William the Great
Your body is away from me
But there is a window open
from my heart to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.
I’d just begun rehab on my knee and ankle after a bad break in the fall of 2013. I reactivated my membership at Gold’s Gym across the street from my place in Venice beach where’d I’d lived for 9 years..and began the slow crutch assisted trek everyday. This had been going for several weeks and if you know broken bone rehab…it was drudgery. I was looking for any excuse to take a break.
So, when I saw the pet adoption event in the gym parking lot on a beautiful Saturday morning…and upon closer inspection, the smile of a certain floof, as I hobbled by…I sat down on the park bench adjacent to the front door and just watched the circus unfold.
Cats in their respective cages, generally terrified and loathing their captors. Kittens purring and sleeping and being very cute. Maybe even a rabbit and a bird (that wasn’t up for adoption). Dogs beside puppies on top of other puppies into a spaghetti game of who what where. Regulars and pro athletes and tourists and movie stars and porn stars and wannabe everything in between coming in and out of the Mecca of Body Building..everyone was there. Talking to the folks volunteering. Picking up and playing with the animals. Asking questions. Making donations. Giving an email address and a desire to stay in touch.
When he saw me looking at him he sat down and stared back.
Unwavering focus, he just sat there and stared at me. I sat on a park bench about 50 feet away. Through all of THAT. He just sat there and looked at me.
I don’t remember how long this went on and I do not even remember making a conscious choice…I just crutched over and said, ‘I’ll take that one.’, and pointed toward him, whom had still not lost focus.
Someone I spoke with scarfed at me and explained that it’s just not that easy. I replied that that would be fine. ”We’ll do whatever needs to be done.”, I replied happily.
Then he began to spin. And jump and whisper things to the other dogs and look back at me. And sit. And stand. And do it all over again. He knew, too.
You’d have thought I was applying for the FBI due to the multistep interview, background checks, and site visits to my home. But I get it.
After all of the paperwork and shuffling about for about a week or so…I was able to pick him up and bring him home.
There we sat, alone in my flat. A little unsure what was next. And then it was all just a game. Life was but a dream.
We were so happy to have found each other and I instantly fell in love.
The story went that someone from the adoption agency found him chained up at an abandoned building near Bakersfield, CA, fur completely dreaded up, and literally dying of thirst.
They took him in and after a few meals, a bath, and a trip to the vet just started the waiting game to hopefully get adopted.
His paperwork included the following:
Mixed breed possibly including Chow and Sheltie
About 35 lbs
Age unknown, but a little grey in the muzzle – estimated 6-8 years old
Shaved for sanitation
Rehabbing my leg at the gym turned into constant adventures on Venice Beach!!! OMG we had so much fun together.
We’d walk at least 3 times per day…often more than that.
We’d go for breakfast early in the morning at the Fig Tree’s Cafe a couple blocks from my house. In fact, it was at the Fig Tree’s that he met Sofia. Sofia and he shared many a morning together. They loved to sit and watch the bozo’s walk by in the morning.
William was there to help Rene and I create our company, Exploration, from nothing. We started the company from my apartment, so between research for at least 4 hours a day, outside of normal working hours where my goal was at least 100 sales calls a day…he literally was beside me constantly. All day. Every day. At first it was just Rene, but then interns and eventually employees, loved to spoil him with treats and scritches.
When I traveled, my good friend Dale would house sit and care for him as if he were his own. Dale played guitar on the boardwalk sometimes for extra cash and would always take William with him. Apparently, he was good for business.
Dare I say, William was loved by the ladies, too.
We loved being in Venice Beach together. It was our home.
My company grew (and moved out of my house) and Venice beach began to change. Snapchat was founded in the bungalow right in front of my flat, where they bought up many of the surrounding buildings and turned them into offices. The cool people got priced out. My building got sold to a terrible lady who made it her job to be generally awful. My girlfriend and I finally decided to go separate ways. I’d been in LA for nearly 13 years. It was time for a change.
William and I discussed a plan over many months. Would we just find another place in LA? How about Portland? Or NYC? Or Puerto Rico? Or Nashville?
Ooh. Nashville. Interesting.
I’d been traveling there pretty frequently for work. I know the South, having grown up in North Carolina. It was centrally located. But most importantly, we’d have a yard. Actually, it ended up being a small, overgrown farm.
