The Lonely Train

Can You Hear It?

Sitting in my leather recliner in the wee small hours of the morning, I hear it. The Lonely Train. Where I live, there are train tracks a few miles to the east and to the west. Because of all the midday traffic noise, most of the time you can’t hear a train passing through town. However, when you’re up before the birds like I usually am, you can clearly hear the whistle blow, and the wheels rolling on the tracks. In the past, this has always been a comforting, small-town kind of sound. One I always loved hearing as I wrote my latest blog post, and enjoyed my morning coffee.

Since I’m one of the few people awake at this hour, I’ve always felt like that sound was just for me. Now, however, hearing that whistle creates a wave of crushing loneliness, that stays with me for the rest of the day. Since losing our beloved hound dog, that lonely feeling in the morning has really started to weigh on me. When Skittles and I used to hear a train whistle, she would raise her head, let out a huge sigh, and then go back to sleep. Now, it’s just me sighing. 

Hearing a train at this hour reminds me of the Hank Williams’ song, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. However, there’s a certain feeling you get when the rest of the world is still fast asleep. It’s lonely, but special at the same time. I guess it’s all in how you look at it. There goes another whistle now. I try to smile, remembering how much we loved and miss our crazy dog. Then I finish up my latest journal entry and start the day. With a sigh.

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The Quiet Place

Giving Yourself the Creeps

It was quiet, too quiet. How many times have you heard those words and felt tension begin to creep up on you? It’s almost like a menacing movie soundtrack starts to play in the background. My wife and son were on vacation for a couple of days, and the quiet was definitely beginning to freak me out. My younger son had recently moved out, so it was the first time I was in our house alone at night, without my crazy canine alarm system. My rule used to be, if it didn’t bother Skittles, it didn’t bother me. Now, every pop and creak had me on high alert. My wife used to talk about this feeling when I worked afternoons for nineteen years. Now I get what she meant.

Working on afternoons, I was the only employee on that shift. Eventually, the night noises of the Renaissance Center took on a familiar rhythm, and I got used to them. Not so much with our house. I don’t like it quiet. If I’m home alone, I usually have some music cranked up while I write a new blog article, or work on some other project. My current position in sales keeps my mouth moving all day, so when I finally shut up, it’s a little eerie. Of course, I’ll have some music or podcast playing as I drive home.

They say that when you lose a loved one, it’s the quiet that gets you. Since our beloved Skittles had passed away, the silence was deafening in that empty house. Every little noise was magnified, and of course, my imagination began to run wild. When my wife and son finally arrived back home, I welcomed the noise. While peace and solitude can help you remain calm and relaxed, it doesn’t do a whole lot for your nerves after a day or two. Maybe that’s the secret. Quiet, in moderation. Makes sense to me. For now, crank up the AC/DC, gotta get some work done!!

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A Sad Silence

Our Hearts Are Broken

I am writing today with a broken heart. Our beloved hound dog, Skittles, has passed away. It came on suddenly with a case of internal bleeding. After five short hours, we had to put her to sleep. She was only eleven years old and just the day before, I had taken her for a bike ride. She didn’t race around the block like a bat out of hell, but happily trotted alongside as we made our way around the neighborhood. Ironically, a dog trainer named Dawn had come by our house earlier on that dreadful evening, to break Skittles of some of her more annoying habits. However, after seeing her condition, she immediately recommended that we get her to the vet.

We arrived at Serenity Animal Hospital at around 7 pm. After some bloodwork, x-rays, and an ultrasound, Dr. Karen recommended we get her to emergency right away. It was the quietest ride we ever had with our crazy dog. Whenever I drove with her in the past, I always made sure I had earbuds to block out her beagle/basset hound cacophony. Now, it was just silence. I have heard that when animals know their time has come, they respond accordingly. I had to lift her into the car to take her to the emergency room, but when I tried to carry her down from the back seat, she backed away from me in terror. She knew.

After a discussion with the vet on duty, it was determined that there were only two courses of action. Exploratory surgery, or putting Skittles to sleep. Since the best result to be expected from the surgery was a diminished life-span and further medical treatments, we decided to put her down. It was agonizing. Thirteen years ago, we had to put our cat Jewel to sleep. However, she had been living a diminished, but happy life for two and a half years. When her time came, it was sad, but not unexpected. However, with Skittles I kept crying, “It’s not fair!” I had no idea what to do. Watching my companion, who had often journeyed out with me in subzero temperatures, shivering on the floor was just killing me. I prayed hard, and the only answer that kept coming back to me was my wife saying, “She’s in pain”. That did it. I held onto her and sobbed while she left this world.

Just before midnight, we left the emergency vet office, taking with us only her leash and collar. I was a complete wreck and it was a miracle we made it home without injury to the car, or ourselves. The next morning, not seeing her lying in the hallway outside our bedroom was another stab in the heart. A couple of days later, I collected all of her things to donate to Serenity. Skittles was never one for toys. Her spare time was always spent demanding attention from whoever was in the room with her. Bagging up her belongings, I came across the one toy she did play with from time to time. It’s a stuffed rabbit, and I have placed it in her chair across from my recliner.

If you read my article about her attitude issues, you know she wasn’t a well-behaved dog. However, I would gladly cut pieces of candy cane out of the carpet again, if it meant we would have her with us for just a few more years. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. On ride home on the night she passed, my wife brought up a good point. Since Skittles was a rescue dog, we had given her a good life. I take solace in that thought, but I am still at a loss for what to do next. Once I’m done journaling and blogging for the day, our daily routine always began with a quick walk around our L-shaped block. This was followed by a treat hunt in the backyard, or indoors if the weather was crappy. I will take a walk this morning in her memory, and probably have another good cry in the process. Dear God, please take care of our crazy dog until we see her again. Amen.

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