Tag: Laura Bruzzese

Memories of Diego

Another reminder of what our dogs mean to us.

Or, more specifically, what Diego meant for Laura Bruzzese. (This will be the second in the series We Shall Not Forget Them.)


Dog Love In August

collarAugust is the start of the dying season. Garden things begin their slow shrink into the earth, the days grow shorter and cooler, lazy ocean- or mint-scented summer days snap into rigid schedules of work and school.

August is also the month that I lost Diego, my first dog. You can get acquainted with Diego here, a post I wrote a few days before he died. But I would like to share a little more now, on the second anniversary of his departure.

Diego was a poser, in a very literal sense of the word. He loved having his picture taken; in fact, he insisted on it whenever he saw me holding the camera. This picture, for example: it was taken the day I brought my daughter home from the hospital, the day after 21 hours of hard labor produced an eight-and-a-half-pound baby who actually stopped halfway out of my body, looked around, and scowled before resuming her reluctant journey onto the planet. (She was 12, twelve days overdue, FYI all you mothers out there who can surely feel my pain.)

There is something screaming in the bed. Please make it stop before it explodes.
There is something screaming in the bed. Please make it stop before it explodes.

I laid baby Isabella down, stepped back with the camera, looked up, and there he was: Diego, staring. Fifty-eight pounds of solid, unmoving dog. Insisting that I photograph him, too, with this creature that he wasn’t sure if he should guard against or lick. This child who personified the singular emotion of furious for the first nine weeks of her life (if she was not sleeping or eating, she was screaming).

Oh, hi Aunt Rosie. I know you’ve passed on, but I’ll bet you can still hear that screaming baby wherever you are.
Oh, hi Aunt Rosie. I know you’ve passed on, but I’ll bet you can still hear that screaming baby wherever you are.

When my doula told me that the colic or distemper or petite innards or whatever it was making Isabella so unhappy would resolve itself in about nine weeks, I said oh, that’s nice. But I won’t be alive for nine weeks of this. I’ll be in an asylum acquainting myself with a selection of opiates, or at the bottom of the mighty Rio Grande; so behold, an orphan.

But somehow, I survived. And Diego was part of it.

You see, from the very beginning, it was just us — the two of us, the three of us.  I was abandoned by my husband before Isabella was born, a painful time that I don’t often write about.

Within a matter of weeks, the married-and-expecting life I’d known was gone, and I was left to fumble around with the pieces, a wreckage sitting on a pile of broken glass in the dark. The small hours of it were the worst, waking up alone and panicked in the middle of the night wondering how (or if) I would live through the next weeks and years. And Diego was always there, a silent and comforting presence curled at the foot of the bed or coming up to lick my tears if I was crying, which was basically all the time. He was always there.

dog-and-babyI have a teenager now and those days seem ancient. While I rebuilt my life, Isabella grew up and Diego grew old. And finally, in his sixteenth year, he began to deteriorate to the point of pain. I knew he wouldn’t be with me much longer and I had already called the vet to ask her how it worked — when do you know it’s time? Do I take him to the office, or do you come to the house? Will he feel anything? I planned to schedule an appointment soon; I hadn’t had to make this decision before and it was a very painful.

On the morning of August 9 before I left for work, I told Diego that we would have to say good-bye soon because his body wasn’t working right anymore. I told him that I loved him and it was okay for him to go. Over and over I told him I loved him.

Less than two hours later, he drowned in the pond.

I think it was his way of avoiding the vet (he hated the clinic), and maybe sparing me that particular pain. I’m not going to say that I wasn’t devastated. But rather than remembering the urgent phone call at work from Isabella, or the vision of him when I got home, or my step-father struggling to carry the terrible weight of him away, I like to imagine Diego simply being received by the fish and toads. Delivered from his pain by warm water, wrapped in a blanket of lilies.

lilyAnyone who has cared for pets perhaps knows that there is one, a special one, who will always occupy the largest piece of real estate in your heart, though others may follow. That was Diego for me.

But now we’re lucky enough to share our lives with another dog, the rascally, neurotic, road trip-loving Velma. I’ll end this post with a short video of her that reminds me of exactly what I love about dogs: their absolute and abundant connection with life, free of judgement, agenda, or desire to be anything other than what they are. That’s what I think of every time I see Velma in her Writhe of Exquisite Happiness. Perfect contentment of being.


Laura wrote and published this back in August, 2012. But her words, emotions and feelings are those that never age. Indeed, I would add her courageous words.


Funny how things flow at times.

In yesterday’s post about the cleverness of chickens, John Zande, a long-time friend of this place, left this remark:

I have a marvellous blogging friend in New Mexico who has Rufina, a chicken who was shot in the head, sealed in a plastic bag, placed in a freezer for 24hrs, and lived! (albeit now blind).

I have a framed poster of Rufina up in my living room, and even one her feathers perched in one of my many, many, many St. Francis’s

Here’s the Huffington Post article on her


And here’s Laura’s first post on this gorgeous creature.


Then in response to me wanting to republish that story replied: “Contact her, she’s wonderful, and her pottery is to die for.

So I did and, with Laura’s permission here is that story of this most remarkable chicken.


The Undead Chicken

by Laura Bruzzese, June 24th, 2013

rufinaThis is Rufina. She’s new to our household.

She’s quiet and doesn’t take up much space, mostly sits on her perch or in her ceramic nest all day. She moves around slowly. If you are really gentle, she lets you pick her up.

We sit by the pond together in the morning, before everyone else gets up.

rufina1Last Thursday, I answered a friend’s call on Facebook for someone to take this chicken. Isabella and I drove to my friend’s house in the South Valley, put her in a bin, and brought her home. I didn’t think she’d actually still be alive today.

