The Effects of War on a Godless Dog Lover
by KB FUGITT
Every day is a gift, Tommy Franklin came to realize after many ups and downs in his life. There was love found, lost and found again with his best friend Carolyn Russell. Hope was also lost and found throughout his life. After growing up with great friends and parents who loved their children dearly, in the idyllic setting of small town U.S.A. in the nineteen-fifties and sixties, who would have thought that, as a young man in his twenties, he would hit rock bottom in the beach community of Venice, California? What caused his downward spiral into destitution?
How did he go from there to becoming a successful adult, loving husband and father? Was it because of the love and influence from the three women who always stood by him? Would he have survived at all, in life or death, without the companionship of his dogs?
Who was the mysterious fourth woman that entered his life at times of need and did she determine his final destiny? Were prayers answered?
In The Effects of War on a Godless Dog Lover, Tommy Franklin travels down a road that ultimately shows him what true love and hope are all about.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can last a lifetime. The love of a soul mate and devoted dogs can last forever.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to support
Canadian and US war veterans suffering with PTSD.
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Carolyn looked at the clock on the kitchen wall as she dried her hands on a tea towel. She had been standing over the sink doing the morning breakfast dishes, looking out the window and thinking to herself what another glorious day it was going to be. When you live in the North Country and summer is saying good-bye, you need to take advantage of these days you know will be leaving soon. The summers in Alaska don’t last forever. You have to enjoy every second of every day no matter what the weather is outside. She intended to do just that. As her late husband Tommy used to say, “Every day is a gift.”
“Every day is a beautiful day. Make the best of it,” was the creed Tommy Benson had lived by. Life was meant to be enjoyed. He would proclaim it every morning after he got his socks on that yes, it’s true, every day is a gift. He would joke that if he could get his socks on in the morning it was going to be a good day. Tommy had a lot of good days in his life and he managed to get his socks on all by himself right up until the very end. For those he left behind every day was still exactly that, a precious gift.
Carolyn missed hearing those words from her soul mate, but she had promised him she would echo them in his memory on a daily basis. If sometimes she forgot, which she rarely did, one of her two daughters would remind her.
“Every day is a gift, Mom.”
And every day she started off the morning routine by telling her dog, Daisy, what Tommy believed about the privilege of living. That we are lucky to have this opportunity to enjoy life on a daily basis.
“Every day is a gift, Daisy.”
When Tommy was alive and announced that proclamation, someone would always be in hearing distance. Especially at the end, Daisy was always there listening.
Upon hearing those words the family dog would know it was time to go outside and get the morning paper. Ah, the gift of life! Ah, the magical pronouncement. Ah, the excitement of going out to get the morning paper. But more than that; Ah! All I really want to do is go outside and pee!
Living in the bush in Alaska, just opening the front door and letting the dogs out in the morning to do their thing is not an option. There is the threat of grizzlies and wolves, which prey on family pets, to worry about. No, it’s best the humans and family dog go out in tandem and Daisy was ready for the routine even before Carolyn woke up in the morning.
The very first thing Carolyn did when she got out of bed was make sure Daisy got her breakfast and fresh water. After a shower, a quick cup of coffee and some cereal, Carolyn would do the morning dishes. If her daughters, Sarah and Jessica, were up, good mornings would be tossed around, then Carolyn would brush her teeth and finally say those familiar words.
“Yes, every day is a gift, Miss Daisy girl! Are you ready to go out? Well, let’s go then. Come on.”
Yeah, let’s go! I reeeeeeeeally have to pee.
Daisy missed Tommy as much as everyone else did. Her heart broke when she saw her family grieving after his death. Dogs can sense when there is a change, good or not so good. All a dog wants out of life is a routine and Daisy’s late dad knew that as if he had been a dog in some past life. Daisy also knew that after Tommy passed away he would have wanted it to be “business as usual.” Walks and more walks and in between some sleeping, playing and eating. Tommy had told the family dog that Carolyn was someone Daisy could count on to keep that routine going after he left this world and that’s how the days began rain, snow or shine. No matter how miserable it was outdoors, Daisy would get her morning walks just like Tommy had promised her. Plus her afternoon walks and her evening walks. Carolyn had made that promise to Tommy on his death bed shortly before he passed on.
“Don’t worry about Miss Daisy. I’ll make sure everything stays the same,” she assured her husband moments before his last breath. It was a promise and when it came to promises between Tommy and Carolyn, at least in the later years of their relationship, none were broken. This morning wasn’t going to be any different.
Just like every day was a gift, every day was also a little different from the one before. Yesterday it was misty and cool, today it was bright sunshine and warm. As Carolyn opened the clothes-closet door to get her light jacket and said those magical words, Daisy knew it was time to jump up, wag her tail and head for the front door. Even without Dad around, Daisy knew that the routine would never alter because Carolyn, like Tommy had told Daisy on more than one occasion, was someone very, very special.
What Carolyn experienced when she walked out onto the veranda confirmed what she had suspected while she was doing the dishes and observing the early birds at her feeder. Indeed, it was going to be a beautiful day.
“Which way should we go this morning, Miss Daisy? Take the trail down to the road or just head on down the driveway?”
