• R.D. Kardon

Updated: Sep 5





To love is to do, to feel, to become. Love is not passive, or still. Love is continual movement and change and growth—continual choice, continual promise...


- Marisa Donnelly, "Love is a Verb," Thought Catalog



For the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched my foster dog’s quality of life decline. Cornbread, a tiny Miniature Pinscher, was found wandering the streets of Julian, California in the August 2020 heat. Only nine pounds, blind, in kidney failure and with two deformed front paws, he was desperately bouncing from barrier to barrier seeking food, water and shelter.


When Frosted Faces Foundation agreed to rescue him, I volunteered to drive to the shelter and transport him to safety. I found him confused, but energetic, racing around despite his physical limitations. He had no tag or chip, so the shelter named him Cornbread.


“Really? Why?” I asked.


The officer smiled. “When they brought him into the lunchroom, someone was eating cornbread.”


Three weeks went by after I dropped him safely at Frosted Faces, and I couldn’t get Cornbread out of my mind. He was considered a hospice dog, one with a short time to live. His kidneys were failing, which required a special treatment that I knew how to administer. I raised my hand and said I’d take him and keep him for the rest of his few remaining days.


Well, this dog decided early on that he wasn’t going anywhere. He learned the placement of objects in my house so quickly, by one week in he could navigate to and from his outdoor potty spot- which he chose himself- to his food and water bowl and his favorite bed. He ate voraciously, slept a lot, and entertained himself by basking in the sun.


It was odd how he never showed or demanded affection. Never nuzzled against my leg, licked me. He rarely wagged his tail. He kept to himself, occasionally joining my two other dogs under the dining room table while I ate, hoping for scraps.


As what we thought would be simply weeks of life stretched into a year, Little by little, he slowed, stumbled more, and fell victim to that horrific curse of all living things—dementia. He’d cry when he couldn’t find his favorite blanket, which sat in front of him at his feet. He’d circle around and around, bumping into things he’d always avoided before. And his kidney disease marched on.


On August 26th, a trusted at-home euthanasia vet visited my house, not for the first time, sadly, and concurred that it was time for Cornbread to rest. Crying, I told the vet how I had no idea if he’d felt my love, knew how treasured he was. When I stroked his head, did he feel something? Did belly rubs, ear nibbles, chin scratches tell him how much I cared? Pressing his little head against mine so we could dance to music cheek-to-cheek-- did that say "love" to him?


She sighed. “We don’t know his history. If his past was full of being hit, or yelled at, or bullied, he would never have learned how to give and receive love. Maybe love to him was just not being abused.”


Never learned how to give or receive love.


As the vet injected the solution that would stop his heart, I lay down next to Cornbread, who was all tucked into his favorite bed, and I quietly felt his soul leave his body. When he was gone, I saw a look on his face I had not ever seen before, not once in my year of loving him.


Peace.


The greatest act of love I could perform didn't involve pets, or treats or toys, changing his diaper or giving him his meds.


I let him go.





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  • R.D. Kardon

best

/best/

adjective

of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality.

"Be the best you can be"

noun

that which is the most excellent, outstanding, or desirable.

"Do your best every day"


From the moment we pop out of the womb, we're inspired to do our best. Sometimes, the prompt is a motivation: "You'll win if you do your best!" Sometimes it's meant to console: "Don't feel bad, you did your best."


Best = success. Didn't do your best? That's failure.


Your best what exactly?


I've heard this word in my head all my life. If I succeeded, well, then I must have done my best. If I failed, I didn't. And then there's Yoda, who reminds us, "Do or do not. There is no try."


Isn't there, though?


I've "tried" lots of times. And failed. And sometimes I pick myself up and try again, and sometimes I walk away, deciding that some challenges simply aren't worth the effort.


And that's ok. Now, my parents and grandparents are likely rolling around in their graves, since 'work ethic' was the style in which I was raised. Like Jurgus Rudkus in Upton Sinclair's classic The Jungle, and my own main character Tris Miles in Flygirl and Angel Flight, the solution to any situation where failure looms like a dagger hanging over one's head by a very thin thread, is to simply work harder.


I watched this Puritanistic way of thinking ebb mightily after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, where thousands of people woke to a regular Tuesday morning, never imaging it would be their last. Time is short, we realized. We became less judgmental of people who simply walked away from situations that didn't serve them. We wanted more love in our lives, not more things.


That stuck. For a while. Old habits, traditional, ingrained ways of thinking don't vanish without repetition, and belief.


We moved forward. Maybe we lost some belief.


Creeping back into our old grooves, we became more and more frustrated, and then, just a few years later BAM! The housing bubble burst and there we were again, in crisis. The needle moved again...just a little...toward the simpler things that actually made the corners of our mouths trend up. Toward it being ok to try, and not succeed. Or realize that trying, in and of itself, is a measure of success.


Why, though, does this slow march toward the softer measures of success tend to peter out so quickly? Maybe because of another old chestnut, the erroneous belief that true balance is possible?


Is it?


We'll explore that next time.





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  • R.D. Kardon

Updated: Mar 13


trav·el /ˈtravəl/

verb

go from one place to another, typically over a distance of some length.

"FLYGIRL traveled to Idyllwild California this week."


FLYGIRL gets around. She recently accompanied me to Idyllwild, California, a mountain town I'd always wanted to visit. Her first major appearance was as an addition to the guest library at the Idyllwild Bunkhouse, where I stayed during my getaway. Here she is with Raj, the proprietor of this quiet, rustic getaway location. I have never known the kind of hospitality that Raj provides.



Then, we made sure she was safely ensconced at the Idyllwild Public Library. The librarian was thrilled to add this volume to their collection. Do you have an Idyllwild library card? Check out FLYGIRL!



My original plan was to come here and do some writing. I'd finished the first draft of Book #3 of The Flygirl Series a couple of weeks ago, and wanted a quiet place to go about the difficult work of revising it. I need to get it in shape to be edited by a professional, and I thought this would be a terrific place to do it.


Then my friend Gail and her best friend Trek agreed to join me for a day of hiking. The sights we saw together were quite spectacular. Nature never, ever disappoints.




Little did I know that right smack in the middle of my visit, Idyllwild would be hit with a big winter storm. Over 30 inches of snow fell, which meant I had to break out my scraper/brush, which I hadn't used since I moved to California from Chicago 12 years ago. It was one of the things I kept "just in case," and it sure got a workout.




But the falling snow was quite beautiful, and the environment perfect for creativity. Here's hoping my muse followed me there, and that I made some progress on this novel that I am so anxious to share with you. It completes the character arc of Tris Miles, and once again addresses social challenges important to us all.



Hope you are all safe and dry, wherever you are. I was just thrilled to be back on the road again.

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