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May 30th, 2012 - Sage Ravenwood

When It Rains

How do you write a life into living

or grace pain with words, memories?

What is one left to do but spew the raw,

cut below skin, cartilage, down through bone

and bleed the page?

There is no emptying this life.

We raced like the wind across the yard.

You and I nature’s beast, torque bullets wrapped in

sunlit ecstasy. I turn to see you.

A ready smile, this place where

the story begins and ends - on an endless loop

birthing a thief dropping

gems of days in his wake,

flossing time.

One word - love. Two bled hope.

Not younot you not you Please

I shoved the quilt/guilt, pillows,

bedding on the floor. Two became one.

We ride the tide, floor, mattress, floor,

looped twinning in desperation -

Anything to keep pain at bay.

I can’t do this. I start talking,

hands fisting ink black piles of fur.

I talk about our days, our road trips; I talk

nonstop. The way I did when,

I crawled under the bed with you,

rain raging outside

the window, house shaking loud.

I talk until my voice is a raw husk

and I stop talking,

because your paw is curled around my hand.

Our foreheads touching, twin sets of brown

eyes blurring our agony.

You’re comforting me. You were the echo

to my heartbeat. I close my eyes.

I wake and you’re not there. Fear

rips my rib cage wide open

sprouting asphalt appendages,

heavy grain sacks strangling screams.

I find you wandering rooms in the house.

You sit, oh, so politely at my feet.

I knew then you knew, and you were -

Trying, to let go. The same way you

gathered the rooms in our home,

the forever car ride, never-ending mile

after mile, no more.

Where did your milestones go?

Your head is on my lap. I hold you tight.

I never let go.

And I still, haven’t let go. I can’t let go,

I never learned how. And when it rains,

I still talk to you.

I truly believe Pickles survived hurricane Katrina, heart worms, and an endless shuffle of shelters, so she could save me. In some weird context, it made sense both of us having suffered, would choose the other. I didn’t feel worthy. There’s only so many ways you can say broken, suicidal, and stuck in an endless loop of therapy. My sudden deafness had left me locked inside my head with every single trauma possible.

Little did I know, soon my life would no longer be up for debate. Not if a dog had anything to say about it.

Trained as a working dog for the deaf, Pickles arrived from International Hearing Dog, Inc. on December 12th, 2006. I never for a second thought of renaming her. She was my personality in dog form with a pickled attitude. That first week of being leashed together 24/7 felt more like punishment than training to our, ‘conjoined impatient souls’. In the end we were deemed an irrefutable match.

Two weeks after her arrival, I ended up with a severe lung infection. I woke up to Pickles head beside mine on the pillow with bloodshot eyes, her body upright leaning on the bed. She had stayed awake all night watching over me. I knew then, I would never be able to repay a love like that. How does anyone repay a love like that?

To this day, I tell people my greatest teacher was a dog. Stubborn as all get out, she would sit, refusing to budge until I slowed down to notice the world around us. This is how she taught me to hear with my eyes, redirecting my attention to things like a woodpecker drilling a pine tree, children squealing playfully, or car tires on gravel. Watch the movement to see what you can’t hear was her dog motto. Whenever she saw that I got it, her face lit up like it was the greatest thing to happen to her.

It was amusing when people didn’t know my name, but readily knew hers. You couldn’t bottle her personality. In a Barnes & Noble bookstore she always pretended to faint, laying on her side in the aisle, one eye open, chuckling to see if I noticed. People stared at us bewildered by the deaf woman and her manic looking dog laughing it up. She had this impossible to ignore crazy-ass grin. She would stick her head under bathroom stalls to say “Hi” to people, we would rush out with shrieks following our exit. If any of those women ever read this, we sincerely apologize.

Surviving Katrina, left Pickles with her own fears of rain and horses. I never minded waiting in cars or stores, under the bed with her until she felt safe. Training or not, her needs were just as important as mine. If not more. In turn, she was my ears and heart. Where one ended the other began. Human and dog melded in synchronicity.

Pickles died of Acute Leukemia May 30, 2012. She was only 7 years old; I was fortunate to be her human for 6 of those years. That day without warning she collapsed in the tall grass, blood pouring from her nose. There wasn’t enough time to say goodbye. There are days, I still look for her when it rains. On those days when the silence becomes too much I find a way through, not for me mind you, for a dog who would be mighty pissed off if she saw me before my time.

Ten years later, the pain remains as raw as the day I lost her. I still can’t find words or eloquence worthy enough to remember her by. Perhaps because she never truly left, and I never let go.

Time doesn’t replace what’s missing. I still struggle navigating my deafness; I rescue now. So many animals have come and gone. Today there’s two dogs in my home Bjarki and Yazhi, along with a one-eyed cat Max, plus two more cats Shua and Vinny. On some level, it feels right to save as many of these abandoned animals as I can, the same way Pickles and I saved one another. We broke all the right rules in the best possible way. Every single day for the rest of my life, I will continue to miss my sidekick.


Sage Ravenwood is a deaf Cherokee woman residing in upstate NY with her two rescue dogs, Bjarki and Yazhi, and her one-eyed cat Max. She is an outspoken advocate against animal cruelty and domestic violence. Her work can be found in Glass Poetry - Poets Resist, The Temz Review, Contrary, trampset, Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, Pioneertown Literary, Grain, Sundress Press anthology - The Familiar Wild: On Dogs and Poetry, The Rumpus, Lit Quarterly, PØST, Massachusetts Review, Savant-Garde, ANMLY (Anomaly), River Mouth Review, Native Skin Lit, Santa Clara Review, The Normal School, KHÔRA, Pinhole Poetry, and more forthcoming.


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