When I was about 10 years old I got sent to the library as a punishment ( really my teacher used to do that, she’d send you to the library as a punishment and boy was the Librarian ticked off when that happened).
My offence: I got up and read a Christmas Story I wrote about Santa crashing his sleigh as he was flying over Transylvania and his Reindeer got rabies, turned into zombies and nobody got Christmas. The end.
Oh and on that same day I drew little Christmas Trees all over the wall in the girls bathroom- I guess I was working through writer’s block. I don’t remember.
So my Teacher (years later it was not a sad day when I heard she was no longer among the living ) who pulled my hair when I wasn’t paying attention and checked my desk for cheat notes because I always got 100% on my spelling tests ALWAYS) not only sent me to the library where I had to listen to the Librarian bitching ( rightfully so ) that she was not a babysitter, she also made me sit in the corner of the library where all of the old history books were.
I mean those books were OLD.
So after the incident where I slaughtered the Reindeer and as my teacher said, ” Ruined Christmas for the Class” I found myself surrounded by old books.
I wasn’t supposed to leave my chair so of course I sat in it scooted it and myself across the floor to the shelf and grabbed three books.
One was about Archeology. One was about Pompeii and the third was a book about War Dogs and War Horses and how they were trained to fight in battles.
I learned about King Tut, and right then and there I decided I was going to be an explorer one day and dig up a Mummy or two myself. Seemed doable from what I read.
The pictures of Tut’s tomb were black and white and the objects weren’t staged, so you had to really put your nose down and look for things because it was all in a jumble.
It was like going on a treasure hunt. I had a great time looking through that book and reading it.,
The War Dogs and War Horse book bothered me, I had a nagging sense those dogs and horses were never went home- I mean if a dog bit a person they got destroyed right? And here was page after page of War Dogs who probably never got to go home. They were posed with medals and were standing next to their handlers and in one I remember the Soldier staring straight into the camera with this horrible blank look on his face – I know that look now.
It’s called screaming with your eyes.
But by far the book that affected me the most was the one about Pompeii- all of those people who didn’t do the Return To Mother Earth thing- their deaths were captured and forever in those casts and it was there for you to see- their contorted limbs, the way they probably held onto each other until they couldn’t- when they had to let go when they were fighting to breathe. It was awful. They didn’t even have a little comfort in feeling their friends or loved, or just somebody touch as they died.
I had sat with people as they passed as a child. I know how important that is.
And then I came to the picture of the Pompeii Dog.
He was twisting and turning until the very end. And he was alone. Not understanding what was going on, not knowing where his family was. Maybe he thought they’d be back for him when it was all over. Maybe he wanted to find them, maybe he just wanted to run from the horrible burning world he was now trapped in and wasn’t thinking about them at all.
But he couldn’t
I leaned over that page and cried for a long dead dog.
It didn’t seem fair. That poor dog who died alone and confused. Nothing in the world should ever have to feel that kind of pain or loneliness.
I looked up and when I was sure nobody was looking I tore that page out of the book.
And when I got home I put it in a shoebox and buried it next to one of my cats.
It seemed like the right thing to do.
It was around that time I became a writer – I won contests, awards, I was mentored by teachers and encouraged by my family.
But even when I think about how lucky I am to have the support of my family in this strange hobby ( writing ) of mine- even when I went to work in a Funeral Home and faced with a roomful of the deceased in various stages of Prep I didn’t bat an eye. I knew it was where I was supposed to be and I had that strength to face it because of my family.
But the Pompeii Dog has been with me all of these years too.
I don’t think things would have been the same without him.