Learning from Dogs
Philip drove himself, as quietly as he could manage it, back up to Lisa and Don’s house. It was a little after 4am. The night air was cold and as he slipped into his bed the inside of the bodega felt just as cold as outside. The hours of love-making with Molly had been a new experience for him. Of extraordinarily different dimensions from any previous experience. Like every other aspect of their relationship, because now it was most definitely a relationship, the ways that he and Molly were relating to each other, how each was getting to know the other, was a new journey for him. As with all new journeys in life, both the real, external ones and the inner, subjective ones, new journeys came with new experiences, new vistas and new horizons every step of the way.
As he slept on that next morning, Lisa had telephoned Molly and had asked her what the hell was going on. She seemed very upset in a way that Molly couldn’t fully understand. After Lisa had calmed down a little, Molly told her that she and Philip were now lovers.
Five days later, 2007 bid farewell forever and in came the New Year of 2008. Philip and Molly endeavoured to be together as much as possible for his remaining ten days. He was now effectively living at her house. In those ten days any lingering cautions in their minds about either of them being hurt just vaporised. For the very simple, yet gigantic, reason that he wanted to be with her and she with him. There was no doubt whatsoever that he would leave Devon and come to San Carlos with Pharaoh just as soon as it could be arranged. In the interim, Molly would come to Devon in the Spring to meet his family and friends. Then the plan was that in the early Autumn, he and Pharaoh would make the one-way trip to Mexico, routing via California.
Thus it came to pass that early one morning in September, Philip arrived at London Airport with two suitcases and one beloved dog: Pharaoh. They were flying one-way with British Airways, London to Los Angeles. He had been informed that Pharaoh would need to be checked-in at the World Cargo centre. Philip parked outside said cargo centre and walked Pharaoh on his leash to the animal check-in desk. Fifteen minutes later, with his face staring out at Philip through the grill of his travel cage, Pharaoh disappeared from sight without even a bark; without even a whimper. It was as if he sensed the new life that was ahead of him. Philip had asked as to where in the aircraft’s hold Pharaoh’s cage would be situated and had reserved a cabin seat more or less above that spot. He was of no doubt that Pharaoh would know that he was sitting as close to him as possible.
As is the way of long international, non-stop flights, it was over in some sort of time-warped way, before he could really grasp it.
Molly had driven up from San Carlos to meet him and Pharaoh when they flew in to Los Angeles. First she welcomed Philip with the world’s sweetest and dearest hug then they repositioned to another part of the terminal building to await Pharaoh’s arrival. In what seemed like no time at all they were all heading out from the airport complex, Pharaoh sitting on his haunches on the rear seat of Molly’s car unable to take his eyes off the strange world outside yet at the same time eagerly eating a bowl of dog biscuits being held under his chin by Philip.
So, it’s time for this story to take a pause. Well, maybe not a pause, more a drawing back from the intricacy and detail of the previous pages. For in so many ways the story has now been told.
Philip and Molly’s lives together were all, and more, of what they could have ever imagined.
He had been living in Mexico with Molly for about eighteen months when they were clear that they wanted to marry and find a new home in America. Because Molly had US citizenship through her marriage to Ben, it seemed sensible for Philip to apply for a US Fiancée Visa. So it was decided that they would find a home in Arizona and sell the beach-side house in San Carlos. They quickly found a comfortable home in Payson, a city of fifteen-thousand persons located at five-thousand feet, eighty miles North-East of Phoenix, Arizona. The subsequent move from Mexico to Payson went off remarkably well. Especially if one reflects that the move included fourteen dogs, seven cats and all their belongings. Their latest dog being a beautiful, black, half-Rottweiler female dog that was dumped in the street just outside the house barely ten days before they departed Mexico. She was still in milk, frantically tearing back and forth along the dusty street, presumably looking for her puppies, crying out the pain of her loss. Molly enticed her into the house, gave her water, for she was very thirsty, and within minutes the dog was showing her love and gratitude to Molly. They named her Hazel.
Then it was time for Philip to apply for that fiancée visa. There was no delaying that because his entrance to the USA, when they moved up from San Carlos, was on the basis of a ninety-day tourist visa.
Applying for that fiancée visa could only be done at the US Embassy back in his home country; England. In the end, it involved several trips back to the UK and strange, interminable processes convincing the US Embassy in London that he was a fit and proper person to be admitted as a resident to the United States of America.
Nevertheless, on November 4th, 2010, he boarded Virgin Atlantic’s flight VS007 from London Heathrow to Phoenix, the possessor of a United States visa permitting him to marry a US Citizen; in this case a very special one. Sixteen days later, on Saturday, November 20th, he and Molly were married.
This is where the story should have ended. Molly and Philip and their animals living very happily in a comfortable home in Payson, Arizona. But the story has a twist.
It had been a night in the middle of June in 2012; the night of the 20th June as he recalled. There was nothing about the previous day that could have had any bearing on his mind, as in any trigger for the dream, not that, as dreams go, it was a dream of any meaning; well not outwardly. He dreamt he had gone to the bathroom in the middle of the night and turned on the cold-water tap and found no water flowing from it. That was the dream; no more or no less. Bizarre!
