“Woo-Woo with Nubble”

Considering the impact Nubble made while he was here for almost eleven years, it comes as no surprise that he’d have a few antics from that adventure referred to as The After-Life. While I believe in God and magic, and miracles, and spirits, and angels, I realize these are merely my beliefs and none are facts that I can actually prove. Whereas I am open to messages, I strive to avoid reading messages into all occurrences. My afternoon and early evening of December 22nd, following the 8:00AM appointment with Dr. Dick Stolper, was a bit of a blur. Dick told me that ever since he was a small child, he’d had this belief that when a dog died, it took that canine until the next morning to reach his final destination. It rang with me, so I bought a tall white candle on the way back to my empty home.

As I attempted to grasp the reality and finality of it all, coupled with mounting exhaustion, it was the only night, thus far, in which I was able to go to bed at a decent hour and actually sleep. Our place is on the third floor and I generally sleep with my windows and patio doors open. It is well insulated and warms up quickly when needed. An hour into sleep I was awakened by a deep single woof. It was not Nubble’s voice and was definitely from “our” bedroom doorway. It didn’t startle me but rather soothed me. I peeked from under my comforter to my dresser and saw the white candle still burning in his dog dish as I whispered, “Thanks Nubble. Travel safe – I love you.”

Yes, I had taken his floppy toy dawg to bed and it was still in my arms when I was awakened a couple hours before dawn to the same “voice,” only this was woof, woof, woof. Three barks, equally spaced. I was fully alert after the first one, lay with eyes wide open for the second, and on the third, I sat up. I walked over to the fully burned candle and “something” had me touch the wax. It was still pliable, still warm. “Thanks Nubble. Guess you made it. Love you.” I staggered to the kitchen for a glass of water.

I tape our Christmas cards to the overhang of our living room. As you may assume, many had dog themes. Three random ones had fallen from different walls. Turning them over, you guessed it I’m sure, all three were dog cards. My first chuckle since he had crossed the Rainbow Bridge, as I said once more, “Thanks Nubble.”

Edward is my friend and webmaster. Valerie is his lady, my friend and proofreader. Molly and Lily were Nub’s lil’ buddies and girl-friends besides Bijou. An extra blessing is that they live in the next building. The foursome came to check on me, and when Edward went to sit on the sofa, there was a bone-shaped cookie-cutter used as a Christmas tree ornament about four feet away, opposite the coffee table. Not a designer Christmas Tree, our decorations are a hodgepodge of items.

I held the shiny metal with a bit of a smirk and said, “Somehow I must have brushed a branch, somehow launched this from the tree.” I didn’t necessarily believe that and noticed they both had a tilt to their heads. After our visit, I decided to grab a book and walk them out, then head to Starbarks as my home was feeling as if it had a hole in it.

Edward and I have this ritual of texting each other with the word Dawgs? Our signal to meet downstairs and walk Molly, Lily, and The Nubster. I’d told Edward I promised Nubble I’d still do Dawgs with their 4-legged girls, so I headed home, admittedly feeling empty-handed and as though I’d forgotten something. The Girls seemed to agree, so after the blue-bag routine, we headed upstairs in part to help his pups get used to Nubble’s absence.

We walked in and Edward looked over my shoulder when I stopped in my tracks. “Well, that’s weird,” he mumbled, knowing I had left with them earlier. Three Christmas ornaments were lying on the floor. Yep, three. One was from Bette Mandino of the lighthouse for which Nubble is named. The second was a rattle in the shape of a phone receiver from the time I was a baby, which I mention as it made me think of the day I adopted Nubble. The week I got my first cell phone – the deciding factor in my selecting him was that he chewed the antenna and cracked the lens when it rang. And the third was a reversible ornament which has Devil Dog on one side and Angel Dog on the other. I wish I had noticed which side was up.

If I were to select which woo-woo amazed me the most thus far, it would have to be the chill that hung in our home and in my body, beginning the first full day he was gone. I accepted that while I like the cold, perhaps the stress and exhaustion were leaving me more susceptible to a chill, so I closed up and actually ran the heater night and day. Although it warmed up, my Word Corner remained chilly. At times the thermostat would read 76? but both Edward and Judy my assistant said it didn’t feel like it. I would feel breezes and chills but using both incense smoke and candle flame, I couldn’t prove any such draft. I called the maintenance man on the third day with a concocted story that I was hearing sounds in my place. We began in my bedroom working forward to my Word Corner.

Obviously neither of us heard any sounds but once in my office he turned and said, “Jesus – you hanging meat in here?” I innocently asked if it seemed colder in that room. He assured me it did but was bewildered when I pointed to show all heating vents were closed except for the one in my office. He just shook his head and agreed to check back later.

Feeling a bit reassured, I sat at my desk to work on an edit. To my right was the spot where one of Nubble’s beds normally lay, under two triangular shelves containing whatever project I am focused on at that time. That matt was still out on the patio where he and I had sat by the fire and talked on his last night. I admit it looked like a gaping hole and my eyes followed up the wall to the framed picture of Robert B. Parker and his pal, Pearl – both gone. The glass had a crack running the length of the frame. I flashed back to the morning before what would have been Nubble’s last day here when I’d noticed that on his Wall of Paws the picture of Sir Morgan, Ken Farmer’s sweet Mastiff who had died many years ago, had an unexplained crack in the glass, which I had replaced later that day. Looking at Bob and Pearl’s picture directly above Nubble’s corner in my Word Corner, I remembered the Shaman belief that when the glass cracks on the picture of someone deceased, it means a portal has been opened.

I became teary-eyed once again, and then thought of Nubble’s bed. I remembered George Addair and Allison DuBois explaining that spirits often communicate through temperature changes. So I went and got his round bed from the patio and returned it to his corner. For good measure I covered it with the quilt that Edward and Valerie had made him, and then added a toy badger that his Auntee Sherry had sent him. And while I am still getting drafts and chills which no one has yet to explain, those who experienced the mysterious temperatures immediately saw a marked improvement to the point that I am, again, seldom using the heater.

I reserved a week for Kohl’s Ranch, not consciously realizing it would be the third week until sitting down to pen this story. That same day his license renewal arrived. Kohl’s is the place where Nubble and I had spent my birth-week in November for the last couple of years. They remove the TVs, radios, and clocks for me. No work, just him and me hiking and exploring. Last time up there, he’d herded two bushy squirrels into our cabin bedroom. This solo trip I did bring work, two of my books to finish and three columns to write. At the end of the week, I’ll spread Nubble’s ashes in Tonto Creek where we both loved to play.

He was fascinated with the maple tree seedlings just like me, when I was a kid. They twirl like mini-helicopters and in a good wind he chased them. It was very windy the first night at the cabin and when I went out on the porch the next morning, there had to be a hundred copter-seeds on the deck. Coincidence more than likely, except there were hardly any on the adjacent decks and the nearest Maple tree is on the other side of the creek. I also noticed I have two grey squirrels that the workers have seen that seem to follow me at a distance, when I leave my cabin for the lobby. Hmmmm.

Sitting at my make-shift desk in our, rather my, cabin, I gazed at the picture of Nubble balancing the heart-shaped cookie on his nose. I’ve only heard the phantom bark once up here as well as a phantom phone ring for which the front desk says they have no record. The phone one causes me to remember one more thing to share.

I’d detested purchasing a cell phone but finally bought my first one almost eleven years ago, the same week Nubble rescued me from the pound where he cracked the cell lens. In my years with phones, I have never lost or broken one, although I’ve often been tempted. That is, until I left Dr. Stolper’s animal hospital that shattering day and reached into my pocket to call Erin Rose to tell her the deed was done.

Across the lower left corner of the lens, was now a diagonal crack. As I rub the cabin stubble on my chin, I admit I’m not sure when I’ll have it repaired.