May 18th, 2010

Relampago candy

The bocce story

My father said at lunch today that my eulogy to Holden was beautifully written, and it touched on all the high points of Holden's life, with one glaring omission. He made me promise to add an addendum. I'll attach this to the original post, too, but perhaps it gets its own entry.

I am pretty sure that this happened Easter 2003. 30 members of my family were up at the ranch, and lots of merriment abounded. At that point, the ten year old Relampago, the five year old Holden and the year old Zapata would have been the only dogs there. I am certain that they had a good time, as there was likely lots of food around and plenty of people to convince to give them food. There were ribs on the barbeque pit, and there was plenty to drink.

Being April at the ranch, it would have been absolutely beautiful, with every rose in the place showing off and every blade of grass going as florescent a shade of green as it was capable. The sky would have been a deep blue, with fluffy white clouds.

At some point during the afternoon, Jose pulled out a bocce set, and a fierce bocce tournament started. Well, as fierce as any sport in which you never put down your drink can get. Holden was irritated that no one was paying attention to him. He desperately wanted people to go to the pond with him. While he was perfectly happy to go into the pond on his own if that was the only alternative, he much prefered someone to throw sticks for him to retrieve. If we were all outside, we should be doing what HE wanted us to do. And he let us know that. So he started his annoying bark. It's hard to explain how effective this particular bark was. It was loud, and high pitched, and there was a strong sign of desperation in it. And he could make it go louder if he needed to. Holden knew that no one could ignore his bark for too long. I'm certain someone told him to shut up. And the game started.

I don't remember who was playing. I don't remember who had which color balls. I don't remember how far along into the game we were. I don't remember how many people were watching, how many were playing. I do remember the pertinent event clearly, though. I can still see the whole thing happening, as if in slow motion.

Someone threw a yellow ball. Holden stopped barking and trotted up to the ball and picked it up in his mouth. People started yelling. "Holden!!" We were somewhat amused, though, thinking that Holden had decided to play with us and that he'd let us come back to the game.

Holden ignored everyone and started trotting, not running, just walking very briskly, towards the pond. The yells for his name grew louder. "HOLDEN!!" We started following him, picking up speed as we realized where he was going.

Holden waded into the pond, about chest deep, maybe ten to fifteen feet into the pond. A group of onlookers gathered on the shoreline. Holden looked at all of us. We called his name and told him to come. He paused. He looked at all of us again. And then, in an act of pure deliberateness, he opened his mouth and dropped the ball in the pond with a satisfying splash. It sank to the bottom. He then came back to shore, very proud of himself. He probably shook off on one or more of us.

The bocce game ended in a fit of laughter.

For years, any time anyone was in the pond, my dad told people to look for the yellow bocce ball. I think he may have even gone in after the ball at various points in time. We all had a general idea of where it was, but feeling around with our feet in the muddy pond yeilded no results.

Last year was ridiculously dry. We were desperately behind in rain. The grass wasn't growing, we had to sell cows early. The pond dried up considerably. One day, we got a text. A victory text. I'm irritated now that I deleted it, because it was the sort of poetry only my father can accomplish via text message. In short, my father found the bocce ball. It was barely recognizable as a ball, after six years in the pond. The yellow paint was almost compeltely gone, as was the poly coating on the ball. It was a wooden thing, weathered and aged. My dad proudly put the bocce ball with the others of its set, and he insists that it be used when we play bocce, even though we have another set.

Holden was awesome at being the center of his own universe. He wasn't a dog that people forgot. He didn't sit in the background, but in the middle of a room, with his feet crossed in front of him, looking like a distinguished refined gentleman. He was easygoing, but he was also protective of his people when he needed to be. My father also mentioned a story where a homeless man was harrassing my dad and Claudia when they were fixing the tire on the suburban. The guy came up to the window, and Holden leaned out and barked, a menacing, loud, get-the-fuck-away-from-my-people bark. My dad said he's never seen anyone move so fast. I think after that he never worried that Claudia lived in a building in the middle of downtown with lots of transients. Holden would never let her get into trouble.

I think my dad got a little misty when he read my eulogy. He asked me to send it to everyone I knew that knew Holden.