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Here Comes the Sun

16 May

Miss Abbie

The question of when always weighs on the minds of us pet lovers. My motto has always been when they can longer have fun then it’s time. Toughy, my first dog, was diagnosed with liver disease and I watched his condition deteriorate over the course of two months. He gave me good-morning licks and killed sticks up to his last day. There was no question about timing when he began to stagger and his eyes glassed over.

A kitten of mine in New Zealand born with a birth defect lived only two months before I decided it was time. She chased her tail, chased her brother’s tail, and swatted at her mom’s tail until it was time. I called her life, Short but Fun (Click to read adapted short story and view a video) and dedicated a chapter in my memoir to her. Those decisions were definitive, but what if a cat never really has a lot of fun to begin with? What if a cat is seventy percent grumpiness, twenty-nine percent sleep, and one percent purr? Our dear old Miss Abbie was this cat. Continue reading


The Language

29 Mar

Big Head Waters...Waters we have touched…

* * *

Big Head, the once unbreakable lab who used to leap out of moving car windows is now a has-been like me. Where we once charged with confidence, we now hesitate in doubt. During a fishing trip to a coastal river, we came to such a doubting spot.

Stumbling along the slick boulders, I spotted a nice pool but a cliff blocked our way. The water quickened as I approached the dripping wall separating us from the pool. Water trickled over ledges, to the tips of ferns, and to the ends of mossy blades. Sunbeams blasted the top of the cliff projecting wafts of steam into the breeze. Big Head chewed and dug at an exposed root sending sand skyward.

I admired the work of water and explored my options. Going around the cliff was impossible as it rose high above me and turning around was not an option: I put my rod between my teeth, tightened my pack and began traversing the cliff-face. When I reached a flat area, I turned to see Big Head on his hind legs, his front claws curling onto the cliff face, tongue hanging, and eyes fixed. I smiled at his big black pupils calculating the odds. His decade old puppy grin shined through his white snout and he turned to me.

What do you think Dad? Should I (Bleeeping!) go?

I raised my hand and yelled, “Hold on Boyeee!”

I discovered the water was hip deep at it’s deepest so I slid in, gripped the wall, and allowed the water to slide me midway to Big Head’s position. In his prime, Big Head would have darted up the cliff, using it as a banked wall to bridge the two flat areas. Those days were gone, he knew it, I knew it. I tested my footing, held my hands up in the classic spotting position, and motioned for him to go. His tongue moved with his bobbing head, his thick lab-tail clubbing the vegetation around him. I slapped the cliff and made a pushing motion with my open hands.

“C’mon Boyeee!” I yelled.

He backed up, shook off, and he went! Nails scraped, moss flew, and his rear end drooped into my waiting hands.

“Whoa boy!” I laughed.

Sensing my hands he slowed his charge, allowing me to apply counter pressure. I extended and with a final shove–he jumped to safety. I sidestepped upstream, watching the line of bubbles downstream of my legs. Bubbles formed, flowed, and disappeared in the same moment. Water from the cliff ran down my fingertips and to my elbows, my body a part of its journey. The sun glistened through the trees, ferns waved in the breeze, and I found my hand on my furry boy’s head. My thumb rubbed the groove between his eyes as I clamored onto the bank. A barrage of licks strafed my face.

That was kick ass Dad!

I remained on my knees and whispered, “Who’s a good boy…”

My head rubs morphed into uppercuts to his chin and he peeled away in search of a new stick to destroy.

Like the creation of moss-covered cliffs, the language between a man and his dog takes time.

   Chin Beach 2012 - Big Head is the new dog in the book, Without Rain There Can Be No Rainbows, a multimedia memoir about Ryan Chin’s teaching experience in New Zealand. Mr. Chin likes to call it a pet and teacher memoir sandwiched into an overseas adventure. Two dozen short videos enhance the story. It is available at Amazon, iTunes, and locally at Powell’s Books. Mr. Chin keeps a stack on his dashboard for random giveaways. So if you see a Chinese guy driving a big white truck with a yellow lab in the passenger seat, toss a steak in their window. Mr. Chin will give you a book and Big Head will give you a lick. I didn’t plan on finding a new dog, or bonding with a cat, but I’m a guy who likes to make new friends…

Short But Fun

22 Aug

An adapted short story from my memoir

"Hey Dad, you're a grandpa."

New Zealand 2003: Baetis and kittens

We learn all kinds of things from our cats, especially the ones that grow cranky and creaky with us.  But what about a month-old kitten that looks like it has a deformity? What can you possibly learn from a one-pound bundle of fur with a head so big it causes her to lose her balance? Continue reading