Yet when he awoke in the morning, the dream was vividly present in his mind. He said to Molly that he had had the most strangest of dreams and recounted the experience. As it happened, they had a neighbour call by later that morning and the conversation lead Philip to mention his dream. To which the neighbour had simply remarked that if he was worried about water then they should go to Oregon.
While their property was sufficiently far out from Payson to require their own well and, as wells go, it was a deep one of nearly three-hundred feet, the water level had stayed pretty constant around sixty-feet down. On the other hand, this part of Arizona had been receiving below-average rains for the last twenty years.
Then, almost as though it had been pre-ordained, a short while thereafter Molly met a woman who said that she would be delighted to house sit and look after all the pets if Molly and Philip ever wanted to go on a vacation. Molly had mentioned that they were thinking of visiting Oregon. All of which came together and saw Molly and Philip setting off on July 11th on the start of a three-day, twelve-hundred mile drive to Southern Oregon.
On their arrival in Grants Pass, Oregon, yet another set of coincidences found them being introduced to an independent real-estate agent, Donna. Donna said she was happy to show them some properties for sale in this part of Southern Oregon. The second property that Donna showed them was a few miles North of the small community of Merlin, itself some nine miles North-West of Grants Pass.
Donna stopped at the entrance to the driveway, turned round and looked back at them.
“I have to be honest and tell you that I know very little about this property. There are not even listing particulars. It was for sale a few years back, rumours had it at well over a million dollars; possibly even million and a third. Then it was lost to the bank and, for whatever reason, nobody has gone for it. It’s been empty for at least two years.”
Donna drove in. The driveway was surrounded either side by tall forest trees; oaks, pines and firs. It initially sloped down from the roadway and then went across a bridge over a sparkling creek of crystal-clear water flowing from right-to-left. Donna paused the car as Philip asked a question.
“Any details about the creek, Donna?”
“It’s called Bummer Creek and it flows all-year. Not sure, will need to check on it, but I thought I had heard there were formal water extraction rights for the owners of the property.”
The driveway then made a gently climb along the right-hand edge of a large, multi-acre, grass paddock. In what must have been nearly a quarter-of-a-mile later, they drove up to a large, wooden-clad, single-story home surrounded by more wonderful tall pines and firs. It was stupendous. A four-bedroomed property in thirteen acres of fenced land with stables, a garage and other outbuildings, and what did turn out to be water extraction rights from Bummer Creek.
It took Molly and Philip less than an hour to make up their minds that at the right price this could be their home of a lifetime for them and all their animals.
Donna came up to them as they stood outside the front of the property.
“What do you think, guys?”
Philip answered, “It’s an incredible property and I don’t doubt that at some point it would have been an expensive property to purchase. Do you know the asking price?’
Donna answered, “I’ve just been calling to find out more details. The bank that originally foreclosed on the property then sold it a while back to a company called Gorilla Capital. Gorilla are just trying to flip the place for cash but, as with the bank, have had trouble finding a buyer. The company have told me they are looking for three-hundred-and-eighty-thousand dollars. I have to say that’s quite a low price for all that’s here even in these depressed times. My guess is that many people would find it a bit too much to take on in terms of the acres. Otherwise, I can’t see why it hasn’t sold a long time ago. Especially for the money being asked.”
Philip and Molly took another walk around the house. They ended up standing together on the wooden deck overlooking some eight or nine acres of grassland, dense forest sweeping up the flanks of the slopes in the near distance, and the mighty Mount Sexton visible four or five miles off to the North-East.
“What do you think, Molly?” he asked, putting his arm around her waist.
“It’s gorgeous, I just can’t believe what an incredible home it is. How about you? What do you think, sweetheart?”
His reply was unequivocal. “I think we should put in a silly offer.”
“Such as?” Molly wondered aloud.
“Come with me.”
He took her hand and lead her around to the front of the house, to where Donna was waiting.
“Donna, we want to make an offer. Tell Gorilla that we can’t go anywhere near their asking price just now. But if they want a deal today, we will offer two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars. Cash on the nail as we say in my old country.”
Donna walked away to be out of earshot and rang Gorilla. She was back in a couple of minutes.
“They say that’s too low. Say there really looking for something a bit higher.”
Fifteen minutes later, Gorilla and Philip and Molly had settled on the figure of two-hundred-and-seventy-one-thousand dollars.
As they walked towards Donna’s car she said to them, “You do know, don’t you, that even in today’s depressed housing market, that’s one hell of a deal.”
So it came to pass that on the following day, Sunday, 15th July, over at Donna’s office, Philip and Molly signed the purchase contract.
They left to return to Payson the following day.
Upon their return to Payson, without exception, all the people they shared their news with were astounded at what they had purchased for such a modest sum of money. Now came the challenge of getting their Payson house ready for sale, packing up their things and transporting what was by now eleven dogs and five cats, the twelve-hundred miles to Oregon.
Nevertheless, as is the way of things, piece by piece, little by little, it all came together resulting in the day of the ‘big move’ arriving: Tuesday, October 23rd to be exact. Philip’s Jeep was towing a large covered U-Haul trailer and Molly was driving a U-Haul rental van towing another trailer carrying her Dodge van packed to the roof. They were off to Oregon.
Within less than forty-eight hours of arriving at their new home in Merlin, as Molly and Philip saw how the dogs reacted to their acres of land, the trees, the hollows and the borders, they knew that all of them, in the fullest sense of the phrase, had come home.
2,387 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover