Resident M.H.D. Bobby hates my camera flash.
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Bear was born on May 28, 1998 in Dallas, Texas, the son of an AKC champion American Cocker Spaniel. Larger than regulation, Bear was given as a companion to the champion’s owner’s father. Over time, the senior member of the family succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease, and the family, unable to keep up with his obligations, sent Bear to the Cocker Spaniel Rescue Society of Austin. His age, along with his obesity due to overfeeding, made it difficult to get Bear adopted. He also refused to come out of his kennel on show days, so the volunteers concentrated on their other rescue dogs.
On January 2003, Bear discovered his future companion at a Rescue Society adoption day. That fateful afternoon, Bear left his kennel and approached a small, chubby woman sitting on the floor, sniffed her hands and leaned his head on her lap. The volunteers, amid gasps of bewilderment, signed her up for a home inspection and a background check. Clearing both, Bear came to live with Ivonne and earned the additional name, Cleophus, “the wise.”
A month later, Bear traveled to Florida to start a new life in North Tampa. He excelled in strutting, playing adorable, and begging for food. Bear was not a dog at all, but a very vain small humanoid trapped in a canine body. He was an excellent party host, and an aficionado of wines, reds in particular, and was no stranger to vodka. Bear Cleophus also enjoyed the occasional weed “shotty” up the snout, making him giddy and goofy to the entertainment of all.
Bear did have his doggie duties. His expertise was in scrutinizing male suitors as they entered the home. If he liked the man, Bear would play with him. If he didn’t, he’d create a ring of judgement by neatly laying biled excrement in a perfect circle on the floor, ideally near the failed man’s property.
He was a master of deception, owning a loud, guttural bark for a medium-sized dog, and used it to keep the unwanted at bay.
Another of Bear’s duties was playing the proverbial sidekick, the Tonto to Ivonne’s Lone Ranger. In 2004, Bear traveled from Tampa to Long Island, New York in the back of a Honda CRV to keep his familiar company on her first Atlantic Coast drive. Noticing she had stopped at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, scared witless to proceed forward, Bear Cleophus climbed to the front of the SUV, sat in the passenger seat facing forward, and told her, “You got this.” He encouraged her to crank up the volume on the album “The Wall” by Pink Floyd, and sat with her as she went under and above the water. From that moment on, Bear always rode shotgun.
Bear Cleophus was also an academic. He attended Penn State University with his companion from 2006 to 2008. Ever the vainglorious daemon, Bear would pick up hot chicks and dudes as Ivonne studied on the steps of Old Main. Bear spent countless hours in the AERS lab as his companion entered sheets upon sheets of primary-sourced data for her thesis. He had his own cushion by her office desk in 311 Armsby, and became a de facto mascot, boosting morale for all the economists, demographers, and community builders in the program. Upon graduation day, Bear Cleophus received a silver dog tag with a lion paw and the school’s name emblazoned across, making him Bear Cleophus, Master of Science.
As evidenced, Bear and Ivonne were inseparable. There was only one moment in time they were not allowed together. For eight agonizing months, the demonstrably fickle ex-husband refused to let Bear live with his “mother,” and it took mediation and separation of assets to allow Bear into her custody. Soon after the divorce was finalized, Bear returned with his companion to Florida, this time, to Saint Petersburg, to turn a story idea about a mercenary with superhuman powers into a novel.
Bear Cleophus aged seemingly overnight, losing his vision and hearing rapidly, and in response, Roberto Tiberius was brought to Saint Petersburg in 2012 to fill in on guard duties. Bear’s final road trip was to Tarpon Springs in January 2013 to experience the Epiphany tradition of diving for the cross. Bear held Death at bay, wanting to ensure the manuscript was delivered to the publisher, wanting to celebrate one more birthday. Blind, deaf, weak-limbed, exhausting cold air, his companion had to tell him, “Whatever you’re holding onto, it’s okay to let go. I’m going to miss you. I’m going to be fine.” The next day, May 9th, 2013, a beautiful sunny afternoon, Bear Cleophus let go.
Bear’s contribution to this existence is immortalized in Ivonne’s novel, “Dedicated to Bear Cleophus Espada (May 1998 – May 2013), the little black dog who told me to write this story.”
I gotta hand it to the beast, Bobby Tiberius can take some injuries.
We went on our evening constitutional, minding our own, wrapping around the north end back towards The Treehouse. There’s a segment of the property that’s all large, lush flora, what Florida looked like before the conquistadors had their way with it. As we walked through our mini tropical forest, we came upon two tween girls. The taller one gasped, “You scared us!” I laughed and gasped back, “You scared me,” as children do genuinely frighten me. Then I look down and see Bob’s back leg lifted in the usual release of bodily fluids akimbo, but found it weird he wasn’t lowering it. The girls approached with the expected awww that everyone gives my cute little dog. I lowered to look for the spur that was bothering him, and noticed…it was moving.
