Poetry by Jamie Holms

If you’ve ever rescued a dog, you know you’ve wondered what they have lived through…..

Meat. Run. Breathe.

The memory of chasing jack rabbits across the Nevada desert fades from my age altered mind. It’s only in dreams where I recall with a vividness unaltered by time the sharp scent of their fear and the flutter of their heart beats as we traversed the sagebrush upon flat open land. Heedless of the damage it was wrecking on my then young knees, I hurtled across the dry earth in unrelenting pursuit. I would have meat. In dreaming the ache of hunger never feeds the chase. So is the blessing of it’s memory, that I do not have to experience again the mind numbing drive of starvation that drove me to run and run until I could no longer lift paw from earth or pant in one more breath. I will have meat, or I will die. I will not die. I will have meat. Meat. Run. Meat. Run. Breathe. Meat. Breathe. Run.

The vastness of sagebrush and rain deprived ground is immense by my recollection. I see it now with the vagueness of impressionist art, blurry and distorted but I can smell it still. There are times when the breeze is just right that the pungent musk of sagebrush, dust in my nostrils and the rankness of my wasting haunt me. I have not forgotten the total lack of silence the desert night offers nor it’s biting cold. In the hunt of my dreams, my way is unhindered by the red haze of pain that trodding upon fallen cacti brings and the bone jarring ache of constant exposure to the elements. The fine volcanic grit ground into my pads day after day would not, even with contentious grooming, allow the burning, bleeding rawness of my pads to heal. I remember the sky as vast emptiness pierced by a brightness that contained no warmth by night and by day could turn the sand to blister me.

How different it is, the dreaming of a thing. A memory sweetened by time to how it should have been, a young, sleek, well-fleshed Labrador, golden red highlights glinting by moonlight tracking and coursing after a rabbit for the sport of it. I did not, even then, believe in happy endings, amusingly neither did she. I would like to alter time, to say that, having laid my eyes upon her, I thought, “This one I will save”. That is not the way it happened. I am aware of her in only the vaguest of senses from that time. A word, maybe two spoken in sorrow. “Over. “ “Soon.” The smell of certainty about her is what is strongest. I grapple at the memory, I put my teeth into it and pull, but like rancid meat it falls apart and all that is left is the bitter taste of bile in my mouth.

The next few days are muzzy, like puppy-hood. Warmth. Quiet. Gentle prodding. Days later, I lifted my muzzle from my forepaws to scent past her, query in the back of my throat. I could taste there- disinfectant, her, horses, her, and other things. Water. I was thirsty. I was tired. So tired. She just watched me as my eyes heavy lidded closed again. “You’re very sick you know”, she stated softly. I tugged my eyes open again and she knelt in front of me. “It’s important. I need to know something”, she said, a single finger stroking along the prominent ridge of my skull. Touch. I was being touched. She wanted something. She wanted to know something. So tired. She needed me to focus. I closed my eyes and then opened them again to look across at her. I waited but a moment for her to speak. “Are you tired enough that you want me to let you go”? She queried quietly, “If you are too tired to go on, I can help you. If you want to stay, I can help you do that too”. The index finger of her right hand never left off stroking my scalp. “I need to know”, she insisted. She waited longer for my answer than I had a right to have expected. I pressed my muzzle up into her palm, rested there a moment and then stood up. Bone weary, I stretched long, groaning with the soreness that had taken up residence within my muscles and bent my head to lap clear, cool, clean water from a metal dish. Her scent strengthened for a moment, surged with something like passion and then settled. “Alright then, we have a hard road ahead of us” she advised while I circled and then nested down in such a horde of blankets as to make an army in winter shiver with jealousy.

Jamie Holms

About the Author

Jamie has over 17 years of experience in the veterinary field, most in emergency and critical care. In a prior life she was an animal control officer and a veterinary team manager for a 24 hour practice in Los Altos, California. Jamie is the Administrative Manager for Dr. Andy Roark and Uncharted Veterinary Conferences. Jamie is passionate about mental health and suicide prevention in the veterinary community and is a firm believer that education reduces stigma and increases survival. She is a certified Mental Health First Aid responder, QPR gatekeeper and certified gatekeeper instructor. Jamie is an administrative rockstar, organizational aficionado, tea geek, and workaholic – not necessarily in that order.