Flash’s Song tells the story of amazing canine courage and remission against all odds. It is a ballad of love and redemption and a moving account of how Flash’s three-week prognosis became five-and-a-half miraculous months of learning, loving, and finally accepting.
Written in luminous prose, accompanied by poignant photos, and filled with keen insight into love, faith, and the power of forgiveness, Flash’s Song is not only a heartwarming ode to a little dog, but also a tribute to life and an invitation to cherish every moment of it.
|Product dimensions:||8.80(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.80(d)|
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Where there is the greatest love, there are always miracles.
— Willa Cather
The thing about miracles is that they're all around us. Just like love. True love and miracles go hand in hand. La Rochefoucauld said that true love is like seeing ghosts: we all talk about it, but few of us have ever seen one. Same thing with miracles. They say Jesus performed them and I guess the people saw, but that was a while ago and I wasn't around to take notes. Like love, miracles are hard to see, but easy to feel. They come when we're not expecting them; they come almost like a whisper or a shadow. We never know when because a miracle can befall us when we're doing laundry or cutting flowers, and because it comes in mundane moments, we miss it ... until we wake up.
All miracles are born of love. Yet it seems we need the thorn's pierce before we can appreciate the scent of the rose. Yin and yang, dark and light, ebb and flow, each moment holds both the sorrow and the joy. And maybe we can only truly taste joy after we've drunk our share of sorrow. In my middle years I found my life, time and again, blessed by miracles. But this period of grace did not arrive without first summoning those disruptive forces — bearers of pain — which serve to awaken each of us. Sometimes they have to conk us over the head to get our attention, because while most people will tell you they want spiritual enlightenment, when fear and pain come knocking, those same people are on the first boat to Jamaica to drink rum drinks with little umbrellas in them and dig holes in the sand to stick their heads in. Or so it was with me. Which only means I was prime to get conked.
As with much of my life, it began with a dog. A long shiny piece of black licorice named Flash.
Flash was a gift, a gift born of love. Well, love and a pinch of dysfunction. It was my sister, Amy, who gave me my first dog, Lauren. Lauren had been a skin-and-bones starving beagle who turned up in severe need of medical treatment under Amy's front porch. Although plagued by illness her entire life, Lauren became the great love of my life, living in Paris with me and dining out in many a French restaurant. Because of this great gift, I felt I would remain forever indebted to Amy and at some point I decided that remaining in debt to one's older sister could have its disadvantages. And yet it would again be Amy who gave me Flash, this time paying a friend to fly out to Arizona, where she then lived, to carry Flash back to me in Virginia.
Amy lay awake night after sleepless night afraid of the grief I'd endure when Lauren died, quite convinced I would try any number of methods (turn on the oven and open the door, swallow a bottle of pills, jump out the window, fill in the blank, she had a whole list) to follow Lauren to wherever she went. Our arguments took on a similar flavor.
"I don't want another dog," I'd say each time.
"Think of the silver lining," she'd insist.
"The silver lining."
I'd look around my house and see stinkbugs bombing about, but no silver lining. "I don't see it."
"The silver lining is that the dark part of the cloud — the grief and need that causes you to reach out and welcome another dog —"
"But that's just it, I'm not reaching out."
"... is also what in time will be a balm to your soul in years to come," she'd continue, completely dismissing any opinion I might offer. "That little shimmering edge around the darkness will grow. There's always a silver lining behind the pain. And then there's also the fact that you've rescued another animal in need."
On a beautiful morning in May I had held Lauren in my arms as she died. But that's a different story.
The silver lining was the beauty behind the pain, and this new dog, according to Amy, was to symbolize for me the silver lining behind much of life. Amy's silver lining lecture got so predictable it would follow just about anything I could think to say, regardless of content.
"I don't ever want another dog."
"But think of the silver lining."
"I think I'll develop a pathological obsession with chocolate-covered hazelnuts," and without missing a beat, she'd say, "Think of the silver lining." She kept up in this fashion, until one day, finding me acquiescing in a moment of weakness, she grabbed the first dog she found, literally dumped from a car, and sent me the small black emissary of healing. My silver lining.
