Scarlet was born on the day Alice and Joe visited the famous San Diego dog beach. Although both being hopeless dog lovers, the newlyweds had decided not to take on the responsibility of dog parenting. However, that didn’t stop them from wholeheartedly enjoying watching the dogs play and swim, and cheering for a young pup that appeared to fight the current for the very first time. Deep down, they both longed for a dog of their own. Alice loves rugged Sheepdogs; Joe loves sweet and soulful Bloodhounds.
Two months later, Joe and Alice stepped into a pet store in the mall. While Alice was looking at the bunnies; a bloodhound puppy caught Joe’s eyes. Joe picked her up and she gave him the most innocent puppy kiss. Scarlet, as she would be named, stole his heart right on the spot, and the no-dog rule was thrown out of the window. With Joe’s arm underneath and her big puppy feet dangling, the wrinkled bundle of cuteness went home with her new mom and dad.
Scarlet was the pride and joy of her parents. She grew into such a stunning creature that she literally stopped traffic. In the touristy town they lived, random pedestrians would stop dead on the sidewalk, screaming like crazy fans, pointing at the dog. Passengers in the vehicles at the light would drop their jaws, ignoring the light turning green, mesmerizing over how she sat with Joe so proudly like a precocious little girl going for a ride with her dad. There were people asking to back Scarlet in the show rings, complete strangers following her for miles just to share some steaks. She was legendary for her beauty and self-aware presence.
The time spend to exercise Scarlet and respond to the cunning false-alarms to go outside, particularly in the middle of the night, gradually ate into Joe and Alice’s work schedule and REM sleeps. It would be so nice if they have a house with a big backyard, they thought; that way, Scarlet could stay outside all the time. With love in their hearts, and too much HGTV-watching on Alice’s part, the couple bought into the dream of home ownership in the midst of the real estate boom.
In a few years, they bought the fixer-upper on three acres at the peak of the housing rush, and lovingly named it Scarlet Park. All was good for the proud new homeowners. They rescued another two bloodhounds, Mae Bear, and Danny, and call their humble homestead “The Bloodhound Haven.”
Alice sat in her home recording studio; warily listening to the last take of her new track. The professional earphone grew heavier by the hour and had gotten quite painful to wear.
She had just recently closed up her book store. It had become unprofitable and slowly turned into a hobby, and now an unworthy effort. Since then, she had doubled down on her music, holding on to it as her last youthful aspiration before her insides grow old, dry up and crack into pieces.
Dark desperation rolled over her like a bulldozer mercilessly flatten her ego and dreams. She knew that without any miraculous market success, this could be the last song she will ever record. She’s all burnt out.
She is not the give-up kind, really. She is goal-oriented, stubborn to a fault, and had pull off some feats that surprised even herself. Having studying music all her life and trying to break into commercial music since high school, nowadays the attempt to fit herself in between market demand and anywhere near authenticity had jaded her and left her empty like a twisted, dying bonsai tree.
These days, she found herself waking up in the middle of the night for no reason, reaching for her old astrology printouts. She never went through with the study and couldn’t tell Jupiter from Mars. Nevertheless, the thick old folder was calling her name. She finally got her first real astrology book and learned to read the transits: Pluto had just transited opposition her Mercury and was 1 degree away from her IC, the fourth house cusp, and opposition her Venus on her MC.
Alice looked up the descriptions for those transit and found them non-threatening. So maybe there will be some home remodeling, or some nasty neighbor treading on the property line, no biggie, she thought.
She didn’t know yet that Mercury rules commerce, books; it is also the ruler of her Stellium, a cluster of planets that makes the focus of her life. She also was ignorant to the fact that Venus is closely related to her artistic efforts and income; it is also her chart ruler. The MC-IC axis represents the polarity between one’s worldly reputation and innermost feelings; between career and home life. On top of all that, Pluto is about to form a 90 degree angel with its birth position. Pluto rules one’s most basic survival instinct, not only as a living organism, but as a conscious complex of behavior patterns and personalities. Pluto’s action is to destruct and transform. A quarter Pluto return signals upheaval at the deepest level of one’s existence.
Scarlet was unsettled. She couldn’t seem to find a spot to lie down comfortably. As the day went on, it was clear that something was seriously wrong: she looked distressed and wouldn’t eat anything. Her breathing labored, her eyes fearful, distant and resigned all at the same time. She paced back and forth painfully throughout the house, and finally settled down outside on the grass late at night.
Alice brought Scarlet a blanket and lied down next to her, but Scarlet moved away and wouldn’t get petted. In tears, Alice fell asleep not knowing what the morning would bring. The next morning, Joe found Scarlet in the bushes, pale and covered in spiderweb, he rushed her to the vet but nothing could be done. As Pluto crossed Alice’s IC, the symbol for home, they lost Scarlet.
It’s just a dog, people say. In the following month, there was not a dry eye between Alice and Joe. It made no sense how losing a dog could be so painful, it made them almost feel guilty. They had both lost their dearest loved ones, but this was so much worse. For Alice, it was like having her heart ripped out, put through a meat grinder over and over while it’s still attached, then pound it with a hammer. It was like losing her first born. Life was never the same.
She limped through the days and took care of business the best she could. With the real estate in free fall, they withheld all the home improvement projects. When it rained, there weren’t enough pots to catch the streams coming down from the kitchen ceiling. Gradually, the mortgage ate up larger and larger portions of their impaired income. It became a no-brainer that they immediately stop the bleeding, and that means default, bankruptcy and relocation.
Mae Bear and Danny had become wonderful playmates. They sensed Scarlet missing, looked confused for a few days, and went back being dogs. Danny loved running circles around Mae. She would try to bat him with her paw –unsuccessfully, then gave up and rolled on her back, grinning. She turned into a lighthearted and playful goofball, and truly looked content in her old age. She was often seen bathing in the golden afternoon sun, quietly enjoying her sunset years: spirit restored, heart unbroken, trust regained, loved.
