Reflections on a Black Puddle

[BRINDLEKIN TALES – Book 1: Chapter 6]


To all readers of the MCN (Mendocino Community Network) announcement and discussion mailing lists: this is my latest blog entry, but I thought to post the entire tale on the listserv as well, since the first donors to my cause came from the MCN subscriber family. The story numbers among the most important pieces I’ve writ to date on matters of inequity. The link to it is at the end of this post, and some might enjoy going there to view the wonderful images I’ve included (six in all). Also, notice I’ve changed the dogs’ names in preparation for cobbling together my growing collection of blog entries into a novel I will call: “Brindlekin Tales.”

I’ve changed all the human names, too, though none of them appear in this particular episode, but one. Without switching to pseudonyms, I’d be at wit’s end trying to collect signed permission for all the folks I write about…some of whom would flat out refuse to oblige, and for good reason. Thus, by converting all real names to false ones, and calling my upcoming opus “fiction,” I get around all that. Also notice that I have ceased my barrage of posts in spite of their high value content…much to the delight of some, and much to the delight of everyone else (hardy-har-har). This is due to the sudden change my world has taken, that is a fulfillment and culmination of my lifelong dedication to good causes.

I will remain on these two MCN lists only as a tool for keeping a crack open to the gateway of cyberspace. For as great oaks from little chestnuts grow, or as it illustrates in the Parable of the Mustard Seed: all great achievements start imperceptibly small. Thus, for each person inspired by any one of my contributions, twelve more shall be inspired, too. In other words: IT’S A FRIGGIN PYRAMID SCHEME! Now, get out there and recruit…and don’t bring them to me or either list until they’ve been fully converted towards a homosexual penchant for sitting beside a crackling fireplace on a chilly winter’s eve, with a mug of hot cocoa in their hand, and a dollop or two of toasted almond flavored whipped soy cream on top. All glory to the hypnotoad!

By Ezekiel J. Krahlin, queer street and online activist since before the dawn of Futurama.

Four days ago when I got up at 7:30 to walk the dogs, Taco excreted a small puddle of tarry, black poo, about three tablespoonfuls; it wasn’t very stinky at all, unlike his usual product. Last night, he was not the least bit hungry, which at times neither dog is, and that seems normal for them. Because either by the end of the same day, or the next morning, their appetite is back. They are NOT big eaters, and twice a day seems to be their limit…at least when visiting my hovel. Though Deek says he feeds them three times.

Taco did not seem sick, lethargic or in any discomfort at all: happy and perky as usual…nose cool and wet, and a glossy brindle coat and curly tail a-waggin’. Soon after that, he hunkered down again, only to release a teensy amount of clear liquid: water, probably. He did that twice within ten minutes. When we returned home, I duckduckgo’d “my dog’s poop is black,” and came up with alarming results. Such as:

Causes of Black Tarry Stool In Dogs:

  • Ulcers in the intestinal system
  • Tumors of the esophagus or stomach
  • Infections
  • Foreign body in the intestinal system
  • Disorders involving swelling of the digestive system
  • Kidney failure
  • Drug toxicity (e.g., anticoagulant drugs)
  • Diet containing raw food
  • Pneumonia
  • Injury
  • Disorders including abnormal clotting of blood.

He could’ve swallowed something sharp like a twig or small piece of hard plastic. Dogs do that all the time. Or it could be parasites. Or a toxic black dye on the leash Taco loves to tug and chew on. There is no evidence of the color running, but you know how these made-in-China things go! Not that I know where the leash was manufactured, as there is no description of such on its Amazon product page, or on the leash itself. What about the new leather collar that Deek bought for him last month? One end sticks out long enough to easily grab with his teeth, and gnaw at it. Is there a toxic dye in the collar, or lead? I know Deek does NOT check product labels at all, because he’s oblivious to this Asian curse on our global economy. At least he heard me out about not buying any dog food made in China…but does he really do that? I hope he doesn’t purchase any of it at a dollar store. God forbid Taco’s dark stools could be a sign of something worse!