The fuzzy thing was a honeybee. An angry, going-to-work-on-my-puppy’s-toe honeybee. I swear, living in this neighborhood is a constant episode of When Animals Attack. Moment of truth, gotta spare my dog his pain. My two witnesses are giving their best “Oh no!”’s as I look for a soft leaf. Bob, amazingly, is wagging his tail towards the girls, telling them telepathically, don’t worry, ladies, I’m gonna be okay. I’ll let you scratch my belly after the big one is done doing her job.
I pulled the disoriented honeybee from his foot, said my apologies, and placed it under my foot, pressing the bee against the ground as I searched for his stinger. Fuzzy, black foot under leafy cover and overcast sky was not helping. I released the foot, and Bobby hobbled towards the girls. While they comforted him with hugs, I watched for anaphylactic shock. Nope. Still 100-mile-an-hour wag, affectionate, but favoring the foot.
“Now girls, I want you to walk around the trees, I don’t know if that bee is still alive, I don’t want you stepping on it,” I instructed. They listened, and I watched them walk across to the sidewalk before departing.
Bobby hobbled the rest of the way, and he stretched across his yard pillow as I assembled the recovery kit: tweezers, hot water, cloth, Witch Hazel, clippers, diphenhydramine HCl, dog treats. I found the fat barb after gently cleaning his rear left paw. Nasty thing!
This week I commemorate two years of living in The Treehouse, and the metamorphosis from shadow artist to blissful writer.
During the journey, I made time to answer questions long unaddressed, by reading, reflecting and journaling. Constant journaling. This particular journal entry is one of my favorites; for one, expression of style really emerged, as well as the deft means of engaging the question concerning care, utilizing Martin Heidegger’s philosophy, applying modern attributes.
Journal Entry June 11, 2012
Police chatter from the side of the building facing the street. You can’t unknow that. You can’t unknow the context of a police presence in the neighborhood. You can’t unknow your personal experiences folded atop the known. You can’t unknow the assumption made based on current circumstances, past situations, and future implication.
The chatter is loud, close by. I go outside to find the officer or police car it emanates from, but no success. I hear mumbles and then, “little boy.” No one’s outside, which makes me think the radio chatter is happening in the building. Which makes me want to know the unknown. It’s not interesting to re-hash what I already know; not for me. I prefer fresh unknowns becoming knowns. I want to know that the police chatter that I can hear but not see has to do more with the dysfunctional family that seemingly reanimates when inconvenient. Spectors the whole of them; when they’re here there’s constant calamity. Taking my past situations, then, I consider them responsible for the police presence. Knowing the loud and brash daughter of the clan has an infant, I relate “little boy” in reference to him, the poor result of an entrapment which leads to the loud girl’s constant abuse from her baby daddy, who has also recently manifested. Taking present circumstances, I deduce the small family is at war again, he volleying with fists, she mouthing off to anyone in range. Future implications as far as the involvement of police, the history of abuse, the negligence of the child’s safety leads me to summate that the state will have to intervene by either a parent in jail or the child in custody. I await satisfaction but may never receive it. Thus the unknown unknown.
“There are things we know we know, there are things we know we don’t know, there are things we don’t know we know, and there’s things we don’t know we don’t know.” Donald Rumsfeld, ogre to the world during the Iraq conflict made a great amplification of the angst of the unknown and was laughed at for it. I thought it was, and still is, a remarkable statement. For it is in Angst, where we calculate how to deliver our knowledge to the world. We build Angst on social discourse and philosophy, past events and impact of said events, and then our innate understanding of the topic that Angst is debating.
I don’t believe Rumsfeld ever deliberately did not want to know a thing, but he sure knew when to not Care when he did know a thing. The police chatter is long gone, and I am left with a known unknown. There is an opportunity to revisit Angst to chew over the bits and pieces of discovery, understanding, and past thought. In the act of visiting the concept, Angst allows opportunity to discern whether or not to frame the result as Care or as Known. For there are things we can know and not care about, like Donnie’s knowledge of no such weapons of mass destruction, or we can know it, care about it, enough to do something about it, such as Rumsfeld’s lobbying of Congress to increase defense spending towards a cause greater than the truth of WMDs.
The question is, do I care to know why the police chatter about a little boy occurred near my house? Or do I want to know the components of which introduced the chatter, so that I can merely check against my list of factors and see just how accurate my deduction was? Does it matter? That’s where Care comes in. In this moment, I offer to Angst a reminder that conflict enrages me, cause me to latch on and mull over the offender, occupies my consciousness with a furious want for resolve. It is best, as my own healer, to bade off the angst of the chatter, because if it becomes Care, I’ll become resolute in solving a mystery that doesn’t have to be solved by this mind.
I drop the frame of Care, and be satisfied that I have a known unknown.