I started this blog a couple of weeks ago but really it started many years back, when with the help of friends, we published a peyote journal whose motto was Education, Conservation, and Inspiration. I still hold by this purpose. This was in the first days of online anything and I had a home built Lego 286 with windows. The computer case was actually made out of Legos, with some Lego house windows installed, since I only had the inner components to make the thing go, but not a case to put them in. As I recall, it required the use of a defunct disposable camera, made out of cardboard, to fit just so between the motherboard and some other thing. This was the only way the contraption would stay running. Add on a bulky old monitor, a donated keyboard, a really bad dial-up internet service, and we were cooking! Shout out to my old amigo Rattlesnake. (He had one leg and ate snakes ok? Not kidding.) Rattlesnake had put the guts together while I designed the Lego windows setup, complete with little Lego dudes in hardhats working on the inside. It was the old DOS prompt thing with only words on the screen. I remember the day we somehow managed to load the netscape web browser and I felt like I was Captain Kirk on the deck of The Starship Enterprise!
So fast forward over 25 years and I start this blog. It seems like there’s an accumulative effect from being around medicine. Nothing happens all at once. Just like medicine grows. So in the present, every word and every image here so far has been typed, or photographed, or browsed with the tip of my index finger on my iPhone. People say I need a laptop. But I feel like I need another internet device like I need another iHole in my head. Maybe that’s because I really just miss my old Lego 286. Oh the days. The help section for the WordPress app I’m using says you cant make a blog using this software, but you can add to or update one with it. It’s a good thing I didn’t read that before I started.
Weirdly enough, that Lego 286 ended up being taken away from me in a never-charged-with-a-crime raid by misguided souls of my old county government, for my horrible offense of growing medicine. So I think maybe that may be a unique case of (il)legally confiscated Legos. But that’s another story.
It’s been therapeutic writing about medicine and every time I finish a post I think, Well that’s it. I said what was inside of me to say. I’m done writing. Time to move on. But every day something inspires me to write again. I feel like it’s the medicine which brings it up as a thought. And then it writes itself easily, like a conversation. I appreciate your reading, and I hope it comes off that way.
Today I was looking at the picture above of my old dog Smokey and I thought, that dog was really all love. Maybe any dog can be, provided they’re given lots of love. But Smokey The Dog taught me the best dogma. And this is what I was thinking about today.
So I really want to talk about Smokey The Dog, or as I think of her, the best dog ever anywhere. I’ve been thinking of her more lately while I babysit my grand-dogs, as my son is deployed fighting fires with the forest service. These dogs are no Smokey. But then, probably no other dog could be. Not too long ago an old friend called and told me he still misses Smokey. Yeah, I do too brother.
Not too many other dogs that I’ve known could match her great outward affection for anyone. And everyone. Although I’m reminded of the late Walter, family dog of my friends Justin and Kelly, who is in the same class as Smokey this way. A buddy to all and a real family treasure. These dogs with me now are pretty ho hum about stuff, except for with my sons. They’re fine dogs. Maybe not the best dogs. But they’re ok, and somewhat cute.
When we first got Smokey, Smokey really got us. My son, Moses, had been asking for a dog and I would answer with something like, we’ll see… It was around the time of the invasive action which resulted in Legos being taken as “evidence”, that we were standing outside and we saw this cute little doggy running full speed up the driveway in our direction. Moses immediately proclaimed- Smokey! Smokey the dog! Can we keep her dad, can we? He somehow already had a name for the dog, or did the dog already have a name and our son was already tuned into her? I tried to be noncommittal saying, Well boy, we don’t know whose she is. She might just be lost. We need to check around and see if she’s missing from someone.
But she’s ours! That’s why she’s so happy to see us! And sure enough, just like he said, she was ours it turned out, obviously. She had a small wound on her foreleg so we cleaned it and dressed it. She seemed a little shellshocked actually, like she had been through some recent trauma. I imagined that she had run away from something that wasn’t pleasant. My intuition was that some human had mistreated her.
Smokey turned out to be a true friend. She had different barks for different reasons and I always felt she was keeping watch, protecting us, and communicating to me any concerns. She had a certain bark for bothersome javelinas, and another for people approaching. She listened to us like she understood english but I could never talk her out of chasing skunks. Anything else, she would do what I said. But skunks were apparently so appealing that it was strictly no comprendo and she would take off running and return so sprayed out that she’d be rolling her drooling snout in dirt trying to relieve the irritation. Weird.