I always felt this one example exemplified my sister's love for me, to say nothing of her faith in my coping skills.
It was October 27. I remember it well. Amy said her friend Scotty would meet me in the parking lot in front of Barnes & Noble and there she would hand over Flash. I drove up in my old pickup truck and saw Scotty holding a smooth-haired miniature black dachshund on her lap. From a distance I remember thinking he resembled a large salamander. He looked a little slippery, and he looked a little crooked. Scotty and I said hello and she nodded her head down to the placid salamander. "This is Flash. Amy said he's to become your silver lining, whatever that's supposed to mean." But before I could respond, more words rushed from her mouth. "I'm really worried. He won't look up at me anymore. I think something's wrong. Or worse, he's mad at me and I can't go through life with someone holding a vendetta against me. Even if it is a dachshund."
"He doesn't really look the type," I said, trying to reassure her, but she didn't seem convinced.
"I don't know. First he bonded with Amy, followed her around the house and everywhere. Then I take him away from her after he's already been dumped by his original family for who knows what stupid reason. Too expensive to feed probably."
"He's pretty small," I said, taking in his smooth body, which couldn't have been much more than twelve or fourteen inches long. "Can't really see him eating through bags of dog food."
"No, no it happens. Dog chews up a chair leg. Let's dump him. Vet bills too expensive. Give him away! Bites the neighbor. Euthanize him!" She was on a roll. "It happens all the time," she said. I nodded then. She was right; it happened. "Now he's bonded with me. All that love and togetherness on the plane and, poor little runt, I have to give him up." It sounded like a mail-order husband from Russia or something that hadn't worked out.
"Maybe he's just sad or confused," I said.
"Oh, God. No wonder he won't look up at me. He must think he made some humongous mistakes along the way."
"Flash," I said softly, addressing him this time.
"Flash boy, you haven't done anything wrong. Please don't be mad at me. I was only trying to help."
"I think he knows that," I said, trying to put Scotty's mind at ease. "They understand our intentions."
"Please don't be mad," she said again to Flash.
"He's sensitive, isn't he?" I asked, eyeing the small dog on her lap, who kept taking surreptitious peeps at me without, it seemed, wanting me to notice.
"Yes. He was so good on the plane. Well, he was drugged. He may be a little groggy for a while. Maybe that's it!" She seemed at once greatly relieved by Flash's drug-induced state.
"You won't be passed around anymore," I said to Flash. Then to Scotty, "Thank you so much."
"Nothing to thank me for. Amy sent me a ticket. I got a mini vacation and a chance to see your sister. You know, I don't think too many sisters would do that for each other," she said. Then with some reluctance I thought, she passed Flash over to me.
I held him in my arms for the first time and he looked up.
"Take good care of him."
"I will," I answered.
"I have faith. I have faith that you will."
Faith. What did it mean? Could I share her same faith? Here I was taking over the care of an animal I knew nothing about, committing to take care of him for the rest of his life.
"Please don't be mad!" Scotty called after us as I started to walk away. "She'll take good care of you."
"Thanks so much," I said again and, carrying Flash, I walked back to my truck. Once in the cab, I set Flash on the seat beside me and really looked at him. That first real look at his face is laced into my soul. With his squinty, sedated eyes he stared up at me with partially pricked ears and tipped his head to one side. It was a curious look, a questioning look, and a slightly worried look. But there was also the beginning of trust, perhaps the trust all animals must give to the humans who assume the role of guardian throughout their lives.
"It's okay, Flash," I said softly. "This will be your last home."
He looked at me and I sensed he seemed to be waiting for more. Maybe Scotty's neurosis had gotten to me. "I promise you I'll take good care of you forever. No matter what," I said, and I could feel Scotty somewhere heaving a sigh of relief. I wasn't so sure about Flash.
We drove off together in this fashion, me talking quietly to him, reaching my hand over to stroke his shiny back, and him cocking his head with its dazed expression to regard this latest person to take up command in his dachshund life.