Daisy had no preference. Being out in the fresh air and having the freedom to exercise her legs and pee was the only thing of any importance right now. Finding the right spot to relieve herself was high on her list of things to do. When she really had to go it wouldn’t take long to find that special place. Other times, if her bladder was holding up, there would be the universal dog ritual of sniffing and smelling before she found the most perfect and desirable place to relieve herself.
“OK Daisy, let’s head down the driveway and you can do your business,” Carolyn said walking down the steps from the veranda to the ground. That was Daisy’s cue. Off she shot like a bullet and headed down the long dirt driveway.
You can’t see the road from the house and vice versa. It was designed that way intentionally when Tommy built it. He didn’t want anyone to see the house from the road so he could have his privacy. The driveway has a long straight stretch before it curves to the left, goes behind the evergreen trees and then does another straight stretch before it hits Crescent Rd. which is also dirt and the road you take to the town of Eagles Junction, Alaska — population thirty-five hundred. Eagles Junction is one of those small picture-postcard municipalities that is situated in the Gaston Valley surrounded by the imposing peaks of the Atwell Range. When Tommy first came to Eagles Junction to start up his business building log homes over twenty-five years previously, he knew he had come to a little corner of heaven. When Carolyn followed four years later, she felt the same. As it turned out, it was the place where they laid down their roots and raised a family. It was still heaven for her, but minus the man in her life.
As Carolyn ventured down the driveway with Daisy constantly crisscrossing and taking in the fresh new smells, she saw, as she did frequently, the two eagles that usually soared overhead at this time of day. The eagles live in the area and seem to make it a point to fly over every day and say good morning to her and Daisy. She stopped and watched, never getting tired of this privileged sight. The gathering of eagles in this region, because of the good feeding grounds, is the reason the nearest town is called Eagles Junction. She always felt honored to see the mated pair and would watch them glide overhead until they disappeared. Tommy had convinced her a long time ago that seeing an eagle was a sign of good luck. She believed it and felt blessed to live in such a lovely and breathtaking part of the planet. When she reached the mailbox and took out the morning newspaper, Carolyn checked the headlines and was amused at how sometimes a world so beautiful could go so wrong. Such a wonderful planet that took a wrong turn at some point.
At times she just couldn’t understand the reasons for all the turmoil, especially when we should all be getting along. Sometimes she wondered why she even bothered to read the paper. But it was “part of the routine” and reading the newspaper, despite all the bad news, was something she still enjoyed. This paper that came from over fifty miles away and found its way into her mailbox, the only mailbox and the only house for miles around, and, no matter what the weather, would always be there. And no matter what the weather, she and Daisy were always there to get it.
After Carolyn examined the headlines and turned to head back up the driveway, she saw a woman of African descent standing a couple of hundred feet away on the side of the road looking into the bush. The woman turned her head, noticed Carolyn and waved. Carolyn waved back and wondered what this woman was doing out here at the end of the road. She didn’t give it much thought except she noticed it looked like the stranger was driving a pickup truck similar to one Tommy used to drive.
“OK, Daisy. Let’s go back to the house and I’ll read you the news, sports and weather and your favorite comics.”
This was the start of the day, the start of the routine. Never changing. Weather permitting, Carolyn read Daisy the newspaper as they sat on the veranda. If it was too cool they went inside and got cozy by the fireplace. Then, after she had read the paper, Carolyn would do some household chores while Daisy watched her every move anticipating their next excursion. It was always the same. At lunch time there would be another walk. Then another one after dinner and a short one just before bedtime. Tommy had promised Daisy that she would be looked after by a dog lover named Carolyn, and Tommy never lied. He would kid with you a lot, joke around, play tricks on you, chase you, throw the stick for you, talk to you, sing to you, do everything with you, but he would never lie.
Tommy was ten years old the first time he met Carolyn. Of course it was a dog that brought them together. Over the years to come, there would always be dogs intertwined in Carolyn and Tommy’s lives. Dogs that became family pets, dogs that were rescued and dogs that would rescue them. Throughout America’s history, for many families the most natural thing was to have a dog—along with kids and goldfish and cats and frogs and whatever else it took to make a family feel complete. But dogs … dogs seemed to be the common denominator that brought people together and put smiles on their faces. Dogs are a special kind of animal that, as they say, will love you unconditionally, make you laugh and make you cry, bring you happiness and bring you sorrow, but always bring you joy.
It was actually two dogs that were responsible for Carolyn and Tommy’s introduction to each other. Molly, Carolyn’s family dog, gave birth to the litter that gave Tommy his very first puppy that he named Buddy. Yes, Buddy. Wasn’t every male dog in the fifties named Buddy? Molly was one of those Heinz 57 varieties with a lot of Labrador in her. No one knew exactly who Buddy’s father was . Molly got around a lot and all the potential fathers were big. That’s what Buddy ended up being. Buddy the puppy. Buddy the future wonder dog. Buddy the future hero. Thanks to Molly and Buddy, two lifelong friends met for the first time. In the beginning, if Buddy could have spoken, he would have said, “Tommy this is Carolyn, Carolyn this is Tommy. Enjoy your life together. Woof, woof!”
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