I am going to write a children’s book in honor of Redford.
About how to train (& be trained by) a dog. About Redford’s favorite things (cats, pizza crusts, swimming) & least favorite things (cats, isolation). And about how to relate to death in a happy & sad & genuine, rainbow-healthy way.
How to train your human. ~ Redford “Scotch” Lewis
The Adventures of Redford (Half-Hound, All-Trouble)
[Rough Draft]: Please make suggestions or share stories in the comments there if I’ve forgotten anything or you don’t like anything. I will do my own illustrations.
Redford didn’t like being left at home.
He did like running along Waylon’s bicycle.
Redford did like to rest, and go to the bathroom. He didn’t like too much rest, he liked to play. It didn’t like not being able to go to the bathroom for too long, it was uncomfortable.
He liked to nap, and lay down in the middle of dance floors at parties. At home, if someone was upstairs, and his human Waylon was downstairs, he curled up in a spot right in-between. He was only truly happy when everyone was in the same room.
Redford didn’t like getting too hot
He did like sitting his tush in the creek.
Redford didn’t like eating bad cheap mean food made from other nice animals.
He liked eating healthy vegan organic local food that didn’t hurt other animals. And, okay, he liked most food. And he lovvved pizza crusts. Sometimes he’d even lick old dirty plasticky gum stuck on the sidewalk.
Redford loved cats.
They didn’t love him.
Redford loved people. He liked to whine and yelp and wag in excitement. The loudness of his whining equaled how much he liked you.
People liked him too. They would pet him and talk to him, and then sometimes move on without even saying hi to his human Waylon. Waylon loved that: Redford had his own friends.
Redford loved swimming. He didn’t like to get cold afterward, so he’d sit in the sun or get blankets all over him.
Redford loved napping. We already said that, but he reallly loved napping. He liked napping right in the square of sunshine that came in through the window. He liked napping with a blanket over him, if it was cold. He liked digging into the earth and then napping in that hole if it was hot out.
Redford loved hiking, and walks (even Waylon’s business talks n’walks).
He didn’t like being left alone.
Waylon didn’t mind being alone, but he loved being alone much more when he was alone with Redford. Redford always cheered him up.
At first, Waylon didn’t know how to train a dog, so he trained himself to be a good dog owner and friend. That meant lots of good food and exercise and social dogplay with other dogs and people, and very little isolation for Redford. That meant friendly discipline and lots of affection and ball playing and biking and time together.
Redford and Waylon were best friends. But that didn’t mean Waylon treated Redford like his baby. Redford wasn’t his baby. Redford was Waylon’s best friend. What is Redford?, other humans asked. Waylon would always say, “he’s half-hound, all-trouble.”
Having a pet isn’t about us. It’s about giving a good life to the pet. And when the pet is truly happy, and relaxed, and healthy, then they can give us all the love in the world.
One day, Redford got hurt, and sick, and he never recovered. One day, he died, and Waylon was shocked and sad and cried a lot. People helped Waylon by hugging him and sending him messages and cards and also by letting him feel sad. Eventually, Waylon started to remember all the joy and love, and forget how much he missed Redford. Death is sad. Death is really, really sad. But it also reminds us to treasure all those good people (and dogs, and cats, and cows, and goldfish, and birds, and even spiders) who we love and care about, and never to take them for granted. And death reminds us how much life and love matter and how we don’t want any humans, or animals, to die.
And that was Redford’s final adventure: he taught Waylon, and everyone around him, to love one another every single day and every single moment.
And 400 days later Waylon met a new little puppy, and they went for a walk, and Waylon had a new best friend, and he named him Winfield or Winnie. And Redford’s legacy continued through the painting of Redford in Waylon’s house, and the needlepoint of Redford in Waylon’s house, and the tree planted on top of Redford’s grave, and most of all in Waylon and his community’s memory and Waylon’s heart. And Redford’s memory helped Waylon teach himself how to love a new dog, and wha to say in this book.
If so inspired, read the story of Redford’s passing here.
His burial, here.
And give to Redford’s fundraiser, if so inspired, here.
You were sweet and silly and floppy and loved to sleep and play and greet friends with yelps and wags and it doesn’t feel as if you’re dead, just around the corner, or off in the park, or playing in the stream, and surely I’ll see you soon, later, tomorrow, in 5 minutes.
You were such a buddy. I don’t feel sad, now, but maybe I will again tomorrow. Who knows. I ride this wave as it unfurls. Now I feel glad with your living memory, your death seems to be a thing lit up in life, like 7 pm on a Wednesday evening in the last mountain Spring sunshine.
We would bike across the low bridge, and I’d let you swim across, while I slowly biked/walked across, and you’d come out and shake from your head to your tush, watering the sidewalk and the grass and the trees as you revolved in wet joy.
You’d be laying at my feet, now, but it’s getting dark, and I’d tell you “up!” and get you to go to bed, and I’d come join you in the living room, and we’d get cozy and you’d turn in while I watched basketball, occasionally yelling “wow! Yes!” and you’d sit up suddenly, alert, wondering who I was talking to.
And in the morning I look for you and you’re curled up or splayed out, adorably, unselfconsciously
(impressive, considering how many photos were taken of you—I remember pre-you making fun of pet owners taking so many photos—that superiority faded fast in the face of your in-the-moment-Redfordness)
I keep looking for you and you aren’t there. I keep thinking “you were only a dog,” and then I take that thought and pet it, for insecurity deserves warmth, not suppression. Insecurity is the opposite of what love for you gave me and so many of us—love, empathy, caring for a mere dog, a mere “pet”—a love that if fully ripened could heal our world with caring for all sentient beings, our earth, blades of grass—even, hell, one another.
The cherry tree you sat under after your final swim is no longer purple-flowering—your bed is cold, your leashes hang, still. Your food sits in its containers and buckets and cans. Your blankets air out on the fence. Your white hairs still are all over—I dread vacuuming you away.
I think of adopting a new little life, I can give a good home to a homeless little being. But I’m only 10 days in, or out,
from your heart struggling your lungs struggling your breath gasping in your furry chest in my desperate hands, me saying, calming but loudly, it’s okay! Red! It’s okay! And holding you and petting you and wondering if this was it.
That was it. And for now I can’t look away from the still lit warm memories of your life.