
Thanks for the closure and put me down for a copy of the book!

Happy B'day, BB!

And I definitely want to be in on the next C.R.A.P. giveaway!!

Consider this a pre-order for your book. I would be thrilled to buy it if you do decide to write it all up. (:
Well, this just brings thing full circle for me. Amazing. I had my throat blessed as a youngster, of course, being raised Catholic, but ever since I became a full-time voice-over announcer and producer, I've resumed having my throat blessed on the feast of St. Blaise in February. Now I have a new reason to venerate this martyr!
You were nominated for a RFS Blog Award! Go get the button and tell all your friends to vote for you!
Here's the link to the main RFS awards nomination page: RFS Blog Awards

While a lot of the awards are snarky (one is titled "Blogger who most likely wants to secretly be an Elvis impersonator"), MagMan is nominated for Blogger Of The Month, which is well-deserved.
I'd definitely read any book you wrote MM. But I have a question - didn't you say your kids named the dog? Or did they just expand his name?
This story left me speechless and with a raging crush on you, Magazine Man. What an amazing story!
Clarification for Van Spock:

My kids wanted to give him a new name when he came to us, but seeing as he was already answering to Blaze (or Blaise) I told my kids they could add to his name, but couldn't change it. I thought they'd give him a middle name or something. I didn't realize they'd come up with the mouthful "Blazey Bellow Hoska Boo Boo Ba Doo." They call him Blazey or Bellow (don't ask me why). Sometimes, the Brownie calls him "Little Love" (although he is bigger than she is). Truth is, Blaze answers to anything the Brownie calls him. With me, he won't even answer to his name...unless I'm holding a slab of roast beef.
my current earworm, to the tune of the Beatles' I Am The Walrus:

I am the Blazey(oooh!)
I am the Bellow(ooooh!)
I am the Hoska!
Boo Boo Ba Doo!
I Am The Blazey
with apologies to John Lennon and Little Gator

Sitting on the cold ground,
Waiting for MagMan to come.
Drunken Booger beating
Stupid bloody ex-con,
MagMan, you kicked his ass in,
You made his face fall down...

I am the Blazey(oooh!)
I am the Bellow(ooooh!)
I am the Hoska!
Boo Boo Ba Doo!
That's the best story I've heard in a long while. So very sweet.
guiness girl:

we have a sekrit fan club called the Deans of Discipline, for those of us who have a crush on MM. Or even just like him.

You clearly belong.

You know MM, you and Artlad did see a small gator in Florida. Maybe it was me. I'm not telling.

According to newspaper stories gators come in 4 sizes:

big enough to bite off your finger
big enough to bite off your arm

I suppose I could gnaw a finger off if I tried hard enough. Just call me Gollum.
Semper Fi.

I'd love a copy of the book.
I was looking for information for a friend whose dog was taken from her by the previous owner after two years, and I happened upon your site. I read the whole story about Blaze and can't stop crying. I'm so happy for you that you got him back. And I'm so happy for him that he got you back. And I hope WW burns in hell!
i was introduced to your blog thru a friend's post the first week in july. she simply posted a link and said "this has just been on my mind." that was it. curious, i mosied over. then i read. then i cried. then i spent about 20 minutes kissing my dog while crying. then i printed them all off and put them in a binder. i am the manager of a women's gym. i have a club of 300 women who are some of the most avid animal lovers i have met. every time you posted a new blog, i printed it off, and put it in the binder. the binder sits in our stretching corner so that the ladies can read it as they stretch and cool down. some have made a deal with themselves that if they come in to work out, then they may read one blog post per work out. they are all hooked, and i continue to fill the binder as you post. thank you for it all. what you did, and what you write. your humbleness alone, throughout this entire ordeal, gives us encouragement that even in this world of shit, there is-and hopefully always will be-those unselfish enough to just do what's right, because it's simply the right thing to do :)
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