When the landlady, whose perfume smelled like old cheese, showed with yet another illegal eviction notice…this time for a dog. I was livid. I knew it wouldn’t be honored in court, but it was something else I had to deal with regarding my home. However, William replied unfazed with a smile, “Fine. I’ll take my breakfast in Nashville.”
We packed up the house quick. Had a final breakfast at the Fig Tree’s. Watched the last sunset on Venice Beach and took a pull of something top shelf. And took a first class flight to Music City.
The farm I bought is about 35 minutes outside town and was completely dilapidated. The roof leaked and the floors were sunken in. The electrical system was bad. The spring and cistern needed work. Most of the pipes under the house were busted from being frozen. There was 15 years of growth in the yard and pasture. The trails through the woods had trees laying across them.
But I had William. And he made everything better.
I remember the first night I stayed in the house. It was in December of 2017. My furniture had not been delivered. I did not have electricity. There was no water. Drafts of winter air relentlessly whipped through the structure. The forest made sounds and the stars winked through darkness in ways I’d not experienced in many, many years. To say I was unsettled would be an understatement. But, William. William was unmoved. Just as consistently as ever, he was happy to be along for the ride. His calm smile was soothing.
The days passing made the nights easier. My day job typically had me working from home and as I got to work at nights and weekends first getting the house to rights and then moved in, William was there for it all and simply loved the farm.
He made friends with the deer and turkeys and squirrels and all kinds of birds. Bats would swoop around and owls would hoot loudly in the night, to which William would gently smile toward and carry on. Butterflies and dragonflies would come sit with him. And he was kind and gentle to them all.
He also made fast friends with family and friends and guests that visited.
And children. He loved playing with and enjoying the company of children. And they loved him, too.
William loved sleeping. On the beach and the boardwalk and in the truck and at the office and in the rain and in the snow. When it was time to take a rest, the man knew what he was doing.
He never crapped in the same place twice. Ever.
He was nearly completely inaudible, except when he was dreaming. I have to think he was barking to say hi to a friend.
He loved chasing a ball…and bringing it within a couple feet…chewing it…and keeping it from one throwing it again.
Would fart and look around to see who did it.
He loved to lay down beside the creek and watch the small fish swim dance in front of him.
William loved the cats, Hamburger and Puma. And they loved him.
He loved to lay beside the fire pit and watch the flame lap it’s way up a pile of hardwood.
He loved to follow me through the forest.
He loved to join me while I worked on the house or painted or carved or read or wrote.
He loved to sleep in or around (lol) his bed, which was at the foot of mine, as each day was done.
William was gentle and kind beyond measure.
William taught me so much and was such a reliable reminder of how to behave. It was so interesting, especially on the heels of having Apollo in my life. You see, Apollo was a total alpha, dominant, athletic, and protective force. William was different. William relied on love and kindness and being gentle to move through the day. And if you weren’t keen on that, that was totally fine, you just wouldn’t be interacting with William. To an outsider it may come off as having been aloof or indifferent…but I like to think there was more wisdom there. William was open and willing to befriend anyone, whether a person or dog or cat or bird or butterfly, so long as they were keen to be friends, too. And if not, if one wasn’t agreeable or had any sort of bad juju, that was totally ok, we’d just be moving on along. No fuss no muss.
What a way to live.
Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one. ~ Marcus Aurelius
On December 27th, 2019 William courageously let me know that he was ready to move on. That he had work to do on the other side.
The morning light was drenched with thunder and rain.
The rain stopped and he watched as I built a fire overlooking the rushing water below.
As I held him in my arms and said goodbye around noon, the clouds gave way to blue sky and the sun kissed the winter forest and the birds sang and crisp air cleared the low fog on the water and despite crippling sadness, all I could feel was love and gratitude for being able to spend the time we had together.
And I sat beside the fire and held him to my chest and cried and thanked him and said a prayer and had a tall glass of Tennessee whiskey and a pull of something top shelf.
And I returned William to the earth at our farm.
He will forever be a reminder that this is a place of love and kindness.
They say we humans, we do not deserve the beautiful souls of dogs. I have to agree.
Thank you my dearest friend. You gave to me so unselfishly. You helped me when I needed it most and no one else was there. You are a warrior and you never wavered from your mission.
I’ll always miss you. I’ll always love you.
William, I’ll always love you.
To live in this world
you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.