Oct 22, 2010


So, Cindy, how is your second month in DC going?

Well, haha, the row house adjacent to ours burned to the ground, our house suffered heavy smoke and soot damage, we're staying in a hotel for about a month, and our dog died of smoke inhalation. Other than that, swell!

Fire. It is late morning, we are all out, except our 2 dogs, Louie and Clementine, and cat Annie. I return to find the street blocked off and full of fire engines. I am walking in a heavy downpour with my heart leaping at my throat and down to my feet, barely sheltered by a ridiculously broken neon-green umbrella, sure that it is my house in danger. No, it is the adjacent row house to the west, we are the lucky ones. I am home just after the fire is extinguished and Clementine is dead on the back porch and Louie and Annie missing. The whole scene, made more depressing by the heavy muddy rain, was a mess. I remember slipping in the mud, in flip flops, as I made my way to Clementine's body.

House. Our house was filled with impossible black smoke something awful. The adjacent house is a dismal, total loss. She, with no insurance, is left with next to nothing. The singed shell of bricks sits boarded up. Our house is a rental and thanks to renter insurance, pros are cleaning our belongings along with the house, and while some things are lost, we'll be OK (except for perhaps the constant drift of smoke smell from next door, surely a health hazard).

Clementine. The fire fighters did all they could to get the dogs out. The smoke was real bad and both dogs were barking and fighting for their lives at the back door. The crew gave oxygen to both but Clementine died anyway. They tell me Louie was pretty bad too but he revived then ran away. When I arrived a marshal gently showed me Clemmy's body and I just cried. I felt so bad for her. The smoke was so bad even the inside of the microwave was black.

I had Clementine for about 11 years. Got her as an older puppy from the shelter. A red coonhound. God she was an awful puppy. Nearly couldn't potty train her. Tore up a new couch and the front seats of my car. I was often asked, Why are your front seats blue and your back seats tan? Always running off, terrible on a leash, baying at everybody, scaring people, although she couldn't hurt a fly. She followed her nose always. She wasn't much a better adult dog, but she was gentle and mine, and I loved her. In Kansas she and Louie ran that countryside like no dog ever did. At first we tried to contain her, but as long as we received no complaints, we let her and Louie do as they pleased to make them happy. I figured if she got shot or ran over, at least she lived a long dreamy dog's life. And she did. Rest in peace Clemmy. Get that rabbit. Will I really never hear that coonhound howl again?

Louie. Soon after Jerry came home to join me, we found Louie cowering under the shed out back. We never truly claimed Louie as our own. He showed up one day and wouldn't leave, so we let him stay on because he fell so hard for Clem. She eventually came around to him too. Physically he is fine since the fire. But that scrappy funny dog is so sad and serious now. He is clinging to us and we are clinging back. I never felt so sorry for a dog before and since the kids our pets have lost a lot of status with us. But we feel his pain and he has instantly risen in significance with us. Now I don't want to go out without him. My heart swells for this silly little sad dog.

Annie. I couldn't remember if she was in the house or not, nobody had spotted a cat. That evening we were back in the house looking for something and suddenly as if nothing happened she scampers on her little squirrel feet across the kitchen floor. Geez, cats are so resilient. I don't believe she is affected at all by the fire. Gotta love a cat.

Kids. They were in school at the time. We picked them up and told them everything and showed them the house before moving on. There were some tears and Bereket was pretty scared when we approached the house. But they are resilient too and doing amazingly well. We're commuting to and from school right now in our van, so we may be a bit messy and our homework missing or sloppy, but they're pretty happy through it all. They tell everybody in that unintelligible preschooler way they have, Our house is broken and Clementine died.

The what-ifs. Plague the imagination with horrifying drama. What if . . . the neighbors were home and didn't make it out. . . or the fire happened at night as we slept or when Jerry was in Nepal and my mom was sleeping in the basement (the worst of the smoke was in there) . . . What if I was home and got stuck downstairs trying to get the dogs out, or our house burnt down too? What if I was home and got the G-damn dogs out???

All in all, tis only a minor curse for us, obviously it could have been so much worse.

The following are happy images albeit bad smart phone quality (camera temporarily out for restorartion):


A moment of peace. The boys are maniacs on the metro.

Clementine (right) with pal Louie before furniture.

Most likely, a multiple time out in public and ineffective.

A little wild in the city.

Still this beautiful.