Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bonnie's Big Portsmouth Adventure

Here's the text for a little book I gave to Bonnie's owner to commemorate our experiences.

Part I: Bonnie and Oggy get Acquainted

Bonnie is a curious dog. The day I picked her up she got in the car and immediately climbed into the passenger seat and leaned up on the armrest to get a better view. She did this so naturally it was almost like she wanted to hit the window button with her paw and roll her window down so she could feel the wind in her face. Maybe she was trying to escape. I pulled her out of the window and tugged her closer to me while I rolled the window back up and locked the window buttons. She got in my lap and then tried to get inside my coat making it impossible to drive. At a stop sign I pushed her back into the passenger seat and the dog leash managed to get wrapped around the transmission stick and pulled the car into neutral. As I gunned the engine and didn’t go anywhere I took a moment to explain what was going on.
“Bonnie, I’m driving. That means you need to sit in your seat and behave.”
Bonnie licked my finger. I put the car back into drive and drove home. Bonnie proceeded to eat cracker crumbs off the seat.

Part II: Bonnie Takes the Elevator

The Stairs: Bonnie didn’t like the stairs one bit. The first time she saw them she stepped up the first two stairs and turned around. I put a dog biscuit on the third stair but it was not enough of a temptation to get her to leave the ground. So I picked her up and she clawed the air while I climbed the stairs in the rain. We made it to the top porch and hugged the wood like a repentant sinner.

Part III: Bonnie Finds Room on the Bed

Sleeping arrangement: The dog bed was no comparison to the king sized foam and down bed so Bonnie slept near me. I woke up with a ball of white hair in my mouth and I thought for a second I had gone completely gray overnight but it was just Bonnie’s fur. What a relief!

Part IV: Bonnie takes Oggy for a Walk

6:30 am is a time that I have not been acquainted with for many years. Bonnie insisted I become intimate again with post dawn morning. She ran back and forth while I got dressed and was so eager to go down the stairs into the main house that she forgot that the only exit is down the outside stairs. It took some effort to convince her that we could not go down the perfectly safe stairs inside the house, but rather we had to go outside first. Once outside, she tried to get back inside. I pulled her to the edge of the stairs and she made no attempt to descend them. I demonstrated how easy it was to put one foot after another but she was adamant in her refusal. I pulled her closer and her claws left trails in the wood as she scratched away from the stairs. Finally, I picked her up and brought her down the stairs and onto the grass. We walked down to the empty dog park and Bonnie had dreams of chasing squirrels in the park. Then we walked back to the house (Bonnie again walked up two steps and turned around, leading to my carrying her up again) Since I was already awake I decided to go to the labor hall where I found forgettable work at a moving facility. (At one point the foreman told me very slowly, “You find a box with the word Kennebec on it and put it near the word Kennebec on the floor.”)
I even refused a job washing dishes at Philips Exeter Academy because it started at 11 and went to 7.
“I’ve got a dog,” was my excuse, so they offered me the job at the moving place in Greenland.
Bonnie was happy to see me (though still refused to walk down the stairs) and we made a long walking tour of colonial Portsmouth.

Part V: Bonnie gets a New Name

The next morning I was stiff and sore from moving several hundred kitchen cabinets destined for Home Depot and Lowes so Bonnie and I took the day off and toured the dog park where someone said, “What a pretty dog. What breed is she?”
I said, “Who knows? Sheep Dog, Labrador, Poodle. There’s no telling with these mutts.”
“Aw, that’s not nice.”
“She’s deaf.”
“What’s her name?”
“Castalia. I named her after the intellectual utopia in The Glass Bead Game.”
Bonnie was sniffing an old plastic bag.
After that, we slept until noon. In the evening, I set about unpacking the many boxes I had dumped on the floor when I moved from Laconia. After an evening walk I went downtown to play some music at the Press Room. I came back to discover that the antique latches on the cabinets were dog friendly and Bonnie had investigated all the trash and even had separated it into categories on the floor. Empty boxes were pushed aside and under the refrigerator. Banana peels were licked clean. Anything edible was eaten. Fortunately, I love chocolate too much to throw any away. I’m the world’s worst disciplinarian. I think I said, “Bonnie? What were you thinking?”

