Road: Dying of the Light

Art Journal, The Road, Thoughts

Stop here sensitive souls. You’ve been warned.

Kurt and I needed a new quest after the Salt River Wild Horses to keep our spirits up in this Covid Era. We settled on Sedona. The weather looked nice, we’d never been and plenty of opportunities to explore while socially distancing.
And then it took an entire day to get away from Phoenix. First one orange kitten demanded play at 5:00am. Then the day went from there. Chores. Groceries. Filling water tank and jugs. Water misadventure. Water all over the camper. Water clean up. Fix the hose. Finish filling the water tank. A lunch break. Get to the location.

Me: This doesn’t look like Sedona?

Kurt: Oh, I received an email about the tire replacement, I’m picking it up in Phoenix.

Me: So… we aren’t going to Sedona?

Kurt: Not yet.

Then we drove along dirt road looking for dispersed camping spot in Agua Fria National Monument. Hear a POP. Determined that the rear window safety glass had shattered. The road dead ended. Nearly got stuck. Ran over a bush after 1,000 attempts at turning around. Declared it wasn’t a saguaro, we’re good. Decide we don’t care where we sleep . Park for the night just in time to hear the safety glass start cascading out of the frame.

2021. Agua Fria National Monument.


Dispersed camping it is, at least until we take care of business. The next morning we found a ohv staging area outside of Phoenix to install ourselves. The plan: remove all the gear from under the truck capper. Find a place to get the glass fixed. Fill truck back up. Pick up replacement tire. Nothing to it. A few days in the desert and we’d be on our way.

Life still happens. Good or bad on the road. We expected car problems. What came next was never on the menu. All experiences have value though. One launches you to the next wether you enjoyed it or not.

I promised to tell the tale of how we were blessed with Beelzebub the Orange after losing Mr. Gato last October. This isn’t going to be that.
Do I start with Freddie, the four-parts mutt, who cannot help herself when it comes to the chase and the kill? Or Grunt. My fearful brindle beasty. The canine of soulful slime and anxiety. Mr. Gato’s sad, but peaceful death after a long summer of illness. Or did it begin with our newest edition Beelzebub the Orange. The perfect fluffy orange tiger kitten to fill the grief hole with purrs and magic. Dancing his way across our hearts.


Yes. Let’s begin there.
Somewhere in Texas I gave up finding a kitten. Once over the Arizona border I tried again and came across the littlest orange fuzz. And he was perfect. Willful. Energetic. Snuggles. Talkative. My Orange. The bond was immediate. He was adjusting to travel nicely. And camper life.
He insisted on the snuggle with Freddie. And tried with Grunt. With some success. The Orange saved his kitty biscuits for me, but shared his warm little body love with us equally.
Grief is price for love.
And as I loved Mister fiercely for fourteen years, I was just getting started with this little monster.
Life was good again.
There is an ugly beauty when you hold a being you love in its last moments. And there is absolutely nothing you can do.
On a Tuesday. The same Tuesday that congress would convene to Impeach our president for the second time I woke up to the sound of a kitten screaming. At first all that came into focus was Kurt making coffee. Then I hazily asked if he was ok. And I was handed a furry dying ember.
And I held him fiercely.
We don’t know why it happened.
Neither of us saw it happen. For some unknown reason Grunt bit the kitten. And that was all it took. I had no reason to believe my dogs wouldn’t accept a kitten. Both were raised among many cats of all ages including kittens. Up until that moment I would have told you everyone was getting on famously.
It became clear though, that an attack from Grunt on Freddie a couple weeks earlier, was no fluke. And we had been blind to the increasing violence he was doing to her. At home or on the road who wants to have to choose between their furry companions? Grunt wasn’t tolerating kitten or dog. Grunt had new needs we couldn’t give him.

2021. Beelzebub the Orange’s Grave.

The day after.

I needed to find a spark of joy.
We had this telescope taking up valuable room. And my neurons made some connections. Parked near us was a bus with their instagram handle on the side. I checked them out earlier in our stay. They were homeschooling five kids. Go Neurons.
Selfishly I marched that telescope across the sand in the bright dry desert day… I needed there to be goodness in the world. I needed to feel good outside of our small bitter animal kingdom tragedy.
And? It worked out splendidly. They were also having a tough week, for other reasons. Their kids already had an interest in the stars. Serendipity.
We left Phoenix, Arizona. Again camping at the Agua Fria National Monument. This time just us and one dog. A fixed window. Hard lessons. Less one bouncy orange kitten.

2021. Agua Fria National Monument

I found AZ Mastiff Rescue, a large breed rescue group. Freddie isn’t sorry. We hadn’t noticed how withdrawn she was. Suddenly we had a happy dog in front of us. I feel confident Grunt will be happier in the end too. We will be judged. Some will judge us for getting the breed in the first place. Some will judge us for keeping him so long. Others will find fault in us surrendering him to a rescue.

All I can say is I’ve always believed my home would be forever for every pet I brought in. And now I’ve learned again that life brings unforeseen challenges. The right and responsible act doesn’t always feel well done in the moment.

We left Grunt at the Rescue with everything I could give him for his best transition. I wrote out his history. His quirks. Sent his veterinary records. His harness, head collar, kong toy, his leash and the quilt they laid on in the truck. I did a photo shoot with him and emailed those to the Rescue. I said goodbye to my big chicken dog who was afraid of the dark and didn’t like the rain. I said goodbye to memories and to a future that didn’t come to pass. I was so mad at him. I loved him.
It was time to spoil Freddie. Since she could now enjoy a bone and toy of her own. I made my husband stop at the pet isle while we were getting supplies. Over the days since the surrender she has relaxed. Freddie is playing with her toys again. She doesn’t act like she’s on high alert 24/7. Listens to commands better. I can’t put into words all the changes we’ve noticed. It is clear she is a happier companion.

2021. Freddie enjoying new adventures.

One thought on “Road: Dying of the Light

  1. Aw, my heart goes out to you, as well as absorbs this painful, yet necessary experience. Thank you for sharing!! Beautiful photos from a beautiful woman. Miss ya, lady. Love and light and life experience.

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