Before long, she started having trouble seeing and rapidly became severely arthritic. Very soon she would cry out in pain just from standing up and walk; she then stopped getting out of bed and stopped eating. Danny grew very anxious, panicked and wouldn’t leave Mae alone. He wanted to play with her so badly that he had to get shut out of the room so Mae could have a few bites.
Mae let Alice know that she was ready to go. Alice and Joe ended her pain five months after losing Scarlet.
Danny stopped eating. He wouldn’t get out of bed. He slept all day and became severely depressed since Mae’s passing. Ever since he arrived, he tried to be the alpha dog: trying to get on the bed with Mom, Dad and Scarlet, always vying for attention. Now finally the only dog, he had lost the interest to interact and respond to affection.
Joe and Alice were seriously concerned. They did not intent to lose another dog; they had to get Danny another playmate, quickly. After some research, they decided to check the local shelter first, so Joe went on the search.
“It’s so depressing here. There is this little black dog; he the only one looking healthy and alive. He looks like a mutt. Is that OK?”
“As long as it’s a dog. I love dogs. Any dog.”
In came Pluto, a crazy, energetic little black dog with unknown breeding. As soon as he got out of the truck, Danny jumped out of bed, cried out in pure happiness and excitement, wrestled and tumbled with the little pup. Pluto audaciously gnawed on his toes, pulled his long ears, grabbed the loose skin of his neck, whined, growled, kissed, barked, –it was all fun and game for the both of them. They hit it right off and played for hours on end. Joe and Alice looked at each other in sheer amazement and relief; they knew the dogs would be alright –it was a match made in heaven.
Joe and Alice left behind most of their possessions and moved across the country to a small farm house by the northern border. Disgrace of bankruptcy aside, the pare-down existence was a relief for them both. Alice was still nursing the grief of losing the dogs. She would break out in tears at any moment just talking about the two girls. Taking care of the new pup had been great help in getting over the loss.
True to his namesake, Pluto was very Plutonian, in the best sense of the word. He was small, black with a rusty red tint, over-the-top, destructive, demanding and overbearing, –mostly in adorable ways. He dug up the yard, brought everything that’s loose on the floor to the backyard and proceeded to destroy every one of them. He demanded attention every minute of the day from Alice, Joe, or Danny, or he would raise hell (with more collateral damage) until he got his way. He could not be left alone for one minute. Alice nicknamed him “Glue”.
When Glue started to lose his puppy teeth, Alice counted back the months and found that he was born around the day they lost Scarlet, –in fact, very likely the same day. It is often said in astrology that Pluto represents life and death as well as regeneration, and that people with strong Pluto in their charts often are born soon after a death in the family. In her own house, wrapped in a hyperactive bundle of fur, Alice’s got her own walking, barking astrology symbol.
Glue chose to bond with Alice, he loved her with all his intensity and attached himself like her shadow. He forced her to keep the house tidy; he got her to play tug, toss balls and Frisbee no matter it was rain, wind, snow or ice outside. He made her laugh, kissed away her tears and distracted her from self-absorptive wound licking. He was her observant and wacky therapist; he was the glue that held her together.
The mixture of deep affection and immense sadness turned into a bubbling brew of creativity; Alice started writing. In no time her verses were used on pet memorials, and a new business was born, one that brought welcomed relief to the family’s crippling finance. Repeatedly writing about pet-loss in anyway she could finally let the pressure out of her compounded trauma and gave room for her spirit to heal and renew.
As he grew, Glue matured into a well-behaved, exceedingly bright, affectionate, and joyful family member. He also started to look and behave like a shepherd.
Alice had always wanted a shepherd. Bloodhounds are gentle and loving; they steal countless hearts with one soulful gaze. However, once they get on a trail, they become obsessed and oblivious to their environment. It is often said that a loose bloodhound is a dead bloodhound; having a shepherd would greatly reduce the chance of that happening. As the distinctive apron pattern on Pluto’s chest grew, and he started body-slamming and ankle-biting Danny, it dawn on Alice and Joe that they had rescued a shepherd.
A shepherd with bloodhound’s eyes. When he was at rest in between his antics, Glue’s eyes were wise beyond his years, –soft, deep, sparkling and strangely, out of place. “He’s got Scarlet’s eyes!” One day Alice exclaimed. Joe had to agree, reluctantly, that he also saw Scarlet’s eyes in Glue. Pluto had brought Scarlet back in disguise, once a daddy’s girl, this time, mamma’s boy.
Alice would love to believe that Scarlet loved them so much that she came back for another round. She imagined that when she hugged and petted Glue, her love reverberated across space and time and reached Scarlet and Mae. Glue was like the multidimensional being falling out of the worm hole that dragged Scarlet’s spirit along for the encore. In a way, it was like Scarlet never died, her light only dimmed a notch. Joe and Alice loved Glue for the radical pup he was; yet when they looked into his eyes, they saw Scarlet looking back through the shepherd’s costume. The universe commemorated their love and this little black dog was the living proof.
He was the best thing ever happened to Alice. The tears she occasionally sheds carry only light weigh now. Witnessing the gift of Pluto has given her a profound sense of connectedness to the infinite and very personal universe, also called God, along with many other names. The universe cares about the little boy and girl longing for a dog of their own, a bloodhound name Scarlet trying to find her way back to her mom and dad, a grieving dog mom with her whole world shattered, a little black dog wanting a home, a business needing revival, a bloodhound named Danny waiting for a reason to get out of bed, and a man who denies himself the grief and remembrance of the love of his life, who now realizes that his love didn’t abandon him –she came back.
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