Before taking Flash to his new home, however, I pulled up to the wine, bread, and cheese shop that I had created ten years earlier after returning to Virginia from Paris and finding no decent wine, bread, cheese, or chocolate. I stocked it with those items and named it Basic Necessities, hoping people wouldn't stop in seeking toothpaste or toilet paper. Eventually it morphed into a café and as it grew I took in partners to share the responsibility and expenses so that now I only worked part-time to supplement my writing. My current partners, Bev and Keith, lived on an organic farm one mile from the little shop. It was a marriage made in heaven, and I felt blessed to have them. We could offer organic produce more than half the year, and I felt the pride of telling diners not only that their veggies were local and organic, but that they were picked a mere hour or so ago from a farm down the road. We hired a wonderful chef, Sallie Justice, who understood our philosophy, and again I felt grateful for she brought elegance and professionalism into our small kitchen.
I carried Flash in my arms. But before I reached the door to show him off, Marie, who'd been working off and on for ten years, came rushing out to greet us.
"Oh my God! Look at the wienerdog!" I turned and looked behind me, not comprehending right away.
"You and the wiener dog look just alike!"
Flash had a beautiful black face with two brown spots above his eyes which I called his umlaut, after the Germanic dots that sometimes appear above a vowel. The umlaut gave definition to his dark face, helping me easily read his expressions and understand his wants and needs. Perhaps it was our similar dark coloring that inspired Marie's remark, but I have to assume that, apart from this, the wiener dog and I did not look just alike, for Flash had the biggest overbite of any dog I had ever seen, his upper jaw and nose extending out well over an inch beyond his short lower jaw. In this respect, neither did he resemble other dachshunds. His profile was funny with its comic flaws, more like a bucked-tooth caricature of a dachshund than a real dachshund. At least until it became a face known to me. Then it was a face — perhaps for its very flaws — that I could only ever love.
"Meet Flash," I said as I walked into the shop. "The latest addition to my family."
The staff all came out to see him, and as Mae, Marian, Marie, Sarah, and Hayley all reached hands down simultaneously to touch Flash, I saw that he didn't shrink away from the strange hands but observed each person. Perhaps he was sizing everyone up. The afternoon light came in through the shop's front window, and I saw a funny shadow against the wall: Flash and me, merged into one entity.
Just then, Rosie, one of our best customers, walked over and I gave introductions again, and soon we were all talking at once, exclaiming over Flash.
"The love the animals give us is like none other," Rosie said, stroking Flash's back. I looked at her and thought, yes, how true. "Do you ever wonder what lies ahead for you and him? Taking him in, how he'll change your life...."
"What journeys you'll travel together, because of each other," Mae said.
I nodded, feeling an odd current travel up my spine. "I don't know him now, but I know I'll come to love him."
"I guess we find love where we can," Rosie said. "And love finds us when it's right."
No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made silently.
— Agnes de Mille
Once home, Flash seemed to fit in almost instantly. My brother, Ted, joked that he would since anything was preferable to the crack house he'd come from. Ted surmised that Flash was the result of a drug deal gone bad. Maybe, but all we really knew was that a car had pulled over to the side of the road, and a small dog dumped out.
How lives turn on tiny events that at the time are no more than the fabric of that hour or moment. What might have become of this tiny dog had Amy not been in the car behind? Would he have become easy fodder for predators? Would he have starved to death or died of dehydration in the harsh Arizona desert? For a while these thoughts became a preoccupation of mine, my heart constricting as I thought of the multitude of different possibilities, of a tiny, smooth-coated dachshund navigating the landscape — cacti quills and coyotes — all on his own.
"I mean what if it hadn't been you?" I sort of half-whimpered to Amy.
"Kay," my sister said patiently. "What if Caesar hadn't crossed the Rubicon, or what if George Washington hadn't crossed the Delaware?"
"They did. That's the point."
"We'd be drinking tea and speaking with English accents?" I offered, a little late.
Amy sighed like I was the biggest moron ever to rewrite history.
"Maybe it's the accident of fate." I'd read it somewhere.
"Fate is no accident," Amy answered. "Any more than courage is or generosity or kindness. The point is that you wouldn't be worrying about him because you wouldn't know him. And whether fate is already written or not doesn't matter. We work with what is ... and accept what is."
I pondered this and realized that at some point after receiving the gift of Flash, it would perhaps serve me to let go of trying to understand; to accept the fact that no human will ever completely understand another, not a husband his wife, not a lover his beloved, not even a sibling his genetic analogue. Perhaps that's why we invent multiple gods who are capable of understanding, and perhaps the true partner is this god or goddess, the being with whom we will forever seek union, for isn't all love the search for oneness with something greater than ourselves?
When I said this to Amy, she answered back in one of her less sarcastic responses that yes, this was true but yet, paradoxically, the love we seek resides within us all, not outside of us. If we can but tap into it, if only for seconds at a time, we shift the paradigm. But I'm getting ahead of my story.
The neighborhood where Flash was dumped was one of those less-than-savory ones in Tucson known for harboring crack houses ("and odd, somewhat rubbery, conformationally incorrect, backyard-breeder, tiny dachshunds," Ted had said) — probably not the sort of neighborhood in which you'd want to raise your toddler.
Here in the gentle mountains of central Virginia, patrolling the yard for voles and moles, Flash must have felt he'd won the doggie lotto. He had a dog-door and could come and go from the house freely into his fenced backyard. There were flowering shrubs, fruit trees, and an old apple crate, one of the large ones that, upsidedown, served as a table of sorts. There were flowers and birds who I fed all year round. When my old bird feeder fell apart I'd begun construction on a new one, but all that stood was a large cross with one feeder hanging from it, and bells that I bought for each of the dogs. I hoped the neighbors didn't think I was trying to convert the birds to Christianity.
In later years there would be my Writing Room at the end of the yard, bordered by flower gardens. And there was a little pine tree I'd planted in the spot where Lauren had taken her last steps. I'd named the tree Lauren and will avoid mentioning Amy's comments on this particular topic. Flash loved that little tree. He would hunt for hours, rooting around the yard, then flop down, panting hard beneath Lauren. Other times he would roll on his back in the grass in joy. Sometimes he'd race in to where I sat working to tell me about his day.
Excerpted from "Flash's Song"
Copyright © 2015 Kay Pfaltz.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Love 1
Chapter 2 Welcome Flash 9
Chapter 3 The Work Day 16
Chapter 4 Dachshund Life 21
Chapter 5 Brave Heart 28
Chapter 6 Chance Encounters 32
Chapter 7 Ineluctable Life 37
Chapter 8 Adventure 40
Chapter 9 Sasha 47
Chapter 10 Superman 50
Chapter 11 Madonna and Dachshund 56
Chapter 12 The Beginning of Change 60
Chapter 13 My Life 64
Chapter 14 Catalysts 71
Chapter 15 Crisis 77
Chapter 16 Grief 87
Chapter 17 Turning Toward the Light 99
Chapter 18 Finding a Cure 103
Chapter 19 Empathy 107
Chapter 20 The Journey Begins 111
Chapter 21 Realization 114
Chapter 22 The Decision Made 124
Chapter 23 Susie 136
Chapter 24 Heart Medicine 142
Chapter 25 Welcome to the World of Miracles 145
Chapter 26 Living the Shift 151
Chapter 27 Miracle of Love 160
Chapter 28 Thanksgiving 162
Chapter 29 Love Is the Answer 166
Chapter 30 Visualizing Christmas 171
Chapter 31 Winter 176
Chapter 32 Healing Continues 182
Chapter 33 Christmas 184
Chapter 34 The Miracles Expanding 188
Chapter 35 Seeing Mickey 191
Chapter 36 Flash Sees the Flowers Bloom 194
Chapter 37 Dual Realities 201
Chapter 38 Accepting Miracles 205
Chapter 39 Return 209
Chapter 40 Easter 216
Chapter 41 April 219
Chapter 42 Death 221
Chapter 43 The Silver Lining 229