I knew the minute the ball left the plastic ball thrower that I should not have thrown it. It was not Nava's ball. It was Meng's. An awesome reddish colored dog that is as focused on playing catch as Nava is. They have played at the park together many times. Well, not played exactly. Both focused on their own game of get the ball rather than on each other, still they are great together. Leaving each other alone and working hard at their ball retrieval.
Men's ball is blue. A blue rubber ball that fits neatly into the chuckit that his owner uses to toss the ball the length of the green that is the fenced in dog park. Nava is partial to tennis balls. Once yellow but quickly a dirty brown that blends into the grass of the park. And wet with saliva so that they don't fit quite as well in the cheap chuckit knockoff that I got at target for $5.49.
I bought two of them. One is still in the plastic and hidden in the kitchen cabinet. The other - the one we use - is broken as of day one but still great.
I used this cheap chuckit wannabe to pick up Meng's blue ball, settled against my foot in the grass, and toss it for him. I've thrown balls for him before. But always with my hand and so Nava does not respond in the same way that she does when a ball is propelled from the plastic ball thrower that I throw the tennis balls from.
So I throw Meng his blue ball and Nava takes off. Meng close behind. I knew - before the ball actually left the thrower - probably before I even raised my arm to toss the ball into the air - that I should not be doing this. But my body did not catch up with my mind and the ball is sailing through the air before I can stop it.
Nava takes off. Meng close behind.
Nava gets there first, the ball quickly settles between her teeth only to be dropped in an instant when Meng catches up. And barks. And bites her side. Not quite a bite as a deep scratch, I discover later and see merely pulled hair from her skin and a raw red mark.
So Meng bites her side and Nava turns, fast in response. She is not a fighter. At all. Unless she is provoked. And this was provocation. And so she turns fast and they are in it. Hard. Teeth bared, deep barking from each other them. And in the time it takes me to make it across the park to where the ball first landed these two, once friends and now not, dogs are connected in an altercation that proves hard to break up. They are attached.
Both myself and Meng's owner are in it with them. Calling their names. Putting our legs and our ball tossing tools in-between them to try and break them up. I lean in to grab Meng's collar to see if I can pull them apart that way but they are too intent on each other. Nava has what I thought was Meng's neck between her jaws. Tight and hard. This is not good.
And then I pour my hot water on their heads.
It is hot water and lemon. With some cayenne pepper and stevia for sweetness. It is delicious. I had brought it with me to the park on this morning because my husband was with me and so I was able to enjoy the sweet warmth rather than have to be the only one tossing the ball to Nava. But I had taken over on the ball tossing, the carry cup of hotness still in my hand. And I had not dropped it throughout this dog fight.
And so I poured the hot water and the dogs separate. Both wet now, with the water and the remnant of each other's mouths on their fur.
Another dog park friend checks out Meng. He has a new collar around his neck this day. A thick, brown leather piece that Nava had sunk her teeth into. Deeply. You could see the marks made by her bite. It was this collar, not Meng's skin that my dog kept hold of for the entire interaction that these two had. A good thing as the marks in the leather were deep and defined. Meng was unscathed. And within seconds they are both over it. And chasing their own balls once again as if nothing has happened.
Meng's owner and I stand together and talk through the event until we are ok, too.
I only go to the dog park in the mornings. With only a handful of other dogs there who don't pay attention to her as she works hard at our game of ball. I know these dogs well. And sometimes, when we have worked the ball, for quite a while, she will play with them the way dogs play where they know each other and understand each others personalities. And whenever the play escalates - even though it is still only play - I pull her away to our ball game again. Though the other dog owners are fine with that intense interaction, I do not want her engaged in a way that riles her up.
It's not fair to her. Because she is so powerful. And because she is a Doberman. And so can easily be blamed if something does go wrong.
I text Meng's owner the day after the ball fight. Is he fine? I asked. And he is. As is Nava. And I will make a point of having them play at the park together again. Parallel play. Each chasing their own ball. Focused not on each other but on the task at hand that is their job at that moment.
My daughter is in an incredible play. A deeply moving exploration of the relationship between two high school swim team girls who, at first not friends despite the dark and challenging places they navigate together, by the end are connected by their experience and a newfound love for each other. They are soul sisters, bonded by blood. Even though one of them does not quite yet know that this is true.
My daughter plays the other one. The girl who grows deep in her own, true self while she grows to trust and soon love her friend. We see this at the end of the story. She is engaged in a dance of friendship that is the foundation for self growth and confidence. And of love. And of loss.
For this is a play about loss.
If you live in Southern California and you can make the time, you must make the time to see this show. An Echo Theater Company production, you can find the play at the Atwater Village Theater. See it. Seriously.
And not just because my daughter is in it and is, (yes I am her mom and so yes, somewhat biased) quite amazing. Deep in her choices. Honest in her presentation. Hard on herself and her character - she makes her character real.
So yes, come see the show because I am a proud mama and want my daughter's gift shared so others can appreciate such depth and talent. But more, because this play gives pause and makes me think. And I know will make you think, too.
I did not find myself reminiscing about my own high school years or friendships. Or challenges. Or lies and truths that unfolded when I was just a girl. That was not this kind of play for me. What it did was make me reflect on what was happening now. In my life in this time. And how the navigation of those things have a rhythm to them that this play captured.
And so the story, though of a different time with, certainly, a different set of circumstances than what is occurring in my life now, was set to a similar drumbeat. And that is what resonates so well within me.