How privileged these people are who can afford to take their cherished pet to a veterinarian. But we low income and homeless folk can NOT. Besides, the scant vet services out there for street people have been hobbled by this pandemic. Nothing out there for a real emergency any more…and no walk-ins for the time being. Even though you’re houseless, you are required these days to make an appointment via email or phone. Unbelievable! How many vagrants even HAVE a cell phone, or get on the Internet…what with coffeehouses and libraries now shut down? And appointments are often a month or more later. (I know that to be the case; I’ve looked into it.) Now, what are the odds that a person struggling through each day, living by their wits in the urban jungle, unhoused, is likely to remember their appointments so far off? If that isn’t a bad enough kick in the gut, one free service for street dogs offers telemedicine! But even in the best of times, surgery for homeless pets has never been a thing.

As for raw food on that black stool list: I’ve been adding a tablespoon of raw pumpkin seeds to their meals, after grinding it into a powder. Many dog lover sites highly recommend this as an effective dewormer. But I think I’ll put a halt to this for now, even though Wiley’s stools are perfectly fine. Also highly recommended are grated carrots, because just coarse enough to scour worms from their digestive tract…besides being a healthy, natural addition to a canine’s diet. But shredded carrots are raw, too. Should I give it a try or not, I wonder. I’d like to point out that effective deworming medications ARE out there without requiring a vet’s prescription…albeit a bit expensive for my budget. Which is why I’ve included that item on my Amazon Doggy Wish List. Though one vital treatment is NOT: heart-worm formula.

This ain’t on that “black” list, but I’m wondering: does excessive cold effect a dog’s appetite or digestive system? The bellies on these two pups are totally exposed to the cold because they have no fur down there. And they are small, so don’t retain body heat well. I think that, when a dog’s stomach gets TOO cold for a prolonged period of time, you’ll probably see a loss in appetite, and digestive disorders, such as constipation or diarrhea, because the frigid air may cause the stomach’s digestive process to shut down, or become sluggish. This is just a theory: I am not a doctor, Jim. But it’s something to think about.

This is all so hard for me to write down, but now it’s gonna get even worse:

Some of the most serious maladies on the list above, have their origin in dogs adopted from puppy mills…and that’s exactly how Deek acquired Wiley and Taco. I do not know who this person is, but Deek told me it’s an old man living out of his trailer, that he’s a hopeless alcoholic who loves his pups dearly, and cries over each and every one upon their sale and departure. Well, at least he assumes enough responsibility to wean them properly, and get all their vaccines before selling them off (guess I should be thankful for THAT much). But this is just what Deek has claimed; who knows if any of this is true? “I paid two hundred dollars for each puppy,” he said one day. It frightens me to think that the little darlin’s may not even have gotten their shots!

Deek told me that the SPCA knows about him, and despises the miscreant. But what am I to do, if THEY haven’t been able to stop him? As far as Deek’s little pooches, the deed is done, they have been born, and they need love and care…not animal rescue and trauma! Furthermore, legal intervention on my part will most likely sabotage my friendship with Deek, separating me from the curly-tailed scallywags forever. As a dog lover myself, I do NOT approve of forcing any pet to live on the streets; while at the same time I understand the profound companionship they provide for the houseless. So please be aware I have NEVER encouraged Deek to get a dog; he just showed up with them out of the blue: first, Taco, then six months later, Wiley. Perhaps it’s time now to reflect on the yin and yang of existence:

There always seems to be a dark side to everything good, no matter how you try to work around it. In this case, a puppy mill gave birth to two of the most darling, beautiful doggies I’ve ever met, and put both myself and Deek through amazing and positive life changes. All from the loving hands of a vagrant (who is also a hurricane Katrina refugee) who is often infuriating and breaks my heart, hurling insults as he does, with astounding frequency. Yet is essentially brilliant, hardworking in his own way, and tells the most incredible stories from his past life in New Orleans, and his present one from a street life perspective. So rest assure there are also GOLDEN moments peppered amid those tantrums, when he thanks me profusely for my many good deeds on his behalf, and brings me the occasional gift he discovers on his nightly journeys through the city. In sum: his bark is worse than his bite.