Living on the banks of the Gila River with a tipi ground and a couple of sweat lodges, one small and one family style, was nice. But on occasion I’d try to get my act together by fasting and heading out into the beautiful desert mountain range to use medicine in that spiritually powerful landscape. It was always a life upgrade to take the time to do so. Smokey accompanied me on many of these journeys and she always seemed comfortable at my side and eager to go. On one quest, Smokey and I were about to crest the top of Crozier’s Peak. I wanted to sit with the view for an afternoon of meditation and gratitude of Creation. All of a sudden Smokey stopped in her tracks acting nervous. This was very unlike her. What’s wrong girl? I asked, but she could not explain to me anything except the fact that she would go no further. She would walk back with me in the direction from which we came, but she would not go past an invisible line on the earth that lay just ahead, apparently.
After much pleading and discussing and even trying to carry her a ways, she was completely no go. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I could see our ranch down below in the distance and I knew Smokey knew exactly how to get home. We had done this hike before. So I asked, Do you want to go home? Go home then girl! And like the good girl she was, she did as she was told. I watched her get smaller as she walked into the distance and I worried about her just a bit, but I was confident in her abilities to get back home. Actually I was more confident in her getting back safely than I was about myself. I’m just a fool on the hill. Who knows what kind of situation I might get myself into? Yet I was not aware that by the night I would regret my decision to stay out while my wise little companion returned alone.
As evening approached I made my own way back. At some point I entered the arroyo we had walked up earlier in the day. There, exactly crossing my footprints, I saw multiple tracks of a very large mountain lion. My body involuntarily shivered as I saw the lion’s footprints pressed into my own. This was no small cat. I reluctantly and horrifyingly imagined its size. Adrenaline entered my veins and I worried and thought about Smokey. I continued walking as it got dark, trying not to signal panic and let the stink of fear perfume the cat’s air, triggering it into jumping me from the arroyo banks elevated a few yards above my head. I thought to get up on the banks rather than be bait down below, but the forest of cholla cacti up there would nearly match the panther peril so I tried to calmly proceed as if I were not shaken.
Arriving back home I immediately started calling for Smokey. No Smokey. I asked the family but only got a, We thought she was with you- response. Oh great, I totally killed the best little dog ever, I thought. I couldn’t let this be. I immediately returned in the dark, calling her name, and with flashlight in hand walked halfway back to the peak, to the place I had last seen her heading home. But no Smokey.
The next few days were sad. It was not the same without Smokey to talk to, and her to talk to us. I blamed myself and so did my family.
But on the third day, Smokey rose again! I was outside watering cactus when she came running up the driveway, just like the first time. But this time she was no longer wounded and in fact, she had a new and bright sparkle in her eyes! We were both overjoyed as she hugged me in her way and I hugged back. I was so happy the best dog ever still was! Smokey, what happened? Did a bad cat scare you Smokey? What did you do? Where did you go? Where have you been?
She spoke to me with her now extra bright eyes saying, Look human, you’re not the only one who needs a good Spirit Walk from time to time. I didn’t think I’d have to explain it to you. After that, Smokey seemed to have a new wisdom. Already smart, she was now more of a spirit companion than a pet. She sat outside many tipis and dozens and dozens of people came to love her, and she loved them right back. I had one friend who would call from time to time and ask, How’s Smokey? She’s fine and so am I. Thanks for asking, I’d reply.
I began to see this little dog’s affection as an embodiment of the peyote spirit. She loved everybody. She watched out for us. She listened to and watched us as we went about our lives and became a teacher about love. She taught me so much about compassion and acceptance. Like medicine through and through. I hadn’t even wanted a dog. But now I couldn’t imagine life without her. Also like medicine. It was like the medicine was talking to me through this little dog’s pure affection.
Smokey lived with us as long as her little body could hold out. One day, by the wood stove, she laid down for her last rest as Raven and our son Quanah talked with and petted her. It was one of the saddest and most beautiful moments of my life. Writing this, the tears are flowing…
I will always miss Smokey. But I keep her memory alive in the way I appreciate other sentient beings, even the three mostly sentient, mostly ok dogs currently curled up on my floor. But there will never be another like Smokey. And I hope to think she’s waiting somehow, eager to take another spirit walk with me when I go.
Oh Creator, bless this world’s creatures, including ourselves. Bind us with your Love to one another. May our affection be great and our troubles small through your divine protection and guidance. Keep us on a good path with all beings who share our home on this earth, and your place of forever.
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