I’ve been meaning for weeks to go back to Bedlam Farm and reclaim Orson’s grave marker. That day in August of 2005 is very vivid for me, although standing up on that hill today with Maria, it seemed like a long time ago. It was a sweltering day and I had just come back from the vet, where he was euthanized after he bit three people and a platoon of vets, communicators, holistic healers and behaviorists had run out of ideas. I had run out of will and money and ideas. I made sure none of the workmen repairing the house and barns were around, and I carried him up the hill. It was sweltering and Rose was with me.
I lay the body down on the grass – it was wrapped in burlap – and Rose sniffed the bag took off to find the sheep. I dug and dug, it was so hot I had stop several times and I was shocked to see Winston, my rooster and Orson’s pal hobbling all the way up the hill on his one good leg, the other crippled by a hawk attack. Orson and Winston used to sit together on the front lawn, looking out at our beautiful view. Winston was the only other animal besides Rose that Orson could bear to be around.
Winston reached the gravesite, clucked and strutted around it, and then sat down next to Orson’s body. For many months, I would see him hobbling up there to sit by the gravesite, and I would wonder at the nature of animals, their mysterious minds, their alien language and mysticism. We dug up the marker, hauled it to the car and brought it to our new home, were we planted it in the garden by the house.
It is not simple to return to Bedlam, so much of my life echoes off those pastures and barns. I am glad to have Orson here. He brought me to my writing about dogs, to Bedlam Farm, to my books about animals, to my life with Maria. His was the most complex relationship I have ever had with an animal, and it came at a point in my life where I was least able to deal with it clearly or well. I have no regrets about Orson’s life and death, I will never again have a dog that harms people again and again, but it speaks to a time when my life seemed like a maelstrom, a whirpool, and I was just a twig spinning around and around and around.
I remember walking down that hill in tears, calling out to Rose. There were no tears today. I accept my life, and the person I was and am. It is just me.