For in this play, as in life, there are those moments of intensity that we almost feel we cannot stand. And they are always followed by the calmness. The moments in between. The place where breath can be caught.
And so it was with this story. And I found, when watching the scene that was the calm after the storm, that this was where the truth lives. And so it is with life.
We think that our story is in the happening. The moments where we feel the intensity. Where the colors are strongest, the sounds loud and clear, the smells settling deep in our noses so that we can taste them on our tongues. We think that this is our lives. But really these moments of stormy winds are there to carry us to the lulls in-between.
The moments where things become clear.
The coyotes are out. Still. I have had issue with them before. I wrote about it here. But then, after a few, cold months of winter (cold being a relative term, dependent on where you live. So cold for me) they seemed to have gone away. Back up into the mountains and no longer stalking me and my dog on our morning walks through the orange grove.
But yesterday, as I was walking down the dirt road below my house - before even entering the grove - there she was. I know it was a she. I am not sure how I know this but I do. She was walking slowing across the dirt, from the hillside to the grove. A good two hundred feet in front of us.
She saw us.
And we saw her. Both Nava and I. And being the good dog that she is, my sweet and smart and always energetic Doberman stood right next to me. The hairs on her back slightly raised. Her eyes focused in. But still she did not move from my side.
Our walk took a different path, moving away from the coyote.
And then later in the day, on our last walk of the day, we again ventured into the grove. And there she was again. This time far into the trees. In a part of the orange grove that I seldom see them. She was standing in the path. At the opposite end from where we were. But still there. Standing and looking. And wanting my dog.
I wanted to run at her and scare her. Or worse. Actually I wished I had a huge stick in my hands so I could run at her and hit her aside her head. I was mad.
I wanted to kill her.
But alas, I instead kept my dog at my side and we walked quickly home. They are out again. The coyotes. And we are on watch.
For other things, too. The rattle snakes are out. It is spring and that time of year where they venture out into the sun. We see them lying on the paths. The adult snakes and the babies, too. They like the heat of the day. And, I am told, they will leave us alone if we leave them alone. So I am signing Nava up for a snake prevention/leave-the-snakes-alone class. But until then, I always look ahead on the ground where we walk. We are careful.
Sometimes though, they are not on the path, but in the bushes, hidden from view. This happened a few weeks ago on a hike up the mountain. It was hot and we were heading towards the streams that run now that some rains have come. And Nava, a ways ahead of me up the path, stopped to explore the grasses that ran along the path until I heard that rattling sound.
It was loud. And she was curious. And so we walk less now on those trails until this rattler season has passed.
And then there is the rain. The most dangerous of them all. Or at least that is what Nava thinks. I see her, strong and assertive when the coyotes show up in the grove or she senses them using the path that runs outside our fence. And the rattle snakes don't scare her. Though she will soon learn to respect them and leave them be.
But the rain. This is a scary stuff. She hates it. She will not venture out unless I go with her. Boots on and umbrella in hand we walk the wet road. She stays closer in the rain. And constantly moves her body to shake off the water that covers her coat.
She does, however, like getting toweled off after. Loves that deep rubbing to dry the wetness from her body. And so perhaps she will start to associate one with the other. Probably not.
And so it is, coyotes, rattlers and rain. Oh my!
But I feel that I have not quite captured the extent of her dislike of rain....perhaps this illustration will help...
I'm in Brooklyn. Sitting, in a not so comfortable way, on a recycled, leather couch that takes up a good portion of the wall of my son and daughter-in-law's new apartment in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. This is a nice neighborhood. Plus I got a parking spot when I arrived yesterday - no small feat considering I have this huge van as a rental car.
The rental car, in of itself, is an interesting story. I rented from Alamo. They had this deal where you book your car and don't know what car you're booking till you get there but you get this really great price. Like one hundred dollars less than if you were picking a compact which is usually the cheapest type to rent. So I have this door-number-one-or-behind-the-curtain-that-Carol-Merrill-is-now-standing-at car and I land in Boston and make my way to the car rental place, all the time thinking that I could get a Mustang. They specifically said that any car may be the car. Even a two person car. So I figure, why not a sports car. I'm excited about this. And then they give me a van.
Which is really ok. I love vans. I had a choice between it and an SUV, but knowing that I would be spending two days with my youngest daughter - who doesn't just love vans....she LOVES vans - I take the van and am on my way.
But how, you are probably asking (or not) do I get from Boston to Brooklyn and why, you may ask (or not) did I not just fly into NY?
I was in Massachusetts for a few days to look for an apartment for my youngest, van-loving, daughter. She is transferring colleges. And will be living off campus rather than in a dorm. And so I am in Massachusetts with her before making my way to Brooklyn. A pretty easy drive which I am glad about considering that I woke up to snow on the ground after spending two sixty-five degree days enjoying being back in New England. (And why I now live in California).
So now I am in Brooklyn and last night we took the subway (which I love) into the West Village (which I love) and had this great dinner at a small Italian restaurant that was all the way west until we could see the Hudson River. This is cool. And different from when I lived in New York a long, long time ago when, once it was dark, you did not walk west until you could see the River. But now you can. And the food was great. And cash only.
Cash only!?!?!? Like seriously.....
And then after dinner we went to a comedy show that was really funny. In that dark and inappropriate way where the comedians talk about dog rescue and adoption in the same joke. And more. Where race and sex and a lot of mentions of penises are intertwined with just enough political humor to make it all worth it. And then we got to get on the awesome subway again and make our way back home and up the four flights of stairs to my son's new home.
I pretended I was not out of breath.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Dog and Cat lover.