Amazing how this dark side has led me along a convoluted path towards a better reality (and it’s only just started). For examples:

  • A creative flow like messengers from heaven, including tales and essays outside of my doggy venture. You’d think I’d signed my soul to the devil!
  • Motivation of such magnitude, I’ve already set up not one, but TWO charity pages (Amazon and GoFundMe), moving quickly to expand my reach further via social media and other digital venues.
  • Contact with new people, online and offline, who may be inspired to spread the word, or connect me with organizations to facilitate my worthy mission.
  • A resurrection of incredible and newfound positivity towards myself and my fellow human beings…and this, at the ripe old age of seventy.
  • Tremendous respect for my street pal, Deek…more so than ever.
  • Two of the dearest non-human friends who’ve blessed my life profoundly.

Deek has never plugged himself into the SPCA’s services (except to pick up dog food), nor can I just do that myself, because I am NOT houseless…thus they’ll charge me an arm and a leg for whatever the treatments these doggies may need, including, possibly, surgery. They do have a sliding scale for low income clients, but it’s STILL too costly for my budget.

Which reminds me of the hypocritical arrangement of what passes for “affordable housing.” Brother, sister, if your income ain’t higher than such-and-such dollars a year, you ain’t gettin’ in! And THIS explains why the homeless are “outta da loop!” Since if EVERYONE were eligible whose income fell below a certain amount, they’d all have homes by now! Instead, there’s a cutoff point below whatever amount. And zero dollars is gonna get you zero housing. So you need a MINIMUM income to afford affordable housing! Of course, there’s an income ceiling to this, too, but I’m not talkin’ ’bout the “lucky” ones.

What the hell, it’s all run like a LOTTERY anyways…you could wait years and years to get a place, and many people do. But there are also many OTHERS who die waiting, wind up homeless or living in a garage or shed through the generosity of a friend or relative, or just move elsewhere to a poverty stricken region, leaving all their friends and a warm, familiar community behind. But I do digress…let’s get back to the doggies:

When the pandemic struck I had at first decided to exclude Deek from my life, in order to protect my health. This lasted less than two weeks because I really hadn’t the heart to rip the doggies away from the only sanctuary they have from the streets and harsh weather. The burden on Deek would also be tragically immeasurable, after more than nine years of friendship. All three would suffer from lack of my presence, though Deek would never admit to it…he keeps his woes to himself. So I took the proper precautions, wore a mask, kept my distance, sanitized my hands frequently and all that rot. Plus, as it happily turns out, dogs rarely carry the virus in their fur (especially not the ones with a thin pelt), or spread it around. And the result:

Had I not resolved to keep the momentum of our friendship going, none of these amazing outcomes I’ve just described would have occurred!

Yet another example of how good things can and do emerge from the dark side, if we accept the challenge and forge ahead. (In this case when I say “the dark side,” I mean the terrible plague of COVID-19.) Furthermore:

I’ve learned not to worry, for the most part. What good does it do but slow you down, or even thwart what good intentions you have? And I have plenty of things to worry about, indeed, regarding Deek and his brindle mutts…if I let them get to me:

  • He doesn’t want to get them chipped…refuses even to let me put a tag on the dogs, with my phone number on them. So if he should be separated from them (such as getting arrested, rushed to the hospital, or, god forbid, should die on the streets), I may not know about it for days or longer…way too late for any chance to get those pooches back. I wouldn’t even know if they were sent to the pound! Or who else adopted them, and if their new keeper would show loving care, or afford the expenses involved…he or she might even be neglectful or abusive! And I’d never know about it; the doggies would have vanished eternally from my life. Even with a tag or a chip, I may never know what happened to them; but at least it gives me an edge.
  • They could die or get very ill from hypothermia, or infection or parasites, due to lack of expensive veterinarian care. I’ve only started my charity project, and have yet to generate any funding. How long will it take to get there? Will it even take off, or just fizzle out? Time is of the essence, and desperately, nerve-wrackingly so. Thus for now (and God only knows for how much longer) it’s like wading through molasses up a mile-high mountain riddled with vipers…in a mega-storm.
  • No rabies tag on either dog, which makes Deek susceptible to losing them for legal reasons. Fortunately, they are not biters, just barkers sometimes, and are impressively stable in that they are rarely phased by commotions or outbursts that frequently occur outdoors. Deek claims they had all their shots before he acquired Wiley & Flaco, and I sure hope that is true! He is NOT one to hold onto any papers, tags or ID cards and other such stuff, for very long. Nonetheless: doggies also need BOOSTER shots.
  • His dogs could be stolen at any time, especially since he’s an incredibly sound sleeper. They could also get injured as well, what with all the toxic substances and small, sharp objects on the streets…or even be hit by a vehicle, or violently assaulted by some screwball hyped up on meth or whatever.
  • No matter what bad things may happen to Deek’s little angels, he’ll blame it on me. Shift all the guilt on yours truly, pointing to some imagined misstep or meanness on my part, while the doggos were under my care. I know, because he’s already done that at least several times…and they weren’t even REAL incidents, just feigned guilt trips. Or, possibly, conjured up by his own, suspicious mind. For example, he’s accused me more than once, of screwing up his training of the dogs. “I don’t know, Zeke, but every time I get them back, they act weird and get excited. They don’t calm down for two or three days.” I didn’t believe a word of it, but appeased him by saying most likely it’s all the pent up energy from the lazy respite and comfort I provide. But when it comes to Deek, it’s like in one ear and out the other. He often makes up his own mind before he’s even learned enough, if anything at all, to pass judgment.

My list of worries goes on, but I’ll stop here. After all, there still remains a potentially gushing fountain of anxieties over one’s Fido, even when they ARE securely housed, loved, fed the best vittles, and receive the finest vet care in the world! I have come to realize (and quite recently), that one of life’s important lessons is to learn to stop worrying about ANYthing whatsoever. Don’t be tricked by the Imps of Despair, or they’ll weave a dark cocoon of misery around you, from which you may NEVER escape. You have a good idea? No, I mean a GREAT idea? That is: one based on compassion and not self glory?


But please realize that the greater the dream, the greater the obstacles…likely strewn with a tragedy or two along the way. Nothing you can do about it, either; it’s just part of the yin and yang of life. And also realize that by “great” I don’t mean “grand” as in worldwide, regional or even local impact. “Great” is what comes from the heart, not the ego. And is often a small thing in the eyes of the world. Even if your efforts demand almost superhuman powers and sacrifice, for which you DESERVE international glory (nay, intergalactic glory), it is highly unlikely to come to that. For a true labor of love is always a humbling experience. As it well should be. One more thing:

Never fear failure; that will just set up roadblocks. You may NOT succeed anyway, at least not in the way you intended. But realize your magnanimous and selfless struggles WILL have their impact regardless, albeit imperceptible to the jaundiced troglodyte. For one, you have grown greatly in spirit for such a heroic endeavor…and have likely impressed at least SOME of those you’ve touched, to an astounding degree (even those trogs, but they’ll never admit it). For there are actually myriad unknown heroes in this world, who do their brave bit every day, in sacrifice, dedication and a powerful, loving spirit. They may be called “unsung,” but I sing for them now!

So back to work I go, caring for Taco & Wiley’s happiness and well being, with joy and diligence instead of trepidation. Knowing that it ALSO benefits their keeper, who busts his balls taking care of them. One of my regular chores being dog food provisions, of course. I keep the thirty pound sack of kibble as fresh as possible, sealing it in a double-knotted, large trash bag. I stash an external supply in a one-gallon, Ziploc freezer bag, for when the doggies visit. And twenty handfuls each, in two additional Ziplocs, to hand over to Deek for when he’ll be gone for two or more days. Along with five cans of wet food, gravy style. These are not meant to feed them entirely, but to supplement whatever he picks up at the SPCA over there on Alabama Street.

I am reminded of that popular quote attributed to various movers and shakers throughout history: “You can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable.” That’s right, and don’t these innocent doggy companions who live among the homeless–and thus are homeless themselves–fit that “vulnerable” category like paw in glove? It’s never Christmas for them! So I humbly beg those of us who actively struggle to make this a better world, to please don’t leave our animal companions behind!

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