Normally a dog would shrink away because digging through the trash is never allowed, but Bonnie seemed to think it was completely amusing and I didn’t have the heart to scold her. I think we both understood that the rules no longer applied. This was a vacation and Bonnie was going to have a chance to do all those things she had never been allowed to do. She was going to sleep on the bed all day, eat trash, pee on the carpet, get carried down five flights of stairs and at the end of it she would be lavished with belly scratches and biscuits and bits of grilled cheese sandwiches. It was like a dream come true for her. Little did we know that two days later we would be struggling to survive.

Part VI: Bonnie Goes to the Beach

The next day we drove to New Castle to do a photo shoot at Fort Stark but the gate was closed and no dogs were allowed. So we went to Ordione Point but found the gates closed. So we went to Rye Beach where dogs are not allowed and the wind and rain lashed us while I clicked a few pictures. Just a passing squall, I thought, but Bonnie seemed to know something was coming.

Part VII: Bonnie Survives the Storm

The rain continued through the next day and when it was too late to matter I decided to drive to Stratham to cover my van with a tarp since the windows leak. It was dark and cold and the rain was blowing horizontally and I lost feeling in my fingers before I even got one side of the tarp up so I abandoned that project and went inside where I found Bonnie exiled to the garage and my brother carrying a pile of paper towels saying, “Keep that dog out of here!” It seems Bonnie had held her bladder over the soaking wet lawn and parking lot so she could relive herself in the dry, posh comfort of Brooklyn’s bedroom.
The last thing Brooklyn said to me was, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

So, I drove home through an increasing storm and stopped by my friend’s house in Greenland where I made some bead necklaces while Bonnie got acquainted with Rufus, a muttish bloodhound that lived there. My friend’s daughter immediately fell in love with Bonnie and fell asleep with her on the couch while we watched a music concert until the power went out. Hoping to avoid an incident like at Nathan’s house I took Bonnie outside at the height of the storm and I am proud to say her survival instincts are still working because while a hurricane force storm was blowing trees down all around us and the rain lashed us like needles, we hid in the lee side of the garage and Bonnie drank rain water from an overturned trash can lid half filled with ice and pine needles. I’m sure she was thinking, “If they could see me now.”

We stayed until the storm passed and I drove home through the complete destruction of Greenland. Most of the mailboxes were smashed by trees. Emergency vehicles came from all directions. There was no power in Greenland and no power on the way to Portsmouth and no power in Portsmouth. Traffic was diverted around dark traffic lights but the side streets were filled with tree limbs. At my house there was a gigantic pine tree that fell down in the storm. I carried Bonnie up the stairs to safety and Bonnie ate her last dinner in Bella Vista and we slept as the rain pelted the window.

Part VIII: Bonnie Almost Conquers the Stairs

The next morning we walked around Portsmouth to see the destruction. The ballpark was under water; trees had fallen all around the park. The dog park was empty and I took some pictures of the post storm landscape. Back at the house, Bonnie surprised me by carefully walking up the stairs, one by one. I encouraged her and she made it to the second platform before her courage failed. With a few more days I think she could’ve made it all the way up on her own.

Park IX: Bonnie Goes Home

Not long after that, you returned and Bonnie’s old life began again. I like to think I showed her a different side of life and that she was enriched by the experience. I know I enjoyed her company and would take care of her any time. I also hope this description of our time together will explain any unusual behavior.


don L said...

this was a really great post, ogs.

i'm sure her owner will keep the book forever.

Oggy Bleacher said...

I had dreams of making a documentary of our time together but in the end I had no video camera. I can see now that the central conflict was the stairs and Bonnie ultimately conquering them. The point was to make Bonnie a hero and I think the stairs were her nemesis. So by finally working up the courage to climb them it showed personal growth. I can picture the moment she took that third step in slow motion with heavy orchestral music in the back. The look of determination in her eyes. The dog documentary is going to be an ongoing project.
The book is pretty funny looking with my stick figure drawings and cut out pictures of Bonnie.

Anonymous said...

This is great! Do you miss Bonnie?Sounds like she had the best time of her life. You should make a business out of this. Would loved to have seen a documentary. -C.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.