My friend had posted this story Thursday morning:

The neighbor gave us fresh chickens last night for cooking up. He shot them in the head with gun and handed them over the fence. We bagged them and put in freezer for today. Evan gets home, opens freezer and one bird is perched fully alive, very cold, and pissed off.
Chase ensues… !! We now have a blind undead chicken in our yard.

Anybody want it?

I’m not sure why anyone would shoot chickens in the head.

But when I read the story, I couldn’t help but admire this chicken’s tenacity. She is courageous. She made her way out of a plastic bag inside a freezer and survived for thirty-six hours. After being shot in the head.  I figured any animal that fought that hard to live deserved a little help, if only for a day or two.

The chicken hasn’t made any effort to eat like a normal chicken. Because, of course, she can’t see where to peck. (There isn’t much point in force-feeding a blind chicken.) But she does drink, so I’ve started blending up borrowed chicken food and water and giving her that. She seems content, grooming herself sometimes, showing no signs of pain or anxiety. And still, she will die.

But until then, we will enjoy each of her borrowed mornings by the pond, the sound of birds and running water, the sun on her feathers, expecting nothing.

I’m not sure why I have a blind, undead chicken in my studio. But here is one of my favorite poems, by Laura Gilpin.

The Two-Headed Calf

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.

But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.



Now if you think that was remarkable then let me share what Laura posted a few weeks later, linked to via her Epilogue above.


The Miracle of Re-Birth

by Laura Bruzzese, July 11th, 2013

Good news: it’s been three weeks since the attempted murder of Rufina, and she continues to dwell among the living!

rufina2After loads of eye care, foot washing, antibiotics, food and vitamins, she has gained weight and is learning to find food and water by herself. Her remaining eye looks normal again but is still blind (I was hoping for a miracle), and the place of its former pair seems to have reached its majority in terms of healing–no eye, but no skin, either. Just a weird,  green spot surrounded by red skin that looks not unlike a tiny sun-dried tomato.

But that does not prevent her daily forays into the garden where she walks around with her head craned forward to “feel” where she’s going, and from exhibiting other persisting chicken qualities that seem to evidence a contented life.

rufinaagainI’m still surprised, and slightly in awe of this traumatized chicken who is satisfied to reside indefinitely on my studio porch. Shiny, happy chicken.

And so far, Velma the Rascally Whippet has not been the nuisance I was afraid she might be, but instead, a proud example of a bird-dog in defiance of her own natural instincts (save for one minor incident involving a tail feather. That was still attached to Rufina.). Perhaps Velma knows they are kindred spirits, she herself having survived a scary encounter with the Great Beyond earlier this year.

velmaThanks to everyone who has contributed free chicken advice, food, ER and vet consults, and even a couple of adorable, surprise chicks* (!) to keep Rufina company.

chicks*Chicks will unfortunately be dispatched to some other venue because they are exploiting their sighted advantage: stealing food out of Rufina’s mouth, crowding the water dish, and mocking her by constantly blinking and sticking their tongues out.  Also, they are filthy little creatures that walk in their own poop and then jump on me.

And finally, what’s in a name? When it became clear that chicken might live, I thought I should name her, and Rufina was the first thing that popped into my head. A few days later, I googled it to see what came up. This is what I found on Wiki:

Saints Justa and Rufina (Ruffina) (Spanish: Santa Justa y Santa Rufina) are venerated as martyrs. They are said to have been martyred at Hispalis (Seville) during the 3rd century.

Their legend states that they were sisters and natives of Seville who made fine earthenware pottery for a living, with which they supported themselves and many of the city’s poor. Justa was born in 268 AD, Rufina in 270 AD, of a poor but pious Christian family. During a pagan festival, they refused to sell their wares for use in these celebrations. In anger, locals broke all of their dishes and pots. Justina and Rufina retaliated by smashing an image of Venus.

The city’s prefect, Diogenianus, ordered them to be imprisoned. Failing to convince them to renounce their faith, he had them tortured on the rack and with iron hooks. This method also having failed, they were imprisoned, where they suffered from hunger and thirst.

They were then asked to walk barefoot to the Sierra Morena; when this did not break their resolve, they were imprisoned without water or food. Justa died first. Her body, thrown into a well, was later recovered by the bishop Sabinus. Diogenianus believed that the death of Justa would break the resolve of Rufina. However, Rufina refused to renounce her faith and was thus thrown to the lions. The lion in the amphitheatre, however, refused to attack Rufina, remaining as docile as a house cat. Infuriated, Diogenianus had Rufina strangled or beheaded and her body burned. Her body was also recovered by Sabinus and buried alongside her sister in 287 AD.

Old Master Paintings Sale Sotheby's, London - July, 4 , 2007 Velazquez (1599 - 1660) Saint Rufina Estimate: 6,000,000 - 8,000,000 Copyright in this image shall remain vested in Sotheby’s. Please note that this image may depict subject matter which is itself protected by separate copyright. Sotheby’s makes no representations as to whether the underlying subject matter is subject to its own copyright, or as to who might hold such copyright. It is the borrower's responsibility to obtain any relevant permissions from the holder(s) of any applicable copyright and Sotheby’s supplies this image expressly subject to this responsibility.
Saint Rufina, by Velázquez. See the likeness?? She’s even carrying a giant feather!

Just another name? Perhaps. Or: a dark-haired Spaniard and a Italian-New Mexican, two Christian potters separated by centuries, a saint, a chicken, and an ordinary human united in an extraordinary coincidence of the undead.


Follow that!

Well I can’t but John Zande can.

For he was the first to leave a comment to Laura’s Rebirth post:

Here, i feel this song is in order. Listen carefully to the words, and who is singing them.

Including the following in his comment.